10. Raging Bull
The final sequence of Raging Bull is one of the great “monologue in front of a mirror” scenes: Jake La Motta sits in front of his dressing room mirror, and he is rehearsing his routine before a show; after years of fighting, he is now performing his stand-up act in nightclubs.
This mirror scene sees La Motta talking about, and then replicating, the Marlon Brando speech from On the Waterfront. The camera stays still as he gets up after being told there is a lot of crowd waiting for him outside, and he starts shadowboxing as if getting ready for a match.
It is an almost reflective moment that quietly sums up the movie and brings it to its end, one of the many touches of styles from Scorsese’s masterpiece.
9. Profondo Rosso
Horror masterpiece Profondo Rosso (Deep Red) is to this day Dario Argento’s most famous film. Released in 1975, it is one of the films Argento directed in the Seventies which transformed the genre and set some of the tropes that would forever influence future horror movies. Mirrors are a fundamental part in the movie’s mistery, which in fact gets solved through one.
More over, earlier in the film, a murder victim leaves a clue before dying on a bathroom mirror which is steamed up; it is a great and definitely memorable image.
8. Wild Strawberries
Wild Strawberries was released in 1957 and is considered one of Ingmar Bergman’s most accomplished features. A great director on its won merit, Victor Sjostrom, stars in the film as Isak Borg, a bacteriologist who is traveling to his old university, and at the same time is reevaluating his own life through a series of oneiric and reflective moments.
A fundamental mirror moment is the one where the professor lies in a forest and is forced by the memory of his first love, Sara, to look into a small mirror. The professor initially refuses, as if what lies in that mirror is too terrible to watch. The mirror’s reflection stands for everything one person can see in himself but is often afraid to consider, even though he knows it is there.
Between the second and the third installment of the dark knight trilogy, Christopher Nolan directed Inception, a project he actually started writing years before; he later said that he was waiting for cinematic technology to be developed enough for the special effects the film needed.
Many of the film’s greatest visual moments come when Cobb (Leonardo Di Caprio) teaches Ariadne (Ellen Page) how to operate and create spaces inside of a dream. While dreaming of Paris, specifically of the bridge of bir-Harkeim, she creates two gigantic mirrors and puts them one in front of the other, creating an infinite reflection.
6. Taxi Driver
When an actor has produced as many iconic interpretations as Robert De Niro has, it is often difficult to pin down his most iconic character or his most famous scene. In De Niro’s case, though, the choice is easier: his portrayal of Travis Bickle in Taxi Driver and the mirror scene (often referred to as the “you talkin’ to me?” scene) from the same movie are probably his most iconic role and moment to date.
The scene depicts Bickle’s monologue in front of a mirror as he sports a gun he purchased while pretends to be in a shootout. This moment encapsulates the way the character’s mind is slowly becoming more and more violence-driven, and how his sensibility for social justice is getting corrupted by his own inadequacies.
Redrum. That is the message young Danny leaves on a door, written in red lipstick while his mother sleeps. He soon starts to yell the mysterious word while holding a knife, waking his mother up. A couple of zooms wrap up the scene, one towards the horrified Shelley Duvall and one towards a mirror, revealing that (obviously) redrum is backwards for murder.
Shining can be considered the perfect horror film, or at least the perfect epitome of all of the genre’s tropes. A frightful use of a mirror could not be missing from a film which summarized almost every trick a movie can pull in order to scare the spectator.
4. Duck Soup
Duck Soup is perhaps the Marx Brothers’ most beloved film, in spite of the mixed reception it had at the time of release. Its ability to touch the right chords in the viewer received an heartfelt tribute by Woody Allen, who put the film in Hanna and her Sisters’ ending to summarize the joyous feeling that entertainment can bring to life.
One of its many iconic sequences is the one in which Harpo breaks a mirror and then exactly replicates everything Groucho is doing as if the mirror was still there. An hilarious sequence, full of comedic inventions that quickly follow one another, this moment summarizes how the four brothers were an endless source of comedy.
One of Fritz Lang’s masterpieces, M tells of the hunt for a child murderer, Franz Beckert, unforgettably portrayed by Peter Lorre. The film is a gritty depiction of life in Germany between the two wars, and displays the way in which a society like the one from that period can produce monsters like Beckert, and at the same time create paranoia and a misplaced sense of personal justice among “normal” people. Mirrors appear in a few crucial moments of the film.
One of these moments is the scene in which Beckert looks at himself in the mirror and deforms his face with grotesque expressions; this brief moment foreshadows Lorre’s final monologue, in which he will try to explain how he has to commit the murders because of a darkness inside of him which deforms him and makes him a different person, just as he was physically doing in front of the mirror.
Another use of a mirror has become iconic, and is easily associated with the film, the scene where Beckert discovers the “M” on the back of his coat: it is a striking and unforgettable cinematic moment.
Persona, perhaps Bergman’s masterpiece, mainly follows two characters, Bibi Andersson and Liv Ulmann as Alma and Elisabet (a nurse and an actress who is her patient).
The film is psychology-driven and tells of the two women’s encounter and progressive merging into one another. The mirror, perhaps the most recurring element in Bergman’s filmography, is the perfect device to show how the protagonists’ psyche is duplicating and becoming more and more ambiguous.
Each woman is the mirror to the other, and they are opposites who slowly become more and more alike, or even better, more and more a single being. Often in the movie, the mirror is not shown but is suggested to be the camera itself, like when Alma and Elisabet stare directly to the camera point of view.
1. The Lady from Shanghai
Before its release in 1947, The Lady from Shanghai garnered a certain attention, although for reasons that had little to do with its artistic value, namely the marital crisis between the stars of the film, Orson Welles (also director) and Rita Hayworth, and the fact that for the film Hayworth cut and painted blonde her famous red hair; the film went on to a lukewarm critical reception.
Like many of the unsuccessful films by Welles, the film became more and more appreciated through the years, and is now recognized as a noir classic; even those who have not seen it probably have heard of its final scene, which is a shootout between the protagonists inside an hall of mirrors. Visually mesmerizing and absolutely stunning in its virtuosity, the scene has “iconic” written all over it.