In a year full of spectacular films, there were certain sequences that stood out from the rest. These movie scenes were memorable due to technical precision, emotional resonance or poetic brilliance. They stand alone as moments that showcase the power of cinema, and are often one of the highlights of the film its in.
There are great films from 2017 that aren’t mentioned in this list, not because they don’t have memorable scenes but just simply because there were more hard-hitting scenes from other movies that I thought should make the list. But I digress… here we go.
10. Cannibalistic Sex – Raw
Raw is famous for the film at Cannes that had people puking and suffering heart attacks for its bloody content. This somewhat does a disservice for its tender coming-of-age story and the way it deals with female sexuality. Albeit it does have some stunningly shocking scenes in it; the infamous Brazilian wax scene which everyone talks about. The best scene is, like in Wonder Woman, the moment our female protagonist chooses her identity. In this case, a cannibal. And a sexual monster.
The sequence is found at the start of the film’s third act. Justine is at a party and splashed with blue paint, asked to have sex with a guy painted in yellow. In a flurry of violence (not seen but heard by us) she bites his lip off. Afterwards, in the shower, she eats one of her own teeth which has fallen out… and from there it gets even more insane. She essentially rapes her gay friend and forces herself to climax on him while biting her arm until blood gushes out. Julia Ducournau has spent the film humanising a cannibal, and at this point when Justine is in full control of her desires, for whatever warped reason, we are on her side.
9. Choose Life – T2 Trainspotting
This scene from Danny Boyle’s sequel to his cult classic Trainspotting starts out as a throwback, but slowly transforms into a scene ruminating on the passage of time and the regrets of one’s life. Renton is asked by Veronika about why the boys (now middle-aged men) say “choose life”. He starts to give examples of the tongue-in-cheek ways they would use this phrase as a way of making their counter-culture actions justifiable and exciting.
Half-way through the monologue which he verbally destroys 21st century culture, Renton begins to look inward and lists off all the disappointments and regrets he has had in the past 20 years; “choose unfulfilled promise, and wishing you’d done it all differently, choose never learning from your own mistakes, choose watching history repeat itself… choose disappointment…” and he ends it with an imperative, a call to action to Veronica, “choose your future.”
8. No Man’s Land – Wonder Woman
The centrepiece of Patty Jenkins’ superhero galore is the moment in which Diana chooses to be Wonder Woman. It’s a sequence that has already become iconic, and inspired audiences everywhere. Diana, Steve Trevor and their team have reached the Belgian front, and a desperate mother pleads for their help. Steve tells her that this is No Man’s Land and that she can’t do anything here to help.
However, Diana tells him that this is exactly what she’s going to do, and with a slow motion turn, takes off her coat and rises into No Man’s Land, facing the enemy alone. With Rupert Gregson-Williams’ stirring score as the backdrop, we all feel goosebumps as Wonder Woman rises to the occasion. It’s pure inspirational cinema.
7. Eating the baby – mother!
In mother!, Darren Aronofsky condenses the entirety of human history to approximately 2 hours of mental torture. He uses the Bible as a source to appropriate for the plot of the film- in this shocking and controversial scene, mother (Jennifer Lawrence is in a room with Him (Javier Bardem) with their new-born baby, as hoards of violent people are outside bashing the door and wreaking havoc.
What Aronofsky achieves here is akin to Pier Paolo Pasolini at his best. A poetic provocation that comes out in a burst of anger, a declaration of the evil deeds humanity has done to the Earth.
6. Logan’s death and funeral – Logan
The ending to Logan is a satisfying conclusion to his journey, which we have followed on the silver screen for 17 years. After having given his final sacrifice for a new generation of mutants, including his biochemically-engineered ‘daughter’ X-23 (Dafne Keen). Logan has lived a violent life, and this film has been about dealing with the consequences of a violent life. The final message Logan leaves his daughter as she kneels next to him is one of profound encouragement and peace- “Don’t be what they made you.” He whispers “Laura, Laura…” and her, with tears streaming down her face finally whispers back “Daddy… no.”
The funeral for Logan is a poignant one. As the other young mutants walk away, Laura stands facing his grave and recites the final few lines from the classic Western film Shane, which is a thematic predecessor to this film, and was shown previously when Professor X and Laura watch it on a hotel television.
I’ll leave you with the lines from Shane; the lines that Laura uses to lament her father and his sacrifice to give peace to the new mutants. “A man has to be what he is, Joey. Can’t break the mold. There’s no living with a killing. There’s no going back. Right or wrong, it’s a brand. A brand that sticks. Now you run on home to your mother, tell her everything’s alright. There are no more guns in the valley.” She turns turns the cross on it’s side, to mark the resting spot of Wolverine, the last X-Men.