With most areas of the world still under strict lockdown, many of us have found ourselves with a great deal more time for TV and film. Personally, it’s been the perfect opportunity to revisit some of my all-time favourites, many of which I hadn’t seen for years.
In doing so, however, I couldn’t help but consider how often we recall things through a rose-tinted lens. Perhaps this is pessimistic, solitary confinement me talking, but I was fairly disappointed to find out that some of my favourite films weren’t as perfect as I had remembered.
From dodgy CGI, to laughable cameos and out of place character moments, a fair few of the top films from the last 20 years actually have some infuriatingly bad scenes. In order to exorcise my lockdown lamentations, I’ve decided to put together the definitive list of bad scenes in great movies, here are the top 5.
#5 The Departed – One rat too many
Yes, The Departed is as close to perfect as both Scorsese and the modern gangster genre may have ever come, but it isn’t completely infallible. Overall, the film is pretty much a masterpiece of storytelling, that is until the elevator scene.
If you are unfamiliar with which scene I’m referring to, let me elucidate. After a tense cat and mouse exchange atop an apartment block between undercover good cop Costigan (Leonardo DiCaprio) and bent cop Sullivan (Matt Damon), the former arrests the latter with the intent of exposing him to the world. During the descent of the apartment block, DiCaprio’s Costigan is unceremoniously killed off by second surprise rat, Trooper Barrigan (James Badge Dale).
My issue with the elevator scene is not how it’s made, it’s the moments that lead up to it – it’s simply bad from a storytelling perspective. Barrigan is barely in the film, there are no clues that he is significant and there are certainly no hints that he is also a bent cop working for Jack Nicholson’s mob boss.
Despite loving the film, I felt thoroughly cheated by this moment. An irrelevant character comes out of nowhere and kills our dogged protagonist, and the meagre explanation we get for this boils down to, ‘Oh, I’m a rat too, didn’t you know?’. Why would we you were on screen for less than 30 seconds.
#4 Django Unchained – Aussie antics
Django Unchained is a very good movie, but as with the majority of Tarantino films, he has the overwhelming urge to write himself a role with which he thoroughly stinks up the screen. In some cases he gets away with it, he’s not half bad in Pulp Fiction, but most of the time he’s awful.
To choose his worst offence was tricky. I did toy with the idea of picking his tedious voice-over in The Hateful 8 – this moment annoys me so much I’ve got a vague ambition of creating my own personal edit where I remove it. But, in terms of scene wrecking appearances, look no further than Django Unchained.
Not only is Tarantino terrible as the Aussie slaver, but the entire scene feels out of place and largely falls flat. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, for the love of god Tarantino, stay behind the camera!
#3 The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King – Army of ghosts
I’m a big fan of Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings trilogy however, it’s by no means perfect. The Fellowship of the Ring comes close, but there’s no denying that by the time we get to the third film in the series, the writing takes a few self-indulgent missteps that stick out like a sore thumb.
Picking a bad scene from Return of the King wasn’t easy, it was a tossup between the following: the ridiculously protracted, Emmental imbued ending, and the army of ghosts abomination that occurs during the battle of the Pelennor fields.
In the end, I had to go with the army of ghosts. The CGI is bad but, more importantly, it is a ludicrously unsatisfying ending to the battle. Instead of a climactic fight to victory, an amorphous green breeze wipes out Sauron’s entire army quicker than you can say “Pedo mellon a minno”.
#2 Avengers: Endgame – Female avengers assemble
Avengers: Endgame doesn’t quite qualify as a great film, but the finale to the first decade of the MCU can certainly be classified as a remarkable achievement. Sure, it isn’t perfect – I still find all the time travel mumbo jumbo a little contrived – however, it does have some genuinely thrilling set-pieces and emotionally resonant character moments.
It’s weakest scene though, has to be the female Avengers assemble scene that occurs during the film’s major battle.
What could have been a really powerful and important moment in MCU history actually becomes a tokenistic, condescending nod to girl power. It’s weak conceptually and handled in a clumsy, amateurish fashion. Here’s an idea Marvel Studios, why don’t you give those female characters more screen time instead? Or dare I say it, solo projects of their own?
#1 Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith – “Noooooooooo”
Ok, Revenge of the Sith is by no means a great film, but I couldn’t resist including it in my top 5. Episode 3 actually has a lot going for it. It boasts some great set pieces as well as some uncharacteristically good dialogue where the prequel trilogy is concerned.
The Count Dooku battle, “execute order 66” and the climatic lava duel are some personal favourite moments. However, it all comes crashing down at the crescendo of Anakin Skywalker’s character arc.
It was the moment everyone had been waiting for, how would they transform the chosen one into one of the greatest villains of all time? From a scene building point of view, it was all going so well. After being severely maimed by Obi Wan, Emperor Palpatine takes Anakin to a convalescence where he’s put through graphically depicted, life-altering surgery.
Unfortunately, things take a laughable turn when Palps informs Vader that Padme is dead. Instead of an emotional character moment as Vader learns of the news, we get an unintentionally hilarious cry to the heavens accompanied by a suspect camera pan out. Dreadful stuff.
Do you to have an axe to grind about dodgy scenes in otherwise great movies? Let us know in the comments section below. And be sure to check out more of our Top 5 lists.