I adore cinemas. Idolize them out of all proportion. I love them. I lurve them. I luff them, with two f’s. A cinema, for me, is the closest thing to hallowed ground. A magic (and that is the best available word) place where people can go to laugh and cry and be educated and entertained. Quite simply, cinemas are the greatest places on Earth. With that brief ode to the picture house over with, here’s a few of the most emotionally, uplifting scenes ever committed to film. If you were lucky you may have even seen a few on the big screen. Where they belong.
10 The Diving Bell And The Butterfly (2008)
For anyone in love with the written word, every act of on-screen literature attempted – from Barton Fink putting ink to paper to Grady Tripp’s difficult second novel – will provoke a swelling of hearts. When that novel requires more than a minute a word, as in the case of stroke victim Jean Dominique Bauby who could only communicate through blinking one eye, the accomplishment of completion is as joyous as a joyful woman named Joy watching The Joy Luck Club while eating take out from the Big Joy Chinese restaurant and listening to Joy Division. Maybe minus the Joy Division.
9 To Kill A Mockingbird (1962)
Atticus Finch didn’t need a cape and a symbol to fight for freedom and justice for the wrongfully accused Tom Robinson. but, faced with intimidation and exclusion, his actions are no less heroic than any superhero. When the Reverend tells Scout to stand up for her father, it’s all you can do to not leap out of your seat with righteous glee.
8 12 Angry Men (1957)
More courtroom based heroics this time with one man against eleven, trying to protect a boy he’s never met, and probably never will, from the danger of apathy. As Sidney Lumet’s one room ‘play’ begins, Henry Fonda faces a struggle that no bookmaker in the world would give you odds against. As the calmest and most collected of the angry men Juror No8 slowly brings around the other ten and in the moment that the bigoted hold out No3 finally relents the painfully claustrophobic set breathes once more as justice is served.
7 The Truman Show (1998)
The premise of a man having his life screened unknowingly was bad enough, but effectively giving him a life sentence from birth is as mean as can be. As the caged bird sings his goodbye after careening his ship into the ‘edge of the world’, Jim Carrey offers us his finest talents and decimates the naysayers in one fell swoop.
6 Lord Of The Rings: Return Of The King (2003)
“For Frodo”. Two softly spoken words, in an epic saga more memorable for its grandiosity than its subtlety. Few blockbuster behemoths have the skill to make you giddy with joy the way Peter Jackson’s first (?!) trilogy did but we think if we give it a little more time to sink in, we’d be hard pressed to deny the flaming bat signal from The Dark Knight Rises a place on this list.
5 A Matter Of Life And Death (1946)
Happy to give his life for King and Country, pilot Peter Carter is missed off the RIP list due to bad British weather. In his ‘borrowed’ time he meets and falls in love with June, an American stationed in Blighty. With the clerical error of his death corrected Peter is sent to Heaven with a court deciding his fate. The verdict, thanks in no small part to the most selfless of acts, is magnificently life-affirming.
4 Spartacus (1960)
Parodied to near death – “I’m Spartacus! I’m Spartacus! I’m Brian Blessed!” – the end of Stanley Kubrick’s 60s Gladiator still crushes it 50 odd years on. The reason it can reduce the burliest of men to quivering wrecks is in equal parts due to the sacrificial unity of the group and the simplicity of standing up for the little guy. Almost as devastating and eloquent a finale as the scene in Grange Hill where Mick defends Mr. Brisley from homophobic slurs by saying, “He may be a poof, but he’s our poof”.
3 “It’s A Wonderful Life” (1946)
Monumentally shat on whilst doing the right thing time after time, George Bailey finally has his faith in the people of Bedford Falls rewarded. Knowing that his life is as toilet bound as ever, George returns from his suicide attempt wanting nothing more than to see his family before his imminent jail time. But in the kind of miracle primarily reserved for December 25th, the townspeople, friends and family that he’s spent a lifetime helping, are there to return the favour.
2 The Shawshank Redemption (1994)
“Andy Dufresne crawled through a river of shit and came out clean on the other side”. After being wrongfully imprisoned for the murder of his wife, subjected to brutal gang rape and beatings and sent to solitary for seeking his innocence, Andy finally gets his freedom. That there’s no end of foreshadowing to an alternative ending just makes the actual escape all that more heart-soaringly joyous.
1 Cinema Paradiso (1988)
After that gushing opening about the magic of the moving image there’s really no alternative for the top spot. As projectionist turned film maker Salvatore ‘Toto’ Di Vita settles down in his screening room seat he has no idea what his old master has in store for him. All he knows is the anger and hurt of knowing the old man ruined his chance for love with his teenage sweetheart. As the projector whirs to life, filling the screen with movie kiss after movie kiss after movie kiss, all picked up from the cutting room floor, Toto realises that his sacrifice of love made him the accomplished artist he is, an artist that gave the love of cinema to many more. And the film plays on…
Then there’s the Life Of Brian credits, When We Were Kings‘ final punch, Neo taking down Agent Smith, Wall-E and Eve dancing, the speech given by that King in that film whose name we can’t remember, we really could go on all day. But what are your picks? What are the pieces of cinema history that make you happy for every moment in your stupid, little life?