ENTERTAINMENT
12/19/2013 10:46 am ET Updated Dec 23, 2013

17 Best Movie Moments Of 2013

Sony/WB/TWC/A24

From the breathtaking 17-minute opening of "Gravity" to the uplifting "Let It Go" sequence from "Frozen," 2013 came with an abundance of unforgettable movie scenes. The year's screenplays were heralded as some of cinema's finest in recent memory, which leaves us with ample standout moments to compete for movie lovers' long-term retention. HuffPost Entertainment senior editor Christopher Rosen and associate editor Matthew Jacobs combed through the year's most intriguing and selected a handful of scenes that twinkle a little brighter than the average movie moment. We've kept our blurbs relatively spoiler-free, but read with caution when it comes to movies you haven't seen yet.

  • The opening scene of "Gravity"
    "Dr. Stone is off structure." Alfonso Cuaron's "Gravity" opens with a flourish: an uninterrupted 17-minute sequence that sets the entire film in motion. There, we're introduced to Dr. Ryan Stone (Sandra Bullock), astronaut Matt Kowalski (George Clooney) and the terrifying, unforgiving and unrelenting horror that is space. This doesn't just rank with the best sequences of the year, but of all time. -- Christopher Rosen
  • Oprah Winfrey and Forest Whitaker shake their groove thing in "Lee Daniels' The Butler"
    The Weinstein Company
    Those black-and-white jumpsuits. "Party is a Groovy Thing" blaring through the room. That Afro! When we first glimpse Oprah Winfrey jiving to an episode of "Soul Train" while wearing a '70s-tastic disco onesie in "Lee Daniels' The Butler," it almost makes us forget this is the same lady who's known for musings on meditation and an annual list of her "favorite things." Winfrey's joined by another unlikely groove machine in Forest Whitaker, who dons the same outfit and proves that even he can hold his own against Her Highness' gyrations. In a movie overflowing with deep-hearted moments, this lighthearted shimmying shines. -- Matthew Jacobs
  • Jennifer Lawrence and her "f--king science oven" in "American Hustle"
    Whether you read it in an article by Paul Brodeur or not, one thing is clear: This is Jennifer Lawrence's world, and we're just her loyal subjects. Conventional wisdom would state that Lawrence's "American Hustle" highlight is when she sings and dances to "Live and Let Die" by Wings. That's a great scene, no doubt, but it doesn't have the fire -- in both the literal and figurative senses of that word -- of this sequence. "Thank God for me," Lawrence purrs after almost torching her kitchen. We most humbly agree. -- CR UPDATE, Jan. 7 -- Brodeur himself took issue with the scene in "American Hustle" in which he is mentioned. Read his response here.
  • Greta Gerwig dances to David Bowie in "Frances Ha"
    IFC Films
    In a rare moment of euphoria during a movie that teeters between uplift and despondency, Greta Gerwig leaps through the streets of New York while the sounds of David Bowie's perky "Modern Love" serve as her score. Having just moved into a new apartment and feeling like life is suddenly on her side again, the underemployed Frances (Gerwig) dances in ode to the city that both giveth and taketh away. Noah Baumbach's hipster feast provides ample resonance for Millennials, but none is as reflective of the generation's quirks as the idea of literally dancing through the streets of an usually quiet metropolis while feeling like you've won uncommon favor with the fates. -- MJ
  • The anniversary speech in "Short Term 12"
    "Short Term 12" is a film with no shortage of memorable moments or speeches, including this tear-jerker about family and relationships from John Gallagher Jr.'s Mason. "So much about this movie is about stories," Gallagher told HuffPost Entertainment earlier this year. "When you see a page of dialogue in a screenplay it's very exciting. You feel like you're reading a play almost, in a sense." Gallagher, who has worked with Aaron Sorkin, Kenneth Lonergan and Woody Allen, called Destin Cretton's script one of the best he's ever read. He's onto something. -- CR
  • Emma Watson's enlightenment in "The Bling Ring"
    A24
    "I'm a firm believer in karma. And I think this situation is a huge learning lesson for me, to grow and expand as a spiritual human being. I want to lead a country one day, for all I know." So goes a golden moment from "The Bling Ring," one that sounds like a piece of screenwriting beauty as the words flow from the mouth of an 18-year-old who's been arrested for burglarizing celebrities' Hollywood homes. In fact, these lines -- uttered by an impeccable Emma Watson -- are almost verbatim from the mouth of real Bling Ring-er Alexis Neiers. That only adds to their comedic brilliance, especially when delivered with the pseudo-intellectual, Kardashian-esque drawl Watson gives her character. We'll watch her rob any day. -- MJ
  • The Britney Spears scene in "Spring Breakers"
    "This one is by a little known pop singer by the name of Miss Britney Spears. One of the greatest singers of all time, and an angel if there ever was one on this Earth." There were plenty of great montages put to film in 2013 -- that's what happens when David O. Russell and Martin Scorsese release incredible movies -- but Harmony Korine's mad, mad, mad usage of Britney Spears' "Everytime" in "Spring Breakers" takes the cake, and then smashes your face into it. -- CR
  • The ending of "Captain Phillips"
    Columbia Pictures
    After a pulsating two-hour standoff between Captain Richard Phillips (Tom Hanks) and the crew of Somali pirates who take command of his U.S. cargo ship, "Captain Phillips" throttles to an emotional apex in its closing moments. A shocked Phillips can do nothing but thank the SEAL Team that rescues him from his nightmare, doubling the heroism he displayed while shepherding his crew through the ordeal. Hanks hasn't been this raw in a movie since "Cast Away," and there wasn't a closing scene as gut-wrenching all year. -- MJ
  • "Let It Go" from "Frozen"
    "Frozen" is one big, final musical number short of being perfect, but that's just because the film's high point comes in the middle: Idina Menzel's "Let It Go" is the kind of showstopper that should be followed by dropped curtains and standing ovations. -- CR
  • Cate Blanchett spills her life story to two kids in "Blue Jasmine"
    Sony Pictures Classics
    As "Blue Jasmine" rolls on, Cate Blanchett's WASPy Jasmine Francis unravels with increasing severity. She's lost, desperate and won't stop doting on her tarnished riches in the wake of her husband's corruption scandal. That means she'll accept the ears of anyone willing to listen to her despair, including her sister's young kids. Eating in a diner that's way below her former pay grade, we aren't sure who Jasmine is addressing when she first launches into her monologue. Woody Allen's clever reverse shot reveals two befuddled youngsters sitting across from her. She moans on about how to tip when you're wealthy, running "charities for poor people" and living a life that's now only an opulent memory. "Anxiety, nightmares and a nervous breakdown -- there's only so many traumas a person can withstand until they take to the streets and start screaming," Blanchett advises them with swollen eyes and a pretension that begs for beads of sweat to grace her panicked forehead. -- MJ
  • "Please Mr. Kennedy" from "Inside Llewyn Davis"
    "Inside Llewyn Davis" is about a lot of things: being out of step with what society wants, the way true artists won't compromise their visions for success, and whether success is even possible without compromise. It's also about writing a goofy pop song, at least for one scene. "Please Mr. Kennedy" is the film's comic apex: a window into the serious business that goes into making the silliest thing imaginable. -- CR
  • Lake Bell introduces the "sexy baby voice" in "In a World..."
    YouTube
    Lake Bell used "In A World...," her writing/directing debut, to furnish a de facto campaign against what she calls "sexy baby voice." You know the one -- it's that Valley Girl inflection where everything ends in a sing-songy uptalk, as if every statement sounds like a question. The tale of a female voice-over artist (Bell) competing in the male-dominated world of movie trailers, "World's" highlight is an uproarious scene in which one of those sexy baby voices asks Bell's Carol Solomon if she knows where to find a smoothie. "I don't know where you'd get a smoothie around here at all, I'm so sorry," she responds to said smoothie seeker with perfect Valley Girl cadence. The world chuckled knowingly. (See for yourself at the 2:08 marker of the trailer above.) -- MJ
  • Danny McBride's first scene in "This Is The End"
    Leonardo DiCaprio's introduction in "The Great Gatsby" is really wonderful (fireworks literally go off behind his head), but not even Baz Luhrmann and George Gershwin can top Danny McBride and Cypress Hill. McBride, playing Danny McBride, dances into "This Is The End" with a devilish grin and an exclamation of profanity. His introduction in the film is the stuff of legend (and, unlike Gatsby, McBride probably is second cousin to the devil). -- CR
  • The big reveal in "Prisoners"
    Warner Bros.
    For anyone who hasn't seen "Prisoners," the woman in that photo up there is Melissa Leo. You may not have recognized her -- we almost didn't either, especially because she was largely absent from the movie's marketing. Without giving too much away, Leo plays the frumpy, buttoned-up aunt of an accused kidnapper in the thriller, which contains a plethora of terrifying scenes without factoring in the whole odd-old-lady thing. We won't say anything more, but you won't want to drink juice for a while. -- MJ
  • The opening shot of "Place Beyond the Pines"
    This was Sean Bobbitt's year, you just didn't notice. Bobbitt, an acclaimed cinematographer, lent visual beauty to Steve McQueen's "12 Years A Slave" (which we'll discuss in a moment), but it was the opening shot of "Place Beyond the Pines" that defined his 2013. In an uninterrupted sequence, the audience learns everything there is to know about Ryan Gosling's near-silent Handsome Luke. It's no wonder that the rest of "Place Beyond the Pines" fails to live up to its beginning. Where do you go from perfection but down? -- CR
  • Chiwetel Ejiofor's near-hanging in "12 Years A Slave"
    Fox Searchlight Pictures
    It's tough to put a scene as challenging as this one on any retrospective, but it would be an oversight not to hail it as one of the finest moments in film this year. The brutal near-hanging of Solomon Northup (Chiwetel Ejiofor) in Steve McQueen's "12 Years a Slave" plays out with stirring tranquility. As the camera pans out and Solomon dances on his tiptoes to protect his vitals from the noose that hangs around his neck, plantation life resumes. The slaves continue their chores, desensitized to the travesty occurring in front of them. The cinematography by the aforementioned Sean Bobbitt couldn't be better crafted, and Solomon's three-minute nightmare remains the moment that's most emblematic of "12 Years." -- MJ
  • The last scene in "The Wolf Of Wall Street"
    There's already fiery debate about whether Martin Scorsese's "The Wolf of Wall Street" is a celebration of amoral white-collar criminals like Jordan Belfort or a condemnation of them. It's the latter, of course, but also much more. By the film's very end, Scorsese puts the blame on the audience too, since we allow guys like Belfort to exist in the first place. No spoilers here, but the final shot in "The Wolf of Wall Street" asks the question: Do you still want to be a millionaire? The answer will keep you up at night. -- CR

Check out HuffPost Entertainment's list of the best overall movies of 2013 here.

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