ENTERTAINMENT
12/24/2014 02:20 pm ET Updated Dec 24, 2014

The 17 Best Movie Moments Of The Year

If going to the movies had an instant-replay feature, Matthew McConaughey sobbing in "Interstellar," Rosamund Pike delivering the iconic Cool Girl speech in "Gone Girl" and the electrifying musical finale of "Whiplash" are just a few moments we'd demand to see again. As 2014 winds down, we're still pondering their impact. The same goes for the 14 other scenes HuffPost Entertainment has selected as the year's best. Read on for our look at the strongest cinematic standouts of the past 365 days. (We're dealing with specifics here, so be warned that spoilers abound.)

  • Michael Keaton's Times Square underwear walk in "Birdman"
    The brilliance and hilarity of "Birdman" comes from its ability to find humor in the darkest depths of the human psyche and a
    The brilliance and hilarity of "Birdman" comes from its ability to find humor in the darkest depths of the human psyche and also the most embarrassing bad-luck scenarios. When Riggan (Michael Keaton) gets locked out of the theater wearing nothing but a robe and underwear, you can’t help but panic and ask, What the hell you would do. But he goes for it -- strips down and marches through Times Square in tighty whities, re-enters the theater and performs the hell out of his final scene. And why? Because he’s Birdman (caw)! -- Erin Whitney
  • The Cool Girl speech in "Gone Girl"
    It's the speech that launched a dozen <a href="http://thinkprogress.org/alyssa/2012/09/13/835681/gone-girl/" target="_blank">
    20th Century Fox
    It's the speech that launched a dozen think-pieces when Gillian Flynn’s megahit was first published in 2012. Amy Dunne’s blistering takedown of what she calls the "cool girl" trope -- the wife or girlfriend who goes out of her way to relish her partner’s macho proclivities -- was one of the first things "Gone Girl" fans wanted to see when the movie was announced. Our prayers were answered. Amy (Rosamund Pike) recites an abbreviated version via voice-over as she speeds down the freeway. It's our first indication that Amy is still alive after going missing, and she brings a certain acerbic zeal to the movie as she cruises past the very women who appear to match her descriptions, munching on junk food and chucking the pens with which she fabricated the diary that frames Nick (Ben Affleck) as her murderer. It's a moment of equal parts self-reflection ("I was game") and creeping madness ("He doesn’t get to fucking win"), and yet again it proffered a dozen or so think-pieces. -- Matthew Jacobs
  • Matthew McConaughey watching 20 years of messages in "Interstellar"
    Imagine leaving your family to go to space, getting stuck on a planet for an hour or two longer than you hoped, then arriving
    Tumblr
    Imagine leaving your family to go to space, getting stuck on a planet for an hour or two longer than you hoped, then arriving back to your ship realizing 20 years have passed. Now you have to watch two decades of video messages from your family as they grew up without you, had kids and became adults. If you weren't sobbing as hard as Matthew McConaughey during this scene -- regardless of whether you’re fond of "Interstellar" or not -- then we're not quite sure what to say. (You shed at least one tear, right?) -- EW
  • Patricia Arquette's final speech in "Boyhood"
    The most meaningful film quote of 2014 may be as simple as: "I just thought there would be more." Patricia Arquette utters th
    IFC
    The most meaningful film quote of 2014 may be as simple as: "I just thought there would be more." Patricia Arquette utters these words near the end of Richard Linklater's sprawling coming-of-age tale, as the college-bound boy (Ellar Coltrane) packs his bags to leave home. Anyone who's gone numb with nostalgia at the idea of reaching another of life's milestones will be sucker-punched by Arquette's heartbreak. The rawness of the tear-stained monologue is enough to rip open the wistfulness that wounds even the least sentimental parts of ourselves. -- MJ
  • Dancing Baby Groot in "Guardians of the Galaxy"
    YouTube
    We could have picked any number of "Guardians of the Galaxy" scenes -- many of them probably involve "Awesome Mix Vol. 1" -- but the best comes at the start of the end credits as Drax the Destroyer sharpens a blade while Baby Groot grooves to Jackson 5's "I Want You Back." We'd already fallen for the tree-man's charming grumbles, but when he sacrifices himself to save the other guardians, it was only right that he be replanted and properly reintroduced. How else would he spring to life but to bob his little stump of a body back and forth as one of the mixtape's tracks plays? He even got a toy out of it! -- MJ
  • Scarlett Johansson's first trapping in "Under the Skin"
    One of the most haunting and unsettling films of the year, Jonathan Glazer's “Under the Skin” has remained underrated despite
    A24
    One of the most haunting and unsettling films of the year, Jonathan Glazer's “Under the Skin” has remained underrated despite heaps of praise. Take the first scene, where we find out where Scarlett Johansson's alien seductress takes roadside stragglers. Slowly removing her clothes, she begins her walk of enchantment as screeching strings, reminiscent of a classic horror score, send chills through your spine. The hypnotic scene teases its blatant sensuality to concoct a bubbling terror that stays with you long after the movie's over. (You can watch the full scene on YouTube.) -- EW
  • Laura Dern's "If I could teach you one thing" speech in "Wild"
    YouTube
    "If there's one thing I could teach you, it's how to find your best self." Delivered the wrong way, this line sounds like a refrigerator-ready platitude from an episode of "Super Soul Sunday." Instead it hails from another Oprah endorsement, and in the hands of Laura Dern, the "Wild" moment is nothing if not authentic. Bobbi (Dern) says it in response to her daughter Cheryl's (Reese Witherspoon) exasperation about their money woes during a flashback scene from before Cheryl's Pacific Crest Trail expedition. In the hands of Jean-Marc Vallée's dreamlike direction, we feel implanted in their kitchen, as if the smell of Bobbi's soup is wafting through our own cinematic experience. -- MJ
  • The musical finale of "Whiplash"
    If Damien Chazelle's "Whiplash" is an augmenting adrenaline rush, then the film's musical finale is the exploding catharsis o
    Tumblr
    If Damien Chazelle's "Whiplash" is an augmenting adrenaline rush, then the film's musical finale is the exploding catharsis of all the (literal) blood, sweat and tears that came prior. As drummer Andrew (Miles Teller) dedicates himself to achieving perfection under the abuse of his music instructor, he finally gets his moment of redemption in a pounding drum solo that will make you forget to breathe. The scene is musically, psychologically and emotionally riveting up until the last moment when the drumming stops for a close-up shot that serves up the most bittersweet final punch. -- EW
  • The storybook scene in "The Babadook"
    YouTube
    The click-click-click rhythm that defines the titular book in "The Babadook" becomes a steady stream of terror as the strained mother at the movie's center (Essie Davis) reads the story to her unruly son (Noah Wiseman). The bat-like beast pops out of the book's center and the words "Take heed of what you've read" fill the screen. In turn, we take heed of a dread that escalates in a brisk 60 seconds, the fire-engine red of the book's cover giving way to the crude illustrations and erratic font choices that introduce a lifetime of haunting to anyone who finishes it. Too bad it takes until the final page for anyone to realize the "Ba Ba-ba Dook Dook Dook!" is not playing games. -- MJ
  • The barrel revolt in "Snowpiercer"
    YouTube
    Easily one of (if not the) best action film of the year, "Snowpiercer" is like watching one long dystopian video game as the impoverished kick the asses of the elite. Curtis (Chris Evans) leads the first of many awesome and innovative revolts against the train guards, which includes linking metal barrels to break into the upper train cars. Not only does Curtis ride on top of a moving train of barrels (inside of a corridors of a moving train, mind you), but Tanya (Octavia Spencer) also gets to beat the crap out of the bad guys (and there’s also some awesome parkour-stabbing action). Can we get more movies like this, please? -- EW
  • John Lithgow and Alfred Molina at the bar in "Love is Strange"
    YouTube
    "Love is Strange" is a romantic dramedy in which the central couple -- Ben (John Lithgow) and George (Alfred Molina), New York newlyweds after 39 years together -- are forced to bunk separately for much of the film. That leads to a blissful reunion during the third act, when a date night brings the couple to a Greenwich Village bar they frequented in their youth. There, they lean into each other to reminisce about the four decades they've spent together, and in the span of a few minutes we learn more about these two characters than some romances capture in two hours. -- MJ
  • Bloody Sunday in "Selma"
    The civil rights movement reached new heights of savagery on March 7, 1965, when 600 peaceful protesters marching across the
    Paramount Pictures
    The civil rights movement reached new heights of savagery on March 7, 1965, when 600 peaceful protesters marching across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama were greeted by an army of officers with billy clubs and tear gas in hand. As depicted in Ava DuVernay's film about Martin Luther King Jr.'s efforts to galvanize support for the 1965 Voting Rights Act, the gray skies looming overhead curdles the blood spilled as a result of every piece of stalled legislation (and every patronizing politician’s disregard). Beautifully filmed but hauntingly disconcerting, the scene -- like the entirety of "Selma" -- is a harrowing take on a true American horror story. -- MJ
  • Martin Short snorting coke in "Inherent Vice"
    It’s difficult to describe (and understand) the perplexing shenanigans that make up Paul Thomas Anderson's detective mystery
    YouTube
    It’s difficult to describe (and understand) the perplexing shenanigans that make up Paul Thomas Anderson's detective mystery "Inherent Vice." Yet, this particular scene pretty much sums up the film's zany vibe. Joaquin Phoenix's dopey private investigator enters a mysterious headquarters to find Dr. Rudy Blatnoyd (Martin Short), a purple suit-wearing coke-addicted dentist. Things quickly escalate from a confused meeting to Rudy running around with his pants down snorting lines off a desk. It's blissful insanity at its finest. -- EW
  • Seth Rogen and Rose Byrne's attempt to have sex in "Neighbors"
    The best thing about Seth Rogen and Rose Byrne's characters as they attempt to have sexy time in front of their baby in "Neig
    The best thing about Seth Rogen and Rose Byrne's characters as they attempt to have sexy time in front of their baby in "Neighbors" is how proud they seem. Finally, these new parents can let loose and feel young again! Instead, little Stella is wide-awake, cooing at the sight of mom and dad straddling each other in the throes of forced passion. Way to wreck a couple's sex drive -- and way to make a movie theater explore with laughter. -- MJ
  • The end of "Only Lovers Left Alive"
    YouTube
    Jim Jarmusch's vampire romance is equal parts beautiful, sexy and smart through its subversion of the trite horror genre. With its blend of modernity and literary history, the swanky punk rock-styled Tilda Swinton and Tom Hiddleston seem like the furthest thing from blood suckers and more like the reclusive intellectuals they present themselves as -- mostly since they never get blood directly from people. But, in the film's final moments -- when, on the verge of death, they spot a pair of lovers -- they finally flash their fangs for replenishment. "It's so fucking 15th century," says Swinton's Eve. -- EW
  • The car chase in "Nightcrawler"
    Great car chases fall on the spectrum of swift intensity and unrealistic insanity (à la "Fast & Furious"), but "Nightcrawler"
    YouTube
    Great car chases fall on the spectrum of swift intensity and unrealistic insanity (à la "Fast & Furious"), but "Nightcrawler" raises the stakes higher by adding one crazed sociopath to the mix. When Jake Gyllenhaal's seedy Lou Bloom gets a camera in his hand, no moral, legal or ethical limitations will hinder him from capturing the grittiest crimes. Hence a high-speed chase through the streets of Los Angeles that accelerates to such a bonkers degree that you'll undoubtedly be shouting expletives. (You can watch the full scene on YouTube.) -- EW
  • Uma Thurman storms through "Nymphomaniac: Volume 1"
    Hell hath no fury like Uma Thurman scorned -- and it only took eight minutes of Lars von Trier's two-part prurient spectacle
    Hell hath no fury like Uma Thurman scorned -- and it only took eight minutes of Lars von Trier's two-part prurient spectacle to prove it. Playing Mrs. H, who barges in as her husband moves in with his mistress, Thurman goes from frazzled to inquisitive to hysterical, all while her character's three young children stand by in confusion. But what Thurman does goes beyond elements of revenge or despair: As Mrs. H comes to understand the absurdity of her husband's decision, Thurman imbues a superiority that borders on comedic. It's an electrifying wake-up call to the odd slog that is "Nymphomaniac." -- MJ



Also check out our lists of the year's best movies, TV shows, albums, songs and performances.

HuffPost

BEFORE YOU GO

PHOTO GALLERY
Best Performances of 2014
CONVERSATIONS