Trying to pick the most visually striking film moments of all time is like trying to list the greatest films themselves; there are too many to pick from, you’ll change your mind within seconds of finishing and no one will ever agree with you.
Yet just because choosing the best is a fool’s errand, that doesn’t mean you can’t come up with a selection of awe-inspiring shots whose ability to make passer-bys stop and stare is beyond doubt. That’s exactly what we’ve got here, a handful of movie moments that project so much gravitas through a single frozen-in-time image that they could earn their place on a canvas anywhere.
Last stand of Sergeant Elias in Platoon
The most striking and poignant scene from a film which set out to shock its audience, the death of Sergeant Elias is harrowing to view even without the chillingly classical sounds of Samuel Barber’s Adagio for Strings.
Having been presumed dead, the Sergeant is seen running for his life from countless Vietcong. Unable to run or crawl any further, he crumples onto the ground and, pulling his body up one last time, pushes his arms into the air as if submitting to death. Both limbs are layered with blood, his khaki uniform creased, his hair a wild mess. Yet it’s the face of a man in total anguish that gives this shot such emotional punch. No one could see that on your wall and resist the urge to gulp.
Rose Calvert flying in Titanic
Possibly one of the most re-enacted scenes in movie history, the moment where Jack asks Rose to trust him as he holds her open-armed at the end of the ship has been played out by numerous drunken couples since.
This is the epitome of romantic gestures, encapsulating absolute togetherness upon the astoundingly beautiful backdrop of a sun setting over the Atlantic. What makes it special is how such feelings of warmth quickly dissipate when you remember what happens next. Not many images can transform your emotions from one end of the spectrum to another so completely.
Al Pacino introduces his ‘friend’
Think of a quote from Scarface. The film runs for just short of three hours and spans most of a gangster’s lifetime, yet you can guarantee no matter who you ask, they’ll always give the same answer: “say hello to my little friend”.
Whereas the other scenes mentioned are poignant and touching, this deserves its place mounted on a wall due to the sheer fun of it. Cornered, outnumbered and with his back against the wall, Tony Montana loses all cool as he shouts to his counterparts before sending them all flying backward.
Aside from the powerful image of a furious man holding a shotgun at waist-height preparing to kill, the screenshot of him just beforehand allows you to see inside a room of extravagant wealth. It shows a man with everything he could ever want, from regal red carpets to gold-cladded furniture. Maybe it’s the metaphorical nature of having it all and being about to lose it that makes it so striking. Either way, hang it on your wall and you’ll cheer everyone up as they attempt their best Italian-American impressions.