This article was written by Jacob Hall and Angie Han.
This is not a list of the best movies of 2016. We have personal top 10 lists for that. On this list, you will find movies we loved, movies we didn’t love, and movies that aren’t a part of the end-of-the-year conversation. For inclusion on this list, a movie needed to offer only one thing: a single scene, shot, or line of dialogue that has stuck with us, for better and for worse.
Welcome to our list of the 27 most memorable movie moments of 2016. It was supposed to be 25, but we have no discipline. Be advised there are spoilers ahead for some of the films discussed.
The Bus Chase in Independence Day: Resurgence
Here it is: the stupidest scene in any movie released in 2016. I’ve gone on the record as a defender of Roland Emmerich’s Independence Day: Resurgence, but there is no denying that this movie is an idiotic cartoon. But man…what an idiotic cartoon! And to the movie’s credit, it saves its dumbest moment for the grand finale, where the Kaiju-sized alien queen pursues a school bus, driven by Jeff Goldblum and full of orphaned children, across the desert outside of Area 51. You watch this scene between your fingers, chuckling and cringing and wondering how anyone thought this was okay. I will never forget it. Never, ever, ever, ever, ever. -Jacob Hall
The Farting Corgis in The BFG
Let’s not lie to ourselves. Farts are funny. Feel free to turn your nose up at flatulence. Feel free to sneer at low comedy. It’s your loss. There is nothing quite like watching an actual, legitimate genius craft a fart joke. Shakespeare did it and now, Steven Spielberg has as well. The groundwork for the best movie fart joke of all time (seriously) is laid early in The BFG, when we learn that the title character enjoys drinking a magical elixir with an… uncouth side effect. When he visits the Queen of England later in the movie and offers the royal court (and a trio of adorable corgis) a taste, magic happens. Magic farts, that is. Look, if you don’t find corgis propelled down a hallway by their own super-powered farts to be the funniest goddamn thing ever, we can’t be friends. -Jacob Hall
Luke Evans Floats in the Pool in High-Rise
Ben Wheatley’s High-Rise is full of disturbing moments that linger in the brain and acts of violence that shock in the moment. But many months later, the shot of Luke Evans’ Wilder floating in his apartment building’s swimming pool stands out. It’s not just a beautiful shot in an ugly movie, but one of the final moments of calm before the grisly storm really kicks in. Hell is right around the corner, creeping in with its red glow, and we are offered one final moment of quiet contemplation. -Jacob Hall
That Sloth Smile in Zootopia
Zootopia had a lot of important things to say and it said them very well, but the moment I’ve probably referenced, mimicked, and thought about than any other in the entire movie is the sloth-paced smile that spreads over Flash’s face after Nick tells his “three-humped camel” joke. I won’t pretend it’s deep or meaningful in any sort of way, but it’s almost unbearably cute and makes me smile just as big as Flash does. -Angie Han
Sam and Bucky in the Car in Captain America: Civil War
Marvel is beating everyone else in the superhero game right now, and this tiny moment right here is one shining example of why. Here you have two supremely powerful allies irrevocably bound to each other by a common friend and a shared cause, on their way to the biggest superhero showdown in MCU history… and the film takes a second to crack a joke that reminds you of how wonderfully, hilariously human these characters still are, with all the pettiness that entails. (Don’t worry, these two find something else to bond over a few minutes later when Cap finally kisses Sharon Carter.) -Angie Han
The Truth About Those Flashbacks in Arrival
For much of its running time, Arrival is a fairly icy experience. Amy Adams’s Louise Banks attempts to communicate with alien visitors. Political tensions around the world escalate. Cooler heads attempt to overcome war-mongers. Appropriate for a movie about scientists and scholars, it’s mostly interested in hard facts and data. Late in the movie, Banks offers a stunning revelation: the “flashbacks” to her dead child we’ve been seeing haven’t been flashbacks at all, but flash forwards, a side effect of communicating in the aliens’ non-linear language. Suddenly, Arrival reveals its big, gooey heart, everything we’ve seen before takes on a new context, and the stage is set for the emotionally shattering decisions to follow. -Jacob Hall
The “How Far I’ll Go” Number in Moana
One of the most satisfying things about Moana is that it’s really just an old school Broadway musical. The songs by Lin-Manuel Miranda, Opetaia Foa’i, and Mark Mancina are uniformly excellent and so very clever, but the best of them arrives fairly early. “How Far I’ll Go” is a traditional “I Want” number, the first act song where the main character takes center stage and informs the audience of what she’ll be pursuing for the rest of the show, but it’s a great “I Want” numbers and the best “I Want” number in any Disney musical since The Little Mermaid‘s “Part of Your World.” Auli’i Cravalho’s incredible voice and those truly clever lyrics work in tandem to build something truly special. -Jacob Hall
The “Sex Scene” in Nine Lives
Okay, let me very clear here: there is no actual sex scene in Nine Lives. No one, at any point, screws the cat that is secretly Kevin Spacey. However, there is definitely a scene in this movie that borrows from the cinematic language of a sex scene and serves the same narrative purpose that a sex scene might in another film. Jennifer Garner slips out of her stockings and into a silky nightgown, picks up the cat that she doesn’t know is really her husband, and whispers “don’t tell anyone” as she brings the cat into her bed. We then cut to the next morning, where they’re still cuddling. It’s as weird as it sounds, and almost makes me admire Nine Lives in a perverse sort of way. -Angie Han
Pat’s Hand Injury in Green Room
The most upsetting (and also the most realistic) thing about Green Room, is that its characters are just people. They err is judgment. They make stupid decisions in the heat of the moment. They don’t act like scripted movie characters – they act like desperate people in a bad, bad situation. Because he’s played by Anton Yelchin and because he’s the lead character of the movie, you expect Pat to rise to the occasion and Bruce Willis his way out his punk band’s stand-off with Patrick Stewart’s neo-Nazi group. Instead, he suffers one of the most disturbing injuries ever put on film and spends the rest of the movie bleeding and whimpering and fighting through the pain. Green Room pulls no punches and it shows no mercy. Those who do get out alive will bear scars, physical and emotional, for the rest of their lives. -Jacob Hall