11 terrible scenes that nearly ruined great movies

Even the best films sometimes hit a bum note, writes Louis Chilton

Thursday 11 April 2024 08:27 BST
Robert De Niro in ‘The Irishman’, Jamie Foxx in ‘Django Unchained’ and Ian McKellen in ‘Lord of the Rings’
Robert De Niro in ‘The Irishman’, Jamie Foxx in ‘Django Unchained’ and Ian McKellen in ‘Lord of the Rings’ (Netflix/Sony/New Line Cinema)

It’s rare that a film ever truly deserves to be called “perfect”.

While the term is bandied around a lot in the world of cinema, how many films actually manage to last two hours without a single questionable beat? Not too many.

Even great films sometimes have a scene that fails to ring completely true, or a sub-plot that lets your attention drift a little.

From Star Wars: A New Hope to Martin Scorsese’s The Irishman, there are plenty of stellar films that could have almost been derailed by one bum note.

See below for The Independent’s list of 11 bad scenes that came close to jeopardising otherwise brilliant movies.

You can also click here to read The Independent’s list of 23 secretly fantastic performances in otherwise bad films.

10 Cloverfield Lane

For the vast majority of its runtime, 10 Cloverfield Lane is a taut, compelling psychological thriller, starring Mary Elizabeth Winstead as a young woman trapped in an underground bunker with John Goodman and John Gallagher Jr. While she’s told that the world above has been decimated by an alien attack, we never know if Goodman’s sinister bunker-dweller is telling the truth. Until the ending, that is, when the film suddenly morphs into a full-blown disaster movie. It’s a good watch nonetheless, but one that is nearly derailed by the needlessly literal ending.

Mary Elizabeth Winstead in ‘10 Cloverfield Lane'
Mary Elizabeth Winstead in ‘10 Cloverfield Lane' (Paramount Pictures)

American Sniper

OK, the problems with American Sniper go deeper than just one duff scene. But for all its questionable politics, Clint Eastwood’s hit 2014 war drama was a slick, well-made film – with one shockingly amateurish moment. The scene, in which Bradley Cooper and Sienna Miller talk while holding a transparently, unmistakably fake baby, was ridiculed and memed widely when the film was released.

Django Unchained

Django Unchained is a film with some truly remarkable performances. There’s Christoph Waltz’s bounty hunter-dentist (a role which won him a second Oscar), Leonardo DiCaprio’s loathsome Calvin Candy, and, at the centre of it all, a seldom-better Jamie Foxx. But there’s one clear black sheep among the cast: Quentin Tarantino himself, who plays an Australian slavetrader. The director is awful – so awful, in fact, that if he were on screen for more than his brief appearance, the whole movie would have been thrown into jeopardy.

Jurassic Park III

While it was obviously never going to be a patch on the original, Jurassic Park III was a thoroughly enjoyable dinosaur romp that puts all three Jurassic World movies to shame. Except, do you remember the scene with the talking velociraptor? It turned out to be a dream sequence, of course, but the brief moment of dino-loquaciousness was so goofy you couldn’t help but be taken out of the experience.

Téa Leoni and William H Macy in ‘Jurassic Park III'
Téa Leoni and William H Macy in ‘Jurassic Park III' (Universal)

Kingsman: The Secret Service

There was something about Kingsman that really struck a chord with viewers; its bombastic, farfetched spin on the spy genre seemed to evoke a bygone era of James Bond. The film throughout leaned heavily into comedy, but the very final scene – which features a crude joke about anal sex – left many with a sour taste in their mouths.

Licorice Pizza

The latest film from There Will Be Blood maestro Paul Thomas Anderson proved rather divisive; to some, it was a work of pure genius, to others an uncomfortable endorsement of an inappropriate relationship. There was one thing pretty much everyone agreed on, however. A scene featuring John Michael Higgins as a white restauranteur speaking in a grotesquely caricatured Japanese accent to his wife – intended as a lighthearted anti-racist satire – landed like a lead balloon, and put some viewers off the film entirely.

Alana Haim in ‘Licorice Pizza'
Alana Haim in ‘Licorice Pizza' (Universal)

Let the Right One In

Scandinavian coming-of-age horror Let the Right One In featured some pretty impressive visual effects in many of its scenes – with one glaring exception. A sequence in which Virginia (Ika Nord) is attacked by a room full of cats is rendered with such wobbly CGI that the whole thing comes across as an absurd, tacky comedy. Thankfully, it doesn’t detract from the rest of the film, which endures as an eerie delight.

Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King

The Return of the King was an undeniably great epic, filled with memorable set pieces and moments of real fantasy awe. The last half hour, however? I’m not so sure. The film’s schmaltzy epilogue was five times too long and dramatically inert – the scene with Frodo lying in bed, greeting his comrades one by one, is enough to have even the most loyal Tolkien-head checking their wristwatch.

Star Wars

The 1997 Special Edition re-release of Star Wars: Episode IV –A New Hope, quickly became infamous among the franchise’s long-term fans thanks to one scene in particular. With just one small editing change, George Lucas made it so Han Solo (Harrison Ford) no longer shot the scurrilous alien Greedo before he could shoot him first. In that moment, a supposedly key piece of character-building was lost. The controversial scene would kick off an argument that raged among Star Wars fans for decades.

Greedo and Han Solo prepare to shoot one another in ‘Star Wars: A New Hope’
Greedo and Han Solo prepare to shoot one another in ‘Star Wars: A New Hope’ (Disney/Lucasfilm)

The Dark Knight Rises

Christopher Nolan’s follow-up to the widely adored superhero thriller The Dark Knight was markedly less well-recieved than its predecessor, and for good reason. But for the majority of its runtime, The Dark Knight is still a compelling, spectacle-fuelled romp. The character of Talia al Ghul (Marion Cotillard), however, sadly never quite came together, and her limp, head-rolling death scene provoked more laughs than gasps.

The Irishman

Martin Scorsese’s 2018 gangster elegy was a slow-burn masterpiece, reuniting the director with Robert De Niro and Joe Pesci, and marking his first collaboration with Al Pacino. The actors were digitally de-aged for much of the film, to portray their characters at various stages of their life. It worked, more or less – but one scene, in which an ostensibly youthful De Niro beats up the man who pushed his daughter, was too much for the digital effects to bear. There’s no disguising the fact that De Niro moves, and fights, like a man in his mid-70s. In a film filled with great, affecting moments, this one was awkward to watch.

This article was originally published in October 2022

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