13 best movie moments of all time — here’s our favorites

Avengers: Endgame Thanos snap scene, Frodo from Lord of the Rings and Meg Ryan in When Harry Met Sally
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Whether it's the best Netflix movies, best Disney Plus movies to stream or best Amazon Prime Video movies that are worth sinking your precious free time into, we're absolutely obsessed with the magic of film here at Tom's Guide. As such, a bunch of our writers have weighed on their personal favorite scenes they've ever watched.

It's quite the eclectic list, spanning decades of film history. Now admittedly many of us have gone the "mainstream" route with our picks. So if you have a cherished moment from an indie darling you'd like to share in the comments, we'd love to hear from you!

Even though my official day job revolves around writing about the best gaming laptops and other PC tech, such is my love for film, I couldn't help but ask my fellow members of the Tom's Guide staff: What's your favorite movie scene of all time? Here's how they answered. 

"Heat" fires it up with the greatest closing shot ever

Dave Meikleham
Dave Meikleham

The ending of Heat with Robert De Niro and Al Pacino holding hands at LAX airport.

(Image credit: Alamy)

The single most amazing frame ever committed to celluloid is the closing shot of Michael Mann’s masterful heist caper, "Heat". The initial story was conceived for 1989’s stand-alone TV movie, "L.A. Takedown“ — the tale of an obsessive crook and an equally committed cop. Yet the small screen promise of that plot didn’t truly blossom until the legendary filmmaker pulled off the miraculous act of persuading both Robert De Niro and Al Pacino to appear on-screen together for the first time in the two icons' mythic careers.

Heat is a sweeping, bruised picture that does something utterly unique: it makes the “bad guy” as fully formed as the “good guy.” De Niro’s Neil McCauley is the master bank robber who won't hesitate to “walk out on in 30 seconds flat if you feel the heat around the corner.” A mantra that heartbreakingly backfires in a final act scene when Neil spots Lt. Vincent Hanna bearing down on a car his girlfriend is waiting for him in as murder and mayhem swirl around LAX airport.

The next 10 minutes play out as an astonishing shootout. Arguably the two greatest screen icons ever facing off at the height of their powers. The fact Mann deliberately reversed engineered the entire film to service that incredibly somber final shot — De Niro and Pacino holding hands as the crook’s life gradually fades in front of the only person who truly understands his code — is spellbinding cinema. Throw in Moby’s goosebump-inducing “God Moving Over the Face of the Waters, and you’re left with liquefied movie magic.  

“I’ll have what she’s having.”

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Kelly Woo
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This is a tough one; there are countless great moments from movies throughout the decades. I was tempted to go with the Luke/Vader confrontation at the end of “Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back” or “The Ride of the Rohirrim” from “The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King.” But since so many of my colleagues opted for action or drama, I decided to choose an iconic comedic moment: the famous orgasm scene from “When Harry Met Sally," one of my top five favorite rom-coms. 

During lunch at the always-bustling Katz’s Deli in downtown Manhattan, Harry (Billy Crystal) stupidly proclaims none of his one-night stands have ever faked an orgasm. Sally (Meg Ryan) proves him wrong by faking a loud, very convincing one — so convincing that an older female diner tells the server, “I’ll have what she’s having.” Wouldn’t we all?  

The moment Thanos snapped his fingers in "Avengers: Infinity War"

Alix Blackburn
Alix Blackburn
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When I think about this question, one scene immediately springs to mind: the chilling moment when Thanos snapped his fingers in "Avengers: Infinity War." That moment shook me as I sat in the movie theater. Watching beloved characters vanish into thin air, accompanied by an eerie silence, was utterly unsettling, especially for a Marvel movie (they really went for it). I remember my heart sinking as the remaining characters reacted with distress to the loss of their friends, not knowing how to help them or what to do in such a frightening moment. Of course, I can’t forget about the look on Thor’s face when he failed to “go for the head.” 

Clearly, Marvel intended to deliver a gut-wrenching blow, leaving us on an incredibly depressing cliffhanger that lingered in my thoughts for weeks. I wish I could experience that magical, utterly moving moment for the first time again. 

I can’t get “Alien’s” Chestburster out of my head

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Rory Mellon

The Chestburster scene from Alien (1979).

(Image credit: Alamy)

After checking that I couldn’t just list every scene in “Alien” as my answer, I set about the task of picking the one moment that stands out as my favorite from any scene of all time. 

While I consider the heart-pounding sequence where Dallas creeps through the Nostromo’s air ducts only to meet the horrifying embrace of the Xenomporh, or the visually stunning scene that sees the crew explore the derelict craft containing a hull full of Alien eggs, there was only one answer, and it can be described in one word: Chestburster. 

This skin-crawling scene sees Kane (John Hurt), freshly awaken after being put into a coma by a Face Hugger; the crew enjoying a final meal before returning to hypersleep, only for this boisterous banquet to be interrupted by an baby Xeno bursting from the executive officer’s chest in a blast of bloody viscera. It’s a stomach-churning moment that will have you clutching your abdomen in fear that an extraterrestrial parasite may suddenly spring from your own gut. 

The legend goes that the cast wasn’t told what would happen during the filming, and while this is actually an urban myth, Sigourney Weaver and her fellow performers sell the moment with such genuine terror that even after watching it dozens of times it still chills my bones. 

Indy escaping the boulder is the ultimate adventure movie moment

Martin Shore
Martin Shore
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I feel a lot of pressure to make the “right” choice here, given my job title. And after lots of soul-searching — and a ton of debate over whether I’d prefer to shout out Gandalf’s “YOU SHALL NOT PASS” — I’ve ultimately settled on the opening scene from our first adventure with Indiana Jones, “Raiders of the Lost Ark.”

We join our intrepid adventurer in 1936, on the hunt for a golden idol inside a temple laden with booby traps. Every single step towards the artifact edges our hero further towards danger. And after expertly dodging every trap on his way in, Indy makes the swap with a bag of sand as John Williams’ score screams danger. There’s a moment of stillness; Indy thinks everything’s okay. Then, the pedestal drops away and the temple starts to crumble around him.

Next thing we know, Indiana Jones is betrayed by his guide, Sapito, forcing a panicked escape sequence that’s got to be one of the most iconic in movie history. Traps are firing all around, he barely avoids falling into a deep pit… and that’s all before he flees the boulder. It’s edge-of-your-seat stuff, no matter how many times you’ve seen it.  

It’s super hard to beat Henry Cavill as Superman learning to fly

Mark Spoonauer
Mark Spoonauer
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There’s a running joke in my house that I think I’m actually Superman because of how often I’ve watched "Man of Steel," "Batman vs. Superman," "The Justice League" and even animated Superman movies. My kids even recently gifted me a framed caricature of me flying around as Superman.

I’m also known as someone who is somewhat obsessed with the sun during summertime, so it’s only fitting that my favorite scene in "The Man of Steel" is when Superman is learning to fly and he turns up towards the sun with his eyes closed to drink in its rays. He kneels down, puts his fist to the ground as he prepares to fly and the earth starts to shake in anticipation of his ascent. Then, he soars above the Earth, creating sonic booms in his wake.

It’s a moment of pure joy as Superman starts to discover his true power and test his limits — and a child-like smile comes over Henry Cavill’s face. Sure, I’m excited for the new Superman movie with David Corenswet, but it’s going to be tough to top this scene.

The Copacabana shot in “Goodfellas” is a cinematic tour de force

Mike Prospero
Mike Prospero

Henry and Karen sitting at a table in the New York City's Copacabana nightclub in Goodfellas.

(Image credit: Alamy)

Often duplicated, never replicated, this three-minute continuous take drops the viewer into the dizzying, glamorous side of the criminal underworld in the 1950s. Starting in the parking lot outside the Copacabana, we’re led by Henry Hill (Ray Liotta) not through the front entrance to the nightclub, but down through a back door, where we twist and wind our way through the underbelly of the joint, past necking couples, chefs cooking up meals, and any number of irate guests waiting for a table. 

All the time as the camera moves forward to the strains of “Then He Kissed Me” by the Crystals, it’s swiveling left and right, adding to a sense of delirious disorientation. The camera finally comes to a rest as we see Henry and his date Karen (Lorraine Bracco) get their own table right in front of the stage and the comedic stylings of Henny Youngman, with a complimentary bottle of champagne sent by Henry’s “colleagues” at a nearby table. 

The entire shot is done in one take — meaning, there are no cuts — which adds to the exhilaration of the scene. It’s such an iconic shot (for moviemakers, at least) that other directors have done their own versions, from Paul Thomas Anderson’s “Boogie Nights” to Ryan Coogler’s “Creed.” 

The gun barrel sequence from (just about) every James Bond movie

Jeff Parsons
Jeff Parsons
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It just doesn't get better than Bond. And there's nothing quite like the electricity that crackles through an audience during the famous gun barrel sequence that's been present (more or less) in every 007 adventure going back to 1962's "Dr. No." Granted, not all of James' cinematic outings have been stellar, but there's always, always that sense of excitement and potential when the lights go out, the opening blast of the famous theme ringing out and the white circle traces across the screen. Especially if you’re watching in IMAX, as I did with 2012’s “Skyfall” — a movie that can lay claim to being one of Bond’s best.

But it’s an earlier movie that I go back to most often. I vividly remember going to see my first 007 movie, "Tomorrow Never Dies," in the theater as a kid. For my money, Pierce Brosnan is still — and probably always will be — the best Bond. I was blown away by the whole experience that started with the simple walk across the screen, turn, and fire. Those who enjoy a bit of trivia will likely know the first person to portray Bond on screen wasn't Sean Connery. It was actually stuntman Bob Simmons who doubled for Sir Sean in “Dr. No’s” gun barrel sequence. 

There are plenty of ups and downs during a career in Her Majesty's Secret Service but, ultimately, nobody does it better. 

Maximus facing Germanic might in "Gladiator"

Peter Wolinski
Peter Wolinski
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So that everyone else on the Tom's Guide team (who is in their right minds, at least) can say the correct answer — which is of course the ride of the Rohirrim from "The Lords of the Rings: Return of the King," I'll go for another amazing silver screen moment. 

Editor's note: Oooops (and minor spoiler), no one else did, Pete! 

That's why I'm choosing the opening battle scene of "Gladiator," where General Maximus leads a successful campaign against the mighty forces of Germania. Watching that as an 8-year-old is what eventually inspired me to pursue a degree in ancient history, specializing in Roman warfare. 

An epic set piece, packed full of practical effects instead of relying on digital VFX, it does justice to the spectacle of ancient battle better than anything else on screen (before or since). All of this is backed up by Hans Zimmer’s incredible score, which is easily one of my most-listened-to movie soundtracks to this day. It still puts shivers down the old spine.

It has to be Will Smith punching an alien in "Independence Day"

Ryan Morrison
Ryan Morrison
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I wish my tastes were more highbrow, but I shamelessly love a blockbuster. And they don’t get any better than "Independence Day." Released when I was 15 in 1996, myself and my group of friends would speak in nothing but quotes from the movie for months at a time.

Every conversation, from talking during a dull biology lesson to fielding during a cricket match in a PE class would include lines from the movie. Including regularly declaring “I could have been at a BBQ” every time we were doing something we didn’t want to do, drawing on memories of Smith dragging the alien across the desert.

The movie contains what I think is the greatest moment in any film — Will Smith punching an alien. Smith stumbles on the creature coming out of a crashed spaceship, punches it in the face saying "Welcome to Earth" and then adds "That's what I call a close encounter" when it collapses back into its stomach wreck of a ship.

I do not comment on parallels between this and his later Oscar’s escapade beyond a borrowed line from a colleague that left me laughing at my desk: “GET MY PLANET'S NAME, OUT YA F*ING MOUTH."

The portals scene in "Avengers: Endgame" still gives me goosebumps

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Nikita Achanta
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Over the past couple of years, I’ve sort of fallen out of love with Marvel — simply because I don’t want to watch 13 different shows to keep up with what’s happening in a MCU movie coming out in two years’ time. But my favorite movie moment of all time is still the epic portals scene in "Avengers: Endgame". I watched the movie thrice in the theater, and even rewatching it on my laptop today gets me hyped, like it’s the first time I’m seeing it.

When the first portal opens and out come T’Challa, Shuri and Okoye, with the Falcon saying “On your left” in Cap’s ear and then flying through the portal as countless more open? Peak cinema to me. Alan Silvestri’s emotional and hopeful soundtrack completes the scene as Cap wraps it up with the classic “Avengers! Assemble” line, which is also probably the last time we’ll ever hear it.

No other movie I’ve watched since has stayed with me as much as Endgame. The MCU might have fallen off the pedestal of late, but Endgame will always have a special place in my heart.

“My friends, you bow to no one” shows Aragorn’s true heroism in “The Return of the King”

Nick Pino is the Managing Editor, TV and AV at Tom's Guide
Nick Pino

The Hobbits being kneeled before at the end of The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King

(Image credit: Alamy)

I could go on forever about what makes "The Lord of the Rings trilogy" so spectacular, but instead I’ll focus on one particular scene at the end of the third film that, in my humble opinion, shows exactly why Aragorn deserved to wear the crown. 

To summarize what happens, Aragorn, newly wedded to Arwen, daughter of Elrond, is surrounded by his friends and subjects at the top of Minas Tirith, the last stronghold of humankind. After marshaling the forces of the undead, convincing the Rohirrim to join the fight and leading the last charge against Sauron’s armies at The Black Gate, Aragorn certainly deserved the limelight. And yet, in this moment, he chooses to recognize the contributions of his friends, not just by giving them a title, but by bending the knee to them. 

What Aragorn’s demonstrating here is what real leadership and humility look like — something politicians the world over could take a lesson in. He doesn’t use the platform to talk up his own accomplishments — they speak for themselves. He doesn’t downplay the accomplishments of others but instead elevates those above his own. 

You can make the argument that Aragorn, son of Arathorn and the rightful heir to the thrones of Gondor, Arnor, and Anárion deserved a seat on the throne regardless of his character, but its moments like these that are greater proof than any lineage and ultimately why he deserves to be there. The lesson here is that, no matter how far you go in life, remember to recognize everyone — big and small — who helped you get there. 

The T-Rex introduction in “Jurassic Park” stands out

Josh Render
Josh Render
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There are lots of scenes that I could mention, including Theoden’s speech from Pete's "almost" choice from "The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King," "the Xenomorph attack in "Aliens," Robocop's first night on the job and more. However, one scene I will always remember is the Tyrannosaurus Rex attack in the first "Jurassic Park." 

Final Editor's note: Dave's actual favorite movie moment of all time is when Rexy saves the day against the two raptors during JP's climax, but we've already got two Thanos scenes in here, so our Computing Editor went with Al and Bobby's fateful piece of brotherly bonding from 1995's "Heat" instead. 

This scene had everything, the perfect build up in tension was created with impressive camera work, while the lack of music made every panicked breath feel real. The arrival of the dinosaur and the pioneering CGI effects that made it look oh so real even today. While Jurassic Park might not have been scientifically accurate, and the later movies are of middling quality, this is one scene I’ll remember forever.

This is one of the films that got me into both cinema and dinosaurs. I have read the book and seen the movie more times than I can count, and it is one of my favorite films ever. However, no matter what, when I think of the film, I remember this sequence, and Rexy being the best giant murder-dino she can be.

Also, she kicks the raptors butts later, and that Spinosaurus in "Jurassic Park 3" would not beat a Tyrannosaurus Rex. Come at me, paleontologists.

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Dave Meikleham
UK Computing Editor

Dave is a computing editor at Tom’s Guide and covers everything from cutting edge laptops to ultrawide monitors. When he’s not worrying about dead pixels, Dave enjoys regularly rebuilding his PC for absolutely no reason at all. In a previous life, he worked as a video game journalist for 15 years, with bylines across GamesRadar+, PC Gamer and TechRadar. Despite owning a graphics card that costs roughly the same as your average used car, he still enjoys gaming on the go and is regularly glued to his Switch. Away from tech, most of Dave’s time is taken up by walking his husky, buying new TVs at an embarrassing rate and obsessing over his beloved Arsenal. 

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