Paramount Pictures

The 20 Best Film Scenes of 2016
The 20 Best Film Scenes of 2016

Cosmos, Linguistic Nonsense

There’s a rare moment in Cosmos when, for nearly five unbroken minutes, Andrzej Zulawski’s aerobic camera finally stops moving. Witold (Jonathan Genet) is in the middle of one his paranoid meltdowns when Léon (Jean-François Balmer), the head of the country house that the vacationing writer is staying at, proposes a seaside getaway. Léon has already shown a proclivity for nonsensical verbal embellishments but here, with Balmer seemingly caught off guard by Zulawski’s refusal to call “cut,” starts emphatically adlibbing until nothing he’s saying bears any resemblance to the French language. It’s a hell of showcase for Balmer, as well as the funniest scene in the career of a filmmaker rarely recognized for his sense of humor. Lund

The 20 Best Film Scenes of 2016

Elle, The Storm

Elle is all about thwarting audience expectations and upending politically correct sexual mores. So it’s no surprise that during the film’s most traditionally romantic scenario, there’s no sexual consummation. With a storm lashing the shutters against Michelle’s windows and the wind throwing her and Patrick’s bodies against one another, the pair turns down the opportunity to act on their obvious mutual attraction, as both need far more sinister scenarios to get off. Elle’s sensitive portrayal of Michelle and Patrick’s dangerous erotic desires and refusal to see their relationship as merely pathological makes the film a true 21st-century romance. Oleg Ivanov

The 20 Best Film Scenes of 2016

The Fits, The Bridge Dance

Two gyms, both inside the same community center, figure prominently in Anna Rose Holmer’s The Fits, each one an affirmation of rigid social hierarchy. Boys box in one, while the all-female members of the Lionesses dance group work on their moves next door. Pre-teen tomboy Toni (Royalty Hightower) hangs out inside each gym, almost ritualistically jumping back and forth between the two spaces in what comes to reflect her grappling with identity. In the film’s most striking scene, Toni’s dance-cum-shadowboxing performance on a bridge is understood as a resistance to strictly defined gender roles—which is to say, her acceptance of herself as her own unique person. Greene

The 20 Best Film Scenes of 2016

Happy Hour, The Workshop

The marathon communication workshop from Ryusuke Hamaguchi’s Happy Hour, from the none-too-successful mind readings to the striking moment where a chair appears to defy gravity by balancing on one of its legs, is a distillation of the humor, awkwardness, and gentle surrealism of the film itself. When it comes to their many issues, the film’s main quartet of friends frequently fail to meet on the same level despite their best intentions, and the nontraditional, sometimes laughable nature of the exercises in this scene beg the question: What is the right way to communicate? Greene

The 20 Best Film Scenes of 2016

Hell or High Water, Final Confrontation

David Mackenzie’s Hell or High Water ends on an inconclusively pregnant note that affirms its allegiance to the writing of Cormac McCarthy, though the derivations are forgivable for the laudably submerged acting of Jeff Bridges and Chris Pine. The poignancy of this finale resides in how the characters are understood to find, in their blooming bitterness, a kinship that will nevertheless fail to halt the flow of violence. Bowen