2021 is finishing up! I'm wrapping up the year with a bunch of end-of-year rankings, and to start off my best/worst end-of-year rankings, I'm ranking my favorite scenes of the year. This was an incredibly hard list, because there were a lot of really great movie moments from really great movies this year. I narrowed it down to fifteen moments with a few honorable mentions, but keep in mind that there are still great scenes not included on this list. Be sure to check out my least favorite scenes of the year ranking by clicking this sentence.
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SPOILERS AHEAD FOR THE FOLLOWING
Zack Snyder's Justice League
The Mitchells vs. the Machines
A Quiet Place Part II
In the Heights Dear Evan Hansen
West Side Story
Spider-Man: No Way Home
Mandarin vs. Shang- Chi #2 (Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings): Great end to Mandarin's arc.
I Feel Pretty (West Side Story): Extremely happy and fun song before the really sad part.
The Finale (Ghostbusters: Afterlife): Super satisfying fan service and big emotions.
We Don't Talk About Bruno (Encanto): Very catchy song with fantastic visuals.
Peter's Lawyer (Spider-Man: No Way Home): Can't say who...but yeah.
Mindy's Rant (Don't Look Up): A devastating scene with a great performance from Leo.
Guy vs. Dude (Free Guy): Great Avengers and Star Wars references.
House Harkonnen Raids Arrakis (Dune): Massively awesome battle sequence.
Sincerely, Me (Dear Evan Hansen): The only fun part of Dear Evan Hansen.
The Balcony (West Side Story): Spielberg, Zegler, and Elgort nailed this scene.
15. The Ending (Halloween Kills)
The ending of Halloween Kills is probably the most shocking ending of 2021. Obviously, we knew Michael Myers wasn't going to die, but Karen's jump scare stabbing was a big punch to the gut. I loved the final fight scene against the mob, too, so that's kind of included in this entry. But Karen's death was one of the most upsetting and heart-wrenching moments of the year. It sets up Halloween Ends perfectly, and I cannot wait to see Laurie take down Michael after this horrific rampage.
14. The Dance (West Side Story)
This scene is a prime example of Steven Spielberg just showing up. In this picture, you can see the amazing shot composition. The Sharks are on the right, all dressed in shades of red. The Jets are on the left, all dressed in blue. Even better is when you finally see Tony and Maria. Tony is dressed in black and Maria is dressed in white. It's the small things that make this movie just amazing. Besides the flamboyantly great costumes and the direction, this scene has beautiful choreography, great dialogue, and fun music accompanying it. This is one of the best technically crafted scenes of the year, but also one of the most fun.
13. The Flash Saves the World (Zack Snyder's Justice League)
The original Justice League absolutely fumbled the ball when it came to the Flash. This makes Flash the hero that he should've been in Justice League. It's also a fantastic and clever use of his powers. It pays off Flash's character arc so well. He overcomes what was previously a fear of his to save the Justice League and the world from Darkseid and the parademons. I don't know who cut this scene at Warner Bros., but whoever did is just a complete airhead. This is the only correct way to end the movie. I love it.
12. The Opening Scene (A Quiet Place Part II)
The opening scene of A Quiet Place Part II was everything: it was highly intense, it was heart-breaking, and it made us understand how this world of the quiet place came to be. It starts off with some incredible sound design. Then it transitions into a normal baseball game. And then the Death Angels invade and the world is turned upside down forever. It shows this from the perspective of a regular family that reacts so realistically. It was devastating to watch this world be suddenly and aggressively invaded, but it was also really fun and intense. The camera work was genius, the tension was sky high, and the performances were top-notch. This is how to start a great movie.
11. The Final Fight (The Mitchells vs. the Machines)
The finale of The Mitchells vs. the Machines is how to do payoff right. Every moment set up throughout the film is used to fight off the machines in this final battle. That is impeccable screenwriting. I could easily see The Mitchells vs. the Machines receiving an Oscar nom for screenplay. This scene is amazingly written. It was so satisfying to watch the callbacks to the scene. It was almost like a lesser version of the finale in Avengers: Endgame. Either way, it was a very nice way to finish off The Mitchells vs. the Machines.
10. Scorpion vs. Sub-Zero #2 (Mortal Kombat)
Scorpion and Sub-Zero were easily my favorite part of Mortal Kombat. The backstory and rivalry was done so well. Hiroyuki Sanada (Scorpion) and Joe Taslim (Sub-Zero) were also the two best actors in the movie. While I am not a huge fan of the Mortal Kombat games, I am familiar with them and definitely know Scorpion's signature catchphrase, which was used so well in this final battle. It ended Mortal Kombat on a very, very high note and I really hope that these two characters together are used more prominently in the inevitable sequel.
9. 96,000 (In the Heights)
This song was so vibrant and beautiful to watch. I love how it balances the optimism and joyousness of the song with character moments where they sing about what they would do with 96,000 dollars. This also sets up a moment later in the film where Usnavi discovers the lottery ticket. Anthony Ramos, Corey Hawkins, and Melissa Barrera all nail their solos. Jon M. Chu gives us some very unique and very cool visuals. The setting, singing, and energy that this song boasts makes it one of the best scenes of 2021.
8. Tony's Death (West Side Story)
What West Side Story did that the original didn't do was get the Tony and Maria relationship perfect. Rachel Zegler and Ansel Elgort give it their all to make you believe in this love story. And you want them to succeed so badly. So it is just devastating when you see this. Anita, who had just almost been raped by the Jets, lies to Valentina, saying that Maria was shot and killed by Chino. This horrifies Tony, who yells out on the street for Chino to kill him, too. Then he sees a living Maria running towards him, but Chino shoots Tony as Maria is about to grab him. Spielberg directs it so that there is a moment of hope, but that's taken away as gunshots ring out and Tony falls down. It was heart-breaking, and probably the saddest death scene of the year.
7. You Will Be Found (Dear Evan Hansen)
Definitely the most emotional scene in 2021, this song was my favorite in Dear Evan Hansen. This officially became the third time that I cried in the movie theater. It was powerful, powerful stuff. Dear Evan Hansen sometimes lost itself in it's sadness and depressing story, but this scene was incredibly uplifting and heart-warming, while also being heart-breaking and coming from a place of sorrow. Stephen Chbosky (the director) nailed the imagery to make the waterworks flow. It's amazing.
6. 1978 (Halloween Kills)
The way that director David Gordon Green was able to re-create the style of the 1978 Halloween was stunning. Not only did he nail the Haddonfield set and the look of Michael Myers, but the camera quality and the lighting and the hairstyles and the other costumes were insane. The quiet tension that you feel in the original Halloween was present in this scene, which was just awesome. It's probably the coolest flashback scene of all time. I absolutely loved this re-creation of Halloween, and it set the stage for the great movie that followed.
5. The Rumble (West Side Story)
Another really sad scene from West Side Story is the rumble. The tension between the Jets and the Sharks pays off in one of the most frustrating scenes ever. Riff and Bernardo begin to fight as Tony tries to break it up, but an angry Bernardo starts beating Tony up for getting with Maria. This causes Riff to intervene with a switchblade. Bernardo kills Riff and then an enraged Tony kills Bernardo. This is where everything comes crashing down. It is the most important scene in the movie. And Spielberg as well as the cast just perfected it. Even though I knew what was going to happen, I was holding out hope that Riff and Bernardo would be okay. In the original, the rumble is basically a dance number with knives. It's corny. This was real action. There wasn't any music. It was silent, and you could hear the cut of the knife in the air. And that was just pure Spielberg genius.
4. Superman Arrives (Zack Snyder's Justice League)
After watching Zack Snyder's Justice League for the first time, I liked it. Definitely did not love it. But, as time has gone on and I've thought about it more, this movie was actually pretty solid. And Superman's entrance in the finale was absolute perfection. Superman is one of my favorite superheroes, but I haven't really liked the way he's used in the DCEU. However, this is the single best moment in the DCEU. And one of the best moments in superhero movies. This scene is made even better by the garbage that is Josstice League. It's a great payoff and a great use of Superman. I adore this moment, and it definitely adds to me increasing liking of the Snyder cut.
3. In the Heights (In the Heights)
In the Heights was absolutely fantastic. And the opening of that film sets the stage for how the rest of the movie is going to be. Lin-Manuel Miranda's music is obviously vibrant and fabulous, but Jon M. Chu and the cast of In the Heights make this opening number so exciting to watch. The choreography and progressively bigger scale of the scene is great. This gives you a good sample of what's to come, and was easily my favorite part of this movie.
2. The Spider-Trio (Spider-Man: No Way Home)
As the villains pose a looming threat to the MCU and Tom Holland is filled with rage because of Aunt May, Tobey and Andrew team up with Tom to fight Electro, Sandman, and Lizard. This entire final battle is just awesome from beginning to end, but it's a long sequence, so I had to only include one part. And that is the part where the Spider-Men really work together. They run off the building and jump in unison, then they swing in unison, then they swing off of each other, and then they land on the statue of liberty in this awesome shot above. It was a crowd-pleasing moment that caused my audience to erupt into cheers and applause. Definitely one of the coolest moments in a modern blockbuster. It's only barely edged out by another moment from No Way Home that is the cause of this awesome scene.
Quick note: Sorry for the picture quality. No Way Home is still in theaters, so they don't really have any good pictures of this moment, because it's a major spoiler.
1. Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield (Spider-Man: No Way Home)
I mean, what else, right? Even though it was the worst-kept secret in Hollywood, Tobey and Andrew's appearance in No Way Home was the best. The scene was done perfectly as Ned and MJ are looking for Tom Holland, but they instead stumble across Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield. When they showed up, my theater went nuts. It was so much fun. It gives me goosebumps even thinking about it. I love that there is a movie where three different versions of Spider-Man are in it, played by actors who have all had their own, unique Spider-Man franchise. That's just such a cool thing. This scene, along with the final battle in Endgame, is just one of the best things ever in a superhero movie. It's so cool. I love it.
Once again, sorry for the picture quality. Same reason as before.