Almanac Pop Culture: 10 Great Scenes from the ’10s


The End of the Decade lists have begun, and as always it appears that the Best Film lists are the first to arrive on our various-screens-that-we-weren’t-reading-best-of-the-decade-lists-on-at-the-end-of-the-90s. Each critic implicitly expresses their claims to their particular insight, either into the industry, to the craft of film making, or, more regularly, into the zeitgeist of the decade, anointing films as being particularly resonant for this time in history. This writer and his list of 10 Great Scenes From the ’10s below professes none of these claims.


Here, you won’t find the truly massive, iconic movie moments from the past 10 years. There’s no ‘Let it Go’, and there’s no ‘Shallow’. There are no Avengers or Jedi. There’s no Sunken Place, and no-one is rushing or dragging.


Similarly, some controversial endings to films – memorable final scenes many in the audience loved, but many others despised – aren’t included here. Apologies to La La Land, The Florida Project, Us, and BlacKkKlansman in particular, for their spectacular conclusions.


Instead of those named above, this is a list of the 10 moments that caused this Aussie dad – a man who’s just nudged the ball of life through a small gap in the field for a single to reach his 40s, and who’d never profess to be a film critic of any kind – to sit up the most straight in his seat and marvel at the sheer emotions that life, and its stories, can hold.



The Opening Scene – The Social Network (2010)


Our protagonist, Mark Zuckerberg (Jesse Eisenberg) is talking to his girlfriend Erica (Rooney Mara). They banter. She’s making jokes. He’s talking past her and thinking about the Finals Clubs that he wants to get into at Harvard. She angers him for a moment, but not nearly as much as his arrogance angers her. The conversation sounds magnificently natural.


Part way through, he says “I want to try to be straightforward with you and tell you I think you might want to be a little more supportive. If I get in I will be taking you to the events and the gatherings, and you’ll be meeting a lot of people you wouldn’t normally get to meet.” She pauses briefly, smiles, and replies “You would do that for me?”


The audience recognises her sarcasm, but Zuckerberg doesn’t. It tells us everything we need to understand his character. When she breaks up with him later in the conversation, the audience feel they know the pair of them so well they want to cheer. Not least when she delivers her final statement:


“You are probably going to be a very successful computer person. But you’re going to go through life thinking that girls don’t like you because you’re a nerd. And I want you to know, from the bottom of my heart, that that won’t be true. It’ll be because you’re an asshole.”



The Pool Party – Eighth Grade (2018)


Our protagonist, Kayla (Elsie Fisher), stands inside looking out. The camera slowly moves away from her to reveal that outside are tens of those kids. You know the ones. Full of life and uninhibited, exhibiting pure confidence in their bodies and themselves. Kayla reaches for the door – which, of course, doesn’t open properly – and gingerly steps outside before beginning her stiff-armed, anxious walk towards the pool.



The Monologue – Birdman (2014)


Our protagonist, Riggan (Michael Keaton) is desperately searching for relevance. He is talking to his daughter, Sam (Emma Stone) and trying to explain to her that his current project – directing and acting in a stage play long after his career as a film star has come to an end – is important. As he says, “This is my chance to do some work that actually means something,” she interjects. “Means something to who?” She proceeds to go at him, each line seemingly more biting and angry than the last. Until:

“You’re doing this because you’re scared to death, like the rest of us, that you don’t matter. And you know what? You’re right. You don’t. It’s not important. You’re not important. Get used to it.”


The camera doesn’t focus on Riggan’s response. Instead, we hear silence and focus on Sam. She has a moment of realisation. A moment where she understands that none of what she said had to be said, even if but seconds earlier she was certain it had to be. As is stated in the screenplay, “She looks at him sympathetically, but not knowing what to say…exits.”



The Monologue – Boyhood (2014)


Throughout Boyhood, the audience have watched our protagonist Mason (Ellar Coltrane) literally grow up before our eyes in a film that was shot over 12 years. He is now off to college, and his mother Olivia (Patricia Arquette) feels the way so many must on the day when their youngest child leaves home. As he packs his last box, mid-banter, she begins to cry silently. He asks “What is it?” And soon enough, she reveals her feelings. “You know what I’m realising? My life is just gonna go, like that. A series of milestones…” She reels them off.


And in the end, just before she puts her head in her hands, this:

“I just thought there would be more.”



The Chef’s Special – Moonlight (2016)


We’ve watched Chiron grow up. For the first third of the film, he was a shy kid nicknamed ‘Little’. Then, he was troubled teenager. He has a moment of romance with a boy, Kevin, but things don’t progress well after that.


In the final third of the film, Chiron is now an adult, going by the nickname ‘Black’. He’s been dealing drugs, and has built up his body so as to give himself a seriously impressive presence and persona that he hides his shy personality behind.


He receives a call from Kevin, and goes to visit him. Kevin works at a diner and takes meticulous, beautiful, joyful care over the dinner he prepares for his old friend. Director Barry Jenkins described it: “When you cook for someone, this is a deliberate act of nurturing.”



Sadness Helps – Inside Out (2015)


The animated film is set partly inside the head of Riley, our protagonist. There, her personified emotions of Joy, Sadness, Disgust, Anger and Fear, use a control panel to influence Riley’s reactions to the events in her life. The emotions also help to create ‘Core Memories’, symbolised by marble-esque balls. In Riley’s early childhood, all of these core memories are coloured yellow, representing her joy.


After moving house, Riley desperately misses her old life. One day, it all comes to a head – she packs a bag and hops on a bus out of town. She realises her mistake and comes back through her front door to her terrified parents. They run to her. Inside her head, Joy understands what this moment in Riley’s childhood requires. Joy presents a pile of yellow Core Memories to Sadness, whose touch causes them to be tinged with blue. We are presented with a montage – simple childhood moments that Riley once experienced as pure joy, but now that she is older and life is more complicated, they will forever be remembered with a tinge of sadness.


Riley speaks to her parents without looking at them:

“I know you don’t want me to, but I miss home. I miss Minnesota. You need me to be happy, but I want my old friends, and my hockey team. I want to go home. Please don’t be mad.”


The parents share a stunning glance – of relief, and also of realisation. They realise what all the parents in the audience are simultaneously realising. Sadness will come to your kids. It’s not your job to prevent it. Rather, it’s your job to help them through it.



Airplane Mode – Personal Shopper (2016)


Throughout the film, our protagonist Maureen (Kristen Stewart) has been texting with someone she doesn’t know. One day, in frustration at the conversation, she turns her phone onto airplane mode. That night, in the midst of grief and confusion and frustration about life, she switches her phone off airplane mode. It’s 2:05am. A text message appears on her home screen:


Unknown 2h ago

Crown Plaza Room 329.

Right away.


Almost as soon as the audience have read the first message, another pushes it down the screen:


Unknown 1h30 ago

I’ll wait another hour.


As Maureen walks backwards in a panic, the texts keep coming.


Unknown 45m ago

I know you are reading my texts.



Unknown 31m ago

Then I’ll come.


Unknown 30m ago

I have spares of your keys.


Unknown 20m ago

I am in the taxi.


Unknown 8m ago

I am in front of your building.


Maureen turns to look briefly at the door, but immediately turns back to her phone.


Unknown 8m ago

Come down


Unknown 8m ago



Unknown 5m ago

I am coming up


Unknown 3m ago

I am on the landing


Maureen creeps slowly to the door, her socks silent on the floorboards. The audience are mesmerised in their terror.


No clip available for this scene.


A Loaded Question – Moonrise Kingdom (2012)


Mrs Bishop (Frances McDormand) speaks into her megaphone: “Walt, where the hell are you?”


Mr Bishop (Bill Murray) calls from upstairs: “Right here. Why are you cursing at me?”


Mrs Bishop sticks her head out the window and looks up: “Does it concern you that your daughter’s just run away from home?”


Ever so slowly, Mr Bishop’s head appears from his upstairs window, in a traditionally Wes Anderson-style symmetrical frame. Mr Bishop waits just long enough before calmly delivering his hilarious reply: “That’s a loaded question.”



Acceptance – Toy Story 3 (2010)


As our old friends, Woody, Buzz, Hamm, Rex, Slinky, Jesse, Bullseye and Mr and Mrs Potatohead slide towards incineration, they each come to the realisation that they cannot prevent their own deaths. One-by-one, they each reach out to one another. They face death together, holding each other as closely as they can.



The Final Scene – Life in a Day (2011)


Documentarian Kevin Macdonald once asked the world to document what they did on one day, 24 July 2010. He joined forces with Ridley Scott and editor Joe Walker to cut the 4,500 hours of footage they received into a 95 minute picture of our world in a day. The final film presented images from across the globe, resulting in a film that showed us both how extraordinary each of us is, and also how similar to each other we all are.


The final scene sees one woman filming herself as she talks to the camera, sitting alone in her car during a storm. She’s worked all Saturday. It’s nearly midnight.


“The sad part is, I spent all day long hoping for something amazing to happen…something to appreciate this day and to be a part of it. And to show the world that there’s something great that can happen every day in your life, in everyone’s life. But the truth is, it doesn’t always happen. And for me, today, all day long, nothing really happened.


“I want people to know that I’m here. I don’t want to cease to exist.


“I’m not gonna sit here and tell you that I’m this great person, because I don’t think I am at all. I think I’m a normal girl, normal life. Not interesting enough to know anything about. But I want to be.


“And today… Even though… Even though nothing great really happened… Tonight, I feel as if something great happened.”






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About Edward P. Olsen

EPO is equally passionate about sport and sports writing. While others toil away at the local indoor sports centre re-living their futile childhood dreams of being one of the best of all time, he types away at home re-living his futile childhood dream of being one of the world’s great columnists.


  1. John Butler says

    EPO, an interestingly eclectic selection.

    I enjoyed looking at these. They have me thinking.

    I will return. :)

  2. Brilliant, Edward.

    My #1 would be the opening musical number in La La Land. Just brilliant

  3. Mark Duffett says

    It was quite difficult to find a way to see Eighth Grade, but managed it eventually. Well worth the effort, especially if one has a daughter at that particular stage. Deserves wider screening. The scene described from the movie (beautifully) is far from the only to induce a cringing recognition.

  4. Mark Duffett says

    It was quite difficult to find a way to see Eighth Grade, but managed it eventually. Well worth the effort, especially if one has a daughter at that particular stage. Deserves wider screening. The scene described from the movie (beautifully) is far from the only to induce a wincing recognition.

  5. G’day, Edward.

    Well done! I’ve only seen two of your nominations – Social Network and Birdman. Re the latter, agree that snippet was pivotal and echoed themes/dialogue in the play Riggan is trying to produce. Interestingly, it was part of a much longer scene – apparently there were only three scenes in the movie – though, I reckon there might’ve been a fourth at the end.

    Of recent movies, I was most impressed with Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. Tarantino’s forte is great scenes, and in this move there’s one after another – hard to pick a best. Perhaps when Rick Dalton redeems himself as an actor, or the final encounter with the Manson Family when they’re seeking the home of Sharon Tate. IMO opinion this is Tarantino’s best movie, and his most humanist.


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