25. 'Young Frankenstein' (1974)
The scene: The Monster does the ol' soft-shoe
How best to describe the comedic climax to Mel Brooks' classic horror spoof? Easy -- "sooper dooper." Dr. Fronk-en-steen (Gene Wilder) and his man-made monster (Peter Boyle) soft-shoe their way through an old Fred Astaire standard -- until a shorted-out stage light threatens to ruin their budding showbiz career. Thanks to this flick, who today can recall the chorus of songwriter Irving Berlin's chestnut with a straight face? (On the flip side, let's not blame Brooks for Taco's 1983 synth-pop cover/hatchet job of 'Puttin' on the Ritz.')
24. 'Breakfast at Tiffany's' (1961)
The scene: Audrey Hepburn croons 'Moon River'
What couldn't Audrey Hepburn do? Well, sing, for one thing: Hollywood folklore has it that composer Henry Mancini wrote the tune to 'Moon River' to cater to her truncated vocal range, and certain studio execs fought to axe her performance of the song from the movie's final cut. Talk about a case of the mean reds! Holly Golightly's plaintive rendition of this ode to dreamy optimism (with lyrics by Johnny Mercer) anchors the film's flightier moments, allowing audiences to give a damn for Holly as more than just a pretty face. Speaking of pretty faces, something else Audrey Hepburn could never do: look bad. Even with her locks wrapped up in a towel turban, she's picture-perfect.
23. 'The Breakfast Club' (1985)
The scene: Library dance
Everybody remembers this scene; few recall exactly what song the brain, the athlete, the basket case, the princess and the criminal rocked out to. (For the record: 'We Are Not Alone' by Karla DeVito.) For a fleeting minute and change, detention becomes catharsis, while clique-cemented walls start to crumble. Especially gratifying: a shot of the so-called breakfast club's three male members macho-posturing in unison. Lastly, from this cinematic moment, a dance move forever known as "the Molly Ringwald" was born.
22. 'Big' (1988)
The scene: Playing 'Chopsticks' with their feet
Count this melodic scene -- in which Tom Hanks' big-kid character toe-tickles the ivories at FAO Schwarz alongside his boss (Robert Loggia) -- as the only time in history when practicing 'Chopsticks' was any fun (and when hearing somebody break into 'Heart and Soul' wasn't eye-rollingly annoying). It also has to go down as one of movie-dom's best job interviews; remember that Hanks gets promoted to veep status after saving the toy-company honcho "a trip to the gym."
21. 'Saturday Night Fever' (1977)
The scene: Travolta busts a move
Aggressive, sweaty, carnal, defiant, narcissistic, mesmerizing. Given the doughiness of John Travolta's modern-day physique, it's easy to forget what a taut-coiled, lithe-limbed pheromone factory the man once was. Putting himself -- and especially his twitchy pelvic region -- on display at the disco, as he does in this memorable scene, serves as a microcosm for the rest of the movie's message about post-adolescent angst and dance-driven escapism.
20. 'A Clockwork Orange' (1971)
The scene: 'Singin' in the Rain' is forever distorted
Musical irony isn't a fly in your Chardonnay; it's Malcolm McDowell, as head droog Alex, belting his way through 'Singin' in the Rain' while, well, committing an infraction far more heinous than warbling through wet weather. Not explicit enough? The shock film's tagline was, "Being the adventures of a young man whose principal interests are rape, ultra-violence and Beethoven" -- although in this scene, Ludwig van takes second fiddle to Gene Kelly.
19. 'Back to the Future' (1985)
The scene: McFly channels Chuck Berry
Considering the flick's script is regarded as one of the tightest screenplays ever penned, it almost seems sacrilege that director/co-writer Robert Zemeckis would greenlight a scene as plot-superfluous as the one in which Marty McFly allows himself to be cajoled into joining Marvin Berry and the Starlighters for just one more number before going back to the future in his DeLorean time machine. And in fact, Zemeckis was inclined to edit out Michael J. Fox's exuberant, exultant rendition of Chuck Berry's rock and roll classic, "Johnny B. Goode" -- but changed his tune after seeing test audiences' sky-high reactions to the scene. To paraphrase the fictitious Marvin Berry (whose call to his cousin, Chuck, is pure comic gold), this number is "something that really cooks."
18. 'Pretty in Pink' (1986)
The scene: Ducky's record-store lip-synch
Limbs flailing with kinetic abandon, Jon Cryer's inimitable Phil "Duckie" Dale -- a lip-synching, pompadour-sporting, lovesick, teenage misfit -- embodies the soulful, gritty, aching vocals of '60s R&B crooner Otis Redding perhaps better than anyone had since the King of Soul himself. As if that weren't emotionally stomach-churning enough, he does so fearlessly in front of the unrequited love of his life (Molly Ringwald's Andie Walsh). It is teen angst personified.
17. 'Close Encounters of the Third Kind' (1977)
The scene: Alien meet-and-greet
What sounds like an orchestral warm-up turns out to be inter-species communication, as the aliens in Steven Spielberg's 'Close Encounters' speak through a series of notes, all part of a five-tone motif (as one scientist in the movie puts it, "a basic tonal vocabulary") and an accompanying Simon Says-like light show. The musical motif would reach cultural-touchstone status, recreated in the James Bond / sci-fi flick 'Moonraker' and parodied in a pair of 'South Park' episodes.
16. 'Deliverance' (1972)
The scene: Dueling banjos
Joyfully dreadful and happy yet foreboding -- that's the 'Dueling Banjos' ditty, composed not expressly for the film but certainly made world-famous because of it. The hoedown sets the ominous tone for this backwoods horror classic. Enjoy the harmonious chords while you can; they sound a lot better than Ned Beatty's pathetic porcine bleats.
15. 'Top Gun' (1986)
The scene: Tom Cruise bird-dogs at the bar
Look up "meet cute" in 'The Dictionary According to Syd Field' and you'll find a snapshot of this scene. Tom "Maverick" Cruise, with an assist from wingman Anthony "Goose" Edwards, takes a shot at flight school instructor Kelly McGillis by serenading her with his off-key cover of the Righteous Brothers' 'You've Lost That Lovin' Feeling.' And how about Clarence Gilyard, Jr. (aka Trivette on 'Walker, Texas Ranger'!) and his saucy little exit, stage right?
14. 'This Is Spinal Tap' (1984)
The scene: Dwarves threaten to trample Stonehenge
For those who've never seen 'Spinal Tap' -- for shame! -- what you don't know is that this scene is a punch line pay-off for an earlier setup in the mockumentary. With the British band desperate to stage a blockbuster show, it's decided that their 'Stonehenge' number will be accompanied by all the dramatic staging they can muster, including a life-size replica of a stone megalith. It all would have gone to plan, too, if dunderheaded guitarist Nigel Tufnel (Christopher Guest) hadn't mistakenly marked his sketches to indicate that the on-stage Stonehenge should be constructed in inches, not feet. The result? A concert experience that falls somewhere far short of eleven.
13. 'Star Wars' (1977)
The scene: A future Jedi walks into the Cantina
In a galaxy far, far away, a bunch of aliens (collectively known as Figrin D'an and the Modal Nodes) play klezmer-style music in a most rough-and-tumble watering hole. Just how rowdy do things get? Let's just say there are lax carrying laws when it comes to lightsabers, and that a stiff drink sometimes comes with a side of severed arm.
12. 'Dirty Dancing' (1987)
The scene: You dun been Swayze'd!
Nobody puts Baby's big dance number in a corner -- although, as legions of female fans worldwide will attest, the finale of 'Dirty Dancing' will forever occupy a cherished corner of their moviegoing memories. Baby's big lift may be the scene's most magical moment, but we're also fans of its little, throwaway jokes: the old lady tossing aside her stole to cut a rug; Mr. Kellerman incredulously asking his bandleader, "You have sheet music on this?"; and, of course, Baby's mom telling her husband, "I think she gets this from me."
11. 'Casablanca' (1942)
The scene: Oft-misquoted melancholy
The greatest movie quote that never was -- "Play it again, Sam" -- resulted from this scene, in which Ilsa (Ingrid Bergman) asks the house pianist at Rick's Cafe American to "Play it, Sam. Play 'As Time Goes By.'" Also, many folks refer to the song by its first line, "You must remember this" (which is ironic, when you think about it). What's unforgettable: the unabashed romance of 'Casablanca,' which tells one of Hollywood's greatest love stories.
10. 'Pee-wee's Big Adventure' (1985)
The scene: The best dance ever
Tequila can make people do crazy things. For instance, it can make a man-child put on a squat short-order cook's platform-style shoes, jump up on a bar, start back-and-forthing en pointe, then smash a bunch of glasses, then take off on a chopper and finally gun it straight into a billboard. Absurdly, surreally, cultishly brilliant? I know you are, but what am I?
9. 'Ferris Bueller's Day Off' (1986)
The scene: Hijacking a parade float
Can we say that what's great about the parade scene in 'Ferris Bueller's Day Off' is the fact that it would never, never, never, ever happen in real life? That the very reason it's so dance-in-your-seat contagious, so over-the-top awesome is that it actually does make you believe in one truant kid's infectious charm, one city's ability to band together for the sake of a party? We can? Danke schoen.
8. 'Almost Famous' (2000)
The scene: 'Tiny Dancer' on the bus
The scene in 'Almost Famous' in which the emotionally fractured hard rock band Stillwater salves its wounds through the lyrics they know by heart has become almost as well known as the tune they hum. Like the whole movie -- a true gem from Cameron Crowe -- this impromptu sing-along is warm, funny, touching and pretty nearly perfect.
7. 'National Lampoon's Animal House' (1978)
The scene: Toga! Toga! Toga!
Like many movies of its time, 'Animal House' served up nostalgia for an earlier era of pre-counterculture innocence. (In the case of this particular flick, the year is 1962.) Of course, innocence can still be quite debaucherous, replete with popping-zit impressions, food fights, underage drinking, premarital sex and, most memorably at all, TOGAS! Was that too loud? Sorry -- a little bit softer now, a little bit softer now ...
6. 'Ghost' (1990)
The scene: Naughty pottery
Let's just call this scene what it is: pure sex, sublimated into a pile of wet potter's clay and cued up to the Righteous Brothers' swooningly romantic recording of 'Unchained Melody.' Thanks to 'Ghost,' the track, which was originally written for a 1955 prison flick, re-entered the pop-music lexicon and placed on the Billboard charts, while the scene itself has been parodied by 'Family Guy,' 'Saturday Night Live,' 'Naked Gun 2½' and, most recently, the NBC sitcom 'Community' -- in which a pottery-class instructor informs his students that there is "only one rule in this class: I will tolerate no re-enacting, whether it's ironic or sincere, of the Patrick Swayze / Demi Moore pottery scene in 'Ghost.'" Brilliant.
5. 'Apocalypse Now' (1979)
The scene: Wagner helicopter assault
He loves the smell of napalm in the morning! That, and the sound of opera. Lt. Col. Bill Kilgore's commanding of the 7th Air Cavalry as it descends upon "Charlie's point" is carried out, with the help of a reel-to-reel tape player aboard one of the cavalry's helicopters, to the strains of composer Richard Wagner's 'Ride of the Valkyries.' The song itself is part of Wagner's epic-scale 'Ring' cycle, and director Francis Ford Coppola similarly takes that iconic piece of music and sews it into the fabric of his larger-than-life cinematic saga.
4. 'Reservoir Dogs' (1992)
The scene: 'Stuck in the Middle With You'
Tarantino's heist flick that never shows the actual heist is better known the set pieces contained therein, most notably this stomach-curdling torture scene in which you -- surprise! -- never see its most heinous act: the infamous ear-hacking. But you do hear Stealers Wheel's sunny, jangly pop ditty 'Stuck in the Middle with You' throughout the scene, and really, can you ever hear that song again without picturing Michael Madsen two-stepping his way towards unspeakable depravity?
3. 'Risky Business' (1983)
The scene: Tom Cruise goofs off in his underwear
A home-alone, teenage Tom Cruise air-guitars, couch-flails and dances around his living room in a pink button-down and tighty-whiteys. The iconic scene kick-started Cruise's career and we're guessing it hasn't hurt Bob Seger's too much either.
2. 'Wayne's World' (1992)
The scene: 'Bohemian Rhapsody' in the car
Whatever the lyrics of Queen's 'Bohemian Rhapsody' are supposed to be about -- Mercury and other band members were always famously tight-lipped about their meaning -- the song is now forever known as a paean to the sheer joy of hangin' out, drivin' around and doin' nothin'. The 'Wayne's World' scene catapulted the track back onto the Top 40 charts and still causes kids and 40-year-olds alike to head-bang, a la Wayne, Garth, et al., whenever they hear the song's transitional guitar riff between its rock opera section and its heavy metal phase.
1. 'Say Anything...' (1989)
The scene: Take a wild guess
Well, Lloyd Dobler, as you so impetuously proclaimed at the start of 'Say Anything,' you wanted to get hurt. And quite frankly, you look so damn adorable being hurt -- standing outside Diane Court's window, arms aloft with boombox, countenance the very picture of tortured adolescence -- that it almost makes us wish we were young and fragile again, too. Without moving a muscle, you embody Peter Gabriel's flowery, lyrical sentiments; coming this close to stalkerish behavior but staying just on the inside of soul-wrenching, pride-swallowing romance, what you really say about the state of your heart is everything.