Can a Bad Movie Be Worth It For Only One Scene?

March 10, 2012 — 8 Comments

It happens sometimes. You go see a mediocre movie, or even a bad movie, and you come away feeling pretty indifferent to it all, except for one scene or sequence. John Carter, for example, has loads of problems, though it’s generally a fun time at the movies. But there’s one very emotional action scene in the film that takes things to a whole other level. It’s so good you almost wonder how it ended up surrounded by such a flawed film. You’d think the people who could come up with that one scene could have made the entire movie that perfect. John Carter isn’t the only example of this. It does raise the question, though, is it worth seeing an entire film just for one scene?

Probably the best example of this is Tom Tykwer’s film, The International. It’s basically a terrible film from start to finish, except for one sequence. The Guggenheim shoot-out scene is one of the best straight action sequences in recent memory. The film surrounding it? Awful, but if you do sit down to watch the film there is that one great scene to enjoy. If you want you can watch the scene on YouTube:

Weirdly, taken on its own, in a clip on YouTube, the scene doesn’t seem quite as fantastic. Despite the film being bad, it provides that action sequence with the proper context, and makes it all sing.

Another great scene in a mediocre film is the RV sequence in The Lost World: Jurassic Park. I don’t think that particular sequel is all that bad, but it’s certainly not all that good either. Yet it has that one scene, with the RV dangling off the cliff, that stands out as one of the best action sequences in Spielberg’s entire career.

It’s not unusual to hear someone say that a bad or mediocre movie is worth seeing if only for one actor’s performance. I suppose the difference is that an actor’s performance is generally sustained throughout the entire film, making the entire thing feel more worthwhile. But is it possible for me to say “You know, the movie isn’t that good, but you have to go see it for this one amazing scene!” Is it ever worth it? And do you have any other examples of bad movies with a single great, memorable scene?

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8 responses to Can a Bad Movie Be Worth It For Only One Scene?

  1. 

    Most recently this was my experience with Safety Last! It is an hour of blah physical comedy gags and then 15 minutes of an awesome building climbing stunt such that I can’t help but recommend it.

  2. 

    I don’t think I would ever recommend a movie just because of one scene. If the rest of the film is bad, there’s no reason to waste 90 minutes to experience 5 good ones.

    One film that always comes to mind in this type of discussion is Christmas comedy Fred Claus. The movie isn’t so much “god-awful” as “fairly weak”, but there is a once scene set at a support group meeting for celebrity siblings, and it is just brilliant. Again, I wouldn’t advocate seeing the film just for it, but that scene is gold.

  3. 

    Greatest example of a single great scene in a terrible movie… David Letterman in Cabin Boy
    Phantom Menace has 2 arguably great scenes. Pod racing and the Darth Maul fight.
    The Day After Tomorrow is good for about 7 minutes when the world ends.
    I feel there were quite a few James Bond films, especially with Roger Moore, which had one awesome stunt scene in an otherwise bad film.

    • 

      Pod racing is great. The Darth Maul fight is great, except the way it sort of plays out near the end is kind of stupid. I really wish Maul was given proper shakes.

      And you’re really right ano about the Bond series. Lots of great sequences in otherwise really boring movies.

  4. 

    Interesting, because I sort of had these thoughts after I saw “Wanderlust.” Michaela Watkins is in two scenes, unfortunately, not one, but they’re so small you could kind of claim they were just one and I thought she was SO GOOD she alone redeemed the movie.

    And yeah, that RV “Lost World” sequence is fairly badass.

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