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mygif

The T-Rex chomping the raptor at the end of Jurassic park. He’d been the key player in the first big set-piece earlier in the film, but then we’d largely forgotten about him as the raptors pursued the survivors in the third act. Then, suddenly, he shows up one last time, a giant toothy deus ex machina, as the theme music swells and our heroes run like hell.

Seriously, that moment where the Rex roars and the banner reading “When Dinosaurs Ruled the Earth” flutters to the ground? That’s why movies get made.

I’m not sure if this technically qualifies for the subject as the Rex is anything but an ally, but it’s the very first thing which sprang to mind when I read the topic.

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I’m going to go all geek and say Han Solo saving that simpering pansy Luke Skywalker’s ass in Star Wars. Luke was toast, Vader had him dead to rights but Han came in, provided the necessary distraction and then candy ass Luke got to e a hero AGAIN!

Lord do I hate Luke Skywalker. Last Jedi = Bigest Crybaby in the universe.

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Lord of the Rings is full of moments like these, I’d be hard pressed to choose just one.

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Luke at least grew up… and he does have the excuse of hereditary emo baby status. Let’s face it, Anakin beat him out in every way in the 1000 meter bitchathalon, after all.

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I’ve got 2, one that I think fits the letter of what you’re asking and one that fits the spirit.

The first is Robocop, right before the 3rd act at the steelyard where Robo’s just discovered exactly what “corporate owned” really means, has his ass kicked by ED209 and comes out of the OCP headquarters to find the entire Detroit police force SWATted up and waiting for him. After having the crap machine-gunning him, Robo’s BLEEDING for god’s sake, his partner, who refused the order to fire, pulls up in her cruiser, drags Robo inside, and drives off to safety.

The second is my favorite moment from all of Star Trek. At the end of Star Trek VI when Chang is blowing the everliving hell out of the Enterprise, Sulu shows up in the most advanced ship in the fleet just to give Chang something else to shoot at to give Kirk time to put his thing down, but Kirk’s got no answer for Chang’s offensive threat. The Enterprise’s hull is breached, the bridge is doing its best Chinese new year impression, and Chang is mocking Kirk over the comlink. Then Spock (to borrow a line from Alan Moore) wading through cold logic comes up with the answer: Gas. Under impulse she expends fuel like any other vessel. We call it “plasma,” but whatever the Klingon designation it is simply expanding gas.

To be, or not to be, motherfucker.

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“It’s just been revoked…”

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The baddest-ass cavalry scene ever has to be in The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly. Most movies are forced to put the hero in danger and let a supporting character come to the rescue, but Leone manages to play the viewer sympathies enough that you care about Tuco when he’s left in the ghost town surrounded by bounty hunters – and then, when Blondie shows up to drop what is obviously, objectively speaking, the best line ever in a scene like this (“Were you gonna die alone?”), the glory’s thrown back on the hero (at least so far as you can call that character a “hero”). It’s a pretty incredible trick.

–d

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Die Hard has a good one, right at the end when the crazy we-thought-he-was-dead long-haired Euro-terrorist bursts out of the building, bloodied and armed, and takes aim at McClane and his wife. Suddenly shots are fired, you see the end of a gun with the background blurred out, man comes into focus: and it’s the faithful cop who’s been his moral support all along, but who’s been afraid of using his gun for years.

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What’s the difference between a “rescue” moment and Deus Ex Machina? Because I imagine some of the choices here will be one and the same.

This occurs to me because someone invoked JURASSIC PARK’s “rescue” moment. When I recently did Robert McKee’s STORY writing seminar, he did a whole tangent expressly to rant about how much he hated that ending because it was a Deus Ex Machina, a sudden “rescue” from out of nowhere that completely robbed the arcs of the characters because they had absolutely nothing to do with that rescue.

A much better ending, he said, would have been something like Alan Grant having a tense moment with setting back up the electrified perimeter–something like that, I can’t remember the specifics, but he certainly painted a vivid scene at the time–because it carried the drama and story right through the character’s actions, giving the payoff a much stronger emotional creative resonance and reward. I’m not explaining it well, but at the time, the grouchy old man made a strong case.

On the other hand, the T-Rex tearing raptors apart was fucking badass. So, do we allow Deus Ex Machina when it’s awesome?

With that in mind, my vote goes to the gators in ADAPTATION.

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J.H. nailed mine. There might be better, more dramatic examples, but that’s the one that left its imprint on 11-year-old me.

John Hefner: “So, do we allow Deus Ex Machina when it’s awesome?”

I think the “when it’s awesome” clause can justify allowing *anything*.

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Craig Oxbrow said on March 29th, 2009 at 12:22 pm

The riders of Rohan coming over the hill at the Battle of Pelennor Fields. They may not have the numbers, they certainly don’t have the strategy, but they’ve got fire in the blood and death in their eyes.

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In Raiders of the Lost Ark, after Marion “dies”, Indy and Belloq almost have a shootout in a cafe but Sallah’s kids run in yelling “Uncle Indy! Come back home!”, surrounding him and leading him out.

SAVED BY A HORDE OF CHILDREN FTW!

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solid snake said on March 29th, 2009 at 12:28 pm

My vote goes to Aliens when Ripley drives a MOTHERFUCKING tank through a goddam NUCLEAR POWERPLANT to save the marines who are getting their asses kicked. Alternatively, Terminator 2 when Arnold uses uses a grenade laucher on the T-1000 to save John Connor, because eventually John saves the whole human race so is therefore the hero of the story. Also who can forget Dragnet when Tom Hanks is saved by Dan Akroyd at the mansion, and yes I realize Dragnet is NOT an action movie. It still deserves mentiong though.

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I have to go with the first Matrix movie, where pretty much everything from “Guns, lots of guns” to the helicopter explosion is one long, badass example of the cavalry coming in to rescue Morpheus.

It was really awesome, but also drove the character development of Neo forward, as he forgot about himself and reached for something more.

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I can think of a few.

1. Stargate: when the band of rebels are pinned down by the advancing guards and all of a sudden, the entire city appears on the ridge and charge right at them.

2. Krull: At the black mountain, the army of thieves are pinned down by the slayers and morning is beginning to break over the horizon and then over the horizon comes the singular fire trail of the Cyclops who leads the small army into the fortress and dies in the process.

3. Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Rings: Merry and Pippin were about to be taken by the Uruk’hai and then who shows up to redeem himself but Boromir. Tell me that wasn’t one of the best scenes in the movie.

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“Awesome” doesn’t necessarily mean “good,” mind you. Like if CASABLANCA ended with Rick and Louie machine-gunning Nazis, blowing shit up, and then hijacking Ilsa’s plane for Tijuana, that would have indeed been awesome. But… well, yeah, you see where I’m going with this.

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No, wait, in keeping with the “rescue” theme, Rick and Louie would be saved from Strasser at the last minute by Nick Fury and his Spaceman Commandos. There, that’s your perfect awesome ending to CASABLANCA.

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This thread is awesome, and now I want to watch awesome movies all day.

My contribution: Grandpa’s arrival at the end of Lost Boys. They find out who the head vampire is, all is lost, and then, you hear that ridiculous horn…

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Um, Commissioner Gordon pulls a shotgun on the joker in The Dark Night?

That was awesome.

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The scene in Desperado when they are cornered in the book store and she is playing that song on the guitar which leads to that awesome scene of him going backwards off the roof.. I really love that sequence.

I’m sure there are some early John Woo movies that fit the bill too but they weren’t so much escapes as just fun sequences.

Oh! The restaurant fight scene in Drunken Master!

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I like this scene at the end of Ong Bak where Tony Jaa’s cowardly, buffoonish friend, with a badly broken arm, jumps out and takes a few hits to save him as Tony’s reeling. Or something like that. His supporting character’s outrageous heroism at the end of the movie really made it more intense to me.

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Probably not an “action” movie, but Watership Down and the dog. “Bigwig isn’t the Chief Rabbit?”

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Snap Wilson said on March 29th, 2009 at 4:35 pm

I’m down with the T-Rex, honestly. Not that Jurassic Park is a great film, but I think Robert McKee was wrong. The protagonists were pretty damned resourceful to have survived as long as they had, they just needed a bit of luck to make it the rest of the way. I honestly didn’t see the T-Rex coming at that moment, and it made logical sense. And it isn’t really any more Deus Ex Machina than an overweight Ernie Hudson showing up and shooting everything (although that would have been entertaining).

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Craig Oxbrow said on March 29th, 2009 at 4:41 pm

And besides, IMHO at least, Alan clearly got them all to stop rather than run, because the T-Rex’s vision is based on movement.

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100 hi-tech Japanese secret service ninjas + 1 pretty girl in a bikini coming to help James Bond at the climax of YOU ONLY LIVE TWICE.

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I can’t believe nobody has mentioned the Back to the Future movies. I don’t care which one. I don’t even care which part of which one. Back to the Future has the best moments I can think of.

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Canadave said on March 29th, 2009 at 5:56 pm

It’s an understated one, but I’ve always loved the scene at Tech Noir in The Terminator. The T-800 is bearing down on Sarah, and Kyle Reese leaps up in the background, whips out his shotgun and blasts the Terminator. Topped off, of course, with a dash of “Come with me if you want to live!”. Awesome.

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There’s a scene in Torchwood season one, the episode called ‘Countrycide’. All the Torchwood members are captured by cannibals. They’ve had the crap beat out of them and Ianto is about to have his throat cut…when Captain Jack drives a tractor through the wall and goes into an orgy of gunplay that just isn’t seen on british television. He brutally exterminates all the bad guys, punctuating an already gory episode with some more righteous gore. Great cavalry scene.

The t-rex is a contender, though. Ripley had her moment, too, but not the tank scene. I’d choose her reappearing with the cargo loader and shouting, ‘Get away from her you bitch!’

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‘Star Wars’ is a good one (and actually, I’m going to say that for all its faults, “Return of the Jedi” had some good ones, too. The Ewoks coming in and unleashing a can of Stone Age whupass on the stormtroopers was the best Vietnam metaphor ever.)

If we’re picking TV, I love the end of the Doctor Who episode, ‘Love and Monsters’. These ordinary people have been manipulated into fruitless, wild-goose-chase attempts at looking for the Doctor by an alien who wants to absorb his mind and body into its own, and now they’ve figured it out, it’s eaten them all except for the main character. He runs away, desperate to escape, but gets cornered…

And all of a sudden, the Doctor actually shows up, and defeats the monster in thirty seconds flat. Careful what you wish for, evil aliens. :)

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motteditor said on March 29th, 2009 at 7:34 pm

I’d have to agree with the Han Solo/Luke Skywalker example. My favorite moment.

But if we’re talking Tolkein, I think you have to go with the end of The Hobbit. “The eagles are coming, the eagles are coming!” (Granted, the LotR movies were better than any versions of the Hobbit so far.)

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I’m partial to the scene in Blade where Whistler blows a hole in the wall and strolls in with a mini-gun to rescue Blade.

“Catch you fuckers at a bad time?”

There’s just that great pause with no sound then you hear Donal Logue screech for a second before the whine-blur of bullets cuts everyone down.

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There are better examples mentioned above, but I thought I would throw my two cents in with the end of Serenity. One member dead, several have taken gunshot or dart wounds, and they are just sitting there waiting to be overrun; then Simon takes a bullet and River starts killing like its an organized Olympic event and she’s going for the gold.

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To corroborate above, I don’t think the Tyrannosaurus in Jurassic Park counts as a deus ex machina; it’s too well set up. It’s actually more along the lines of Chekhov’s first-act gun (a gun shown during the first act must be fired during the third). In addition, Grant’s character arc doesn’t require Macguyver resourcefulness to pay off; his growth is actually emotional, and is exemplified by Lex and Timmy and his ease with them on the helicopter home, in stark contrast to his handling of children during the first ten or so minutes of the flick (particularly the little dark-haired boy who calls a raptor a “turkey”).

With some wiggle room, all the characters’ arcs pay off.

Amusing sidenote: we used to jokingly call Story “that other book” when in class with Syd Field. My second favorite class was when he analyzed McKee’s theories and showed how and why they work like they do (my first, of course, being the class on his own ideas regarding classical structure).

I can’t think of a good cavalry moment, though. I tend to think that the only reason the US fixates so closely on cavalries is that we always show up late.

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Come on, guys. It’s obvious.

Killer Klowns From Outer Space.

The Terenzi brothers crashing through to save the day in their ice cream truck after somehow getting themselves away from two big-breasted evil girl killer klowns.

How is that NOT badass?

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Will, I don’t understand: in that class, did you guys think McKee’s theories were sound or were you making fun of him? Because while I loved the seminar (even when he’s wrong, he’s at least entertainingly wrong!), I wanted to hear a second opinion, but the only people who criticize McKee are people who clearly don’t understand his theories.

Also, good call comparing the T-Rex to Chekhov’s gun. Put that way, I dare say I agree.

That said, I still prefer to believe that Muldoon–as depicted in a four-issue Topps’ Comics mini-series written by Steve Englehart–survived his raptor attack because the raptors were in fact just playing with him, because they’d grown so close over the years. It’s ridiculous, but damn it I love the idea.

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I suspect the Jurassic Park T-Rex is only a deus ex machina if you’re under the impression the humans are the film’s protagonists.

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Lots of good ones so far, but I really enjoyed the ending of Shaun of the Dead, where the military and Yvonne (the woman leading the group of survivors suspiciously similar to Shaun’s) show up and lay waste to the zombie hordes just as Shaun and Liz are contemplating suicide. It’s sort of deus ex machina-y, but pretty awesome nonetheless.

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Kid Kyoto said on March 30th, 2009 at 3:02 am

ALiens again, Ripley and Newt in the exploding reactor the queen advancing on them, no hope…

And the Gunship flies in to save them.

The final battle with the power loader is just an encore.

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I’ll throw in Tank’s rescue of Neo in the Matrix.
Hope is surely lost, Cipher is about to pull the plug on the chosen one. Daring some miracle to happen, it does as the freshly fried Tank(or was it Dozer?) Gets revenge on the traitor and rescues the hero using a BFG to sizzle the enemy.

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Kelberon said on March 30th, 2009 at 3:26 am

I have to second Craig with the Riders of Rohan appearing in Return of the King. But to me, the key moment isn’t when they arrive, or when the king gives his speech. It’s when they start taking casualties from the enemy and don’t show ANY fear in response, and suddenly all of those orcs, goblins and trolls realize that their biggest weapon ISN’T GOING TO WORK. And it starts hitting them instead.

That is pretty awesome.

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The Jurassic Park/T-rex moment doesn’t qualify as Deus Ex Machina, but it doesn’t qualify as a good set up either. I don’t care how scary the raptors are, you do not NOT notice the large two-story lizard walking into the room. Especially when its approaching footsteps caused tremors in its first scene.

The T-rex scene was just good, old-fashioned, lazy writing.

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T-Rex macking on the Raptor, no doubt about it.

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More a ‘personal redemption’ than a ‘cavalry’ moment but I loved the last tense moments of Enemy at the Gates. Commisar Danilov, professional douche, realizes he can’t make up for his douchery but stands up to draw Konig into firing so that Zaitzef can see him.

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The last scene in For a Few Dollars More when Colonel Latimer is in a no-escape situation. Cue the Man With No Name…

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Chris Russell said on March 30th, 2009 at 10:44 am

Beverly Hills Cop II, when Brigitte Nielsen has Axel under the gun, and she gives him that cold-as-ice “Goodbye, Mr. Foley” and levels her gun…

…and Taggart BLOWS HER AWAY FROM OFF SCREEN and walks into the doorway smiling and brandishing his shotgun and is all like “Women! Huh?” which is a really lazy joke but never mind and Eddie Murphy laughs his laugh and gets up and brushes the dust off his jeans and walks out with his arm around Taggart’s shoulders and they step over what’s-her-name bleeding out on the ground.

In a movie chock-full of casual misogyny, that is possibly the misogynisticest part. And that’s why it’s the bestest.

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Lister Sage said on March 30th, 2009 at 11:55 am

Maybe not best cavalry moment, but the first thing I thought of. When Hot Rod and Kup are stuck fighting off a hundred Sharkticons alone and who should bust down the doors but the fucking Dinobots. Even better, after tearing though a dozen of them Grimlock convinces them to attack the Quintessons.

Wait, never mind, better moment. Autobot City has been under Decepticon attack all night and who shows up first thing in the morning and single handedly turns the tide of battle? Optimus Motherfucking PRIME! “On shall stand, one shall fall” indeed.

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I’m fond of the moment in the “Firefly” episode “Safe” where Serenity comes blazing in just as Simon and River are about to be executed. Mal says, “Well here we are, just in the nick of time. Zoe, what does that make us?” Zoe: “Big damn heroes, sir,” in that wonderfully understated Zoe kinda way.

Another great one from a television series is Lee Adama bringing back the Pegasus in the nick of time as the colonists are escaping from New Caprica on “Battlestar Galactica.”

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mygif

“I don’t understand: in that class, did you guys think McKee’s theories were sound or were you making fun of him?”

I don’t think we were making fun. I’m pretty sure Syd had met McKee a few times, and it struck me that they believed their books might have been rivals in the marketplace but they and their work weren’t. I think that Syd’s jokes were more aimed at the perceived rivalry than at McKee.

When I took the class, Syd had a way of making a lot of things seem sound; he’s good in the way that he can talk about and even criticize ideas by talking more about why they probably don’t work than how wrong they are. For example: I’ve read a lot of people criticize his screenwriting theories as adhering to strictly to very specific structures, like the end of Act I on page 28 or something arbitrary like that. Which was why the class where he broke his own ideas became my favorite; I hate rules, for the most part, but he spent more time talking about how and why storytelling works and applying classical structures to stories. I think my biggest problem after taking the class, in fact, is that it made so much sense it’s hard for me, at times, to think of stories in any other way.

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Cookie McCool said on March 30th, 2009 at 1:44 pm

Watership Down wins. Who has more all around action than rabbits? Any minute they could be eaten by a million things! Suck it, Lord of the Rings, it’s much more dangerous being a rabbit than being a hobbit.

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Hmm… it’s not an action movie–in fact, it’s not a movie at all–but when I was reading this I immediately thought of the police coming to the rescue of police chief Yagami in the Death Note manga. (The scene might also be in the anime and/or movie, but I haven’t watched those)

At the point in the manga when this takes place, Kira has amassed a bit of a following, and his unstoppable mass murders have cowed the police–only five of them are willing to work on the investigation. The stress of the situation has caused Chief Yagami to have a heart attack.

A TV station gets a message from someone claiming to be Kira, and airs it. Determined to put a stop to this, one of the police officers races to the station and is killed by the alleged Kira, who apparently only needs to see your face to kill you.

Chief Yagami, watching this on TV, leaves the hospital where he had been recuperating, and smashes into the TV station in an armored car to retrieve the tapes that Kira sent to the station. Meanwhile, two other policemen who arrived at the station are killed when they step out of their car. Yagami therefore can’t walk out of the building without being killed by Kira. But he is still instructed to boldly walk out the front door.

And outside that door are dozens of police officers in riot gear, with helmets hiding their faces, crouching down behind large shields. These officers, despite having seen three of their own die moments earlier, literally created a wall out of their own bodies to prevent Kira from being able to see Chief Yagami, so that he could walk to a car they had prepared for him and drive away safely.

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I got one.

Revenge of the Nerds. The nerds have just found there house trashed by the Alphas and Gilbert (Anthony Edwards) decides he’s had enough and rushes to the rally to speak his mind. While trying to grab the microphone the Alphas start manhandling him and even ignore the dean when he tells them to stop.

As things look like they are hopeless and Gilbert looks like he’s going to be broken, help arrives. Bernie Casey and a bunch of Tri-Lambda alum show up.

I know it was playing on some stereotypes, but a dozen big, black angry men sure put a crimp on the jocks.

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Commando: Arny has been arrested and taken into custody. The cops are driving off with him when who do they see in the mirror? Rae Dawn Chong, lookin’ sexy as ever. “Hey,” one cop quips to the other, “I think she’s got something for us.” Goddamn right she does. ROCKET LAUNCHER.

JP is still my fav, though.

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Grandpa in The Lost Boys. No contest.

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The Warriors (1979). A blooded, exhausted group of street toughs fight their way home all night through a New York City full of gangs trying to kill them (for a murder they did not commit!). Just when they think they are safely home, they are met by the evil gang that did commit the crime. The Warriors are outnumbered, these new guys are fresh and ready to attack. And then they hear, “Riff!”
See it before the sequel comes out in 2010.

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jonnywarlock said on March 31st, 2009 at 7:37 am

Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers – Battle for Helm’s Deep (uh, LOTR is action, nu?)

Gandalf: “Rohirrim king fights alone.”
Eomer: “Not alone. ROHIRRIM!”

The impossible downhill charge (by actual CGI cavalry!) was so awesome, the rest of the fight was basically mopping up of the uruk hai horde. The Rohirrim tried this again in the third film… Only to get smacked around by war oliphaunts and the Nazgul.

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It’s gone from failed film to cult hit to overblown reference, but I still love the appearance of Henry The Red’s riders in “Army Of Darkness.” And the post-battle reconciliation scene pastes a big goofy grin on my face every time.

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Hmm. If I have to pick one from LOTR, it’s when the King of the Nazgul gets taken down… by a hobbit and a woman. That scene totally redeems the lack of female characters in the books (the films, of course, beefed up Arwen’s role to make up for this).

Although it’s a bit of a cheesy departure from the book, the scene in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix when Sirius apparates behind Lucien and socks him is excellent. In the book, another good one is when the Order is losing that same battle, and Dumbledore strides in and shuts the Death Eaters down in one move.

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Ted Knight’s arrival at the climax of the Grand Guignol story arc in Starman.

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Skemono – You left out the best part, where you’re wondering why/how the cowed police force rallied to Yagami’s aid when HOLY SHIT IT’S AIZAWA!

AFRO GOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!

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Sofa King said on March 31st, 2009 at 2:52 pm

Monster Squad. Dracula’s basically won, he’s about to destroy the only prison that can hold him and kill a little girl to do it…when the Frankenstein’s Monster punks him and impales him on a pointy tombstone. “Bogus!” He was one of the best Dracula’s, in my opinion.

Oddly, I liked the Oliphant charge in ROTK best. Maybe I’m just eeevil.

Ooo, the bull charge in Rundown?

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I’m glad someone mentioned “Countrycide”…

I think my favorite cavalry scene is from Babylon 5… The station is about to get attacked by a fleet of Earth ships, and they are hopeless outnumbered… Until Delenn and a brand new fleet of ships gates in.

“This is Ambassador Delenn of the Minbari. Babylon 5 is under our protection. Withdraw, .. or be destroyed.” [in the White Star!]
“Negative. We have authority here. Do not force us to engage your ship.”
“Why not? Only one human captain has ever survived battle with a Minbari fleet. He is behind me. You are in front of me. If you value your lives, be somewhere else.”

– Delenn and Captain Drake in Babylon 5:”Severed Dreams”

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I have to back the Great Big Nerd’s pick of the ‘disobeying direct orders’ Pegasus move from Battlestar Galactica. It was just a pitch-perfect cavalry moment: a cunning plan attempted against the odds, they get their hopes up, then get their arses kicked; that beautiful, depressing long shot of Galactica being pounded by the basestars, and what really makes it for me is that the shot pulls out with the sort of visual grammar that says “they’re fucked, look away” (which you believe because, well, it’s BSG and they will shoot the hostage) and then Pegasus’ missiles come on screen and it is such a cavalry moment for a show that rarely gave us them.

And maybe that’s the thing. BSG has the advantage of being serial fiction that beat the audience into assuming that the cavalry won’t come, or that if they do, they’ll break their neck or shoot themselves in the face or something.

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