I'm expecting to catch a bit of backlash over this week's review of Black Swan specifically for my attempted skewering of the idea that - now that we know the film is good (great, in fact) - it's now distasteful to mention that prior to its completion the most buzzed-about aspect of the film was the (onscreen) romantic entanglement of the two female leads.
Obvious questions of self-parody and movie-discussing taste aside, the plain fact of the matter is that the scene in question instantly adds Black Swan to the pantheon of films good, bad and even simply average that often come up in discussion preceded by the words "you gotta see this one part where ______". That in no way diminishes it as a work of art, it's simply another aspect to its legacy.
The fact is, the "one legendary scene" is a huge part of film culture. It can be a line of dialogue, an iconic hero-shot, an action sequence, a certain prop or location, a stunt, a creature and, yes, even scenes of a more intimate nature. That One Part has made great films into legends and bad films into cult-classics. Here's a quick look at some of the most noteworthy (clips provided where possible/appropriate) and in some case the most notorious.
The Movie: The unfortunate beginning of the downswing for the big screen careers of both the late Christopher Reeve and The Man of Steel.
The Moment: Evil Superman.
"Synthetic Kryptonite" turns Superman evil, causing him to commit super-vandalism (he straightens the Leaning Tower of Pisa) and - gasp - get drunk in the middle of the day. Eventually his Clark Kent persona breaks off into his own being, and the two sides fight it out in a junkyard. The movie? Terrible. But this scene, preposterous magic-realism, grade-school moralizing and surreal, dreamlike logic and all, is the most accurate live-action rendering of Silver Age superhero happenings ever put to film.
The Movie: Michaelangelo Antonioni's biggest misfire, a wannabe counter-culture opus about young pseudo-hippies in love that today plays as ham-fisted high camp. Zabriske Point, incidentally, is a geographic location marking the furthest point below sea-level in the continental United States - i.e. it's America at its lowest point. Get it?
The Moment: Ka-BOOM!
Our heroine fantasizes the "bad" authority-figure's mansion and various possessions - symbolic of eeeevil capitalist excess - blowing sky-high in a spectacular fireball. Multiple times. In slow-motion. At the time it was one of the biggest pyrotechnic effects ever put to film, and it became the movie's de-facto selling point once the studio realized how terrible the rest of it was. Shooting pyro in slo-mo was a major technical undertaking then, but the results were so iconic that commercials, films and (especially) music videos have been borrowing from Zabriske ever since. Even today, it's a pretty spectacular sight.