10 Movies That Used Flashback Sequences Flawlessly

Without flashback scenes, these movies couldn't be as powerful as they are.

Flashback scenes play an important role in film storytelling by adding depth, context and information about the characters and their motivations. Sometimes, flashbacks are not only used as a way to deliver information, but they might acquire also an integral and central part in the movie's style. Great accomplishments like Rashomon , Memento , or Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind are examples of the higher purpose potential of this cinematic technique .

This list provides 10 movies that intelligently used flashbacks sequences, and it narrows down the focus on a specific scene to better analyze and highlight the multifaceted nature of flashbacks. Including all the movies previously mentioned, plus more, this list shows that, when executed well, flashbacks can become important and iconic elements of a film.

10 The Prestige

A scene from The Prestige

Co-written, co-produced, and directed by Christopher Nolan, The Prestige stars Christian Bale and Hugh Jackman, respectively, as Alfred "The Professor" Borden and Robert "The Great Danton" Angier, two rival magicians in 19th century London. One of the best movies by Christopher Nolan, The Prestige features flawless performances by the Bale-Jackman duo, magnificent directing by the British-American filmmaker, and a tense and dark screenplay that is rich with psychological undertones.

The Prestige 's great use of intricate flashbacks exposes the complexity of the movie and its mysterious atmosphere and makes it in itself a magician trick. The sequence that stands out above them all is the one concerning Nikola Tesla, played brilliantly by the late David Bowie. The sequence is key to the story and provides a philosophical angle that enriches the depiction of obsession in the screenplay. The Prestige is still one of the strongest movies by Nolan.

9 Groundhog Day

A scene from Groundhog Day

Co-written, co-produced, and directed by Harold Ramis, Groundhog Day features Bill Murray in the role of weatherman Phil Connors, who becomes trapped in a time loop and forced to relive the same day over and over again. Highly entertaining and uniquely well-thought, Groundhog Day shines for the superb performance of Bill Murray, the hilarious screenplay, and for its underlining message, urging the spectators to live their life and every single day to the fullest.

The use of flashbacks in Groundhog Day is necessarily anchored to the story premise, and it is used as a backdrop to reveal the constant progress and learning curve of the protagonist, who becomes a better person by changing the multiple and repetitive interactions he has. Obviously, the most significant and powerful flashback scene is the first one, when Phil realizes he has to relive the day once again. Without it, the whole premise of the movie would collapse.

Related: These Are the Best Bill Murray Movies

8 Fight Club

A scene from Fight Club

Directed by David Fincher and based on the homonymous novel by Chuck Palahniuk, Fight Club features Brad Pitt and Edward Norton as two disenchanted men who create an underground fight club. While the clubs start spreading and their potentialities start to be seen by the participants, Marla Singer (Helena Bonham Carter) enters the life of the two protagonists. Fight Club shines for Fincher's strong directing and the cast's great performances, and Norton above all.

The flashbacks in the movie are closely related to the screenplay and the climactic revelation toward the end of the movie. The sequences in the past are necessary to create the atmosphere of confusion and mystery that helps the building up of the whole movie. Of course, the last flashback, where the real identity of Tyler Durden is revealed, is one of the best of all time. Still relevant.

7 Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

A scene from Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind is considered one of the greatest movies ever made and the undisputed masterpiece of Michel Gondry. Starring Jim Carrey and Kate Winslet as Joel Barish and Clementine Kruczynski, a couple undergoing a procedure to erase their memories of each other, this movie features a unique mise en scène. Moreover, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind is beautifully written by the gifted Charlie Kaufman.

The use of flashbacks in the movie is essential to make the audience feel the intense experience of having memories removed from the brain even more. The flashbacks are also essential in evoking the specific sense of melancholia that Kaufman is known for. The sequences of the first date of Joel and Clementine, as much as their break-up, are masterfully constructed to resonate emotionally with the audience. Unforgettable.

A scene from Rashomon

Co-written, edited, and directed by Akira Kurosawa, Rashomon stars many frequent collaborators of the Japanese filmmaker, including Takashi Shimura, Minoru Chiaki, Toshiro Mifune, and Noriko Honma. The film tells the story of a crime and its aftermath, with each of the four witnesses providing their own versions of the events. Beautifully photographed by Kazuo Miyagawa, Rashomon' s trademark non-linear narrative, achieved through an amazing use of flashbacks, has become so revered to the point of being renamed "Rashomon effect" .

The film's use of flashbacks is masterful and serves to deepen the audience's understanding of the characters, while at the same time confusing the real unfolding of the story. At the same time, this peculiar technique gives Kurosawa the opportunity to analyze the nature of human memory and its subjectivity. Among them, the account of the wife is the most important, because of the first depiction of subjective memory.

5 Goodfellas

A scene from Goodfellas

Co-written and directed by Martin Scorsese, Goodfellas stars a fantastic Ray Liotta as the mobster Henry Hill, who rises to power within the Italian-American Mafia in Brooklyn. The movie also features unforgettable performances by Robert De Niro as Jimmy Conway and Joe Pesci as Tommy DeVito. Being widely regarded as one of the greatest gangster movies of all time, Goodfellas is marked by an impeccable and stylish directing by the Italian-American filmmaker.

In Goodfellas , flashbacks are employed to shine a light on the criminal lifestyle's origin of the main protagonists. By describing the humble and poor beginning of Henry, Scorsese wants to connect the drastic decision of becoming a gangster to the socio-economical conditions that make this lifestyle desirable. It humanizes the characters and present the topic of organized crime in a more complex and nuanced way. An undebatable masterpiece.

Related: 10 Greatest Gangster Movies Made Outside the US

4 The Shawshank Redemption

A scene from The Shawshank Redemption

Written and directed by Frank Darabont and based on Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption by Stephen King, The Shawshank Redemption stars Tim Robbins as Andy Dufresne, a wrongfully convicted banker who is sentenced to life in prison. Inside, he starts a rare friendship with fellow inmate Ellis "Red" Redding (Morgan Freeman). Powerfully evocative and emotionally charged, The Shawshank Redemption is a timeless classic that continues to inspire audiences and filmmakers worldwide.

The Shawshank Redemption uses flashbacks to elevate the emotional tension and hard vicissitudes that the two protagonists have to go through. At the same time, flashbacks are important to shed light on the characters' experiences and motivations. Among them, the most powerful is, without a doubt, the one recounting Andy Dufresne's wife and her lover's murders because it presents to the audience the injustice Dufresne suffered. Mythical.

A scene from Memento

Written and directed by Christopher Nolan and based on a short story called Memento Mori by his brother Jonathan, Memento stars Guy Pearce as Leonard Shelby, a man with short-term memory loss. He uses Polaroid photographs and tattoos to help remember himself his mission: track down his wife's killer. Guy Pierce is flawless in his portrayal, and it perfectly conveys the screenplay's tense and anxious tone; simultaneously, Nolan doesn't make mistakes and gifts us his unbeatable masterpiece.

Memento makes great use of flashbacks, creating complicated layers that put the audience in a state of trance. At the same time, the vast use of this cinematic technique helps disaggregate the narrative and pushes to the fore the protagonist's memory loss condition and its disorienting effect on life experience. The first major flashback is especially important because it shows Leonard's amnesia problem and establish the narrative style of the movie.

2 Pulp Fiction

A scene from Pulp Fiction

Written and directed by Quentin Tarantino, Pulp Fiction has become a cult classic, and its unstoppable worldwide fame is the proof. The movie stars a fantastic ensemble cast, including Uma Thurman, John Travolta, Samuel L. Jackson, Tim Roth, Bruce Willis, Ving Rhames, Christopher Walken, and Harvey Keitel. Pulp Fiction won the Palme d'Or at the 1994 Cannes Film Festival and was an enormous box office success, considering the low budget.

One of the best flashbacks of Pulp Fiction is, without a doubt, the sequence that depicts Christopher Walken as Captain Koons, a Vietnam veteran who hands over to Butch - played as an adult by Bruce Willis - the gold watch of the late father who died in the war. The flashback brings to light the origin of Butch's resilience and aids Tarantino's trademark non-sequential storytelling . Pulp Fiction cannot be questioned.

1 The Godfather: Part II

A scene from The Godfather_ Part II

Co-written, produced, and directed by Francis Ford Coppola and based on the classic novel The Godfather by screenplay co-writer and author Mario Puzo, The Godfather: Part II is a timeless masterpiece and one of the greatest sequels of all time. The film blends scenes set in the present day of Michael Corleone (Al Pacino) with flashbacks depicting the early 1910s New York City's experiences of Michael's father Vito Corleone (Robert De Niro).

The Godfather: Part II is rich in flashbacks sequences, given Francis Ford Coppola's creative decision to fuse Vito and Michael's stories together and to contrast their behavior. One scene that stands out is the key sequence showing the early life of Vito Corleone and his rise to power after his immigration to the United States. Thanks to the scene, we understand that blood is destined to be the currency of the Corleone family.

Screen Rant

15 movies that nailed historical accuracy.

Audiences love seeing pivotal moments of history portrayed on screen. And these are some of the best and most historically accurate movies out there!

  • Some historically accurate movies can be more engaging than fiction, showing that fact can be just as compelling as storytelling.
  • Films like "Chapter 27," "Downfall," and "Schindler's List" strive for accuracy, providing detailed depictions of historical events and figures.
  • Other films, like Steven Spielberg's "Lincoln," focus on one key aspect. There, it's about President Abraham Lincoln's administration, showcasing the political intrigue and deals made to abolish slavery.

While total accuracy in a narrative movie should never be expected, the most historically accurate movies show that sometimes fact can be more engaging than fiction. While movies like Ridley Scott's Napoleon fuel the debate about how much a movie based on a true story needs to adhere to the facts, there are some movies that have managed to depict the actual events in an honest way while still creating a cinematic representation of the story.

Some of the most beloved films in the medium have been inspired by important, tragic, or revolutionary events across human history, and as long as humanity endures, so will its odyssey. But as much as the film industry loves history, artistic license has been taken over and over again, including with inaccuracies in Napoleon and other similar films. Fortunately, some films strive to maintain as much accuracy and truth as they possibly can, whether that truth is glorious, hideous, uncomfortable, or unbelievable.

A collection of characters from the greatest movies of all time including Woody the Cowboy from Toy Story, the Godfather, and Frodo Baggins

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1 chapter 27 (2007), jared leto stars as the man who killed john lennon.

Jared Leto on a street corner as Mark David Chapman in Chapter 27

To say a film that dives into the disturbed mind of a killer is 100% accurate is highly speculative, but Chapter 27 is perhaps the most in-depth exploration of the assassination of John Lennon. Led by Jared Leto in the starring role of Mark David Chapman, the film recreates the week leading up to Lennon's murder and nearly all his doings during his time in New York City in December 1980.

The film is uncomfortable to watch, but then again that's essentially the point. Seeing Chapman interact with other Beatles fans and even just meeting a kid in Central Park is unnerving on every level even before he pulls the trigger. While the movie does not succeed in giving much context or understanding to Chapman or his motivations, it does provide a detailed look at the events leading up to the murder that shocked the world.

Watch On Peacock

2 Lincoln (2012)

Steven spielberg explores the emancipation proclamation.

Daniel Day Lewis looking tired in Lincoln

Steven Spielberg's biopic of President Abraham Lincoln is not the typical biopic as it does not look at the entire life of the man but rather focuses on one key aspect of his administration -- the passing of the amendment to abolish slavery in the United States. It details the political intrigue and deals made behind the scenes to ensure the important part of history was actually created. It also depicts Lincoln as a storyteller and complex leader whose reasons for ending slavery are not as heroic as others.

The film is not only powerful but emotionally gripping as Daniel Day-Lewis plays Lincoln as a weary and steadfast leader holding the weight of the nation on his shoulders as he struggles to keep the thirteenth amendment and his Emancipation Proclamation from dissolving after the Civil War.

Rent Lincoln on Apple TV.

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3 downfall (2004), the last days of adolf hitler.

Hitler in Downfall

Although it was the birthplace of a thousand memes, Downfall should be taken as a brilliant character study that faithfully recreated the last days of Adolf Hitler during the Battle of Berlin in the fall of WWII. The film gives an inside look deep into the bowels of Hitler's Wolf's Den as Germany loses the war. The movie explores different aspects of the h=infamous historical figure that are not often covered in movies, from his crippling insecurities to his health issues.

Because Hitler is such a grotesque historical figure, movies often feel the need to depict him and his evil as inhuman and even cartoonish. While the Fuhrer himself is by no means a sympathetic or heroic character in this film , it's still quite remarkable to see the man at the forefront of the picture instead of a stereotypical Nazi commander or an over-the-top caricature.

4 Schindler’s List (1993)

Spielberg's harrowing look at the horrors of the holocaust.

On the subject of World War II films , the genre would be nothing without the moving and heart-wrenching saga of Schindler's List. Based on the account of Oskar Schindler and the hundreds of Jewish refugees he saved from Germany's concentration camps, it goes into painstaking detail depicting the cruelty of the Nazi party, the indifference to the plight of the Jewish population felt by onlookers, and the compassion had by one man who saved over a thousand.

While there had been many holocaust movies before this, Steven Spielberg's Best Picture winner gave mainstream audiences an unflinching look at one of the darkest moments in human history. While the story of Schindler himself is a fascinating one, it is Spielberg's sequences like the liquidation of the Jewish ghetto that stand out as the most harrowing.

Rent Schindler's List on Apple TV.

5 Joyeux Noël (2005)

The inspiring christmas story set on a battlefield.

Soldiers in Joyeux Noel

Inspired by the famous Christmas Truce of WWI, Joyeux Noël is a war film that is also an unexpected Christmas movie. Excruciating attention to detail was taken to ensure that this emotional tale of war, brotherhood, and peace was given the proper respect it deserves. The movie takes a look at the soldiers on both sides of the fight and the harsh realities of their dangerous lives in the trenches mixed with the welcome reprieve from the fighting.

So much attention to historical accuracy was given that the biggest deviation from actual events concerned the fate of a stray cat that wandered into the trenches , making him captured instead of being shot by French soldiers. A charming anecdote, but one that shows how dedicated the filmmakers were in preserving and presenting this story.

Watch On Tubi

6 12 Years A Slave (2013)

Solomon northup's unjust journey to freedom.

Chiwetel Ejiofor in 12 Years A Slave

12 years a slave

Few people knew about the story of Solomon Northrup before 12 Years A Slave won Best Picture , but it is an unbelievable and harrowing story set during the dark period of American history. Solomon is a free Black man living in New York with his family when he is kidnapped and illegally sold into slavery.

The portrayal of slavery in the United States is among one of the periods that undergoes the most rewriting once a project tackling the subject reaches Hollywood. Perhaps out of fear people won't flock to theaters to witness the depiction of atrocities that not far in the past, movies about slavery fail to do the period justice. Steven McQueen's movie glosses over nothing as it shows the many faces of racism, inhumanity, and barbaric cruelty Solomon and the other slaves face.

Watch 12 Years A Slave on Apple TV

7 Spotlight (2015)

Journalists expose the crimes of the catholic church.

Spotlight is another Best Picture winner that excels in telling a true story accurately and making the details of the truth speak for themselves. Michael Keaton, Rachel McAdams, and Mark Ruffalo star as part of an investigative team with the Boston Globe who help to uncover the long history of abuse by Catholic priests and the church's cover-up of those events. It is easy to see how most movies would simplify the story for a Hollywood version, shrinking the team to fewer heroes or ignoring the investigation's disruption due to 9/11, but Spotlight is committed to the entire story.

Spotlight premiered in 2015, a little over half a decade after the events it portrays took place in real life. Even though that might seem little to consider historical accuracy, it must be acknowledged that the world in 2015 was very different from the world in 2001, mostly due to technological advancements. From giant and clumsy computers to the characters' fashion choices, Spotlight delivered on those small details.

Watch On Max

8 All The President's Men (1976)

An investigation into the watergate scandal.

Carl and Bob sitting next to each other in All The President's Men

Like Spotlight, All the President's Men is a movie about investigative journalism that requires as keen an eye for detail as the journalists in the movie have with their work. If a movie is undergoing the task of portraying on screen one of the biggest scandals to ever occur in American politics, the filmmakers want to make sure they do it right, and nailing the specifics is an absolute must.

That was the daunting task facing the Best Picture-winning All The President's Men , and the movie met the challenge going as far as having the executive editor of The Washington Post at the time of the Watergate Scandal consult for the movie. This ensured the offices and the two main characters were the spitting image of the actual journalists on the case.

Watch On Prime Video

9 Zodiac (2007)

A detailed examination of the unsolved serial killer case.

David Fincher has taken on some ambitious and unique projects throughout his career, and the 2007 movie Zodiac might just be one of the best projects the director was involved in. The movie is a look at the decades-long investigation into the Zodiac Killer as police and journalists attempt to uncover who is behind the murders that gripped the people of San Fransisco in the 1970s. Drawning from those investigators, survivors of the attacks, and police details, the movie is an eerie recreation of the mystery.

Extremely influenced by All The President's Men and nailing each and every necessary detail, Z odiac doesn't make up a satisfying conclusion to the movie in order to appease audiences. Instead, it embraces the real-life implications of the story, which further imprints a lot of character into the film and gives it an A+ in historical accuracy.

Watch On Showtime

10 Tora! Tora! Tora! (1970)

A look at both sides of the pearl harbor attacks.

Tora Tora Tora

The attack on Pearl Harbor is one of the most impactful events in American and Japanese history. What sets this film apart from other movies that took many liberties with their historical portrayals is the team of people involved. Tora! Tora! Tora! made the groundbreaking decision to involve both sides of the story in the making of the film, making it a joint production between the two countries discussed in the movie. Research that gathers material from several sources and not just one side is bound to result in a much more accurate portrayal than a biased view.

While movies like Midway and Michael Bay's Pearl Harbor turn the historical event into an action blockbuster, Tora! Tora! Tora! is a much more nuanced and interesting look at the event while still keeping an epic feel.

Rent Tora! Tora! Tora! on Apple TV.

11 A Night To Remember (1958)

The depiction of the titanic tragedy that influenced james cameron.

A Night To Remember

Before Kate Winslet and Leonardo DiCaprio were Rose and Jack in the epic Titanic, helmed by director James Cameron, the public got to witness the history of the famous ship all the way back in 1958. While Cameron did have an enormous budget and technology to work with, his take on the sinking Titanic was widely romanticized by focusing largely on the love story. On the other hand, A Night To Remember went to great lengths to accurately portray the several people involved, the class dissonance, and what led to the sinking in the first place, among many other details.

Looking at A Night to Remember, it is clear that Cameron was heavily influenced by the historically accurate depiction of the sinking and that the research of the two movies overlaps in some areas. There are moments from A Night to Remember that are depicted nearly identically in Cameron's Titanic , making it a must-watch for fans of Cameron's epic.

F Murry Abraham in Amadeus

10 Surprisingly Funny Historical Dramas

12 apollo 13 (1995), the telling of a desperate nasa rescue mission.

movie scene depicting events from the past

Apollo 13 had everything to be great and, simultaneously, everything to flop. The fact that this milestone in human history was so ingrained into people's minds and heavily documented meant the production team had plenty of information to draw from. But it also meant everyone would heavily criticize it if something was off. Ron Howard didn't want to take the chance that the latter would happen and made sure to surround himself with NASA consultants and special permissions to film in given places.

The movie is an intense and thrilling look at the rescue mission that gripped the nation when a trio of astronauts faced a catastrophic issue while in space. From the movie's recreation of the zero-gravity atmosphere to the brilliant and innovative work of the engineers on the ground, the movie was thrilling just from showing how the real situation unfolded.

Rent Apollo 13 on Apple TV.

13 Full Metal Jacket (1987)

A real-life boot camp instructor elevates stanley kubrick's vietnam movie, full metal jacket.

The disastrous results of the Vietnam War on every party involved have been heavily explored by Hollywood throughout the years, often giving birth to some of the rawest and most incredible pieces of cinema out there. Stanley Kubrick's Full Metal Jacket is one such movie, with its portrayal of the time and the environment reaching near perfection thanks to the extensive research carried out by the director.

One of the most memorable and effective examples of the movie's realism is the casting of R. Lee Ermey as Gunnery Sergeant Hartman. The first half of the movie depicts the soldiers' experiences in boot camp with this abusive, profane, and darkly hilarious instructor. Ermey was a real-life boot camp instructor and his experience brings authenticity to that entire section of the story which informs the rest of the movie. Ermey earned a Golden Globe nomination for his performance.

Rent Full Metal Jacket On Apple TV.

14 The Assassination Of Jesse James By The Coward Robert Ford (2007)

An unheroic look at an american icon.

Brad Pitt in The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford

Incredibly long title aside, The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford gives a completely different take on what audiences were used to from a Western movie. Less guns and exaggerated violence, more attention paid to the details surrounding the characters, their outfits, their dialogues, and their motivations. It depicts the murder of outlaw Jesse James by a former colleague, Robert Ford (Casey Affleck), but it is the story leading up to that point that is truly fascinating.

Along with the detailed account of the various characters within James' life, it is a more honest and unromantic look at the life of an outlaw in the Old West. Indeed, Jesse James is often depicted in movies as a Robin Hood-like antihero, but Brad Pitt's take on the character is a paranoid, ruthless murderer more accurate to his real persona .

Rent The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford on Apple TV.

15 The Lion In Winter (1968)

An oscar winner with notable stars.

The Lion In Winter

The Lion In Winter might be guilty of investing too much in the heavy romanticization that was often seen in medieval-era movies of the past. However, that doesn't result in its downfall but can be largely ignored in favor of what it does get right. The star-studded Oscar-winning movie details the reign of Henry II as his sons seek to inherit the throne and he reunites with his imprisoned wife.

This 1968 movie is incredibly accurate where political intrigue is concerned and went to great lengths in order to correctly portray just how tense and complex the political situation was at the time. The historical accounts of the era are more vague than some historical dramas set in more modern times, but its sharp dialogue and accuracy to the known events make it an engrossing look back in time.

Rent The Lion in Winter On Apple TV.

Crazy Scenes From Historical Movies That Really Happened

movie scene depicting events from the past

Historical movies are known to take major liberties in their films to make storylines more interesting for their viewers. Here, we’ve found events in historical movies that we assumed were a result of stretching the details of an event but proved to be true – making these scenes in historical movies even more unbelievable!

1. Doris Miller’s heroism in Pearl Harbor

Cuba Gooding Jr in Pearl Harbor

Cuba Gooding Jr. as Doris Miller in Pearl Harbor. (Photo Credit: Touchstone Pictures/ MovieStills DB)

Although Pearl Harbor (2001) has many historical accuracies, one thing they did get completely right is its portrayal of Doris Miller . In the film, we see Miller (played by Cuba Gooding Jr.) take control of an unattended machine gun and take down many Japanese planes.

The real “Dorie” Miller joined the United States Navy in 1939. However, during this time, Navy policy prevented African American men from receiving any promotions, meaning that Miller served as a mess attendant.

On December 7, 1941, Miller was doing laundry onboard West Virginia when the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor began. Miller jumped into combat, without having any formal training. He was able to shoot down enemy planes with a .50-caliber weapon and pulled many injured soldiers through the burning ship to safety. He was one of the last sailors to abandon ship as West Virginia sank, and he swam through 400 yards of water and burning oil to shore.

Miller was the first Black sailor to receive the Navy Cross. In 2020, the Navy named an aircraft carrier after him.

2. The elderly couple in Titanic were real people

Elderly couple in titanic

Isador and Ida Straus portrayed in Titanic. (Photo Credit: MovieDetails via Reddit )

One of the most heartbreaking scenes in James Cameron’s 1997 hit movie, Titanic , is when we see an elderly couple in bed with water rushing underneath them. However, what arguably makes this scene even sadder is that this elderly couple was based on real people.

The elderly couple portrayed in the movie were based on Isidor and Ida Straus. Isidor Straus was the co-owner of Macy’s Department store and he and Ida had been visiting family in Germany. When Titanic hit an iceberg on April 14, 1912, Isidor and Isa were directed to lifeboat eight. However, Isador refused to board the lifeboat after seeing younger men being denied a chance to have a spot. Ida also refused to board the lifeboat, telling her husband “where you go, I go.”

The couple was last seen together on deck holding hands. James Cameron actually filmed an entire scene depicting the moment Isador and Ida refused a spot onboard a lifeboat, but decided not to include it in the final version of the film.

3. Johnny Cash did propose to June Carter onstage and out of the blue

Joaquin Phoenix and Reese Witherspoon in Walk The Line

Joaquin Phoenix as Johnny Cash and Reese Witherspoon as June Carter in Walk The Line. (Photo Credit: MovieStills DB)

Walk The Line (2005) is a biographical romantic film depicting the story of Johnny Cash and June Carter . The movie accurately depicts the way in which Cash proposes to Carter. The pair was on stage performing their hit song “Jackson,” when Johnny stopped singing (but was still playing the guitar) and asked June to marry him. June tried to get him to continue the song, but eventually agreed to marry him.

Although this proposal may seem spontaneous and very public, Cash really did propose to Carter in the middle of a concert . The two were singing “Jackson” at a concert in London, Ontario, Canada, on February 22, 1968, when Cash stopped mid-song to propose to Carter. Of course, she said yes and the two were married on March 1, 1968.

4. Danny Porush really swallowed a goldfish just like in The Wolf of Wall Street 

Jonah Hill in Wolf of Wall Street

Actor Jonah Hill about to eat a gold fish for a scene in ‘The Wolf of Wall Street.’ (Photo Credit: MovieDetails via Reddit )

In the movie The Wolf of Wall Street (2013), actor Jonah Hill plays the character Donnie Azoff, who is based on Danny Porush. Like in the film, Porush was really the co-founder and ex-president of Stratton Oakmont. In the movie, viewers see Jonah Hill eat a live goldfish in the office.

Surprisingly, according to Porush himself, this event actually did occur. According to Porush , “I said to one of the brokers, ‘If you don’t do more business, I’m gonna eat your goldfish.’ So I did!”

Interestingly enough, when it came to filming the goldfish scene for Wolf of Wall Street , actor Hill actually wanted to swallow the goldfish in real life but couldn’t. Hill wanted everything to be real, and felt that he was not working as hard as everyone else in the film. Of course, swallowing a goldfish goes against animal cruelty laws so he didn’t swallow it, but he did keep a live goldfish in his mouth for three seconds.

5. Mary Jackson really did need to get special permission to attend classes

Janelle Monáe in Hidden Figures

Janelle Monáe in Hidden Figures. (Photo Credit: MovieStills DB)

Hidden Figures  (2016) tells the story of three African American mathematicians who work at NASA and help get astronaut John Glenn into orbit. In a scene, one of the mathematicians named Mary Jackson (played by Janelle Monáe) petitions a judge in a segregated courtroom to allow her to enroll in an extension course offered at an all-white high school so she can become an engineer. She is eventually granted permission and celebrates her victory.

According to Margot Lee Shetterly’s book,  Hidden Figures : The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Mathematicians Who Helped Win the Space Race (2016), this event actually occurred. Mary went “hat-in-hand” to the school board and asked permission to attend classes at an all-white high school. The city granted her permission and she was able to take classes in a non-segregated school.

6. The Renault Type CB Coup de Ville on the Titanic

1912 Renault Type CB Coupé de Ville

Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet in Titanic. (Photo Credit: Paramount Pictures/ Twentieth Century Fox/ MovieStills DB)

Although the romantic storyline of James Cameron’s  Titanic is fiction, he does sprinkle in very interesting Easter eggs throughout the film. One of these Easter eggs can be spotted at the start of the movie, in the ship’s cargo hold.

A 1912 Renault Type CB Coup de Ville can be seen being lifted onto the ship. Later in the film, when Jack and Rose are exploring the ship, they stumble upon this same automobile in the ship’s cargo hold. A 1912 Renault Type CB Coup de Ville is the only known automobile that was on the Titanic .

The vehicle that was onboard the real Titanic belonged to William Carter of Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania. Carter purchased the automobile while traveling Europe with his wife and children. The Carter family would survive the Titanic disaster, but Carter’s manservant, Alexander Cairns, and his chauffeur, Augustus Aldworth perished.

Since the Titanic has been discovered at the bottom of the Atlantic, several expeditions have attempted to locate the Renault without any luck. Chances are there is not much left of the automobile.

7. Omaha Beach scene in Saving Private Ryan

Omaha Beach Scene in Saving Private Ryan

Omaha Beach Scene in Saving Private Ryan. (Photo Credit: Dreamworks Pictures/ Paramount Pictures/ MovirStills DB)

Obviously, Omaha Beach was a big part of the Normandy Invasion in June, 1944. However, did you know that the Omaha Beach Scene in Steven Spielberg’s Saving Private Ryan  was so accurate that after the film was released, the Department of Veterans Affairs had to increase staffing on its telephone counseling line in response to a surge in support needed for World War II veterans?

Spielberg took a different approach when filming the Omaha Beach Scene for Saving Private Ryan.  He wanted to do the opposite of what previous war movies had done – instead of presenting war as something beautiful, he wanted his opening scene to appear as gritty and real as possible. The Omaha Beach scene caused many World War II veterans to relive the trauma they experienced during the Second World War.

8. Homage to Carlos Hathcock

Saving Private Ryan

Scene from Saving Private Ryan. Actor Barry Pepper, who plays sniper Daniel Jackson is in the front-middle of the pack. (Photo Credit: Dreamworks Pictures/ Paramount Pictures/ MovieStills DB)

Speaking of Saving Private Ryan , Steven Spielberg pays homage to American sniper Carlos Hathcock . In Saving Private Ryan,  we see sniper Daniel Jackson (played by Barry Pepper) kill a German sniper by firing a shot into the German soldier’s eye.

More from us: 10 Historical Movies That Got Their Costume Design Right

This scene actually pays homage to United States Marine Carlos Hathcock. During the Vietnam War, Hathcock was being shot at by a concealed North Vietnamese Army. Hathcock was able to catch a glimpse of the man’s sniper scope and shot a round through it, killing the Vietnamese soldier. Hathcock is regarded as one of America’s top snipers, and this shot has yet to be replicated.

History through Film: Depicting the Moments of the Past Analytical Essay

The fact that movies are considered to be one of most powerful art forms appeared in the twentieth century is undeniable because it has had a great impact on many points of view, including historical ones.

With regard to this impact, historical movies are often used to learn more about some facts and events happened in the past (Hughes-Warrington 15). Being an artistic form, however, they can also either exaggerate or deviate from the real historical facts to emphasize a particular idea and make the reader understand the concealed aspects of human history.

Such attempts are also made in such historical dramas as “Kriemhild’s Revenge” (Lang), “El Cid” (Mann), “Alexander Nevsky” (Eisenstein), and “Krzyzacy” (Ford) that also focus on the role of female figures in presenting national identities. Across different cultures, all movies disclose women’s great courage and fidelity while protecting the lives of their bellowed.

Being driven by love and desire to secure their families from the enemies’ invasions, they are ready to sacrifice their lives (Hughes-Warrington 15).

More importantly, female figures are depicted as much more passionate and aggressive in achieving their goals comparing to their male companions who seem to be more reasonable, composed and strategic. Therefore, this dimension of historical representation provide a different outlook on the role of women in war.

Female’s affiliation to their beloved makes them more vulnerable to outside factors and less resistant to the aggression surrounding them. They do not see any obstacle on the way to rescuing their husbands. Particular attention deserves Fritz Lang’s film called Kriemhild’s Revenge (Lang) where the main heroine embodies hostile feelings of isolation, helplessness, and despair. Kriemhild is overwhelmed with her desire to take revenge on her husband; her resoluteness and inflexibility assist her in reaching the goals.

Along with her courage, Kriemhild still resorts to her incredible beauty using it as a powerful weapon against enemies. Great ambitions and fortitude is also revealed in other movies, particularly in Alexander Nevsky (Eisenstein) where females are ready to sacrifice their lives while rescuing their husbands who were seriously wounded during the fight.

The director of the movie provides a number of scenes depicting women fighting equally with men, which is not revealed in reality. Using such an approach, he has managed to support the idea that women’s wisdom, selflessness, and strength of will served as a solid ground for men to stand on.

Olga Danilovna, from Novgorod, personifies all those features and can be considered as a stereotypical representation of Slavonic women. However, Eisenstein’s heroine seems to be more lenient and latent in her desire being more followed by men.

Despite visual predominance of males, female characters are more inclined to influence men’s decisions and actions. Moreover, they serve as the triggers taking control of men and directing their powers.

At the same time, movie’s heroines understand they are powerless and unspoken in front of hero’s confrontations because they believe they have the right to decide their women’s fates who still dominate in lives of warriors.

However, comparing the national and psychological representation of domination, feministic tendencies are more explicitly revealed in Lang’s and Ford’s picture where the main heroine are the one who predict future development of the events in the movies. In particular, Jagienka Zychowna the leading character in Kryzacy (Ford) makes the hero promise her to bring the trophies from the fight with the Teutonic Knights.

Hence, the heroine can be considered as the one who ignites the rigid confrontation because she is the reason for starting the fight. The decisive role is also taken by Krimhield who also manages to manipulate the warriors and make them perform all her requests.

In contrast to feminist movements as presented in the movies above, El Cid enlarges on the concealed role of female heroines that are often governed by filling of fidelity and selflessness toward their bellowed. Jemina, Don Rodriguez remains adamant in face dangers and risk she encounters while staying with her husband. She is guided by her love and respect for his husband, which makes her more determined and confidents in the necessity to follow her husband.

In this respect, Jemina represents as a Spanish stereotype because considers honor and nobility to be the highest priority and violating these cultural and moral values means a death for them. Jemina decides to enter a convent when she realizes that she is unlikely to stay in marriage with El Cid.

Such morals values as nobility and courage, fidelity and nobility, pride and selfless are expressed in the repetitive patterns of the movie.

All heroines are really pride; they consider their honor more valuable than their lives. All heroines also believe that revenge is the only means to compensate the death of their beloved. However, the ways the female characters understand revenge contrast significantly.

In Krimhield’s Revenge , Lang proposes a more severe and cruel representations of the heroine anger and desire to avenge. In particular, Krimhield prefers using more radical methods and direct male strength against each other.

Similarly, Alexander Nevsky also proves females’ power through their ability to manipulate males’ actions. In particular, Olga Danilovna’s beauty becomes the main reason for initiating the duel between

Gavrillo and Vasily who are engaged in the rigorous fight known as the Battle on the Ice to decide which of them deserves Olga’ hand. Krzyzacy (1960) contains similar plot lines where the main hero is forced to initiate the fight because of Jagienka’s desire to take revenge on her mother’s death. In El Cid , Jemina Diaz also resorts to all possible means to be loyal to her goals and moral values.

In spite of the fact heroines strive to different goals while taking revenge, they are still more attached to their own moral positions and cultural values. Cultural affiliation is still seen in their behavior and intentions to protect their land and dignity that are prior to their lives.

In other worlds, the directors have made an attempt at revealing women’s independence from male reign, which is often concealed by history. Perceiving the historical events through from the female point of view allows the viewers to cognize the ambiguous and unknown events from the history and to understand the role of women in course of war.

In addition, the authors has also managed to successfully render how the heroines contribute to changing the male’s deeds and decisions as well as prove how helpless they can be in the face of women’s powers. For instance, Alexander Nevsky explicitly demonstrates how women act and contribute to creating terrible and grand drama.

Representing the thirteen century area and the times of Teutonic Knights, the director also convey the hardship that women had to overcome when their husbands are away; they often served as an object for revenge for enemies who tortured women whose men fight against them. Despite them, women are still presented not as martyr who had to pay off for men’s mistake, but as brave, desperate women with resolute feature who are ready to fight straight and protect their family’s honor.

Hence, when Nevsky starts a glorious fight, all warriors rise together with Vasilisa fighting equally with men. She, therefore, is an example of a traditional Russian woman who embodies the spirit of the Russian mentality and spirituality; she can be called as a mother fight and freedom.

In conclusion, all the movies under consideration make the viewers realize that actual role of historic movies in depicting the moments from the past. In particular, the film directors do not pursue the idea to convey all historical facts accurately, but to emphasize a particular historic thought or dimensions that has been carefully concealed in historical textbooks.

In this respect, all the movies focus on the role of female figures in forming the national and cultural identify with particular reference to their moral and ethical values, their understanding of such concepts of honor, pride, independence, and freedom.

First of all, they express these outlooks through great fidelity to their men, and selflessness and readiness to sacrifice for whom they love and respect.

Second, directors also decide to present some feministic and matriarchic tendencies in representing female stereotypes as perceived in different countries. Finally, they also strive to convey women’s strength and concealed domination over the main, their resolute features that are disclose throughout all national identities.

Works Cited

Eisenstein, Sergei. dir. Alexander Nevsky Mosfilm, Soviet Uninion, 1938. Film.

Ford, Alexander. dir. Kryzacy. Zespol Filmowy, Poland. 1960. Film

Hughes-Warrington, Marnie. History on Film Reader . New York: Routledge, 2009.

Lang, Fritz. dir. Krimhield’s Revenge . Decla-Discop, UFA, 1924.Film.

Mann, Anthony. dir. El Cid. Allied Artists, USA, 1961. Film.

  • Chicago (A-D)
  • Chicago (N-B)

IvyPanda. (2022, March 17). History through Film: Depicting the Moments of the Past. https://ivypanda.com/essays/history-through-film/

"History through Film: Depicting the Moments of the Past." IvyPanda , 17 Mar. 2022, ivypanda.com/essays/history-through-film/.

IvyPanda . (2022) 'History through Film: Depicting the Moments of the Past'. 17 March.

IvyPanda . 2022. "History through Film: Depicting the Moments of the Past." March 17, 2022. https://ivypanda.com/essays/history-through-film/.

1. IvyPanda . "History through Film: Depicting the Moments of the Past." March 17, 2022. https://ivypanda.com/essays/history-through-film/.


IvyPanda . "History through Film: Depicting the Moments of the Past." March 17, 2022. https://ivypanda.com/essays/history-through-film/.

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How To Write Flashbacks in Screenplays (With Examples!)

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If you’re looking to add some depth and backstory to your screenplay or indie movie , flashbacks are the way to go!

A large narrative component of my feature screenplay, Devil’s Shadow – which was named a Blood List finalist a few years back – was the use of flashbacks in order to both reveal new information and contrast the protagonist’s present situation with his tragic past.

What I didn’t want was to use flashbacks as just an exposition dump. Instead, in those times when they are warranted, I always strive to make them key to the plot and reveal just enough information so as to add layers to both the story and the characters .

How do I write a flashback in my screenplay?

  • Make Sure They Are Necessary : Only include flashbacks that enhance the story.
  • Trigger with Senses : Use sights or sounds to introduce the flashback naturally.
  • Detail the Scene : Make the past event(s) clear and engaging.
  • Dialogue : Let characters talk to reveal their backstory.
  • Chronological : Events are shown in order.
  • Broken Sequence : Events shown out of sequence.
  • Within Dreams : Flashbacks occurring in dream sequences.
  • Maintain Balance : Use flashbacks sparingly to complement the plot.
  • Formatting : Clearly mark flashback start and end points.

In this article, we’ll discuss a screenplay flashback, how to write flashbacks in screenplays and give some great flashback examples from movies you’ll recognize.

By understanding how flashback scenes work and learning to use them in your writing, you’ll be able to create richer and more interesting stories for your readers!

What Are Flashbacks In a Script?

infographic defining flashbacks in movies

A flashback is a scene that takes the viewer back in time, often to provide crucial information about a character’s backstory or the plot from a specific character’s perspective. Flashbacks can fill in gaps in the story or provide a glimpse into a character’s memory.

When used effectively, a flashback sequence can add depth and meaning to a screenplay. However, flashbacks can also be jarring and confusing if they are not correctly set up. It is crucial to ensure that flashbacks are integrated seamlessly into the story and contribute to your script’s overall narrative .

How To Write Screenplay Flashbacks

infographic showing how to write a flashback

Tip 1: Begin with a trigger.

What sets off the memory? Is it a sound or a word? A smell? A touch? A taste? Or someone or something the character sees? Use one of the senses to begin the flashback.

Tip 2: Use specific and concrete details.

The more specific the details, the more real and vivid the flashback will be for the reader.

Tip 3: Use dialogue to further ground the scene.

Dialogue can help to establish time, place, and character relationships. It can also be used to reveal character development, motivation and backstory.

Tip 4: Use action lines to move the scene forward.

An action line briefly describes an action that moves the story forward. In a flashback, actions can help to orient the reader in time and space and provide a sense of forward momentum.

Tip 5: Use flashbacks sparingly.

When incorporating flashbacks into a story, it’s important to use them thoughtfully. Too many flashbacks can disrupt the story’s flow or come across as unnecessary filler. However, when used wisely, flashbacks can serve as a powerful tool to unveil character backstories and provide pivotal details about the plot.

Tip 6: Start with a strong opening image.

The first image in a flashback should be striking and memorable to grab the reader’s attention and set the tone for the scene.

Tip 7: Make sure the flashback serves a purpose.

Every element in a screenplay should serve a purpose and advance the story. Ask yourself what purpose the flashback serves before including it in your script.

Tip 8: Don’t info-dump in flashbacks.

Info-dumping is when a character reveals large chunks of exposition or backstory all at once, usually in an unnatural way. This can be frustrating for readers and should be avoided in flashbacks (and in general!).

Tip 9: Be careful with voice-over narration in flashbacks.

Voice-over narration can be a great tool for providing information about a character’s inner thoughts or feelings, but it should be used sparingly in flashbacks so as not to overwhelm the reader or break up the flow of the story.

Tip 10: End with a strong closing image.

The last image in a flashback should be just as strong as the first to leave a lasting impression on the reader.

Types of Flashbacks

what are the types of flashbacks in movies

A flashback is a scene or event from the past that is inserted into the present story. It can be used to provide background information about a character or to reveal something about the plot.

There are three main types of flashbacks: linear, nonlinear, and dream sequences.

  • In a linear flashback, the events are presented in chronological order. This is the most straightforward type of flashback. It is often used to reveal information about the character’s backstory or details of the character’s past to illustrate their overall growth.
  • In a nonlinear flashback , the events are presented out of order, which can create a feeling of disorientation for the reader. This type of flashback is often used to create tension or suspense in a story or to unravel a mystery.
  • In a dream sequence flashback , the events are presented as if they are happening in a dream. This flashback can be used to reveal a character’s inner thoughts or feelings, either as a guarded desire or a deep-rooted fear.

No matter what type of screenplay flashback is used, it is essential to use it sparingly and carefully to avoid confusion or disruptions in the flow of the story.

black and silver camera on white table

Why Use Flashbacks in a Screenplay?

A flashback scene is a powerful tool that screenwriters can use to enhance their stories. By taking the audience back in time, flashbacks can provide information about past events in a character’s life or help establish the story’s conflict .

They can also add suspense or tension, providing glimpses of what is to come through foreshadowing and without giving away too much. A flashback sequence can be a powerful way to add depth and dimension to a screenplay.

“Flashbacks are a great way to give answers to the story.” Sarah michelle gellar

What Is a Flashback Montage?

In filmmaking, a flashback montage is a technique used to compress time and show the passage of a span of time, such as days, months, or years, within a single scene. It’s often used in biopics or coming-of-age stories, where the main character, in the present, looks back on key events in their life.

A typical flashback montage will show the character growing up, featuring key milestones such as their first steps, first day at school, first kiss, etc. Each event is shown in quick succession, with a time jump of several months or years between each one. This creates a sense of nostalgia and helps summarize the character’s life story concisely.

While flashback montages can be very effective, they must be used judiciously. When used sparingly, however, they are be a powerful tool for evoking emotion and helping the audience connect with the characters on screen.

A great example is seen in Toy Story 2 , where Jesse recounts her previous life as a treasured toy that is loved at first and, over time, forgotten and eventually discarded. It’s as beautiful as it is heartbreaking, effectively melding music with a series of short scenes to tell a complete background story.

Tips for Avoiding Common Flashback Pitfalls

Flashbacks are a common storytelling device, but they can also be problematic if misused. Here are four tips for avoiding common flashback pitfalls:

  • Make sure the flashback serves a purpose . There should be an apparent reason for the character remembering this particular event at this particular time. Otherwise, it’ll feel like an arbitrary and unnecessary interruption to the story.
  • Avoid info dumps . A flashback should illuminate something about the character or the situation, but it shouldn’t be used to dump too much information all at once. Be judicious about what details are necessary for the audience to know.
  • Don’t overdo it ! Use flashbacks sparingly, or else they’ll start to feel like a crutch or a gimmick. If every other scene is a flashback, it’s probably time to reevaluate your story structure .
  • Make sure the flashbacks are clearly delineated from the present-day story . Use visual cues, such as headings or italicized fonts, to help distinguish the flashbacks showing the past from the main narrative of the present.

movie clap board

How to Format Flashbacks in a Screenplay

A flashback is a scene that takes place in the past, often used to provide a backstory or to fill in gaps in the main story, which is set in the present.

In a screenplay, flashbacks are typically denoted by a Flashback heading, which appears before the scene, typically as “FLASHBACK” or “FLASH ON.” The heading should include the location and time period of the flashback, as well as a short description of what will be shown.

For example, this quick scene from Quentin Tarantino’s Kill Bill Vol. 1 (italics added below for emphasis – otherwise, taken exactly from the original script):

CU O-REN (11-years old), hiding under a bed, watching…

…her FATHER (dressed in the uniform of a sergeant for the American Army) fighting THREE YAKUZA GANGSTERS. He kills one with his bare hands. The other two slice him to death with samurai swords…

…and her MOTHER being raped by the same men. When they finish, they SHOOT her.

Little O-Ren watches, hidden from sight, with the eyes and face of a stone.

In this example, the flashback is used to provide exposition about O-Ren’s traumatic past involving her parents and Japanese gangsters. The use of a Flashback cue makes it clear to the reader that what follows is taking place in the past, and the specific details help to establish the time period and setting.

By providing this context, the reader can more fully understand the character’s motivations and actions later in the story.

Examples of Great Flashbacks in Popular Films

To illustrate how to write a flashback in a script, let’s look at some great flashback examples from movies!

Example 1: The Usual Suspects

The Usual Suspects is a 1995 mystery thriller film directed by Bryan Singer. The film tells the story of a group of criminals brought together by a mysterious figure called “Keyser Söze.”

The film uses several flashbacks to describe how the criminals became involved with Söze, as told from one character’s perspective – Verbal Kent. These flashbacks are expertly done, providing essential information about the characters and their relationships without feeling repetitive or heavy-handed.

Flashbacks also allow the story to be told out of sequence, adding to the film’s sense of mystery and suspense.

In short, The Usual Suspects is a masterclass in how to use flashbacks effectively, and its use of this storytelling device is one of the many reasons that the film is so memorable and successful.

Example 2: Iron Man

In the 2008 film Iron Man , director Jon Favreau uses well-done flashbacks to help develop the various characters and backstory.

The flashback begins with Tony Stark, played by Robert Downey Jr., being transported through a desert in a military convoy. Unknown forces ambush the convoy, and Tony is gravely injured. We are then propelled into the past using flashback scenes to establish Tony’s personality, how he came to be in this predicament, and the relationships he’s established with the supporting characters.

Once we are back in the present, we see that Tony has been captured by terrorists and is held captive in a cave. He was wounded by shrapnel from the missile strike and only survived by building an arc reactor and a crude suit of armor. We clearly understand the backstory and insight into Tony’s motivations when he decides to build a suit of armor to escape captivity and return home as a changed man.

The flashbacks in Iron Man provide essential information about the characters and set up the plot for the rest of the film.

Example 3: Ratatouille

In this 2007 Pixar classic, we see an extremely short and effective flashback at a critical moment in the film – the climax . Everything our heroes have gone through hinges on this moment – how will acclaimed food critic Anton Ego, notorious for giving bad reviews, rate the simple dish Remy has prepared for him?

Without a single word spoken, we are transported by the trigger of taste to his childhood. In one fell swoop, we see a previously impenetrable and cold character instantly humanized and become likable.

It also perfectly ties into one of the movie’s central themes : the best things often come from the unlikeliest and often overlooked sources.

Example 4: Fight Club

In this 1999 David Fincher thriller, flashbacks are used at a pivotal moment in the story’s plot to reveal new information about the main character, the Narrator, and his complex relationship with his closest friend, Tyler Durden.

Scenes that we have previously watched presenting Tyler and the Narrator as two separate people, with Tyler performing actions or saying words and the Narrator bearing witness, are thrown askew as the main character recalls through quick flashes that they are, in fact, the same person suffering a form of disassociative identity disorder.

Flashbacks are used here to present new information, not just to the main character but to the audience as well. They also show that this technique can be effective as a brief flash of information rather than as a complete scene or full retelling of an event.

Common Questions About Flashbacks in Screenplays

Should flashbacks be italicized.

This is often debated! In the end, it comes down to style. Some writers feel that italicizing flashbacks helps to set the flashback apart from the rest of the story and makes it easier for readers to follow. Others believe that flashbacks should blend in with the rest of the text and, therefore, should not be set apart with different formatting. Just make sure to be consistent, whichever way you choose!

What tense do you write a flashback in?

Screenplays should always be written in the present tense, and flashbacks are no exception. As long as they’re clearly labeled, there should be no confusion about when they are set. Remember, using the present tense can help create a sense of immediacy and increase the scene’s emotional impact, even when showing events from the past.

Can a movie start with a flashback?

Yes, a movie can start with a flashback, but it’s not always the best way to start a story. A flashback can disorient audiences, and it can be hard to establish the proper context for the events. When used sparingly, however, a flashback can provide information about a character’s history or set up the events of the present-day story.

For example, a movie might begin with a scene from the protagonist ‘s childhood that helps to explain why he is struggling with some issues in the present. Or, a movie could start with a scene from the recent past that helps to establish the stakes of the story.

How do you indicate a flashback in a screenplay?

A flashback is indicated by adding the prefix “FLASHBACK TO” or “FLASH ON” before the scene description.

For example, you might write “FLASHBACK TO INT. KITCHEN – DAY” to signal that the following scene occurs in the past. Make sure to format your screenplay correctly by using screenwriting software .

What is a memory flashback?

A memory flashback is a vivid mental replay of a past event, often triggered by sensory cues or dreams. While usually harmless, frequent or intense flashbacks might suggest underlying issues like PTSD.

Why is it called a flashback?

A flashback is a scene in a story that refers back to an event that happened earlier. The term “flashback” comes from the idea of a scene or key moment that flashes in the character’s mind or illuminates something from the past. In a literal sense, it is like a memory that comes back to you all at once in a sudden flash.

how to write flashbacks

Final Thoughts: How To Write Flashbacks in Your Screenplay

Flashbacks can effectively fill in the backstory for your protagonist or show the audience how a character has changed over time. Plus, they can be fun to watch on-screen!

I hope I’ve been able to impart some tips for writing interesting flashbacks in this article. Happy writing!

Interested in learning more about screenwriting? Check out these helpful articles:

How to Write a Screenplay Synopsis: 7 Tips for Screenwriters

How to Write Dialogue in a Script: Tips for Screenwriters

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Filmmaker, Author, Actor and Story Consultant

Neil Chase is an award-winning, produced screenwriter, independent filmmaker, professional actor, and author of the horror-western novel Iron Dogs. His latest feature film is an apocalyptic thriller called Spin The Wheel.

Neil has been featured on Celtx, No Film School, Script Revolution, Raindance, The Write Practice, Lifewire, and MSN.com, and his work has won awards from Script Summit, ScreamFest, FilmQuest and Cinequest (among others).

Neil believes that all writers have the potential to create great work. His passion is helping writers find their voice and develop their skills so that they can create stories that are entertaining and meaningful. If you’re ready to take your writing to the next level, he's here to help!

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The 25 Best Movie Scenes of The 2000s


A great scene can do a lot for a movie. Even if the film itself is relatively unimpressive, a standout scene of great action, emotional drama or visual wonder can ensure that you never forget about that movie.

The 2000s brought with them an age of franchises, sequels and remakes, but if you thought there was nothing worth watching, then you were clearly looking in the wrong place.

Throughout the decade, filmmakers used their new technology to craft scenes of impeccable craftsmanship and push the boundaries of filmmaking. Meanwhile, other directors and auteurs went in the opposite direction, homing old techniques and skills to put something that audiences had never seen before and a few special filmmakers even blended the two together.

Whether it be through a vital revelation, massive spectacle or just the beauty of a quiet detail, each scene here offered a unique and provocative input to the art of filmmaking.

25. Hip to be Square in American Psycho


One of the most darkly comical, strangely satirical and psychologically twisted films in recent memory, it’s hard to forget anything from Mary Harron’s adaptation of Bret Easton Ellis’ novel of the same name.

The now cult favourite American Psycho has many memorable moments and don’t get us wrong, we love the business car exchange and its ambiguous ending, however what still leaves an impact and still makes us wince and laugh simultaneously is Patrick Bateman’s legendary monologue explaining just why he loves Huey Lewis and the news.

Patrick Bateman is a businessman who in his spare time may or may not enjoy killing people in the most brutal of fashions. Following an enraging confrontation with his co-worker Paul Allen during which he flaunted the superiority of his business card over Bateman’s, he decides to lure Allen back to his apartment and quietly gives him a lecture on the brilliance of Hip to Be Square and quietly suggests that maybe Allen should not be so arrogant with his business card, by horrifically murdering him with an axe.

Just watching Christian Bale chew the scenery to pieces throughout this scene is amazing, from his apparently improvised dance moves to his sheer conviction as he recounts with such certainty why Hip to Be Square is an undisputed masterpiece. You hang onto his every word, slowly believing it, that the song really is about the pleasures of conformity, the value of friendship and a personal statement on the band itself. It is so captivating that you almost forget about the raincoat and axe Bateman is cradling in his arms.

When the axe does hit, there is something about the combination of that dull thud and the spray of blood right into Bateman’s face that makes the scene feel particularly brutal. As the song only continues to ramp up Bateman’s rage only climbs with it and he proceeds to hack Allen to pieces, an amazing display of brute force, sheer aggression and raw talent on behalf of one Christian Bale, and isn’t it wonderful?

24. Cousins in Coffee and Cigarettes


More of a collection of conversations strung together than a cohesive film, overall Coffee and Cigarettes can be a somewhat hit or miss affair depending upon how riveting the conversation in question is. Perhaps the highpoint of the movie, and a highpoint of the entire decade is the conversation between Alfred Molina and Steve Coogan, humorous, subtle and oddly telling about the concept of being a celebrity and working within the movie industry.

In the scene, Molina and Coogan begin their conversation over a cup of tea, with the former fawning over the latter quite a lot, professing to be a huge fan and admirer while Coogan himself remains relatively uninterested by their meeting and makes little effort to hide this. The conversation takes a turn when Molina first pulls out a genealogy chart that proves he and Coogan are related, then uses that to suggest a closer relationship, that they may in fact be cousins.

As Coogan hastily tries to distance himself from Molina, the power balance shifts drastically once again when Molina is good friends with Spike Jonze.

Though the direction seems fairly straightforward, it’s within the writing that Jim Jarmusch demonstrates his talents as it’s not only the clever structure of the conversation and the continual shift in power but also the attention to detail concerning each celebrity and that’s only further aided by the actors conviction and use of subtle mannerisms to create a sense of truthfulness to the scene.

As a result you believe this is a real conversation between two real life people and therefore the messages about celebrity shallowness are even more relevant.

23. Bathroom Visit in Offside


Jafar Panahi has made a career out of turning the tumultuous social climate and issues within his home nation of Iran. Though his films have often been banned within his own country, they have earned mass international acclaim for their ability to convey their humanistic perspective on life in Iran, often focusing on the hardships of children, the impoverished, and women. This chosen scene manages to package all of that into an entertaining, provocative and excellently crafted sequence, it’s as aggressive as it is satirical.

The film is about girls who try to watch a World Cup qualifying match but are forbidden by law because of their gender. Female fans are not allowed to enter football stadiums in Iran on the grounds and there will be a high risk of violence or verbal abuse against them. The female supporters try and fail to disguise their gender to enter the match and a majority of the film takes place in the holding pen in which they are kept.

At one point, a guard escorts one of the women to the lavatory, struggling to clear the way and evict all the males from the bathroom, while also checking for any secret homosexual activity and at the same time trying to prevent the woman from reading any of the graffiti on the wall. She makes a break for it and tries to escape and we briefly glimpse the energy and excitement of the game itself. It’s a tense and thrilling but also oddly socially relevant scene, one that satirises the rules being imposed as efficiently as it eviscerates them.

22. The Grey Fight in Hero


At the time of its release in 2002, Hero was the most expensive film ever to come out of the Hong Kong film industry. The film is based on the story of Jing Ke’s assassination attempt on the King of Qin in 227 BC and then tells that story from three different perspectives in an homage to Rashomon with each perspective as a different colour. Featuring a beautiful aesthetic in almost every scene, each one is a marvel to behold, however our favourite is the sensational grey fight.

It’s an incredible display of weapon work punctuated by the simple plucking of an instrument as two opponents battle one another not physically but within their own minds. They calculate each other’s moods, rhythms and fighting style in an effort to gain the upper hand through meditation. Under the direction of Zhang Yimou, the fight is almost too fast for your eyes to keep up, but his use of framing and the variation of shots allow the audience to follow every move pitch perfectly.

Not only is the fight excellently staged but it’s well scripted, going back and forth as each fighter has at least one turn in gaining the upper hand. It briefly deceives the audience into thinking that their nameless protagonist might not come out on top. Now even though it would only take a second thought to remember that the star of the film is Jet Li and therefore Li is unlikely to die the movement is so fast that you don’t really have time to think like that, being completely swept up in the moment.

21. Reality vs Expectations in 500 Days of Summer


It is a delight when a film is so much cleverer than it has any right to be. 500 Days of Summer is that kind of movie, what could have been presented as a sappy and predictable romantic comedy turned into one of pure wit and intelligence that was not only brimming with emotion but also used the medium of film to its fullest and most unique potential, which is something too few movies are doing in general now, let alone from this genre.

Chronicling Joseph Gordon Levitt’s memories of a failed relationship through a nonlinear narrative, perhaps the most ingenious moment of the entire film comes from a scene after their break up in which our protagonist briefly holds hopes of rekindling that relationship with the titular Summer when then meet again at a party. However, the reality does not meet his expectations and we know this through the most basic method of storytelling, show don’t tell, as two scenes are played side by side, one depicting expectations and the other depicting reality.

Not only does this utilize the unique potential of cinema, but the two scenes are cut together expertly so that it never feels as if the events are being spelled out for us, but at the same time there is enough coordination so that we are aware of what is going on and can draw these parallels for ourselves.

From simple gestures and tone of voice to the more obvious differences like the absense of a person or different seating arrangement. Then for the final punch to the gut, the expectations scene is slowly pushed to the side as it becomes more apparent that reality is a far distance away from it.

20. Jukebox Sequence in Y Tu Mama Tambien


Though more recently he has become a leading figure on cinematic science fiction with Children of Men and Gravity, in 2001 Alfonso Cuaron’s body of work was rooted solely within dramas such as his coming of age tale Y Tu Mama Tambien. The film is about two teenage boys who take a road trip with a woman in her late twenties Luisa, a reimagining of the American road movie to display Mexico’s culture, landscape and people.

On route, the three arrive at a bar and begin drinking and dancing together. It’s a deceptively simple scene, one of seduction, power dynamics and high energy.

The short conversation proceeding it reveals new revelations about each character and their relation to one another, but rather than linger on that the emphasis of the film goes to Luisa as she walks over to a jukebox and then slowly dances her way back to the two teenagers. The fact that it’s all in one glorious unbroken long take only makes the scene more intimate.

19. Audition in Mullholland Drive


David Lynch has essentially made a career out of playing with the audience’s expectations and nowhere is that more obvious than his surrealist masterpiece. It chronicles the story of an aspiring actress named Betty Elms (Watts), newly arrived in Los Angeles, California, who meets and befriends an amnesic woman (Harring) hiding in an apartment that belongs to Betty’s aunt.

At some point, Betty has an audition that we’ve already seen a preview of during a read through with Betty, the lines are melodramatic, over the top and don’t suggest anything remarkable.

This lends itself to how Lynch has manipulated our expectations until this point, everything we know about Betty from her own talent to her state of mind leaves us in a state of anticipation, partly due to our fear of Betty either failing or her innocence being exploited as well as how invested we are within her story.

As a result of these expectations, what happens is absolutely unforgettable when Betty’s performance defies our expectations we are left breathless. The scene acts as a masterclass of how to manipulate and surprise your audience without patronising or insulting them. It’s a genuine shock that feels both satisfying and unexpected.

18. Just in Time in Before Sunset


Richard Linklater’s ability to craft such deep and complex stories from seemingly simple scenarios is unparalleled in modern cinema. In his second chapter of his true masterpiece, the Before Trilogy, Before Sunset it saves its best moment until its last seconds. A moment of pure transcendent satisfaction as the wishes and desires of the audience are finally fulfilled.

The film picks up the story in Before Sunrise of Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy who spent a passionate night together in Vienna. Their paths intersect nine years later in Paris, and the film appears to take place in real time as they spend an afternoon together. Following a torturous eighty minutes as we sit there, begging them to wake up and see what is lying right in front of them before they move on and miss the opportunity to fulfill their romance.

It finally happens in the final few minutes when Céline and Jesse arrive at her apartment. Jesse persuades her to play a waltz on her guitar. Her song is about their earlier brief encounter. Jesse puts a Nina Simone CD on the stereo system. Céline dances to the song, “Just in Time,” as Jesse watches her. Céline imitates Simone, saying, “Baby … you are gonna miss that plane.” Jesse smiles and says, “I know.”

It’s not just the fulfillment of a romance that took nine years to get to this point, but the exact wording of the scene itself is wonderful to behold. The song choice is perfect for the obvious reasons and when Celine tells Jesse he is going to miss the plane it’s less of a remark than an order, she is telling him to miss the plane, and his response is one of compliance. A perfectly realised fulfillment.

23 Replies to “The 25 Best Movie Scenes of The 2000s”

[…] 1 2 […]

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The American Psycho scene should have been ranked #22 or #11.

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Creation of the universe from The tree of life

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This list refers only to movies from 2000-2009.

[…] The 25 Best Movie Scenes of The 2000s […]

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Lol. Nothing from Nolan. You gotta be kidding me.

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Nolan is the most overrated and obnoxious filmmaker of his generation. It’s a relief to see a Taste of Cinema list without him. There are so many better filmmakers out there. Look around. The hack steals from everybody. Hahaha

Many of his films are undeniable masterpieces. Like Memento. But hey, everybody got opinions. I, for example, have the same opinion about Cronenberg that you have about Nolan. For me, Cronenberg is just plainly bad. But i really appreciate Nolan’s work.

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Milkshake scene from There will be blood!

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What about the Hallway Fight in Inception?

Stupid scene from a stupid movie. Inception works fine if you’ve never seen another film before. Garbage!! hahaha

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Even if you don’t like the movie, it’s certainly not stupid. Many people who claim to be cinephiles tendiere to use extremes when talking about movies. They either think it’s great or it sucks. Really? There are so many different ways to judge a movie. In the end, movie still is a subjective medium

Why is (500) Days of Summer on this list? Ughhh… 🙁

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the opening from Three Times

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Re No Country, an observation on how this is presented in this list…

Chigurh doesn’t exactly begin “conversing” with the gas station attendant, he’s specifically asking the only pertinent question within that situation, which is–how much do I owe? (between the gas, and what looks to be a small bag of Planters nuts)

It’s only when the hapless attendant inadvertently makes the potentially fatal error of becoming conversational with Chigurh, a detail oriented psychopath who’s profession/pathology always places him several steps ahead of being caught or killed, that he immediately deciphers foreseeable nuisance/trouble further down the line by interpreting unfavorable possibilities within the attendant’s question; “you been having any rain up your way? …I saw the plates,” etc.

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Pretty good list despite the number one. I find that scene/movie super overrated.

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dancing sqene on Little Miss Sunshine

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doubt (both rectory scene),3-iron(last scene),4 months 3 weeks 2 days(negotiation before abortion),

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I quite enjoyed the list – but someone needs to inform the author that it is spelt Tenenbaums. Cheers

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You didn’t include the bar scene in Ingloriosu Basterds? Also No Country for Old Men is overrated.

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final scene of ”Dancer in the Dark”

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oh brother. car ambush >>> coin toss

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8.2 The History of Movies

Learning objectives.

  • Identify key points in the development of the motion picture industry.
  • Identify key developments of the motion picture industry and technology.
  • Identify influential films in movie history.

The movie industry as we know it today originated in the early 19th century through a series of technological developments: the creation of photography, the discovery of the illusion of motion by combining individual still images, and the study of human and animal locomotion. The history presented here begins at the culmination of these technological developments, where the idea of the motion picture as an entertainment industry first emerged. Since then, the industry has seen extraordinary transformations, some driven by the artistic visions of individual participants, some by commercial necessity, and still others by accident. The history of the cinema is complex, and for every important innovator and movement listed here, others have been left out. Nonetheless, after reading this section you will understand the broad arc of the development of a medium that has captured the imaginations of audiences worldwide for over a century.

The Beginnings: Motion Picture Technology of the Late 19th Century

While the experience of watching movies on smartphones may seem like a drastic departure from the communal nature of film viewing as we think of it today, in some ways the small-format, single-viewer display is a return to film’s early roots. In 1891, the inventor Thomas Edison, together with William Dickson, a young laboratory assistant, came out with what they called the kinetoscope , a device that would become the predecessor to the motion picture projector. The kinetoscope was a cabinet with a window through which individual viewers could experience the illusion of a moving image (Gale Virtual Reference Library) (British Movie Classics). A perforated celluloid film strip with a sequence of images on it was rapidly spooled between a light bulb and a lens, creating the illusion of motion (Britannica). The images viewers could see in the kinetoscope captured events and performances that had been staged at Edison’s film studio in East Orange, New Jersey, especially for the Edison kinetograph (the camera that produced kinetoscope film sequences): circus performances, dancing women, cockfights, boxing matches, and even a tooth extraction by a dentist (Robinson, 1994).


The Edison kinetoscope.

todd.vision – Kinetoscope – CC BY 2.0.

As the kinetoscope gained popularity, the Edison Company began installing machines in hotel lobbies, amusement parks, and penny arcades, and soon kinetoscope parlors—where customers could pay around 25 cents for admission to a bank of machines—had opened around the country. However, when friends and collaborators suggested that Edison find a way to project his kinetoscope images for audience viewing, he apparently refused, claiming that such an invention would be a less profitable venture (Britannica).

Because Edison hadn’t secured an international patent for his invention, variations of the kinetoscope were soon being copied and distributed throughout Europe. This new form of entertainment was an instant success, and a number of mechanics and inventors, seeing an opportunity, began toying with methods of projecting the moving images onto a larger screen. However, it was the invention of two brothers, Auguste and Louis Lumière—photographic goods manufacturers in Lyon, France—that saw the most commercial success. In 1895, the brothers patented the cinématographe (from which we get the term cinema ), a lightweight film projector that also functioned as a camera and printer. Unlike the Edison kinetograph, the cinématographe was lightweight enough for easy outdoor filming, and over the years the brothers used the camera to take well over 1,000 short films, most of which depicted scenes from everyday life. In December 1895, in the basement lounge of the Grand Café, Rue des Capucines in Paris, the Lumières held the world’s first ever commercial film screening, a sequence of about 10 short scenes, including the brother’s first film, Workers Leaving the Lumière Factory , a segment lasting less than a minute and depicting workers leaving the family’s photographic instrument factory at the end of the day, as shown in the still frame here in Figure 8.3 (Encyclopedia of the Age of Industry and Empire).

Believing that audiences would get bored watching scenes that they could just as easily observe on a casual walk around the city, Louis Lumière claimed that the cinema was “an invention without a future (Menand, 2005),” but a demand for motion pictures grew at such a rapid rate that soon representatives of the Lumière company were traveling throughout Europe and the world, showing half-hour screenings of the company’s films. While cinema initially competed with other popular forms of entertainment—circuses, vaudeville acts, theater troupes, magic shows, and many others—eventually it would supplant these various entertainments as the main commercial attraction (Menand, 2005). Within a year of the Lumières’ first commercial screening, competing film companies were offering moving-picture acts in music halls and vaudeville theaters across Great Britain. In the United States, the Edison Company, having purchased the rights to an improved projector that they called the Vitascope , held their first film screening in April 1896 at Koster and Bial’s Music Hall in Herald Square, New York City.

Film’s profound impact on its earliest viewers is difficult to imagine today, inundated as many are by video images. However, the sheer volume of reports about the early audience’s disbelief, delight, and even fear at what they were seeing suggests that viewing a film was an overwhelming experience for many. Spectators gasped at the realistic details in films such as Robert Paul’s Rough Sea at Dover , and at times people panicked and tried to flee the theater during films in which trains or moving carriages sped toward the audience (Robinson). Even the public’s perception of film as a medium was considerably different from the contemporary understanding; the moving image was an improvement upon the photograph—a medium with which viewers were already familiar—and this is perhaps why the earliest films documented events in brief segments but didn’t tell stories. During this “novelty period” of cinema, audiences were more interested by the phenomenon of the film projector itself, so vaudeville halls advertised the kind of projector they were using (for example “The Vitascope—Edison’s Latest Marvel”) (Balcanasu, et. al.), rather than the names of the films (Britannica Online).


Workers Leaving the Lumière Factory: One of the first films viewed by an audience.

Craig Duffy – Workers Leaving The Lumiere Factory – CC BY-NC 2.0.

By the close of the 19th century, as public excitement over the moving picture’s novelty gradually wore off, filmmakers were also beginning to experiment with film’s possibilities as a medium in itself (not simply, as it had been regarded up until then, as a tool for documentation, analogous to the camera or the phonograph). Technical innovations allowed filmmakers like Parisian cinema owner Georges Méliès to experiment with special effects that produced seemingly magical transformations on screen: flowers turned into women, people disappeared with puffs of smoke, a man appeared where a woman had just been standing, and other similar tricks (Robinson).

Not only did Méliès, a former magician, invent the “ trick film ,” which producers in England and the United States began to imitate, but he was also the one to transform cinema into the narrative medium it is today. Whereas before, filmmakers had only ever created single-shot films that lasted a minute or less, Méliès began joining these short films together to create stories. His 30-scene Trip to the Moon (1902), a film based on a Jules Verne novel, may have been the most widely seen production in cinema’s first decade (Robinson). However, Méliès never developed his technique beyond treating the narrative film as a staged theatrical performance; his camera, representing the vantage point of an audience facing a stage, never moved during the filming of a scene. In 1912, Méliès released his last commercially successful production, The Conquest of the Pole , and from then on, he lost audiences to filmmakers who were experimenting with more sophisticated techniques (Encyclopedia of Communication and Information).


Georges Méliès’s Trip to the Moon was one of the first films to incorporate fantasy elements and to use “trick” filming techniques, both of which heavily influenced future filmmakers.

The Nickelodeon Craze (1904–1908)

One of these innovative filmmakers was Edwin S. Porter, a projectionist and engineer for the Edison Company. Porter’s 12-minute film, The Great Train Robbery (1903), broke with the stagelike compositions of Méliès-style films through its use of editing, camera pans, rear projections, and diagonally composed shots that produced a continuity of action. Not only did The Great Train Robbery establish the realistic narrative as a standard in cinema, it was also the first major box-office hit. Its success paved the way for the growth of the film industry, as investors, recognizing the motion picture’s great moneymaking potential, began opening the first permanent film theaters around the country.

Known as nickelodeons because of their 5 cent admission charge, these early motion picture theaters, often housed in converted storefronts, were especially popular among the working class of the time, who couldn’t afford live theater. Between 1904 and 1908, around 9,000 nickelodeons appeared in the United States. It was the nickelodeon’s popularity that established film as a mass entertainment medium (Dictionary of American History).

The “Biz”: The Motion Picture Industry Emerges

As the demand for motion pictures grew, production companies were created to meet it. At the peak of nickelodeon popularity in 1910 (Britannica Online), there were 20 or so major motion picture companies in the United States. However, heated disputes often broke out among these companies over patent rights and industry control, leading even the most powerful among them to fear fragmentation that would loosen their hold on the market (Fielding, 1967). Because of these concerns, the 10 leading companies—including Edison, Biograph, Vitagraph, and others—formed the Motion Picture Patents Company (MPPC) in 1908. The MPPC was a trade group that pooled the most significant motion picture patents and established an exclusive contract between these companies and the Eastman Kodak Company as a supplier of film stock. Also known as the Trust , the MPPC’s goal was to standardize the industry and shut out competition through monopolistic control. Under the Trust’s licensing system, only certain licensed companies could participate in the exchange, distribution, and production of film at different levels of the industry—a shut-out tactic that eventually backfired, leading the excluded, independent distributors to organize in opposition to the Trust (Britannica Online).

The Rise of the Feature

In these early years, theaters were still running single-reel films, which came at a standard length of 1,000 feet, allowing for about 16 minutes of playing time. However, companies began to import multiple-reel films from European producers around 1907, and the format gained popular acceptance in the United States in 1912 with Louis Mercanton’s highly successful Queen Elizabeth , a three-and-a-half reel “feature,” starring the French actress Sarah Bernhardt. As exhibitors began to show more features—as the multiple-reel film came to be called—they discovered a number of advantages over the single-reel short. For one thing, audiences saw these longer films as special events and were willing to pay more for admission, and because of the popularity of the feature narratives , features generally experienced longer runs in theaters than their single-reel predecessors (Motion Pictures). Additionally, the feature film gained popularity among the middle classes, who saw its length as analogous to the more “respectable” entertainment of live theater (Motion Pictures). Following the example of the French film d’art , U.S. feature producers often took their material from sources that would appeal to a wealthier and better educated audience, such as histories, literature, and stage productions (Robinson).

As it turns out, the feature film was one factor that brought about the eventual downfall of the MPPC. The inflexible structuring of the Trust’s exhibition and distribution system made the organization resistant to change. When movie studio, and Trust member, Vitagraph began to release features like A Tale of Two Cities (1911) and Uncle Tom’s Cabin (1910), the Trust forced it to exhibit the films serially in single-reel showings to keep with industry standards. The MPPC also underestimated the appeal of the star system, a trend that began when producers chose famous stage actors like Mary Pickford and James O’Neill to play the leading roles in their productions and to grace their advertising posters (Robinson). Because of the MPPC’s inflexibility, independent companies were the only ones able to capitalize on two important trends that were to become film’s future: single-reel features and star power. Today, few people would recognize names like Vitagraph or Biograph, but the independents that outlasted them—Universal, Goldwyn (which would later merge with Metro and Mayer), Fox (later 20th Century Fox), and Paramount (the later version of the Lasky Corporation)—have become household names.

As moviegoing increased in popularity among the middle class, and as the feature films began keeping audiences in their seats for longer periods of time, exhibitors found a need to create more comfortable and richly decorated theater spaces to attract their audiences. These “dream palaces,” so called because of their often lavish embellishments of marble, brass, guilding, and cut glass, not only came to replace the nickelodeon theater, but also created the demand that would lead to the Hollywood studio system. Some producers realized that the growing demand for new work could only be met if the films were produced on a regular, year-round system. However, this was impractical with the current system that often relied on outdoor filming and was predominately based in Chicago and New York—two cities whose weather conditions prevented outdoor filming for a significant portion of the year. Different companies attempted filming in warmer locations such as Florida, Texas, and Cuba, but the place where producers eventually found the most success was a small, industrial suburb of Los Angeles called Hollywood.

Hollywood proved to be an ideal location for a number of reasons. Not only was the climate temperate and sunny year-round, but land was plentiful and cheap, and the location allowed close access to a number of diverse topographies: mountains, lakes, desert, coasts, and forests. By 1915, more than 60 percent of U.S. film production was centered in Hollywood (Britannica Online).

The Art of Silent Film

While the development of narrative film was largely driven by commercial factors, it is also important to acknowledge the role of individual artists who turned it into a medium of personal expression. The motion picture of the silent era was generally simplistic in nature; acted in overly animated movements to engage the eye; and accompanied by live music, played by musicians in the theater, and written titles to create a mood and to narrate a story. Within the confines of this medium, one filmmaker in particular emerged to transform the silent film into an art and to unlock its potential as a medium of serious expression and persuasion. D. W. Griffith, who entered the film industry as an actor in 1907, quickly moved to a directing role in which he worked closely with his camera crew to experiment with shots, angles, and editing techniques that could heighten the emotional intensity of his scenes. He found that by practicing parallel editing , in which a film alternates between two or more scenes of action, he could create an illusion of simultaneity. He could then heighten the tension of the film’s drama by alternating between cuts more and more rapidly until the scenes of action converged. Griffith used this technique to great effect in his controversial film The Birth of a Nation , which will be discussed in greater detail later on in this chapter. Other techniques that Griffith employed to new effect included panning shots , through which he was able to establish a sense of scene and to engage his audience more fully in the experience of the film, and tracking shots , or shots that traveled with the movement of a scene (Motion Pictures), which allowed the audience—through the eye of the camera—to participate in the film’s action.

MPAA: Combating Censorship

As film became an increasingly lucrative U.S. industry, prominent industry figures like D. W. Griffith, slapstick comedian/director Charlie Chaplin, and actors Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks grew extremely wealthy and influential. Public attitudes toward stars and toward some stars’ extravagant lifestyles were divided, much as they are today: On the one hand, these celebrities were idolized and imitated in popular culture, yet at the same time, they were criticized for representing a threat, on and off screen, to traditional morals and social order. And much as it does today, the news media liked to sensationalize the lives of celebrities to sell stories. Comedian Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle, who worked alongside future icons Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton, was at the center of one of the biggest scandals of the silent era. When Arbuckle hosted a marathon party over Labor Day weekend in 1921, one of his guests, model Virginia Rapp, was rushed to the hospital, where she later died. Reports of a drunken orgy, rape, and murder surfaced. Following World War I, the United States was in the middle of significant social reforms, such as Prohibition. Many feared that movies and their stars could threaten the moral order of the country. Because of the nature of the crime and the celebrity involved, these fears became inexplicably tied to the Artbuckle case (Motion Pictures). Even though autopsy reports ruled that Rapp had died from causes for which Arbuckle could not be blamed, the comedian was tried (and acquitted) for manslaughter, and his career was ruined.

The Arbuckle affair and a series of other scandals only increased public fears about Hollywood’s impact. In response to this perceived threat, state and local governments increasingly tried to censor the content of films that depicted crime, violence, and sexually explicit material. Deciding that they needed to protect themselves from government censorship and to foster a more favorable public image, the major Hollywood studios organized in 1922 to form an association they called the Motion Picture Producers and Distributers of America (later renamed the Motion Picture Association of America, or MPAA ). Among other things, the MPAA instituted a code of self-censorship for the motion picture industry. Today, the MPAA operates by a voluntary rating system, which means producers can voluntarily submit a film for review, which is designed to alert viewers to the age-appropriateness of a film, while still protecting the filmmakers’ artistic freedom (Motion Picture Association of America).

Silent Film’s Demise

In 1925, Warner Bros. was just a small Hollywood studio looking for opportunities to expand. When representatives from Western Electric offered to sell the studio the rights to a new technology they called Vitaphone, a sound-on-disc system that had failed to capture the interest of any of the industry giants, Warner Bros. executives took a chance, predicting that the novelty of talking films might be a way to make a quick, short-term profit. Little did they anticipate that their gamble would not only establish them as a major Hollywood presence but also change the industry forever.

The pairing of sound with motion pictures was nothing new in itself. Edison, after all, had commissioned the kinetoscope to create a visual accompaniment to the phonograph, and many early theaters had orchestra pits to provide musical accompaniment to their films. Even the smaller picture houses with lower budgets almost always had an organ or piano. When Warner Bros. purchased Vitaphone technology, it planned to use it to provide prerecorded orchestral accompaniment for its films, thereby increasing their marketability to the smaller theaters that didn’t have their own orchestra pits (Gochenour, 2000). In 1926, Warner debuted the system with the release of Don Juan , a costume drama accompanied by a recording of the New York Philharmonic Orchestra; the public responded enthusiastically (Motion Pictures). By 1927, after a $3 million campaign, Warner Bros. had wired more than 150 theaters in the United States, and it released its second sound film, The Jazz Singer , in which the actor Al Jolson improvised a few lines of synchronized dialogue and sang six songs. The film was a major breakthrough. Audiences, hearing an actor speak on screen for the first time, were enchanted (Gochenour). While radio, a new and popular entertainment, had been drawing audiences away from the picture houses for some time, with the birth of the “ talkie ,” or talking film, audiences once again returned to the cinema in large numbers, lured by the promise of seeing and hearing their idols perform (Higham, 1973). By 1929, three-fourths of Hollywood films had some form of sound accompaniment, and by 1930, the silent film was a thing of the past (Gochenour).

“I Don’t Think We’re in Kansas Anymore”: Film Goes Technicolor

Although the techniques of tinting and hand painting had been available methods for adding color to films for some time (Georges Méliès, for instance, employed a crew to hand-paint many of his films), neither method ever caught on. The hand-painting technique became impractical with the advent of mass-produced film, and the tinting process, which filmmakers discovered would create an interference with the transmission of sound in films, was abandoned with the rise of the talkie. However, in 1922, Herbert Kalmus’s Technicolor company introduced a dye-transfer technique that allowed it to produce a full-length film, The Toll of the Sea , in two primary colors (Gale Virtual Reference Library). However, because only two colors were used, the appearance of The Toll of the Sea (1922), The Ten Commandments (1923), and other early Technicolor films was not very lifelike. By 1932, Technicolor had designed a three-color system with more realistic results, and for the next 25 years, all color films were produced with this improved system. Disney’s Three Little Pigs (1933) and Snow White and the Seven Dwarves (1936) and films with live actors, like MGM’s The Wizard of Oz (1939) and Gone With the Wind (1939), experienced early success using Technicolor’s three-color method.

Despite the success of certain color films in the 1930s, Hollywood, like the rest of the United States, was feeling the impact of the Great Depression, and the expenses of special cameras, crews, and Technicolor lab processing made color films impractical for studios trying to cut costs. Therefore, it wasn’t until the end of the 1940s that Technicolor would largely displace the black-and-white film (Motion Pictures in Color).

Rise and Fall of the Hollywood Studio

The spike in theater attendance that followed the introduction of talking films changed the economic structure of the motion picture industry, bringing about some of the largest mergers in industry history. By 1930, eight studios produced 95 percent of all American films, and they continued to experience growth even during the Depression. The five most influential of these studios—Warner Bros., Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, RKO, 20th Century Fox, and Paramount—were vertically integrated ; that is, they controlled every part of the system as it related to their films, from the production to release, distribution, and even viewing. Because they owned theater chains worldwide, these studios controlled which movies exhibitors ran, and because they “owned” a stock of directors, actors, writers, and technical assistants by contract, each studio produced films of a particular character.

The late 1930s and early 1940s are sometimes known as the “ Golden Age ” of cinema, a time of unparalleled success for the movie industry; by 1939, film was the 11th-largest industry in the United States, and during World War II, when the U.S. economy was once again flourishing, two-thirds of Americans were attending the theater at least once a week (Britannica Online). Some of the most acclaimed movies in history were released during this period, including Citizen Kane and The Grapes of Wrath . However, postwar inflation, a temporary loss of key foreign markets, the advent of the television, and other factors combined to bring that rapid growth to an end. In 1948, the case of the United States v. Paramount Pictures —mandating competition and forcing the studios to relinquish control over theater chains—dealt the final devastating blow from which the studio system would never recover. Control of the major studios reverted to Wall Street, where the studios were eventually absorbed by multinational corporations, and the powerful studio heads lost the influence they had held for nearly 30 years (Baers, 2000).


Rise and Decline of Movie Viewing During Hollywood’s “Golden Age”

Graph from Pautz, Michelle C. 2002. The Decline in Average Weekly Cinema Attendance: 1930–2000. Issues in Political Economy, 11 (Summer): 54–65.

Post–World War II: Television Presents a Threat

While economic factors and antitrust legislation played key roles in the decline of the studio system, perhaps the most important factor in that decline was the advent of the television. Given the opportunity to watch “movies” from the comfort of their own homes, the millions of Americans who owned a television by the early 1950s were attending the cinema far less regularly than they had only several years earlier (Motion Pictures). In an attempt to win back diminishing audiences, studios did their best to exploit the greatest advantages film held over television. For one thing, television broadcasting in the 1950s was all in black and white, whereas the film industry had the advantage of color. While producing a color film was still an expensive undertaking in the late 1940s, a couple of changes occurred in the industry in the early 1950s to make color not only more affordable, but more realistic in its appearance. In 1950, as the result of antitrust legislation, Technicolor lost its monopoly on the color film industry, allowing other providers to offer more competitive pricing on filming and processing services. At the same time, Kodak came out with a multilayer film stock that made it possible to use more affordable cameras and to produce a higher quality image. Kodak’s Eastmancolor option was an integral component in converting the industry to color. In the late 1940s, only 12 percent of features were in color; however, by 1954 (after the release of Kodak Eastmancolor) more than 50 percent of movies were in color (Britannica Online).

Another clear advantage on which filmmakers tried to capitalize was the sheer size of the cinema experience. With the release of the epic biblical film The Robe in 1953, 20th Century Fox introduced the method that would soon be adopted by nearly every studio in Hollywood: a technology that allowed filmmakers to squeeze a wide-angle image onto conventional 35-mm film stock, thereby increasing the aspect ratio (the ratio of a screen’s width to its height) of their images. This wide-screen format increased the immersive quality of the theater experience. Nonetheless, even with these advancements, movie attendance never again reached the record numbers it experienced in 1946, at the peak of the Golden Age of Hollywood (Britannica Online).

Mass Entertainment, Mass Paranoia: HUAC and the Hollywood Blacklist

The Cold War with the Soviet Union began in 1947, and with it came the widespread fear of communism, not only from the outside, but equally from within. To undermine this perceived threat, the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) commenced investigations to locate communist sympathizers in America who were suspected of conducting espionage for the Soviet Union. In the highly conservative and paranoid atmosphere of the time, Hollywood, the source of a mass-cultural medium, came under fire in response to fears that subversive, communist messages were being embedded in films. In November 1947, more than 100 people in the movie business were called to testify before the HUAC about their and their colleagues’ involvement with communist affairs. Of those investigated, 10 in particular refused to cooperate with the committee’s questions. These 10, later known as the Hollywood Ten, were fired from their jobs and sentenced to serve up to a year in prison. The studios, already slipping in influence and profit, were eager to cooperate in order to save themselves, and a number of producers signed an agreement stating that no communists would work in Hollywood.

The hearings, which recommenced in 1951 with the rise of Senator Joseph McCarthy’s influence, turned into a kind of witch hunt as witnesses were asked to testify against their associates, and a blacklist of suspected communists evolved. Over 324 individuals lost their jobs in the film industry as a result of blacklisting (the denial of work in a certain field or industry) and HUAC investigations (Georgakas, 2004; Mills, 2007; Dressler, et. al., 2005).

Down With the Establishment: Youth Culture of the 1960s and 1970s

Movies of the late 1960s began attracting a younger demographic, as a growing number of young people were drawn in by films like Sam Peckinpah’s The Wild Bunch (1969), Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968), Arthur Penn’s Bonnie and Clyde (1967), and Dennis Hopper’s Easy Rider (1969)—all revolutionary in their genres—that displayed a sentiment of unrest toward conventional social orders and included some of the earliest instances of realistic and brutal violence in film. These four films in particular grossed so much money at the box offices that producers began churning out low-budget copycats to draw in a new, profitable market (Motion Pictures). While this led to a rise in youth-culture films, few of them saw great success. However, the new liberal attitudes toward depictions of sex and violence in these films represented a sea of change in the movie industry that manifested in many movies of the 1970s, including Francis Ford Coppola’s The Godfather (1972), William Friedkin’s The Exorcist (1973), and Steven Spielberg’s Jaws (1975), all three of which saw great financial success (Britannica Online; Belton, 1994).

Blockbusters, Knockoffs, and Sequels

In the 1970s, with the rise of work by Coppola, Spielberg, George Lucas, Martin Scorsese, and others, a new breed of director emerged. These directors were young and film-school educated, and they contributed a sense of professionalism, sophistication, and technical mastery to their work, leading to a wave of blockbuster productions, including Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977), Star Wars (1977), Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981), and E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial (1982). The computer-generated special effects that were available at this time also contributed to the success of a number of large-budget productions. In response to these and several earlier blockbusters, movie production and marketing techniques also began to shift, with studios investing more money in fewer films in the hopes of producing more big successes. For the first time, the hefty sums producers and distributers invested didn’t go to production costs alone; distributers were discovering the benefits of TV and radio advertising and finding that doubling their advertising costs could increase profits as much as three or four times over. With the opening of Jaws , one of the five top-grossing films of the decade (and the highest grossing film of all time until the release of Star Wars in 1977), Hollywood embraced the wide-release method of movie distribution, abandoning the release methods of earlier decades, in which a film would debut in only a handful of select theaters in major cities before it became gradually available to mass audiences. Jaws was released in 600 theaters simultaneously, and the big-budget films that followed came out in anywhere from 800 to 2,000 theaters nationwide on their opening weekends (Belton; Hanson & Garcia-Myers, 2000).

The major Hollywood studios of the late 1970s and early 1980s, now run by international corporations, tended to favor the conservative gamble of the tried and true, and as a result, the period saw an unprecedented number of high-budget sequels—as in the Star Wars , Indiana Jones , and Godfather films—as well as imitations and adaptations of earlier successful material, such as the plethora of “slasher” films that followed the success of the 1979 thriller Halloween . Additionally, corporations sought revenue sources beyond the movie theater, looking to the video and cable releases of their films. Introduced in 1975, the VCR became nearly ubiquitous in American homes by 1998 with 88.9 million households owning the appliance (Rosen & Meier, 2000). Cable television’s growth was slower, but ownership of VCRs gave people a new reason to subscribe, and cable subsequently expanded as well (Rogers). And the newly introduced concept of film-based merchandise (toys, games, books, etc.) allowed companies to increase profits even more.

The 1990s and Beyond

The 1990s saw the rise of two divergent strands of cinema: the technically spectacular blockbuster with special, computer-generated effects and the independent, low-budget film. The capabilities of special effects were enhanced when studios began manipulating film digitally. Early examples of this technology can be seen in Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991) and Jurassic Park (1993). Films with an epic scope— Independence Day (1996), Titanic (1997), and The Matrix (1999)—also employed a range of computer-animation techniques and special effects to wow audiences and to draw more viewers to the big screen. Toy Story (1995), the first fully computer-animated film, and those that came after it, such as Antz (1998), A Bug’s Life (1998), and Toy Story 2 (1999), displayed the improved capabilities of computer-generated animation (Sedman, 2000). At the same time, independent directors and producers, such as the Coen brothers and Spike Jonze, experienced an increased popularity, often for lower-budget films that audiences were more likely to watch on video at home (Britannica Online). A prime example of this is the 1996 Academy Awards program, when independent films dominated the Best Picture category. Only one movie from a big film studio was nominated— Jerry Maguire —while the rest were independent films. The growth of both independent movies and special-effects-laden blockbusters continues to the present day. You will read more about current issues and trends and the future of the movie industry later on in this chapter.

Key Takeaways

  • The concept of the motion picture was first introduced to a mass audience through Thomas Edison’s kinetoscope in 1891. However, it wasn’t until the Lumière brothers released the cinématographe in 1895 that motion pictures were projected for audience viewing. In the United States, film established itself as a popular form of entertainment with the nickelodeon theater in the 1910s.
  • The release of The Jazz Singer in 1927 marked the birth of the talking film, and by 1930 silent film was a thing of the past. Technicolor emerged for film around the same time and found early success with movies like The Wizard of Oz and Gone With the Wind . However, people would continue to make films in black and white until the late 1950s.
  • By 1915 most of the major film studios had moved to Hollywood. During the Golden Age of Hollywood, these major studios controlled every aspect of the movie industry, and the films they produced drew crowds to theaters in numbers that have still not been surpassed. After World War II, the studio system declined as a result of antitrust legislation that took power away from studios and of the invention of the television.
  • During the 1960s and 1970s, there was a rise in films—including Bonnie and Clyde , The Wild Bunch , 2001: A Space Odyssey , and Easy Rider —that celebrated the emerging youth culture and a rejection of the conservatism of the previous decades. This also led to looser attitudes toward depictions of sexuality and violence in film. The 1970s and 1980s saw the rise of the blockbuster, with films like Jaws , Star Wars , Raiders of the Lost Ark , and The Godfather .
  • The adoption of the VCR by most households in the 1980s reduced audiences at movie theaters but opened a new mass market of home movie viewers. Improvements in computer animation led to more special effects in film during the 1990s with movies like The Matrix , Jurassic Park , and the first fully computer-animated film, Toy Story .

Identify four films that you would consider to be representative of major developments in the industry and in film as a medium that were outlined in this section. Imagine you are using these films to explain movie history to a friend. Provide a detailed explanation of why each of these films represents significant changes in attitudes, technology, or trends and situate each in the overall context of film’s development. Consider the following questions:

  • How did this movie influence the film industry?
  • What has been the lasting impact of this movie on the film industry?
  • How was the film industry and technology different before this film?

Baers, Michael. “Studio System,” in St. James Encyclopedia of Popular Culture , ed. Sara Pendergast and Tom Pendergast (Detroit: St. James Press, 2000), vol. 4, 565.

Balcanasu, Andrei Ionut, Sergey V. Smagin, and Stephanie K. Thrift, “Edison and the Lumiere Brothers,” Cartoons and Cinema of the 20th Century , http://library.thinkquest.org/C0118600/index.phtml?menu=en%3B1%3Bci1001.html .

Belton, American Cinema/American Culture , 305.

Belton, John. American Cinema/American Culture . (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1994), 284 –2 90.

Britannica Online, s.v. “History of the Motion Picture”.

Britannica Online, s.v. “Kinetoscope,” http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/318211/Kinetoscope/318211main/Article .

Britannica Online, s.v. “nickelodeon.”

Britannica Online. s.v. “History of the Motion Picture.” http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/394161/history-of-the-motion picture ; Robinson, From Peep Show to Palace , 45, 53.

British Movie Classics, “The Kinetoscope,” British Movie Classics, http://www.britishmovieclassics.com/thekinetoscope.php .

Dictionary of American History, 3rd ed., s.v. “Nickelodeon,” by Ryan F. Holznagel, Gale Virtual Reference Library.

Dresler, Kathleen, Kari Lewis, Tiffany Schoser and Cathy Nordine, “The Hollywood Ten,” Dalton Trumbo, 2005, http://www.mcpld.org/trumbo/WebPages/hollywoodten.htm .

Encyclopedia of Communication and Information (New York: MacMillan Reference USA, 2002), s.v. “Méliès, Georges,” by Ted C. Jones, Gale Virtual Reference Library.

Encyclopedia of the Age of Industry and Empire, s.v. “Cinema.”

Fielding, Raymond A Technological History of Motion Pictures and Television (Berkeley: California Univ. Press, 1967) 21.

Gale Virtual Reference Library, “Motion Pictures in Color,” in American Decades , ed. Judith S. Baughman and others, vol. 3, Gale Virtual Reference Library.

Gale Virtual Reference Library, Europe 1789–1914: Encyclopedia of the Age of Industry and Empire, vol. 1, s.v. “Cinema,” by Alan Williams, Gale Virtual Reference Library.

Georgakas, Dan. “Hollywood Blacklist,” in Encyclopedia of the American Left , ed. Mari Jo Buhle, Paul Buhle, and Dan Georgakas, 2004, http://writing.upenn.edu/~afilreis/50s/blacklist.html .

Gochenour, “Birth of the ‘Talkies,’” 578.

Gochenour, Phil. “Birth of the ‘Talkies’: The Development of Synchronized Sound for Motion Pictures,” in Science and Its Times , vol. 6, 1900–1950 , ed. Neil Schlager and Josh Lauer (Detroit: Gale, 2000), 577.

Hanson, Steve and Sandra Garcia-Myers, “Blockbusters,” in St. James Encyclopedia of Popular Culture , ed. Sara Pendergast and Tom Pendergast (Detroit: St. James Press, 2000), vol. 1, 282.

Higham, Charles. The Art of the American Film: 1900–1971 . (Garden City: Doubleday & Company, 1973), 85.

Menand, Louis “Gross Points,” New Yorker , February 7, 2005, http://www.newyorker.com/archive/2005/02/07/050207crat_atlarge .

Mills, Michael. “Blacklist: A Different Look at the 1947 HUAC Hearings,” Modern Times, 2007, http://www.moderntimes.com/blacklist/ .

Motion Picture Association of America, “History of the MPAA,” http://www.mpaa.org/about/history .

Motion Pictures in Color, “Motion Pictures in Color.”

Motion Pictures, “Griffith,” Motion Pictures , http://www.uv.es/EBRIT/macro/macro_5004_39_6.html#0011 .

Motion Pictures, “Post World War I US Cinema,” Motion Pictures , http://www.uv.es/EBRIT/macro/macro_5004_39_10.html#0015 .

Motion Pictures, “Pre World War II Sound Era: Introduction of Sound,” Motion Pictures , http://www.uv.es/EBRIT/macro/macro_5004_39_11.html#0017 . Motion Pictures, “Pre World-War I US Cinema,” Motion Pictures: The Silent Feature: 1910-27 , http://www.uv.es/EBRIT/macro/macro_5004_39_4.html#0009 .

Motion Pictures, “Recent Trends in US Cinema,” Motion Pictures , http://www.uv.es/EBRIT/macro/macro_5004_39_37.html#0045 .

Motion Pictures, “The War Years and Post World War II Trends: Decline of the Hollywood Studios,” Motion Pictures , http://www.uv.es/EBRIT/macro/macro_5004_39_24.html#0030 .

Robinson, From Peep Show to Palace , 135, 144.

Robinson, From Peep Show to Palace , 63.

Robinson, From Peep Show to Palace , 74–75; Encyclopedia of the Age of Industry and Empire , s.v. “Cinema.”

Robinson, David. From Peep Show to Palace: The Birth of American Film (New York: Columbia University Press, 1994), 43 – 44.

Rogers, Everett. “Video is Here to Stay,” Center for Media Literacy , http://www.medialit.org/reading-room/video-here-stay .

Rosen, Karen and Alan Meier, “Power Measurements and National Energy Consumption of Televisions and Video Cassette Recorders in the USA,” Energy , 25, no. 3 (2000), 220.

Sedman, David. “Film Industry, Technology of,” in Encyclopedia of Communication and Information , ed. Jorge Reina Schement (New York: MacMillan Reference, 2000), vol. 1, 340.

Understanding Media and Culture Copyright © 2016 by University of Minnesota is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License , except where otherwise noted.

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‘Past Lives’: Read The Screenplay For Celine Song’s Oscar-Nominated Feature Film Debut

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Teo Yoo and Greta Lee in Past Lives movie

On her first feature film try, Celine Song struck gold with the time-hopping romantic drama  Past Lives .

A24 ‘s semi-autobiographic pic netted two key nominations at this year’s Oscars , for Best Picture and Song’s Original Screenplay — a huge coup for the tiny feature that debuted at last year’s Sundance Film Festival.

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John Magaro also stars as Nora’s husband Arthur, who wrestles with what his wife’s connection to Hae Sung means, while giving the pair the space to reconnect.

Produced by David Hinojosa alongside Christine Vachon and Pamela Koffler of Killer Films,  Past Lives ‘ Best Picture competitors are  American Fiction, Anatomy of a Fall, Barbie, The Holdovers, Killers of the Flower Moon, Maestro, Oppenheimer, Poor Things  and  The Zone of Interest . In the Original Screenplay category, it competes against  Anatomy of a Fall‘s  Justine Triet and Arthur Harari,  The Holdovers’  David Hemingson,  Maestro’s  Bradley Cooper & Josh Singer, and  May December’s  Samy Burch.

Discussing her noms with Deadline, Song said: “It’s just so amazing. It’s such a great honor, and on the first movie, I think that’s really the coolest thing.”

She added: “It feels so f*cking cool and amazing, and I just genuinely am so f*cking grateful for every single person … who’s ever come across being a part of this movie, anybody who’s even talked to me about this movie.”

Click below to read Song’s script.

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Ten films that highlight the best in humanity, forget the oscars. with the greater goodies, we're honoring movies from the past year that exemplify forgiveness, resilience, empathy, and other keys to our well-being..

The Academy Awards are coming up—and so we thought we’d give out our own version of the Oscars, the Greater Goodies.

Whereas the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences recognizes achievements in acting, directing, editing, and so on, the Greater Good staff picked our winners for their ability to illustrate specific keys to human well-being , such as resilience , purpose , and forgiveness .

Some of the movies are action-filled blockbusters, like Wonder Woman or Star Wars: The Last Jedi ; others are quiet independent films like The Florida Project and Lady Bird . We hope the Greater Goodies help you see all of these films in a new light—and perhaps you can apply their insights to your own life.

The Resilience Award: Call Me by Your Name

movie scene depicting events from the past

When 17-year-old Elio Perlman first meets doctoral student Oliver, they don’t seem to like each other very much—and when they part, it’s in pain. Call Me by Your Name is about what happens in between those two events, as Elio and Oliver fall in love amid the crumbling, sun-drenched beauty of Lombardy, Italy.

Along the way, we learn a great deal about resilience . In the seven-minute scene that closes the movie, a devastated Elio sits staring into a fire as tears roll down his face—but we know he’s going to be fine. Why?

Mainly because Elio is far from isolated. His father knows before Elio does that he is falling in love with Oliver. Rather than intervening or lecturing, Dr. Perlman watches and waits—and keeps up the connection to his son, even when the teenager pulls away.

“Nature has cunning ways of finding our weakest spot,” he says at one point, knowing that sooner or later we all take a hit. In their striking final scene together, father approaches son with the truth as compassionately as possible, revealing that he knew about the affair and gently encouraging Elio to gain some perspective. “He was good, and you were both lucky to have found each other, because…you too are good,” he says. He adds:

I may have come close, but I never had what you two have. Something always held me back or stood in the way. How you live your life is your business, just remember, our hearts and our bodies are given to us only once. And before you know it, your heart is worn out, and, as for your body, there comes a point when no one looks at it, much less wants to come near it. Right now, there’s sorrow, pain. Don’t kill it and with it the joy you’ve felt.

It’s the very connection with his father that helps Elio weather heartbreak, but the content of Dr. Perlman’s message matters, too. Suffering is a part of life, he tells his son—and so is joy, pleasure, and love. We grow stronger when we allow ourselves to feel and remember all of it. — Jeremy Adam Smith

The Purpose Award: Coco

By now, it’s well-recognized that, broadly speaking, Pixar Animation Studios produces two kinds of films: the one that sells a lot of toys (like the Cars and Monsters franchises) and the kind that use animation and storytelling to resonate with grown-ups.

The 2017 film Coco falls into the grown-up camp: The young, talented guitar hero travels between the worlds of the living and the dead in order to uncover clues about his family’s old and complicated relationship with music. The story has plot twists that even few adults will see coming, and ultimately the film unites several themes straight out of Greater Good , such as finding forgiveness for those we think have harmed us (spoiler: those people aren’t always who we think they are).

But we are giving Coco a Greater Goody because it reveals the power of long-term, meaningful goals to shape our lives. Miguel, the 12-year-old protagonist, is driven to become a musician. Thanks to a tragedy, Miguel must keep his love for music a secret from his family—until he tells them that he wishes to play at the Día de Muertos talent show. When his abuelita breaks his guitar and forbids him to play, Miguel announces that he no longer wants to be a part of the family and runs away. 

Desperate to play in the talent show that evening, Miguel breaks into the mausoleum of a town musical legend to borrow his guitar. This triggers a series of transformations that brings Miguel to the land of the dead.

According to psychologist William Damon, “purpose is a part of one’s personal search for meaning, but it also [includes] the desire to make a difference in the world, to contribute to matters larger than the self.” For Miguel, his intention to become a musician is guided by his yearning to connect to his ancestors, and this goal leads him to resolve a longstanding misunderstanding about his ancestors, ensuring that their true identities are known and their memories survive.

When he returns to his (living) family, Miguel’s love for music becomes a means to connect his family members across time and distance. “Our love for each other will live on forever in every beat of my proud corazón,” he sings. — Maryam Abdullah and Jesse Antin

The Socially Intelligent Power Award: The Darkest Hour

At the beginning of The Darkest Hour —and there’s really no nice way to say this—Prime Minister Winston Churchill is an entitled, ruling-class jerk. He’s nasty to people with less power than him, detached from their suffering, and unable to persuade others because he cannot put himself in their shoes. As he shouts to an underling: “Will you stop interrupting me while I am interrupting you!”

In many ways, this Churchill embodies the way Greater Good Science Center’s cofounder Dacher Kelter conceives of power . “The skills most important to obtaining power and leading effectively are the very skills that deteriorate once we have power,” he writes in his essay, “ The Power Paradox. ” Keltner’s solutions are the ones Churchill must adopt in order to save the troops at Dunkirk: He learns to listen and to empathize, however imperfectly.

In the film’s telling, Churchill is surrounded by men who are very much like himself: rich, high-born, educated, powerful. These men, it turns out, are much more sympathetic to fascism that the rest of the British public, and they continually urge Churchill to make peace with Hitler and Mussolini.

The film pivots around a scene ( apparently apocryphal ) when Churchill ventures into the London Underground to talk about the war with working-class women and men. Through a series of questions, he discovers they are willing to make the sacrifices necessary to stop fascism. This focus-group knowledge strengthens his resolve, but he must still find the skills to persuade the king, his cabinet, and parliament to fight back against the Axis powers instead of surrendering.

The rest, as they say, is history. Churchill is no doubt deficient as a poster child for our conception of power as something that must be exercised with empathy and accountability. And yet, no other film in the past year made the case for socially responsible power quite so forcefully. Churchill is flawed—and his heroism arises from his triumph over his own worst instincts.

As Churchill’s wife Clementine tells him: “You are strong because you are imperfect. You are wise because you have doubts.” — Jeremy Adam Smith

The Empathy Award: The Florida Project

In the gritty, documentary-like Florida Project , precocious six-year-old children run through fields and abandoned buildings around a motel-slum where they live, called “The Magic Castle.” Director Sean Baker juxtaposes their irrepressible energy and joy with scenes of poverty and chaos, all within a mile of Disney World. Through this vivid, haunting portrayal of a community of families living in the run-down Magic Castle, the film explores empathy on several levels.

“I can always tell when adults are about to cry,” says young Moonee to her friend Scooty. They are secretly watching Moonee’s mother, who sells perfume and her body in order to survive. Throughout the film, we wonder how much of her mother’s desperate life Moonee understands—and this moment reveals that she understands and feels more than she probably should.

Moonee has at least one adult in the film who tries to take care of her. Oscar-nominated Willem Dafoe plays a somewhat ineffectual hotel manager, Bobby, who watches over the single mothers and children in the building with an empathic, protective gaze. Bobby doesn’t say a lot, and so Dafoe must convey his empathy through his eyes, gestures, and actions. You feel both his compassion and his helplessness as he bears witness to the struggles of the kids on the property (while likely grappling with his own private and personal failures).

There are only a few movies that have moved me so deeply that I sobbed after watching them. This was one. This is a filmmaker who represents people living in poverty with balance, truthfulness, and imaginative vision. Baker doesn’t strive to elicit sympathy or pat-on-the-head pity; he leads us to feel deeply with these characters—through the children’s eyes, most of all. — Amy L. Eva

The Forgiveness Award: Lady Bird

How can a movie that focuses on the conflicts between a mother and her teenage daughter fill us with inspiration? Lady Bird does it.

In the film, the protagonist Lady Bird—a name she gives herself—discovers her own identity and goals by taking creative risks, testing friendships, and exploring her budding sexuality. Conflict arises when her distraught mother finds it difficult to support her choices. The movie is filled with scenes when mother and daughter argue past each other, not able to embrace their clear connection.

The movie touches on many of Greater Good ‘s themes—but especially the importance of forgiveness . In one instance, Lady Bird dates and falls in love with a boy whom she later finds out is gay. While angrily confronting him over his deception, he collapses in tears, expressing his fears of coming out to his Catholic parents. As Lady Bird comforts him, you see forgiveness dawning, paving the way for them to remain friends.

In another instance, Lady Bird befriends a group of popular girls at school to get closer to a boy she likes. This creates tension between her and her best friend, who is not popular and resents being pushed aside. Eventually, Lady Bird realizes it’s not fun to have to pretend you’re someone you’re not, and she misses her old friend. After seeing her mistake and asking for forgiveness, the two reconcile and repair their relationship—even attending the prom together.

Meanwhile, the conflict between mother and daughter continues to boil throughout the film. At one point, Lady Bird tells her mother, “I just wish… I wish that you liked me.” To which her mother replies, “Of course I love you.” In that gap between “like” and “love,” we see how mother and daughter misunderstand each other—a scene punctuated with a closed door and the mother’s hesitation to knock at that door and try again.

But, as Lady Bird learns to see her mother’s struggles, she comes to realize that her mother’s resistance to change is a cover for love and concern. At the end, Lady Bird forgives her mother and openly thanks her for her many sacrifices. — Jill Suttie

The Growth Mindset Award: The Last Jedi

The latest episode in the ongoing Star Wars saga is all about failure.

The most interesting thing you can say about failure in The Last Jedi is we don’t see a lot of nice, safe blunders, where everyone learns a valuable lesson afterward. No, these are bloody, emotionally devastating failures, of a kind that many people cannot live with. Poe Dameron’s mistakes kill hundreds of his comrades. Luke Skywalker fails Kylo Ren in every way a mentor can, which leads directly to the deaths of his best friend Han Solo and (literally) millions of other people—a failure that he unsparingly links to the history of the Jedi Order. Even the villains can’t catch a break: Supreme Leader Snoke, General Hux, and Ren himself all fail at some point. Yes, Ren rises to rule the First Order—only to be humiliated on the battlefield by Skywalker.

How each of these characters responds to failure reveals a lot about them. When defeated, Ren breaks out his lightsaber and mindlessly destroys whatever’s within reach. His counterpart, Rey, embodies a different approach, one of our favorite social-scientific constructs here at Greater Good : the growth mindset . “In a growth mindset, people believe that their most basic abilities can be developed through dedication and hard work—brains and talent are just the starting point,” writes psychologist Carol Dweck.

“Pass on what you have learned. Strength, mastery. But weakness, folly, failure also. Yes, failure most of all. The greatest teacher, failure is. Luke, we are what they grow beyond. That is the true burden of all masters.”

When we met Rey in the previous movie, The Force Awakens , she was a lost and emotionally needy kid. In The Last Jedi , she is learning from her mistakes and she is starting to discover what she is truly capable of. Though she is the galaxy’s most powerful Jedi since Anakin Skywalker, Rey is also humble, in a way that makes her distinctly different from the other (ahem, male) heroes of Star Wars. “I need someone to show me my place in all of this,” she tells Luke at one point. “I felt something. It awakened, but now I need to know how to wield it.” We spend much of the movie watching Rey train and strive to understand herself .

As usual, it falls to Jedi Master Yoda to sum up the message of the movie: “Pass on what you have learned. Strength, mastery. But weakness, folly, failure also. Yes, failure most of all. The greatest teacher, failure is. Luke, we are what they grow beyond. That is the true burden of all masters.”  — Jeremy Adam Smith

The Nonviolent Heroism Award: The Shape of Water

In an ordinary American movie, Colonel Richard Strickland would be the hero.

He’s the hard-charging chief of security at a top-secret government facility at the height of the Cold War. Unfortunately, he is tragically deformed by a system that does not value life, human and otherwise.

Instead of Strickland, the hero of The Shape of Water is a mute cleaning woman named Elisa Esposito. She develops a secret connection with an amphibious creature that Strickland drags back from a South American black lagoon—one that blossoms into an unlikely transspecies romance.

Esposito is powerless and marginal in this alternate America. But when the nameless creature is threatened with vivisection, she joins forces with two friends and a dissident Soviet spy to get him home. There is some violence in The Shape of Water , but none of the incidents are heroic. American and Soviet agents kill each other in ways that feel senseless and lonely, while the true heroes of the film—a mute Latina, a black janitor, and a gay commercial artist—achieve their aims through cooperation and nonviolence.

The Shape of Water doesn’t always make sense. (For example, what’s up with that sex scene in the bathroom?) And yet, like many of director Guillermo del Toro’s films, it’s driven by intense dream-logic and vivid images. This makes it feel more like a fable, a type of story that uses non-human creatures to convey a specific moral.

What is the moral of the movie? In The Creature from the Black Lagoon —the 1954 horror film that inspired this one—the entire plot depends on a two-fisted straight white guy rescuing the girl from a monstrous fish-man. In The Shape of Water , someone very much like that guy (Strickland) is the villain, and his defeat allows the creature and “the girl” (Esposito, actually a grown woman) to finally come together.

In this way, the film teaches that we should respond to differences with curiosity, not fear. The moral of the story is clear, simple, and more important than ever : Love is stronger than violence and hate. — Jeremy Adam Smith

The Common Humanity Award: Wonder

Auggie Pullman was born with a craniofacial condition . In Wonder , we see him make the transition from a sweetly protected, home-schooled, medical-procedure-laden life to the unpredictable and socially intense environment of a very well-intentioned private middle school—and ultimately inspire the whole place for the better.

In the beginning, Auggie’s challenge is overwhelming awkwardness. People startle at first glance, then respond with anything from saccharine kindness to fear to demeaning hostility. To Auggie, all of it feels like an unwanted spotlight. When his doting elder sister Via, just starting high school herself, attempts to commiserate with him by sharing her own troubles, he shouts: “Bad days? Bad days? Do people avoid touching you? When people accidentally touch you, do they call it the plague?”

A couple of enlightened adults and kids at the school, however, shift the tide. The embarrassing-dad-joke school principal Mr. Tushman wins over Auggie’s trust with dorky humility and a common interest in science. His hipster history teacher sets an authentic and heartfelt tone with matter-of-fact kindness and assigned reflections on humanistic philosophical principles. Classmates Jack and Summer, somehow sensing the unfairness and injustice he faces, see and truly befriend Auggie for who he is. Other schoolmates fall in line, no longer treating Auggie like he’s weird. The once-harsh school bullies even end up defending Auggie from bigger bullies, and they come to embrace him as their “little guy.”

When Auggie wins the big end-of-the-year, person-who-changed-the-world-for-the-better school award at graduation, it’s a tearful testament to the power of common humanity . — Emiliana Simon-Thomas

The Community and Diversity Award: Wonder Woman and Black Panther (tie)

Though one movie comes from the Marvel Universe and the other from DC, Black Panther and Wonder Woman have one big thing in common: They are both about the relationship of homogenous, isolated utopian communities to the wider, more complicated world.

The superpowered Wonder Woman comes from Themyscira, home to an immortal race of Amazons who appear to spend their endless days swinging swords, shooting arrows, and riding horses. They were created by the god Zeus to protect humanity, but it seems they’ve become just a bit too comfortable in their paradise.

Black Panther is set in Wakanda, a geographically isolated region in Central Africa that was hit, once upon a time, by a magic meteor. The benevolent radiation from its metal mutates the flora, fauna, and possibly the people; this spurs scientific and engineering development that makes Wakanda the most technologically advanced nation on Earth. No one knows this because—as in the case of Themyscira—Wakanda develops physical camouflage and a policy of radical isolation in order to avoid European colonization.

Themyscira and Wakanda both illustrate how important community is to human well-being —and in many ways, these really are good societies whose members feel safe, cared for, and connected to each other. But both utopias pay a cost for their stability: They start to fall apart when outside influences arrive in the form of Captain Steve Trevor in Wonder Woman and Killmonger in Black Panther .

In this way, these two superhero movies have a lot to say about the tension between community and diversity . And in the end, they both make the same choice. Wakanda decides to end its isolation, grow beyond itself, and work to make the rest of the world a better place. Wonder Woman decides that she cannot stay on Themyscira. Instead, she becomes a part of “man’s world,” kicking and punching evil wherever she finds it. As T’Challa, the king of Wakanda, says at the thoughtful conclusion of Black Panther :

Wakanda will no longer watch from the shadows. We can not. We must not. We will work to be an example of how we, as brothers and sisters on this earth, should treat each other. Now, more than ever, the illusions of division threaten our very existence. We all know the truth: More connects us than separates us. But in times of crisis the wise build bridges, while the foolish build barriers. We must find a way to look after one another, as if we were one single tribe.

Black Panther and Wonder Woman want to change the world—but the really interesting question is this: How will the world continue to change their homelands? — Jeremy Adam Smith

What films would you honor for revealing what’s best in humanity?

About the Authors

Maryam Abdullah

Maryam Abdullah

Uc berkeley.

Maryam Abdullah, Ph.D., is the Parenting Program Director of the Greater Good Science Center. She is a developmental psychologist with expertise in parent-child relationships and children’s development of prosocial behaviors.

Amy L. Eva

Amy L. Eva, Ph.D. , is the associate education director at the Greater Good Science Center. As an educational psychologist and teacher educator with over 25 years in classrooms, she currently writes, presents, and leads online courses focused on student and educator well-being, mindfulness, and courage. Her new book, Surviving Teacher Burnout: A Weekly Guide To Build Resilience, Deal with Emotional Exhaustion, and Stay Inspired in the Classroom, features 52 simple, low-lift strategies for enhancing educators’ social and emotional well-being.

Jill Suttie

Jill Suttie

Jill Suttie, Psy.D. , is Greater Good ’s former book review editor and now serves as a staff writer and contributing editor for the magazine. She received her doctorate of psychology from the University of San Francisco in 1998 and was a psychologist in private practice before coming to Greater Good .

Emiliana R. Simon-Thomas

Emiliana R. Simon-Thomas

Emiliana R. Simon-Thomas, Ph.D. , is the science director of the Greater Good Science Center, where she directs the GGSC’s research fellowship program and serves as a co-instructor of its Science of Happiness and Science of Happiness at Work online courses.

Jeremy Adam Smith

Jeremy Adam Smith

Jeremy Adam Smith edits the GGSC’s online magazine, Greater Good . He is also the author or coeditor of five books, including The Daddy Shift , Are We Born Racist? , and (most recently) The Gratitude Project: How the Science of Thankfulness Can Rewire Our Brains for Resilience, Optimism, and the Greater Good . Before joining the GGSC, Jeremy was a John S. Knight Journalism Fellow at Stanford University. You can follow him on Mastodon.

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Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History Essays

American scenes of everyday life, 1840–1910.

Cider Making

Cider Making

William Sidney Mount

Fur Traders Descending the Missouri

Fur Traders Descending the Missouri

George Caleb Bingham

Young Husband: First Marketing

Young Husband: First Marketing

Lilly Martin Spencer

The New Bonnet

The New Bonnet

Francis William Edmonds

The Belated Party on Mansfield Mountain

The Belated Party on Mansfield Mountain

Jerome B. Thompson

The Veteran in a New Field

The Veteran in a New Field

Winslow Homer

The Contest for the Bouquet: The Family of Robert Gordon in Their New York Dining-Room

The Contest for the Bouquet: The Family of Robert Gordon in Their New York Dining-Room

Seymour Joseph Guy

The Music Lesson

The Music Lesson

John George Brown

Just Moved

Henry Mosler

Snap the Whip

Snap the Whip

Talking It Over

Talking It Over

Enoch Wood Perry

The New Bonnet

Eastman Johnson

Dressing for the Carnival

Dressing for the Carnival

Young Mother Sewing

Young Mother Sewing

Mary Cassatt

Central Park, Winter

Central Park, Winter

William James Glackens

Dust Storm, Fifth Avenue

Dust Storm, Fifth Avenue

On the Southern Plains

On the Southern Plains

Frederic Remington

Tea Leaves

William McGregor Paxton

H. Barbara Weinberg The American Wing, The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Between the eve of the American Revolution and World War I, a group of modest British colonies became states; the frontier pushed westward to span the continent; a rural and agricultural society became urban and industrial; and the United States —reunified after the Civil War under an increasingly powerful federal government—emerged as a leading participant in world affairs. Throughout this complicated, transformative century and a half, American painters recorded everyday life as it changed around them, capturing the temperament of their respective eras, defining the character of people as individuals, citizens, and members of ever-widening communities.

At first, most painters embedded references to everyday life in portraits, which were the only works for which a market existed. Beginning about 1830, however, and largely in response to the development of public exhibition spaces in New York, Philadelphia, and Boston, some painters were able to free themselves from dependence on portrait commissions and to adopt new subjects that would appeal to wider audiences. They worked primarily in the form of genre , a French term that means types or sorts and that in paintings refers to scenes of lower- and middle-class characters. William Sidney Mount, who led the way, and his contemporaries favored depictions of courtship, families, and community life in rural settings that were associated positively with fundamental national values. They reinforced in their works popular notions of American identity and competed with contemporaneous Hudson River School landscapists for attention and patronage. American genre painters produced works that were clearly delineated, humorous, and didactic or moralizing, like the old master Dutch or more recent French and English paintings and prints that inspired them.

By the 1850s, American painters of everyday life expanded their subject interests beyond the individual and the family to encompass a wider horizon, especially the nation’s politics and growing territory. The stage-set compositions they had enlisted in the previous decade, derived from European prototypes, gave way to more outdoor images that captured, literally, a wider view of American life. As population and wealth increased, there emerged a newly energetic and diversified art market that included auction houses, art lotteries, and fly-by-night dealers who set up sales shops in the cities. Artistic competition escalated exponentially and the profession opened to more artists, including women like Lilly Martin Spencer, who cast a critical eye on the domestic sphere from an insider’s perspective. Responding to pressure to come up with novel subjects that would distinguish their works at exhibition and attract purchasers, many American painters took on current, complex, and often difficult topics, including the relationships between blacks and whites, men and women, and immigrants and native workers. But they always enlisted euphemism or subtle ambiguity to portray these issues. A few artists explored themes from the rugged wilderness, which appealed to urban viewers seeking vicarious frontier or backwoods adventures.

The unique and overwhelming circumstances of the Civil War and the years of Reconstruction severely challenged American artists. The confluence of charged political and economic events, and profound social change, created such turmoil that many artists chose to examine only small, reassuring slices of the human experience, and to do so in subtle and open-ended accounts. Seeking to assuage the sorrow brought on by the war and to heal the nation’s fractured spirit in its wake, painters turned away from martial and political content. Responding to the assertion of women’s responsibilities after the loss of so many men in combat, artists depicted them in new roles and grappled with issues surrounding their new options. Expressing a longing for prewar innocence and the commemorative atmosphere associated with the nation’s Centennial, many painters portrayed children. And, as the agrarian basis of American life gave way to urbanization and industrialization , artists who lived, studied, worked, and exhibited their paintings in thriving cities looked to the countryside for their subjects. Painters of this era were, however, likely to show rural locales as temporary or nostalgic retreats from urban existence rather than sustainable habitats.

By the mid-1870s, the taste of American viewers and patrons changed in response to their expanded opportunities for travel; ready access to prints , photographs , illustrations in magazines and journals, and other reproductions ; and exposure to art in newly founded museums. As these viewers and patrons, principally in the prosperous industrial Northeast, came to value contemporary Continental—especially French—art, American painters embraced an unprecedented internationalism . Easier transatlantic transportation and communication meant that more artists were able to study abroad , live in European cities and art colonies, and investigate a broad range of subjects and styles, from academic to Impressionist . They were as likely to paint people enjoying commonplace events in Paris or the French countryside as they were their subjects’ counterparts in New York or New England. Their works reveal an appreciation of the journalistic, fragmented, oblique narrative that characterized modern European examples and an evasion of the harsh realities of modern existence. By comparison with earlier genre scenes, these views of everyday life are ambiguous and, at times, completely elusive in their content. American painters also operated in an increasingly complex and professionalized art world, which enhanced their opportunities to display and market their works on both sides of the Atlantic. Often in competition with foreign rivals, they attended to the judgments of a newly serious and credible American art press.

Many late nineteenth-century American artists recorded the lives of women as devoted mothers, dedicated household managers, participants in genteel feminine rituals, and resolute keepers of culture. A few recounted the experiences of men at work and leisure and celebrated new American heroes. It is in this period that the cowboy emerges as an icon of American masculinity and of the receding frontier. As tension escalated between fading rural traditions and growing urbanization and industrialization, artists more often investigated city environs, including new sites for leisure, consumption, and entertainment. Beginning about 1900, the Ashcan painters advocated forthright portrayals of life in New York, but typically took a cheerful approach to increasing urban hardships. The Ashcan painters’ sometimes droll images, which they recorded as if “on the run” or from memory with broad, calligraphic forms, reflect the skills that most of them had cultivated as newspaper illustrators.

Weinberg, H. Barbara, and Carrie Rebora Barratt. “American Scenes of Everyday Life, 1840–1910.” In Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History . New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2000–. http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/scen/hd_scen.htm (September 2009)

Further Reading

Burns, Sarah. Pastoral Inventions: Rural Life in Nineteenth-Century American Art and Culture . Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1989.

Hills, Patricia. The Painter's America: Rural and Urban Life, 1810–1910 . Exhibition catalogue, Whitney Museum of American Art. New York: Praeger, 1974.

Hoopes, Donelson F., and Nancy Wall Moure. American Narrative Painting . Exhibition catalogue. Los Angeles: Los Angeles County Museum of Art, 1974.

Johns, Elizabeth. American Genre Painting: The Politics of Everyday Life . New Haven: Yale University Press, 1991.

Perry, Claire. Young America: Childhood in Nineteenth-Century Art and Culture . Exhibition catalogue, Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Center for Visual Arts, Stanford University. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2006.

Weinberg, H. Barbara, and Carrie Rebora Barratt, eds. American Stories: Paintings of Everyday Life, 1765–1915 . Exhibition catalogue. New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2009. See on MetPublications

Weinberg, H. Barbara, Doreen Bolger, and David Park Curry. American Impressionism and Realism: The Painting of Modern Life, 1885–1915 . Exhibition catalogue. New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1994. See on MetPublications

Williams, Hermann Warner. Mirror to the American Past: A Survey of American Genre Painting, 1750–1900 . Greenwich, Conn.: New York Graphic Society, 1973.

Additional Essays by H. Barbara Weinberg

  • Weinberg, H. Barbara. “ William Merritt Chase (1849–1916) .” (July 2011)
  • Weinberg, H. Barbara. “ American Impressionism .” (October 2004)
  • Weinberg, H. Barbara. “ John Singer Sargent (1856–1925) .” (October 2004)
  • Weinberg, H. Barbara. “ Americans in Paris, 1860–1900 .” (October 2006)
  • Weinberg, H. Barbara. “ Childe Hassam (1859–1935) .” (October 2004)
  • Weinberg, H. Barbara. “ James McNeill Whistler (1834–1903) .” (April 2010)
  • Weinberg, H. Barbara. “ Mary Stevenson Cassatt (1844–1926) .” (October 2004)
  • Weinberg, H. Barbara. “ Thomas Eakins (1844–1916): Painting .” (October 2004)
  • Weinberg, H. Barbara. “ Winslow Homer (1836–1910) .” (October 2004)
  • Weinberg, H. Barbara. “ The Ashcan School .” (April 2010)

Additional Essays by Carrie Rebora Barratt

  • Barratt, Carrie Rebora. “ Gilbert Stuart (1755–1828) .” (October 2003)
  • Barratt, Carrie Rebora. “ American Portrait Miniatures of the Nineteenth Century .” (October 2004)
  • Barratt, Carrie Rebora. “ John Singleton Copley (1738–1815) .” (October 2003)
  • Barratt, Carrie Rebora. “ American Portrait Miniatures of the Eighteenth Century .” (October 2003)
  • Barratt, Carrie Rebora. “ George Washington: Man, Myth, Monument .” (May 2009)
  • Barratt, Carrie Rebora. “ Nineteenth-Century American Folk Art .” (October 2004)
  • Barratt, Carrie Rebora. “ Students of Benjamin West (1738–1820) .” (October 2004)
  • Barratt, Carrie Rebora. “ Thomas Sully (1783–1872) and Queen Victoria .” (October 2004)

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13 Movies That Filmed Scenes At Real-Life Events

Jim Rowley

If a movie script includes a scene set at a huge public gathering, like a sporting event or a parade , that presents a challenge for the production team. There are lots of ways a film production can execute a crowd scene, but none of them are cheap. A production could use thousands of extras, but those extras all have to be paid. Modern movies can rely on CGI to create virtual crowds, but convincing visual effects  can cost tens or even hundreds of millions . One company even lets movie productions rent inflatable plastic crowd members , but those don't come free, either. 

Often, the simplest and cheapest solution is to film at a real-life event. But while this might keep a movie's budget low, it can also create a whole slew of logistical headaches for the production team. Here are some movies that filmed at real-life events, and how they pulled it off.

Harrison Ford Blended Into The Real St. Patrick's Day Parade In Chicago While Filming 'The Fugitive'

Harrison Ford Blended Into The Real St. Patrick's Day Parade In Chicago While Filming 'The Fugitive'

At one point during the 1993 action thriller  The Fugitive , Dr. Richard Kimble (Harrison Ford) eludes capture by blending into the crowd at Chicago's famous St. Patrick's Day Parade. The parade has a long and storied history going all the way back to 1843, so director and Chicagoan Andrew Davis didn't want to try to fake it. The city gave the producers permission to film at the parade, but they had to be as unobtrusive as possible. On the day of filming, and without a rehearsal, Ford and a steadicam operator slipped into the crowd and filmed the scene. (Then-Chicago mayor Richard Daley and Illinois Attorney General Roland Burris are visible in the background.)

Ford later said  his character's need to keep a low profile actually helped him blend in better, and it was several minutes before parade-goers realized they were marching alongside Harrison Ford.

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'Black Sunday' Filmed A Huge Segment At The Actual Super Bowl X In Miami

'Black Sunday' Filmed A Huge Segment At The Actual Super Bowl X In Miami

John Frankenheimer's 1977 box-office flop  Black Sunday  is about a terrorist plan to detonate a blimp filled with 250,000 steel darts directly above the Super Bowl. Rather than have to fake the biggest sporting event of the year, producer Robert Evans got permission from the NFL to film during Super Bowl X, at the former Orange Bowl in Miami, FL. 

When movie productions get permission to film at big events, they are typically only given limited access during the event to film establishing shots and B-roll, and return later to film their more challenging scenes.  The Super Bowl attack sequence was filmed over multiple days. During the game itself, the film crew disguised themselves as CBS camera operators and filmed the action from the sidelines - including actors, like star Robert Shaw, who in one scene darts through the stands and sprints down the sideline - all while the Super Bowl was actually taking place.

A few days later, with the stadium empty, the production returned to stage the climactic blimp attack. To fill the stadium, the producers made a deal with the United Way. The charity agreed to bring in thousands of volunteer extras, and in exchange, the production agreed to produce the charity's 1976 campaign film for free. 

During the blimp scene, the assistant director whipped the extras into such a frenzy, many of them were actually injured. Even a member of the Miami Dolphins, safety Barry Hill, injured his hand during the chaos. It ended up being the only time Hill was ever injured during his football-playing days.

The Production Company Behind ‘Game of Death’ Filmed Bruce Lee’s Actual Funeral And Included It In The Movie 

The Production Company Behind ‘Game of Death’ Filmed Bruce Lee’s Actual Funeral And Included It In The Movie 

An actor dying in the middle of production is - beyond the human tragedy itself - probably the biggest setback that can happen to a movie. It leaves producers with various options for how to go forward, some better than others. One of the riskiest options is to try to complete the movie anyway using movie magic. And the reason more movies don't do this is probably because of the example set by  Game of Death . 

When Bruce Lee perished of cerebral edema in 1973, he had only filmed about 40 minutes of Game of Death . At first, producers decided to shelve the project, but a few years later, they opted to finish the movie. They used a variety of techniques to replace Lee in various scenes - for example, using stand-ins, lookalikes, and disguises. However, some scenes required Lee's face to be visible, so producers had to alter the script. They decided to have Lee's character fake his own demise and then undergo plastic surgery. They also decided to use footage from Lee's real Hong Kong funeral, including shots of Lee's body.

Sadly, the decision made things worse for everyone already grieving Lee's passing. Various conspiracy theories had popped up to explain his untimely passing, and the footage of Lee's bloated face led conspiracy theorists to speculate that this was due to poisoning. In reality, Lee's appearance was due to a bad embalming job.

The Famed Parade Scene In ‘Ferris Bueller’s Day Off’ Was Filmed At Chicago’s Annual Von Steuben Day Parade

The Famed Parade Scene In ‘Ferris Bueller’s Day Off’ Was Filmed At Chicago’s Annual Von Steuben Day Parade

Illinois native John Hughes was able to take advantage of Chicago's yearly German-American heritage celebration, the Von Steuben Day Parade, to film the memorable "Twist and Shout" scene in  Ferris Bueller's Day Off - although parts of the scene were technically staged. Filming took place over two consecutive weekends . During the first weekend, when the real parade was actually taking place, the filmmakers entered a genuine parade float into the procession and filmed Matthew Broderick and his backup dancers on it.

The next weekend, filmmakers returned for Ferris's lip-synching sequence. To simulate a crowded parade, producers bought radio and newspaper ads inviting the public to the set, and over 10,000 people showed up. Additionally, the construction workers and window washers who can be seen dancing along to Ferris's songs weren't professional dancers, just Chicagoans who joined the fun.

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Will Ferrell Pretended To Hit A Cheerleader In The Face At A Real Lakers Game For 'Daddy's Home'

Will Ferrell Pretended To Hit A Cheerleader In The Face At A Real Lakers Game For 'Daddy's Home'

If you live in Los Angeles, you'll routinely encounter movie shoots as you go about your day-to-day life, whether you're grocery shopping or watching a game at the Staples Center. In 2015, fans attending a Lakers-Pelicans game also got to see Will Ferrell and Linda Cardellini film a sequence for their comedy  Daddy's Home .

In the scene, Ferrell's character is attempting a half-court shot for a huge cash prize, but instead, he accidentally hits a cheerleader in the face with the ball. Way more entertaining than your typical halftime show.

‘Escape from Tomorrow’ Was Filmed Secretly And Illegally At Disneyland And Disney World

‘Escape from Tomorrow’ Was Filmed Secretly And Illegally At Disneyland And Disney World

One of the fundamental realities of film production is that if you're going to use a real location and not a set, you'll have to secure permission from the owner. Unless you're a  guerilla filmmaker . Since guerilla filmmakers work with ultra-low budgets, renting locations just isn't feasible. But guerilla films are almost always small indie pictures. It's nearly unheard of for such a film to grab Hollywood's attention, which was why 2013's  Escape from Tomorrow  was such a surprise. 

The story follows a father on a family vacation at Disney World who finds out he's been fired and spirals into despair, all set against a nightmarish, mirror-image version of the theme park. Even if director Randy Moore did have the budget to get permission to film in the park, there's no way the Walt Disney Corporation would have allowed it, for obvious reasons. So, Moore, his actors, and a skeleton crew snuck in and filmed anyway. Constantly dodging security, Moore's production filmed the movie over six different trips to the parks in 2010.

Moore finished the film, and the Sundance Film Festival was interested in screening it, but this raised an important question: Does the film violate Disney's copyrights? Entertainment lawyers determined that since the movie qualifies as "satire or commentary," it could be considered fair use. 

For Disney 's part, the company decided not to sue to avoid giving the film any more publicity.

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‘Fever Pitch’ Rewrote Its Entire Ending And Filmed Live At The Final Game Of The 2004 World Series

‘Fever Pitch’ Rewrote Its Entire Ending And Filmed Live At The Final Game Of The 2004 World Series

The 2005 Farrelly Brothers comedy  Fever Pitch   is a love story about a man named Ben (Jimmy Fallon) who has to choose between the woman he loves and the Boston Red Sox. At the time the film was being made, the Red Sox hadn't won a World Series since 1918, and had a reputation as an eternally cursed ball club. But as the movie was being filmed, the Red Sox suddenly reversed their decades-long jinx, first by coming back from a 3-0 series deficit to beat the New York Yankees, and then by winning the first three games of the 2004 World Series. Great news for Red Sox fans, but for the filmmakers, it meant they had to change their story - which had naturally ended with the Red Sox  not  winning the World Series, based on no less than 86 years of precedent.

The Farrellys rewrote the ending to include the team's World Series victory, but the bigger issue was getting permission to film at Fenway Park. Major League Baseball typically only allows players, coaches, and the media on the field, but since the Farrellys had recently filmed scenes at Fenway, MLB made an exception. The Sox won, and the Farrellys were able to film Jimmy Fallon and co-star Drew Barrymore kissing on the field amid the celebration. 

But it does makes you wonder: What would the Farrellys have done if the Red Sox had somehow choked away the series?

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‘Borat’ Shot A Controversial Sequence At A Real-Life Rodeo In Salem, VA

‘Borat’ Shot A Controversial Sequence At A Real-Life Rodeo In Salem, VA

Most movies filmed at real-world events try to be as respectful and inconspicuous as possible. But when it came to the 2006 comedy  Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan , provocation was the entire point. Much of Sacha Baron Cohen's comedy is built on pushing the envelope, and when filming one particular sequence for Borat , he learned exactly how far he could push it. 

The scene in which  Borat sings the national anthem at a rodeo was filmed at the Salem Civic Center in Salem, VA. Baron Cohen's production team secured permission to film at the event by pretending to be a legitimate Kazakh journalist filming a documentary about America. The rodeo's producer, Bobby Rowe, asked them for a video clip proving who Borat was, but  Borat 's producers just sent him a blank CD. Rowe still gave them the green light. Oops!

In character, Baron Cohen began by praising President George W. Bush's invasion of Iraq and making homophobic comments, both of which the crowd loved. But when it came time to sing the US national anthem, Cohen instead sang a badly rendered version of the Kazakh national anthem. The crowd was apparently so angry, Rowe believed that if Baron Cohen had sung for one minute longer, he could have been shot.

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Sly Stallone’s ‘Driven’ Filmed Several Scenes At Actual CART Races

Sly Stallone’s ‘Driven’ Filmed Several Scenes At Actual CART Races

Sylvester Stallone's 2001 action drama  Driven ,  about a retired race car driver who's brought out of retirement to mentor a rookie, is set in the world of CART racing, a racing style so intense that cars can reach up to 240 miles per hour, and one mistake can be fatal. Instead of trying to stage a high-speed car race, director Renny Harlin decided the only way to make all this action truly believable was to use as much actual race footage as possible. To do this, filmmakers got permission from CART, the now-defunct open-wheel racing league, to film right in the middle of actual races.

Producing a movie in the middle of a multi-billion-dollar sporting event involving high-speed race cars required a level of preparation that's grueling even by Hollywood standards. The production team rehearsed their scenes dozens of times before race day so they could get their shots in the extremely small timeframes CART could give them. Scenes involving the cast outside their cars were filmed during and after the races. For shots of the actual racing action, the filmmakers recorded the races and then digitally added their characters' vehicles later.

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'Brüno' Really Did Crash Milan Fashion Week

'Brüno' Really Did Crash Milan Fashion Week

Sacha Baron Cohen's success is a double-edged sword: His movies have made hundreds of millions of dollars worldwide, but their popularity has made it nearly impossible for Baron Cohen to appear in character without being recognized. By the time he filmed his 2009 comedy,  Brüno , it had become nearly impossible to trick people while in character as the fabulous Austrian journalist. Today, Ali G, Borat, and Bruno are retired . (Mostly.)

Baron Cohen and his production team had planned for Brüno   to disrupt the 2008 Milan Fashion Week and had secured the necessary filming permits. But when Baron Cohen arrived as Brüno, complete with an all-Velcro suit, event security recognized him and turned him away. Milanese police were so determined not to let him ruin the event that they declared he would be arrested on sight for the duration of Fashion Week. 

Which just meant Baron Cohen and company had to get even more creative. Everyone on the production team changed their appearance, and Baron Cohen created a new Italian photographer. Once they got past security, Baron Cohen ducked into an alcove, changed into his Brüno outfit, and stormed the catwalk. While an outraged crowd looked on, Baron Cohen was arrested, taken to jail, and strip-searched.

Then, one week later, Baron Cohen and his team snuck into Paris Fashion Week and ruined that, too. Both sequences made the final cut of the film.

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‘Quantum of Solace’ Filmed A Sequence At The Biannual Palio di Siena Horse Race In Italy

‘Quantum of Solace’ Filmed A Sequence At The Biannual Palio di Siena Horse Race In Italy

Every James Bond movie needs a chase scene set against an exotic backdrop, and for Quantum of Solace , that backdrop was Siena's biannual Palio di Siena horse race. The biannual horse race has been run twice a year, in July and August, since 1656. It takes place in an actual plaza in Siena that's filled with dirt, and all the riders race bareback. The race itself can be much more brutal than your typical American horse race - the only rule is that riders aren't allowed to grab each other's reigns - and in 2004 a horse perished. In other words, it's the perfect setting for James Bond to chase a goon on foot. 

The production set up 14 cameras around the Piazza del Campo to record the 2007 running of the race, although the filmmakers were only permitted to film the race itself and not any of their own action scenes. The footage of Daniel Craig chasing his adversary was filmed later and digitally added to the race footage.

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‘Paris Is Us’ Filmed Scenes At The Actual Charlie Hebdo March, Among Other Public Events In Paris

‘Paris Is Us’ Filmed Scenes At The Actual Charlie Hebdo March, Among Other Public Events In Paris

Paris Is Us  is a 2019 Netflix drama that came out of nowhere and grabbed attention for its filmmaking techniques, if not its story. It follows Anna, a young Parisian woman who falls in love with a raver named Greg. But it's really about the many traumatic events Paris has experienced over the past five years, such as the Charlie Hebdo  shooting and the November 13, 2015, terrorist attacks.

Since the film uses surrealist aesthetics to blur the lines between reality and fiction, and since the filmmakers had almost no budget, it made sense to film at real-world events. Many of Anna's scenes take place against the backdrop of real-life clashes between protesters and riot police. While some felt this lent the movie added realism, others questioned whether it was entirely tasteful.

Brad Pitt Filmed Scenes For His F1 Movie At Silverstone During The British Grand Prix

Thanks to special access granted by the project being worked on in cooperation with F1, Brad Pitt and co-star Damson Idris appeared in white and black racing gear at Silverstone for the British Grand Prix where they managed to shoot scenes for an untitled Apple TV+ film. When asked about his time at the GP, Pitt told Sky News he was “a little giddy right now.” The film follows Pitt as a retired driver returning to racing after 30 years away.

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movie scene depicting events from the past

50 Most Romantic Film Scenes Of The Decade

James Prestridge

Close-up Culture’s James Prestridge lists off his 50 most romantic film scenes of the decade.

Tell us your picks in the comment section!

50) Close Quarters Kiss – The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (2014)

Peter (Andrew Garfield) kisses Gwen (Emma Stone) while hiding in a closet. Gwen’s love dazed eyes after the kiss are a highlight.

49) You Gonna Break My Heart, Covey? – To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before (2018)

In one of the better high school romance films of the decade, Lara (Lana Condor) and Peter (Noah Centineo) open up about their true feelings for each other on a Lacrosse field.

48) Hazel And Gus Meet – The Fault In Our Stars (2014)

Gus (Ansel Elgort) begins his charm offensive on Hazel (Shailene Woodley) with an adoring stare during their cancer support group.

47) I Wish We Had More Time – Wonder Woman (2017)

Diana (Gal Gadot) thinks of Steve’s (Chris Pine) self-sacrificing gestures of love as she finds the inner-strength and belief in humanity to defeat the evil Ares.

46) Dance Rehearsal – Silver Linings Playbook (2012)

Johnny Cash and Bob Dylan’s Girl From The North Country is a tender and effective choice of song to play over a montage of Pat (Bradley Cooper) and Tiffany (Jennifer Lawrence) bonding together through dance rehearsals.

movie scene depicting events from the past

45) Reunited – God’s Own Country (2017)

After a long coach journey, Johnny (Josh O’Connor) allows himself to be vulnerable and opens up to Gheorghe (Alec Secareanu) about his true feelings. The scene culminates in an emotional embrace in which Johnny’s relief at Gheorghe’s forgiveness is plain to see.

44) For The Hungry Boy – Phantom Thread (2018)

Ordering breakfast has never been so softly flirtatious. In this scene, Reynolds (Daniel Day Lewis) and Alma (Vicky Krieps) struggle to contain their adoration for each other as he orders a surprisingly hefty breakfast.

43) I Was Trying To Be Romantic – Silver Linings Playbook (2012)

A superb piece of acting from Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence helps to make this romantic movie climax something memorable.

42) Woody and Bo Peep – Toy Story 4 (2019)

Fate brings old friends Woody (voiced by Tom Hanks) and Bo Peep (Annie Potts) back together as they are picked up by a young child. The beauty of this scene – beyond Randy Newman’s swooping music – is that the two toys have to remain inanimate during this sweet moment.

41) You Are Absolutely Beautiful – The Spectacular Now (2013)

A tension relieving stroll through the woods builds to a grin-inducing kiss between Sutter (Miles Teller) and Aimee (Shailene Woodley).

40) I Love You – The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (2014)

Peter (Andrew Garfield) uses his web-slinging capabilities to make a grand gesture of love to Gwen (Emma Stone), before sweeping her away to talk about their future together… let’s just forget how the film ends.

39) Picnic Kiss – Blue Is The Warmest Colour (2013)

Abdellatif Kechiche locks in tight close-ups of fliratous eyes and smiles as Adèle (Adèle Exarchopoulos) and Emma (Léa Seydoux) share their first kiss.

38) Airplane Proposal – Crazy Rich Asians (2018)

A cover of Coldplay’s Yellow plays over Nick’s (Henry Golding) slightly clunky airplane proposal. What’s not to love?

37) Shoes Off – The Wind Rises (2013)

Jiro hurries back to embrace his gravely ill wife in a Hayao Miyazaki’s soaringly beautiful and simultaneously heart-breaking film.

36) First Kiss – Call Me By Your Name (2017)

Elio (Timothée Chalamet) and Oliver (Armie Hammer) lay in the long grass and finally act on their flirtations.

35) Dinner Date – The Fault In Our Stars (2014)

Gus (Ansel Elgort) glowingly announces his love for Hazel (Shailene Woodley) over a fancy dinner.

34) Christmas Shopping – Carol (2013) 

This love story is set in motion as Therese (Rooney Mara) finds herself irresistible drawn to Carol (Cate Blanchett). Beyond the gorgeous cinematography, it is the young shop clerk’s inability to hide her instant enamourment that is utterly charming.

33) Ballroom Dance – Cinderella (2015)

Lily James captures all the heart-fluttering nuances of Cinderella in this dazzling first dance scene. Yes, this beats out the dance sequence from Disney’s live-action remake of Beauty And The Beast .

32) Bedroom Cuddles – A Ghost Story (2017)

A simple scene of M (Rooney Mara) and C (Casey Affleck) cuddling and kissing in bed. Intimate, warm and so cosy you can feel it through the screen.

movie scene depicting events from the past

31) What About This Time Machine – Before Midnight (2013)

The third instalment of Richard Linklater’s trilogy ends on a note of reconcilement and comprise as Céline (Julie Delpy) comes round to Jesse’s (Ethan Hawke) passionate plea to hold onto their love.

30) Double Proposal – Creed 2 (2018)

Adonis (Michael B. Jordan) has to propose for a second time when he realises Bianca (Tessa Thompson) doesn’t have her hearing aid in. It is particularly heart-warming to see this boxing warrior show his vulnerable side for the woman he loves.

29) Morning Routine – Paterson (2016)

Paterson (Adam Driver) and Laura (Golshifteh Farahani) share cosy morning kisses before the thoughtful bus driver sets about his day and poetry.

28) I See The Light – Tangled (2010)

In this awe-inspiring scene, Rapunzel (Mandy Moore) and Flynn (Zachary Levi) share a romantic boat ride as they are surrounded by thousands of lanterns.

27) The Wedding – Crazy Rich Asians (2018)

An enchantingly extravagant wedding with an acoustic version of Can’t Help Falling In Love and lots of loving looks.

26) I Don’t Think You Should Leave At All – Disobedience (2017)

Childhood friends Ronit (Rachel Weisz) and Esti (Rachel McAdams) rekindle their love with a tender kiss.

25) Some Place Out There – Equals (2015)

Intimacy and delicacy summarise a montage scene in which Silas (Nicholas Hoult) and Nia (Kristen Stewart) defy their rigidly stoic society to get to know each other on a deeper level.

24) The Proposal – A United Kingdom (2017)

Seretse (David Oyelowo), heir to the throne of Bechuanaland, nervously proposes to Englishwoman Ruth (Rosamund Pike) with help from a beautiful London evening backdrop. The scene is capped wonderfully by the conviction of Ruth’s ‘yes’ despite the political weight of her decision.

23) Like A Zebra – Baby Driver (2017)

Baby (Ansel Elgort) and Debra (Lily James) chat about their shared love for music and show off their incredible chemistry with effortless flirting.

22) I’m Writing A New Piano Piece – Her (2014)

A.I assistant Samantha (voiced by Scarlett Johannsson) comes up with a creative way to capture her connection with Theodore (Joaquin Phoenix) in this delicately composed scene.

21) I’ll Never Love Again – A Star Is Born (2018)

Allie (Lady Gaga) pours her heart out on stage with stunning stripped back performance. The cut to Jack (Bradley Cooper) singing this song to Allie for the first time puts a tear-jerking final note on the scene.

20) I’ve Never Loved Anyone The Way I Love You – Her (2014)

Spike Jonze’s film has us crying over an A.I assistant saying goodbye to a divorcee. Poetic and deeply touching work.

19) You Always Hurt The Ones You Love – Blue Valentine (2011)

Dean (Ryan Gosling) sings a song for a dancing and adoring Cindy (Michelle Williams). We can try to ignore foreshadowing and forget the heartache still to come…

18) Gone – Before Midnight (2013)

The sound of the waves and Graham Reynolds’ soft score bring a tender feel to this scene of Jesse and Céline watching the sunset together.

17) Dying Dreams – Ain’t Them Bodies Saints (2013)

Ruth (Rooney Mara) comforts Bob (Casey Affleck) in his dying moments as we cut back to an affectionate memory of the two imaging their future together.

16) Shallow – A Star Is Born (2018)

Allie comes into the spotlight to perform Shallow with Jack. A breath-taking scene in which two soon-to-be lovers are forever connected by this magical star-making moment.

15) Headphone Splitter – Begin Again (2014)

With the help of headphone splitters and an iPod, Greta (Kiera Knightley) and Dan (Mark Ruffalo) share an intimate evening in a musical world of their own while walking the streets of New York City.

14) The First Time – If Beale Street Could Talk (2018)

Few words are needed as Tish (KiKi Layne) and Fonny (Stephan James) make love for the first time. This dreamily romantic scene is given voice by Nicholas Britell’s soul-caressing music.

movie scene depicting events from the past

13) Parking Lot & Frozen Peas – A Star Is Born (2018)

Away from the stage and audiences, Jack and Allie bond over an honest and revealing late night chat in a parking lot. The seeds of Allie’s song Shallows and their relationship begin to sprout in this scene.

12) Crumpled Up Eulogy – The Fault In Our Stars (2014)

Hazel reads the deeply moving eulogy written by Gus as she looks up at the stars.

11) Do You Wanna See Something – Drive (2011)

Driver (Ryan Gosling) and Irene (Carey Mulligan) can barely contain their smitten smiles in this adorable scene. It ends beautifully with a calming drive – in contrast to the film’s nerve-wrecking car scenes – and the soothing sounds of College & Electric Youth’s A Real Hero .

10) Hello Stranger – Moonlight (2016)

Chiron (Trevante Rhodes) and Kevin (André Holland) cross paths in a diner for a beautiful scene in which the two struggle to communicate their feelings. In the end, Barbara Lewis’ Hello Stranger does the talking.

9) Headphone Slow Dance – A Quiet Place (2018)

Amid the silent dread of A Quiet Place , director John Krasinski finds time for an intimate slow dance between a married couple who – for fear of noise-sensitive monsters – can no longer verbally communicate. With Neil Young’s Harvest Moon playing through the headphones, the dance feels like it could be a call back to their first dance.

8) Restaurant Walk – Carol (2015)

Therese (Rooney Mara) makes her way across a busy restaurant to reunite with Carol (Cate Blanchett) in the final scene of Todd Haynes’ film. This is a scene heighten by Edward Lachman nervy camerawork and Carter Burwell heart-fluttering score.

7) I Believe – Blackkklansman (2018)

Following a racially-motivated run-in with the police, Patrice (Laura Harrier) and Ron (John David Washington) find refuge and communal spirit on the dance floor. A scene of joy and love in the face of vile evil.

6) Laundromat – Baby Driver (2017)

With swirling primary colours and tapping feet, it is hard not be completely charmed by Debra (Lily James) and Baby’s (Ansel Elgort) enchanting laundromat date.

5) The Rialto – La La Land (2016)

After Mia (Emma Stone) makes a striking entrance drenched in light from the movie projector, we witness the gentle yearnings of these two La La Land lovers play out in nearing hands and lips.

4) This Is Where Your Life Is – Brooklyn (2015)

Eilis (Saoirse Ronan) chooses Tony (Emory Cohen) and explains her choice with an elegantly expressed narration that speaks to the immigrant experience.

3) Epilogue – La La Land (2016)

Damien Chazelle’s film comes to a stirring close as two lovers are momentarily whisked away by thoughts of what could have been. An appreciative shared gaze across the bar puts a poignant end note on this magnificent musical.

2) I Get Overwhelmed – A Ghost Story (2017)

In this powerful scene, M (Rooney Mara) longingly thinks back to listening to C’s (Casey Affleck) music. We cut back-and-forth from this warm memory of the past and the colder reality of the present. With help from Dark Room’s touching song I Get Overwhelmed , the scene reaches a soul-stirring highpoint as M reaches out within inches of C’s bedsheet ghost presence.

movie scene depicting events from the past

  • Observatory Date – La La Land (2016)

The Griffith Observatory acts as the perfect setting for a playful and twinkling date between Sebastien (Rylan Gosling) and Mia (Emma Stone). Chazelle whisks us away with a moment of pure cinematic magic that features a silhouetted dance across a starry night’s sky, before bringing us back down to earth for a climaxing kiss.

Let us know your thoughts and picks!

Share this:

Solid list! I’m not a big fan of romantic films, but Blue Valentine, Once, Brokeback Mountain are all very favourites. Depressing too, come to think about it. Haha! And love the mention of A Quiet Place’s headphone scene. So beautifully done.

Thanks for reading! Those are depressing (as are quite a few of my picks)😂 I might do a list on the most heart-crushing scenes… that might suit us better!

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The Most Disturbing Death in 'Seven' Isn't the One You Think

All of the sins in 'Seven' are gruesome, but this one is particularly sadistic.

The Big Picture

  • The film Seven directed by David Fincher explores the seven deadly sins, with each sin represented through gruesome murders.
  • The "Sloth" sin in the movie is the most disturbing and sadistic death, involving a victim who is left strapped to a bed for a year and slowly starved to death.
  • The psychological torment inflicted on the victim is particularly terrifying, as he experiences unimaginable pain and suffering for a long time without any hope of escape or relief.

There are sins, and then there are those trespasses considered to be the most horrific and despicable of all. We have come to know these seven particular sins as deadly sins . David Fincher 's seminal 1995 gritty-as-hell noir psychological thriller Seven , starring Brad Pitt and Morgan Freeman , is based on the real-life experiences of writer Andrew Kevin Walker. He wrote about his stirring move from a small suburban town to New York City and how the things he saw and heard about in the big city impacted his life. When Fincher decided he was going to direct a film based on the disturbing images Walker wrote about, he embraced the darkness of a level of depravity that most of us have only read about or seen onscreen. What resulted was one of the best films of the decade with a twist ending that, almost 30 years later, hasn't lost a bit of its luster. But, what is the sickest, most abominable, and most disgusting death sin in the movie? In the film, the sins are based on Dante's epic work, 'The Inferno' and include gluttony, greed, sloth, wrath, envy, lust, and pride. Everyone has an idea of what these sins may look like, and then John Doe ( Kevin Spacey ) has his own much more bloody and grotesque interpretation. But there is one of the deadly sin deaths that we believe is by far the most sadistic.


Two detectives, a rookie and a veteran, hunt a serial killer who uses the seven deadly sins as his motives.

David Fincher Sets Up 'Seven's Darkest Sin From the Beginning

In the film, David Mills (Pitt) and William Somerset (Freeman) are two detectives who have just started working together when the John Doe killings begin. Fincher plans the way he is going to unveil his most twisted and evil sin from the film's beginning. Starting with the setting, the film takes place in a dank and gloomy inner city that, even though it is never named , is intended to be something akin to New York. He then sets the taut and unflinching pace with an abominable setting of a morbidly obese man bound and forced to eat himself to death. Mills and Somerset come upon the bloated corpse with his face buried in a bowl of spaghetti and later find out from the coroner that he was then kicked in the gut until his intestines burst from the inside out. This is John Doe's understanding of the sin of "gluttony" .

Somerset is the more experienced and polished of the two and suspects that this may be the first of a string of killings based on the modus operandi and the staging of the corpse, but Mills isn't buying it yet. He needs to see more evidence. Well, John Doe is more than willing to give him what he wants when they discover a second mutilated body of a criminal defense attorney. Doe believes that a person capable of enriching himself by defending people he knows are guilty of hideous crimes is the perfect example of pure American "greed" . And just like that, Mills and Somerset are in the middle of a serial spree of heinous murders that will all be representations of Dante's seven deadly sins. And it is the next murder in the movie that is by far the most sick and twisted of all, including the infamous "What's in the box?!" grand finale.

"Sloth" Is the Most Twisted Killing in 'Seven'

Fincher brilliantly ties the second victim to the third, and this is the most stomach-churning and psychologically cruel killing of them all . The lawyer whom John Doe kills over "greed" once represented a thieving reprobate by the name of Theodore "Victor" Allen ( Michael Reid MacKay ). Doe planted his prints at the site of the second murder to lure law enforcement to a particular address. Half of the city's police force heads out, lights twirling, sirens blaring, and guns at the ready for this known criminal's apartment thinking they are going to collar John Doe. What they find is something that audiences never forget.

Instead of their suspected murderer, they find Doe's third victim. A body had been strapped to a bed for exactly one year to the day when the SWAT team burst through his door. There are hundreds of pine tree air fresheners dangling from the ceiling and the body is motionless underneath a sheet. When the person doesn't respond to the police, they pull back the sheet to reveal Victor's mummified body, which is so rank and malnourished it sends members of the SWAT team running for a wastebasket. Somerset discovers a year's worth of Polaroids chronicling Victor's slow and agonizing death spiral from a fit young man to an abscess-covered pile of bones left before his eyes. It truly is one of the most ghoulish scenes ever put on the big screen as John Doe left Victor strapped in a room with just enough fluid and antibiotics from an IV bag to keep him alive for an entire year. He made Victor a spectacle to be gawked at and reviled by as the sin of "Sloth" and it's the most disturbing death in Seven for many reasons . As if the scene itself wasn't torture enough, a sudden gasp reveals that he's still somehow alive!

Why is "Sloth" the Most Disturbing Death in 'Seven'?

Close up of Detective Mills (Brad Pitt) with bandages on his face in Seven

To be sure, the site of a man left to starve and die is viscerally raw and invokes so much visual and physical disgust. What makes John Doe's treatment of Victor and the sin of "Sloth" so terrifying is the psychological torment that this man , no matter how vile or felonious, must have gone through. When Somerset and Mills speak to the doctor at the hospital, he says to them, "Even if his brain weren't mush, which it is, he chewed off his tongue long ago". Somerset asks if Victor can be helpful at all, and the doctor replies, "Detective, he would die of shock right now if you shined a flashlight in his eyes. He's experienced about as much pain and suffering as anyone I've encountered...and he still has Hell to look forward to." This provides a fate that would be ill for anyone to go through.

When we experience physical or emotional pain, the old adage "this too shall pass" brings about some solace in that it'll eventually end. For Victor, it was a never-ending nightmarish spiral into an emotional abyss that had never been captured on film before or since . Those seen in "Lust" and "Pride" are extremely painful, but finite, punishments. Even what David Mills goes through in the film's final sequence is more shocking than it is torturous. The box scene happens, he sees what's inside, and he responds by shooting John Doe in the head. Although there is some measure of satisfaction for Mills at becoming "Wrath," it's a given that he'll still suffer on some level for the rest of his life because of it. His only solace is that when his mind inevitably wanders or concentrates on something else, he will get an occasional reprieve that Victor and the deadly sin of "Sloth" were never afforded - or the deliverance of death like the six other deadly sin killings in Seven .

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Middle East Crisis Gazans Ambush Aid Convoys Amid Food Shortages

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  • Waiting for drinking water in the southern Gaza city of Rafah, where more than half of the enclave's population is sheltering. Reuters
  • An Israeli tank at the border with Gaza. The war has now lasted for more than four months. Amir Levy/Getty Images
  • Mourning the dead in Rafah after an Israeli strike. Local health authorities say more than 29,000 people in Gaza have been killed in the war. Ahmad Hasaballah/Getty Images
  • Preparing graves at a cemetery in Rafah. Said Khatib/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images
  • A damaged building in Rafah. Israel is preparing a ground invasion there, drawing international alarm. Reuters
  • Protesters in Tel Aviv wearing masks depicting the faces of the Israeli hostages being held in Gaza, one of many efforts to highlight their plight. Oded Balilty/Associated Press
  • Smoke rising over the village of Khiam, in southern Lebanon, where cross-border exchanges of fire threaten to expand into a second front. Rabih Daher/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images
  • An Israeli Black Hawk in a training exercise in northern Israel on Tuesday. Amir Cohen/Reuters

The attackers have hurled stones, a cement block and an ax at the trucks.

Amid widespread food shortages and a breakdown in civil order, groups of desperate civilians in Gaza are regularly attempting to ambush aid convoys, according to two Western officials who were recently in the enclave and images of one such ambush reviewed by The New York Times.

In the images, several dozen young men, some of them carrying clubs, attempt to block the passage of a convoy of trucks as they drive along a major highway in southern Gaza after entering the territory from Egypt. The trucks are briefly forced off the road as the drivers swerve to avoid hitting the men. Some of the assailants throw stones at the trucks’ windshields, seemingly to try to stop them.

The images, with time stamps indicating they were taken in recent days, were reviewed by a reporter for The Times.

Such attacks have become common since Israel’s invasion last year as desperate civilians face starvation in pockets of the enclave, according to the officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity to avoid complicating their work in Gaza. In one recent attack, assailants threw an ax at a driver’s cabin, attempting to break into it, while in another the attackers hurled a cement block, according to one of the officials.

Israel blames much of the theft on Hamas, which it accuses of siphoning off supplies for its own forces.

But the Western officials said the attacks appeared to be mostly organized by groups of Gazans who were unaffiliated with Hamas, or were the spontaneous acts of desperate civilians. Hamas officials are barely present on the ground in any part of Gaza, the officials said, and international aid organizations are no longer coordinating their movements with the group that until October controlled the entirety of the territory.

The ambushes on aid convoys are partly a result of a breakdown in law enforcement, the officials said. Gazan policemen are now refusing to protect the convoys because they fear they will be targeted by Israel because of their affiliation with the Hamas-run government, the officials said. That leaves the convoys more vulnerable, they added.

Foreign diplomats privately say that enough food is reaching the Gazan border via Egypt to prevent famine, but the problem is its distribution to areas beyond Rafah, the southern city that lines the border with Egypt.

In northern Gaza, aid groups say another major obstacle is the difficulty in coordinating safe passage with the Israeli military.

Unlike southern Gaza, the north is mostly under full Israeli control, and aid groups say Israel regularly blocks access to Gaza City and its surrounding districts.

Israel has accused the aid groups of failing to coordinate their convoys closely enough with the Israeli government, and says that not all requests for access can be granted because of continued fighting.

In one case in early February, the United Nations accused the Israeli navy of shelling an aid convoy heading up Gaza’s coastal road toward Gaza City. The Israeli military said it was looking into the claim.

— Patrick Kingsley reporting from Jerusalem

The U.S. defends Israel at the International Court of Justice.

U.s. defends israeli occupation of palestinian territories, the united states urged the international court of justice not to call for immediate withdrawal of israel from palestinian territories, and to consider the country’s security needs..

Any movement towards Israel’s withdrawal from the West Bank and Gaza requires consideration of Israel’s very real security needs. We were all reminded of those security needs on Oct. 7, and they persist. Regrettably, those needs have been ignored by many of the participants in asserting how the court should consider the questions before it. It is more urgent than ever to proceed to a Palestinian state, one that also ensures the security of Israel and makes the necessary commitments to do so. In light of these considerations, the court should not find that Israel is legally obligated to immediately and unconditionally withdraw from occupied territory. Others have asked you to broadly construe the questions and the law. They have asked you to try to resolve the whole of the dispute between the parties through an advisory opinion addressed to questions, focusing on the acts of only one party. The United States disagrees with that, that this approach would be consistent with the court’s role within the United Nations or the established U.N. framework for achieving peace through negotiations.

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A day after vetoing calls for an immediate cease-fire in Gaza , the United States on Wednesday defended Israel’s decades-long occupation of the West Bank and East Jerusalem, arguing at the United Nations’ highest court that Israel faced “very real security needs.”

The latest United States defense of Israel on the global stage came at the International Court of Justice in The Hague, where Richard C. Visek, the acting legal adviser at the U.S. State Department, urged a 15-judge panel not to call for Israel’s immediate withdrawal from occupied Palestinian territory.

He said that only the establishment of an independent Palestinian state alongside Israel could bring about lasting peace, repeating a longstanding U.S. position but one whose prospects appear even more elusive amid the war in Gaza.

The court is hearing six days of arguments over the legality of Israel’s occupation of Palestinian-majority territories, including the West Bank and East Jerusalem, which has been the subject of years of debates and resolutions at the United Nations. The hearings — involving more than 50 countries — were called long before Israel went to war against Hamas in Gaza, but have become part of a concerted global effort to stop the conflict and examine the legality of Israel’s policies toward Palestinians.

Israel has said it would not participate in the hearings, and sent a letter to the court last year arguing that they were unwarranted and failed to “recognize Israel’s right and duty to protect its citizens” or its right to security.

The United States has strongly defended Israel during the war, including on Tuesday, when it cast the lone veto against a U.N. Security Council resolution that called for an immediate cease-fire, saying it would disrupt efforts to free hostages held in Gaza.

On Wednesday, Mr. Visek asked the court to uphold the “established framework” for peace that he said U.N. bodies had agreed to — one that is contingent on a “broader end to belligerence” against Israel — rather than to heed calls by other nations for Israel’s “unilateral and unconditional withdrawal” from occupied territories.

The Oct. 7 Hamas-led attacks on Israel were a reminder of the threats facing the country and of its security needs, Mr. Visek said, “and they persist.”

“Regrettably, those needs have been ignored by many of the participants in asserting how the court should consider the questions before it,” he said, referring to others countries’ testimony in the hearings.

Mr. Visek’s appearance directly preceded that of Vladimir Tarabrin, Russia’s ambassador to the Netherlands.

When he took the microphone, Mr. Tarabrin said Russia values its “stable relations” with Israel and expressed condolences over Oct. 7. But in what appeared to be a thinly veiled swipe at the United States, he said Russia “cannot accept the logic” of those who “try to defend the indiscriminate violence against civilians” in Gaza by citing Israel’s right to defend itself.

“Violence can only lead to more violence,” he said.

The court, which often hears staid disputes among nations, has lately become a venue for countries to oppose Israel. Last month, South Africa argued at the court that Israel was committing genocide against Palestinians in Gaza — a charge Israel strongly rejected. The judges have not ruled on that claim, but issued an interim order for Israel to take steps to prevent genocide in Gaza.

On Tuesday, South Africa forcefully condemned Israel’s policies against Palestinians, calling them “a more extreme form of apartheid,” the race-based system of laws that deprived Black South Africans for decades.

Israel has long rejected accusations that it operates an apartheid system, calling such allegations a slur and pointing to what it says is a history of being singled out for condemnation by U.N. bodies and tribunals.On Wednesday, the Israeli Parliament voted overwhelmingly in support of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s stance against any unilateral recognition of a Palestinian state.

The United States has remained Israel’s staunchest defender internationally. But the Biden administration, under increasing pressure from parts of the Democratic Party, has also shown signs of impatience with Israel’s conduct of the war, the rising toll in Gaza and the plight of Palestinians under Israeli occupation.

President Biden this month said that Israel’s military response in Gaza — which began after Hamas’s Oct. 7 attacks — had been “ over the top ” and that the immense civilian suffering had “got to stop.” The remarks came days after Mr. Biden imposed broad financial sanctions against four Israeli men over violent attacks against Palestinians in the West Bank.

After the hearings, which are scheduled to conclude on Monday, the court will give an advisory opinion, a decision that is expected to take several months. The opinion will be nonbinding.

Cassandra Vinograd contributed reporting.

— Marlise Simons

movie scene depicting events from the past

Maps: Tracking the Attacks in Israel and Gaza

See where Israel has bulldozed vast areas of Gaza, as its invasion continues to advance south.


As Russia and the U.S. argue before the I.C.J., each accuses the other of hypocrisy.

The United States and Russia made opposing statements on Wednesday during hearings at the International Court of Justice focused on whether Israel’s lengthy occupation of Palestinian-majority territory is legal.

They were among 50 nations expected to address the I.C.J. in the matter — an unusually high number — underscoring the fact that the court, which once focused on staid issues like border disputes, has suddenly become a venue to wade into major, sensitive international issues.

“The I.C.J., which was previously seen as a kind of snoozy backwater of the U.N. system where disputes went to die, is turning into more and more of a platform for states to try to corner each other,” said Richard Gowan, the U.N. director for the International Crisis Group.

As Russia and the United States each use the court’s newfound prominence to promote their own agendas, they have both accused the other of hypocrisy.

The United States on Wednesday repeated its longstanding defense of Israel’s conduct of the occupation of the West Bank and East Jerusalem as part of its need to defend itself, while Russia said that need failed to justify Israel’s treatment of Palestinian civilians.

In recent months, the court, the U.N.’s highest judicial body, has also heard preliminary arguments in a case South Africa brought against Israel, accusing it of genocide, while Ukraine and Russia have faced off concerning their war.

The increased politicization of a court created around strictly legal issues makes larger powers uneasy, Mr. Gowan said. Recent cases involving Israel, Ukraine and Myanmar touched on issues that the United States, Russia and China, respectively, consider their bailiwick.

“The I.C.J. is a place where little countries can line up and leverage international law to constrain what big powers and their allies try to do,” Mr. Gowan said.

The case regarding the legality of Israel’s occupation was triggered by a General Assembly vote long before the current war. In a separate case brought by South Africa after the war started, the judges have not yet ruled on whether Israel committed genocide, but decreed that Israel must take action to prevent it.

On Wednesday, the United States and Russia did not address each other directly in the courtroom in The Hague. But Russia’s ambassador to the Netherlands, Vladimir Tarabrin, criticized the United States several times, calling American policy an impediment to finding a peaceful solution to the Israeli-Palestinian dispute.

Both the United States and Russia have repeatedly been accused of employing a double standard at the U.N. in the two conflicts, with the United States not pushing for a cease-fire in Gaza while demanding one in Ukraine, as Russia criticizes Israel for some of the very things Moscow has done in Ukraine.

For example, Ambassador Tarabrin said on Wednesday that the deaths that Israel experienced in the Hamas-led attack on Oct. 7 did not justify the subsequent level of Israeli violence in Gaza. Though the hearing on the legality of Israel’s occupation does not center on Gaza, from which Israel withdrew in 2005, much of Russia’s argument focused on the current war there.

“We cannot accept the logic of those officials in Israel and some Western countries who try to defend the indiscriminate violence against civilians by referring to Israel’s duty to protect its nationals,” Mr. Tarabrin said.

Yet the Kremlin has said that it was forced to invade eastern Ukraine to protect ethnic Russians under attack there. The Russian invasion, started in 2022, has devastated dozens of cities, towns and villages across the region and killed thousands of civilians.

Asked about that double standard in an interview with the BBC earlier this month, Russia’s ambassador to the United Nations, Vassily A. Nebenzia, mostly dodged the question. He argued that people in the regions annexed by Moscow voted in a referendum in September 2022 to join Russia, a referendum rejected as illegal by most United Nations members.

A vast majority of United Nations members have voted repeatedly to demand that Russia stop the violence in Ukraine. The I.C.J. issued a similar ruling, although earlier this month it rejected many accusations that Ukraine made against Russia in the court, basically saying that its jurisdiction was limited.

In the hearing this week, Israel has declined to take part in the proceedings, and the Russian ambassador stressed that no ruling should be imposed on it. The court is expected to release a nonbinding advisory opinion.

The I.C.J. has no enforcement mechanism — it can only forward its rulings for action to the Security Council. The five permanent members can veto it, as the United States has done repeatedly with Gaza cease-fire resolutions and Russia with attempts to halt the fighting in Ukraine.

Marlise Simons and Cassandra Vinograd contributed reporting.

— Neil MacFarquhar

An Israeli rape-crisis group’s report finds ‘systematic and widespread’ sexual violence on and after Oct. 7.

An Israeli organization that supports survivors of sexual abuse released a report on Wednesday concluding that acts of sexual violence against Israelis during and after the Hamas-led attack on Oct. 7 were “systematic and widespread.”

“The report finds that the Hamas attack included brutal acts of violent rape, often involving threats with weapons, specifically directed towards injured women,” said the group, The Association of Rape Crisis Centers in Israel, an umbrella organization of nine such organizations in Israel. The report added that many incidents involved gang rape.

“Often, the rape was perpetrated in front of an audience — partners, family or friends — in a manner intended to increase the pain and humiliation of all present,” the report said.

The attackers also “cut and mutilated sexual organs and other body parts with knives,” the report said.

The report asserted that its information and analysis “clearly demonstrates that sexual abuse was not an isolated incident or sporadic cases but rather a clear operational strategy.”

Based on analysis of the information collected by the organization, the report concluded that sex crimes were committed against people at a rave site, in kibbutzim and at military bases and against hostages held in Gaza.

The report was based on testimonies, interviews with emergency medical workers and articles, including a monthslong investigation published by The New York Times in late December, which documented a pattern of gender-based violence in the Hamas-led Oct. 7 attack.

The subject of sexual violence has been among the more contentious aspects of the Oct. 7 attack. Multiple news organizations have reported allegations of sexual violence during the attack, and The Times, on Dec. 28, included accounts from several eyewitnesses who said they saw women being sexually assaulted and killed.

The Times viewed photographs and videos of women’s bodies that bore signs suggestive of sexual assault and mutilation. The Times also spoke with emergency responders who said they found bodies of naked or half-naked women and girls who appeared to have been sexually assaulted.

Some critics on social media have challenged these findings, saying there was not enough forensic evidence to substantiate the claims. Experts have said that it is not unusual for such evidence to be minimal in cases of wartime sexual violence.

Women’s advocacy groups in Israel have denounced the pushback, saying that the numerous and detailed allegations that Israeli women were brutally attacked that day have been held to different standards than allegations of women in other places who claimed to have been victimized.

Demonstrators in Israel, angry at what they consider a slow response by the U.N. and other international organizations, have chanted at protests, “Me too, unless you’re a Jew!”

Hamas, which the United States and the European Union consider a terrorist group , has repeatedly denied that its fighters perpetrated sexual violence on Oct. 7. For instance, three days after the Times investigation was published, Hamas said in a statement that the group’s leaders “categorically deny such allegations” and called it a part of Israel’s attempt to justify the killing of Palestinian civilians.

Hamas has maintained that its fighters’ “religion, values and culture” forbid such acts, and that, as Muslims, they are “honor-bound to respect and protect all women.” The group has said it welcomes any international inquiries into allegations of sexual violence.

In late January, a U.N. team visited Israel to examine these reports , led by Pramila Patten, the U.N. secretary-general’s special representative on sexual violence in conflict. Ms. Patten’s office said she will share some preliminary findings and that additional information will be included in her office’s annual report on sexual violence in conflict .

Orit Sulitzeanu, the executive director of the Association of Rape Crisis Centers in Israel, said in a news release that the report was submitted to decision makers at the U.N. “Silence is no longer an option,” she said. “We expect international organizations to take a clear stance; we cannot stand on the sidelines.”

— Adam Sella

A member of the Israeli war cabinet reports ‘preliminary signs’ of progress in a cease-fire deal.

Benny Gantz, a member of Israel’s war cabinet, said Wednesday night that “preliminary signs” of progress have emerged on a deal to pause fighting in Gaza in exchange for the release of Israeli hostages.

Without offering specifics, Mr. Gantz said there has been momentum on a new draft of the deal that indicates a “possibility to advance.”

“We won’t stop looking for the way, and won’t miss any opportunity to bring the boys and girls home,” Mr. Gantz said in a televised news conference.

According to Israeli officials, about 130 hostages are still held in Gaza, though officials believe that at least 30 of them are dead.

As the war stretches into its fifth month, the status of a possible truce remains unclear, with various sides offering vastly different perspectives on where talks stand. On Saturday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel said cease-fire discussions had reached an impasse after delegations from Israel, Hamas, the U.S., Qatar and Egypt met for a round of indirect talks in Cairo.

A spokeswoman for the prime minister’s office, Ilana Stein, said in response to a question at a news conference earlier on Wednesday that she had no comment on whether Israel intended to send a delegation to future talks in Cairo or Paris, where multiple peace brokers assembled last month to push for a cease-fire.

Hamas said that a delegation led by Ismail Haniyeh, the group’s political chief, was in Cairo on Tuesday to discuss efforts to end the war with Egyptian officials.

Later on Wednesday, Mr. Gantz warned that Israel was preparing to advance into the southern city of Rafah once the civilians there are evacuated, and that without a deal to release the hostages Israel would continue its military operations during the holy month of Ramadan, which begins in March.

Hundreds of thousands of Palestinians have fled to Rafah after being displaced from their homes by the fighting in northern Gaza. The international community has denounced Israel’s plan to invade the city, but Israeli leaders have repeatedly said that they are continuing with their plans.

An Israeli raid in the West Bank city of Jenin kills 3, the military says.

Israeli forces killed three people and detained at least 14 others in an overnight raid in the West Bank city of Jenin, the Israeli military said on Wednesday.

The military said that the raid had targeted “terrorism” and was part of a broader operation in the Israeli-occupied West Bank. The Palestinian Authority’s news agency, Wafa, said Israeli forces had stormed two houses in a densely packed area of Jenin, resulting in “violent confrontations.”

The agency reported that a 26-year-old man had been killed, three people had been injured and homes and vehicles were damaged. It said eight Palestinians had been detained during the raid, which began when undercover Israeli special forces entered the area.

Most of the violence was in a crowded neighborhood of the city that was founded more than 70 years ago as a refugee camp for Palestinians displaced in the wars surrounding the creation of the state of Israel. The neighborhood has long been a bastion of armed resistance against the Israeli occupation of the West Bank. Israeli military raids there, common for years, have become far more frequent since the Hamas-led terrorist attack launched against Israel from Gaza on Oct. 7.

On Wednesday afternoon, just hours after Israeli forces withdrew from Jenin, residents were still “very anxious and scared” and anticipating another raid, leading some to leave for nearby towns, said Faraj Jundi, a resident of the camp and a volunteer paramedic.

When news of the raid reached him around 7 p.m. on Tuesday, Mr. Jundi said, he immediately gathered his wife and six children in the safest room of their home and tried his best to calm them down before he headed out to treat the wounded. He was still very worried about his family, he said, because “there is no safety in the camp.”

By the time Israeli forces left, Mr. Jundi said, “The smell of death, sewage, and blood and the smell of fear and terror” permeated the camp, where roads and other infrastructure — already severely damaged by previous raids — had been bulldozed by Israeli forces. “We fear that we could suffer the same fate as Gaza,” he said.

Since the Oct. 7 attacks set off Israel’s war with Hamas in Gaza, hundreds of Palestinians have been detained in raids in the West Bank, which Israeli officials describe as counterterrorism operations against Hamas and an extension of the war.

At least 400 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli forces in the West Bank in since Oct. 7, according to health officials, making it the deadliest period there in nearly two decades. Deadly violence against Palestinians by Israeli settlers in the West Bank has also reached record levels since Oct. 7, according to the United Nations.

This week, the International Court of Justice in The Hague started hearing six days of arguments over Israel’s “occupation, settlement and annexation” of Palestinian territories, including the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

It is the first time the world’s highest court has been asked to give an advisory opinion on the issue, which has been the subject of years of debates and resolutions at the United Nations. The U.N. General Assembly asked the court to review the legality of Israeli policies in the Palestinian territories more than a year ago, before Israel’s war against Hamas in Gaza.

Adam Sella and Cassandra Vinograd contributed reporting from Tel Aviv.

— Hiba Yazbek reporting from Jerusalem

Scientists’ worst-case model for Gaza over the next 6 months: 85,000 deaths from war and disease.

An escalation of the war in Gaza could lead to the deaths of 85,000 Palestinians from injuries and disease over the next six months, in the worst of three situations that prominent epidemiologists have modeled in an effort to understand the potential future death toll of the conflict .

These fatalities would be in addition to the more than 29,000 deaths in Gaza that local authorities have attributed to the conflict since it began in October. The estimate represents “excess deaths,” above what would have been expected had there been no war.

In a second scenario, assuming no change in the current level of fighting or humanitarian access, there could be an additional 58,260 deaths in the enclave over the next six months, according to the researchers, from Johns Hopkins University and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.

That figure could climb to 66,720 if there were outbreaks of infectious disease such as cholera, their analysis found.

Even in the best of the three possibilities that the research team described — an immediate and sustained cease-fire with no outbreak of infectious disease — another 6,500 Gazans could die over the next six months as a direct result of the war, the analysis found.

The population of the Gaza Strip before the war was 2.2 million.

“This is not a political message or advocacy,” said Dr. Francesco Checchi, professor of epidemiology and international health at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.

“We simply wanted to put it at the front of people’s minds and on the desks of decision makers,” he added, “so that it can be said afterward that when these decisions were taken, there was some available evidence on how this would play out in terms of lives.”

Dr. Checchi and his colleagues estimated the projected excess deaths from health data that was available for Gaza before the war began and from that collected through more than four months of fighting.

Their study considers deaths from traumatic injuries, infectious diseases, maternal and neonatal causes, and noncommunicable diseases for which people can no longer receive medication or treatment, such as dialysis.

Dr. Checchi said the analysis made it possible to quantify the potential impact of a cease-fire in lives. “The decisions that are going to be taken over the next few days and weeks matter hugely in terms of the evolution of the death toll in Gaza,” he said.

The projected 6,500 deaths even with a cease-fire is predicated on the assumption there will not be epidemics of infectious disease. With an outbreak of cholera, measles, polio or meningitis, that figure would be 11,580, said Dr. Paul Spiegel, director of the Hopkins Center for the Humanitarian Health and an author of the research, which has not been peer-reviewed.

While it is obvious that a military escalation would bring additional casualties, he added, policymakers should be cognizant of the range in the number of deaths that these scenarios indicate.

“We hope to bring some reality to it,” Dr. Spiegel said. “This is 85,000 additional deaths in a population where 1.2 percent of that population has already been killed.”

Patrick Ball, an expert on quantitative analysis of deaths in conflict who was not involved in the research, said it was unusual to see such a rigorous effort to calculate the potential humanitarian cost of an ongoing war.

“The paper illuminates this conflict in a way that we haven’t had in any prior conflicts,” said Dr. Ball, who is the director of research for the Human Rights Data Analysis Group, a nonprofit organization. “It illuminates the probable costs in human lives and human suffering of different kinds of future actions that are under human control.”

“People are going to make decisions that are going to lead to one of these three scenarios, or some complex mix of them, and this gives us a sense of what the likely outcomes of those decisions are,” he added.

The analysis projects that fatalities from traumatic injuries in Gaza over the next six months will be distributed across all ages and genders.

“Forty-three percent of the trauma deaths occur among females, and 42 percent are among children under 19 years,” the paper says, which “reflects the intensity and widespread nature of bombardment.”

Even with an immediate cease-fire, war-related deaths would continue, according to the analysis. The toll includes deaths of people who succumb to previous injuries or who are hurt by unexploded ordnance, deaths of babies and women for whom complex care in childbirth is not possible, and deaths of undernourished children who are unable to fight off infections such as pneumonia.

“I don’t think people realize how long it will take for that to change,” Dr. Spiegel said.

— Stephanie Nolen Stephanie Nolen covers global health.

The Israeli military’s top lawyer reports some troop conduct that crosses ‘the criminal threshold.’

The Israeli military’s top lawyer on Wednesday said that her office had discovered unacceptable conduct by Israeli forces in Gaza, including some that appeared criminal, and warned that commanders must prevent unjustified force and destruction or plunder of civilian property.

In a letter to officers, Maj. Gen. Yifat Tomer Yerushalmi, the military’s advocate general, said that her unit had encountered “conduct that deviates from I.D.F. values ​​and orders,” using the abbreviation for Israel’s military.

She said this included “inappropriate statements that encourage unacceptable phenomena; the application of non-operationally justified force, including on detainees; looting, which includes the use or disposal of private property that doesn’t serve an operational use; and the destruction of civilian property against orders.”

General Tomer Yerushalmi’s letter described the unacceptable actions as not representing the Israeli military as a whole, but said that they harm the international perception of Israel and its military in a way that “is difficult to exaggerate.”

The letter said that following investigations into these incidents, some of which “cross the criminal threshold,” military officials would determine how they would be addressed. It did not elaborate on the specific incidents. The letter called on commanders to prevent future incidents by creating an environment of zero tolerance.

International criticism of Israel has mounted as the war has taken an increasing toll on Gaza, where local health authorities say that more than 29,000 people have been killed and many more wounded. Israel’s conduct of the war is under scrutiny at the International Court of Justice, the United Nations’ highest court, and the country must present a report there by next week to show how it is complying with a ruling that it must take action to action to prevent acts of genocide by its forces in Gaza.

Some incidents involving Israeli soldiers have been filmed and posted on social media — sometimes by the soldiers themselves — forcing senior military officials to publicly discuss discipline . The military declined to comment on Wednesday on how many soldiers it had disciplined since the start of the war.

A visual investigation by The New York Times in early February found that soldiers in Gaza had vandalized shops and classrooms, destroyed what appeared to be civilian property and promoted inflammatory ideas of building settlements in Gaza. In response to questions by The Times, the military said in a written statement at the time that “the conduct of the force that emerges from the footage is deplorable and does not comply with the army’s orders.”

In January, The Times also found that Palestinian detainees from Gaza had been stripped to their underwear and beaten while they were held incommunicado, and that some had been interrogated for months. In response to questions in that period, the military said that Israeli authorities were treating detainees in accordance with international law.

Maj. Gen. Tomer Yerushalmi’s letter came a day after Israel’s chief of staff announced that the military would begin investigating its response and security failures leading up the Oct. 7 Hamas-led attacks on the country.

— Adam Sella reporting from Tel Aviv

Syria blames Israel for a deadly strike in Damascus.

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Syrian state media reported on Wednesday that an airstrike on a residential building in Damascus had killed two people, and said that Israel was responsible for the attack.

The Israeli military declined to comment on the strike, which the Syrian government’s official SANA news agency said hit a building in the Kafr Sousa neighborhood just after 9:30 a.m. The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which monitors the war in Syria, said that a third person had been killed by shrapnel from the attack, which also damaged surrounding buildings.

A strike last February in the same neighborhood killed at least five people . At the time, a senior Western diplomat said the strike was targeting Iranians near a site used by the Iranian military.

While Israel did not comment on the latest attack, it has acknowledged hundreds of past strikes on Iran-linked targets in Syria.

Israel, Iran and Iranian proxies such as Syria have been waging a shadow war by air, land, sea and cyberspace for years. Iran supports and arms a network of proxy militias that have been fighting with Israel, including Hamas and other Palestinian groups.

The strikes and counter-strikes across the region have escalated in the wake of the Oct. 7 Hamas-led attacks against Israel. Last month, Iran accused Israel of launching an airstrike on the Syrian capital, Damascus, that killed senior Iranian military figures.

Cassandra Vinograd and Hwaida Saad contributed reporting.

In Brazil, Blinken intervenes in a dispute with Israel.

Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken confronted President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva of Brazil on Wednesday about his recent sharp comments on Israel, including the Brazilian leader’s comparison of Israel’s attacks in Gaza to the Holocaust .

The sparring showed how the enduring war in Gaza has continued to expand into a broader diplomatic problem for the United States, and how the war’s mounting death toll has spurred more nations to speak out against Israel’s offensive.

An intensifying dispute between Brazil and Israel broke out this week over Mr. Lula’s comments on Sunday that the only comparison to Israel’s killing of Palestinian civilians in Gaza is “when Hitler decided to kill the Jews.” It was a significant escalation of his previous rhetoric.

Since then, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel has said Mr. Lula “crossed a red line,” Israel’s foreign minister called Brazil’s ambassador to the Holocaust museum and scolded him in front of the media, and Israel’s official account on X said Mr. Lula “went full on Holocaust denier.”

Brazil responded by recalling its ambassador to Israel “for consultations” and, according to Brazilian news outlets , discussed expelling Israel’s ambassador to Brazil if the situation escalated further.

In a 90-minute meeting in Brasília, Brazil’s capital, Mr. Blinken had a “frank exchange” with Mr. Lula, saying that he disagreed with the Brazilian leader’s recent statements and that the United States was trying to get hostages held by Hamas freed and get extended humanitarian pauses enacted, according to a senior U.S. State Department official.

The official spoke on the condition of anonymity while on the secretary’s flight to Rio de Janeiro. Mr. Blinken is in Brazil for meetings at a conference of foreign ministers from the Group of 20 nations.

A senior Brazilian official who spoke on the condition of anonymity said that the conversation about Israel was calm and respectful, and that Mr. Lula condemned both the Hamas-led attacks on Oct. 7, and the scale of Israel’s response, emphasizing the deaths of Palestinian children.

The conversation came at the end of the meeting, and Mr. Blinken opened the topic by discussing how his stepfather, Samuel Pisar , survived the Holocaust, the Brazilian official said. The biggest point of contention was over Mr. Lula’s stance that Israel was committing genocide in Gaza, the official said.

Both officials said the two leaders agreed on the goal of ending the conflict as soon as possible. However, Mr. Blinken emphasized that must be done under conditions that prevent Hamas from carrying out another Oct. 7-style attack and that end the long-running cycle of violence.

That the Israel-Gaza war has become a point of friction in the Biden administration’s dealings with one of the most influential nations in Latin America, one considered a leading voice in the region, illustrates how the conflict has thrown a shadow on American diplomacy around the world.

— Jack Nicas and Edward Wong

The W.H.O. says Nasser hospital is still without power, which Israel denies.

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The World Health Organization said on Tuesday that the Nasser Medical Complex in Khan Younis had no electricity or running water after an Israeli raid last week, calling the destruction around the hospital “indescribable” and saying piles of medical waste and garbage were breeding disease.

But Israeli authorities pushed back on the W.H.O.’s description of dire conditions at the hospital, maintaining that the facility had sufficient medical supplies and that Israel had delivered a generator for the intensive care unit and food for the remaining patients.

Israeli forces raided the grounds of the facility — one of the last and largest hospitals still in operation in Gaza — late Thursday. Videos posted online showed chaotic scenes from inside smoke-filled corridors. The military said it had arrested 20 people who had participated in the Oct. 7 Hamas attack on Israel and had found mortar shells and grenades it said belonged to the militant group.

According to the W.H.O. , an estimated 130 sick and injured patients and at least 15 doctors and nurses remain inside the hospital.

Gaza’s Health Ministry said on Friday that the electric generators powering the hospital had stopped, and that five patients had died as a result. In a statement on Tuesday, the W.H.O. said that the hospital’s intensive care unit was not functioning and that, aside from minimal supplies it had been able to bring in, the remaining patients and staff were “cut off from aid.” The last remaining patient in the I.C.U. had been transferred to a ward where patients are receiving basic care, the W.H.O. said.

Col. Moshe Tetro, the head of the Israeli government agency that oversees aid in Gaza, said at a news conference that there had been electric power in the intensive care unit throughout the operation. He said Israel had delivered a generator to ensure this was the case.

He acknowledged that there were problems with power outages in other parts of the hospital, but he said the issues were not related to Israel’s raid last week.

Neither the Israeli claims nor those of the W.H.O. and the Gaza Health Ministry could be independently verified.

Colonel Tetro also said that Israel had delivered “large amounts of water, food and baby food for those remaining in the hospital.” Based on conversations with the hospital’s staff, he added that “it is our understanding that there is no shortage of medical supplies at the moment.”

Colonel Tetro said that Israel has also assisted in transferring patients to other places for treatment since the raid.

Before the raid, the Israeli military ordered an evacuation of thousands of displaced people who had taken shelter at the hospital. Israel has repeatedly said that Hamas uses hospitals for military activities, a claim Hamas regularly denies.

The Israeli military said that the raid was based partly on intelligence that hostages taken by Hamas during the Oct. 7 attacks on Israel had been held at the complex and that their bodies might be there. No hostages have been reported as found.

On Friday, the Israeli military said medication bearing the names of Israeli hostages had been discovered during a search. The source of the drugs and how they were used was being investigated, the military said in a statement.

While Israel and Hamas reached a deal last month to deliver medications to the remaining hostages, it has been unclear if any had reached the captives. Qatar, which has served as a mediator, said on Tuesday that Hamas had confirmed that it had received the medications and that it had started delivering them.


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