Watch Scenes From These Eight Best Picture Nominees

Inventive and surprising moments happened in front of and behind the camera this awards season. Here’s a look at memorable sequences in the top contenders.

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By Mekado Murphy

This year’s nominees for best picture range from period war dramas to modern portraits of artists to everything (everywhere all at once) in between. As part of the series Anatomy of a Scene, I spoke to the directors of eight of the 10 nominated films. (Steven Spielberg and James Cameron remained elusive.) Each discussion opened a window into the painstaking work of moviemaking, with some unexpected insights gleaned along the way. Read about each below, then check out even more films in the series here.

‘All Quiet on the Western Front’

This scene from this World War I drama takes place in the claustrophobic confines of a bunker. But I was intrigued to learn that it was first rehearsed in a gym. That’s where the director Edward Berger blocked the sequence so the actors would know the exact beats to hit when transferring to the more constricting set.

‘The Banshees of Inisherin’

The writer and director Martin McDonagh is skilled with words, but he said the most surprising moment in this scene came from improvised action. It’s an attempt by Padraic (Colin Farrell) to reach out to his friend, Colm (Brendan Gleeson), that is met with icy disdain.


Sure, all eyes are on Elvis Presley (Austin Butler) and his gyrating hips, in this scene where he first mesmerizes an audience. But what really makes this moment electric are the audience members themselves: the professional “scream queens” that the director Baz Luhrmann employed to deliver full-on, choreographed high-pitched wails.

The Run-Up to the 2023 Oscars

The 95th Academy Awards will be presented on March 12 in Los Angeles.

‘Everything Everywhere All at Once’

Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert’s film offers plenty of surprises, but what most struck me about this fanny-pack-swinging action set piece was that the fight chorography came from a group of YouTubers. The directors reached out to the Martial Club, “kung fu nerds from Orange County,” Scheinert said.


Sometimes not even an actor knows exactly where the material may take them. This scene features a breakdown moment with Cate Blanchett that was so emotionally overwhelming it pulled the rug out from under both the director, Todd Field, and his star.

‘Top Gun: Maverick’

This scene of Maverick (Tom Cruise) conducting a hypersonic flight test is a lot of fun, but I think it’s really about the final shot. As the director Joseph Kosinski explained, a real Navy pilot performed a maneuver so low and fast that it blew Ed Harris’s khakis about, and rearranged the roof on a piece of set, destroying it and resulting in what is essentially a one-take shot.

‘Triangle of Sadness’

Ruben Ostlund’s satire of the wealthy involves a particularly nifty moment here, which comes after a yacht sinks and some characters are shipwrecked. It takes place inside a lifeboat, where one woman (Dolly de Leon), who was a cleaning lady at sea, begins to realize her value and how her status can quickly change in this crisis situation. It’s a sharp and subtle acting moment that the camera allows to play out in a wide shot.

‘Women Talking’

The screenwriter and director Sarah Polley told me something quite fascinating when talking about this sequence from her movie. She said the scene, which involves a pivotal apology from a mother to a daughter, wasn’t working at first because, she realized, it didn’t have a character actually saying the words, “I’m sorry.” She collaborated with the actors and a key crew member to add those words and create a more impactful moment.

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