Book Review: ‘Moments That Made the Movies’

Moments That Made the Movies Review

When you think of Psycho, what scene comes to mind? Why? How about When Harry Met Sally or The Shining? In Moments That Made the Movies, author David Thomson discusses moments in 72 films that span 100 years that may not be his favorites or the best in film history, but moments that he remembers. As Thomson states, a memorable “moment” in a film can last a minute or two or twenty minutes. It’s not the length, it’s the impact and the memory of it that makes the moment so noteworthy.

I think the fact that the scenes chosen may not be the ones you think of when you hear the name of a movie adds so much to the enjoyment of the film and the book itself. For example, think of Psycho. I’ll bet you’re thinking of the shower scene. However, in his book, Thomson discusses the scene in the parlor when Bates (Anthony Perkins) and Marion (Jane Leigh) have their peaceful conversation over sandwiches. We see a caring, gentle Bates – the first kind person Marion has been with in the movie thus far. It is significant that after this conversation that Marion decides to return the stolen $40,000 the next day. After reading Thomson’s thoughtful discourse on the movie, I see so much that I had missed or just not thought about. I, too, see the beauty and impact of this scene and the way I saw the characters.

The photographs (250 of them) are beautiful and plentiful, and the subject matter is very interesting. This is a well-written book that is not overshadowed by the photos, even though most readers will probably browse through it looking for the photos of their favorite scenes. Once I started reading about the films and the scenes from them, I truly couldn’t stop. I read about movies I have never seen but now plan on seeing, as well as some of the most popular movies that most people, including me, have seen. I think all readers will have this experience with the book.

Moments That Made the Movies
A scene from 'Casablanca' (Image credit: Warner Bros/The Kobal Collection at Art Resource, NY)

A completed film is the composite of many, many talents and moments. In Moments That Made the Movies, Thomson pulls little-known facts, movie history, and his obvious love of this art form together to create a thoroughly enjoyable book. If you love movies, the subject matter and the writing combine to make this a book you need to read.

Reviewed by Karen Mitchell

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