The best movie scene…ever?

This is clearly a bold claim – but hear me out. I’d like to respectfully submit the USS Missouri scene from the movie “Battleship” as the best movie scene. If not the best, definitely in the top 10. I shall explain my logic below.

If you haven’t seen it, Battleship (2012) is based on the Milton Bradley board game of the same name. If you haven’t seen THAT, you are clearly a sheltered individual but here we go. Battleship is a game where two players setup a grid of ships divided by an opaque wall. Players then take turns blindly shooting at each other by naming a grid coordinate on the opposing players side. Hits and misses are declared, and once enough hits have been scored, the ship is sunk. You can totally play this on grid paper – no boardgame needed. Don’t tell Milton Bradley I said that.

Warning – movie spoilers below!

Battleship follows the naval career of Stone Hopper, a highly skilled but also highly unmotivated individual who joins the Navy in a mandated ‘turn your life around – or else’ moment. During an international naval exercise, aliens invade earth – conveniently in the exact location the international naval exercise is taking place.

The aliens shut down all communications, radar and otherwise electronic systems on the modern destroyers taking part in the exercise, effectively leaving the earth-based naval fleets blind. The alien naval fleet then systematically wipes out the fleet by shooting canisters in a row that look rather similar to the board game artillery pieces. With the modern naval fleet wiped out, total annihilation appears imminent.

To this point, the movie is a fun-filled action shoot-em-up, with some comedic moments, and some dramatic moments, but all-in, a good mindless way to kill an hour or so. Facing certain death, and drained from their repeated attempts at saving humanity, the remaining crew members of a naval destroyer are in a small boat, headed back to shore. All seems to be lost, and then ….

So what makes this scene so good? If it’s not immediately obvious let’s discuss further:

The USS Missouri is a real battleship and currently serves as a museum, exactly as depicted in the movie. (It was also used for music videos and another famous naval movie you may have heard of – 1992’s Under Siege) In 2009, it was overhauled and is still considered seaworthy. Could it have been taken out to sea for real? Absolutely. However a pivotal point is made in the linked scene – the boat is 70 years old, and nobody sailing today knows how it works. And this is where the scene really gets good – the USS Missouri museum is staffed by actual WWII naval veterans who were subsequently cast in the movie, most with speaking roles. These tough-as-nails WWII sailors are the real deal – sure their acting is a bit stiff but damn.

So we have so far: A real US Battleship. Real US WWII sailors. And then the music kicks in. Set to AC/DC’s Thunderstruck, the ship is made seaworthy and taken to battle, including a tracking shot following Hopper as he navigates the ship, eventually bracing as Missouri slams into a wave head-on.


USS Missouri Historic Photo from Naval History and Heritage Command

Author: Greg
Middle-aged father of two - still a kid at heart! Lover of all things geeky, trivia, factoids, craft beers, and procrastination. #SnorlaxIsMySpiritAnimal. #CanadianEh! "I don't know. Fly casual."

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