4. I Am Legend
Don't be thrown off by the fact that this was a horrible movie. Will Smith was acting up a tropical storm the best he could, but nothing could overcome the early-90s CG travesties that were the "zombies" in this film. (Kyle's Edit: For clarification, Dan does not think this movie was made in the early 90s, he thinks the CGI effects in this 2007 film look like it.) That being said, if you ignore the latter half of the film wherein things take a right turn at quality and fall off a cliff into raw sewage, you're left with a fantastic short film about a man, his dog, and an unseen zombie threat. This is basically Old Yeller plus Cast Away, but with zombies. That's probably how they should have pitched it to the studios.
And we all know what's best remembered from Old Yeller. The Fresh Prince of Zombie New York spends his days either talking to himself, the humanoid remains of our fallen society, or his dog. The latter makes the most sense, especially when it's revealed through flashbacks that the dog was given to him by his daughter before being blown up in a massive plot explosion. So this dog basically represents his daughter, and he pours all his paternal instincts into it. "Eat your vegetables" he says. "Don't chase zombies" he says. Dads are the worst, am I right?
Only problem is, even though Agent J's pure uncut charisma makes him immune to the outbreak, the dog has just been lucky. So, like a comic book villain using the hero's family as his only weakness, the plot says "F-you, guy from Independence Day!" and gets the dog infected. At this point it's been established that Will is no closer to finding a cure than his son is to being a legitimate movie star, so we know the dog's a goner. At least Will can shoot her from a distance, make it quick just like Old Yeller, right?
Old Yeller was a cake-walk compared to this. Will hugs the dog while the last traces of humanity (dog-manity?) drain from her, then choke-holds her to death. Not only is he forced to kill the last remaining companion he has, but also the last symbol of the life and family he lost. It's slow, it's not easy, and he didn't enjoy it. None of us did. Somehow there are more tears for that dog than there are for the entire human race, and it feels appropriate.
There are two things with this entry that I think will surprise readers. First, that anything from Michael "if I could only find a way to explode boobs, my life's work would be complete" Bay is on this list at all, and second, I'm not going with the obvious emotional moment from this movie. As for the first point, even broken clocks are right twice a day, so let's move to the second.
This is a standard end-of-the-world movie, so the bad guy in this flick is a Texas-sized rock of death. Why not, right? But oh no, the trained astronauts can't go because reeeaaasoons! So a rag-tag group (is there any other kind of tag?) of oil drillers have to come together and blow it up from the inside, mostly because Michael Bay can't explode anything without some sort of penetration. Bruce Willis and future-Batman are at odds with one another because one is Liv Tyler's dad and the other is her boyfriend. I'll leave it to you to figure out which is which.
"I assume you're going for the scene where Die Hard saves Daredevil's life by sacrificing himself to blow up space-Texas?" No, I'm not, and don't assume things, it makes an ass out of you and me. Maybe it's the father in me, but the scene that really hit me right in the feels is before the shuttles even leave NASA.
When Baldy McGreat-on-Falling-Skies (Kyle's edit: Will Patton. His name is Will Patton.) goes to say goodbye to his kid, he's closure-blocked by his ex-wife. We are led to believe this is not something new because he gives up pretty easily in seeing his only child before shooting himself out of a cannon at a rock in space. In such an action-packed film loaded with melodramatic crying moments, this muted little tragedy stands out as an actual piece of pathos. The man just wants to say goodbye to the child who never knew him, before embarking on certain death with a side order of Steve Buscemi. He's got a perfectly valid explanation that would melt any ice-barriers the mother would erect, but he legally can't give it. So he leaves a space shuttle toy for his kid. No explanation, for all his ex-wife knows he's just being a deadbeat.
Sure there's the pay off with his family when he got back, but in that one moment, just wanting to say goodbye to his kid...and she didn't let him...and when his kid asked who was at the door...SHE LIED AND SAID IT WAS A SALESMAN!? Michael Bay just exploded my heart. It was glorious. (Kyle's Edit: Dan's heart exploded? I figured mine was the shoddy ticker.)