The Top 10 Confession Scenes in Modern Film

By  · Published on July 19th, 2012

by David Christopher Bell

Nothing more satisfying than a good solid confession, unless of course it’s your own confession – then it kind of sucks. What’s great about films is that there’s never a boring confession; no one ever spends 120 minutes of movie watching to learn that the hero was the one who accidently dented his neighbor’s car.

So – here are some confessions in films that, because of the performance or the situation, stood out amongst the rest.

Oh also, by definition alone the following is practically all spoilers – so heads up.

10. Ray – In Bruges

In Bruges

It’s the only confession scene on this list that actually takes place in a confessional – and the reason it’s here is because that, while our main man Ray has nothing to actually confess at the beginning of the session, that sure changes fast – and not in the way he intended.

In Bruges went under a lot of radars, but it’s probably one of the most endearing crime films out there. Personally speaking, it’s the film that made Colin Farrell worth affection and respect. It is sad and honest as well as ridiculously silly. Not to mention that Jordan Prentice, the guy who played Howard The Duck, gets karate chopped while on a monstrously generous amount of cocaine.

9. Harry Tasker – True Lies

True Lies is proof that Arnold Schwarzenegger and James Cameron should do more movies together where he isn’t playing a robot from the future. It’s wonderfully self-aware as an action film and has everything you could possibly want from watching Schwarzenegger kill dudes. On top of that, Cameron’s ambition at the time made the stunts and plot thrillingly unique. Silly, sure – but still fun as hell to watch.

Also Bill Paxton playing an amazing sleaze-bag and Jamie Lee Curtis doing a strip scene – where else do you get to see such things?

The confession, of course, is when Harry has been drugged by the enemy and is now tied up across from his wife, who has only just found out that he is a secret agent guy… like, super-duper secret… boss-with-an-eye-patch secret. We all know the best part of this scene – which is when she asks him if he’s ever killed anybody and he says yes, but qualifies it with “but they were all bad.”

8. Darth Vader – The Empire Strikes Back

Do I have to even specify here?

There’s some interesting facts surrounding this line – the best has to be that James Earl Jones, after recording it, proclaimed that he thought Vader was lying. Another was when David Prowse, the man who played Vader on screen, was told to deliver a line saying that Obi-Wan killed Luke’s father. Mark Hamill wasn’t even told until right before the camera starting rolling on his famous reaction shot – supposedly to keep his reaction more real.

It seems like Prowse really got the shaft there – not only was he told that he would be playing Vader in his unmasked state during Return of the Jedi and was instead replaced by Sebastian Shaw, but they didn’t even have the decency to let him in on the movie’s plot twist! Apparently he only found out about it when he saw the film in theaters!

7. Matthew Poncelet – Dead Man Walking

Oh man. This film did a great job at making you feel bad for everyone. It showed the gray area, the struggle between right and wrong as we watch a man on death row being killed for something he totally did. Watching it we are forced to question the morality of inflicting death as a punishment for inflicting death, and in the end there is still no clear answer.

The only reason this worked is because of Matthew’s confession. The film does a great job at insinuating that we’re going to find out that he’s somehow innocent of his crimes, and some great tragedy will ensure because of that. Instead – we find out just the opposite in a tearful and honest confession, and despite this, tragedy remains. We don’t feel any less bad about the whole situation – after all, people are dead and people will die.

So yeah – everything sucks.

6. Teddy Gammel – Memento

This is actually not dissimilar to Dead Man Walking in that the confession doesn’t really change the punishment. Teddy is absolved, but we already know that it’s too late. That being said – Teddy got what was coming to him. He was a terrible friend.

A good friend would have got a tranquilizer gun and a tattoo removal appointment and just solved the situation once and for all instead of enabling our forgetful hero every step of the way. He should have at least committed him, because it’s not like his purgatorial quest for justice was anything you could call pleasant. Isn’t Teddy a cop? It’s not like he can’t find a safe way to help his friend without also aiding a murder spree.

Read on…

5. Aaron – Primal Fear

Ah, that moment where everybody took a second to write down Edward Norton’s name so they don’t forget it. It’s pretty amazing to think that this was his first movie (the first one that counted at least). His career literally started in freaking 1996 – weird huh? It feels like he’s been around forever at this point, but the guy was like 27 when he made his debut in this film. Boy did it stick.

What this scene did was bring a disturbing level of futility to the whole dynamic of the character, who up until that moment was plagued with a split personality. Finding out that he was faking it the whole time and was really just a cold blooded, senseless lunatic suddenly gave the brutal killing no rhyme or reason. Nothing mattered – there was no riddle. It’s truly a horror moment in a non-horror movie.

4. Evelyn Mulwray – Chinatown

We’re getting into the big dogs here.

It’s funny how OK it is for the good guy to slap the hell out of women in the noir genre, and it’s almost celebrated in this film. I’m not complaining; Jack Nicholson really does know how to whack a dame in this scene, which is of course the famous one where Evelyn (Faye Dunaway) admits the abusive relationship her father had with her – the result of which being her sister/daughter who she is trying to protect. It’s pretty complicated, and completely unnecessary to the plot. But of course, that’s the whole point.

What is great about this film is that it takes into account the unrelated and random variables one might expect to run into as a private detective. Everything is a clue, and yet nothing is a clue. That’s why people love this film – it really embodies the stereotypes of the film noir genre, or technically the neo-noir genre if you want to get picky about it.

3. Col. Nathan R. Jessup – A Few Good Men

So, same guy as before – only he’s on the other side of the confession… also he’s old and angrier.

Jessup is the ultimate boss fantasy. It’s that prick attitude and the overly confident condescension that is most common in hated employers, and like all hated employers it’s extremely satisfying to see those traits turned against him. It’s everyone’s daydream isn’t it? Your boss, red in the face, screaming about pissing in your eye sockets while being hauled off to oblivion, successfully exposed for the arrogant bastard that his is. That’s worker heaven.

Of course he isn’t really their boss in the film, but he represents all that is horrible about authority and that’s what matters most. It’s also just fun to watch Jack Nicholson scream obscene threats at people, as is it also fun to watch Tom Cruise be publicly debased by obscene threats – so putting those two things together is just bliss.

2. Patrick Bateman – American Psycho

It’s the iconic Christian Bale role that doesn’t involve the letter E. This monologue, an amazing monologue, is probably the quickest way to make a person respect Bale as an actor. It’s also a great way to show just how funny and twisted this movie is – it’s a perfect sample.

Now, feel free to correct me if I’m wrong here – and I’ve read the book and know that the answer is much more defined than in the film – but I never thought the point of this story was whether or not this confession, the entire narration, was true. Did he kill these people or didn’t he? Who cares? The moral here, to me at least, seemed to be that this society of people were so diluted to begin with that a complete lunatic could walk amongst them and never be noticed.

It’s an Inception ending in that the whole point of the ending was that it didn’t have a conclusive yes or no answer – it’s the doubt that’s real. People hate that shit because they want answers, but sometimes life isn’t that simple.

1. Dr. Roberto Miranda – Death and the Maiden

“I loved it… I was sorry it ended… I was very sorry it ended.”

Holy shit.

Seriously, Ben… Mr. Kingsley… holy shit you really know how to do that thing where you pretend to be someone you’re not while being recorded by a camera… I can’t think of the word at the moment because I’m too busy staring at the floor, but you know that word I’m talking about.

Sigourney Weaver, Ben Kingsley, and Stuart Wilson together at a single location acting out one of the most exhausting emotional and psychological battles to take place in a single night since Who’s Afraid Of Virginia Woolf. This film is freaking intense from beginning to end, and all of it from the acting and acting alone.

I have to admit, that’s all I have to say.

So what films did I forget? Please tell me!

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