One take scenes are considered to be the holy grail of filmmaking – if you’re able to shoot and get it right in one shot, it means you’ve captured the perfect moment without the need for reshoots or other time-consuming filming techniques. Let’s look at movie scenes that were done in one take, and why there really was no plan B…
1) The Shawshank Redemption
In the movie The Shawshank Redemption, it is revealed that Andy Dufresne escaped from prison. But how did he do it? He simply dug a tunnel under the prison wall and walked out.
The prison sequence in The Shawshank Redemption was actually one of only two scenes in the movie that were done in one take.
There was no plan B for this scene because the actors knew they had to get it right on their first try or else they would be there all day. This technique worked to build suspense as well as keep up with the realistic feel of a real escape plan.
2) The Dark Knight
The Dark Knight is a Batman film with a lot of one take scenes. The most famous is when the Joker (Heath Ledger) walks into the police station and shoots up the room, and this scene was done in one take. The director, Christopher Nolan, wanted to show that there really was no plan b when it came to capturing this criminal. This movie is not for anyone who has issues with blood and gore because there are a lot of scenes like this in the movie. It does an amazing job of showing how brutal it can be out on the streets at night, where people will just start shooting without warning.
This is an example of a movie scene that was done in one take because there really was no Plan B. While the moment in Goodfellas is less suspenseful than some of the other scenes on this list, it’s still definitely worth mentioning as one of the best movie moments ever.
In reality, Joe Pesci really did just get up and walk out of the room while Robert De Niro was talking. The director, Martin Scorsese, had them do it again to capture a more realistic shot with Pesci looking like he’s not interested and De Niro moving around uncomfortably with his hand on his face. But Scorsese loved the spontaneity of this first take so much that he decided to keep it in.
4) The Revenant
In the film The Revenant, Leonardo DiCaprio’s character Hugh Glass is mauled by a grizzly bear. The scene was filmed in one take with no CGI and in fact, DiCaprio was actually laying on ice to make it look like he had been injured by a bear. It’s an intense scene that happens after an epic fight between him and Tom Hardy’s character John Fitzgerald which ended in Fitzgerald being stabbed. Both men are left for dead but you’ll have to watch the movie to find out what really happened next!
In 1917, Charlie Chaplin shot a movie called The Immigrant. He and his troupe of actors acted out the entire film in one take. This was because they didn’t have a plan B, so if anything went wrong they would have to start all over again.
In one scene, Chaplin is sitting at a table with two other actors when he starts choking on an olive pit that has fallen into his mouth. He pretends to be choking on stage for about a minute before one of the actors comes up behind him and pats him on the back until he spits it out and continues eating.
One of the most famous scenes in Birdman is when Michael Keaton’s character, Riggan Thomson, jumps off a balcony. The scene is done in one take and filmed on a green screen. Director Alejandro González Iñárritu explained that they did it once because there was no plan B: There was no way to do it twice. It had to be all at once or not at all, he said. We rehearsed for six months, so we knew exactly what we wanted to do. I don’t know how many times we tried this stunt before I decided to say, Let’s try it with him running. He was saying that he would try to jump over the bar instead. But I said, No, you have to run and go straight. We didn’t rehearse it; we just planned everything and tried different things until we found something that worked.
7) The Oven Scene from Baby Driver
One of the most memorable scenes in Baby Driver is when Baby (Ansel Elgort) and his boss Buddy (Kevin Spacey) are trying to rob a grocery store. They’re using a complex, choreographed sequence of events to distract the security guards while they steal the money from the safe. The scene culminates with Baby’s car crashing through the store’s ovens and he emerges, cool as ever.
But there was no plan B if they failed; that scene was done in one take because it really needed to be flawless.