The 2021 version of Dune didn’t win multiple awards for nothing. Denis Villeneuve did a marvelous job adapting Frank Herbert’s epic sci-fi novel into an equally as epic sci-fi film. At least, he did a much better job than David Lynch did in 1984.
However, while Dune was filled with many memorable scenes, I feel that 5 of them stood out the most in my mind. Thus, here’s my list of the top 5 best scenes of Villeneuve’s sci-fi epic:
Warning: spoilers for Dune below. If you want to see these scenes for yourself before deciding if they’re worthy to be on this list, stop here, and come back once you’ve come down from your spice vision.
5. Fremen Ambush Intro
You can just tell that the first 5-10 minutes of Dune were designed to hook in audiences. The Fremen lying in wait in the sand, and then springing up the stab the escorting Harkonnen soldiers? The other Fremen lying in wait with…lasguns(?) to ambush the Harkonnen spice harvester? Their failure to do any meaningful damage to the spice harvester as it returns fire with guided missiles? The Fremens’ rapid escape into their underground cave networks afterward? All taking place in the midst of a sandstorm covering the Fremen’s ambush and escape simultaneously? That epic intro is why it’s 5th place on this list. It’s just such a great way to hook people’s attention, and never let go until the film is over.
4. Duncan Idaho’s Last Stand
Duncan Idaho had a ridiculously silly name, but he more than proved himself when he gave his life to save Paul and Jessica Atreides (and briefly Dr. Liet Kynes), thus earning himself 4th place on this list. This action-heavy scene saw Duncan takedown over a dozen Sardaukar singlehandedly before one of them managed to stick with a knife. Even then though, he didn’t go down. He actually managed to get back up and ambush the Sardaukar from behind when they’d thought he was a goner, thus saving his charges from the lasgun the Emperor’s finest were using to cut open the door. See, this is how you do a last stand. Heck, there was even a nice use of foreshadowing at the beginning with Paul’s vision. Indeed, the only other death scene of an individual character that tops this is…
3. Duke Leto’s Sacrifice
Duke Leto Atreides’ “I’m taking you with me” scene was hands-down the most awesome death scene in sci-fi history. It’s why this scene gets 3rd place in my book, topping even Duncan Idaho’s last stand. Let’s look at this scene: Leto is naked and paralyzed right in front of his worst enemy, Baron Vladimir Harkonnen, who has the gall to compliment Leto on the quality of his kitchen as he’s murdering his entire house. His only weapon left is a poison-filled fake tooth Dr. Wellington Yueh inserted just before this forced meeting. The poison will kill Leto too if he uses it. So thus, he waits for the perfect moment to strike, right when the fat Baron’s face is right in front of him, complete with the pre-mortem one-liner “Here I am, here I remain”. It’s really such a shame that Baron Harkonnen survived by being a human balloon.
2. Spice Harvester Crew Rescue
The entire scene where the Atreides ornithopters rescue the crew of that spice harvester was just one long moment of awesomeness from start to finish, which lands this scene in 2nd place on my list. The entire scene not only showed how much the Atreides cared for their own, but also showed Paul’s hyper-sensitivity to spice. The scene culminated in that sandworm swallowing the entire spice harvester whole, showing the majesty of Shai-Hulud in its full glory. You can just imagine that spice harvester crying “Help me!” as it goes down the sandworm’s gullet. Oh well, at least no one went down with it. It’s just a shame that the rescue was all in vain.
1. Fall of House Atreides
It’s a good thing Denis Villeneuve decided to go a bit off-canon from the book and depict the fall of House Atreides. Otherwise, we would’ve never had this tragically epic battle scene that goes right into 1st place on this list for me. I really do mean it. This entire scene is just one big moment of awesome even if you discount Duke Leto’s sacrifice scene. The way Gurney Halleck led the armies of House Atreides into a final battle with the Harkonnen troops despite their overwhelming inferiority in numbers was as heroic as it was tragic.
The massive firepower the Harkonnen assault ship unleashed on Arrakeen was also destruction eye candy. Everything from her missile barrage to her almost scientifically accurate laser cannon cutting through the city in its effort to shoot down Duncan’s ornithopter was just gorgeous. I daresay, that the entire battle scene looked way better than anything Star Wars came up with. Let’s hope Villenueve comes up with scenes just as gorgeous in the sequel to Dune when it debuts on October 20, 2023.