14 of the Most Iconic Movie Stills and Images in Cinematic History

MoviePhotosby Eli Reyes


I believe the saying goes, "A picture is worth a thousand words." So if the standard frame rate is 24 frames per second, and the average film runs between 90 and 120 minutes, than that's a kazillion-billion words... the math doesn't lie!

The folks at Empire put together a gallery of some of the most iconic movie images in cinema history. Most are stills from the film, and some are specially posed for posters or publicity shots. Either way, they are the some of the most memorable imagery we associate with these films.

I know there are literally tens of thousands of other pictures and images that are just as iconic, and in some cases more so. But it's like trying to say which of your kids you love most. What do you say to that? "This one."

Since it could take months of debate to pick out a "Top" list, I just picked out some of the ones that I could find interesting facts and trivia to go along with the stills.

So check it out, and let us know what you think! What are some of your favorite Iconic Movie Stills and Images?

The Birds


Tippi Hedren went through hell to get the perfect shots that Alfred Hitchcock wanted in his tale of nature gone mad. She had birds actually tied to her clothing on nylon threads over a week-long period, and was actually pecked in the face hard enough to draw blood at least once. On the bright side, we got a convincing sense of terror and attack that made the film even more unsettling.

Breakfast At Tiffany's


This is a shot so well-known that it's practically a lifestyle. Taken from the opening of the film, with call girl Holly Golightly (Audrey Hepburn) breakfasting at the Tiffany's window, this serene looking scene was actually quite difficult to get. Not only did Hepburn hate Danishes, but she was surrounded by a crowd of gawkers who kept making her nervous. And yet here it is on every student wall ever.

A Clockwork Orange


Author Anthony Burgess had mixed feelings about the cinema version of his novel, publicly saying he loved Malcolm McDowell and Michael Bates, and the use of music; he praised it as “brilliant”, even so brilliant, it might be dangerous. His initial response to the cinematic A Clockwork Orange was very enthusiastic; his only bother was the deletion of the story’s last chapter of redemption, an absence he blamed upon his U.S. publisher (this final chapter was omitted in all U.S. editions of the novel prior to 1986) and not director Kubrick.

The Godfather


Paramount, which wanted Ernest Borgnine, originally refused to allow Coppola to cast Brando in the role, citing difficulties Brando had on recent film sets. At one point, Coppola was told by the then-president of Paramount that "Marlon Brando will never appear in this motion picture". After pleading with the executives, Coppola was allowed to cast Brando only if he appeared in the film for much less salary than his previous films, perform a screen-test, and put up a bond saying that he would not cause a delay in the production (as he had done on previous film sets).Coppola chose Brando over Ernest Borgnine on the basis of Brando's screen test, which also won over the Paramount leadership. Brando later won an Academy Award for his portrayal, which he refused to accept.

Gone With The Wind


The highest grossing film of all time, the $198 million box-office take, when adjusted for inflation, is $1.4 billion. Legend persists that the Hays Office fined Selznick $5,000 for using the word "damn" in Butler's exit line, in fact the Motion Picture Association board passed an amendment to the Production Code on November 1, 1939, that forbade use of the words "hell" or "damn" except when their use "shall be essential and required for portrayal, in proper historical context, of any scene or dialogue based upon historical fact or folklore … or a quotation from a literary work, provided that no such use shall be permitted which is intrinsically objectionable or offends good taste." With that amendment, the Production Code Administration had no further objection to Rhett's closing line.

The Good, the Bad, and The Ugly


Given that the Italian title, "Il buono, il brutto, il cattivo" literally translates to the English: The Good, the Ugly, the Bad, reversing the last two adjectives, advertisements for the original Italian release show Tuco before Angel Eyes, and, when translated into English, erroneously label Angel Eyes as "The Ugly" and Tuco as "The Bad".

The Lion King


At one time, the Disney Feature Animation staff felt The Lion King was less important than Pocahontas. Both projects were in production at the same time, and most of the staff preferred to work on Pocahontas, believing it would be the more prestigious and successful of the two. Songwriter Elton John thought his career had hit a new low when he was writing the music to the song "Hakuna Matata". However, the strongly enthusiastic audience reception to an early film trailer which consisted solely of the opening sequence with the song, "Circle of Life," suggested that the film would be very successful. As it turns out, while both films were commercial successes, The Lion King received more positive feedback and larger grosses than Pocahontas.



You've just been imprisoned for 15 years without explanation and then released, again without explanation. You're probably a little cross. So when you find yourself in a corridor full of guards determined to stop you, armed with nothing but a hammer, you'd be forgiven for acting out a little. This amazing scene took 17 days to perfect but is shot in one continuous take, reminding us all that you don't need fancy effects to get the perfect scene.



The studio liked the script, and viewed it as a possible vehicle for a well-established star such as Robert Redford, Ryan O'Neal, Burt Reynolds or James Caan. Stallone appealed to the producers to be given a chance to star in the film. He later said that he would never have forgiven himself if the film became a success with someone else in the lead. Certain elements of the story were altered during filming. The original script had a darker tone: Mickey was portrayed as racist and the script ended with Rocky throwing the fight after realizing he did not want to be part of the professional boxing world after all.

The Seven Year Itch


When it came to casting a character known only as The Girl, the object of every male fantasy in the head of married schmo Richard Sherman (Tom Ewell), it's unsurprising that the filmmakers hit upon Marilyn Monroe as the perfect Girl. The endlessly ogled at subway grate scene had to be shot twice: the first attempt, on the street in New York, was ruined by the huge number of extras gawking at Monroe's (apparently transparent) undies. As iconic as it gets.

The Shining


In a film where virtually every shot is a memorable image (Danny on his tryke in the hall; the twins; the lift full of blood) this is still the one that stands out, Jack Nicholson's grinning and quite insane Jack Torrance wood-chopping his way through a door to reach - and presumably murder - his wife (Shelly Duvall). His "Here's Johnny" line was Kubrick's idea, according to his most recent Empire interview, but he delivers it with a chilling glee.

The Silence of the Lambs


Anthony Hopkins said that the only trick to playing Hannibal Lecter is not blinking. Only an actor that good could dismiss one of the performances of the century so glibly. Hopkins brought Lecter to life with such restraint and understatement that it makes his outbursts of violence vastly more shocking than they might have been if delivered more theatrically. And just think, Sean Connery was the first choice for the role.

Singin' In The Rain


One of the most euphoric and gosh-darn beautiful images on the list, this scene may have been appropriated for adverts and endlessly imitated, but it remains flawless in itself. What makes it even more impressive is that it was shot in just one take when Kelly was suffering a fever of 103 degrees. They hadn't even rehearsed it beyond some rough blocking to figure out where to put the camera. Ladies and gentlemen, that's movie magic.

To check out Empire's full gallery, Click Here.

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