The Oscars are always a great opportunity to tubthump moviegoing in general and specifically the nine best-picture nominees. And the key element in that promotion: The all-important film clip.

It’s hard to find a brief scene that encapsulates a film’s spirit and content, which explains why audiences at multiple awards dinners have seen the same clips over and over. Here’s a recap of the nine contenders and their most popular clips. All are good but, we’re offering alternative ideas.

And as a bonus, we are offering suggestions for a two-second excerpt from each film. You may not need these now. But sooner or later, AFI is going to compile some montages of magical movie moments that will include some of 2013’s best films. It’s amazing how a two-second moment can conjure up a film: King Kong on the Empire State Building, Peter O’Toole in Arab robes atop a train, Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet on the prow of the ship.

American Hustle

Usual clip: Bradley Cooper messing up Christian Bale’s hair

Suggested alternative: Jennifer Lawrence using the microwave

Two seconds: Robert De Niro speaking Arabic or Lawrence kissing Amy Adams

“Captain Phillips”

Usual clip: Tom Hanks at the end, inspected by the doctor. Great movie moment, but the power of that sequence comes from everything that’s happened before.

Suggested alternative: Hanks’ watching the pirates boarding the ship

Two seconds: “I’m the captain now!”

Dallas Buyers Club

Usual Clip: Jared Leto getting out of the car, arguing with Matthew McConaughey

Suggested alternative: McConaughey gets the redneck in a hammerlock in the supermarket

Two seconds: Leto, looking uncomfortable in men’s clothes, as he visits his father


Usual clip: Sandra Bullock unbuckling her suit and spinning helplessly in space

Suggested alternative: Bullock’s “woof” scene, in which she’s on the headset trying to communicate with people speaking another language

Two seconds: The teardrop floating in space.


Usual clip: The double-date at the beach

Suggested alternative: Joaquin Phoenix signing the divorce papers with Rooney Mara, who’s incredulous that he’s “dating his laptop”

Two seconds: Phoenix sitting forlorn under a monitor when an owl swoops down, appearing ready to grab him


Usual clip: The family in the car discussing the stolen compressor

Suggested alternative: Will Forte picking up Bruce Dern at the emergency room

Two seconds: The family reunion, with a bunch of people in checked flannel shirts who can’t take their eyes off the TV set


Usual clip: Judi Dench on the airport tram, relating the plot of a romance novel

Suggested alternative: Dench lashing into Steve Coogan: “I don’t want to hate people. I don’t want to be like you.”

Two seconds: Philomena at the grave, making the sign of the cross, as Coogan stands by, supporting her

12 Years a Slave”: Years a Slave

Usual clip: Chiwetel Ejiofor and Michael Fassbender running around the sty.

Suggested alternative: Chiwetel Ejiofor’s face on “Roll, Jordan, Roll.”

Two seconds: “Roll, Jordan, Roll” again. Or his expression at the end, with his family.

The Wolf of Wall Street”:

Usual clip: Leonardo DiCaprio talking at Stratton Oakmont.

Suggested alternative: Leonardo DiCaprio pounding his chest at Stratton Oakmont, with the staffers picking up the battle cry.

Two seconds: Leonardo DiCaprio trying to crawl down the steps during the Quaaludes sequence.