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Best Movie Scenes Where The Good Guys Show Up In The Nick Of Time

The good guys are cornered. They're probably exhausted, too, and bloodied, and almost out of ammo. There are just too many of them. No matter how many bad guys our heroes have killed, it's not enough. The enemy is pouring in from every side, and it all looks hopeless. And then, in the nick of time, reinforcements arrive and carry the day. Both the heroes on the screen and you in the audience breathe a sigh of relief. That was close. And that's why it's so epic and unforgettable.

If it's done wrong, the "reinforcements in the nick of time" thing can come across as a cheap, deus ex machina gimmick that has you rolling your eyes or even laughing out loud. If it's done right, though, it can lead to some of the most memorable movie moments ever. So what are the best last-minute rescue movie scenes? We've assembled a little list for you. Get ready to cheer.

Reinforcements on the bridge - Saving Private Ryan

Throughout "Saving Private Ryan," Captain Miller's (Tom Hanks) handpicked squad struggles to reconcile their mission — rescue the last surviving member of a family devastated by combat — with the reason they enlisted (namely, to liberate Europe from the Nazis). It feels like they're unnecessarily risking their lives for a PR stunt. But in the film's final battle, it all comes together. Miller's boys locate Ryan, and by joining him in his own objective, they find a way to fight the enemy that is genuinely significant. In a nutshell, if they don't hold a bridge in Ramelle, Rommel's tanks could threaten American forces advancing inland from the landing beaches.

But the fight doesn't go well for the outnumbered Americans. The Germans take heavy losses but keep coming and coming. One by one, Miller's boys die. He himself has been fatally shot. With his last bit of strength, he fires his impotent sidearm at an oncoming Panzer. He's in a daze but still confused when the beast explodes. It wasn't his puny pistol that did it, of course. It was a plane. And behind it comes desperately needed American reinforcements, pouring over the intact bridge as the Germans turn and flee. They arrived too late for most of our heroes, but not too late to salvage the mission. It's the tragic nature of war. But at least Miller's troops' sacrifices were not in vain.

Han saves the day - Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope

If audiences in 1977 had known just how expansive the "Star Wars" universe would eventually become, the finale of that original film wouldn't have been nearly as impactful. It was initially a single, stand-alone story about good and evil, knights, wizards, an unlikely hero, and a damsel in distress, all set in the stars rather than a castle. You all know the story. The rebels have sent out what remains of their fighter force to take down the Death Star before it blows them to bits. Most die on the way. Only Luke, flying down the battle station's central trench and pursued by enemy TIE fighters, is in a position to fire the lucky shot into the exhaust port and detonate the station. Behind him, Darth Vader has his X-Wing in his sights.

Just then, Han Solo arrives, blasting Vader's escort fighters with the Millennium Falcon and distracting the Sith Lord just long enough to give Luke time to fire off the lucky shot. It's a great ending to Han's arc for that movie. He was a selfish scoundrel who learned to put it all on the line for a cause bigger than himself. It's classic stuff, but rarely has it been shown quite so memorably.

Gandalf and Éomer arrive at Helm's Deep - The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers

Despite an epic effort, the outnumbered men and Elves defending the Hornburg from Saruman's legions have been forced back to the keep. Women, children, and the elderly cower in the caves beneath the besieged fortress as Uruk-hai smash down one gate after another, intending to kill everyone inside. Aragorn manages to convince a forlorn King Théoden to take what horses and riders remain and charge out in a blaze of glory before inevitable death and defeat. While fighting Uruk-hai on the ramp, the outnumbered, exhausted riders look up to the top of the hill overlooking the valley. Gandalf, followed by Éomer and the Riders of Rohan, have arrived.

Their initial charge scene is breathtaking. What makes it better is Sam's speech. In Osgiliath, the hobbit waxes philosophical to Frodo about the virtues of fighting on even when it seems hopeless. Faramir and even Gollum are moved. Sam's not aware of it, but as he speaks, Ents are smashing Isengard, and the Rohirrim are sending the surviving Uruk-hai fleeing in terror to the woods, from which few will return. It's pitch-perfect editing, acting, pacing and cinematography, set to one of the greatest musical scores of all time. That's what you call movie magic.

Home - Dunkirk

In 1940, the British expected most of its Expeditionary Force, trapped on a French beach by Nazis, to be captured. Instead, civilians joined the Royal Navy, crossed the Channel, and brought back almost the whole army, in battleships and fishing boats alike. It was a defeat on paper. Hitler had captured France in six weeks and thrown the British into the sea. But it was also a triumph. The plucky Brits had lived to fight another day and would make Germany pay dearly for its failure to crush them when it had the chance.

The emotional climax of Christopher Nolan's "Dunkirk," if not the narrative one, comes when British troops, stranded on the docks awaiting rescue, soaked with seawater, demoralized, and exhausted by constant dive-bombing raids, finally see a fleet of pleasure craft arriving to bring them home, set to the tune of Edward Elgar's "Nimrod." Soldiers find just enough strength in themselves to stand and cheer, leaning over the edge of piers and ship railings, waving helmets. Ships blare horns. Commanders wipe tears. You will, too.

The portal scene - Avengers: Endgame

We learned the hard way in 2018's "Infinity War" that Thanos was not to be trifled with. He'd punched his way through the Avengers, got the infinity stones, and snapped away half of all life, supposedly to reduce strain on the universe's finite resources. In the following year's "Endgame," though, efforts by the survivors to travel to the past, collect the stones from different timelines, and use them to reverse the "snap" pay off. But Thanos from the past catches wind of their plans and travels to the future to finish what he started. In an epic battle, he manages to beat Iron Man, Thor, and Captain America just as his army arrives behind him. A battered Cap prepares to go down swinging, but then, something both predictable and somehow unexpected happens: The other Avengers, resurrected by the Hulk's snap, arrive via Doctor Strange's portals to back up their boys.

Strange and the other sorcerers. The Guardians and the Ravagers. Spider-Man. Valkyrie and the Asgardians. Falcon and Bucky. Black Panther and the Wakandan army. One by one, all the heroes we've grown to love arrive for one last, epic throw-down with the Mad Titan and his genocidal minions. Such a scene in any other franchise would've been eye-rolling shlock, but the folks behind the MCU, after spending a decade doing meticulous storytelling legwork to earn this very moment, had the whole theater cheering.

Charge of the Rohirrim - Lord of the rings: The Return of the King

It sure looks hopeless halfway through "The Return of the King," when the legions of Mordor have breached the walls of Minas Tirith. But just then, horns in the distance: The Orcs outside the nearly conquered city turn to see the horsemen of Rohan assemble on the ridge overlooking the battlefield. King Théoden is afraid but grits his teeth, delivers one of the most inspiring speeches in movie history, and leads his Rohirrim in a desperate, suicidal charge into Sauron's forces that just might save the city before it's too late.

Everything works about this scene — the score, the cinematography, the faces of the Orcs as they realize their puny volleys did nothing to break up the wall of horses and steel charging at them, the riders' shouts of "Death, death, death!" before the charge. Somehow, some way, Peter Jackson manages to capture better than anyone else in movie history the essence of noble sacrifice. You're outnumbered. You're going to your doom. You're not sure what'll happen next. You ride anyway, because you must. If this scene doesn't inspire you to face down the demons in your own life for those you love, nothing will.