The first crowning moment of awesome in the film belongs to none other than Jim's old man - George Kirk. How can you call being in command of a starship for only twelve minutes, yet still end up saving 800 people including your wife and new born kid, who you name in your final moments as you deal a crippling blow to the enemy vessel by ramming yours down its throat, anything but awesome?
And that same battle is a Crowning Moment of Evil Awesome for the Narada. No question.
Maybe juuust before that is Captain Robau. He knows he's screwed. He goes in anyway.
The scene is just majestically executed. The ship's new crew is being taken to the ship in the transport, and the movie's main theme is playing with increasing crescendo, and then Bones points out the ship to Kirk. We follow the transport, and the camera shifts up with the increasing tempo, and then we see it. And then when the transport hovers over the NCC-1701, it is hard to suppress a squee.
And, by extension, seeing it after jumping back into the solar system. The image of the Enterprise rising out of Saturn's rings note with a blink-and-you'll-miss-it image of the Starfleet chervon for bonus points is such a perfect herald to the fact that the whole team's back that it merits tears of beauty.
Captain Pike: "Punch it!" - maybe the most memorable quote of the movie.
The beginning of that other great friendship -
Mc Coy:Don't pander to me, kid. One tiny crack in the hull and our blood boils in thirteen seconds. A solar flare might crop up, cook us in our seats. And wait 'til you're sitting pretty with a case of Andorian shingles. See if you're still so relaxed when your eyeballs bleed! Space is disease and danger wrapped in darkness and silence.
Kirk: Well, I hate to break this to you, but Starfleet operates in space.
McCoy:Yeah. Well, I got nowhere else to go, the ex-wife took the whole damn planet in the divorce. All I got left is my bones.
Kirk: "I got your gun."
Followed up by Pike who uses that same gun to shoot two Romulans sneaking up on Kirk with near-instant reflexes. Then add in the fact his mind should be practically broken following the implantation of a Centauri slug (similar to the bugs from Wrath of Khan). Yeah.
In addition, the fact that Sulu immediately puts his hand up when Pike asks for volunteers with combat experience, for a highly risky mission that could (and very nearly does) kill everyone involved.
Spock charging the Narada, with no real expectation of rescue. He was going to die taking down the man who killed his mother and Vulcan, and he was okay with that.
Spock turning down the Vulcan Science Academy after they insult his mother. In fact, any time someone insults his mother he basically gets something akin to one, but this time, he gives what is hands-down the most sarcastic and irony-dripping Vulcan salute in the history of Trek. He could not have made it more bitter even if he added a "Fuck you" for good measure.
From the novelization:
No emotion in those words, not even in the last few. But just a hint, perhaps, of a nonverbal suggestion best exemplified by a distinctly human digital gesture with which those on the Vulcan High Council were not familiar.
It's all about the music cue - Spock drops the mic, and Giacchino brings in this chunky wah-wah guitar, as if to say "They say that cat Spock is a bad motha-" Shut your mouth! "But I'm talkin' 'bout Spock!" Then we can dig it.
Spock beating the hell out of Kirk for saying Spock never loved her, too. Did Kirk need to do it? Yes. Did he mean it? No. Did that change the fact that seeing him get owned for being a bastard was so, so sweet? Hell no.
The Kobayashi Maru. You'd expect Kirk to break into giggles any moment. It's a bonus to original fans who know Kirk is going to cheat.
It's also the fact that that scene was the absolute zenith of Chris Pine acting like William Shatner. The entire main cast channelled the TOS actors at various points, too, but this was Pine's finest hour of Ham.
If you pay attention to Uhura, you can tell she's just a little petulant about how Kirk isn't really taking anything seriously.
Computer:"Incoming missiles. If the ship is hit, the red matter will be ignited."
Put simply, this was the biggest use of Arsenal in the history of Star Trek. And then it hovers just away from the black hole, helping break apart the Narada with all weapons firing, impulse ports a bright red as it observes the other ship's destruction.
And let's not forget the Enterprise escaping that black hole by riding a REALLY BIG EXPLOSION. Not even the all caps do that scene justice.
Chekov gets his own moment with his "I can do zis!" part.
Kirk falling through the atmosphere of Vulcan to catch Sulu.
And shortly before that, Kirk and Sulu blasting away at the drill. You just want to put some rock music in that scene. Maybe The Who's "Won't Get Fooled Again". Yeah, the same bit the CSI: Miami intro uses.
"I would rather die in agony, than accept assistance from you." "You got it. Arm phasers! Fire everything we've got!" Why, hello there, Captain James T. Kirk. Welcome back.
Zachary Quinto's performance as Spock. The whole cast kicked ass, but why him in particular. Because now Non-Trekkers know what true Trekkers have always known; Spock. Is. A. 'badass!! Nuff said.
Also Chris Pine's performance as Kirk, in which he somehow manages to both radiate Kirk-ness from every pore while not copying Shatner's performance. And the chemistry of Pine and Quinto together absolutely makes the movie.
There are points in the movie where it feels like DeForest Kelley has possessed Karl Urban and is acting through his body. He's that good.
It's entirely possible Mr. Kelley did just that, particularly when he convinces the pilot to let Kirk onto the shuttle with him.
After Spock orders security to take Kirk away, Kirk starts taking on security, and doing pretty well for himself. Then Spock drops Kirk in less than a second with the Vulcan Nerve Pinch, throwing in a Continuity Nod at the same time.
Nero hailing the Enterprise in perhaps the best such scene since the second movie:
"This is Captain Christopher Pike. To whom am I speaking?"
"Hi, Christopher. I'm Nero."
Kirk's promotion. Welcome back, Captain Kirk. The airwaves have missed you.
"I hereby confiscate this illegally obtained ship and order you to surrender your vessel. No terms."
The entire sequence beginning with the Space Jump and finishing with Kirk and Sulu plunging to their apparent deaths: pure undiluted maximum WIN!!!!
Undoubtedly, Nimoy!Spock gets one just for showing up in the film.
His first appearance is a real treat. We see Nimoy!Spock fend off the monster chasing Kirk with a torch. Then we see the reveal that, yes, our eyes are not deceiving us, that really is Leonard Nimoy. Cue the theater going batshit nuts.
Of course there is also the exchange between Nimoy!Spock and Quinto!Spock at the end of the film. Especially since Nimoy!Spock is unrepentant about "implying" certain things to Kirk.
Also, the way Kirk finally "wins" The Kobayashi Maru scenario pretty much cements his reputation as the biggest Magnificent Bastard in the Star Trek universe.
Although let's face it, the way we're told he won it in the original timeline, as per the novel The Kobayashi Maru, was even more badass: instead of simply removing the enemy's shields so that he could blow them up, he had the scenario reprogrammed to acknowledge the reputation he intended to have as a starship captain, with the result that when he introduced himself as Captain James T. Kirk, the enemy promptly surrendered.
Nimoy!Spock passing the torch at the end with the classic monologue.
Somewhat related to that moment, the teaser trailer: Not sure what was being advertised, just images of welders working on a huge structure, with quotes from and about the space program, then the camera pans up at the start of the iconic line, "Space...the final frontier..." and you see ENTERPRISE on the structure being built as the familiar fanfare plays...
Kirk facing down four hulking Starfleet recruits in a bar. His boast of "Get some more guys and it will be an even fight" was cool, but he lived up to it by beating the shit out of them and still getting to second base with Uhura, all while pissed off his head. And while he does proceed to take a beating, it's still probably best Pike stopped it before Kirk sobered up.
The last scene: Kirk taking his place in the captain's chair of the USS Enterprise, with Uhura at communications, Chekov at navigation, and Sulu at the helm. Scotty is at Engineering, McCoy is at his captain's side, and at last Spock offers himself as second-in-command, and Kirk accepts. And then, the words of Ambassador Spock as an oh-so-familiar fanfare plays:
"Space: the final frontier. These are the voyages of the starship Enterprise. Her ongoing mission: to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life-forms and new civilizations; to boldly go where no one has gone... before."
Pike demonstrating Starfleet's method of ensuring that only the badass need apply:
"Your father was captain of a starship for 12 minutes. He saved eight hundred lives, including your mother's... and yours. I dare you to do better."
The scene where little Spock finally snaps and goes to town on the bully for bad-mouthing his mother. You see the other bullies' faces and they're so terrified they don't even jump in.
Pike's first appearance - he whistles, and the cadet pounding on Kirk immediately drops him and stands to attention. So does everyone else in the bar. And the theater, for that matter.
The opening titles. After the (momentary) defeat of the Narada, the shuttles evacuating and the scene fade out, we hear the music slowly build until we see the old Federation logo and in big bold letters we see the title. It needs to be seen to be believed. As one commenter put it:
mrbrockpeters: "This was a brilliant intro in the theater. I remember it was so jam packed. It felt like when you haven't seen an old friend for years and then they reappear in spectacular fashion."
Are we forgetting McCoy's Crowning Moment of Awesome? He got Jim aboard the Enterprise by making him sick then invoking regulations about transporting patients! Not to mention by doing so, he enabled Jim to save the planet! He's the reason the movie even happened like it did. And all because he couldn't leave a friend behind.