It makes the big things look bigger when you've just had a quiet moment. If everything is whizz-bang constantly throughout the whole movie it just becomes nothing. So you have to carefully go to quiet and restrain things so that the other things hit you hard.
What can make a great action film truly great? You might remember some exciting fight, spectacular pyrotechnics or awesome special effects, but they are not enough. Ironically, what really makes the difference is how good the film is at its quietest drama.
In this kind of scene, there are no expensive visuals or frenetic action, just usually two characters talking about what they believe in, what they care about or their deepest pain. In these scenes, the film artists are on their own to make them work without the technicians' help and that's where the talent must show through. This is not the same as the purely exposition scene in that there is something deeper displayed here.
In those scenes, you can understand the plot, grasp its theme, or develop a rapport with the characters to make the big scenes matter to you. If the crew can pull off such a scene well to complement the visuals, then the greatness of the film can be in the bag.
When it really works, it can produce a Heartwarming Moment to make the action sequences all the more compelling because the quiet scenes have allowed you to emotionally invest in the characters and care about their fate.
When that happens, it beats big budget visuals any day.
When it doesn't work, Narm tends to follow. It also can result in a jarring case of Mood Whiplash.
Often goes hand-in-hand with No, Mr. Bond, I Expect You to Dine. See also Just Here for Godzilla, where the audience still just wants the action scenes no matter how well done the drama is.
Super Trope of After-Action Patchup, Nonviolent Initial Confrontation, and Pre-Battle Banter.
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Anime and Manga
For all the crap Gundam SEED Destiny has leveled at it, there's a rather effective scene of this sort during episode 17 where Athrun Zala talks with Shinn about how those with power needs to know how to use it properly, otherwise they'll just be causing more of the grief that they themselves have suffered already.
In Volume 3 of Hellsing there is a simple scene where Walter and Alucard are watching Seras train the new recruits and they discuss (among other things) their previous battles against the Nazis, why Alucard made Seras a vampire, and how Walter is getting on in years. That scene highlights some of the story's themes (such as monsters controlled by humans and natural age versus immortality) as well as showing us Alucard's high regard for Seras; we also get to see the friendship between Walter and Alucard.
The series finale of Cowboy Bebop has one scene when Spike shares one last meal with Jet and has a conversation with Faye about how people ultimately can't run away from their past forever. This scene shows, despite all of their differences in the past, they are a Band of Brothers — but Spike can't stay with them anymore.
Two scenes intercut with one another in Cowboy Bebop: The Movie stand out: where main baddie Vincent reveals his tragic backstory to Faye (accompanied by his lovely little leitmotif "Is it Real?"), and when Spike explains to Electra why he's chasing after Vincent: he feels that they share the same soul.
Although Chrono Crusade is presented as a supernatural shounen manga, many of its themes are centered on relationships between the characters, so these types of scenes happen frequently. One that stands out is Chrono and Rosette having a conversation during a carnival—it begins as a conversation of how beautiful the lights of the city are, but quickly becomes one where Chrono reveals just how attached he is to Rosette and how much she means to him.
The Castle of Cagliostro has a number of quiet scenes. It comes from Hayao Miyazaki's desire for "breathing" in a film. They are present to contrast against the tense action scenes, and allow the audience to relax, or fall in love. One special scene in this film is Lupin wandering around a burnt out castle in a contemplative mood (because Lupin is remembering his past) with Jigen wondering what is preoccupying him before demanding an explanation. Another special scene is when Lupin has broken into Clarisse's room and is trying to give her hope that he can help her escape (giving her hope and letting the audience fall in love with her innocence).
A good deal of Watchmen is made up of low-key conversation between the heroes, or Rorschach and his state appointed psychiatrist, or a news vendor and a neighborhood kid. The scene where the heroes learn that Ozymandias has already destroyed New York is played as an anticlimax.
The fist half of Metal Gear Solid Philanthropy includes three of these; the first is when Elizabeth Laeken is introduced. The second is the campfire scene where Vitalij tells Snake about the Fiend of Kalcabar, among other things. The third is right before everything hits the fan, where Snake and Pierre LeClerc stare out a window at the battlefield and contemplate war.
Tiberium Wars has several of these scenes scattered throughout it, with one of the most poignant scenes being a discussion between GDI Commander Karrde and retired Colonel Parker, where they talk about the facelessness of mechanized and network-centric warfare. A similar scene happens between Nod Commander Rawne and his friend Captain Alvarez of the Black Hand, where the latter is dealing with the guilt of having to execute his own wounded to allow the rest of his troops to escape.
The films of Mamoru Oshii, almost as a trademark, tend to trade off between flashy and bombastic action sequences and long, quiet stretches containing some combination of dialogue (usually of a heavily philosophical bent), striking imagery, and beautiful, ambient Kenji Kawai music. In fact, even though most of his films could be classified as "action films", the drama scenes often outnumber the action scenes, making them a controversial prospect for viewers who are more interested in action. A particularly notable example of this is the scene between Batou and his dog in Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence, which is set to melancholy smooth jazz with no dialogue and massive amounts of emotion, right in the middle of an otherwise dark, cold and violent film.
Rebuild of Evangelion plays up the action elements to their greatest strengths as a film, but there are still quiet, poignant moments. "You Can (Not) Advance" has one excellent example: the night after the pilots defeat Sahaquiel, Asuka enters Shinji's room - without knocking - and enters his bed while he's still in it - without greeting him - deliberately facing away from him. The ensuing dialogue is personal, intimate (by Asuka's standards), sentimental, and quiet. Compared to the rest of this film - possibly the most action-packed, adrenaline-pumped of any of the Rebuild movies - this scene is powerfully soft.
Kung Fu Panda has the nighttime stairs argument between Po and Shifu. In that moving Tear Jerker scene, we learn that whatever disdain his heroes have for Po, it is positively kind compared to how much the panda feels he is a fat failure. Thus, Shifu realizes that he must somehow have his new student not only learn martial arts, but also gain some self esteem.
Kung Fu Panda 2 has two major such scenes: the nighttime boat scene that shows how close as friends Po and Tigress have become and Po and the Soothsayer in Po's home village where he remembers his horrific past and comes to terms with it.
The Incredibles. Nearly every moment where something isn't blowing up is an example. In particular, the confession right before the final fight is very powerful.
How to Train Your Dragon had a few very quiet, very touching scenes, notably during Hiccup and Toothless' forbidden friendship scene, and Astrid's pep talk to Hiccup during the climax of the movie.
Film - Live Action
Inception features one of these as the climax of the entire film, where we finally see whether or not Fischer reconciles with the memory of his father.
Iron Eagle, While Doug and Chappy are flying towards their target, they talk about being alone in the sky. Doug remarks how he regrets not appreciating his father's advice. Chappy tells him not to worry, that his father understood, and to just focus on the mission.
The heartwarmingly peaceful scenes of The Shire in Fellowship of The Ring (especially in the Directors Cut), filled with laughter, friendship and happy children (what a warrior lays down his life to protect) is what makes us actually care whether or not Frodo and the Fellowship defeat Sauron or not.
The scene between Aragorn and Arwen on the bridge in the first film, It introduces depth to Aragorn's character and reveals his backstory.
There are a lot of these scenes in the films - Gimli and Legolas discussing Galadriel, Sam's speech about good at the end of Two Towers, and Pippin and Faramir talking about strength are good examples - but the iconic moment representing this trope comes in the middle of the Battle of the Pelennor Fields in Return of the King. Pippin and Gandalf are waiting for the enemy to break down a door, and proceed to have a heartbreakingly beautiful conversation about life after death. Then the door breaks and they go right back to fighting.
X-Men: Wolverine talks to Rogue on the train to convince her that she can find a place at Xavier's school.
X-Men: The Last Stand has a similar scene where Wolverine catches Rogue leaving to get the cure and asks her if she's sure that's what she truly wants, and if she's doing it for the right reasons.
X-Men: First Class: The many quiet talks between Charles and Erik about the latter's past and potentials as well as their differing views on human-mutant relations clinch how tragic their fall-out and eventual parting is.
X-Men: Days of Future Past: There are plenty of emotional, character-driven moments (especially with the younger Xavier) in between the spectacular action sequences.
The conversation scenes in the classic film, The Seven Samurai such as when the Seven realize that the villagers are eating only scraps because of them and they decide to share their food with them.
Peter and Mary Jane talking at the hospital in Spider-Man.
Vader and Luke's verbal duel on Endor in Return of the Jedi. In that scene, Luke shows just how much he has matured in that he can now fight with logic and rhetoric against his father with as much skill as well with his lightsaber—the opposite of Vader taunting him to break his spirit in their last battle.
In Revenge of the Sith, Anakin and Palpatine discussing the nature of the Dark Side while at the opera. Also, Anakin and Obi-Wan's emotional argument before they duel on Mustafar, and Obi-Wan's breakdown after he defeats Anakin and leaves him to die there. There are also several drama scenes with Anakin and Padme.
In A New Hope, after the heroes escape from the Death Star and the TIE fighter attack, there's a scene where Luke mourns Obi-Wan's death and Leia tries to comfort him.
In The Empire Strikes Back, one of the most famous scenes of the entire series is when Luke tries and fails to lift his X-wing out of the swamp using the Force, and sits there dejected. Then Yoda lifts it out effortlessly to show him that anything is possible with the Force, if he tries hard enough.
Gladiator has many, especially scenes between Marcus Aurelius and Maximus, Proximo and Maximus, Lucilla and Maximus, and Juba and Maximus.
In Goldfinger we have Auric Goldfinger's discussion to about his Evil Plan to contaminate Fort Knox. It turns the ploy of robbing the fort from a ridiculous cliche into a truly ingenious scheme by a master Big Bad.
Lots of it in Quantum of Solace. James Bond and Mathis, the two at the bar, Camille talking about her past, and Bond getting his eponymous quantum of solace at the end of the movie are all arguably more significant than the action that goes in between them.
Skyfall has quite a few of these. One of these was the scene where Bond meets the new Q, exchange some witty banter with each other before shaking hands and parting in mutual respect. Another is Bond and M on the run and waiting for Silva to arrive at Skyfall.
Jaws: the family dinner scene and the sequence that includes Quint's Indianapolis speech. Though the latter is scary.
The scene in the Jurassic Park film in which Dr. Sattler and Hammond eat melting ice cream and discuss the flea circus provides a counterpoint (missing in the novel) of sympathy for Hammond and what he'd hoped to achieve, in contrast to the Science Is Bad message.
The book had something similar, but Hammond was being a jerkass and bragging about his flea circus to his surviving doctor, Wu.
Another was Grant and the kids bedding down in a tree, with Grant promising to stay awake and watch for dinosaurs.
The Dark Knight has the Joker's interrogation scene in before Batman takes over, the Joker again turning, Harvey Dent into Two-Face in the hospital, and Alfred telling about his military past in Burma.
Kingdom of Heaven, especially the director's cut, has many, especially one-on-one scenes between Balian and, variously, Godfrey, the Hospitaller, King Baldwin, Sybilla, and Imad.
One of the main reasons Speed Racer avoided the acting problems of other films with chroma-keyed backgrounds is that there are a great deal of scenes where the actors are just talking to each other. These are some pretty damn good scenes, only slightly overshadowed because of the action ones.
The talking scenes in Speed Racer almost end up being action scenes though because of the bizarre way they overlapped scenes constantly.
Who really thought the Wachowski bros. would make a movie without demonstrating spectacular new ways to use cameras?
The Iron Man film franchise has several of these, mostly with Tony and Pepper. One strong example is after she helps him replace his chest piece, nearly killing him in the process:
Pepper: Don't you...ever...ask me do do something like that, ever again. Tony: I don't have anyone but you.
In Bruges was mostly made of these, made all the more effective by a combination of Brendan Gleeson's mad acting skills and Colin Farrell's eyebrows. There was only one scene that could genuinely be called an "action scene."
Every Star Trek movie has one of these — usually some pondering on the nature of humanity. One example is the conversation between Picard and Shinzon in Nemesis before he shows his true colors as an Evil Counterpart — but which also shows Shinzon's yearning for a different life, represented by the man he was cloned from.
In the 2009 film, most of Spock's childhood (besides the schoolyard scuffle) is an extended quiet drama scene. So too Spock and Uhura's meeting in the elevator after Vulcan is destroyed, and Spock and Sarek's scenes together. Also, "James T. Kirk...I have been and always shall be, your friend."note "Bullshit."
There's one in a deleted scene, where Dr. Jekyll tells Captain Nemo about the horrible things that Mr. Hyde has done, and how he is cursed to remember all of it. Captain Nemo replies that his curse is that he must remember all of the terrible things he has done himself.
Right before the swordfight scene in The Princess Bride, Inigo Montoya has this sort of moment with the Man in Black, talking about his father's murder. The result is that both characters are shown to be merely surface villains and are actually quite likable fellows; in fact, neither of them is a villain at all. It helps the dramatic impact of their talk that it's followed by one of the best cinematic swordfights ever, during which they maintain the chatty, lighthearted tone they had been using before the big dramatic moment - compare their conversation before "I swear on the soul of my father... you will reach the top alive", and during the first few moments of the duel, and the tone is exactly the same.
The Hunt for Red October has quite a few of these. While it's tense summer action thriller, it has countless scenes of characters just talking, and much of the tension and the drama comes from these conversations.
The first film The Terminator has Sarah and Kyle Reese making love to a piano version of the theme.
Terminator 2: Judgment Day has several, notably the brief layover at the Mexican farm where Sarah ponders the nature of The Terminator, and how much of a father figure he has become to John. Also the "why do you cry?" scene happens here. The Director's Cut adds a few more to the movie, including Sarah's dream about Kyle, John and Sarah removing the "read-only" block from the Terminator, and John trying to teach the Terminator how to smile during a meal stop. They add several layers of depth to the movie and its themes.
Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines deliberately tries to invoke this trope (as stated by Director Johnathan Mostow in the DVD commentary) during the reminiscing scene between John Connor and Kate Brewster in the back of the vet truck.
Terminator Salvation has Marcus and Blair by the fire. The scene where Blair washes herself topless as Marcus looks on was cut from the theatrical released, but reinstated into the special edition Blu Ray disc.
Battle Royale: Amid the scenes of carnage and middle school kids gunning or hacking each other down, there are plentiful flashbacks (in all three adaptations) to their childhood and school life; in Shuya, Noriko, Shinji, Sugimura, and Kawada's cases, these tend to be moments of quiet introspection and surprisingly deep development. Then The Movie provides scenes such as the heart-to-heart at the clinic, with wonderful performances from the real school-age actors.
Robert De Niro's bank robber and Al Pacino's cop meet over coffee in Heat.
There are many scenes like this which is one of the reasons it's loved so much.
Through The Bourne Series Bourne has several of these, with Marie, Irena Neski and Nicky Parsons respectively. Also, the scene with Professor in the field.
There are two highlights in Independence Day: One, Monumental Damage; Two, Will Smith cursing an unconscious alien as he drags it across the desert. A review said that the second would remain enjoyable even after the explosive effects were old hat.
Subverted in The Hurt Locker, where one of these scenes is a gunfight. The "quiet" and "drama" parts happen because it's a Sniper Duel played with more realism than is usually done.
There's also the scene of the company getting drunk and messing around in their quarters that lightens the mood a little, and the scene at the end where Jeremy Renner's character goes home on leave and is grocery shopping with his wife.
Zero Dark Thirty is something of an inversion in that it is mostly a tense political thriller with moments of intense abrupt action.
Alexa Woods: There's no room for sick men on this expedition.
Charles Bishop Weyland: My doctors tell me the worst is behind me.
Lex: You're not a very good liar, Mr. Weyland. Stay on the ship. We'll update you at the top of every hour.
Weyland: You know, when you get sick, you think about your life and how you're going to be remembered. You know what I realized would happen when I go? A ten percent fall in share prices. Maybe twelve. And that's it.
Lex: I've heard this speech before. My dad broke his leg seven hundred feet from the summit of Mount Ranier. He was like you. He wouldn't go back or let us stop. We reached the top and he opened a bottle of champagne. I had my first drink with my dad at 14,400 feet. On the way down, he developed a blood clot in his leg that traveled to his lung. He suffered for four hours before dying twenty minutes from the base.
Weyland: You think that's the last thing your dad remembers? The pain? Or drinking champagne with his daughter fourteen thousand feet in the air? I need this.
Gangs of New York has a scene featuring Bill the Butcher sitting in a rocking chair and... talking about his life, his background and his history with Priest Vallon. It's several minutes worth of screen time with camera focusing exclusively on Daniel Day-Lewis. And it's awesome.
The Outlaw Josey Wales has several, most notably Josey's final confrontation with his nemesis. A runner up would be Chief Dan George's "hard candy" speech.
The Good, the Bad and the Ugly . In particular for Tuco and Bondie, the formers discussion with his brother who is a monk and Blondie's comforting of a dying soldier.
The sequel has the scene after the team's first encounter with Vilain and Billy the Kid's death where the team buries him and Barney reads a letter Billy had written to his girlfriend. Barney laments how the young men in war who deserve to live are the ones to die while the grizzled old veterans who deserve to die are the ones to live.
RoboCop (1987): After Robo's fight with ED-209 and the Detroit police, Lewis takes him to the abandoned steel mill where he was murdered to hide. Robo takes off his helmet to see his human face again, and Lewis tells him what happened to his wife and son after he died.
Earlier in the film there is a scene where, after finding out his name in his former life (before he was rebuilt as RoboCop) was Alex Murphy, he goes to his old house and finds that his wife and son have moved away and the house is for sale. He wanders around the rooms for a while as memories of them come back to him.
A few scenes in Conan the Barbarian (1982) count for this - see any time Conan and Subotai have a discussion. In fact, John Milius is so fond of monologues, any scene that isn't action will be a Quiet Drama Scene.
In the director's cut, there is a scene set before the final battle where the heroes know that their odds of surviving aren't good. Conan offers Subotai the chance to leave, and Subotai decides to stand by his friend.
The end of First Blood where Rambo breaks down at the end and remembers his friends in Vietnam who are now all gone. In Rambo: First Blood Part II, the scene with Rambo and Co on the boat where he tells her he's "expendable". There are several in Rambo between Rambo and Sarah, most notably her pointing out "Maybe you're right, maybe we won't change anything. But trying to save a life isn't wasting your life."
Battle: Los Angeles has several really well-done scenes, such as the scene in the police station after the alien air support shoots down the casevac chopper and Nantz's speech while the Marines are at the FOB where he lays out how he feels about the deaths of his men on his last deployment.
Nick Fury talking to the team in the Helicarrier, using Coulson's death to give them a "push" and make them pull together.
Immediately afterward, the very quiet, dark, lingering scene of Natasha and Clint touching on a good range of topics including guilt, motivation, violation, and redemption while the latter is recuperating from being de-brainwashed.
Steve tracking down Tony, who is grieving at the site of the kill, where they reflect on the unraveling chain of events and discuss the nature of soldiers and heroes.
A bit later, Stark goes and has a faux-casual conversation with Loki about where each side stands and why the eponymous team are fighting. It quickly erupts into violence but it was quiet for at least a few seconds...
The Matrix has several of these; Cypher revealing his betrayal - no action, no special effects beyond Apoc and Switch falling over, just the actors talking over the phone. Morpheus's first in-person meeting with Neo is the same way, as are many of the scenes on their craft.
Way Of The Gun is about 60% - 80% this. Pretty much any time no one's shooting at someone else, expect tons of exposition and backstory to be dropped, especially in the film's second act.
Babylon A.D.. When the protagonists make camp after crossing the Bering Strait, Toorop has a heart-to-heart talk with Aurora about how tired he is of the wars he's seen and wants to return to the United States to live a quiet life.
Godzilla vs. Destoroyah has the scenes between Emiko, Yukari and Kenichi about the dangers of the Oxygen Destroyer and Emiko's reminiscences of her and Dr. Serizawa's roles in the first film. There is also the scene between Miki Saegusa and Meru Ozawa where they discuss what they will do once their psychic powers fade away.
Godzilla Against Mechagodzilla has the scenes between Akane, Dr. Yuhara and Sara where they discuss the extent to which Kiryu has feelings of its own.
Godzilla (2014) has many of these, with the main focus being the relationship between Lieutenant Ford and his father Joe Brody. Director Gareth Edwards has stated that it was very vital for such scenes to be present and well-done, as the intimate moments between the human characters serve to contrast with and emphasize the enormity of Godzilla himself and the other kaiju he battles.
Gareth Edwards: "It makes the big things look bigger when you've just had a quiet moment. If everything is whizz-bang constantly throughout the whole movie it just becomes nothing. So you have to carefully go to quiet and restrain things so that the other things hit you hard."
Looper has Old!Joe and Young!Joe talking at the diner after Young!Joe's apartment was raided and before the Gat Man arrive.
Run, Lola, Run is almost always firing on all cylinders, but at two points, someone flashes back to a very relaxed moment in the recent past.
Live Action TV
Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Several moments, especially those directed personally by Joss Whedon himself. At the end of the episode "Hush", Buffy and Riley tell each other "We have to talk.", and it is immediately followed by a long uncomfortable silence. When you remember that earlier in the same episode, the two of them had no problems in expressing their feelings to each other or fighting side by side, both with their voices muted by magic, the final scene packs quite a punch since they've gotten their voices back, but neither of them can think of anything to say.
The rightly-praised "The Body" is all quiet drama scene. Whedon admits that the action scene in "The Body" was out of place, but he wanted to provide the audience with some action because he knew that particular arc of stories would be fairly lacking in that department.
Deadwood. Granted, it was a western drama series and not an action show, but still. It was the quiet scenes that were the best in the the series' run. Examples include the last scene of the season 1 finale, which ends with Doc dancing with Jewel; Alma's walk to the bank after getting shot at definitely counts as this, and there were several episodes that started off with extremely quiet but memorable scenes, the best of which was arguably in the penultimate episode of season 3, "The Catbird Seat", in which there is a 10-minute-long, almost completely quiet sequence that takes place in the dark hours of morning, which captures the eerie silence of that hour with remarkable precision.
Battlestar Galactica. Helo and Starbuck in her apartment on Caprica as her father's music plays, in the otherwise action-packed episode "Valley of Darkness". Also Starbuck and Apollo talking on the flight deck before Starbuck is killed in "Maelstrom".
Doctor Who had quite a few of these back in the day. One that comes to mind is in "Tomb of the Cybermen", when the Doctor is discussing grief and how life goes on with Victoria.
The new series has its share as well, though the format change from multi-part serials to fifty-minute one (occasionally two)-episode stories leaves less room for them. Still, a few episodes that use these very well and spring to mind quickly include "Father's Day", "The Impossible Planet", "The Waters of Mars", "Human Nature"/"The Family of Blood", "Vincent and the Doctor", and "Asylum of the Daleks."
Firefly, being the character driven show that it is, has quite a few, usually involving River and Simon. A good, unexpected one was in Jaynestown. The episode itself was mostly comedic/actiony, but it ended with the normally comedic character Jayne trying to process the fanboy that sacrificed himself for Jayne.
In The Maltese Falcon there is a scene that wasn't translated to the Film of the Book. Just before Cairo and Gutman arrive with the bird, Sam talks to Brigid O'Shaughnessy about a man he investigated once. He was a normal man who once disappeared, only to resurface in another city with another name and a new family. His old wife hired Sam to find out what happened to him and to avoid a scandal. Spade narrates how the man once had a nearly fatal accident, and then he realized We Are as Mayflies and he had to become his own opposite to live his new life. What that man never realized, and Spade immediately noticed, is that he never did that. He simply moved to a city very similar to his old city, got a new job doing exactly the same thing, and got a new family very much like his old, and he sincerely never realized he was living an Ignored Epiphany. This seemingly pointless tale could be interpreted at Sam attempt to convince O'Shaughnessy of the pointlessness of her own task: once the four crooks get the bird, the Chronic Backstabbing Disorder O'Shaughnessy has would mean she will betray everyone to get the bird to herself.
The Shadow Play scene in Cirque du Soleil's KA, in which the Court Jester comforts the Twin Brother by teaching him shadow puppetry — which, due to how the scene is lit, can be seen by the whole audience. Read a rave review of this Scenery Porn-heavy, intelligible-dialogue-free show, and it's likely the critic will mention this scene as a standout.
The Metal Gear series is full of these, often between Snake and the member of the Quirky Miniboss Squad he just beat. He also has them with Otacon and Meryl at various points in the series.
In Snake Eater, Big Boss and EVA behind the waterfall, "It's alright Snake. From now on, I'll be your eyes."
A staple of RPGs that don't have Heroic Mime characters and are therefore more expressive. Inevitably, there will be a scene that solidifies heroic resolve and conveys to the player the sense that things must be seen through to the end.
For example, Final Fantasy X has at least three: when Tidus finds out Sin is Jecht, when Tidus finds out that Yuna will die during the Final Summoning (at Home), and finally when the party finds out the Final Summoning is a lie and something else must be done.
The scene between Tidus and Yuna in the Macalania Spring (leading up to their Big Damn Kiss) stands out too.
At least twice in Final Fantasy XII: first, in Jahara, the Garif settlement, where the Chieftain explains to Ashe the exact nature of Nethicite and the power it wields, prompting her to rethink her entire motivation. Later, in the endgame, the party has successfully infiltrated Sky Fortress Bahamut and takes a minute to reflect upon the journey they've all taken together, and what they hope will result from the Final Battle that is about to ensue.
Happens a few times during Final Fantasy XIII. Mainly between Lightning/Hope and Sazh/Vanille. Biggest examples are when Hope tells Lightning why he hates Snow so much, Sazh confronting Vanille before his Eidolon Fight, and when Fang reveals the truth about her and Vanille to Lightning.
Mass Effect 2 has a big one during the personal mission for Mordin Solus - he's a brilliant scientist who did something of debatable necessity and more debatable morality, and his personal mission revisits the ghosts of his work. In particular, finding a dead woman who volunteered to be experimented on in hopes of reversing what Mordin did triggers a very quiet, very powerful scene as Mordin grapples with the consequences of what he did versus how necessary (or, more importantly, perhaps unnecessary) it was. However, if Shepard is Renegade, you can simply agree with Mordin as he makes his initial statement about the situation and then the game moves on. Only Paragon Shepard gets the cool scene.
The loyalty missions cover the gamut from Mordin's guilt to Miranda's love for her sister, Jacob's fury at discovering what his father did, Jack's realization of what really happened to her when she escaped, the pure heart-wrenching sorrow of Tali standing over her father (and depending on how the player does it, the moral outrage he/she lets loose on the Quarian leaders while defending Tali), Kasumi's personal loss, Thane's attempt to reach out to his estranged son...really, Mass Effect 2 is full of these, all done very well.
The original Mass Effect had a few, usually post-operation meetings with your crew and the Council. The most memorable Quiet Drama Scene, though, has to be Vigil's - it's sandwiched between the Ilos surface fight and The Very Definitely Final Dungeon, and is (baring an optional chat with the Citadel VI) the last dialogue before fighting Saren, as well as finally explaining the whole truth of the backstory. Plus it has quiet but undeniably epic music throughout the whole scene.
At the end of Mass Effect 3, after confronting the Illusive Man on the Citadel, Shepard and Anderson sit and watch the battle in orbit over Earth, exhausted and wounded, and, in Anderson's case, dying. Anderson has enough time to tell Shepard he's proud of him/her, just before he dies. Shepard, however soon after gets a call from Hackett, which leads him/her to the final choice.
Many of the incidental conversations you overhear on the Citadel in Mass Effect 3 become this when you hear the entire thing: the young teenager anxiously awaiting the arrival of her parents talking to the man who knows they're probably dead and doesn't have the heart to tell her, the batarian and human bonding over their personal losses, the salarian realizing his human friend sold her car to secretly buy him the armour that saved his life, Liara talking to her father, the asari commando forced to kill a wounded human girl who turns out to have probably been Joker's sister while being pursued by husks, and many more.
In fact, most of the conversations Shepard has during the third game are very quiet, dramatic and emotional scenes, Thane's death scene being a heartwrenching example.
When the city the main character is in gets destroyed by a nuclear bomb. It's almost silent, there's no shooting, he can barely even move, you crawl out of a chopper, limp 5 feet ...then he dies.
Modern Warfare 2 has the cutscene between "Enemy of My Enemy" and "Just Like Old Times", where Captain Price goes into a quiet, dark, and very personal "World of Cardboard" Speech about hopelessness, madness, and the singularity of purpose of the upcoming mission to kill General Shepherd.
Modern Warfare 3 has the final cutscene right before "Dust To Dust" where price and Makarov have their final conversation before the shooting begins.
Every time your party rests at camp in Dragon Age: Origins. Some of the more personal and character developing conversations with your party members only occur in camp, and resting in camp is a nice break from the struggles of your quest. Making it all the more shocking when the Archdemon sends a band of Shrieks to ambush your party while you are in camp.
Also, the scene in Flemeth's hut when you awake after the battle of Ostagar, where you got almost and the king and The Obi-Wan got totally killed. After about an hour of shouting, epic battle music, killing legions of Darkspawn, (including your first Mini-Boss), and the complete defeat of an entire army, the conersation between you and Morrigan plays out absolutely quiet, without music, and only a few rustling and creaking sound effects.
Also, both Origins and Dragon Age II give you long quiet break just before the final battle to talk with your Companions and give them the last chance to say what they always wanted to say. Everything said during those scenes is either sad, heartwarming, or both.
Valkyrie Profile 2 Silmeria has plenty as well. About half-way through most of the storyline-centric dungeons, and occasionally on leaving a town, you'll get a scene of the party stopping to rest and talk, which highlights their Character Development.
Ace Combat 5 has an optional quiet scene (likewise optionally interrupted by a Bonus Boss) in the final mission. If you defeat the Final Boss squadron before the timer runs out, you will be treated to a brief, almost poetic dialogue between your three wingmen, then to their respective thoughts at that moment (in order: idealistic Ensign Newbie Grimm looks forward to going home with his brother after the war, cynical Old Soldier Snow thanks Blaze for letting him fly as a wingman once more, and Blaze's Violently Protective Girlfriend Nagase repeats her vow to never let him down). Then the real final battle begins. And so does the fittingly awesome music.
Talesof Symphonia makes use of this before any of the major boss battles, giving you a bit of free roam to talk to each character in your party to get a few words of their feelings, their resolve, and exchange pep talks, all of which gets you very emotionally tied with the characters. A notable one is right before the almost-final dungeon Lloyd and co. stops at an inn to rest up before the big battle. At this time whichever character you had the best relationship with knocks on your door, and you can have a scene with them that gets pretty heart-felt.
Uncharted 2: Among Thieves has a level that's just walking around a small Tibetan village in the mountains. There's no baddies, and Nate can't do anything but walk slowly and interact with villagers: you can pet the ox, play with some kids and admire the view. When you return to the village a few levels later and discover the Big Bad slaughtering the villagers wholesale, both Nate and the player are genuinely horrified and all the more determined to punch the baddie's face in and save the day.
There's a lot of these cutscenes in Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception. Sully and Elena try to convince Nate that his hunt for Iram of the Pillars isn't worth the effort, he has a conversation with the villain who knows more about Nate's backstory than anyone else, and there's a gorgeous, mostly wordless scene with Nate and Elena after he returns from his cruise ship escapades. They all serve to reveal and illuminate, in different ways, why this quest is so personal for Nate: he's based his entire identity on the lie that he's Sir Francis Drake's heir, and wants to prove he's worthy of that claim. His arc over the game is about deciding what's more important, the identity he built around this lie or the life he's built with Sully and Elena.
There's plenty of these in Asura's Wrath many of these include flashbacks to the time when Asura's family was still whole and his wife durga was alive. There are several other instances, too.
Chrono Trigger: If you do the forest side-quest, you're treated to a campfire scene, where the whole gang sit around and discuss life, death and memories, in the process hinting that Lavos isn't the one creating the gates.
Shortly after this, whether or not Lucca succeeded in saving her mother, there is a more touching one between Lucca and Robo, while the others are still asleep.
The scene where Crono is brought back to life also counts, especially if Marle or Lucca (or both) are in the party.
In Famous 2 has a rather iconic one, wherein Cole, the main character, sits down with his friend and Comedic Relief Zeke to have some beers and watch a movie, right after obtaining one of the objects necessary to power him up (normally, this scene would advance the plot in some way or be dedicated to Exposition). What makes it better is how both their cellphones start ringing and they both look at each other as they put the calls on hold, and how at the end, Cole uses the object in question, triggering a rather flashy and loud sequence that takes place in the background, while the camera remains on Zeke half-asleep in the couch.
Justice League Unlimited has the most potent distillation of this trope you'll ever see. In the middle of fighting Wonder Woman, Hawkgirl nearly hits a prone Vixen with her mace; there's a complete stop in the music and fighting while the two just look at each other. Aside from that instance, the series has many good scenes along those lines; "Epilogue" is practically nothing but.
What Wonder Woman was going to do to Toyman after he killed Superman, and how Flash calmed her down.
Hawkgirl gets another when she walks in on Batman, who she knows had earlier been on a time-travel trip to the future, and asks him to tell her about her (as yet not even close to being conceived) son. The episode ends at that point but the question is asked with such heartfelt pleading that you know he couldn't refuse her request.
Come to think of it, she probably gets most of them. Her calming the monstrous Grundy before she's forced to kill him, followed immediately by her acceptance of the crowd's accusation that she was a traitor to her team. Her interactions with a still distrusting Wonder Woman when the two have to go free Hades. Her scene with Alfred after the Thanagarian invasion...
Johnny Test lampshades this tropes in one episode when he and Dukey enter an action movie and Johnny wonders what going on when the film jumps from an chase scene to motel room.
Takanuva has one in BIONICLE: The Mask of Light as he comes to terms with Jaller's death before going on to face Makuta.
Quite a few moments in Avatar: The Last Airbender. The show's action sequences are stunningly fantastic, but it's the quiet, emotional scenes (usually before said fantastic action scenes) that really make the show great. One notable example is the scene between Iroh and Zuko in "The Siege of the North," where Iroh gives Zuko some last-minute advice and tells him that he thinks of him as his own son, right before Zuko ninjas into the Northern Water Tribe to capture Aang.
Zuko has quite a penchant for this, as almost all of his important character moments happen in the middle of huge action scenes. While everyone else was invading the Fire Nation in the middle of the third season, he was giving a "World of Cardboard" Speech and preparing to join the Avatar. Even his duel with Azula in the Grand Finale comes off this way, as it's not written as an action scene, but as a tragic one.
Samurai Jack is built on the idea that these scenes will make the action more thrilling.
Motorcity often plays out like this. There's plenty of action, but most of these quiet drama scenes are often between Mike and Julie. Particularly in the finale when she's trying to break him out of Kane's cell. Or in Vendetta when Mike tells Texas about the day he left KaneCo.
A lot of Sym-Bionic Titan plays out like this, especially the episode "A Family Crisis." The ending being the most notable action scenes, the drama scenes being the flashbacks and when Lance and Ilana talk about how if Octus keeps using his power, he might not make it out alive.