- For many viewers, the entire opening with River's rescue finally recounted takes the cake.
- By the end of the film, Jayne has a measure of respect for Simon, and even offers a drink.
- The rebuilding of Serenity in the end. Inara has no technical skills at all, but even she pitches in—as an artist.
- When the Reavers attack the first time, River collapses in a fit. Jayne instantly runs over to her side and asks if she's alright.
- The first 40 minutes pretty much confirm that Mal for one still doesn't trust River 100%. At the end of the movie... he's letting her drive.
- Shortly after Simon decides that he and River are leaving Serenity, River's programming is triggered. She goes absolutely nuts and beats the living snot out of everyone in Fanty and Mingo's bar. Simon says a "safe word" that causes her to collapse. What does Mal do? Calmly, without saying a word, picks River up and carries her back to Serenity.
- It says a lot that the movie itself could be considered a meta-example. After responding to the fan petition, Joss Whedon started seeking out a way to make this movie, and Alan Tudyk decided to return a prop he reportedly filched off the Firefly set—the Big Red Button used in "Out of Gas", with a note quoting that ep: "when your miracle gets here, hit this button, and we'll come right back."
- It's easy to miss, but while Serenity is plummeting toward Mr. Universe's planet, Jayne is checking the passengers' seat belts before he gets a chance to strap himself in, including River's. Furthermore, when he starts getting thrown around the room by the ship spinning out of control, Kaylee calls out to him. They may not always get along, but the crew still care about each other when it counts.
- Jayne saying "She's Right!" after Zoe tells him to stop after he says that River is "damaging his calm". Wait, did Jayne just agree with River?
- Jayne saying these words: "Shepherd Book always said, 'If you can't do sumthin' smart, do sumthin' right.'" This is made even more poignant by the fact that before, he was criticizing Mal for going this route.
- The final scene with Mal and River flying, when River asks him to say the words she knows anyway:Mal: Love. You can learn all the math in the 'verse... but you take a boat in the air that you don't love... she'll shake you off just as sure as the turn of the worlds. Love keeps her in the air when she ought to fall down... tells you she's hurting before she keens. Makes her a home.
- Mal calling River a "little albatross", in a Call-Back to his discussion with the Operative on The Rime of the Ancient Mariner.The Operative: The girl will rain down destruction on you and your ship. She is an albatross, Captain.
Mal: Way I remember it, an albatross was a ship's good luck, 'til some idiot killed it.
- Mal calling River a "little albatross", in a Call-Back to his discussion with the Operative on The Rime of the Ancient Mariner.
- In the entire show, all fourteen episodes and the movie, I have never heard Mal sound terrified until he screams Zoe's name and throws her to the ground before the next harpoon hits. When they make it to the bottleneck and she's telling him to go on, he stops and fumbles and just says, "Are you here?"
Mal: You think she'll hold together?Zoe: She's tore up plenty, but she'll fly true.
- And then the ending:
- River's Moment of Awesome —taking on an entire room full of Reavers and winning—is born of a desire to protect her brother and friends the way they've protected her.
- The last minute or so. The music, the visuals, the audience, and this:
- And they do. Both literally and metaphorically.
- Special points to the ship flying away. The image of a multi-ton replica of a crippled bird in cast iron, a thing that doesn't look like it should ever be able to fly, that crashed, not only achieving flight, but apparently punching physics in the face while doing so. It has done the impossible, and that makes it beautiful.
- When Mal is talking to Inara right before she hints that she'll be staying on Serenity, Mal gently touches the cut on her lip. Yes, they both play it off, but its just like the moment in "Out of Gas" when Mal touches her shoulder: a small gesture that says everything he can't.Mal: You ready to get off this heap, back to civilized life?Inara: I, uh...I don't know.Mal: [smiling] Good answer.
- As always, Simon and River's interactions.
- Simon confessing his love for Kaylee, and regrets that his singlemindedness prevented him getting closer to her, in the middle of a gorram firefight!
Heartwarming / Serenity