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Moulin Rouge!: 12 memorable moments

We celebrate the 20th anniversary of Moulin Rouge! by looking back at some of the most iconic moments from the film.

Baz Luhrmann’s trailblazing masterpiece, Moulin Rouge! hit Australian cinemas 20 years ago on 24 May 2001, when audiences were wowed by the incredible vocals of Nicole Kidman and Ewan McGregor, the lavish Academy Award-winning costumes and set designs from Catherine Martin, and not to mention the extraordinary chart-topping soundtrack. This modern classic follows a young Englishman Christian (McGregor) who falls in love with cabaret actress and courtesan Satine (Kidman), of the Moulin Rouge in Paris.

To mark the anniversary, as well as Moulin Rouge! The Musical opening in Melbourne this August, let’s dive into some of the most memorable moments from one of Australia’s highest-grossing films (warning: on the small chance you haven't seen it, spoilers lie ahead):

1. Kylie Minogue as the Green Fairy

A cameo from Kylie Minogue as the playful and flirtatious Green Fairy - yes please!

She appears as a hallucination to Christian and his bohemian troupe as they experience the effects of the infamous alcoholic spirit, absinthe. The sparkling Green Fairy lights up the night sky, singing a rendition of The Sound of Music as the group prepare to head off to the Moulin Rouge.

2. Zidler’s Rap Medley/Can Can Dance

The first introduction to the world of the Moulin Rouge is full of extravagance, glitz, glamour and colour. The mash up of Smells Like Teen Spirit, Because We Can and Lady Marmalade is a treat for the eyes and ears, with Harold Zidler (Jim Broadbent) leading the charge into a night full of thrilling raucousness. Welcome to the nightclub of your dreams.

3. Satine’s Entrance

All eyes are on Mademoiselle Satine (Nicole Kidman), the star courtesan of the Moulin Rouge, as she glides down on a trapeze swing. Singing a slowed-down version of Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend, she has the audience, the Duke and Christian thoroughly mesmerised. Dressed in her “Black Diamond” costume, a sparkling fish-scale corset dress, with top hat and long black gloves, she high-kicks her way through the swath of ogling admirers.

4. The fall of Satine

Satine’s dramatic fall from her perch on the swing is met with gasps and shock. Silence fills the Moulin Rouge as she’s escorted off stage. It’s the first moment the audience realises Satine is unwell and foreshadows the film’s tragic end.

5. Your Song

In a break from the film’s frantic chaos, we have the first tender moment between Christian and Satine in the rendition of Elton John’s Your Song. In a celebration of love and beauty, Satine is mesmerised from the instant Christian begins singing. There’s dancing in the clouds, a sparkling pink umbrella and wow can Ewan McGregor sing.

6. Pitching the show to The Duke - Spectacular Spectacular

Christian and Satine, aided by Zidler, Toulouse and the troupe, pitch the show to the Duke, having to quickly and cleverly improvise its storyline in order to get his financial backing. In their slapstick-esque performance, they essentially lay out the plot of the film, complete with frenzied dancing, fast-motion and sound effects.

7. Elephant Love Medley

It’s one love ballad after another as Christian attempts to woo Satine atop the Moulin Rouge Elephant. There’s everything from the Beatles’ All You Need Is Love and Phil Collins’ One More Night to David Bowie’s Heroes and Dolly Parton’s I Will Always Love You. It seems the two have fallen for each other when Satine utters the words “you’re going to be bad for business, I can tell”.

8. Zidler and the Duke’s rendition of Like a Virgin

In a ploy to distract the suspicious Duke from Christian and Satine’s passionate romance, Zidler tells him Satine has gone to confession. The two men take centre stage, with Zidler stealing the show dressed in a lacy white tablecloth and launching into an operatic take on Madonna’s hit track.

9. El Tango de Roxanne

One of the most dramatic scenes of the film, The Police’s Roxanne is re-imagined with the husky vocals set against a shrill string accompaniment. Featuring McGregor alongside renowned singer/musician José Feliciano and Polish-Australian actor Jacek Koman, who also dances up a storm opposite musical theatre legend Caroline O’Connor and the chorus. The quick cuts between the tango-inspired dancing at the group’s rehearsal and the Duke’s attack on Satine, is suspenseful and heart-pounding, with John O’Connell’s masterful choreography front and centre.

10. Iconic Love Ballad: Come What May

The only original song for the film, Come What May is an ode to Christian and Satine’s love for each other. As the heartbroken Christian leaves the show, Satine begins to sing their song to convince Christian of her love for him. This sentimental moment is full of longing glances, tears and shy smiles as Christian reunites with Satine on stage as the pair publicly declare their shared devotion.

11. The Duke’s attempt to shoot Christian

We hold our breath as the Duke manages to snatch the gun and rushes down the aisle in an attempt to shoot Christian, screaming “my way!”. But his attempt doesn’t last for long as Zidler manages to thwart him with a swift punch to the face. Good riddance!

12. Satine’s Death

A tragic end to the film as Satine tells the unknowing Christian she’s dying. She urges him to tell their story before she finally succumbs to her illness. Their last moment together is heartfelt and sombre and one of the most difficult scenes for director Baz Luhrmann to film. Cue the waterworks.

Watch Moulin Rouge! On Disney Plus here