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64 Stunning Slo-Mo Sequences In Movies - And What Makes Them Great

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Ah, slow motion. If you have a dramatic death, a long walk down a corridor, or if your film’s just running a bit short, slowing the motion of the action is a surefire way to success. With extra slow replays currently dominating TV screens courtesy of the World Cup, we decided to take a look back at the best (and slowest) that cinema has to offer. It turns out that everything looks cooler when you hold the camera speed down...

THE WILD BUNCH

Who's responsible?** **Sam Peckinpah

What's happening?** **The eponymous bunch, led by Pike Bishop (William Holden), have a final, bloody showdown involving lots of old timey machine guns. Pike and his men end up dead, sadly.

Why slow-mo? Because it's the film's dramatic and emotional climax, with the slow motion also serving to transform the violence into something almost balletic and beautiful. In those pre-Final Cut Pro days, the technique was pretty revolutionary at the time, with editor Lou Lombardo rightly praised alongside Peckinpah for the final result. Even more impressive, it was Lombardo's first feature film as an editor.


BONNIE AND CLYDE

Who's responsible? Arthur Penn

What's happening? The two young outlaws/lovers are riddled with a frankly excessive number of bullets after their car is flagged down by a duplicitous old man. Cue plenty of writhing and dramatic falling.

Why slow-mo?** *The two characters are fairly *central to the film – look at the title, for goodness' sake – and so their deaths are more than a little momentous. It also emphasises the sheer brutality of their deaths, particularly given the lack of music and the way their bullet-riddled corpses flop around like rag dolls. Finally, if you have such impressive squib work, why not show it off?


LAST MAN STANDING

Who's responsible? Walter Hill

What's happening?** **Bruce Willis shoots his enemies with two-handed guns, causing one to fly back in a somewhat absurd fashion, and another to fall through a glass ceiling with gusto.

Why slow-mo?** **When people are doing such impressive backwards somersaults after being shot, you might as well milk it with slow motion. And this being a western, the technique is something of an homage to Peckinpah.


THE LONG RIDERS

Who's responsible? Walter Hill

What's happening? The outlaw gang are ambushed in Northfield and are forced to ride out of town pronto. But not before some of them are shot off horses in super-slow-motion, with coats flapping around dramatically.

Why slow-mo? Again, this being a western, there's the Peckinpah shadow. The stunt work is also pretty extraordinary, with people falling from roofs and horses jumping through plate glass windows, and the slow-motion means more time to appreciate the danger to life and limb. It means that the violence is shown in much greater detail – particularly that gruesome cheek shot.

Next Page: The Untouchables, The Matrix, Reservoir Dogs, The Darjeeling Limited

THE UNTOUCHABLES

Who’s responsible? Brian De Palma

What’s happening? Eliot Ness (Kevin Costner) and George Stone (Andy Garcia) have a shoot-out with some of Capone’s goons in a Chicago train station, while a baby falls down the stairs in a pram. It’s all in tribute to the Odessa Steps sequence in Eisenstein’s Battleship Potemkin (hence the jaunty sailor who gets shot), although De Palma shies away from killing both mother and child, as Eisenstein did. Like a post-natal Neo, the baby dodges every stray bullet, and is caught by Ness and Stone at the last second.

Why slow-mo? Because the 80s, and because De Palma could. It also serves to ratchet up the tension, alongside Ennio Morricone’s quavering strings and the mother screaming, “My baby!”. And have you ever hurled a pram down a staircase? Those things go quicker than you’d think.


THE MATRIX

Who’s responsible? The Wachowskis

*What’s happening? *Neo (Keanu Reeves) is cornered by a dreaded Agent and is forced to dodge the bullets. Cue some revolutionary bullet time, where we actually see bullets moving in the air while the camera swoops around our hero. He soon gets hit anyway, but Trinity (Carrie-Anne Moss) saves the day with a bullet to the Agent’s temple, who falls in – what else? – slow motion.

Why slow-mo? Because Neo’s dodging bullets and the audience needs to see it happen: when everything slows down, we’re seeing events as he perceives them. With the use of multiple cameras, wire work and green screen, slow motion is not only justified but taken to a whole new level. Plus the cloud of blood from the Agent’s head looks all pretty.


RESERVOIR DOGS

Who’s responsible? Quentin Tarantino

What’s happening? Having disputed the ethics of tipping and whether Madonna really is singing about a big dick, the rainbow-monikered gang leave a restaurant very slowly, to the strains of George Baker’s Little Green Bag.

Why slow-mo? Because it’s really, really cool. With Harvey Keitel, Steve Buscemi, Tim Roth and Michael Madsen in tight-fitting suits and black ties, why wouldn’t you put them in slow motion? However, with the music edging into corny and the less than impressive setting of a diner car park (not forgetting Chris Penn's shell suit), there’s a cunning undercurrent of irony to the whole thing.


THE DARJEELING LIMITED

Who’s responsible? Wes Anderson

What’s happening? Lots of things. The Whitman brothers (Adrien Brody, Owen Wilson, and Jason Schwartzman) walk out of a hut, run for a train, and generally look cool in gorgeous golden sunlight.

Why slow-mo? Because it looks super cool, especially when scored to The Kinks. It’s Wes Anderson; what were you expecting, Benny Hill style chases?

Next Page: Underworld, Death Proof, Zombieland, Sherlock Holmes

UNDERWORLD

Who's responsible? Len Wiseman

What's happening? Selene (Kate Beckinsale) jumps off buildings and kills Lycans with aplomb, all with judicious use of slow motion.

Why slow-mo? Clearly Len Wiseman's thinking must have been, "You know what looks better than Kate Beckinsale in leather? Kate Beckinsale in leather in slow motion..." Then he married her for good measure. It's logic that's hard to argue with, but we hope they don't wash the dishes or tidy the house in slow motion too, otherwise their lives could get even more tedious than Underworld.


DEATH PROOF

Who's responsible? Quentin Tarantino

What's happening? A very violent head-on car crash between Arlene (Vanessa Ferlito), Shanna (Jordan Ladd) and Julia (Sydney Poitier) in a Honda and Stuntman Mike (Kurt Russell) in his "death proof" Chevy. Cue severed legs, tires ripping off faces, and a lot of blood.

Why slow-mo? It's a very fast crash, so to get the full impact of the collision, Tarantino gives it to us in all its slow, gory detail. This is cut together with full-speed depictions of the crash, as well as repeating the moment again and again, just to make sure we get the point.


ZOMBIELAND

Who's responsible? Ruben Fleischer

What's happening? Lots of people are running away from zombies (and carelessly careening into the credit titles), very, very slowly, to the strains of Metallica's For Whom the Bell Tolls.

Why slow-mo? Because the crew had access to a digital Phantom camera, capable of capturing 1000 frames per second. It's also funny and weirdly beautiful, seeing all that gore and globules of blood fly through the air so slowly. And it gives us a little time to absorb exactly how dangerous the zombie menace is, in case you were in any doubt.


SHERLOCK HOLMES

Who's responsible? Guy Ritchie

What's happening? Sherlock Holmes (Robert Downey Jr.) is fighting in a boxing ring, using his cunning to envisage how best to win the fight. After his slow motion planning, he enacts the same maneuvers in real time, to devastating effect.

Why slow-mo? Holmes is calculating how best to defeat his opponent, so the film slows right down, just to accommodate his enormous intellect and show how fast his brain works compared to the rest of us. It also means that we get to see a handkerchief fly through the air in slow motion (which is always rather pretty) before we get to the full bone-crunching, face-squishing action.

Next Page: Dredd, A Better Tomorrow, Bring Me The Head Of Alfredo Garcia, The Hurt Locker

DREDD

Who’s responsible? Pete Travis

What’s happening? Ma-Ma (Lena Headey) has indulged in the hot new drug, ‘Slo-Mo’. Which makes everything, err, slow-mo. She sits in her bath, hypnotised by the motion of her cigarette smoke and the splashing of the water.

Why slow-mo? … because she’s taken Slo-Mo? It’s extremely beautiful, but also a neat way to make the technique directly relevant to the plot – quite a rarity on this list.


A BETTER TOMORROW

Who’s responsible? John Woo

What’s happening? A lot of shooting, hitting and explosions in slow motion.

Why slow-mo? Because it makes all of the above look much more impressive and dramatic. And, to get philosophical for a moment, is a John Woo film without slow-motion even a John Woo film at all? If a dove flaps with no-one to stretch the motion out, did it really flap at all?


BRING ME THE HEAD OF ALFREDO GARCIA

Who’s responsible? Sam Peckinpah

What’s happening? Sappensly (Robert Webber) gets shot by Bennie (Warren Oates) and falls to the ground, shooting his own gun as he goes.

Why slow-mo? Because Sam Peckinpah loves slow motion – and because Sappensly’s death is a crucial moment in the film. It’s also a lot more subtle than a lot of the other entries on this list, lasting little more than two seconds.


THE HURT LOCKER

Who’s responsible? Kathryn Bigelow

What’s happening? An enormous explosion, coming from an IED.

Why slow-mo? The devastating effect of the blast is shown in meticulous detail, with dust thrown off a car roof, stones flying into the air and Staff Sergeant Matthew Thompson (Guy Pearce) blown off his feet. It also rams home the violence of the explosion: thanks to the slowed down footage, Bigelow draws the viewer’s eyes to Thompson’s plastic visor, coated entirely with blood from inside his helmet.

Next Page: 300, The Usual Suspects, Superman Returns, Spider-Man

300

Who’s responsible? Zack Snyder

What’s happening? The 300 Spartan warriors, led by King Leonidas (Gerard Butler), face off against the evil Persians, with Leonidas dispensing with an impressive number himself in one continuous shot.

Why slow-mo? Not only does the speed-ramping look stunning (what with Butler’s six pack and all), but the slow motion is a nifty reflection of the source material. As he slows down certain moments, Snyder is able both to emphasise specific violent flourishes and to accurately mirror Frank Miller’s original comic frames. Fun fact: Reddit users calculated that the film would be 14 minutes shorter if there were no slow motion at all.


THE USUAL SUSPECTS

Who’s responsible? Bryan Singer

What’s happening? Agent Kujan (Chazz Palminteri) finally realises he’s been duped by “Verbal” Kint (Kevin Spacey). Verbal was making up the entire story, based on pictures and text on the wall he was staring at, all to cover up the fact that he is, in fact, Keyser Söze.

Why slow-mo? It’s the big reveal of the film, pulling the rug out from under Kujan and the audience. Fittingly, then, we get a coffee cup shattering on the floor in slow motion, which eventually is shown to be manufactured by none other than Kobayashi Porcelain. If the rug hadn't been pulled, it would never have broken!


SUPERMAN RETURNS

Who’s responsible? Bryan Singer

What’s happening? Superman (Brandon Routh) flies to a bank to stop a group of bank robbers on the roof. He arrives just in time to intercept the fire from a chain machine gun, before one robber fires a pistol at his head. It collides with his eyeball and bounces harmlessly to the ground.

Why slow-mo? Because although we know Superman is impervious to bullets, we’ve never seen exactly to what extent. In a post-Matrix bullet time world, Singer was able to show something previously thought impossible: you’ll believe a man can stop a bullet with his eyeball.


SPIDER-MAN

Who’s responsible? Sam Raimi

What’s happening? Peter Parker (Tobey Maguire) gradually realises the extent of his powers when he’s confronted by the school bully, Flash Thompson (True Blood's Joe Manganiello). Thanks to his lightning speed, Peter dodges every punch and eventually floors Flash with a quick punch to the chest.

Why slow-mo? Because Spidey’s reactions have become so much quicker, it totally makes sense that we see things much slower. From flies to spit balls to Flash’s punches, it not only looks great but is a neat way to show how powerful Peter is becoming.

Next Page: Inception, Pirates Of The Caribbean: At World's End, Equilibrium, Watchmen

INCEPTION

Who’s responsible? Christopher Nolan

What’s happening? Leonardo DiCaprio explains how the whole dreaming thing works to Ellen Page's architecture student, and they begin to experiment with the possibilities, blowing up parts of Paris really, really slowly.

Why slow-mo? Dreams within dreams within dreams. The further down the dream levels you go, the slower the above levels seem to occur. Or something. Fortunately, we’re never shown the top level (i.e. the waking world) in slow-motion, as the final act of the film would then involve a lot of hot towels and peanuts being dispensed really, really slowly aboard a plane full of sleepers.


PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: AT WORLD'S END

Who’s responsible? Gore Verbinski

What’s happening? Big (or rather, small) baddie Cutler Beckett (Tom Hollander) is being assaulted by cannonfire from all sides. As the HMS Endeavour explodes around him, he becomes eerily calm and descends a staircase, launching a thousand gifs in the process.

Why slow-mo? Beckett really doesn’t have a plan and realises it’s all hopeless, and the chaotic explosions show just how badly he’s lost control. The slow motion shrapnel and wood are genuinely beautiful, and it makes for one of the more impressive and memorable moments in an otherwise forgettable mess.


EQUILIBRIUM

Who’s responsible? Kurt Wimmer

What’s happening? Sean Bean’s Errol Partridge (no relation to Alan, presumably) has been caught with a copy of Yeats poetry by fellow Cleric John Preston (Christian Bale). Since all material that could stimulate emotions is banned, this is a bit awkward, so Preston shoots Partridge in the head.

Why slow-mo? All of Equilibrium’s carefully choreographed fights happen extremely fast and are all the more impressive for it. That does mean that a lot of faceless goons meet their ends pretty rapidly, so for Partridge’s death to mean something, slow motion is the way to go. It also looks very pretty, what with all the pages of Yeats fluttering around.


WATCHMEN

Who’s responsible? Zack Snyder

What’s happening? An alternative history of the 20th century, all set to an extended version of Bob Dylan’s The Times They Are a-Changin’. We see the famous V-Day kiss recast as a same-sex clinch, Doctor Manhattan exploding puny foes in Vietnam, and the real culprit behind the Kennedy assassination, all while Snyder chronicles the rise and fall of the first Minutemen.

Why slow-mo? It looks extremely pretty and stylish and helps make this wordless title sequence the undisputed highlight of the entire film. Sadly, Snyder’s judicious use of the technique throughout the rest of the movie doesn’t work as well, instead serving to (very slowly) gild the lily.

Next Page: Kill Bill, Lethal Weapon, The Royal Tenenbaums, Troy

KILL BILL

Who’s responsible? Quentin Tarantino

What’s happening? O-Ren Ishii (Lucy Liu) and her crew walk down a corridor. That’s pretty much it.

Why slow-mo? Because, as Reservoir Dogs proved, people walking in slow motion near a restaurant look very cool indeed, and given the black suits of O-Ren’s posse, Tarantino is making a clear nod to his breakout film. In addition, the now famous Battle Without Honor Or Humanity practically demands that you walk in slow motion whenever it plays.


LETHAL WEAPON

Who’s responsible? Richard Donner

What’s happening? Riggs (Mel Gibson) decides to deal with a suicidal man in a slightly unorthodox fashion. He edges onto the roof ledge before handcuffing the man to himself, meaning that if the guy jumps, he’s a murderer. Eventually, Riggs yanks him off the roof himself, to a well-placed cushion below.

Why slow-mo? It’s a nice bit of stunt work, so slow motion is a good way to show it off - although the slower pace does mean you can see that the stuntmen are holding hands rather than handcuffed together if you look closely. Plus in the '80s, everything was better when slowed down – particularly if it means you get to see Mel Gibson’s well-coiffed bouffant waving gloriously in the wind.


THE ROYAL TENENBAUMS

Who’s responsible? Wes Anderson

What’s happening? Margot Tenenbaum (Gwyneth Paltrow) comes to meet her brother Richie (Luke Wilson), back from his years at sea. She gets off the Green Line bus and approaches Richie to the strains of Nico’s These Days.

Why slow-mo? This is the first time Richie’s seen his (adoptive) sister in years, so it’s a pretty momentous meeting for him, particularly given the fact that he’s hopelessly in love with her. It’s a classic slow motion tactic, slowing everything down to show that a character is totally besotted with someone. And Gwyneth Paltrow has never looked cooler than in slow-motion with Wes Anderson is in control.


TROY

Who’s responsible? Wolfgang Petersen

What’s happening? Achilles (Brad Pitt) faces off in single combat against the very large and very bald Boagrius (Nathan Jones). After a rapid run up, he dispatches the hulking baldie with a nifty shoulder stab. Then, back in normal time, he shouts, "Is there no-one else?" as the opposing army all suddenly get very interested in their own feet.

Why slow-mo? Without slowing everything down, this would go far too quickly for us to see what happens. With a single stab, Achilles dispatches his foe, and we get to see the move in excruciating detail. It's an economically and brutally effective way to establish Achilles as the man-killer of legend, a warrior able to best any man alive. If you look closely, you can also see a fair bit of pain on Pitt’s face as well – ironically, he screwed up his Achilles tendon when he landed.

Next Page: Django Unchained, Stick, Rushmore, Gangs Of New York

DJANGO UNCHAINED

Who's responsible? Quentin Tarantino

What's happening? The Brittle brothers are killed by Django (Jamie Foxx). The slowest of the three deaths is the second, who Django whips repeatedly and very enthusiastically, with more gusto than Indiana Jones.

Why slow-mo? With the curve of the whip and Foxx's expression of fury and excitement, it's a moment of pure, lethal catharsis. When Dr. Schultz (Christoph Waltz) shoots the final Brittle brother, it's also eerily beautiful, as his blood slowly spatters the white flowers.


STICK

Who's responsible? Burt Reynolds

What's happening? Our hero Stick (Burt Reynolds) confronts Moke (Dar Robinson) and Chucky (Charles Durning) on a hotel balcony. First Chucky plunges to his death (waggling his arms in slow motion) before Moke, losing his grip, launches himself vainly towards the pool, shooting at Stick as he falls. He misses Stick and the pool, sadly.

Why slow-mo? As this and Lethal Weapon show, it was an unwritten law in the 80s that if you threw a stuntman off a roof, you had to film it in slow motion to ensure you got your money's worth.


RUSHMORE

Who's responsible? Wes Anderson

What's happening? Max Fischer (Jason Schwartzman) fills the room of his perceived love rival Herman Blume (Bill Murray) with bees, before leaving the elevator in slow motion, bees in tow, to The Who's A Quick One (While He's Away). It prompts a tit-for-tat war of attrition between the two.

Why slow-mo? Because it's a major turning point in the film, marking the moment when Herman and Max become enemies, fighting for the affections of Rosemary Blume (Olivia Williams).


GANGS OF NEW YORK

Who's responsible? Martin Scorsese

What's happening? A big fight, ending when Bill the Butcher (Daniel Day-Lewis) brutally kills ‘Priest' Vallon (Liam Neeson).

Why slow-mo? This is it's the big dramatic moment in the film's opening, setting the wheels in motion for the rest of the plot. Neeson's death is enormously important and slowing everything down amidst the spurts of blood and violence helps us to realise that.

Next Page: The Wolf Of Wall Street, Hard Boiled, The Return Of The Pink Panther, Ferris Bueller's Day Off

THE WOLF OF WALL STREET

Who's responsible? Martin Scorsese

What's happening? Donnie Azoff (Jonah Hill) has realised that Jordan Belfort (Leonardo DiCaprio) and their firm Stratton Oakmont have a golden opportunity in the form of Steve Madden. Sorry, Steeeeeeeeeve Maaaaaaaaddeeeeeeennnnn...

Why slow-mo? They're extremely high on Quaaludes, hence the struggle to articulate a single name. It's also hilarious seeing Jonah Hill and his ridiculous teeth struggle to speak, as drinks slosh to the strains of Purcell.


HARD BOILED

Who's responsible? John Woo

What's happening? Undercover cop Tequila (Chow Yun-Fat) shoots some nasty crims while sliding down a bannister.

Why slow-mo? Supposedly this sequence was conceived on the fly, after John Woo saw the staircase and thought it'd look better if Chow Yun-Fat was sliding down. He wasn't wrong. Tequila's very impressive pot-shots at the baddies look much better in slow motion, while wide shots reveal the actual bannister to be fairly short. If this was actual speed, you could have blinked and missed Tequila's impressive stair-work.


THE RETURN OF THE PINK PANTHER

Who's responsible? Blake Edwards

What's happening? Loyal assistant Cato (Burt Kwouk) attacks Inspector Clouseau (Peter Sellers) from a fridge, eventually leading to an ambitious flying kick from the latter. It's possibly the finest slow-motion scream in cinema.

Why slow-mo? It's absolutely hilarious, exploiting the deep pitch of a slow motion scream to brilliant effect. Everything from Austin Powers to Hot Fuzz owes this moment a debt.


FERRIS BUELLER'S DAY OFF

Who's responsible? John Hughes

What's happening? A 1961 Ferrari GT California – belonging to the father of one Cameron Frye (Alan Ruck) – flies over the camera, driven by two ecstatic garage attendants, all to the theme from Star Wars.

Why slow-mo? It's mimicking the opening shot of the original Star Wars, with the Star Destroyer flying overhead. If you really overthink it, though, you could argue it's a foreshadowing of the Ferrari's eventual destruction at the end of the film, which is also slowed down for all it's worth.

Next Page: Snatch, The Amazing Spider-Man, The Amazing Spider-Man 2, Bad Boys II

SNATCH

Who's responsible? Guy Ritchie

What's happening? Mickey O'Neil (Brad Pitt) is having his big fight, but it isn't going exactly to plan and eventually he's floored by a particularly brutal punch. Not only do we get slow motion, but we also get a shirtless Pitt plunging underwater. That should keep a segment of the audience happy.

Why slow-mo? It's used occasionally in the build-up to the big punch, but once that right hook hits, that's when Ritchie really cranks his camera extra slow. Raging Bull got there first, showing the violence of the boxing ring with slow motion, but Snatch turned it all the way to eleven.


THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN

Who's responsible? Marc Webb

What's happening? Peter Parker (Andrew Garfield) has vanquished his foes and embraced his powers, so why not finish with a lovely spin to show off?

Why slow-mo? As with the original Spider-Man, it's a very useful way to show the extent of Spidey's powers and his rapid reaction time. Plus, it gives the film a suitably heroic final shot to send audiences out on a high.


THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN 2

Who's responsible? Marc Webb

What's happening? Electro (Jamie Foxx) sends a pulse of electricity across Times Square, threatening to electrocute a whole crowd of people. Through a quick-thinking use of his web shooter, Spidey (Andrew Garfield) manages to save several innocent bystanders from getting fried.

Why slow-mo? Taking the cue from the first film, Marc Webb again uses slow motion to show just how quick Spidey's reactions really are, with the camera zooming around to show exactly what threats need to be neutralised. It's also used to great effect in depicting the fate of Gwen Stacey (Emma Stone) at the climax.


BAD BOYS II

Who's responsible? Michael Bay

What's happening? Detectives Marcus (Martin Lawrence) and Mike (Will Smith) raid a Ku Klux Klan rally, which results in Mike (at about 3:20 here) jumping in the air while firing two guns (to Danny Butterman's delight) to shoot a Klan member – and accidentally shooting Marcus' buttock in the process.

Why slow-mo? If you watch someone dive through the air firing two guns in actual speed, it looks a bit silly and is over very quickly. Hence the slow motion. Plus, Bay's camera follows the bullet on its trajectory through Marcus' buttock and into the enemy's neck, which could only happen if slow motion is used.

Next Page: Raging Bull, Hard Target, The LIfe Aquatic With Steve Zissou, Wayne's World

RAGING BULL

Who's responsible? Martin Scorsese

What's happening? Jake La Motta (Robert De Niro) is dancing around a smoky boxing ring, hooded and ready for his fight.

Why slow-mo? Because Scorsese is elevating the brutal sport of boxing to the status of violent ballet. The music by Pietro Mascagni is delicate and beautiful, serving as a stark contrast to the brutality to come. Just watch as De Niro slugs at the air and hops from foot to foot; he's giving Baryshnikov a run for his money.


HARD TARGET

Who's responsible? John Woo

What's happening? Chance (Jean-Claude Van Damme) is rescuing Natasha (Yancy Butler) from a group of thugs, using mostly his legs.

Why slow-mo? Only with slow motion can you get the full impact of JCVD's astonishing kick-boxing. From his several kicks to the face to his heroic exit, almost everything Mr. Van Damme does is slow and is all the better for it. Particularly when you get to see that fantastic (though worryingly greasy) hair fly out with every spinning kick. This honestly might be the funniest clip on the list.


THE LIFE AQUATIC WITH STEVE ZISSOU

Who's responsible? Wes Anderson

What's happening? Steve Zissou (Bill Murray) leaves the premiere of his completed film with crew in tow, all to the kick-ass sounds of David Bowie's Queen Bitch.

Why slow-mo? Because… Wes Anderson. It also gives us a few, precious extra moments to appreciate that hat.


WAYNE'S WORLD

Who's responsible? Penelope Spheeris

What's happening? Garth (Dana Carvey) sees the woman of his dreams (Donna Dixon), who appears complete with a spotlight and hair-blowing in the breeze

Why slow-mo? What better way to show the woman of Garth's dreams than with slow motion, a spotlight and a fan to blow the hair?

Next Page: The Killer, Transformers: Dark Of The Moon, One Night At McCool's, Platoon

THE KILLER

Who’s responsible? John Woo

What’s happening? Ah Jong (Chow Yun-Fat) mercy-kills his friend Fung Sei (Chu Kong), before facing down his enemies. This involves a lot of people flying backwards slowly, slow gun-throwing, and slow window-smashing.

Why slow-mo? Because it looks all balletic and pretty, particularly when combined with some fancy wire work and stained glass windows.


TRANSFORMERS: DARK OF THE MOON

Who’s responsible? Michael Bay

What’s happening? A lot of Transformers are running and fighting in slow motion, until eventually Sam Witwicky is thrown out of Bumblebee, who does a quick transform while grabbing Sam, transforming again and returning him safely to the driving seat.

Why slow-mo? With the full artillery of Industrial Light and Magic at your disposal, why wouldn’t you embrace slow motion? Every panel and cog of the machines is on show and the robots look fantastic. Shame about the rest of the film.


ONE NIGHT AT MCCOOL'S

Who’s responsible? Harald Zwart

What’s happening? Jewel (Liv Tyler) is washing her car. Well, it’s a bit more interesting than that sounds. Specifically, she’s washing her car in a tight dress in slow motion, spraying herself with water, all while watched longingly by Detective Dehling (John Goodman) – and the audience.

Why slow-mo? Are you kidding? It’s an absurdly sexy car wash. It’s Arwen. What more reason do you need?


PLATOON

Who’s responsible? Oliver Stone

What’s happening? Sergeant Elias (Willem Dafoe) has been left behind by the rest of the crew, who watch from their choppers as he’s gunned down by the enemy. Despite the many, many bullets, he still manages to adopt a pseudo-religious pose, arms in the air, before he succumbs.

Why slow-mo? Because it’s a big dramatic moment, scored to Samuel Barber’s Adagio for Strings. Despite the innumerable parodies it spawned, the scene still packs a punch, slow motion and all.

Next Page: Zoolander, Fast Times At Ridgemont High, Escape To Victory, Thelma And Louise

ZOOLANDER

Who’s responsible? Ben Stiller

What’s happening? Derek Zoolander (Ben Stiller) and his male model pose posse (including a pre-vampire Alexander Skarsgard) have headed out for orange mocha frappucinos, before having a delightfully spontaneous play-fight at a gas station with buckets of water and… petrol. An explosion duly follows when one pauses for a quick cigarette.

Why slow-mo? Because, as Peter Sellers proved, it’s a surefire way to get laughs. Watching handsome idiots spray each other with petrol is far more amusing than it should be, particularly when a massive explosion is the punchline.


FAST TIMES AT RIDGEMONT HIGH (NSFW)

Who’s responsible? Amy Heckerling

What’s happening? Brad (Judge Reinhold) is having a bit of “me time” in the bathroom, having spied Linda (Phoebe Cates) in the pool. Thanks to the glorious power of imagination, he pictures her very slowly getting out of the water and taking off her bikini.

Why slow-mo? Well, it is a fantasy sequence, in fairness. It’s also the perfect counterpoint to the subsequent mortifying interruption suffered by Brad.


ESCAPE TO VICTORY

Who’s responsible? John Huston

What’s happening? In a crucial match against the Nazis, Corporal Luis Fernandez (Pelé) scores a glorious goal with a bicycle kick – and it’s so good, it’s shown three times and makes one Nazi applaud.

Why slow-mo? TV shows real-life goals in slow-mo all the time, so why shouldn’t cinema? And if you’re going to have Pelé in the film, you may as well make the most of him. Finally, if you’ve got synths going, you’re obliged by law to include some slow motion.


THELMA AND LOUISE

Who’s responsible? Ridley Scott

What’s happening? Thelma (Geena Davis) and Louise (Susan Sarandon) realize they’re cornered by Detective Slocumb (Harvey Keitel) and the law. Instead of surrendering, they decide to kiss, hold hands, and drive over a cliff together.

Why slow-mo? If you watch carefully, only Harvey Keitel is initially slowed down, enhancing the distance between him and the car as it speeds away. Finally, however, their fateful plunge into the Grand Canyon is given a lot more nobility and drama when slowed down. At full speed, it’d be all over far too quickly – and, dare we say it, could even be a little bit funny…

Next Page: Taxi Driver, Bullet In The Head, Armageddon, Swordfish

TAXI DRIVER

Who’s responsible? Martin Scorsese

What’s happening? Psychotic cabbie Travis Bickle (Robert De Niro) goes on a bloody rampage in a brothel, all in a bid to attempt to rescue Iris (Jodie Foster). Shooting and violence ensue.

Why slow-mo? Travis is bleeding from the neck and has been cornered by two nasty pieces of work. As he dances up the stairs, the slow motion ratchets up the tension and lets us see into the eyes of the people he’s about to blow away. It also handily reflects Travis’ own delusions of grandeur.


BULLET IN THE HEAD

Who’s responsible? John Woo

What’s happening? A big ol’ fight between Ben (Tony Leung) and Paul (Waise Lee), which includes a car crash and gunfight, all shown very, very sloooowly.

Why slow-mo? Because the car chase involves bicycles, and any bicycle chase is immeasurably improved if it goes even more slowly.


ARMAGEDDON

Who’s responsible? Michael Bay

What’s happening? The heroic crew of fourteen astronauts/drilling experts (including Bruce Willis, Ben Affleck, and Owen Wilson) take a leisurely stroll to their spaceship, while the whole world watches.

Why slow-mo? Because they’re heroes and heroes demand some kick-ass slow-motion, just to show they mean business, dammit. See also Monsters Inc., which parodied this moment to perfection.


SWORDFISH

Who’s responsible? Dominic Sena

What’s happening? A hostage has been strapped with a bomb and ball bearings. The bomb explodes and we see the impact in bullet (or bomb) time.

Why slow-mo? Because it means we can see the full effect of such a devastating explosion from all angles. It was an impressive use of CGI at the time, and pre-empted a similar (if less cartoonish) technique in The Hurt Locker seven years later.

Next Page: American Beauty, The Fellowship Of The Ring, Wanted, Hot Fuzz

AMERICAN BEAUTY

Who’s responsible? Sam Mendes

What’s happening? Lester Burnham (Kevin Spacey) fantasises about his daughter’s friend, Angela (Mena Suvari), naked and covered in rose petals.

Why slow-mo? As with a fair number of the clips on this list, it’s a fantasy sequence, so slow motion is a no brainer. Plus rose petals look particularly pretty if they fall in slow-mo.


THE LORD OF THE RINGS: THE FELLOWSHIP OF THE RING

Who’s responsible? Peter Jackson

What’s happening? Gandalf (Ian McKellen) falls to his apparent doom, while the rest of the Fellowship dash to escape the mines, pursued by orcs and their arrows. They reconvene outside, shocked at what’s just happened.

Why slow-mo? It’s a big emotional gut punch, unexpected to anyone who hasn’t read the book, and it leaves the Fellowship without their anchor. As well as the hobbits, the audience themselves need a moment to absorb the shock, while Howard Shore’s haunting score plays out.


WANTED

Who’s responsible? Timur Bekmambetov

What’s happening? Wesley Gibson (James McAvoy) has had enough of his dead-end office job. He finally quits in spectacular fashion, but not before smashing Barry (Chris Pratt) in the face with a keyboard.

Why slow-mo? As the rest of Wanted (and Night Watch) shows, Bekmambetov is more than a little fond of slow motion. In this case, though, it lets us see that the broken keys of the keyboard (along with a loose tooth) spell out “Fuck you”, a detail taken from the comic that neatly sums up Wesley’s mood. It’s also satisfying to see Pratt get smacked in the face in such painful detail, given that his character is a rotter having an affair with Wesley’s girlfriend.


HOT FUZZ

Who’s responsible? Edgar Wright

What’s happening? Danny Butterman (Nick Frost) and Nicholas Angel (Simon Pegg) are shooting up Sandford and the evil Neighbourhood Watch Alliance. This happens to involve leaping through the air while firing two guns at once…

Why slow-mo? A lot of this is in direct homage to the most cult of classics, Bad Boys II. As with that masterpiece of Bayhem, when a gentleman dives sideways firing two guns, it is customary for the director to instigate slow motion. We also get some great slow motion screaming from a newly toeless Dr. Hatcher (Stuart Wilson).

Next Page: Chariots Of Fire, Face/Off, X-Men: Days Of Future Past, Avengers Assemble

CHARIOTS OF FIRE

Who’s responsible? Hugh Hudson

What’s happening? Eric Liddell (Ian Charleson) runs his final race and beats the Americans. Hurrah!

Why slow-mo? Because Vangelis demands slow-mo, adding to the dramatic tension. In addition, the race would, by its very nature, be over pretty damn quickly if there wasn’t a bit of slow motion involved. The British are coming, etc…


FACE/OFF

Who’s responsible? John Woo

What’s happening? Castor Troy (Nicolas Cage) gets out of a car. While wearing a long coat.

Why slow-mo? Have you seen that coat? Never has there been a more epic slow-motion flap from such a glorious outfit. As an introduction to Cage's brilliantly over-the-top character, it’s perfect.


X-MEN: DAYS OF FUTURE PAST

Who’s responsible? Bryan Singer

What’s happening? Ridiculously fast-moving mutant Quicksilver (Evan Peters) helps break out Erik Lehnsherr (Michael Fassbender) from the Pentagon, but not before dealing with a horde of security guards. He gives them wedgies, makes them hit themselves and even finds the time to taste some soup, all to the strains of Jim Croce’s Time In A Bottle.

Why slow-mo? Because as his name suggests, Quicksilver is ridiculously quick. Everything slows right down for him, almost to a stop, allowing us to see exactly what he gets up to while everyone else is blinking very slowly. It’s the high point of the film, taking bullet time to the next level and introducing Jim Croce to a whole new generation.


AVENGERS ASSEMBLE

Who’s responsible? Joss Whedon

What’s happening? Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo) finally shows up to help his fellow heroes battle the Chitauri invaders and reveals his secret: he’s always angry. Cue a last-minute, beautifully timed transformation into “the other guy” and a hefty punch to a Chitauri Leviathan.

Why slow-mo? Honestly, Joss Whedon was just showing off at this point. Still, it’s always satisfying to see a Hulk transformation in its slow-motion, shirt-ripping glory.