Reservoir Dogs (1992)
Why It’s Cool: Tough guys in matching suits already carry a certain cache, but having them strut their stuff to the strains of Little Green Bag is the icing on a very cool cake.
If It Was Sped-Up: It’d just be an odd collection of blokes walking to their cars. We can see that every night come chucking-out time at our local.
The Scene: The bittersweet ending scene in which the romantically thwarted Max finally gets to slow dance with his beloved Miss Cross.
Why It’s Cool: It’s a genuinely tender denouement to Wes Anderson’s alternative coming-of-ager, the perfect vehicle for the director’s favourite trick of shifting from normal speed to slow-motion. Plus it features Bill Murray dancing, which automatically bags it some bonus cool points.
If It Was Sped-Up: It would feel less cathartic somehow, and would also be far too brief. It’s fairly slight as it is!
The Matrix (1999)
Why It’s Cool: Let’s see…a hail of gunfire? Check. Heroes running up the walls to dodge said gunfire? Check. A plethora of kung-fu awesomeness? Check. Yep, that’s all the required boxes ticked off…
If It Was Sped-Up: It would still be pretty badass, we just wouldn’t get quite so long to savour Keanu’s high-kicking antics.
Raging Bull (1980)
The Scene: All of the fight scenes benefit from the sporadic introduction of slow motion, usually to dwell upon the horrific punishment being visited upon both competitors. One scene in particular sticks in the memory, in which one of De Niro’s opponents lets loose a spurting gout of blood whilst recovering in his corner… bleurgh.
Why It’s Cool: The fight scenes are almost balletic in their beauty, particularly when accompanied by Robbie Robertson’s gorgeous score, so the slow-motion is a useful technique by which Scorsese can home in on the sport’s more brutal realities.
If It Was Sped-Up: You’d lose some of the majesty of the fight sequences. In Scorsese’s hands, you can fully understand why they call it the sport of kings.
The Royal Tenenbaums (2001)
Why It’s Cool: Paltrow’s ethereal beauty is accentuated by the sudden introduction of Nico’s beautiful These Days . The procession of spotless navy uniforms behind Wilson only adds to the scene’s prevailing sense of wonder.
If It Was Sped-Up: It would be a slightly taut reunion scene. Instead, it feels laden with repressed desire and undisclosed feelings. Oh, did we mention they’re adopted siblings?
The Wild Bunch (1969)
Why It’s Cool: One of director Sam Peckinpah’s stated aims was to make the viewer feel as if they were in a gunfight themselves, and boy does he succeed! As things get ever more frenetic, the slow-motion sections provide a nice counterpoint to the surrounding mayhem.
If It Was Sped-Up: Peckinpah’s assault on the senses would be a little too kinetic. It really benefits from the odd pause for breath.
Lost Highway (1997)
Why It’s Cool: Arquette is looking pretty damn sexy here, but it’s the use of Lou Reed’s This Magic Moment that really sets sparks flying. You could cut the sexual tension with a knife.
If It Was Sped-Up: She only walks about ten paces, so there wouldn’t be much scope for lustful looks, lingering or otherwise!
Hoop Dreams (1994)
The Scene: Our first glimpse of young William Gates in action, as he bounds out of his apartment building, dribbles onto the court and performs a balletic slam-dunk.
Why It’s Cool: Director Steve James perfectly captures the fluid grace of a young athlete in his prime, turning a simple sporting manoeuvre (well, simple for the pros!) into a thing of aesthetic beauty.
If It Was Sped-Up: It would still look impressive, but you’d lose some of the sense of majesty. In this ponderous moment, it’s made abundantly clear that this is all Gates wants to do with his life, and the audience begins rooting for him from the off.
2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)
The Scene: The triumphant opening sequence in which the camera pulls back from a shot of the moon, to reveal the sun rising over Earth. Whether or not the rest of the film is your cup of tea, you have to admit this bit is pretty magical.
Why It’s Cool: The wonder of the universe is done full justice on the big screen, thanks in no small part to the use of Strauss’s Thus Spoke Zarathustra . You know the one…”daaaaaa, daaaaaa….DA-DAAAAAAAAA!” Ahem.
If It was Sped-Up: It would look a bit silly wouldn’t it? Slowly does it.
The Scene: Zack Snyder takes his foot off the pedal and lets the blood flow freely in this bruising battle scene, in which Leonidas lays the smack down on a horde of luckless Persians. Oof!
Why It’s Cool: It’s pure, visceral mayhem, with streaks of gore flying all over the show. The swordplay is one thing, but our favourite moment comes when Leonidas uses his shield to swat away a Persian warrior like a fly. We’re talking some serious impact…
If It Was Sped-Up: Without Snyder’s various visual innovations, the constant bloodletting might wear thin. Fortunately, some well-judged slo-mo sequences help to keep things fresh.