Cookies help us deliver our Services. By using our Services, you agree to our use of cookies. Learn More.

Greatest Slow Motion Moments In Cinematic History

Slow motion has been a vital cinematic tool since the infancy of the art form at the turn of 20th century, giving audiences a previously-unfathomable ability to get a preternatural glimpse at life in all its beauty — or horror. As Vox explains, filmmakers would often "overcrank" or "undercrank" their cameras to make things seem slower or faster, respectively. Leading filmmakers of the 1910s and 1920s were quick to recognize the power of slow motion, with French silent filmmaker Jean Epstein (whose 1928 film "Fall of the House of Usher" helped pioneer the form) remarking: "Slow motion really brings a new set of possibilities to dramaturgy. Its ability to dismantle feelings to enhance drama surpasses all the other known tragic modes."

Since then, slow motion has become a mainstay of both Hollywood and international cinema. Filmmakers create the effect of slow-mo by shooting footage at a high frame rate and then reducing it, which can be achieved either within the camera at the time of shooting or during post production. Filmmakers will typically shoot at 60 frames per second rather than the customary 24, although many professional cameras today can shoot at 120 frames per second or higher. With all that in mind, here is a selection of cinema's greatest modern uses of slow motion, from the 1960s to the present day. 

The Matrix (1999)

"The Matrix" has only grown in popularity since its release in 1999 — not easy, since it was an immediate phenomenon upon its release — as the red pill/blue pill metaphor has become a cultural touchstone in ways both profound and troubling

But the film's pioneering employment of slow motion, perhaps, is what has most contributed to its influence. The Wachowskis leaned in with their otherworldly tale of false realities and very real threats, making better use of the device than just about anyone before or since. From the famous bullet time sway (surely one of the defining moments of 90s sci-fi cinema) to Neo's minigun attack to all those balletic fight scenes with Agent Smith, all are memorable yet pale in comparison to the original film's trademark scene, slow-mo'd so audiences could appreciate every nuance of its choreography: the lobby shootout.

Wall running, exploding pillars, nonchalant gun tossing — by now, any fan of pop culture knows it well. You may even be able to play it frame-by-frame in your head. After all, it's a scene that was binged on VHS and DVD players long before the term was coined in a streaming service context.

Django Unchained (2012)

While being interviewed about "Kill Bill," Quentin Tarantino was famously asked why he put so much gruesome, graphic violence in his films. "Because it's so much fun!" was his response.

Nearly a decade later, Tarantino reminded viewers of the cathartic, repugnant beauties of adrenaline-fueled carnage via "Django Unchained," a three-hour extravaganza of bloodshed and heroic vengeance. In the final act of the film, fed up with all he has lived and endured, Django (Jamie Foxx) returns to Candyland plantation mansion, masterfully wielding a pair of Colt revolvers while spraying blood and viscera all over the splendid colonial architecture.

Django's enemies fire back in desperation, shattering glass and splintering wood as the exchange turns into a slow-mo bloodbath of Peckinpah proportions (understandably so: Tarantino has long cited "The Wild Bunch" as one of his favorite films). It is a thunderous piece of filmmaking, one that indulges cathartic violence with gleeful aplomb.

American History X (1998)

A beautiful film about very ugly people, this early Edward Norton flick put him on the map with an Oscar nomination, and its slick style reflects the aesthetic of talented, troubled director Tony Kaye, who cut his teeth in advertising.

The infamous "curb stomp" scene is perhaps so effective and vividly remembered today because of Kaye's dramatic use of slow motion. As Danny, played by Edward Furlong, falls to his knees in horror at what his brother Derek (Norton) has just done, we see a slow motion close up of Derek's smug expression, clearly indifferent to the repulsive injury he just inflicted.

That is the power of slow motion. It has the power to emphasize the beautiful and the abhorrent, the funny and the frightening, and the best directors know when and when not to use it. Many admired the film, still considered to be among the best of the 1990s. However, some critics did not appreciate Kaye's aesthetic sensibility. Manohla Dargis of L.A. Weekly wrote, "The problem is that Kaye, who's used to selling cars on TV, shoots Derek the Hater as lovingly as he would a new Volkswagen."

The Wild Bunch (1969)

Four lonely, aging cowboys are watching life move on without them. Cars and airplanes are replacing horses, security services are thwarting robberies, and their compatriot has been handed over to a brutal Mexican Federal Army general, marked for a torturous death. It ain't like it used to be, but — as they silently resolve to embark on one last mission together, against an onslaught of armed Mexicans — it'll do.

Maverick director "Bloody" Sam Peckinpah crafted a unique, brutal visual style known for two contrasting elements — quick, erratic cuts and bloodily indulgent slow motion —honed on television for a decade and then executed legendarily in classics like "Straw Dogs," "The Getaway" and this, considered by many to be the last word on Westerns and among the greats films ever made.

Starring William Holden, Ernest Borgnine and Warren Oates, the film has a lot going on, following a group of American bandits as they navigate the dying days of the Old West in the early 20th century. The film opens with an explosive bank shootout that sends bullets flying through wood, glass and countless bodies. There is more bloodshed in this sequence than much of the Western canon prior to 1969. But what makes the film truly transcendent — and largely contributed to it being rated NC-17 when a 25th anniversary re-release was being planned — is the Battle of Bloody Porch.

Earlier in the film, Holden's character Pike remarks: "When you side with a man you stay with him and if you can't do that you're like some animal!" Big words that  Pike needs to confront when he finds himself, loyal Dutch (Borgnine) and the ruthless Gorch brothers (Oates and Ben Johnson) cast aside in a pacifying panoply of booze, women and irrelevance while the Mexicans drag what remains of their friend Angel through town, tied to the back of a horse. They can walk away alive, or go back and face certain death.

Although these men — and colleagues like the aged Sykes (Edmond O'Brien) and the captured-and-turned lawman Deke Thornton (Robert Ryan) — have long clung to a tenuous brotherly honor among thieves, nihilism courses through the film, as well as the scene. Quite simply, they are animals backed up against the wall; it's time to die. Ironically enough, a cutting-edge weapon that furthers their irrelevance — the machine gun — is the focal instrument of the scene, as well as a de facto stage for them to say their slow-mo goodbyes. 

Peckinpah filled the scene with so many bodies that he famously ran out of extras, having Mexican soldiers die, change into unbloodied uniforms and then charge into the scene again. The end result is a masterpiece that has influenced every action director since — and an iconic depiction of one proverbial last hurrah, a bloody rebellion against a world in which these men can no longer survive. 

Jackass 3D (2010)

Most films use slow motion to stylize violence or convey inward feeling. "Jackass 3D," however, became an unapologetic example of how slow-mo can crack us up, gross us out, and make us fully appreciate the things our minds tell us to look away from. Of all the disgusting, agonizing things the "Jackass" crew have caught in slow motion, the intro sequence of "Jackass 3D" ranks among their best.

To the sound of Twisted Sister's "The Kids Are Back," Johnny Knoxville, Steve-O, Dave England, Bam Margera, Ryan Dunn, Wee Man, Preston Lacy, and Danger Ehren subject themselves to a plethora of pain, from fish slaps and bare-skin paintballing to cannonball blasts and ceiling fans to the face. 

Then, after some 90 minutes of further debasement, the guys conclude the show with another slo-mo spectacle, one replete with pyrotechnics, salacious prosthetics, and a whole lot of water. According to MTV, Steve-O, Johnny Knoxville and Bam Margera "all got hospitalized at least a couple times" during the filming of "Jackass 3D." Of course, they were nonplussed, with Knoxville explaining that, "Injuries just come along with it."

Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991)

"The Terminator" was a tough act to follow. But, after some 7 years, James Cameron surpassed himself with "Terminator 2: Judgment Day" using cutting edge CGI, a nuanced script and some iconic slow motion-inflected action sequences.

Schwarzenegger reinforced the T-800 as his most iconic character early in the film. Clad in bike leathers, he strides through a mall carrying a box of roses under his arm as he scans the area. The T-800 is not looking for his valentine, he's looking for John Connor, the savior of humanity he is assigned to protect. And the rose box is not a romantic gesture, but rather a tool for concealing his lever-action Winchester shotgun.

All of this is revealed to us in an icy cool slo-mo sequence as the T-800 locks, loads and blows several holes into his malleable nemesis, the T-1000 played by a sinister Robert Patrick.

A Clockwork Orange (1971)

The flat block marina scene in "A Clockwork Orange" ranks among the most famous uses of slow motion, in both Stanley Kubrick's career and wider cinematic history.

Shot on a grimy estate in Thamesmead, southeast London, the sight of Alex DeLarge thrashing, kicking and cutting his "droogs" is scored by Rossellini's "Thieving Magpie," which gives the scene a dark elegance as he re-asserts his alpha male status.

Alas, the psychopathic charm of Alex, played by the inimitable Malcolm McDowell, stirred a great deal of controversy in the United Kingdom, with the press alleging a series of copycat crimes. Kubrick consequently withdrew the film from UK cinemas and, eventually, all home media. The ban was revoked 27 years later, following Kubrick's death in the spring of 2000.

Kubrick employed slow motion in several other films, most notably the "Dawn of Man" sequence in "2001: A Space Odyssey" and the bloody elevator nightmare of "The Shining."

Raging Bull (1980)

"Raging Bull" features Martin Scorsese's most powerful use of slow motion, and he uses it to convey metaphor, personality and sheer brutality.

The first instance is the film's opening, which shows Jake LaMotta shadow boxing alone in the ring, as Mascagni's Intermezzo from Cavalleria Rusticana plays non-diegetically. It is an arresting spectacle taken on face value, but it is also a metaphor for LaMotta's vicious demons, which isolate and destroy him.

Slow motion is used again to convey LaMotta's jealousy in a social situation, slowing the frame just slightly as the boxer leers at the men schmoozing with his partner Vickie.

Lastly, and perhaps most notably, Scorsese employs slow-mo to emphasize the sheer brutality of LaMotta's profession, the sport of boxing in the 1940s, an era of bi-weekly matches and 15-round bouts.

Perhaps the defining moment of Scorsese's slow motion, expressionistic style comes in the final fight between LaMotta and Sugar Ray Robinson, which sees LaMotta take a merciless beating. After the ref stops the fight, a defiant LaMotta approaches Robinson, the frame rate slowed, and says, with his face beaten to a bloody pulp, "You never got me down, Ray."

Apocalypse Now (1979)

One of the most arresting openings in cinematic history, Francis Ford Coppola's use of slow motion in the introduction to "Apocalypse Now" has left an indelible mark on popular culture.

The napalm explosion that we see in the sequence, and again later following the "Ride of the Valkyries" raid, was reportedly the largest explosion ever staged, according to editor Walter Murch. He explained, "At that time it was the biggest explosion ever staged for a film. In fact, it probably is still the biggest because now you would do that explosion digitally ... you wouldn't have an actual gigantic explosion."

The scene's grand staging is emblematic of the film's infamous production, which was a 238-day ordeal of drugs, set-destroying typhoons, actual real combat from Filipino insurgents, and medical emergencies as depicted in the documentary "Hearts of Darkness." Coppola even staked his California estate to fund the film, which wound up costing over $30 million, reportedly some $18 million more than the director had expected.

Hard Boiled (1992)

If Penckinpah was the master of '60s/70s slow-mo, Chinese filmmakers spent much of the next two decades as his heir apparent, manufacturing masterful, high-concept shots that continue to influence filmmakers today.

It's hard to locate the best use of slow motion in his 1992 masterpiece "Hard Boiled," because the entire film is essentially one massive action sequence, replete with some of the finest aestheticized violence in world cinema history.

There are three highlights: the opening teahouse shootout, the warehouse shootout, and the climactic hospital shootout, which lasts for about half an hour. There's a notable skirmish on a dock, too. Each sequence is full of truly promiscuous use of slo-mo, with Chow Yun-fat taking out the trash in bloody, balletic fashion, his enemies almost pirouetting as he blasts them with a small arsenal of firearms.

This level of stylized violence may sound distasteful, but Woo's films are far removed from reality, and his inspirations are fanciful. "I was very influenced by musicals like 'Singin' In The Rain' and 'West Side Story,' and dancers like Fred Astaire and Gene Kelly," he told the Guardian in 2001. "They have the rhythm of life. I shoot action scenes just as though they were dance sequences. I love ballet, I love dancing."

Dredd (2012)

Inspired by the 2000AD comics, "Dredd" is a film in which slow motion is actually a plot point. Set in Mega-City One, a hideous conurbation stretching from Boston to Washington D.C., the world of "Dredd" is a police state wracked by crime and addiction, and the drug of choice is a sedative called "slo-mo."

Administered by an inhaler, the drug slows users' sense of time with immediate, drastic effect, sending them into a surreal, hypnotic state in which everything occurs at a fraction of its normal pace. We experience their altered consciousness with many ultra-slow motion sequences, which were shot on cutting edge Phantom cameras at 4000 frames per second, according to special effects supervisor Max Poolman.

The photography is at its most ghoulishly dazzling when Dredd throws Ma-Ma, the lead villain, hundreds of feet to her death. Before he administers his summary justice, he has Ma-Ma take a hit of "slo-mo," the drug she is guilty of dealing en masse.

Die Hard (1988)

After receiving a bullet from John McClane's Beretta, Hans Gruber falls through a window of Nakatomi Plaza and, after a tense struggle to release his grip from Holly McClane's wristwatch, falls to his death hundreds of feet below.

Hans' death in "Die Hard" has aged very well, especially when compared to "Robocop," which was released just a year prior. In Robocop, the villain falls from a skyscraper in real time using Harryhausen-style stop-motion effects, undermining the scene's impact for a modern viewer.

Through green screen and slow motion, "Die Hard" had no such problems. Suspended from a wooden frame in a California studio, Alan Rickman dropped some 40 feet onto an airbag — but perhaps the most inspired idea came from stunt coordinator Charlie Picerni, who told Rickman he would be released on a three count, then dropped him early, minting that unique look of horror and surprise on the actor's face.

The Hurt Locker (2008)

The slow motion IED detonation in Kathryn Bigelow's "The Hurt Locker" featured heavily in promotional materials for the film, and with good reason. The scene combines documentary realism with an attention to detail that's stylized, yet not at all aestheticized.

Instead of achieving some kind of "kick ass" sensibility, the scene highlights the sickening danger faced by bomb disposal units. We see how the sudden release of energy tears through the immediate surroundings, rocking everything in its path.

As always, there have been detractors — and not unreasonable ones, either. Speaking with NPR, Iraq veteran Paul Rieckhoff said, ""Very seldom is a guy going to put on a bomb suit and walk down there and try and dismantle something by hand."

He continued, "It just doesn't make sense. For the most part, they're going to use robotics; they're going to use other types of explosives to set off a charge — a controlled charge — next to it. It's really a Hollywood sensationalized version of how EOD (Explosive Ordnance Disposal) operate."

So, maybe "The Hurt Locker" isn't quite as realistic was many believed it to be. But its use of slow motion? Undoubtedly impressive, thanks to the use of multiple Aaton S16mm cameras (via Digital Camera Report), and a director with a knack for nerve-shredding action.

Drive (2011)

One of the most stylish films in recent memory, Nicolas Winding Refn's "Drive" makes dazzling use of slow motion throughout. Shot predominantly on an Arri Alexa camera, Newton Thomas Sigel's sterling work as director of photography astoundingly didn't even receive a nomination from the Academy. The Oscar for best cinematography instead went to "Hugo" — a worthy winner, but Newton Thomas Sigel is the people's champion for 2011.

The introductory credits alone contain more style than entire filmographies. Sigel pans the Los Angeles landscape in moody slow motion, capturing the urban sprawl overlaid by Kavinsky's noirish synth.

Later, when the Driver (Ryan Gosling) is embroiled in a dangerous web of violence, he fights his way out with all manner of slow motion savagery, such as when he rams a curtain rail into some goon's trachea after Blanche (played by Christina Hendricks) receives a shotgun blast (in slow motion, of course) to the side of her head.

Perhaps the most memorable slow motion scene, however, is the passionate kiss shared in an elevator between the Driver and Irene, the walls almost humming with ethereal energy. Moments later, the Driver uses his boot to inflict a cavernous wound on an assassin's face. A jarring moment, indeed.

Chariots of Fire (1981)

No slow motion list is complete, of course, without a nod to the early '80s cultural phenomenon that was "Chariots of Fire," the 1981 Olympic drama best remember for a shot that almost singlehandedly won it the Oscar for best picture. The opening's subtle use of slow motion compliments the rousing Vangelis rousing score, making such an impression that the film became a widely imitated icon of popular culture; some 40 years later it's still impossible to imagine anyone running in slow motion without the film's theme playing behind them.

 "Everybody remembers the opening jogging scene along the beach," director Hugh Hudson said to the Guardian in 2012 about the film, explaining its appeal. "It was key to establishing character: Harold Abrahams, gaunt and determined; Eric Liddell, Scottish, blond, open and free; Aubrey Montague, the amiable, faithful old dog; Lord Andrew Lindsay, the aristocrat, running for the fun of it."

Carrie (1976)

Brian De Palma's classic 1976 adaptation of the Stephen King novel remains unequaled despite the occasional unnecessary attempt to remake a movie that was perfectly good the first time around. He utilized slow motion in the opening locker room sequence, to lull the audience into a false sense of security via sexualized voyeurism — which takes a sudden turn into the horrific when Carrie discovers she's having her first period and thinks she's sick or dying, having never been educated about menstruation by her overbearing mother. Her cries for help are mocked cruelly by her peers, and as she lies humiliated on the shower floor, we see the first glimpse of her telekinetic power in an exploding bulb.

In many ways, this scene is a parallel to the climax, when Carrie is crowned the prom queen. Slow motion gives the scene its emotional resonance, appropriate for the heightened feelings and sense of significance in the world of high school. In what would have been only a few seconds of real time, we dwell on Carrie's long moment of pride and happiness, the leering anticipation of those who scheme against her, the mounting suspicion of her friend Sue, the fall of the bucket of pigs' blood, and finally Carrie's confusion and humiliation as she looks over the sea of mocking, laughing faces. For Carrie, this is the moment of true horror — a moment De Palma executes perfectly.

Then, of course, time catches up with us as Carrie unleashes her telekinetic revenge upon those who tormented her, portrayed by De Palma with the now little-used split-screen technique and sharp, almost reptilian reaction shots of actress Sissy Spacek. This wonderful contrast gives us the visceral feeling the game has changed, and so it has. What would have been a completely discombobulating scene overall if shot in real time is instead allowed to linger, for the audience to truly understand Carrie and her desire to kill them all. We get it.

Watchmen (2009)

Zack Snyder is as notorious for his slow motion shots as J.J. Abrams is for his lens flare, and it does get a bit gratuitous as times. Snyder was aware enough of his overuse of the technique that he eschewed it almost entirely in "Man of Steel," but was back to his old tricks soon enough with "Batman v Superman." He's long been enamored with the technique known as speed ramping, in which the camera speed goes slow, then fast, then slow again. Undoubtedly cool when he first started using it, its also extremely recognizable and now inevitably prompts eye-rolling from those who've seen enough of it. Snyder uses slow motion to great effect occasionally, but he uses it so often and for so many different types of scenes there's precious little sense of consistency; you're left with the impression the man just likes slow motion because it makes things look cool.

Still, there's one use of slow motion by Snyder we think was incredibly appropriate, and it may not be what you think. While slow motion showed up plenty in "Watchmen," it was to be expected from Synder in the action sequences — and used with aplomb for world-building in the intro. But it's the slow motion used in the scene of the Comedian's murder that's most significant. While the film scene was much more elaborate and superhero-y than in the original comic, the lingering death shot as the Comedian is tossed out of the window is an appropriate reflection of the significance the scene had as a large panel illustration in the graphic novel. This murder was the catalyst for everything that was to come in the graphic novel's universe; the central moment around which the narrative was spun. Heck, the event was so important it even leaked out into other comic book universes. All of which is to say in the movie, it had narrative weight and wasn't merely a stylistic flourish. It was well done, and deserves a nod.

Bonnie and Clyde (1967)

One of the most influential slow motion scenes in film history comes during Arthur Penn's 1967 film "Bonnie and Clyde," in which the eponymous antiheroes are cut down in an ambush by law enforcement. Penn opted to film the bloody end to the protagonists in slow motion to instill a balletic quality to their deaths, something little seen to that point but frequently imitated afterwards. Penn and his crew captured the scene on four different cameras running at different speeds, and used rapid cutting in the editing room to create a dreamlike but realistic sequence in which time becomes elastic. This was perhaps the first use of a combination of slow motion, multi-camera filming, and montage editing by an American director.

The results speak for themselves, creating a shocking montage of emotions: suspicion, confusion, obliviousness, realization and horror, followed by violent death and a slow lingering over the aftermath. Some reviewers have noted the romantic or even erotic undertones in the violence, an aspect which managed to fly under the radar of the day's moral police. Penn would go on to say the scene was influenced by media reports and images of the Vietnam War, and a desire to create "this kind of spastic motion of genuine violence, and at the same time, the attenuation of time that one experiences when you see something, like a terrible automobile accident."

Sure, there's a lot more going on in the scene than just slow motion. The direction, acting, editing and (for the time) advanced special effects all played a role. All these elements flowed together to create a scene that would influence American cinema for decades to come.

The Boondock Saints (1999)

To say "Boondock Saints" is divisive is an understatement. There are those who consider the movie a life-changing cult classic they display proudly next to their Tarantinos and Kubricks. Others see it as a demented mess created by an egomaniac director who got lucky. Some proudly admit it's both — a terrible film they manage to enjoy anyway. Despite being a miserable failure at the box office and almost universally reviled by critics, it made millions in video and DVD sales as a cult classic. How can we explain this?

Perhaps the single biggest point in favor for the film is the frenetic, bewildering performance of Willem Dafoe as the flamboyant FBI agent who has a preternatural ability to reconstruct crimes to the tune of classical music. Sure, he relentlessly chews every scene he's in. Sure, he plays a character so bizarrely stereotypical he manages to come out the other side as completely idiosyncratic. But it works. And this can be best seen in the scene oft referred to by the line "There was a firefight!"

The slow motion is completely gratuitous and dumb. And yet paired with Dafoe's narrative cadence and deranged dancing, and the orchestral score, the scene takes on an almost beautiful, folklorish quality. Is it dumb, and is the slow motion unnecessary? Yes, and probably. But it'll live through the ages.

Killing Them Softly (2012)

Assassinations are best shown slow. In reality, death is often sudden, shocking and almost anticlimactic, but in the world of film we can dwell upon the event in slow time. In "Killing Them Softly," Brad Pitt's character stages a drive-by shooting against hapless and oft ill-fated Ray Liotta. The film takes a few seconds of chaos and death and stretches them out into an artful and oddly beautiful death scene, with a musical score chosen for appropriate pathos and irony. To top it all off, it ends with a car accident.

It pays to contrast this scene with another slow motion assassination example, the far goofier and stylized slaying of Morgan Freeman in "Wanted." The scene raises a few questions. Namely, who eats a donut so awkwardly? Why does Chris Pratt already look horrified at the can of Power Horse energy drink in his hand before the bullet even passes through it? Be that as it may, it just goes to show that if you're going to have a sudden death onscreen, sometimes it pays to put it in slow motion.

Inception (2010)

While slow motion is often used to build tension or create beauty in action films, "Inception" is one of the few examples where it actually has an in-universe justification to go along with the meta explanation of "It just looks cool." One of the key plot points in the film is the aspect of time dilation between levels of the dream world, with each layer down operating 20 times faster than the one above. This is most obvious in the scene which flashes between the unconscious dream operatives in a van crashing into the water while Joseph Gordon-Levitt fights assassins in a hallway and the rest of the team escapes a snow fortress. The use of slow motion, and extreme slow motion, is justified not only by the style but also the substance of the story, a rare treat. It was no easy feat, either: the van's slow descent took months of filming which involved the actors breathing underwater through SCUBA gear and maintaining composure while sinking into the water, as well as shooting the van off the bridge with a cannon.

"Inception" came out in a period when slow motion was almost overused in the post-"Matrix," early Snyder world. It's a testament to Nolan's mastery that he was able to use such a faddish technique and elevate it by having the effect serve the narrative rather than the other way around. In an interview with KCRW (at the 12:40 mark), Nolan admitted to having never really used slow motion before, as it seemed a purely aesthetic choice and he couldn't figure out what it really meant. With "Inception," he found a way of taking editing techniques he enjoyed and incorporating them as a literal part of the story universe.

Panic Room (2002)

David Fincher isn't a director who likes to over-indulge in slow motion, but he used it with panache in "Panic Room." In this scene, Meg Altman leaves the safety of her panic room to make a dash to grab her cellphone while her would-be abductors are bickering downstairs. The scene is shot in slow motion with a minimalist musical score, both of which flow together to paradoxically enhance the feeling of urgency and danger. In a situation like that, it would seem so hard to move fast enough, and seeing Meg's desperation in slow motion like she's fighting through danger as it lurks nearby ratchets up the tension and suspense..

Shot in real time, you would expect this scene to feature a lot of quick cuts and a frenetic score. Fincher's choice to go slow helps the audience absorb the nuance and detail of the scene and feel ever more keenly her panicked fear. Which is exactly what you want in a thriller, really.

Zombieland (2009)

Setting the rules for a zombie universe or a horror comedy is important, so you may as well do it with some style. Ruben Fleischer, a first-time feature filmmaker when he directed "Zombieland," was thrilled by this scene as a montage in the script and hoped to visually develop it further. Luckily, the production had access to a Phantom digital camera able to capture 1000 frames per second. The slow motion allowed the production to give the death and gore a kind of beauty along with the world-building, making it one of the more entertaining opening credit sequences. The use of Metallica's "For Whom the Bell Tolls" works so well it's uncanny.

It's easy to be skeptical of a director like Fleischer with his history in music videos, and the sequence could be seen as overly stylized. But it packs a punch and helps to set the tone for the rest of the movie, which can never be accused of taking itself too seriously.

Baby carriage scenes

There's nothing quite like a baby carriage falling down a flight of stairs to create the feeling of "oh God, no!" that slow motion is best applied to. So when our old friend Brian De Palma employed it in his 1986 film "The Untouchables," it made perfect sense. Mobsters shooting each other up in the middle of Union Station while a baby pram teeters toward doom is a no-brainer for the slo-mo treatment, and when combined with De Palma's unerring eye for tension and precise camerawork and editing, it becomes an instant classic.

There's more to the story, though. The inspiration for the scene was undoubtedly the 1925 Soviet film "The Battleship Potemkin." There, director Sergei Eisenstein didn't actually use slow motion but rather a series of rapid cuts away from the wheel of the baby carriage teetering over the edge of the step, fooling the viewer into thinking the scene is happening at half-speed. The scene would be played for laughs in "Naked Gun 33 1/3," when Leslie Nielsen fails to save four baby carriages toppling down the stairs.

It just goes to show you: whether you're making Soviet propaganda, a gritty crime drama, or an absurd satire, if you push a baby down the stairs you have to show it slowly.

So many Wes Anderson films

Wes Anderson has a highly distinctive style notable for quirky themes, recurring cast members, symmetrical and POV shots, retro soundtracks, and fearless exploration of the color palette. Slow motion is a technique Anderson's returned to repeatedly, particularly in scenes where his characters are walking. This gives Anderson as director great control and precision over the scene, and imparts emotional depth and pathos. In the hands of a lesser director, it would be corny, but Anderson makes it his thing.

Anderson often uses slow motion to indicate a change in a character's mindset or perspective, as in the funeral scene in "The Darjeeling Limited" or the meeting of siblings Richie and Margot in "The Royal Tenenbaums." The use of slow motion to deepen poignancy is deliberate and controlled, and in Anderson's hands it's memorably successful. His understanding of the rhythm of scenes helps him make use of slow motion with great care, so as not to eject the viewer out of the film. In fact, he often uses it at the beginning or end of his films, to allow the audience to release emotional tension and signify a closure or character development.

As a fun added bonus, you can take Anderson's slow motion scenes, set them to a soundtrack of Ja Rule, and it works. That's an achievement.