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File:13424 speed l 2797.jpg

 Pop quiz, hotshot. There's a bomb on a bus. Once the bus goes 50 miles an hour, the bomb is armed. If it drops below 50, it blows up. What do you do? What do you do?

And that's the entire plot of this 1994 film. Yes, we're serious. No, we're not kidding. The only way this premise could be any simpler would be if the writers just called it Bombs on a Bus (or, better yet, The Bus That Couldn't Slow Down) and cast Samuel L. Jackson in the starring role.

Instead, it stars Keanu Reeves as Jack Traven, a police officer in pursuit of Mad Bomber Howard Payne, played by Dennis Hopper. As the film opens, Payne has blown the cables off a packed elevator car, and threatens to blow the emergency brakes unless he gets a ransom. Jack foils the scheme, but Payne escapes by faking his own suicide. A few weeks later, Jack's bus driver friend boards his bus to start his daily route, and it promptly explodes. A nearby pay phone starts ringing, Jack answers the phone, and discovers the caller is Payne. The first bombing was just to get Jack's attention; there's another bus with a bomb on it, and the same fate will befall those aboard if he doesn't get his original ransom.

Caught in the middle is Annie Porter (Sandra Bullock in her Star-Making Role) as a passenger/hostage/love interest on the bus. Payne has, as the quote above indicates, placed a bomb on the bus she's riding. If the bus drops below 50... well, you get the idea. So, the the bus must careen wildly through a city notorious for its traffic congestion, unable to slow for anything while the police desperately try to prevent disaster. The other major hitch: Payne is watching through a camera in the bus, so if anyone attempts to leave the bus (under their own power or otherwise)... boom.

One final complication: When Jack gets on the bus and announces he's a cop, there's a street gangster on board who wrongly assumes Jack's after him and draws a gun. The gun goes off, wounding the bus driver. It's then up to Annie to take the wheel and keep the bus above 50 mph. This is why Annie's such a major character and why this was a Star-Making Role for Sandra Bullock.

Noted for being very tense (Keanu Reeves has to first board the bus before he can warn the passengers, which nearly causes the very explosion he's attempting to prevent), and for having a lesser-known sequel, Speed 2: Cruise Control (1997), which again starred Sandra Bullock (this time in the primary role), and was widely panned for being very derivative of the original (re: bomb, vehicle, frazzled brunette, attractive love interest, etc.).

Also notable in troperville for being written in part by Joss Whedon, who went uncredited despite a lot of the dialogue being his.

The original is widely regarded as the best Die Hard on an X film that isn't Die Hard.

Famously parodied by the Father Ted episode "Speed 3", in which Dougal is driving a milk float that will explode if it drops below 4 miles per hour.


This Film is the Trope Namer for:


Speed Contains examples of:

  • Action Survivor: Annie, and most of the surviving bus passengers.
  • Are You Sure You Can Drive This Thing?: Annie, who had recently lost her license for speeding.
  • Artistic License Physics: The bus side-swipes a car on the shoulder, which is being loaded onto a tow truck. Somehow this imparts enough momentum to send the car up the back of the truck and launch it through the air.
    • Likewise, the bus somehow manages to jump an unfinished bridge, despite the fact that there was nothing that could actually launch it. The Making Of documentary pointed this out.
      • When making the turn the fear of the bus tipping over was uncalled for - this was shown on an episode of Myth Busters, also covering the bus jump.
  • Ax Crazy: Howard Payne, although he defines himself as "eccentric."
  • Baby Carriage: Subverted. It gets taken out by the bus, but turns out to be filled with aluminum cans.
  • Back From the Dead / Not Quite Dead: Payne at the end of the first act.
  • Best Served Cold: Payne, who took one look at his tiny severance package and went a little bit nuts.
  • Big No: Payne after realizing he's been had by the Camera Spoofing. As well as later on the train when he realizes his ransom money is phony when it explodes.
  • Blown Across the Room: Jack when Payne fakes his own death by explosion. Curiously averted with Harry, who was much closer to the explosion than Jack and yet doesn't move an inch (and BOTH of them are completely unharmed by the blast).
  • Bond One-Liner: "Yeah? Well, I'm taller." from Jack. "Nothing personal" from Payne.
  • Bottomless Magazines: Averted. Payne has Traven dead-to-rights and tries to execute him, but he's out of rounds for his shotgun.
  • Brass Balls: When Jack Traven survives one of the many death defying moments he encounters over the course of the film a passenger cheerfully informs him:

 Ortiz: You're not too bright, man, but you got some big, round, hairy cojones.

  • Bus Fu: Most of it less than intentional.
  • Bus Full of Innocents: This one shouldn't have to be explained.
  • Camera Spoofing: The police fake out Payne's bus camera by transmitting recorded footage on the same frequency. Traven specifically tells everyone to remain as still as possible to make sure it works. It does, but after everyone's off the bus, Payne catches on because one passenger put down her purse in the middle of the video.
  • Card-Carrying Villain: "The whims of a madman? Ha!! I like that!!"
  • Car Skiing: Done using the passengers as a counterbalance to navigate a hard turn.
  • Catch Phrase: Pop quiz, hotshot.
  • Chekhov's Gun: The detonator with the "dead man's handle".
    • Harry telling Jack that after another thirty years of police work, he'll get a tiny pension and a cheap gold watch.
    • The watch on the bus bomb.
    • When Jack is on top of the subway train, he has to noisily move from an oncoming tunnel light. However, this results in Payne finding out his whereabouts. A few minutes later, after his money is tainted by the paint bomb, Payne ascends to the top of the train and fights Jack . During the fight, Jack notices another tunnel light heading their way, so he pushes up Payne's head, resulting in the light beheading him.
    • Payne referring to Annie as "the wildcat behind the wheel".
    • The monitors in Payne's hideout that are showing football games, revealing he's a football fanatic. This is why he calls Annie a "wildcat" because of the sports logo on her jacket.
  • Collapsing Lair: Rigged by Payne to explode, killing Harry.
  • Convection, Schmonvection: Averted - when the first bus explodes Jack doesn't come closer than ten feet of it and still has to hold his arm up in front of his face.
  • Cool Car: That poor Jaguar...
  • Cowboy Cop: He's the trope namer for Shoot the Hostage, for cryin out loud!
  • Crazy Enough to Work: The ultimate plan to get the hostages off the bus.
  • Deadfoot Leadfoot: Inverted when the bus driver gets shot, played straight when a subway motorman gets killed.
  • Dead-Man Switch
  • Didn't Think This Through: Harry when he tells Jack to shoot him while Payne is using him as a Human Shield. While it does cause Payne to drop him, Harry isn't too happy about being shot and lets Jack know it.
  • Die Hard on an X: Die Hard on a bus.
  • Drives Like Crazy: Mostly averted. All the difficulties come from maintaining speed. However, Annie loses her license for speeding before the first movie starts (which is why she's taking the bus in the first place).
  • Elevator Failure: Payne blows the cables on a packed elevator, then wants $3 million or he blows the emergency brakes and kills the passengers.
  • Evil Is Hammy: In a role that's practically written for Dennis Hopper.
  • Evil Old Folks: Payne.
  • Explosive Leash: First used on Harry, then on Annie at the end of the film.
  • Face Heel Turn: Payne sort of falls into this. Even though he's never shown on the good side, it's revealed that he was a bomb squad cop who got discharged from the force after he was wounded in an explosion and is making his bomb threats and demanding the ransoms because he feels, as he tells Jack, that he spent his life earning the money.
  • Failsafe Failure: Happens twice, and they're both Payne's fault.
  • Fallen Hero

{{quote|Payne: I got a watch too, Jack. A watch, and a pink slip, and a "Sorry about your hand".

  • Fanservice Extra: When the SWAT team are rescuing people from an office building elevator that's about to drop, one of the passengers is a brunette in a brown business suit. As they help her down, her skirt rides up revealing a white thong. Everybody in the elevator is credited at the end of the cast credits as [="Elevator Passengers="], so there's no easy way to tell which actress this is.
  • Fire-Forged Friends: Stephens and Gigantor don't like each other very much throughout most of the crisis, but by the time they finally get off the bus, they're both locked in a bro-hug.
  • Flashed Badge Hijack: It doesn't work at first, then Jack draws his gun and gets the car.
  • Flaw Exploitation: Averted.
  • Flirting Under Fire: Jack and Annie constantly flirt throughout the movie.
  • Follow That Car!: Part of the Flashed Badge Hijack, above.
  • Game-Breaking Injury: To the bus, when Jack punches a hole in the gas tank trying to keep from getting run over.
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  • Genre Savvy: Payne is enough to say "Nobody would pay me three million dollars just for Jack".
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  • High Concept: It doesn't come much higher-concept when you can have the villain outline the whole plot in one line of dialogue.
  • Hollywood California
  • Hostage for Macguffin: Averted. Jack shoots the hostage in the leg to immobilize him.
  • Human Shield: Payne uses Harry as one.
  • I Just Shot Marvin in the Face: When Jack shoots out the lock in the subway station, without knowing what is behind what he's shooting at (a crowd of people screaming and running), in violation of one of the key rules of gun safety. Granted, he's in a bit of a hurry, but even so.
  • Infant Immortality: Played with. See Baby Carriage above.
  • I Shall Return: At the airport, Jack manages to convince Payne to let him off the bus to arrange the ransom. The other passengers are obviously unenthusiastic at being left behind, but Jack answers "Don't worry, I won't go far." A few minutes later, the hostages look in amazement to see Jack in front of them being towed on a service cart to attempt to disarm the bomb while the bus is in motion.
  • Impressive Pyrotechnics
  • Incredibly Lame Pun: Jack explaining to the bus passengers that he is going to try to "defuse" the situation.
    • Jack tells Annie
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  • Insistent Terminology: "Poor people are crazy, Jack. I'm eccentric."
  • Ironic Echo: The "pop quiz" line from Harry is repeated twice by Payne to Jack. Jack later attempts to use it on Payne as one, but it backfires badly when
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. Payne then repeats the "Shoot the hostage" line to Jack by telling him

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  • No One Could Survive That
  • No OSHA Compliance: The subway train has neither Dead-Man Switch nor overspeed failsafe. And what's with the unfinished freeway with unblocked access ramps?
  • Nothing Personal: Said by Payne as he jams a knife into an innocent security guard that blunders into his elevator-bomb plot.
  • Not So Different: Invoked by Jack during his Mexican Standoff with the criminal on the bus too get him to calm down and put his gun away.
    • Also, invoked by Payne when he tells Jack that he did earn the money he wants for ransom
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  • Oh Crap: At least three different times, usually in response to discovering a bomb.
    • One interesting one comes at the end when
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  • Panty Shot: When one of the female hostages is being helped off the elevator by the SWAT team her skirt rides up and we get a shot of her butt wearing white panties.
  • Police Are Useless: Subverted, in that the police are on top of the situation immediately with an escort, mapping a survivable route from a following police helicopter and blocking off side streets to give the boobytrapped bus a clear path. It helps that a fellow off-duty cop is on board.
  • Product Placement: The bus is covered with ads for Santa Monica Bank, which aren't out of place, as that bank heavily advertises on the Big Blue Bus system. The one on the rear is somewhat meaningful: "Money isn't everything. (Yeah, right)".
  • Put Down Your Gun and Step Away: Partially subverted.
  • Ramming Always Works: Jack and Annie somehow survive an impending crash on a runaway subway car by making it crash faster.
    • And the near half-dozen times Annie has to plough through traffic in order to maintain speed.
  • Redshirt Army: The SWAT team who are
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.

    • Red Shirt: The movie also reinforces the "security guards aren't people" cliché. Remember that poor guard Payne stabbed in the ear at the beginning of the movie? If so then it's definitely just you, because after saving the day the cops celebrate their victory and reassure themselves that "nobody died", and news reports boast that only the bomber was killed in the incident. Ouch!
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      • Note also that the guy presenting the medals to the SWAT team asserts that the only life taken by Payne's bomb was his own - the security guard at the beginning wasn't killed by a bomb.
  • Red Right Hand: Payne's malformed hand, caused by holding onto an explosive charge for a wee bit too long.
  • Runaway Train
  • Sequel Goes Foreign: Speed 2: Cruise Control takes place in the Caribbean.
  • Shoot the Hostage: The Trope Namer. Jack (Keanu Reeves) does exactly that near the beginning of the movie when his partner Harry (Jeff Daniels) is held captive by Payne (Dennis Hopper).
  • Shoot Out the Lock
  • Slo-Mo Big Air: That bus is damn aerodynamic.
    • The subway car's launch is pretty impressive, too.
  • Smug Snake: Payne. He thinks he's a Magnificent Bastard; always one step ahead. But then he gets so overconfident that he
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. And then later,

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    • He also doesn't seem to consider the possibility that maybe the police aren't going to just give him millions of dollars without rigging a trap to try and trace it / him.
  • Star-Making Role: Sandra Bullock.
  • Stuff Blowing Up
  • Tactful Translation: "Oh darn."
  • Technology Marches On: Jack having to take the cell phone of the driver of the car he hijacks before getting on the bus was believable in 1994. A little odd today, since Jack would most likely have his own, as would probably every passenger on the bus.
  • There Is No Kill Like Overkill: Jack describes the amount of C4 on the bus is enough "to put a hole in the world."
  • Token Romance: Triple subverted, and arguably deconstructed, over the course of the two films. Annie initially insists that they are a bad idea, as "relationships based on intense circumstances never work out". At the end of the film, Jack throws this back in her face as a Meaningful Echo, to which she replies "I guess we'll have to base it on sex then", and they decide to pursue the relationship anyway. But the start of the second film reveals that the relationship didn't work out, just as Annie initially predicted.
  • Tom Hanks Syndrome: While Keanu Reeves was already quite well-known as Ted, this showed he could manage dramatic roles.
  • Too Dumb to Live: It is hard to comprehend the kind of panic and fear a bystander must feel in that situation,
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Speed 2: Cruise Control contains examples of:

  • The Bad Guy Wins: Granted, it's something of a Pyrrhic Victory, but Annie and Alex are so busy being lovey-dovey at the end of the second film that they fail to realise that
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.

  • Best Served Cold: Geiger is steamed at the cruise line for firing him when he was diagnosed with a terminal illness.
  • Blond Guys Are Evil: Geiger.
  • Chainsaw Good: Alex finds one in a linen closet (!) and uses them to saw through some metal doors.
  • Continuity Nod: The guy whose Jaguar gets wrecked in the first movie gets his beach home taken out by the rigged ship in the second movie.
    • The reason Annie and Jack aren't together in Speed 2: Relationships based on intense experiences never work.
  • Die Hard on an X: The passengers are unable to jump ship without being sucked into the ship's propellers. (Just roll with it.)
  • Flashed Badge Hijack: In the second movie it happens again, to the same guy, in the middle of the Caribbean. The owner lampshades the sheer absurdity of this.
  • Hero Insurance: No one seems too concerned about an oil tanker exploding in the Caribbean.
  • Linked-List Clue Methodology: Geiger hiding his detonators in a set of golf clubs. Alex gets suspicious when he notices Geiger isn't paying attention to a pro golf tournament on TV.
  • Mythology Gag: Annie getting cut off in traffic by a replica bus from the first film.
  • Not Now, Kiddo: "Mommy, there's a big boat!" "There are a lot of big boats here, honey."
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