The Best of the Cinematic Slow Clap

The Best of the Cinematic Slow Clap

The slow clap is one of the absolute strangest cinematic cliches out there.  Has there been any time, ever, in real life, that you witnessed a slow clap? Only in an ironic situation would that EVER happen.  However, time and time again, movies feel the need to start slowly and crescendo the applause. Maybe, the filmmakers feel a need to start low and end high?  The crazy thing is, it usually works.

2001’s Not Another Teen Movie perfectly exhibits the absurdity of the slow clap.

Girl: Look, you can’t just start a slow clap at any old time! You gotta wait for the right moment!

Boy:  But, how am I going to know when it’s the right moment?

Girl:  Oh…you’ll know!

Also, the late Roger Ebert expresses it perfectly:

You know the Slow Clap Scene, where the key character walks into the room and it falls silent? And everybody is alert and tense and waiting to see what will happen? And then one person slowly starts to clap, and then two, three, four, and then suddenly the tension breaks and everyone is clapping, even the sourpuss hold-outs? Can we agree that this scene is an ancient cliche? We can. And yet occasionally I am amazed when it works all the same.

Roger Ebert

Here are the 5 best appearances of the slow clap in movie history.

Cool Runnings (1993)

For those of you that have not seen Cool Runnings, what have you been doing the past twenty-five years?  This 1993 Disney gem tells the tale of the Jamaican Bobsled team and how they worked their buts off to make it to the 1988 Winter Olympics.  John Candy plays their coach, a disgraced former Olympian, and he helps them fend off all the pessimism, all the racism, and the ridicule.

While on a medal-worthy bobsled run, the team’s sled breaks and they survive through a horrific crash.  Team Captain, Derice, exclaims that he has to finish the race. The four team members then carry the sled to the finish line.  This is where the slow clap happens (1:48), and it is perfect. The judges, the fellow bobsledders, and even estranged family all get into the act.  If you have never seen the film, you may find it impossible to choke back your tears during this scene.

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Hoosiers (1986)

Director David Anspaugh must really love the slow clap because he is on this list twice (He also directed Rudy).  Any discussion about the best sports films of all time always includes Anspaugh’s Hoosiers.  It is a glorious film about a small town basketball team.  The school, the coach, and the town drunk are all making this team the focus of their energies.  This is not only to get them to the championship but to have a bit of personal retribution as well.

When the big game comes, Hackman is out to give the expected, rousing motivational speech.  It is a good one. And then one of the players begins the clap. The whole thing should be laughable because it is so unnatural.  However, the audience doesn’t miss a beat. They are ready to run out on that court with the players.

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Jersey Girl (2004)

Kevin Smith’s Jersey Girl really got a bad rap.  In 2004, it was the height of Ben Affleck and J-Lo’s relationship.  So, it was en vogue to hate everything they did because we were all so oversaturated.  However, this film is a delight. Ben Affleck plays Ollie, a man whose wife died in childbirth and was left raising his infant daughter alone.  Not only that, but he lost his cool at a press conference and thus lost his high-end job and is relegated to blue-collar work with his father.

The film is full of great father/daughter moments, relationship humor, coping with grief, and facing mortality.  The way this movie was dismissed because J-Lo and Ben Affleck were in it is a shame. Also, it has a spectacular slow clap in it.  Ollie’s daughter enlists her family to help perform a skit from Sweeney Todd at school.  It is a bit inappropriate and they finish their song to baffled silence.  Until that one man, who seems to know the situation is absurd, begins the clap.

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Rudy (1993)

Rudy is one of the most inspirational sports films ever made.  It tells the story if Rudy Ruttiger. He is the son of a blue-collar family who has loved Notre Dame football all their lives. Rudy grew up with a dream of playing for the Fighting Irish, but he is small and not very smart.

That doesn’t stop him.  After the death of his best friend, Rudy decides it is time to go for it.  The movie follows him as he works hard, schemes hard, and does everything imaginable just to get close to the football team.  After a severe betrayal and disappointment, he quits. However, after a stern talking to by his sort-of groundskeeper mentor (Charles S. Dutton), he returns.  Of course, the team shows their appreciation for all his hard work in the corniest way possible.

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Lucas (1986)

Quite simply, Lucas is one of the best, if not THE best high school movie to come out of the 80s.  It is just an enormous shame that it is overshadowed by all the Brat Pack/John Hughes films.  Corey Haim plays a nerdy prodigy who is much smaller and younger than his fellow classmates.  However, high school being what it is, he is relentlessly bullied.  During summer before school starts, he befriends Maggie, a cute redhead who just moved to town.  They become good friends. But, then the school year starts.

Lucas hates the superficiality of high school. However, when Maggie embraces it and falls for the head football player (Charlie Sheen), it overturns Lucas’s life.  He is going to become the big man on campus. Even if it kills him. The slow clap comes at the absolute end of the film. This clap is one of the most obnoxiously exaggerated examples of the trope. Lucas’s trials and tribulations have touched the heart of the entire school and it is a glorious ending. 

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