It’s the best movie about a bus, and it hit theaters on June 10, 1994. Of course, it’s so much more than just a bus movie. Speed is a solid action film, in case you haven’t re-watched it one of the bajillion times it’s aired on cable in the past two decades.
The film’s stars, Keanu Reeves and Sandra Bullock, recently spoke to Hitfix about the beloved blockbuster.
“I don’t think anyone had any idea what was going to happen … I certainly didn’t feel it,” Bullock told Hitfix. “I think we were sort of ridiculed a bit for being the ‘low budget bomb-on-the-bus movie.’ Not that I cared. I was just so happy to have a job and that I got to work with Keanu.”
For his part, Reeves has more of a philosophical take on the movie’s legacy. “I think there’s something that people respond to in the film in the sense that it feels so accessible and human, in a way,” said Reeves. “There’s a vulnerability to it. Having participated in that, and having had a great opportunity, and then to be here 20 years later, it feels like that came from a more innocent time.”
Here are 20 reasons – some you’ll totally know, and others you may not – Speed stands the test of time.
1. It’s the movie that made the world notice Sandra Bullock. With apologies to fans of Love Potion No. 9 and Demolition Man, it was Speed that made Bullock a mid-’90s “It” girl. She has endured, of course, but it’s a trip watching interviews from right when Speed was released, with reporters struggling to describe this hot new commodity named Sandra Bullock.
2. A great reason it’s not just “that bus movie?” All the parts that don’t take place on the bus. For example, there’s the 23-minute sequence at the beginning featuring Keanu Reeves and Jeff Daniels’s characters rescuing hostages trapped on an elevator, and the 20-minute sequence at the end featuring the showdown with Dennis Hopper’s villain on the L.A. subway. See, Speed makes all kinds of transportation seem dangerous!
3. Speed marks the debut of short-hair Keanu. Previously known for his floppy locks, he buzzed his head to play a clean-cut, in-control police officer. The physical change reportedly shocked studio execs so much that they considered delaying filming to allow time for Keanu’s hair to grow back in. As director Jan de Bont recalled to Entertainment Weekly, “Everyone at the studio was scared s––––less when they first saw it.”
4. Speed also marks the reappearance of “Keanu face” – a condition in which Keanu Reeves’s characters respond to all manner of situations, good or bad, with superhuman-ly stoic reserve. Examples:
It’s fine, though. Dennis Hopper emotes enough for the whole cast.
5. When we first meet Sandra Bullock’s character, Annie, she’s racing after the bus – speeding, if you will – and we get a shot of her perfectly ’90s alterna-cool outfit. Yes, this movie is a time capsule.
6. The watch. Of all the co-stars in this film, you wouldn’t expect Keanu’s watch to gain a cult following, but it apparently did. Among Casio aficionados, the Casio DW5600C became known as the “Speed model.”
7. A small touch that might even be accidental, but it’s a cool connection regardless: The doomed bus is No. 2525. Now, 25 + 25 = 50, which just happens to be the speed the bus must maintain, or else it goes kablooey. Are there any conspiracy theorists in the house?
8. Reeves did almost all his own stunts in the film, which is the action-movie equivalent of “And it was based on a true story, too!”
9. This exchange.
10. Helen, the panic-stricken woman who attempts to escape and becomes one of the few people in pop culture to get literally thrown under the bus, just happens to be Beth Grant, who’s probably best known today for her work on The Mindy Project and in Donnie Darko (“Sometimes I doubt your commitment to Sparkle Motion!“)
Grant isn’t the only familiar face appearing in a small role, by the way. You probably recall Patrick Fischler, who appears early in the film, as the loudmouth comedian Don Draper punches in the second season of Mad Men.
And Sandy Martin – a.k.a. Mac’s mom on It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia and Grandma in Napoleon Dynamite – appears in a split-second role as a bartender.
11. Lest we forget, Speed has that infamous scene in which the bus jumps a fifty-foot gap in the under-construction freeway. It’s easily the coolest thing a bus has ever gotten to do in a movie.
12. A 2009 episode of Mythbusters actually looked into whether the bus jump was physically possible. The team’s conclusions? Well, let’s just say that a physically accurate version of Speed would have had a sad, abrupt ending.
13. According to trivia included in AMC’s “Story Notes” broadcast of Speed, Sandra Bullock actually learned how to drive a bus to prepare for her role in the film. She passed the test on her first try.
14. That training aside, Annie seems appropriately (and consistently) freaked out by her new bus-driving job.
It’s cool, Annie. Driving in L.A. is tough!
15. The big tease fake finale, when our heroes slide out from under the bottom of the bus, coast to safety and end up in an embrace. It’s a great shot – and it should be the perfect moment for a long-awaited kiss…
16. Of course, at this point, Dennis Hopper’s villain has nabbed poor Annie and strapped her up with a final bomb. When she slowly turns around to reveal her plight, it’s heartbreaking – for the audience, too, because this action movie makes us care about its characters.
17. Although uncredited, Joss Whedon – the man behind Buffy and The Avengers – wrote “98.9 percent of the dialogue,” explained Graham Yost, Speed‘s credited screenwriter. You can hear some of that trademark Whedon snap. In fact, the movie has one of the best retorts by an action hero to a just-offed bad guy.
18. The long-awaited kiss finally happens.
19. Speed made us want to see Sandra Bullock and Keanu Reeves re-team so badly. They did in 2006 for The Lake House, in which they mostly spent their screen time apart, and that’s too bad, because the pair have some real chemistry – onscreen and off, as this behind-the-scenes interview proves.
20. And finally, the producers were happy to leave well enough alone with Speed, and totally didn’t try to squeeze out an unnecessary sequel that, impossibly, found Sandra Bullock’s character in nearly identical circumstances and – what’s that? Oh.
Well, let’s pretend that didn’t happen.
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