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The b*tch slap is more than just a slap. It’s one of the most famous slaps ever, an outright smack across the face – and when it’s delivered, you know it’s important. These slaps are such a potent display of visceral power that movies have been using them since the beginning of the medium. When used at just the right time – and particularly when delivered unto a worthy recipient – they are some of the most serious wallops around.

Here are the 10 most powerful slaps in movie history.

 

Video: YouTube

This slap gets number one on the list purely out of magnitude and social importance. Sidney Poitier plays a detective from the North who has to come down to Mississippi in the 1960s to help out with a serious investigation. Racial tensions are stirred, and when one rich white guy doesn’t feel like being questioned by a black man at 00:53 of this clip, he slaps Poitier. What does Poitier do?

He b*tch slaps the guy right back without a moment of hesitation. What follows is a poignant examination on the aftermath of a b*tch slap, and hesitation over the proper course of action to take upon being slapped with such resolve. The movie came out in 1967, at the height of Martin Luther King Jr.’s preaching of a non-violent approach to combat such bias.

Video: YouTube

Kurt Russell has cemented his role as one of cinema’s great tough guys. Many consider his role as Wyatt Earp in Tombstone to be Russell at his most awesome of all. So when Russell b*tch slaps the hell out of Billy Bob Thornton at 02:07 in this clip, it may ultimately go down as one of Russell’s greatest moments of all time.

Video: YouTube

For every other person to get on this list, they had to either deliver or receive a real, solid smack across the face. But not Don Corleone. All he had to do to get on this list was to slap Johnny Fontaine in such an extreme fashion at 00:15 in this clip, telling him to act like a man. The smack isn’t hard, but it carries more weight than any other slap on the list, and do you know why?

Because the Johnny Fontaine character is just a stand-in for Frank Sinatra, and anyone who slaps the chairman of the board and gets away with it truly puts the “God” in “Godfather.”

Video: YouTube

Slapping a frantic woman to calm her down is a common occurrence seen in many old, comedic movies. The best example of this, however, would have to be this movie’s take on the matter when an actual line forms of people hoping to take a crack at the hyperventilating woman embodying this cliché.

The best of all the b*tch slaps in this scene (and there are many) would have to be Leslie Nielsen’s second crack at her at 00:17, which is entirely unnecessary and intended to be over-the-top.

Video: YouTube

Daniel Plainview is a hard man, a disciplined man, and a calculating man – a man who takes every advantage he can and is never taken advantage of… until now. In order to make his millions – well, “more” of his millions – he finds himself manipulated into being baptized by the town’s young religious leader, and for all intents and purposes his own mortal enemy, Eli Sunday.

Eli takes advantage by slapping the hell out of Plainview, a man who should probably never be slapped, much in the same way that you should probably never shoot a spitball at a Terminator. But darn it, Plainview needs that oil, and if he needs to be publicly humiliated to get it, then by God, he’s going to make a bigger spectacle than anyone has ever seen, asserting his dominance even in defeat.

Video: YouTube

Not all b*tch slaps are issued by men. In fact, Cher strikes a great blow and an even greater b*tch slap for womankind as she slaps the holy heck out of Nicolas Cage in this clip from Moonstruck. Better yet, it was in response to a declaration of love from the star of Bangkok Dangerous. (We’re pretty sure she got the Academy Award on sheer principle.)

What follows is the famous “Snap out of it” line, one of the most memorable romantic comedy quotes from the 1980s.

Video: YouTube

By the time we get to this point in Chinatown, Jack Nicholson has had to endure a lot of stuff, not the least of which is getting his nose dang near cut off by the director himself (on-screen, no less). So by the time Faye Dunaway starts lying to him yet again at 02:35, he’s run out of patience.

And so the slapping begins, one after another, in a ping pong game of twist revelations that are as dramatically potent today as they were when the film was released.

Video: YouTube

When all else fails to revive Virgil’s wife, he resorts to what any desperate man in his position would do… slapping the ever-loving heck out of her. And you know what… it works, although that probably has a lot to do with that fact that this is a James Cameron film; a director whose works tend to be as subtle as a slap across the face anyway.

This whole scene is memorable, but if you want to get right to the smacking (“God damn it, b*tch, you’ve never backed away from anything in your life!”) go to 02:55.

Video: YouTube

Starting at 01:00 here, Steve McQueen starts issuing the sloppiest b*tch slaps on the list, but easily the most realistic. Do you know why? Well, McQueen wasn’t actually “supposed” to slap Ali MacGraw, but when the cameras rolled, he just did it.

Apparently, Ali didn’t hold a cinematic grudge though, because later they got married.

Video: YouTube

This list has really covered the gamut, hasn’t it? We’ve seen progressive slaps, interrogative slaps, medicinal slaps, baptismal slaps, and more… But what is a b*tch slap, and how is one achieved? Leave it to Guy Ritchie – a guy who during his marriage to Madonna probably experienced quite a few proverbially slaps firsthand – to provide an educational interlude in his film RocknRolla just to clarify.

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