Pulp Fiction’s most tense moment was filmed backwards

Pulp Fiction's most memorable scene, where Vincent Vega gives Mia Wallace a shot of adrenaline to the heart, was filmed in reverse

Mia Wallace in Pulp Fiction

There are numerous iconic and memorable scenes in Quentin Tarantino’s crime thriller movie Pulp Fiction – from Travolta and Thurman’s dancing, to Christopher Walken’s gold watch monologue, to Royale with Cheese – but the moment that probably sticks in the mind more than any other is Vincent Vega (Travolta) plunging a needle full of adrenaline into Mia Wallace’s (Thurman) heart.

According to Far Out Magazine, in order to achieve the realism of this scene, Tarantino used an unusual technique. He originally thought about using a fake chest plate, but it didn’t work on camera and was too obviously not real. Therefore, he decided to film the needle plunge in reverse. So Travolta started with the needle at Thurman’s chest and then rapidly and forcefully pulled up.

Played in reverse, and with a thudding sound-effect added, it looks as though the needle is plunging down. There is also some quick editing, with the camera cutting to Thurman’s eyes opening and her gasping awake. Tarantino had also considered playing the role of the drug dealer Lance (Eric Stoltz), but knew that he needed to be behind the camera for this crucial scene.

Pulp Fiction was Tarantino’s sophomore feature after Reservoir Dogs and it brought him international attention after it won the Palme d’Or at Cannes. It would go onto gross almost $215 million and gave the careers of both John Travolta and Bruce Willis an injection – as they were certainly seen in a different light after working with Tarantino. It was nominated for seven Oscars, and won Best Screenplay.

Tarantino’s tenth and most recent movie was Once Upon a Time in Hollywood in 2019, it is not yet known what his next project will be. Tarantino’s ouevre has crossed many genres – from the 70s Blaxploitation-inspired Jackie Brown, to kung-fu (Kill Bill), to spaghetti westerns (Django Unchained and The Hateful Eight).

Check out our guide to the best 90s movies, to find out if Pulp Fiction made the cut.