Eminem’s semi-autobiographical 2002 film, 8 Mile, is a story about many things—blind ambition, dogged persistence, the inescapable trappings of systematic poverty. But above all, it’s a movie about handshakes.
Across its 110 minutes, 8 Mile features a dazzling presentation of some of the most spectacular handshakes ever captured on film. While Eminem’s skills as a rapper had been firmly established prior to the movie’s release, 8 Mile allowed him to come into his own as a handshake artist. While each handshake is evocative in its own right, every palm-on-palm contact exists to serve the greater narrative of 8 Mile, as well as the complete oeuvre of Eminem.
Here is a ranking of every handshake Eminem’s character, Rabbit, gives in the film 8 Mile.
22. The Handshake Rabbit and Future Share After Fixing the Car and Singing “Sweet Home Alabama”
Rabbit and Future share this handshake after partaking in the time-honored Detroit tradition of fixing a hooptie while singing an improvised version of “Sweet Home Alabama”—about as good a reason as any to share a hearty shake. This handshake loses major cinematography points, though, for cutting away right at the money shot.
21. The Handshake Rabbit Gives Wink When He Shows Up at His House
This is a greeting handshake between Rabbit and Wink, who has news regarding a rap career opportunity. The background trailers underscore Rabbit’s embarrassment that he is living in a trailer park with his mother, and that comes through masterfully in this handshake. Still, Wink lands a strong double-tapper with a back pat.
20. The Handshake Rabbit Gives Wink When He Leaves His House
Having heard Wink’s proposal, Rabbit realizes it sounds promising but that doesn’t mean he still doesn’t have to catch the bus to work. A solid shoulder-to-shoulder pull-in handshake here.
19. The Handshake Rabbit Gives DJ Iz While Rushing to the Rap Battle (The First Handshake)
Considering this is the first handshake of the movie, Rabbit doesn’t take much time to let it sink in. It’s a solid double-tapper on the move, though. The ol’ slap ‘n’ walk.
18. The Handshake Rabbit Gets from Future After Dropping a Good Freestyle in a Parking Lot
After dropping a great freestyle verse with a devastating line that rhymes “bush” and “tush,” Rabbit is greeted by Future with this handshake which transitions to a pull-in hug. You can see the emotion in Rabbit’s face as it rests on his Future’s shoulder, signifying how internally relieved he is to have earned his mentor’s respect. This will become a recurring feature of the two’s hugs.
17. The Handshake Rabbit Gives to Future at the Hospital After Cheddar Shoots Himself in the Leg
After their friend Cheddar is admitted to the hospital for a self-inflicted gunshot wound, Rabbit and Future share this solemn double-tapper. Notice the somber energy in the hands. It cannot be stated enough how much emotional weight is expressed in this seemingly simple handshake.
16. The Handshake Rabbit Gives to Wink After They Make Up
This is an apology handshake to clear up a prior misunderstanding and, from a technical perspective, it has everything, really. A strong double-tap handshake into a warm hug topped with a hard back pat. Brittany Murphy’s character, Alex, is approaching the men but the sight of the mighty handshake gives her pause, letting her know that these two need some room to let their emotional bond marinate. It should be noted, though, that in all of 8 Mile, there are no handshakes either with or between women. The film is a commentary on handshakes being strictly a boys’ game.
15 - 13. The Handshakes Rabbit’s Friends Give Him to Wish Him Luck Before the Rap Battle
These might seem like pretty standard, lackluster handshakes with his boys, but what Rabbit is showing here is how distracted he is by the big rap battle he’s got coming up. The 100-yard stare in his eyes seems to say, “What good are handshakes if they won’t bring me confidence?”
12. The Handshake Rabbit Gets from Lil Tic After a Good Performance at the Rap Battle
Set in Detroit, 8 Mile often flirts with themes of race. Rabbit struggles with the self-doubt that comes with being a white rapper in a predominantly black neighborhood. So in this scene, when he gets a handshake from Lil Tic, played by Proof, after winning his rap battle, it eases a bit of his burden. “You killed it, good shit,” the man tells him. Rabbit has earned respect from this man, and, to a larger extent, the entire crowd.
11. The Handshake/Pound Rabbit Gets from the Bouncer in the Club
Just seconds after the aforementioned handshake from a bystander, the club’s bouncer gives Rabbit a pound, as well. Was this repetition necessary? No. So why, then, did the director leave it in? Perhaps it was done to drive home just how unanimously Rabbit was favored by the crowd, from the lowly onlooker all the way up to the club’s staff. It was so overwhelming that Rabbit himself could hardly believe all the accolades he was receiving as he accepts this fist-to-fist gesture. Or maybe the scene serves to force the viewer to expand their understanding of what it means to shake hands. Is a fist bump a handshake? Is a high-five a handshake? Does “giving someone some skin” constitute a handshake? These are the questions brilliantly explored in 8 Mile.
10. The Handshakes Rabbit Gives to Sol and DJ Iz After Advancing a Round in the Rap Battle
Simply exquisite. A double double-tap. A quadruple tap, in fact, perhaps the first one in cinematic history. Incredible. The preparation and choreography behind the technical aspects of this handshake must have taken weeks if not months to plan.
9. The Handshake Rabbit Has with Sol After Having a Moment of Paralytic Existentialism
This handshake proceeds a profound moment of realization for Rabbit. After getting dropped off for another shift at his demoralizing factory job by his friend Sol, Rabbit ponders aloud, “You ever wonder at what point you gotta just say fuck it, man? Like, when you gotta stop living up here, and start living down here?” Of course, Sol has no answers. This is a hero’s journey towards enlightenment that Rabbit must take alone, one of self-discovery and handshakes.
8. The Handshake Rabbit Gets from a Co-worker After Winning a Rap Battle at the Food Truck on His Lunch Break
As is a common workplace hazard, Rabbit gets pulled into a lunchtime freestyle rap battle with XZibit around the food truck at the factory where he works. After he definitively wins it by insinuating that XZibit has HIV, he gets this handshake from an onlooker. It might’ve only been a single-tapper but it was so impressive that Alex, who was looking on, was so turned on by it that she invited Rabbit to have unprotected sex with her in the dirty factory. The lesson here is that handshakes can be a powerful aphrodisiac for women, and are not to be doled out lightly. Practice safe handshakes. Wear gloves if possible.
7. The Handshake Rabbit Gives to Paul When He Agrees to Cover His Shift at Work
After asking Paul if he’ll cover him at work for a few hours, Rabbit gives Paul this absolute slapper. Earlier in the film, Paul was mocked for being gay, so this extraordinary handshake seems to serve the film’s powerful message of LGBTQ acceptance. It’s surprising that 8 Mile did not win a GLAAD award based on this boundary-shattering handshake alone.
6 - 3. The Handshakes Rabbit’s Friends Give Him to Console Him After He Chokes at the Rap Battle
What a show of fraternal solidarity! After Rabbit chokes at the big rap battle, embarrassing himself in front of the entire room, his friends remain loyal, offering the handshakes of comfort he so desperately needs. “Man, don’t even worry about it, dawg,” says Future with an emotional double-tapper, or an EDT.
“Stay strong, my brother,” adds DJ Iz.
“You’ll rip ‘em next time,” adds Sol, always the optimist.
“Yeah, next time,” echoes Cheddar.
2. The Handshake Rabbit Gives Future After Promising Him That He’ll “Flip the Script”
This is one of the most powerful handshakes in the entire movie. Rabbit tries to make amends for an earlier argument, but Future, who has already treated it like water under the bridge, will not accept his apology. Instead, he asks for one thing: A promise that tonight, at the big rap battle, he will “flip the script.” We do not get a shot of the handshake itself, but instead our attention is drawn to Rabbit’s chin as it again rests on Future’s all-knowing shoulder.
1. The Handshake Rabbit Gives Future After He Flips the Script (The Final Handshake)
[Warning: spoilers follow] After winning the big rap battle, Future offers Rabbit the chance to co-host battle nights with him, a prestigious neighborhood honor and great opportunity for his rap career, but Rabbit turns him down. He just needs to do his own thing, he says, and Future respects this. An unexpected denouement. Just before “Lose Yourself” starts playing our hero off as he walks triumphantly yet unceremoniously into the night, we get this handshake, the most powerful one of the film. Judging purely on form alone, is this the best handshake? No. The first slap is sloppy, it's too palm-heavy, the motion is unsteady, and the framing is partially obscured. But does it have heart? Absolutely. It is a final handshake whose reverberations will echo through an era of cinema.
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CORRECTION: A previous version of this article stated that Rabbit got a handshake from a random bystander after advancing in the rap battle, when he actually received a handshake from Lil Tic, played by Proof. Noisey regrets the error.