I thought that every red-blooded male American would be familiar with great movie car chases. I knew that in order to be an accepted gearhead, you had to know and have seen each of these movies. I discovered I was wrong, especially when I spoke to a few of my friends. So, for those that have no idea why Bullitt is established as the best car chase in a movie, here are some clips to watch. WARNING – THESE CLIPS ARE UNEDITED AND MAY CONTAIN ADULT LANGUAGE.
Bad Boys II – This is my favorite, not only because of the absolute madness of the highway scene, but because the tension continues to build through the entire sequence. Watch for some spectacular crashes, and some of the best CGI flips in any movie. It is Michael Bay at his best.
Bullitt – This is the first modern car chase ever filmed, and it includes some icons of movie history. First, there is Steve McQueen who is the coolest guy in the world. He is driving a ‘68 Highland Green Mustang GT which was the coolest car in the world. Add to that the hills of San Francisco, and Bill Hickman in a black Dodge Charger, and you have some of the best footage ever filmed.
French Connection – This has to be the greatest car chase on film, even better than Bullitt. Not because the sequence was better, or that the realism was better, but because it WAS real. The entire scene was shot in one take, and preparation only included a siren mounted on the car. No one in the neighborhood was notified, or prepared, and all those close calls are real people… not movie stuntman. They expected to get arrested at some point in the filming, so they did it once, and went all out. Again, this is the same producer of Bullitt and The Seven Ups, and again Bill Hickman is the driver. Gene Hackman came back and did some second unit shots of him driving the car, and again never notified anyone. The scene where he hits the Ford and spins off is real, and the other driver was just leaving his house for the day. Nowhere else, and at no time again can this stuff happen, and that’s what makes this sequence so spectacular. One secret is that this entire chase scene is timed to Santana’s Black Magic Woman.
Gone in 60 Seconds (1974) – The original version is the one to watch. The movie is horrible, and the acting is even worse, but the car chases make it worthwhile. The car chase is over 40 minutes, and still ranks as the longest in movie history. If you are a fan of cars from the 60’s and 70’s, then you will love this…especially the chase scene performed inside a Cadillac dealership. Check out the original Eleanor in clip one below, then follow the YouTube links to clips 2 through 5.
Ronin – There are a few chase scenes in this movie, and each one is fantastic. The driving is done on the streets of Paris, and in the tunnels, and the action is in real time. From start to finish the BMW vs. Peugeot scenes are pretty scary, which is why I posted it below. Also great is the Audi S8 vs. Mercedes 450SL on the back roads in France, which can be found at this link.
Matrix Reloaded – A truly great car chase. From the Cadillac to the motorcycle, it has some of the best crash and fight sequences in a movie. Yes, its CGI, but the stunts are amazing. At last count, this took over from the last Blues Brothers movie as having the most cars wrecked (300).
Blues Brothers – This held the title for most destroyed cars in a movie, a title that was taken over by its own sequel. The Blues Brothers has one of the best, most fun, and light hearted chase sequences ever filmed, and one that still is legendary. The speeds are real, and the famous Bluesmobile can be seen doing over 118 mph. The complete destruction of the shopping mall is awesome, and has to be seen. The drop of the Pinto wagon is from over a mile, and everything else in between is just hilarious. A great classic.
The Seven Ups – This is a somewhat forgettable movie starring Roy Scheider. More notable is the great chase sequence, that uses two Pontiacs, and the same Bill Hickman from Bullitt and the French Connection. Listen for the engine noise, that is dubbed straight from Bullitt, and look for the overpass which was where Cameron Diaz crashed in Vanilla Sky.
Quantum of Solace – What more can you say…James Bond, Aston Martin, Alfa Romeo, and the cliffs of Italy. Perfect, exciting, and totally awesome.
Bourne Trilogy – Each of these movies has a chase scene or two, but the best is the second movie, the Bourne Supremacy. The fight between the Russian Lada taxi and the Mercedes Gelandewagen is amazing. While you are there on YouTube, search for the Mini chase scene in the first movie, and the New York police car versus the Volkswagen Touareg in the last.
The Italian Job – The original version with Michael Caine is the better of the two. It features a Lamborghini Miura being tossed off a cliff, two beautiful Jaguar E-Types, and an Aston Martin DB4. When the Aston is destroyed, they actually used a Lancia Flaminia, so don’t get teary eyed. It also features some great old Mini’s in a chase scene that goes everywhere, including the roof of a stadium, and the rooftop FIAT test track. The newer version includes some great CGI work, more speed, and a good helicopter scene, but it can’t compete with the original.
Le Coup/Le Casse – This movie, translated to mean “The Burglars” includes a great chase scene. It is scripted and performed by the legendary stuntman Remy Julienne, and is a must see for stunt fans.
Duel – I first saw this as a kid, and thought it was the best movie ever made. Even today, it stands the test of time. This is the first feature film by Steven Spielberg and it stars Dennis Weaver. The entire movie is a chase, where a mystery trucker tries to kill Weaver, who is driving a red Plymouth Valiant. I remember how much of a nightmare those Valiants were, and I can’t imagine trying to get away from a Peterbilt in one. Every moment is epic, and tense. It is a must watch for car chase enthusiasts, and movie buffs. Look for the links to Part 2-8 in YouTube.
The Master Touch – Voted by many to be the second best car chase ever, this features Kirk Douglas, some old Chrysler iron, and a long chase. In one part they throw another car upside down on the chase cars roof, and in another they destroy a Citroen DS Estate. Another classic chase.
The Island – Another Michael Bay masterpiece using high tech CGI. Dodge Magnum Wagons, a very cool big rig, helicopters, and an armored truck are all featured. Just like Bad Boys II, they start throwing stuff at cars, except here it’s railroad locomotive wheels. I especially like when the Magnum is sheared in half by a steel plate. Michael Bay also gets honorable mention for his other work, including Transformers series.
McQ – This is a “good” movie featuring John Wayne and the stunts of Hal Needham. The chase scene involves a souped up Plymouth sedan, a Chevy Impala, and a Cadillac Sedan Deville racing down a beach in Oregon. Notable is the fact that there is an amazing car flip, which seriously hurt Needham, and is the first use of an air cannon in a film.
Wanted – Angelina Jolie and a Dodge Viper…perfect. There are only two scenes that make the movie worthwhile, and both are simply awesome. The first is when she picks up a guy in the Viper by doing a 360, scooping him up in the process. The next is when they flip a Mustang upside down over a limo, so they can shoot a guy in the backseat through the moon roof.
The Dead Pool – If you like Bullitt, then you will love Clint Eastwood’s homage to Bullitt that included a San Francisco chase scene with an Olds 98 and a miniature radio controlled car.
Terminator – This franchise gives us some more great CGI work. In the second Terminator, they use a Peterbilt tractor trailer in a jump from an overpass, and in the third movie, they use a monster crane and a fire truck. For absolute destruction, these are great movies to watch.
To Live and Die in LA – This 1985 movie is usually rated as a good chase, but there seems to be a lot of sped up film, and dolly work that makes it look too fake for my taste. The bad acting doesn’t help either. It is one of the first movies to have a chase scene going the wrong way against traffic on a freeway. The movie also got in trouble with the FBI and Secret Service. It seems the counterfeit money they used in the movie was printed on both sides, which is illegal. It was then “stolen” and used by set people at local stores. There was actually an investigation.
Other Notable Movies – The Driver, Death Proof, Vanishing Point, The Dark Night, Short Time, Freebie and the Bean, Executive Target, and The Rock