5 Best Movie Car Chases
The car chase is one of cinema’s oldest action sequences. Vehicles have been used to add an extra dimension of speed and adrenaline since the days of silent film and black and white. From Roscoe Arbuckle to Alfred Hitchcock, it would seem that the appeal of a car chase is too great to resist for directors and fans alike.
But for film aficionados, the modern car chase began in 1968 with Steve McQueen, and since there have very much been the good, the bad, and of course the damn right ugly. Here are 5 of our favourite:
Renowned petrolhead Steve McQueen tore through the seedy streets of 1960s San Francisco as Lieutenant Frank Bullitt; investigating gangland assassinations and political intrigue along the way.
Bullitt set a new benchmark for thrilling road sequences and is now considered the first “modern” car chase. Its success is down to three electrifying factors: McQueen’s own driving ability, which was given free reign by director Peter Yates to cause havoc on the streets; the notoriously steep hills of San Francisco; and last but not least the beautiful 1968 Ford Mustang GT which Bullitt pushes to its limits and beyond.
James Bond (1962-present)
The Bond franchise is littered with memorable car chases, ranging from the spectacular to the ridiculous. Who can forget Roger Moore driving the front half of a Renault 11 through the Paris streets in A View To A Kill, or Pierce Brosnan’s invisible Aston Martin Vanquish tearing through an ice palace in Die Another Day?
But for every film that goes too far, there is another which gets it just right. Sean Connery’s Bond makes a fine getaway from the Las Vegas police in Diamonds are Forever. The chase has everything you could ask for: screeching tyres, piles of hapless police cars, and Bond pulling a crafty wheelie to escape from a seemingly dead end. Just ignore the continuity error where the car exits the tunnel on the opposite set of wheels to the ones it drove in on…!
The Matrix Reloaded (2003)
Perhaps a little bit of a cheeky entry, this one. The Wachowski brothers’ blockbuster franchise took cinema to a new level of visual trickery with its trademark “bullet time” effect. So what better way to rewrite the Hollywood rulebooks a second time than to film a car chase where the characters are not in cars?
The Matrix Reloaded is best remembered for its highway sequence where Laurence Fishburne’s Morpheus grapples with an array of anonymous agents across the roofs of vehicles speeding along a highway. The high octane martial arts, coupled with the visual effects, make this sequence one of the most inventive car chases ever.
The French Connection (1971)
Gene Hackman is investigating international drugs cartels in this grim and gritty movie set on the tough streets of 1970s New York.
The chase scene finds Hackman pursing a gunman aboard a New York L train, and writing off his commandeered 1971 Pontiac along the way. The scene was hugely influential at the time, and set new standards for realism. Director William Friedkin filmed the chase during the daytime, with real city traffic on the roads. He mounted cameras low on the car’s bumper and operated them at slower frame-rates to increase the sense of speed.
Duel is a brooding and taut film which is perhaps most notable for being the directorial début of one Steven Spielberg. It is also a master class in how to direct a chase, given that the majority of the film is little more than Dennis Weaver being chased down by a grimy-looking big rig.
Spielberg’s ability to keep building the tension over the course of ninety minutes, plus the eerie stillness and calm that pervades the film, make Duel an intriguing contrast to the more adrenaline-fuelled offerings in this list.
Now we could have had more, Dark Knight for instance quickly springs to mind, but we had to stop somewhere! So grab some popcorn, select your appropriate download service, and enjoy a night of high octane thrills.
This post is brought to you by AJB and cheap broadband supplier Talk Talk. Remember, be quick or it might not be fast enough to keep up with some of these movies!