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Every once in a while, a movie features a car chase or two that really knocks it out of the park. You know, the kind of movie, even years later, people are still talking about the car chase. After bouncing it back and forth on the automoblog office, here are our picks for the five best car chases in movie history. These are in no particular order, but feel free to discuss amongst yourselves or give us a hard time on twitter.
bullitt It gets a bit of a bad rap among our fellow fans for being a “boring cop movie,” but we think that’s unfounded. It’s a great movie with an excellent cast and one of the best (if not he best) chase scenes ever made into a movie.
king of cool
Two words: Steve McQueen. If that doesn’t make you look bullitt, you will have to hand in your gearhead club card. In addition to The King of Cool starring the title character, we have Don Gordon as McQueen’s partner, Detective “Dell” Delgetti.
Robert Vaughn plays the oily and untrustworthy US Senator Walter Chalmers, and Simon Oakland plays the gruff police chief, Captain Sam Bennett. There’s also Jacqueline Bisset as Cathy, Bullitt’s girlfriend (and a welcome relief in such a macho, male-oriented movie). More importantly, there’s Paul Genge as Mike, The Hitman, and Bill Hickman as Phil, The Hitman’s Partner (and we’ll get back to Hickman later in this list).
Directed by Peter Yates
British filmmaker Peter Yates might have been seen as an odd choice to make a film like bullitt because his other directing credits include murphy’s war (1971), Eddie Coyle’s friends (1973), The depth (1977), Breaking off (1979), krull (1983) and The dresser (1983). Not the kind of boss you’d think to team up with an actor like McQueen, but boy, did it work out in bullitt. All those other movies came after he did it. bullitt. Working so well with McQueen is what put Yates on the map.
Don’t get too hung up on the chase
As great as the chase scene is, this is a good time to tell any crazy pedant out there not to get too hung up on the chase. If you’re getting picky, you’ll see too many hubcaps fly off, notice pre-existing skid marks from previous shots, and seriously stumble on geography gone haywire. Ignore that. Don’t get lost in the details. Frank just made a right on Divisidero and now he’s at The 101 in Daly City? I know, I know, but he just goes with the flow. This is still one of the best.
#2: The French Connection
With William Friedkin at the helm, the french connection it set the benchmark for every dirty, gritty, cheap, hard-working cop movie that followed. The story, inspired by true events, revolves around grumpy cop Jimmy “Popeye” Doyle, his world-weary partner Detective Buddy “Cloudy” Russo, and an obsession with catching French heroin kingpin Alain “Frog One.” charnier. It also has one of the best car chases in movie history.
trying to catch the train
the french connection is justifiably famous for this completely insane chase scene in the middle of the movie. Specifically, Popeye Doyle is chasing one of the henchmen, only the bad guy is on an elevated subway train, and Popeye is in a ’71 Le Mans that he just snatched from a passerby. To make matters worse, there’s traffic: lots and lots of stupid, slow, in the middle of New York traffic. Popeye is the type of person who gets an PO if his coffee is cold, so he handles this situation with all the poise and joy you’d expect. Screams, honks, wild gesticulations, lunges, you know, the usual things they say to you. No do in driver training, and it’s fucking fantastic.
The cast is packed with guys who look like they’ve driven 40 miles of rough road on a hot day. Gene Hackman as Detective Doyle is perfect. Fernando Rey plays Alain “Frog One” Charnier, the enigmatic French drug dealer. Of course, we find Roy Scheider as Detective Russo, Popeye’s long-suffering partner. Other recognizable faces include Tony Lo Bianco, Marcel Bozzuffi, Frédéric de Pasquale, and Bill Hickman as FBI Agent Bill Mulderig.
About that teardown bit
the french connection it all comes down to finding the scrap, the slap, the H, the white china, the heroin. Frog One has to have it in his car, pretty nice all black Cadillac right? Us gearheads get to witness a haunting scene of that Caddy being torn apart, panel by panel. Do they find the heroin? Oh look at the movie, it’s great!
Here is a film that, in my opinion, has the best single car chase ever filmed. It’s about a squad of plainclothes NYPD officers using dirty and unorthodox tactics to nab their target on charges that carry prison terms of seven years or more, hence the team’s name: The Seven-Ups. It’s an ideal crime movie with twists and turns, but man, what a chase scene.
the seven-ups was directed by Philip D’Antoni, the guy who produced bullitt and then the french connection, so it’s no surprise that there’s an impressive chase scene. Shot in and around Upper Manhattan, the chase sequence was edited by Gerald B. Greenberg, who won an Academy Award for his work on the french connectionso we can see where this is going.
We’ve got the bad guy’s 1973 Pontiac Grand Ville sedan being wildly pursued by Detective Mannuci’s 1973 Pontiac Ventura coupe, with the two cars bouncing down Upper West Side inclines, including West 96th Street and onto the George Washington Bridge, which leads to Interstate Palisades from New Jersey. It all ends with a death-defying accident that puts other chase scenes to shame. Seriously one of the best.
Who’s that boy!?
Bill Hickman is perhaps the unsung hero of bullitt, the french connectionand The Seven-Ups. He coordinated and did the driving stunts in all three movies. Hickman is a certified badass, a fantastic stunt driver, and not too bad of an actor. The fact that he is attached to movies of this caliber is impressive.
The Bourne Identity
It’s hard to top the chase scene in The Bourne Identity. The story of a clandestine government agency agent beautifully played by Matt Damon, the film takes us from one exotic location to another as amnesiac Jason Bourne tries to outwit the bad guys and figure out who he is and what got him to this point. It’s a great spy movie through and through, and right in the middle of it, is this excellent chase scene.
How much can a mini hold?
Poor Marie Kreutz (Franka Potente) meets this guy, Jason Bourne, and the next thing she knows, he more or less kidnaps her, steals her car, and ends up fleeing Paris to the four corners of the Earth. Said car is a rather beat-up original Mini, but in Bourne’s capable hands, it’s a terror to behold.
Rally ace Paddy Hopkirk said: “A small road looks like a big road for a Mini”, but that alley? No way, not how that’s going to fit together. Nor will a Mini fit through that hole. Or outrun a bunch of French cops. On motorcycles. Go against the grain of the heavy midday traffic! Oh really, The Bourne Identity It has one of the best car chases of all time.
great movie everyone
Yeah, for us gearheads, there’s that chase scene. But for everyone else The Bourne Identity it’s just a good movie. Rounding out the cast with Damon and Potente are Chris Cooper, Clive Owen, Brian Cox and Julia Stiles. In general, chase scene or not, the the bourne identity it’s a good ride
The general it is possibly Buster Keaton’s best work. The 1926 silent film, inspired by The great locomotive chase by William Pittenger, is a true story that occurred during the American Civil War. Although not technically a car movie, we couldn’t resist including it on this list. For a century old, most have no idea how good a movie is. The general it is, let alone how good a chase movie is.
The “limited” premise
There is not a single chase scene in The general per se, but the whole movie (all 75 minutes) is a chase, like one train chasing another. If you think about it long enough, the main criticism is how it performs on one-way train tracks. It’s different from most movies with big chase scenes where you have a whole city to burn down. In The generalyou don’t have that, so it seems limited, but that’s where Keaton’s genius shines.
The great stone face
Yes, Buster Keaton, a comic virtuoso of such awesome skill that even Johnny Knoxville said he would never attempt some of the stunts he’s seen Keaton do. And that’s what he does The general so unique in this day and age. There are no special effects or respect for safety. When Keaton barely manages to push a sleeper out of the way of a speeding steam locomotive avoiding a literal derailment, he I had to do it. No second takes, no computer graphics, no stuntmen.
If Keaton messes it up, he’s literally killed in a train wreck and steam explosion! And that’s just a minor joke. The biggest stunts involve cannons and explosions and train trestles. The general has enough close calls to make an OSHA official pass out.
rolling on the floor
The general it’s hysterical. You’re basically laughing at three things: a funny joke, an even funnier joke, or the fact that Keaton didn’t die. doing that. And you want to know the really fun part? she bombed. The general it flopped at the box office to the point of nearly taking Keaton’s career with it. But it is now recognized as among the most significant American films ever made; no dumb no comedies just one of the best movies ever. And it’s all one giant chase.
The best car chases in movie history
After so much chasing and running, where do we find ourselves? Entertaining, to say the least, because you have five brilliant examples to look at here. Also, we all remember the work of Bill Hickman. These are the best car chases we could find so far. Have we missed any? There’s a lot out there, so if we have, Contact us on Twitter and let us know!
Tony Borroz, a long-time writer for Automoblog, has worked on popular driving games as a content expert, as well as working for aerospace companies, software giants, and as a stuntman. He lives in the northeast corner of the most northwestern part of the Pacific Northwest.