In today’s post we’re going to be taking a look at some of the most iconic car chases of all time. Some of the car chases featured below inspired what came after, and they’ve remained in the memory long after they first appeared in cinemas. It doesn’t matter how forgettable the rest of the films might have been, the car chases were always a standout feature.
It’s forty-eight years ago since Steve McQueen drove the 1968 Ford Mustang GT Fastback in San Francisco fleeing from two hitmen in a 1968 Dodge Charger R/T. The scene is legendary, McQueen purposely kept his head near the window so viewers would see that it was he, and not a stunt double driving. McQueen did in fact drive the car for almost all of the scenes bar a few, which were done by Bud Ekins and Loren Janes. His nemesis Bill Hickman, who played the hitman, who drove the Dodge himself as he was also a stuntman by profession.
The French Connection, directed by William Friedkin has one of the most famous car chase scenes in cinematic history. The chase features Doyle (Gene Hackman) in a 1971 Pontiac LeMans going after a man who’s tried to escape via an elevated train directly above. They had no permission from the city to film the scene, which meant that other drivers and pedestrians weren’t made aware that scenes were being filmed. But they did have permission to control the traffic signals. However, despite this they continued to drive in areas where there was no traffic control, so people’s reactions were real. The only staged incident with a pedestrian was a woman and baby which had been carefully rehearsed.
Bourne Supremacy Car Chase 2004
In this Moscow car chase, Bourne is hampered by a shoulder injury from a bullet. There’s no glamorous car, he’s driving a Volga 3310 taxi while being chased by a Merc, with bits flying off as the chase gets dirtier and harder. They knock other cars as well as each other, adding to the realism. It’s the accidental car hits and the unglamorous yellow taxi which makes this scene so believable and real.
The Vanishing Point 1971
In The Vanishing Point we have a soundtrack to die for with a former race car driver and Vietnam hero driving across Death Valley in a 2 door 1970 Dodge Challenger while being chased by police. The film was based on the true story of a young driver, and features a man named Kowalski who attempts to deliver a car from Denver to San Francisco.
A film of more recent times, Drive is about crime and passion which attempts to emulate the thrillers of the 1970s and 80s, some of which have been discussed in this post. There wasn’t a massive amount of driving in the film despite the title, however one scene stands out where the driver is avoiding the police in a Ford Mustang while waiting for his partner to rob a pawn shop. The robbery goes wrong and the Mustang takes off at high speed with a Chrysler 300 C in pursuit.
Gone in 60 Seconds 1974
In perhaps one of the longest car chases, the original Gone in 60 Seconds from 1974 features a 40-minute car chase staring HB Halicki who also directed, produced and wrote the film. He drives a Ford Mustang code named “Eleanor,” with nearly a hundred cars wrecked. What’s more, as with The French Connection, not all the drivers and onlookers were stunt doubles or extras, some of the accidents were real too, with Halicki having to recover at one point after driven into a telegraph pole.
The Driver 1978
The Driver not to be confused with Drive, is a movie which features Ryan O Neal, a mysterious man who drives getaway cars in robberies, similar in nature to Drive in 2011. All of the car chases are given a sense of realism with shots from the rear view of the car giving a heightened sense of excitement and more realistic sense of speed.
Roma Violenta 1975
Like The French Connection, Roma Violenta has car chase scenes which were shot without permission and some of the police sirens you can hear are for real. The film focuses on a former police detective who is hired to tackle crime in Rome who gets help from an undercover cop known as Biondi.
To Live and Die in LA 1985
Another William Friedkin movie with To Live and Die in LA. It features a secret agent William Peterson trying to evade hired guns in a Chevrolet Impala down a freeway – the wrong way. Friedkin managed to reverse the traffic flow so he’d get the scene perfect.
A scene that has lots of pedestrians jumping out of the way in terror from speeding vehicles, with Robert De Niro driving a Peugeot 406 while chasing a BMW with Natascha McElhone, through Paris.
So there you have it, 10 of the best car chases of all time, no doubt you’ll have your own favourites, but watch again and enjoy.
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