The subject of ‘the best movie car chase ever’ tends to be a very divisive one amongst movie-goers and movie critics alike. Here I take a look at 5 of the best:
Bullitt (1968, Peter Yates)
Most movie critics are agreed that Bullitt sets the car chase standard. A little over half-way into this slick thriller we find Steve McQueen’s police officer being tailed by a pair of hit-men. McQueen soon loses them only to emerge behind them, the hunted becoming the hunter. What follows is nine minutes of the most thrillingly visceral cinema ever made.
Duel (1971, Steven Spielberg)
Spielberg was more or less unknown when he made this superior TV movie. In it, Dennis Weaver, a travelling salesman, is pursued by a murderous petrol-tanker driver for pretty much the entire film. As we never see the face of the tanker-driver, the truck itself takes on a life force and develops its own personality until, finally vanquished, it lies groaning and belching fumes following the movie’s thrilling climax.
The French Connection (1971, William Friedkin)
Gene Hackman’s unhinged cop, Popeye Doyle pursues a criminal across New York City. What makes this car chase really stand out is the sheer recklessness with which Doyle goes about the chase, taking risk after risk in one of the most pulse-quickening chases ever. It is a brilliantly directed and edited sequence that will leave you gripping the arms of your chair in fear and excitement.
To Live and Die in LA (1985, William Friedkin)
Fourteen years after he made The French Connection, Friedkin created this even more elaborate car chase for a fantastic thriller about money laundering. Cops John Pankow and William Petersen are chased through LA’s back streets, initially by two gunmen but then by a whole stream of other vehicles that seem to appear from nowhere. Friedkin mounts his camera low to the road which increases the sense of speed and exhilaration. The scene is one of the most carefully and ingeniously choreographed in all of cinema and – say it quietly – it may even rival Bullitt for the title of best movie car chase ever.
Ronin (1998, John Frankenheimer)
The late-Nineties saw something of a renaissance for the car chase and this heist flick was at its forefront. Ronin prepared the way for many inferior films such as The Fast and the Furious and Gone in 60 Seconds. The film features two chases, the first of which is impressive but merely very good. The second is a breath-taking, bare knuckle ride through the streets of Paris. Eighty vehicles were destroyed in its making as Jean Reno and Robert de Niro hare after their erstwhile partners-in-crime. Much of the chase takes place at full speed and the wrong way along real dual-carriageways leaving you wondering how this punishing scene was ever made.
I hope you enjoyed these five best car chases ever.