Those close to me know that I am a big fan of movies, cooking, and — races! So you can imagine what February 26th will be like for me and my television: the Great American Race, the Daytona 500 and then, the 84th Academy Awards that night. Makes for a very busy day. Back to racing though: one of the most exciting things to see on film is a great car chase, especially ones before computer graphics, when they actually had someone driving and doing everything you saw. There are dozens of great car chases, but let’s kick off the racing season with my Top Three Car Chases:
1. Bullitt (1968) Two cars are used in this famous chase, a 1968 black Dodge Charger and a green 1968 Ford Mustang GT, piloted by Steve McQueen. McQueen actually started out as his own stunt driver, until he overshot a turn and smoked the tires — and suddenly McQueen’s days of doing his own driving were over. The shot, however, remains in the movie. How can you forget the high speed chase through the hillside streets of San Francisco. In my opinion, this is the best car chase ever.
2. The French Connection (1971) The car in this scene is a 1971 Pontiac LeMans, driven by Best Actor winner Gene Hackman in his role as Popeye Doyle. Notice I said said “car,” singular– for those who haven’t seen the movie, Detective Doyle is chasing not another car but an elevated train through the streets of Brooklyn. By crashing through fences, nearly hitting a woman and instead colliding with her stroller which –gasp!– ends up being full of garbage instead of a live baby, this is one fantastic chase scene. The French Connection won Best Picture, so first enjoy the chase scene, but then enjoy the entire movie. Here is director William Friedkin commenting on the chase scene.
3. The Blues Brothers (1980) Not all chase scenes are life and death. The Blues Brothers, Dan Aykroyd and John Belushi, have two great chases in this movie. The featured car, the Bluesmobile, is a retired 1974 Mount Prospect, and an Illinois Dodge Monaco patrol car. To me the more memorable chase is the first, which takes them through a local shopping mall, driving at break-neck speed while Akroyd and Belushi casually comment on the shops in the mall. Of course, the grand finale features an elaborate race to the Daley Center in Chicago. At the time of the film’s release, it boasted the highest number of cars ever destroyed in a feature film. Gotta like that.
No talking or texting during the feature presentation.