The most memorable white knuckle adrenaline rides on film
Time Out staff
Hollywood will tell you that if you want a man to sit through a film – there has to be a good car chase in there. And one movie out this week takes that advice to the max and fills its screen time with roaring motors and chase scenes. Need For Speed star Aaron Paul, an actor Breaking Bad fans will be more than familiar with (he played Jesse in the hit show), plays a street racer just released from jail and out for revenge. And the action-packed flick got team TOD debating cinema’s most classic chases. So here’s our list, featuring everyone from Barbra Streisand to a Mini or two.
What’s up Doc? (1972) Barbra Streisand, Ryan O’Neal, Madeline Kahn This 1970s romantic comedy may not be the obvious choice for a car chase scene, but for classy comedy and timing this is a standout addition to the list. Set in hilly San Francisco – Barbra Streisand and Ryan O’ Neal start the scene off pedaling away from a house and a segment with a window pane is classic slapstick.
Bullitt (1968) Steve McQueen, Jacqueline Bisset, Robert Vaughn Some would say this is the car chase scene from which all others are born. Steve McQueen plays San Francisco top-cop Frank Bullitt, who looks effortlessly cool in his turtle neck, driving the Ford Mustang 390GT. Peter Yates’ smart direction and use of point-of-view shots and a tense rhythmic trumpet score, add to the drama, and there’s something deliciously Hitckcockesque about the way McQueen’s car is seen in the rear view mirror.
Matrix Reloaded (2003) Keanu Reeves, Laurence Fishburne, Carrie-Anne Moss A high-tech, bombastic, CGI carnival of a car chase. The Matrix can be a mind-bender but this car scene in this follow-up is simple action and visual effects all the way. The chase takes place on a freeway, as Trinity (Carrie-Anne Moss) and Morpheus (Laurence Fishburne) attempt to transport The Keymaker to safety. The sequence was so complicated that the directors actually had a 3km-long stretch of road built for the production.
The French Connection (1971) Gene Hackman, Roy Scheider, Fernando Rey Hackman plays detective Jimmy Doyle, a hard-working cop who is on the case of a drug smuggler from France. Released just two years after Bullitt, the pressure was on to make an even better chase scene. Directed by William Friedkin, the chase sees Hackman following a New York train. It was filmed without the proper permits from the city, and members of the NYPD’s force helped clear five blocks, but they illegally continued the chase into sections with no traffic control, where they had to evade real traffic and pedestrians. Many of the near collisions and obstacles in the movie were real.
Ronin (1998) Robert De Niro, Jean Reno, Natascha McElhone This gangster action movie has plenty of car chase action, but the film reaches a vehicular crescendo towards the end. Ronin (De Niro), and Vincent (Jean Reno) begin tailing a woman as she drives her mob in a black BMW through Paris, Ronin and Vincent pursue in a Peugeot. The sequence relies on old-fashioned stunt work, with filmmaker John Frankenheimer’s decision to place the actors in the cars heightening the suspense.
Bourne Identity (2002) Franka Potente, Matt Damon, Chris Cooper Taking its cue from The Italian Job, this scene also uses the nippy Mini Cooper – not built for speed but when it comes to getting out of tight spot in a narrow city, you wouldn’t bet against it. Bourne and Marie have to get away from the cops in Paris and police pursue on bikes and cars.
Death Proof (2007) Kurt Russell, Zoë Bell, Rosario Dawson Not Tarantino’s finest work, but what the film lacked in box office success, it made up for in this single scene. Death Proof’s thrilling car chase also has a righteous comeuppance in true Tarantino style. The sequence follows three women as they drive on a quiet road. Daredevil Zoe has a habit for lying on the top of the car bonnet while her friend Kim drives and that’s when stuntman Mike (Kurt Russell) terrorises them in his ‘Death Proof’ car. But when the tables turn Zoe gives him a beating and, Kim shows him a few driving tactics of her own.
The Italian Job (1969) Michael Caine, Noel Coward Best known and loved for the line ‘you were only supposed to blow the bloody doors off’, this classic heist film sees wily criminal Crocker (Caine) come up with a scheming plan to steal gold from a Mafia den in Turin. Crocker uses three Mini Coopers, a couple of Jaguars and a bus, to bring Turin to a standstill, get the gold and getaway. The chase scene with red, white and blue minis tearing through the marketplace will go down in filmmaking history and will always be seen as pure film gold. Need for Speed is out now in cinemas across Dubai.