The car chase has been a staple of action movies for the past 50 years. Technological developments including CGI have transformed this trend and catapulted it to new levels. With innovations such as high-powered electric cars and integrated tech, we’re sure to see increasingly sophisticated car chases play out on the big screen. However, some of the most jaw-dropping chases are still those that involve real people and cars, not to mention, painstaking planning and direction. Here are a few of the all-time greats.
The Steve McQueen classic contains the first and arguably most famous car chase scene in modern movie history. McQueen, who performed his own stunts in the film, tore up the streets of San Francisco in a green Ford Mustang 390 GT in hot pursuit of two hitmen attempting to escape in a Dodge Charger. The almost 11-minute chase scene was filmed by mounting cameras on top of the cars, offering the audience unprecedented views of the action.
The Italian Job (1969)
This quintessentially British caper saw a group of gold thieves, led by Michael Caine, transport their loot through the streets of Turin in distinguishing red, white and blue Mini Coopers. In hot pursuit are the Italian police and a rival gang of thieves. The car chase scene is made by the deft manoeuvres as the drivers navigate the narrow, twisting streets. Fun fact: Michael Caine couldn’t even drive at the time of filming and was never actually seen behind the wheel.
The French Connection (1971)
Filmed on the streets of Coney Island, New York, The French Connection took Hollywood car chases to the next level. Gene Hackman’s Detective Jimmy Doyle chases down the bad guy in his Pontiac LeMans, travelling at 90mph for 26 blocks. With screeching tyres, darting traffic and blaring horns, much of the action took place on busy streets with no traffic control. Adding to the drama, the scene was carried out without permits from NYC.
The Blues Brothers (1980)
One of the more memorable scenes of this musical comedy classic, starring John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd, features the heroes tearing through Chicago in their ‘Bluesmobile’, a 1974 Dodge Monaco, as they are pursued by the police. A record (at that time) 103 cars were destroyed during filming.
Terminator 2 (1991)
Ok, technically this is a motorcycle chase, but the scene in which John Conner on a dirt bike tries to outrun the T1000 in a truck has gone down in Hollywood history. With the heroes hurtling down San Fernando Valley’s Bull Creek and weaving in and out of disused canals, the scene has viewers watching from the edge of their seats. Arnold Schwarzenegger was paid a cool $15 million for his appearance. Given he only utters some 700 words of dialogue, that works out at $21,419 per word!
Unlike many film car chases, Ronin pits two distinctly ordinary family sedans – a Peugeot 406 and a BMW 535i – against one another, as they career through the busy Parisian streets. To make the scene realistic, right-handed vehicles were fitted with fake steering wheels on the left, so that actors including Robert de Niro and Natascha McElhone could imitate the stunt drivers’ actions. The result is a thrilling and suspenseful chase that leaves a path of destruction in its wake.
Mad Max: Fury Road (2015)
George Miller’s reboot of the popular 80s action franchise contains plenty of nail-biting moments throughout, but none so impactful as the conclusion which sees Tom Hardy and Charlize Theron race to safety through the desert. More than 75 vehicles are used in a single shot, many of which explode in a storm of wind, fire and sand.
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