There should be an Oscar for… Best Car Chase
As part of Awards Season at hmv, each week we’ll be taking a look at some of those all-important movie moments that never get a mention when it comes to the Oscars: Best Plot Twist, Funniest Sex Scene, Best Comedy Death etc.
So, since these will never win an Oscar in their own right, we’ve decided to make up some awards of our own. This week we kick off with one of the most important elements of any action flick: the Car Chase. We pick 5 of the best contenders from cinematic history to see who should have been handed a gong for their efforts.
No respectable list of car chases would be complete without this iconic scene from Peter Yates’ 1968 classic. Starring Steve McQueen at a time when he was widely considered to be the coolest man on the planet, the car chase is one of the movie’s most memorable scenes and sees McQueen’s Ford Mustang tearing through the hilly streets of San Francisco in pursuit of the classic ‘bad guy’ car: the Dodge Charger. Although Lalo Schifrin’s soundtrack is one of the best of its era, Yates wisely drops the music for this sequence in favour of the grunting, roaring engines of two American muscle cars at full throttle. Still as cool now as it was then…
The Italian Job
If you were planning a bank job, chances are your choice of getaway car might be an Italian supercar, or at the very least some kind of supercharged saloon. But a Mini? Perhaps not the car to feature at the top of your wish list in most circumstances, but in The Italian Job it’s the perfect choice. While the 2003 remake does feature some impressive chase sequence, we think Peter Collinson’s 1969 original is still the best. Three specially modified Mini Coopers (in the colours of the Union Jack, naturally) rattle through the streets of Turin, driving down steps, along pavements, through shopping malls and even across a weir, ending in the movie’s iconic cliffhanger climax.
The French Connection
What’s better than a car chasing another car? How about a car chasing a runaway train? William Friedkin’s 1971 film features one of the all-time great car chases, which sees narcotics cop Popeye Doyle (Gene Hackman) chasing an El train through the streets of New York. The film’s producer, Phil D’Antoni, had worked on Bullitt and deliberately set out to top the car chase in that film, for which stunt driver Bill Hickman really did race through the streets of New York at 90 mph, amongst the unsuspecting traffic. Friedkin himself sat in the back seat to get the shots rather than endanger anyone else, and boy was it worth it.
John Frankenheimer’s 1998 film features one of the best car chases of modern times and, refreshingly, features a woman as one of the drivers. For almost 8 nail-biting minutes, Natascha McElhone’s BMW is pursued through the streets of Nice by Robert DeNiro’s Peugot, leaving a trail of destruction in their wake and climaxing in a dramatic rescue as McElhone is dragged from the burning wreckage of the BMW as it skids on its roof off the edge of a flyover. As car chases go, this is about as good as it gets.
Quantum of Solace
Quantum of Solace is not usually considered the best Bond film of the Daniel Craig era, but the opening sequence features what may be the best car chase in a 007 movie. Set in the Italian mountains near the town of Siena, Bond’s Aston Martin DB9 is pursued through tunnels and along narrow mountain roads, in heavy traffic no less, by two Alfa Romeos, both of which are eventually dispatched and sent rolling down the side of a mountain. Quick, slick and featuring some highly skilful driving, it’s one of our favourites.
And The Winner Is…
After much deliberation, we’ve gone for Ronin. Sure, Bullitt and The French Connection are iconic, but for sheers white-knuckle-ride action we’ve got to hand it to Ronin for a chase sequence that puts you on the edge of your seat and keeps you there. Quite simply, it’s brilliant.