This remains the best car chase scene ever

There is hardly anything more exciting in the cinema than an intense chase. No matter who you are or what your movie tastes are, we all get mesmerized by fast-moving cars and reckless displays of motorized violence. It’s not just mindless entertainment either. There’s a lot behind filming a chase scene. It’s carefully choreographed like a fight scene, except there’s a lot more at stake. If a stuntman makes a mistake, someone could lose their life. When a chase comes together just right, it can become something unforgettable.

The Fast and the Furious The franchise has certainly created many memorable car chase moments, even if some of them are pretty absurd. A car hurtles down the Hoover Dam Fast X everyone? Other current examples concern John Wick 4 or baby driver. Chases and movies go back decades. 1998s ronin with Robert DeNiro protrudes. However, they were not perfected until the 1970s vanishing point To duelTo The French ConnectionAnd Smokey and the Bandit. Above all, however, is a film that came out before them all. 1968s BullittIn the main role Steve McQueenHe had one of the first unforgettable car chases and 55 years later it’s still the best.

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RELATED: William Friedkin discusses the making of the car chase scene in ‘The French Connection’

Even without the chase, Bullitt is a classic action film

Steve McQueen in
Image via Warner Bros.

Steve McQueen was known as the “King of Cool”. In 1968, at age 38, McQueen’s reign was still in its prime. In the 1960s, he became one of the biggest names in Hollywood thanks to monster hits like … The glory seven And The Great Escape. In 1967 he was nominated for an Oscar for his work in Best Actor The sand pebbles. His dominance continued in 1968, initially with The Thomas Crown AffairThen Bullittwhere McQueen brought the epitome of cool to the audience.

It’s the chase that’s most remembered, but even if it never happened, there’s still a smart, classic action movie out there. McQueen plays a San Francisco police officer named Lieutenant Frank Bullitt. It’s his job to guard a gangster named Johnny Ross (Felice Orlando) before his testimony before Congress, led by Robert Vaughn as a cocky, selfish congressman. Ross is hiding from a Chicago gang called Outfit. When Ross is killed, Bullitt makes it appear as if he is still alive in order to draw out and capture the gangsters who are after him.

McQueen is his perfect stoic self. He’s like Clinton Eastwood in a western, but instead of a horse, the hero has a car, a loud and powerful black 1968 Ford Mustang GT. Even without a car, Bullitt is a badass in his black turtleneck and black pants. All about McQueen’s performance Bullitt says, “Don’t mess with this guy.” Then comes the scene where two outfit killers dare to do just that. They try to take down Bullitt while he’s driving his car through the streets of San Francisco. It’s a big mistake for their characters, but a win for film history.

The car is the star of “Bullitt”

Steve McQueen drives off in his Mustang in Bullitt
Image for Warner Bros.

It’s broad daylight in downtown San Francisco when Bullitt gets into his Mustang. One car immediately catches his eye, a black 1968 Dodge Charger R/T 440. It’s just as impressive as Bullitt’s car, which was necessary if you wanted to create something iconic. The Charger stands under an overpass, with two shadowy figures inside watching it. Bullitt gives her a cool, unflinching stare and starts his car. He drives away slowly, as if begging her to follow him. They do, but quickly lose sight of him through the busy streets of San Francisco.

Bullitt turns the tables on the killers (Paul Genge And Bill Hickman) by emerging from behind. They are now the ones being pursued. They take it easy for a moment, but as soon as the driver buckles his seat belt, it’s off. The Charger takes off and 10 minutes of uninterrupted film fun begin. You’ll fly up and down San Francisco’s famous hills, dodging trolleybuses and crashing into cars. Smoke billows from burning rubber around Bullitt’s Mustang. Even if it slows down, it’s exciting. In a moment, the Charger escapes and Bullitt rolls over the steep hills full of houses while the Mustang hops at the end of each street.

Eventually they reach the bottom and speed through the straight bay roads before heading out into the winding countryside. In one small but meaningful moment, the killers almost run over a man on his motorcycle. Bullitt dodges off the road into the dirt to avoid the man who is now sliding across the sidewalk. Instead of driving on, he stops at first, and when he sees the motorcyclist get up and others come to his aid, Bullitt drives on. Our hero first had to know that the bystander was okay. Bullitt quickly catches up, stands side to side and crashes into the Charger. The passenger pulls out a shotgun and aims in Bullitt’s direction, but he is able to miss the shots aimed at him. He then crashes into the Charger again, throwing it off the road where it crashes and bursts into flames. The killers failed and paid the ultimate price.

Why “Bullitt’s car chase scene is the greatest ever”

A Dodge Charger launches into the air in
Image via Warner Bros.

So much works in this scene. There are no special effects and of course no CGI, nor characters shouting one-liners while driving. It’s just two cars driving through real roads at breakneck speed. It feels incredibly real, not like a staged production. Steve McQueen, whose expression never changes and who never speaks, drives most of the time and it shows. Much of the action focuses on his face. When he drives by, we can see him behind the wheel. This is important.

In a way, the setting of San Francisco and its changing landscape becomes a character of its own. The sloping roads ensure that the cars bounce off the asphalt together in perfect rhythm. There were even plans to race across the Golden State Bridge, but the city turned down the request.

It’s easy to see why Bullitt won an Oscar for Best Editing. There’s no barrage of quick cuts to hide the tricks. Bullitt runs his action in long takes and only cuts when necessary. Then there’s the sound, which should have won an Oscar too. The Mustang and Charger roar like lions, their warrior howls echoing. Even someone who is not at all interested in cars would be drawn in by the hum of those engines.

Last year it was announced that none other than Steven Spielberg would direct a Bullitt reboot with Bradley Cooper in the lead. Maybe one of our greatest directors can give us a good movie to match the original, but there’s nothing he or Cooper can do to recreate Steve McQueen’s realm of cool or that legendary car chase. Anything they try will only be imitation.

The reign of the king of cool came to a sad end when McQueen passed away in 1980 at the age of 50. In the following years Bullitthe continued to be a Hollywood action king, with films like The escape, papillonAnd The mighty inferno. It was BullittBut that is his lasting image. If Clint Eastwood will always be the bearded man in the cowboy hat, Steve McQueen will always be the man with the open jacket driving a Mustang. As he once told a production partner“He always said this movie was a western in which he strapped on a car like a gun belt.”

Dustin Huang

Dustin Huang is a 24ssports U.S. News Reporter based in London. His focus is on U.S. politics and the environment. He has covered climate change extensively, as well as healthcare and crime. Dustin Huang joined 24ssports in 2021 from the Daily Express and previously worked for Chemist and Druggist and the Jewish Chronicle. He is a graduate of Cambridge University. Languages: English. You can get in touch with me by emailing:

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