Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Let's Cut to the Chase!

In posting a blog wherein he listed his favorite car chases, Piper over at Lazy Eye Theatre has jumpstarted a major discussion... particularly whether or not the chase through the streets of San Francisco in Steven McQueen's Bullitt really does deserve the moniker of "greatest chase scene ever." Piper doesn't think it does; Moviezz and Adam Ross disagree. Well, this will probably sound like a very "diplomatic" response but upon viewing Bullitt again last night, I realized that I have to agree partially with Piper. The Bullitt chase, while brilliant, is not necessarily the greatest car chase ever put on film, though it's certainly one of the greatest. Personally speaking, I'd put it at second best (just ahead of the truck chase from Raiders of the Lost Ark).

So, which chase occupies the #1 spot?

I'm going to be completely unoriginal here and say that I think The French Connection features the best chase ever committed to celluloid. Of course, to give credit where it's due (or "pay proper respect" as Piper says here) Bullitt did come first and no doubt informed Billie Friedkin's approach to his chase scene. I think it's still just as thrilling and suspenseful now as it was when it first blew audiences away in 1970.

Incidentally, Woody Allen does a wonderful parody of that sequence in Annie Hall (which, like Star Wars, is also celebrating its 30th anniversary this year). Yet another reason to watch Annie Hall again!


Moviezzz said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Damian said...

I couldn't even make it through the FRENCH CONNECTION clip,...

Too intense for ya, eh? ;)

Piper said...

As I told Moviezzz, my favorite chase scene is probably the duster scene from North By Northwest. To me it's such an interesting chase to once be watching this plane dusting these crops in the distance and the next second be dodging for your life.

But The French Connection is right up there. As is Raiders Of The Lost Ark.

cineboy said...

Damian, a couple of nights ago I introduced Lily to Indian Jones. I figured it was time. We watched Raiders and she loved it. Later I told her that my favorite scene was of the truck chase. I'm glad you have it in your top three of chase scenes.

...although, I was just remembering the chase sequence in John Ford's Stagecoach - from which the Raiders scene borrows just a little. That one might be in my top three.

...and then I just remembered the "Huggies" scene in Raising Arizona and well...

Ted Pigeon said...

Great selections, Cineboy. The chases from Raiders of the Lost Ark, Stagecoach, and Raising Arizona are brilliant! I may be criticized for this, but the highway chase from The Matrix Reloaded is also very memorable for me. Another good one is the tank sequence from Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. The gunshot duel (with goeth in the tank and Indy on horseback) is particularly good.

RC said...

huh? good choice.

what's your favorite modern car chase?

cineboy said...

one man's car is another man's tank

or so I've been told

Damian said...


Getting Lily ready for the fourth one, eh? :)

Yeah, the Raiders truck chase is great. I think when Harrison Ford rides out on that white horse, the character of Indiana Jones officially achieved mythic status.

The Stagecoach and Raising Arizona chases are also great.


I guess that depends on what you mean by "modern" car chase. One could argue that Bullitt had the first modern-style car chase and that all subsequent chases followed the same basic style (including The French Connection and Raiders). If, however, by "modern" you mean "more contemporary" or "more recent," i.e. something within the last 10-12 years, I happen to be a big fan of the taxicab chase from Die Hard With a Vengeance. I also like the car chases in Ronin and The two Bourne films.

cineboy said...

I would say the chase sceen in Bullitt is important because of its historical value, and because it set a kind of standard for its day: a car chase through real city streets (not the back lot), putting microphones on the engines to emphasize the power of the cars, extended length (not just filler but a showcase), etc.

Otherwise, like any fine moments of filmmaking, many others have used the Bullitt scene as their starting point and taken it much further, and sometimes better. But very few will have the historical value as the one in Bullitt.

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