As Furious 7 rapidly approaches, it's time to look back on the 10 films that created our concept of the car chase and its place in the modern action effort.
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5. The French Connection
Like Bullitt, this really isn't a "chase" film. In fact, it's one of the many hardboiled police procedurals made during the far more lax post-modern movement in film. With the MPAA in control of content, filmmakers like William Friedkin discovered a newfound freedom to invent and explore. In this case, Oscar winner Gene Hackman turned real life policeman Popeye Doyle into an amalgamation of the Establishment battling a belligerent counterculture (in the form of the out of control heroin trade in NYC circa 1971) and in one completely unscripted jag through the backstreets of Brooklyn, participated in one of the greatest chases ever filmed. It's part of a particularly potent movie experience.
4. Death Proof
Leave it to Quentin Tarantino to boil the entire action film/chase genre down to its basics. In essence, we have a two part narrative in which a psycho stuntman (Kurt Russell) chases down and kills a group of girls, only to have the tables turned on him months later. Both the beginning and end of this film feature vehicular mayhem that only a true student of the stunt sequence could create. The material with Zoe Bell on the hood of the car while Russell's reprobate chases her (and her female companions) is guaranteed to have you on the edge of your seat and biting your nails down to the quick.
3. Gone in 60 Seconds (1974)
No, not the Nicolas Cage remake; that film is too interested in style over stunt substance. With just $150,000 as his budget, wannabe filmmaker H.B. Halicki crafted a clever B-movie classic in which a gang of car thieves must steal 48 cars in five days. The result is a series of heists (and chases) that still dazzle some 40 years after the fact. Indeed, this film is well known for the number of cars it destroyed, as a well as a 40 minute set piece that defies description. If you want to see where a lot of modern moviemakers got their well choreographed motor vehicle mayhem ideas, you need look no further than this film.
2. The Blues Brothers
Before recent efforts like Transformers and The Matrix: Reloaded, this feature length skit from Saturday Night Live alum Dan Akyroyd and the late, great John Belushi held the record for most vehicles destroyed (103, though Michael Bay would top that at over 500). The story is almost one continuous chase, with a recently released convict/musician meeting up with his sibling to save the orphanage where they grew up. One of the most memorable sequences takes place inside a late '70s mall, featuring all the stores and scenery that Walmart would replace two decades later. By the end, the city of Chicago lost nearly 80 of its iconic police cruisers.
1. The Road Warrior (Mad Max 2)
Certain films follow the pop culture landscape. Others change them, often irreparably. This is one of those examples of an idea (a post apocalyptic world where gasoline is the gold) meeting amazing execution (director George Miller remains a dark, twisted action genius) that results in a rewriting of an entire genre's benchmarks. After seeing what this Australian auteur could do with a bunch of makeshift vehicles, a long stretch of outback desert, and some carefully placed camera, the notion of what a viable car chase could be was forever changed. He's bringing his style back now, 30 years later, for Mad Max: Fury Road. For those of us old enough to remember a time pre-Miller, we can hardly wait.
List This Quentin Tarantino Gone in 60 Seconds The French Connection The Blues Brothers William Friedkin Freebie and the Bean James Wan Fast and Furious 6 Ronin Bullitt Death Proof