August 10, 2015

The Chase: A Tribute to the Impressive & Dangerous Car Chases in Cinema History

Car chases in movies are as American as apple pie, but it took an Australian-directed film to inspire this tribute video.

Michael Mirasol, an independent film critic and blogger, put together this fantastic edit of some of the best car chases in the last fifty years. We might take them for granted, but there is a ballet to sending thousands of pounds of metal screaming down a narrow road or weaving in and out of traffic:

Here's what inspired the video, which he wrote over at Movie Mezzanine:

This video was borne out of a single shot in George Miller’s action epic Mad Max: Fury Road, when the biker gang chases Furiosa’s war rig, bounding off desert foothills in relentless pursuit. Strangely enough, the scene triggered memories of Steven Spielberg’s E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, when Elliot and his friends pedal away from pursuing police on foothills of the suburban kind. Could these two moments have been linked? I love to think so. But only Mr. Miller surely knows.

This labor of love pays tribute to Miller’s ambition, discipline, and filmmaking command that is joyous to behold. It also conveys my admiration for Tom Holkenberg’s pulsating and evocative musical scores which would make any action sequence feel more alive and full of purpose. I try to remember the common threads of noteworthy car chases, which the world of Mad Maxbrings to life so vividly. I was surprised to see the connections I made. I hope you make them too.

Speaking of Bullitt, here's the chase from that movie:

As a bit of a side note, I think it's worth sharing this video about how they made the insane chase for The French Connection, which very well could have resulted in some serious injuries:

And you may have already seen this, but the BTS for Mad Max: Fury Road shows some of the crazy stunts they did to make these car chases happen:

The brave stunt people who make these scenes happen deserve our utmost respect, because even in the safest and most choreographed chase there is the potential for serious injury. No major action movie is complete without a chase scene, and while they all take incredible skill to pull off, just like with movies, some stand above the rest.       

Your Comment

3 Comments

I don't see why the chases in Bullit and French Connection are so great, they may have been great back when the movies were released, but personally I find the car chases in Ronin and Bourne Identity to be a lot better.

August 10, 2015 at 4:10PM, Edited August 10, 4:10PM

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Fotis Fotiou
Director/Editor
74

Of course newer action films are going to benefit from advances in technology that will make their chase scenes "better". If you're going to compare films you have to consider the resources available at that time. In that context, they are all great chases. It's like saying my 2015 Mustang is better than a 1968 Mustang because it has GPS.

August 13, 2015 at 12:21PM

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M Kowal
140

Indeed, both those films had superior chase scenes in them, because it captured the sense of speed.
Most car chases have a third person view of the car racing through the streets, switch to driver, switch to chase view , switch to (yawn)
These do nothing to get the audience excited, it is as exciting as watching people on a rollercoaster.
Both Ronin and Bourne Identity captured the sense of speed, by having the camera close to the ground to accentuate the 'ground rush' effect, and it being a first person view, it draws the audience in, and makes them feel part of the chase.

This has nothing to do with the technology of the day, but rather clever thinking on part of the director.

August 19, 2015 at 10:39AM

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Fydor Tyutchev
Chief Floor Sweeper
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A clever director is key, but technology also enables those exciting shots that were much more difficult with 60's-era camera gear. What is more impressive to me is the level of irresponsibility of those directors that shot their chase scenes guerilla-style on wide open, unsecured streets.

August 19, 2015 at 3:00PM

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M Kowal
140

Bullitt set the expectations for all future car chases. It is deemed " the first modern car chase movie" and won an Academy Award for Best Editing due to the scene. In 2011, Time magazine listed it among the "The 15 Greatest Movie Car Chases of All Time," describing it as "the one, the first, the granddaddy, the chase on the top of almost every list." The movie is almost 50 years old now and the scene still stands strong.

August 26, 2015 at 12:31PM

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I'd have to say that one of the most impressive and most dangerous was the nearly 40 minute chase in Gone in Sixty Seconds.

Record breaking, as well as amazingly dangerous.. considering that the chase was done around real traffic, real pedestrians (the old lady hitting their cars with her umbrella, for instance) and without any sort of permit.

I both admire and am horrified by that level of guerrilla film-making.

August 16, 2015 at 8:47PM

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Andrew Joyce
Director of Photography
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