Another installment of the endless 'Fast and Furious' series opens today …Oh, wait a minute, we mean the big-screen adaptation of the 'Need For Speed' videogame. It’s easy to make that mistake because there have been so many 'Fast and Furious' movies already, along with a ton of car-chase films that ripped it off. So why see another tired 'Fast and Furious' take-off at the theater this weekend when you can see watch way better car-chase movies at home?
‘Bullitt’ launched the modern car chase because it was shot at real speeds (up to 120 miles an hour!), and it was also the first film that mounted the cameras on the sides of the car so they wouldn’t shake. The goal with ‘Bullitt’ was to make the audience feel they were right along for the ride with Steve McQueen at the wheel, and this classic chase segment is still a great thrill to watch today. A well-known daredevil, McQueen was really driving in this scene, tearing up the streets of San Francisco at top speed. With ‘Bullitt,’ British director Peter Yates (‘Breaking Away’) and master cinematographer William Fraker (‘Rosemary’s Baby’) broke incredible new ground, crafting a masterpiece action segment that set the benchmark for practically every cinematic car chase since.
'The French Connection ' (1971)
‘The French Connection’ wanted to take the incredible chase scene in ‘Bullitt’ even further, and director William Friedkin created one of the best in cinema history. Where ‘Bullitt’ raced along San Francisco, Friedkin took Gene Hackman on a harrowing, high-speed ride through New York, and the film swept the Academy Awards, including wins for Best Picture and Best Director. Besides a hell of a chase scene, ‘The French Connection’ also set the template for many tough, gritty and realistic cop thrillers to come, dealing with hard drugs and a morally ambiguous cop that was very far removed from what you saw on ‘Dragnet’ and ‘Naked City.’
‘The Driver’ -- an under-appreciated gem directed by Walter Hill, the man who also gave us ‘The Warriors’ -- is a lean, tight action film about a professional getaway man, and it features some of our favorite car chase scenes. Where ‘Bullitt’ was based in San Francisco and ‘The French Connection’ in New York, the car chases in ‘The Driver’ take place in downtown L.A. after dark. It also has to be said that all three of these films were done long before we ever had CGI, so these segments were all done in camera at actual high speeds, and without rubbery computer animation that takes the audience out of the reality of the movie.