February 24, 2011

MRQE Rewind: 15 Classic Cinematic Car Chases


Car chases are usually the most suspenseful, exciting, and enthralling part of a movie; and in some instances, the cars become characters in and of themselves. Whether these scenes make you want to become a stunt driver yourself or clutch the seat cushion in fear, the explosions, the revving engines, and the full throttle of these cars will surely mesmerize you. So, with Drive Angry 3D coming out this weekend, in which Nic Cage basically takes us on a two-hour-long car chase, we took a look in our rear-view mirror and compiled a list of cinema's most thrilling car chases that will truly make your heart race.

Smokey and the Bandit (1977) - MRQE Metric: n/a
Imagine Bonnie and Clyde meets Joe Dirt meets James Bond. That is what Smokey and the Bandit is all about--that, and Smokey's hot '77 Pontiac Trans-Am. The full second-half of the flick is pure care chase, involving Burt Reynolds as "Bandit" and Sally Reed as "Frog" avoiding, running from, and persuading both, state and local police across many state lines. Prior to release, the film was subject to be just a simple "B-list" hit, but once Burt Reynolds signed on it became a box office smash, grossing over $126 million and coming up in second, behind Star Wars, as one of the most successful films of the 1970's. The film went on to spawn two sequels.



Bad Boys II (2003) - MRQE Metric: 43
Two detectives, two bad boys, a $200 million gross, and the second flick of the Bad Boys series; no matter how you look at it, this film is a double dose of bad (and, in more ways than one). But, one awesome car chase solidifies this flick's placement on this list. Will Smith and Martin Lawrence play the role of notorious Miami drug cops driving around the streets in a classic V-12 Ferrari. The car chase begins between them and a ring of dealers shooting across the Miami MacArthur Causeway. There's a Ferrari, a Chevy Suburban, a few '70s muscle cars, and even a Trans Am for good measure . . . this is just pure testosterone as only Michael Bay can deliver. To film the scene, the strip had to be shut down for weeks, probably causing some real-life road rage.



The Cannonball Run (1981) - MRQE Metric: n/a
Burt Reynolds must really know how to drive. The 1981 comedic action and adventure film, The Cannonball Run, stars Burt Reynolds, Roger Moore, and Farrah Fawcett, running a race based on the actual Cannonball Baker Sea-To-Shining-Sea Memorial Trophy Dash--a cross-country outlaw drive. Reynolds trades his Trans Am for a heavily modified Dodge ambulance (an actual vehicle used in the real race). Rat Packers Dean Martin and Sammy Davis, Jr. ride a Ferrari. Roger Moore spoofs James Bond and races in an Aston Martin. You can even spot a young Jackie Chan rocking a rocket-powered Subaru. Beginning in New York City at the Red Ball Garage on 31st Street, and ending in Redonde Beach, California (just south of Los Angeles), the real-life drive only happened four times in history due to the strict automotive laws established in the 1970s.



The Bourne Identity (2002) - MRQE Metric: 68
Matt Damon plays that good ol’ action character exceptionally well. His role as Jason Bourne has lead him to become a box office megastar. In the film, suffering from retrograde amnesia, Bourne cannot remember a thing about his past, though his skills and talents as a spy become natural instinct to him. The car chase that occurs in this film gives great personality to a little red "old-school" Mini Cooper. This car finds itself trapped in the streets of Paris, dodging police officers and pedestrians, while all being driven by steel-toed, action boy Bourne.



Dirty Mary, Crazy Larry (1974) - MRQE Metric: n/a
Dirty Mary, Crazy Larry is considered a cult car chase film. This film, which was directed by John Hough in 1974, stars Peter Fonda, Susan George, Adam Roarke, and Vic Morrow. Everything from trains, planes, and automobiles were used in attempt to stop two NASCAR hopefuls in their high-speed chase. This crew was on a mad dash to the border after extorting $150K from a supermarket manager, while having the police right on their toes.



Tomorrow Never Dies (1997) - MRQE Metric: 62
In all James Bond films, automobiles are some of the most important characters. Everything from classic Bentleys, to miniature Lotuses, to the signature Aston Martin have been on display crashing, weaving, exploding, zooming, and sifting throughout some of the world's most populated cities. 1997's Tomorrow Never Dies, has one of the most thrilling car chases to ever be included in the James Bond canon, involving an automatic BMW and Bond in the backseat simply using a remote control. This car, along with Bond's underground submarine Lotus in The Spy Who Loved Me, and the $4 million Aston Martin DB5 (the most iconic of all of Bond's Aston Martins, as featured in Goldfinger), all add to a collection of completely renovated and gadgeted-out James Bond cars.



Death Proof (2007) - MRQE Metric: 73
What happens when you put a little Quentin Tarantino action in with a little Robert Rodriquez emotion? You get the 2007 dangerous and deficient film Death Proof. A film considered a tribute to the exploitation/muscle car/slasher film genres of the '70s, Death Proof is literally the name of the Chevy Nova SS imprinted with a skull on the hood, the car that Mike (Kurt Russell) uses to kill people. A true car chase thriller dealing with everything from escape, to lust, to speed, Death Proof is one of those films no one wants to see alone in the dark.



Mad Max 2 (1982) - MRQE Metric: 81
Back before Mel Gibson was a notorious celebrity, he was known for his post-apocalyptic adventures through the Australian Outback. Mad Max 2 remains as a cult film packed with a whole lot of testosterone, and big, bold, and brutal car chases complete with a biker-inspired style and violent battles, all across the beautiful portrayal of the Australian landscape.



Gone in 60 Seconds (1974) - MRQE Metric: n/a
This film is not about one car. It is about four dozen cars and what needs to be done to steal them. The original Gone in 60 Seconds, produced in 1974 and starring H.B. "Toby" Halicki, is famed for an extensive 34-minute car chase where over one-hundred cars were demolished. Toby Halicki was later killed filming a stunt for the 1989 sequel. Yet, the later, equally successful 2000 remake, starring Nicolas Cage and Angelina Jolie, included just as many high-speed intense car chases as the original.



The Italian Job (1969) - MRQE Metric: 77
The Italian Job, the old and the new, are two fabulous driving films. The older 1969 British version, starring Michael Caine, possesses a similar plot to that of the 2003 remake (starring Mark Wahlberg), dealing with Italians, mobsters, car chases, and a whole boat load of cash. The first film featured Lamborghinis, Aston Martins, and Jaguars. The remake chose just one crown jewel, the 2003 Mini Cooper. Almost a joke at first--the way the writers incorporated such an understated car in a smooth, witty way--really gave the second version a unique edge.



Duel (1971) - MRQE Metric: 78
Steven Spielberg's first feature film, Duel, is an action-packed car chase across a lonely, winding road. Duel is a film about a lone, terrified motorist being followed by a massive 1955 Peterbilt 281 tanker truck; a position no one wants to be in. Not being sure why he is chased, David Mann (Denis Weaver)--our lonely little driver--continues to drive on and run away in the hopes that he can lose this powerful menace. Originally a simple screenplay published in Playboy Magazine, this thriller later became a made-for-TV movie receiving much positive attention for both Spielberg and Weaver.



The Matrix Reloaded (2003) - MRQE Metric: 66
Say what you will about the Matrix Trilogy by the Wachowski brothers, each Matrix film are loaded with action. The Matrix Reloaded, the second installment, deals with cloning, destruction, battleships, and most of all an epic car chase battle where duel semi-trucks fully smash head on. Unlike the original Gone in 60 Seconds, which had nearly 100 cars destroyed, The Matrix Reloaded's post-production recycled 97% of all materials used on set, included sending wood to Mexico to build homes for the under privileged.




The French Connection (1971) - MRQE Metric: 90
An archetypal film based off two NYPD detectives who try to stop narcotics smuggling between France and America, The French Connection won five Academy Awards in 1971, including Best Picture. The climax of this film is the famed car chase that involved the physical smuggling of drugs right into New York City. This legendary scene involved chasing a freight train down on the New York subway system. No permission was given from the city of New York to produce such dangerous scenes, and the only precaution taken was to strap a mattress to the roof of the car, as lead Gene Hackman blared his horn. Going over 90 mph throughout the streets of Manhattan in a dirty brown Pontiac LeMans, one cannot believe the producers and directors didn’t get in any trouble for these risky stunts!




The Blues Brothers (1980) - MRQE Metric: 81
No one would expect an R&B musical comedy film like The Blues Brothers to have such intense chase scenes. The simple plot to get an old blues band back together to raise money for a Catholic orphanage that's going bankrupt fails when the police catch hold of the Blues Brothers, and John Belushi's character, "Joilet" Jake Blues, driving with a suspended license. This is where a gripping car chase through a mall begins ("This place has everything!"), and the "Bluesmobile" is birthed--a retired 1974 Mount Prospect, Illinois Dodge Monaco patrol car. There were 13 cars used throughout the filming, all bought at a California Highway Patrol auction. Then, an additional 60 police cars purchased, were all demolished throughout the shooting of the final chase scene. Staff had to build a 24/7 auto body shop on set to keep the cars repaired and running. That’s a lot of muscle for one flick!




Bullitt (1968) - MRQE Metric: 74
Steve McQueen and a 1968 Ford Mustang GT come together for one of the best chase scenes ever filmed in Bullitt. In this film, Lieutenant Frank Bullitt, (Steve McQueen) takes his Mustang out on the streets of San Francisco and makes the city his. He swerves recklessly throughout the streets to chase down two Mafia related hit-men, regardless of the direction or interferences in his way; not that the Mafia guys are any better. And, as if that wasn't enough, there is another epic car chase! This time at the San Francisco International Airport. There are planes flying by overhead and down the runway, as well as, the cars weaving and drifting in and out of the strip. Critics rave about the originality, realism, and enchantment of the cars and characters in this film.

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