I Have Finally Seen …

Last night I finally got a chance to see Peter Yates’ Bullitt starring Steve McQueen. Well when I say that I watched it, frankly I watched it until ….. the scene:


…. and shortly thereafter left the remainder of the film on as background while I whiled away yet another Friday night.

I have heard about how this car chase is one of  the greatest ever filmed; I knew I had to see it for myself. Even though I am not a vehicle enthusiast, I do enjoy the tension that often accompanies watching a scene in movies where cars are involved.

It should come as no surprise then that this scene lived up to and somewhat exceeded my expectations. What I particularly loved about it was the back and forth – the cat and mouse of the chaser becoming the chased and back again. What really got me going was the close up of one of the baddies buckling his seat belt early on in the action sequence. I thought to myself “Oh yeah this is going to be AWESOME.”

In terms of points of comparison, I will reserve judgment since it has been AGES since I saw The French Connection and its iconic car chase scene.

This did however get me thinking about other films whose scenes of tension involved automobiles (not limited to car chases per se). It should come as not surprise that many of my choices are from Alfred Hitchcock works:

  • Suspicion – the penultimate scene in one of Hitchcock’s less-discussed ‘classics’
  • To Catch a Thief – cars along the Riviera (see number 18)
  • Children of Men  – it comes mid-way in the story; possibly one of the slowest car chases of all time BUT it left me (at least) on the edge of my seat.
  • Vertigo – another film that takes us around the city of San Francisco, albeit a bit slower and about 10 years earlier than Bullitt.

In many of Hitchcock’s works, a lot of credit goes to his frequent collaborator, composer Bernard Herrmann, whose scores built just the right amount of tension and suspense with the audience.

There are a couple of car-related moments of tension that I have experienced while at the movies, but I am drawing a blank as to specific titles. There is one scene in particular that freaked me out when I was a child. The scene involved some sort of zombie or demon on the front of a car being driven by a woman. The lady in question is zig-zagging across a road at night and in a heightened state of panic. The only other part of the scene I remember is pointy gate, whose purpose I do not clearly recall but in hindsight can only assume at some point is used to dispose of the zombie/demon thing.

But I digress, what are some of your picks?



  1. What about Spielberg’s The Duel, which was an entire movie dedicated to a car chase, so to speak? 🙂

  2. And most recently Unstoppable, starring Denzel Washington and Chris Pine, although that qualifies more as a train movie I guess!!

  3. Jack Deth says:

    Hi, iluv and company:

    Congratulations on catching ‘Bullitt’!

    Peter Yates knew he needed something to add to an otherwise kind of cool looking, cat and mouse detective story. So, he McQueen and the stunt drivers got together and came up with the Holy Grail of car chases.

    Friedkin’s ‘The French Connection’ comes in second. With the same stunt driver who drove the bad guys’ Charger in ‘Bullit’ behind the wheel of Hackman’s hijacked LeMans.

    Third would be the car chase in ‘Ronin’. With Honorable Mentions to Friedkin’s later L.A. Freeway/Viaducts from ‘Them!’ car chase in ‘To Live And Die In L.A.’ and Spielberg’s early ‘Duel’.

    Good catch, Ja Dawson!

    • Great context as always, Jack!

      Now I will have to take a moment to catch Ronin. I only know that it was set in Paris, correct?

      That just got me thinking …. what about films not made in the English language, do any of you out there know of any good ‘foreign’ car chases?

  4. I’m not big on car chases, in fact, I mostly fast forward through them. (Sacrilege I know.) But I must say I loved the chase through the streets of Paris in THE BOURNE IDENTITY. The fact that Bourne’s car was a mini Morris added to the fun of it.

  5. But why stop watching at the car chase? It’s a solid movie throughout 🙂 My pick… the car chase in Ronin!

    • i did Castor but honestly my interest waned a bit after seeing the car chase. I left it on but was doing something else so did not give 100% attention. I think my favorite aspect of the film was Mr. Roeper (Norman Fell) as a ‘copper’

  6. Yeah, I’d say you shortchanged yourself. BULLITT is not merely a car-chase delivery system, based as it is on a good novel by Robert L. Fish (under the transparent pseud of Robert Pike) and otherwise gaining from attention.

    And that’s Richard Matheson’s DUEL…and certainly Dennis Weaver’s!

    VANISHING POINT and TWO-LANE BLACKTOP. Now, those are chase films.

  7. I caught the car chase scene in ‘Bullitt’ recently. It was pretty good but not as spectacular as the hype, ahah. I like The Bourne Supremacy car chase, the one w/ Karl Urban, wow! One of these days I gotta catch The French Connection as I love car chases!

  8. Wait a minute, so you didn’t actually watch Bullitt, you watched the car chase from Bullitt. Just watching car chases without the cinematic context is a whole different ball game than watching a movie with a car chase as a part of the overall milieu of the film. Thats like comparing hamburgers by only eating the pickles.

    • @ 3guys I personally watched the film but not as actively as I should have; definitely a re-watch is in order. In other words, my interest waned a bit.
      BTW welcome to iluvcinema!

  9. @3guys1movie – Ahahahaha, that’s a funny analogy but I disagree. I doubt I’d appreciate the Bullit car chase more even if I saw the entire film. I mean, I did see the car chase in Ronin without seeing it in context and it’s still quite impressive.

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