Greatest Chase Scenes
in Film History

Part 3

Greatest Film Chase Scenes
Title Screen
Film Title/Year and Description of Chase Scene

Duel (1971)

Director Steven Spielberg's feature-length film debut was this low-budget picture shot in less than two weeks (it was an ABC-TV "Movie of the Week" offering originally) - adapted from Richard Matheson's short story published in Playboy Magazine.

Mild-mannered, distressed traveling salesman David Mann (Dennis Weaver), an LA electronics vendor, was driving in his red 1970 Plymouth Valiant, when he was relentlessly pursued on a rural California highway road by a demonic, killer diesel-engine truck (a 1955 Peterbilt 281 towing a tanker trailer).

The greasy, grungy truck (with a FLAMMABLE warning) was driven by a hidden, faceless psychopathic driver (wearing cowboy boots) (stuntman and character actor Carey Loftin), although the truck itself personified a person (front window eyes, headlight pupils, front grill nose, front fender mouth, etc.). The driver exhibited stalking and many kinds of 'road rage' behaviors:

  • loud-honking
  • pursuit
  • blocking maneuvers during attempts to pass
  • tailgating and chasing at high speeds
  • car-bumping, in one instance to force the Plymouth into a moving freight train at a railroad crossing
  • attempted collisions

During Mann's last-stand confrontation with the monstrous homicidal truck, he gunned his overheated engine and proceeded to ram the truck - diving out at the last second. The explosive crash sent the truck (in slow-motion) over a cliff into rocks below. Mann stared at the burnt wreckage, as the credits rolled.

The French Connection (1971)

This film has probably the most intense chase sequence ever filmed - it was an incredible, hair-raising scene of unbelievable car-chasing. New York City detective Jimmy "Popeye" Doyle (Best Actor-winning Gene Hackman) drove 90 mph in pursuit (in a hijacked civilian car, a 1971 Pontiac Le Mans: "Police emergency: I need your car") of a suspected drug dealer in a hijacked elevated subway train above him in Brooklyn (the BMT West End line).

During the chase, he - among other things - half-collided with another white car at an intersection, was clipped or side-swiped by a delivery van/truck, dodged a mother and her baby carriage (and crashed into garbage), all the while furiously honking the car's horn and frantically switching from his brake to accelerator.

Two-Lane Blacktop (1971)

In the low-budget film, two car-obsessed vagabonds challenged a stock 1970 Pontiac GTO to a cross-country race against their cool, customized, primer gray 1955 Chevy coupe hot rod.

The Driver (singer/composer James Taylor) and The Mechanic (Dennis Wilson of the Beach Boys) raced against middle-aged, glib "G.T.O." (Warren Oates), with The Girl (Laurie Bird) picked up as a sassy hitchhiker, at his side.

Vanishing Point (1971)

After driving from San Francisco, California to Denver, Colorado, pill-popping Vietnam Vet, and former race car driver Stanley Kowalski (Barry Newman), a courier, bet a friend that he could retrace his route with a customer's new vehicle in double-time (in about 15 hours).

Police chased the bennie-popping, ex-cop anti-hero in his souped-up, white 1970 2-door Dodge Challenger R/T (at 375 hp with a 440 cubic inch V8 Magnum) across Utah and Nevada's Death Valley toward his destination - accompanied by a rock-soul soundtrack and directions broadcast on the radio from blind disc jockey Super Soul (Cleavon Little).

The Master Touch (1972, It./Germ., released in 1974 in US) (aka Un uomo da rispettare)

In this Euro-thriller crime-heist, Kirk Douglas (as ex-con safe-cracker Steve Wallace) wanted to commit the perfect crime -- by defeating a fool-proof safe in Germany and absconding with its $1 million dollars.

In the midst of the heist was a destructive car-chase between Mafia lieutenant-hitman (Romano Puppo) and circus gymnast Marco (Giuliano Gemma) - before the days of special-effects and CGI. During the dare-devil pursuit, one car pushed another backwards down steep stairs, both cars crashed into and crunched a third-car between them, and while the two cars were side-swiping each other, a third car being towed atop a truck next to them landed on top of their two cars, etc. The chase ended when one of the two wrecked cars became stuck on a rising drawbridge, and crashed backwards into a steel wall, killing its driver.

[In terms of continuity errors, the two-door 1957 Plymouth changed into a 4-door 1960 Dodge Dart!]

Live and Let Die (1973)

It seems that every Bond film has some version of a spectacular chase sequence.

In this 8th film, the 007 agent (Roger Moore in his first Bond film) escaped from the clutches of villainous Dr. Kananga's (Yaphet Kotto) thugs at his Louisiana processing/packing facility (disguised as a crocodile farm). He fled in a high-powered Glastron speedboat powered by an Evinrude outboad motor into the nearby Louisiana bayou. Kananga's thugs (summoned from another dock) also pursued in high-powered speedboats at the start of the extended pursuit sequence. The local redneck Sheriff J. W. Pepper (Clifton James) was in the middle of arresting henchman Adam (Tommy Lane) for speeding on a strip of land, when Bond's speedboat did a leap into the air over the Sheriff's car before landing back in the water.

One of the thugs' errant boats plowed into the Sheriff's car, and another ended up in a swimming pool when Bond decided to ditch his boat (when it ran out of gas) on land and steal another one. Adam escaped and drove to a Ranger station where he stole the speed-boat belonging to the Sheriff's brother-in-law Billy Bob to join the pursuit. Bond's boat briefly skidded on the bank and passed a wedding ceremony, but the boat behind him crashed into the reception tent. Adam was left as the sole pursuer by water.

Multiple wrecks occurred when both boats crossed the highway in front of four state police cars involved in the chase. After Adam was blinded by Bond with a mixture of chemicals thrown into his face, his out-of-control boat collided with a docked derelict ship and exploded.

The Seven-Ups (1973)

This underrated film featured a heart-pounding, tire-squealing, ten-minute chase sequence through city streets and busy intersections (and onto city sidewalks with spectacular images of smashed vendor fruit crates). In one segment, both cars careened through a street filled with screaming schoolchildren, and later the cars went airborne during downhill pursuit. Both cars also crashed through a police barricade set up at the entrance to a bridge.

The chase was between two Pontiac vehicles driven by: tough, renegade NYC detective Buddy Manucci (Roy Scheider) in a beige 1973 Pontiac Ventura Sprint Coupe in pursuit of two criminals (Richard Lynch and stuntman Bill Hickman) in a black Pontiac Grand Ville. The chase eventually emerged outside NYC in open country, where the bad guys rode closely in front of a Greyhound bus and blasted Manucci with a shotgun when he started to pass - causing his car's hood to detach.

The exciting sequence ended with the violent and crushing impact of the Ventura Sprint Coupe into the rear-end of a parked 18-wheeler trailer truck - causing the possible decapitation of Manucci - although he ducked and avoided serious injury.

[This car chase mirrored the ones in Bullitt (1968) and The French Connection (1971).]

Westworld (1973)

The chase sequence at the film's finale was spectacular - when the villainous, glitchy cyborg gunslinger (Yul Brynner) in black relentlessly pursued a desperate Martin (Richard Benjamin) across the entire Westworld-Delos amusement theme park.

Dirty Mary Crazy Larry (1974)

In this 'B' level car-chase film, washed-up stock car/NASCAR racers Larry Rayder (Peter Fonda) and Deke Sommers (Adam Rourke) robbed a small-town grocery store manager (Roddy McDowall) of $150,000, and then fled in a 4-dr. 1967 Chevy, and along the way picked up spunky, sexy and slutty Mary Coombs (Susan George) for the ride in another vehicle - a souped-up fluorescent yellow-green 1969 Dodge Charger R/T with a 440 cubic inch V-8 engine, sporting prominent black side striping.

Patrol car trooper Hanks (Eugene Daniels) in Car #10 (a 1972 Dodge Polara 440 V-8) and Sheriff Everett Franklin (Vic Morrow) in a Bell Jet Ranger helicopter maniacally pursued them across dusty rural roads amidst fruit trees in California, incurring some close-calls and smash-ups - the patrolman's "hot pursuit" was stopped by a falling telephone pole.

The film featured an explosive and fiery finale when Larry, Deke and Mary crashed into a moving freight train, as Larry boasted: "Ain't nothin' gonna stop us!"

Greatest Classic Chase Scenes in Film History
(chronological, by film title)
Introduction | Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6 | Part 7 | Part 8 | Part 9 | Part 10

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