Greatest Chase Scenes
in Film History

Part 4

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

Freebie and the Bean (1974)

Freebie and the Bean has since been voted as one of the most mindless, sloppy, wantonly-destructive car-chase films of all-time. The film's title referred to the names of two wise-cracking, bigoted, violent San Francisco buddy cops-detectives in this prototypical, un-PC action-comedy:

  • amoral, unorthodox and crazed driver Freebie (James Caan)
  • hot-tempered, by-the-book "Bean" (Alan Arkin), a Latino family man, who suspected his wife (Valerie Harper) was having an extra-marital affair

In their pursuit of mobster Red Meyers (Jack Kruschen) in a blue car, there were a number of damaging car wrecks, pedestrian injuries and/or casualties, destruction of public property, and harmed innocent bystanders - including members of a marching band in a parade. [It was a West Coast version of The Seven-Ups (1973) from a year earlier.] The many crashes foreshadowed those that would come later in The Blues Brothers (1980). The memorable chase concluded on the elevated Embarcadero Freeway. Their cop car lost control and crashed from the over-pass into the 3rd floor of an apartment building next to the freeway, and landed in a bedroom where there was an elderly couple watching television. After the two cops crawled out of the wreckage, Freebie phoned the precinct to send out a tow-truck to Apartment 304: "It's on the third floor." The elderly man reacted as the cops left his apartment: "Television is getting too violent."

In another insanely hectic chase scene that involved crashing cars, crumpled fenders, destroyed sidewalk stands, a motorbike, a van, and scores of pedestrians, Freebie became frustrated by snarled wreckage (including an overturned truck with chicken coops), so he hijacked a red motor-dirt bike from its rider and chased after the van. He drove down a sidewalk filled with people, steered over the tops of stalled cars, and then did 'wheelies' as he took a short-cut through a park, and careened through an art fair - toppling a giant-sized set of dominoes. The chase finally concluded with Freebie jumping off the motorbike just before it sailed off a second story building to the street below, where the van had crashed moments earlier.

Gone in 60 Seconds (1974)

This low-budget independent cult classic told about a gang of professional car thieves, including undercover insurance investigator Maindrian Pace (director/writer/star H.B. "Toby" Halicki) who made a bid to steal 48 cars (involving Mustangs, Cadillac limousines, and Rolls-Royces) for a South American drug lord. It included an almost 40-minute car-chasing finale (in a 98 minute film) that allegedly took seven months to film, involving a yellow (and black striped) 1973 Ford Mac 1 Mustang (nicknamed 'Eleanor'), and ending up with 93 car wrecks through five L.A.-basin towns (including Long Beach) in an exciting police pursuit sequence. There was also a spectacular 30-foot jump over a prior car-wreck that cleared 128 feet.

[Followed by two sequels, The Junkman (1982) and Deadline Auto Theft (1983). Remade by producer Jerry Bruckheimer in 2000 with Nicolas Cage and Angelina Jolie as Gone in 60 Seconds (2000), with its final car chase, a 1967 Shelby Mustang GT500 being pursued by black BMW 5 Series police cars.]

The Man With the Golden Gun (1974, UK)

In one of the film's best sequences, James Bond (Roger Moore) robbed a jazzy red AMC Hornet Hatchback from a dealership in Bangkok, Thailand, drove it through the showroom's glass windows, and onto the streets of the bustling city, in order to rescue his inept, kidnapped fellow agent Mary Goodnight (Britt Ekland).

After missing a turn in his pursuit of villain Scaramanga's (Christopher Lee) bronze, black-roofed two-door AMC Matador, in a most impressive car stunt (accompanied by a laughable, cartoonish slide whistle sound), Bond's vehicle made a spectacular, Evel Knievel-like, 360-degree, mid-air, corkscrew-turning loop-jump or roll-over above a broken, half-fallen bridge and landed upright on its tires on the other side of the canal. His passenger, redneck Louisiana Sheriff J.W. Pepper (Clifton James), who was sitting in the car and demanding a demonstration test drive before being taken on the chase, was tossed into the back seat and exclaimed: "Wowee! I never done that before!" Bond replied: "Neither have I, actually."

[This scene would be semi-reprised in A View to a Kill (1985), when Bond (also Moore) would drive a car through the streets of Paris, until it was reduced to just the front half!]

Death Race 2000 (1975)

This futuristic, campy film featured one long, annual trans-continental road race chase sequence involving customized high-performance funny cars, led by a disfigured, dark and brooding, black leather-jumpsuited Frankenstein (David Carradine) and Chicago gangster rival Machine-Gun Joe Viturbo (Sylvester Stallone).

The cult classic's tagline illustrated the brutal sport of killing pedestrians for points: "In The Year 2000 Hit And Run Driving Is No Longer A Felony. It's The National Sport!" Women were worth 10 points. Teens were worth 40. Toddlers under 12 were worth 70. Anyone over the age of 75 was worth 100.

Even a retirement home/geriatric hospital wheeled out some of its elderly as targets for "Euthanasia Day."

The Man From Hong Kong (1975, Australia/HK) (aka Dragon Flies)

This cult-classic martial arts, Bond-ripoff film featured a massive, destructive car chase that was a predecessor to the Mad Max films.

Race With the Devil (1975)

The main tagline for this occult action/horror thriller from director Jack Starrett capitalized on the two popular male stars and the film's climactic car chase sequence: "Peter Fonda and Warren Oates are burning their bridges and a lot of rubber... on the deadliest stretch of road in the country!" Another tagline concentrated on the Satanic horror plotline: "They Witnessed an Unspeakable Act! It may cost them their lives!"

Two married couples: Frank Stewart (Warren Oates), a dirt-bike motorcycle shop owner in Texas - with his wife Alice (Loretta Swit), and Roger Marsh (Peter Fonda) - with his wife Kelly (Lara Parker), set out from their hometown of San Antonio, Texas for a ski-trip and dirt-bike vacation to Aspen, Colorado in Frank's new luxury motor-home RV. Before long, the two men had witnessed a troubling Satanic ritual near their campsite, across a nearby river. It was performed in a ring of fire, with robed and masked participants and a sword-wielding leader, and involved a human sacrifice.

Even after reporting the incident, they became the next victims of the townsfolk, including the Sheriff (R.G. Armstrong), who were all revealed to be cultists and Satanists. In the conclusion, they were pursued to Amarillo, Texas by a convoy of three trucks during a wild and violent car chase. They were first rammed by a blue tow truck, then sandwiched or boxed in between it and a freight truck and a red pickup. Attempts to sideswipe them and drive them off the road failed. With skilled driving, Roger was able to cause the freight truck to end up on an embankment, the tow truck to crash into another oncoming vehicle, and the red pickup was sent in a fiery explosion off a bridge.

Then they came upon a suspicious collision scene - the road was blocked where a school bus had been T-boned by another car. However, Frank knew better: "I don't believe a school bus on Sunday!" and sped through the site. One bystander grabbed onto the side of their RV, as a white open-bed pickup truck took up the pursuit with two men in the back. Roger pushed the man clutching the side of the RV into a river as they passed over it, but the two other men in the truck scampered onto the back of the RV. As they began smashing windows atop the RV, Roger blasted one of the men with a shotgun. The other man sprinkled gasoline into one of the vents, but was struck by an overhead railroad trellis when he stood up. Three vehicles remained in pursuit. With homemade molotov cocktails, Roger was able to cause one vehicle to crash, while the white pickup was forced to collide into the motorbike that Roger had released from the back of the RV. Roger shot the tire out of the last vehicle and caused it to flip over. It appeared that they had finally escaped from the attackers - but they were 82 miles from Amarillo.

With broken headlights and light fading from the sun, they decided to pull over off the road for one more night. Frank assured his wife: "We're off the road, we're fine now. We're in great shape, honey. Don't worry about it." Roger added: "Hey everybody, lighten up. It's all over." But then they began to hear chanting, and their RV was surrounded by black-robed, hooded cult members.

The film closed (before the overlapping credits) with an overhead shot of their RV encircled by a ring of fire, in preparation for a sacrifice.

The Gumball Rally (1976)

The Gumball Rally was an illegal car-race comedy about a New York-to California competition with quick cars (featuring an ultimate duel between a Ferrari 365 GTB/4 Daytona and a Ford 427 Shelby Cobra). Also it featured wacky characters, i.e., Raul Julia as a narcissistic, Ferrari-loving Italian named Franco, and thick-headed cop Roscoe (Norman Burton).

The Car (1977)

One of the many Duel (1971) imitators, this film featured a demon-possessed Lincoln Mark III that terrorized all those who came into contact with it.

Smokey and the Bandit (1977)

Directed by career stuntman Hal Needham, this immensely profitable redneck-cop comedy chase film starred Burt Reynolds as a moonshine trucker (Bo, the "Bandit" Darville), Sally Field as runaway bride Carrie (nicknamed "Frog") - who was picked up by Bo, and Jackie Gleason as her prospective father-in-law and as Texas Sheriff Buford T. Justice ("Smokey").

The film's premise was about a $80,000 prize-bet - to drive an 18 wheel tractor-trailer rig full of bootleg Coors beer about halfway across the USA (from Georgia to Texas and back) in 28 hrs. flat. Bo would serve as "blocker" interference in a super-charged black Pontiac Firebird Trans-Am, while co-star Jerry Reed served as Bo's truck-driving buddy Cledus "Snowman" Snow - and he sang the popular theme song on the soundtrack: "Eastbound and Down" - ("East bound and down, loaded up and truckin', we're gonna do what they say can't be done..."). Cledus was also noted for the expression: "Boogity, Boogity, Boogity!" Bandit 1 and Bandit 2 were the CB-handle names for the two main vehicles, while the law was represented with the handle of "Smokey Bear."

[Followed by a lesser sequel, Smokey and the Bandit II (1980) and an even worse, Reynolds-less Smokey and the Bandit Part 3 (1983).]

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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