The automobile and cinema came of age technologically and in common society around the same time in this country and both are intrinsically linked in our minds as forms of personal entertainment. Nowhere is this notion seen more clearly than in the good old fashioned movie car chase or big screen car stunt much like you see in the very popular “Fast and the Furious” franchise which has yet another sequel coming soon to theatres this summer.
With summer right around the corner and glorious action-packed car movies that follow, here is our list of ten of the best movie car chases and stunts.. We’ll wager you are familiar with more than one or two of these scenes. Now remember, these driving feats were performed by professionals often with the help of CGI image wizardry so don’t try this at home. Or during your morning commute.
“Goldfinger”—(Aston Martin DB5 with machine guns, rockets, saw wheels and ejector seat)—Sean Connery was arguably the most suave James Bond but the Aston Martin DB5 is unquestionably the coolest car ever seen in any of the films ever. In this classic film Bond fights off chasing vehicles with built-in machine guns, saw blades in his wheels and got rid of an unwanted hijacker thanks to a handy passenger ejector seat. Who hasn’t wished for one of those once or twice? It’s okay, we won’t tell who you are thinking you would eject.
“The Spy Who Loved Me”—(Lotus turns into submarine and back into a car again driving out of the ocean onto a beach)—This sequence in this Roger Moore James Bond epic showed of the then new-ish Lotus Espirit in all its 1970’s glory driving off a cliff into the ocean where it magically turned itself into a submarine and escaped underwater divers and shot down a helicopter with a surface to air missile. As we hear most Lotus Espirit motors had trouble with leaking oil, we are pretty sure that under the ocean a real one would leak too.
“Fast and the Furious Part One”—(Car goes under SEMI at full speed)—This scene is cool for one reason and one reason only. It wasn’t faked. Yes, during the scene at the end when a stunt driver shoots across a highway under a SEMI there was no CGI trickery - just pure driving skill. And a safety team that ensured the car was low enough to clear the big rig, of course.
“The Italian Job”—(Mini Cooper Chase Scene)—Yes, we know that all of this automotive stunt work was done just to promote the launch of the updated Mini Cooper in this classic cops and robbers chase scene not through but under the streets of Los Angeles. Through Tunnels. Very well done.
“Dazed and Confused”—(Matthew McConaughey’s first film and chasing High School freshman in your pick-up truck after class)—Not only did Mr. McConaughey and the mostly all-star cast of this now cult classic “last day of Junior High School story” make this movie believably period and real, they also had the greatest “senior freshman hunt” from these student’s cars as their last acts as students was to paddle the rest of the incoming class. The film takes place in the late 1970’s and while we can’t see a High School letting this tradition continue today, back then was a simpler time when no one wore seat belts. And intentionally wore polyester.
“Goldeneye”—(The BMW Z3 in cinema’s cheapest automotive stunt)—In this revival of the Bond franchise with Pierce Brosnan automotive product placement for Mr. Bond was sold to the highest bidder, this time BMW which only showed its new Z3 convertible drive by with James and his girlfriend riding in it for about three seconds.
“Tomorrow Never Dies”—(James Bond gives new meaning to “back seat driving”)—Going some ways toward making up for the “Goldeneye” Z3 debacle, in the follow up film movie-goers were treated to a car chase unlike any other—one where James Bond escaped the bad guys in his souped up BMW 7-Series all while lying down in the back seat. He did it all via smart phone and back then it all seemed like such a far-fetched concept. Considering all that we can control in our cars via smart phone now, it doesn’t seem quite as far-fetched now does it?
“Batman”—(1989 Tim Burton version)—The Batmobile starts to look dark, evil and rather Freudian but we forgive all of that thanks to seeing that it had a much larger rocket turbo boost, had a side hook to aid cornering that snatched onto buildings for balance and then also turned into a stylish BatPlane. This version of the Batmobile was a nice “camp” middle grown from a cinema perspective as it doesn’t take the franchise so seriously as it does now, yet still maintains its dignity.
“The Transporter”—(Racing a high performance Audi RS8 sedan through Nice and the South of France in Jason Statham’s finest action film)—The car, the man, the speeds, the noises, the handling ability—all purely gorgeous in this film.
“The Bourne Identity”—(Driving down a long and steep trail of stairs in an original Mini Cooper)—Not only did this hilarious chase scene featuring Mr. Damon escaping much faster cars just by utilizing the original Mini’s true size, this film which was first in the series shot a nose across the growingly overdone James Bond and other Hollywood style car stunts. Because sometimes keeping it simpler, sensible and logical for the real world makes it more memorable from a cinematic perspective.
Images courtesy of Lotus Espirit Turbo and Car and Driver.