Bullitt: The Car Chase

 

What was the greatest car chase scene of all time? I don’t really know; but, if I had to pick one – I’d pick the chase scene from the 1968 movie Bullitt. There were car chase scenes in the movies long before Bullitt (lots of ’em), and there have been even more car chase scenes in the movies since Bullitt. But, Bullitt is a dividing line — car chase scenes after were and still are measured against the Bullitt chase scene. That full scene (a little over ten minutes in length) is below. I should note that when I started to put this post together it took a while to find the complete scene (at least in a form that could be pasted here on Ricochet), which was a little surprising.

It never gets old watching that 1968 Ford Mustang GT 390 and 1968 Dodge Charger R/T 440 race pell-mell through the streets of San Francisco. If you want to know more about where exactly the Mustang and Charger were racing in San Francisco this web page provides details and photos (from 1968 and more recently) of the physically impossible route traversed during the chase. And if you want to learn more details about the making of the chase scene I’ve posted a nine-minute video below which discusses the making of the movie with an emphasis on the car chase. The driver of the Charger is Bill Hickman, maybe the most famous stunt driver of all time, he also played important roles in the chase scenes in The French Connection and The Seven-Ups, among many others. As for the Mustang, Steve McQueen did some of the driving but the more dangerous scenes were performed by stunt drivers Carey Loftin and Loren Janes while Bud Ekins laid down the motorcycle.

Earlier in the post, I mentioned that there were many car chase scenes in the movies pre-Bullitt. I thought I’d post one. I was looking to post the scene from the end of High Sierra, but I couldn’t find it, so this scene from Alfred Hitchcock’s 1940 movie Foreign Correspondent will have to do (it’s about four minutes long).

Foreign Correspondent is a great movie and Hitchcock was a great director. The chase scene was probably better than most at the time but it’s just not that realistic when compared to Bullitt. Of course, this isn’t a fair comparison – the technology had vastly improved a quarter century later and audiences also expected more realism.

Feel free to put your two cents in on either your favorite car chase scene(s) or what you consider the best car chase scene from the movies.

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  1. Gary McVey Contributor
    Gary McVey
    @GaryMcVey

    Juliana (View Comment):

    I do like the movie long chase in It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World.

    There’s one dusk-to-evening moment when the chase within Los Angeles is heading down what looks like a small town’s main street, with a clean but modest assortment of tire shops, barber shops, grocery stores, hardware and shoe repairs. That exact same street, Montana Avenue in northern Santa Monica, has layer by layer been transformed into one of the wealthiest shopping streets in America, choc-a-bloc with art galleries, fantastically expensive women’s clothes, cafes, restaurants, realtors, royally expensive new media companies. The chase scene in IaMMMMW is like a poignant documentary, because few present day people on that street could recognize it on film. 

    • #31
  2. Randy Webster Member
    Randy Webster
    @RandyWebster

    tigerlily (View Comment):
    I’d rather have his girlfriend with or without the car.

    • #32
  3. EDISONPARKS Member
    EDISONPARKS
    @user_54742

    Another nod to Bullitt as best car chase:

    My older brothers(I was still about 9 or 10 in the era) had the 1969 Dodge Charger and my best friend’s older brother and the 1969 Ford Boss 429

    Image result for 1969 dodge charger

    Image result for 1969 boss 429

    • #33
  4. Django Member
    Django
    @Django

    Tex929rr (View Comment):

    The engine sounds were dubbed in from a GT40, and used yet again in the Seven-Ups car chase. If making the movie today, they could use a stock GT350 with the Voodoo engine not need dubbed in sound.

    I was heading up Sunnyvale-Saratoga toward El Camino Real when someone passed me driving a GT350. Two thoughts: 1) it’s LOUD, 2) sounded like a jackhammer. 

    • #34
  5. Skyler Coolidge
    Skyler
    @Skyler

    Full Size Tabby (View Comment):
    Ronin (1998) has several good chases. My favorite is the chase through Paris being led by a BMW 5 series. 

    Yes, I really liked that movie because of the car chases.  That one is always first on my list, but Bullitt is really good too.

    • #35
  6. Miffed White Male Member
    Miffed White Male
    @MiffedWhiteMale

    Misthiocracy secretly (View Comment):

    Miffed White Male (View Comment):

    Also set in San Francisco: What’s up, Doc.

    When you can’t afford to hire Robert Redford, there’s always Ryan O’Neal.

    You gotta love the closing lines of that film though:

    Barabara Streisand to Ryan O’Neal:

    “Let me tell you something.  Love means never having to say you’re sorry”.

    Ryan O’Neal:

    “That’s the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard”.

     

    Edit:  I hope I don’t have to explain what makes that so [redacted] funny…

    • #36
  7. cqness Member
    cqness
    @cqness

    “Vanishing Point”.  The original from 1971 with Barry Newman, not the 1997 re-make with Viggo Mortensen.

    I always thought the Challenger was a better looking car than the Charger which looked at times like a whale on land.

    • #37
  8. James Gawron Inactive
    James Gawron
    @JamesGawron

    tiger,

    You know it isn’t just the chase but how the chase ends.

    Regards,

    Jim

    • #38
  9. Django Member
    Django
    @Django

    Miffed White Male (View Comment):

    Misthiocracy secretly (View Comment):

    Miffed White Male (View Comment):

    Also set in San Francisco: What’s up, Doc.

    When you can’t afford to hire Robert Redford, there’s always Ryan O’Neal.

    You gotta love the closing lines of that film though:

    Barabara Streisand to Ryan O’Neal:

    “Let me tell you something. Love means never having to say you’re sorry”.

    Ryan O’Neal:

    “That’s the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard”.

    Edit: I hope I don’t have to explain what makes that so [redacted] funny…

    Actually, it means saying you’re sorry every five minutes. 

    • #39
  10. Skyler Coolidge
    Skyler
    @Skyler

    Django (View Comment):

    Miffed White Male (View Comment):

    Misthiocracy secretly (View Comment):

    Miffed White Male (View Comment):

    Also set in San Francisco: What’s up, Doc.

    When you can’t afford to hire Robert Redford, there’s always Ryan O’Neal.

    You gotta love the closing lines of that film though:

    Barabara Streisand to Ryan O’Neal:

    “Let me tell you something. Love means never having to say you’re sorry”.

    Ryan O’Neal:

    “That’s the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard”.

    Edit: I hope I don’t have to explain what makes that so [redacted] funny…

    Actually, it means saying you’re sorry every five minutes.

    No, that’s marriage.

    • #40
  11. cqness Member
    cqness
    @cqness

    “Duel” with Dennis Weaver and an evil tractor-trailer. 

    It’s also from 1971 like “Vanishing Point”, and like that film has real driving with real cars doing real stunts on limited budgets.  “Duel” is my personal selection for Spielberg’s best directorial effort.

    • #41
  12. Miffed White Male Member
    Miffed White Male
    @MiffedWhiteMale

    Django (View Comment):

    Miffed White Male (View Comment):

    Misthiocracy secretly (View Comment):

    Miffed White Male (View Comment):

    Also set in San Francisco: What’s up, Doc.

    When you can’t afford to hire Robert Redford, there’s always Ryan O’Neal.

    You gotta love the closing lines of that film though:

    Barabara Streisand to Ryan O’Neal:

    “Let me tell you something. Love means never having to say you’re sorry”.

    Ryan O’Neal:

    “That’s the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard”.

    Edit: I hope I don’t have to explain what makes that so [redacted] funny…

    Actually, it means saying you’re sorry every five minutes.

    Just in case…

    Ryan O’Neal starred in Love Story in 1970.  

     

    • #42
  13. ToryWarWriter Reagan
    ToryWarWriter
    @ToryWarWriter

    I really like the chase scenes from the completely unknown Driver by Walter Hill.

    Some of the car shots were done by placing cameras on the front of cars.

     

     

     

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O0Hcsww2x84

    • #43
  14. Steve C. Member
    Steve C.
    @user_531302

    Vectorman (View Comment):

    Percival (View Comment):
    I’m with Hartmann on this one. The chase in Bullit doesn’t have a baby carriage in it, now does it?

    Tex929rr (View Comment):
    And all these are sort of like the Wilhelm scream – an in joke for movie buffs, I think. (Look up Odessa steps baby carriage if you’ve never heard of it).

    For Both of you, the famous Baby Carriage scene from Battleship Potemkin 1925 (Eisenstein):

    We studied Eisenstein, Potemkin in particular, during my first film class. It was a good historical exercise. Eisenstein was certainly a creative genius and for my money the first film auteur. What I find difficult is actually watching vice studying, his films. I’ll readily admit it’s because I grew up seeing all those tricks and techniques employed by greats like John Ford, John Ford and John Ford. And yes, they were contemporaries.

    In my day, film historians tended to neglect the contributions of commercial Hollywood directors. Excepting a few necessary nods to Porter’s “The Great Train Robbery”. I’m glad we’ve moved beyond that age to one where the greatness of American film artists is appreciated and celebrated.  

    • #44
  15. Steve C. Member
    Steve C.
    @user_531302

    Miffed White Male (View Comment):

    Django (View Comment):

    Miffed White Male (View Comment):

    Misthiocracy secretly (View Comment):

    Miffed White Male (View Comment):

    Also set in San Francisco: What’s up, Doc.

    When you can’t afford to hire Robert Redford, there’s always Ryan O’Neal.

    You gotta love the closing lines of that film though:

    Barabara Streisand to Ryan O’Neal:

    “Let me tell you something. Love means never having to say you’re sorry”.

    Ryan O’Neal:

    “That’s the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard”.

    Edit: I hope I don’t have to explain what makes that so [redacted] funny…

    Actually, it means saying you’re sorry every five minutes.

    Just in case…

    Ryan O’Neal starred in Love Story in 1970.

     

    You’re not supposed to tell anyone that. Next thing we know you’ll be showing the Soviets the Big Board.

    • #45
  16. Chris Campion Coolidge
    Chris Campion
    @ChrisCampion

    Hoyacon (View Comment):

    I can’t really argue with Bullitt. And I’m doing some personal goal-post setting and trying to avoid the recent generation of films in the computer-graphics era (e.g., Fast and Furious, Gone in 60 seconds etc.). I’m not that familiar with them anyway.

    My vote goes to William Friedkin’s attempt to top himself and the French Connection chase in the almost-forgotten To Live and Die in L.A. Wang Chung soundtrack notwithstanding.

    One of my favorite dark cop flicks, ever.

    • #46
  17. Chris Campion Coolidge
    Chris Campion
    @ChrisCampion

    I don’t know, Bullitt needs to get back to work if it’s going to top this sweet car action:

     

     

    • #47
  18. BastiatJunior Member
    BastiatJunior
    @BastiatJunior

    I would like to nominate the car chase at the beginning of “Beverly Hills Cop” which involved a tandem semi-truck with Eddie Murphy hanging off of the back of it.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NiuBWPKHTPA

     

    • #48
  19. Jon1979 Inactive
    Jon1979
    @Jon1979

    If we’re going to go with comedy car chase scenes, Jimmy Cagney vs. General Burkhalter (Leon Askin) and his cronies in the Trabant, racing for the Brandenburg Gate in “One, Two, Three” is up there —

    • #49
  20. tigerlily Member
    tigerlily
    @tigerlily

    cqness (View Comment):

    “Duel” with Dennis Weaver and an evil tractor-trailer.

    It’s also from 1971 like “Vanishing Point”, and like that film has real driving with real cars doing real stunts on limited budgets. “Duel” is my personal selection for Spielberg’s best directorial effort.

    Yes, Duel is under-rated. If I’m not mistaken it was a made-for-TV movie.

    • #50
  21. Saxonburg Member
    Saxonburg
    @Saxonburg

    Lots of good suggestions in the comments.  Since I am a big Mustang fan, I will not argue with “Bullitt”as the standard.  I also really liked the original 1974 “Gone in 60 Seconds” (also a Mustang).  However, it has been so long since I last saw it, I wonder how I would  rate it now.

    On a more serious note, the level of devastation in the “Blues Brothers”  chase seen was absolutely delightful.

    • #51
  22. Randy Webster Member
    Randy Webster
    @RandyWebster

    James Gawron (View Comment):

    tiger,

    You know it isn’t just the chase but how the chase ends.

    Regards,

    Jim

    I’m sure @she recognizes the implement that Dan Ackroyd used to remove the screw in the elevator.

    • #52
  23. Percival Thatcher
    Percival
    @Percival

    Saxonburg (View Comment):

    Lots of good suggestions in the comments. Since I am a big Mustang fan, I will not argue with “Bullitt”as the standard. I also really liked the original 1974 “Gone in 60 Seconds” (also a Mustang). However, it has been so long since I last saw it, I wonder how I would rate it now.

    On a more serious note, the level of devastation in the “Blues Brothers” chase seen was absolutely delightful.

    • #53
  24. She Member
    She
    @She

    Randy Webster (View Comment):

    James Gawron (View Comment):

    tiger,

    You know it isn’t just the chase but how the chase ends.

    Regards,

    Jim

    I’m sure @she recognizes the implement that Dan Ackroyd used to remove the screw in the elevator.

    Gosh, yes.  Haven’t seen one of those for years.  We had one.

    • #54
  25. Randy Webster Member
    Randy Webster
    @RandyWebster

    She (View Comment):

    Randy Webster (View Comment):

    James Gawron (View Comment):

    tiger,

    You know it isn’t just the chase but how the chase ends.

    Regards,

    Jim

    I’m sure @she recognizes the implement that Dan Ackroyd used to remove the screw in the elevator.

    Gosh, yes. Haven’t seen one of those for years. We had one.

    We always called it a Yankee Screwdriver, though I think there’s a technical name for it that I don’t recall.  It was one of the required tools when I started doing carpentry.

    There was also a little drill that operated on the same principle.

    • #55
  26. She Member
    She
    @She

    The original film of The Italian Job.  The Mini Coopers!

    • #56
  27. Skyler Coolidge
    Skyler
    @Skyler

    She (View Comment):

    The original film of The Italian Job. The Mini Coopers!

    I’ve never liked that movie.  The cars are like little miniature poodles jumping around at a circus.  Hardly the same.

    • #57
  28. She Member
    She
    @She

    Skyler (View Comment):

    She (View Comment):

    The original film of The Italian Job. The Mini Coopers!

    I’ve never liked that movie. The cars are like little miniature poodles jumping around at a circus. Hardly the same.

    lol

    • #58
  29. She Member
    She
    @She

    Randy Webster (View Comment):

    She (View Comment):

    Randy Webster (View Comment):

    James Gawron (View Comment):

    tiger,

    You know it isn’t just the chase but how the chase ends.

    Regards,

    Jim

    I’m sure @she recognizes the implement that Dan Ackroyd used to remove the screw in the elevator.

    Gosh, yes. Haven’t seen one of those for years. We had one.

    We always called it a Yankee Screwdriver, though I think there’s a technical name for it that I don’t recall. It was one of the required tools when I started doing carpentry.

    There was also a little drill that operated on the same principle.

    We always just called it a ratcheting screwdriver.  There was a little slider on the side that made it go forward or reverse, and if you set it in the middle, you could just use it like a regular screwdriver.  We didn’t have the drill, although Mr. She has a very small version of same which he used for balsa wood, and other small modeling projects.  Very precise.

    • #59
  30. DrewInWisconsin Member
    DrewInWisconsin
    @DrewInWisconsin

    Miffed White Male (View Comment):

    Also set in San Francisco: What’s up, Doc.

    Pretty sure that car chase was an intentional nod to Bullitt, . . . but it is excellent in its own right.

    Also, one of my favorite movies.

    • #60
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