It’s a subject debated constantly: what’s the best car chase sequence captured on film? Some people stay with the classics, like “The Blues Brothers.” Others opt for later Hollywood entries like “Ronin” or “Terminator 2″ or even “Fast & Furious.” One sequence that seems to be referenced by truckers, film buffs and critics in every single discussion is the 1968 Steve McQueen classic “Bullit” directed by Peter Yates (his first).
Not many people argue it, either. For good reason, as you will see.
“Bullit” was a critical and box office smash hit. It starred the popular tough guy actor McQueen, but it also had a great suspenseful story and a host of tense crime thriller notes that resonated with young and older audiences alike. It was raw drama that appealed to younger film goers, but it also had the classic fast talking, smooth detective character that older audiences were drawn to. The fact that “Bullit” had amazing technical veterans at every post only seemed to solidify its legacy as one of the best of the best.
The chase can be considered the Clash of the GM Titans. Ford and Dodge both donated their flagship big iron for the movie, the ’68 Fastback Mustang with the 390 V8, and the Dodge Charger Magnum 440. The technical consultants mostly just modified the suspensions for the grueling hilltop chases, yet the GM giants outperformed the director’s request of chase speeds of 65 – 75 mph. Much of the time, the throaty V8s were hitting speeds of 90 – 110 mph without even breaking a sweat. Couple that with the point-of-view camera work, and film audiences were bolted to their seats for the duration.
McQueen drove the car in only about 10 – 20% of the scenes, mostly in close up. The driver of the Charger, however, was a full-blown stunt man Bill Hickman, who helped choreograph much of the sequence.
Anyway, enough blabber. Let’s get to the footage. ‘Til next time, truckers!