Cars and film go hand in hand and for the past 70 odd years we have seen them play integral roles in the plot or be used as devices to drive (excuse the pun) the suspense to its peak. Cinema has had its fair share of incredible car chases over the years. We all can remember the raw intensity of Bullit, the realism of The French Connection and the absurdity of just about every Fast and the Furious movie. But there are also many which are forgotten and almost never talked about. Here is our list (in no particular order) of the 5 most underrated car chases in cinematic history.
The Bourne Identity (2002)
When great chase scenes are referenced, The Bourne Supremacy is one that’s frequently listed. Personally, I’m not a fan of the ‘shaky-cam’ shooting style and rate its predecessor The Bourne Identity more highly. The scene provides us with the perfect blend of wide frames and jarring close ups which gives us an idea of what is going on but still keeps us close to the action. In terms of choreography it doesn’t get much better than this. After all, who doesn’t love a Mini Cooper powersliding through Paris?
Against All Odds (1984)
Few will remember this steamy romance-thriller from the 80’s and even fewer will remember it’s edge-of-your-seat chase scene from its beginning. The two protagonists racing each other down Sunset Boulevard in a Porsche 911 and Ferrari 308 was so jaw-dropping that its audience would frequently consist of viewers who had already seen the film, but would watch the chase again and then leave. Arguably the greatest ever stuntman/stunt-coordinator Cary Loftin designed the chase and was behind the wheel of the Ferrari. At the time of shooting he was 70 years old.
Mad Max (1979)
The Mad Max franchise is known for many things. It launched Mel Gibson’s career, introduced one of the most iconic movie cars of all time and showed the world that Australia is capable of making films that can match it with Hollywood. But it is the opening scene which rewrote the book on how chase scenes could be shot. Director George Miller operated on a shoestring budget, and relied on ‘guerrilla film-making’ by closing the roads himself and not using permits, as well avoiding walkie-talkies which could have been heard on police frequencies. Shot in Melbourne’s west, few car chases have ever seemed so authentic, and still been able to put you so close to the action.
Death Proof (2007)
Quentin Tarantino is one of the most polarising filmmakers of all time, one of the main reasons being he relies on homage so much that many believe his films lack originality. The finale of the much-maligned Death Proof isn’t subtle about paying tribute to iconic 70s and 80s road movies such as Vanishing Point and Dirty Mary Crazy Larry. In my humble opinion however, this only serves to make the cat-and-mouse chase between the 1969 Dodge Charger and 1970 Dodge Challenger all the more entertaining. Tarantino doesn’t reinvent the wheel here, but he uses a great mix of elements from films of the past which make this hugely entertaining to watch.
Today Steven Spielberg is a household name but in 1971 he was an aspiring auteur filming his first ever feature – Duel. The entire movie is one long chase scene, and it’s unfortunate that this television movie isn’t still given the recognition it deserves. We’re treated to early glimpses of Spielberg’s craft here, and his ability to transform the chilling Peterbilt 351 into a character itself is genius. The stark California desert is the perfect backdrop for the drama, and while we never truly know the motives of characters or the reasoning for what we are witnessing, it doesn’t matter as Spielberg is able to create so much tension that our attention is constantly on the action at hand. Many who are familiar with the film will testify it’s not only one of the most underrated chases, but films of all time.