Car chases can be a bit like drum solo's. They're easy enough to do but not so easy to get right and too often you're left feeling you've seen it all before. These are five car chases that either defined the style or took it on to new levels.
1. Bullitt (1968)
The film that made every boy in my generation want to own an American muscle car. Steve McQueen has a ball doing his own driving stunts as Bullitt (in a 1968 Ford Mustang 390 CID Fastback) chases two hit-men (in a 1968 Dodge Charger R/T 440 Magnum) through the streets of San Francisco. Lalo Schifrin provides the jazzy score that perfectly complements the action.
2. The French Connection (1971)
A breathtaking chase through Brooklyn as Gene Hackman attempts to keep pace with a subway train on an elevated section of track. Much of the impetus of the footage is due to legendary stunt driver Bill Hickman driving (a 1971 Pontiac Le Mans) at high speed through uncontrolled traffic and red lights. Director Friedkin had obtained no prior permission for the stunt and several accidental collisions occurred during the action that remained in the final film.
3. The Italian Job (1969)
A glorious celebration of British eccentricity as Micheal Cane executes the most ridiculous gold heist in the history of cinema. The three Mini Cooper Ss steal the show as they wend their way out of a gridlocked Turin, through the shopping arcades of Via Roma, up the roof of Torino Palavela, around the Fiat rooftop test track, and through a set of sewer pipes to escape the pursuing Italian police. The perfect advert for the Cooper S and a major contribution to making the Mini a cultural icon.
4. The Blues Brothers (1980)
The Blues Brothers was once, and may well still be, the film in which more cars were destroyed during production than any other. Car chases make up a great deal of the film, as Jake and Elwood wend their way across country, occasionally interrupted by bursts of classic Stax Soul, in an attempt to complete their "mission from God". The indoor car chase through a shopping mall and the climatic ending off an incomplete elevated highway stand out in my mind but really this is just a vote for the prolonged destruction of cars throughout.
5. Death Proof (2008)
Not one of Tarantino's best but Quentin does manage to create the greatest cinematic car chase for over twenty years. The final chase, in which Stuntman Mike first terrifies and is then terrified by three cute chicks in a 1970 Dodge Challenger, is a truly edge of the seat sequence. The "Ship's Mast" stunt suggests that Zoë Bell has balls of steel hidden beneath her feminine charms. Spectacular stuff.