Open Air Cinema's Top 5 Favorite Car Chase Sequences

When you consider the riveting nature of the cinematic car chases, you might begin to believe that that movies and cars were made for each other. Someone of the most exciting scenes in the whole of film happen are simple car chase sequences. Well, not simple. Even a car chase sequence with no dialogue or music to distract you can still be complex examples of camerawork and editing. We love a good car chase here at Open Air Cinema. The right car chase scene can keep anyone glued to the flickering light of the inflatable screen. So we came up with our five favorites. Next time you're in the mood for some outdoor cinema and you don't know what to watch, try one of these movies for some edge-of-your-seat automotive action.

Gene Hackman chases a train in

The French Connection

(William Friedkin, 1971)

The climactic car chase in The French Connection is notable because it isn't exactly a car chase - at least not in the traditional sense of one car chasing another car. Instead the the third act of William Friedkin's crime classic finds Gene Hackman swerving and speeding through the streets of New York in pursuit of a hijacked train on the elevated track above him. This scene expertly builds the tension, as each inevitable collision and fender-bender takes a toll on the 1971 Pontiac LeMans that Hackman's Popeye Doyle drives. Apparently, the filmmakers couldn't get all of their permits in order before shooting this sequence - meaning that about half of the footage was Hackman's stunt driver, Bill Hickman, careening through the live streets of the city with nary a blockade or a traffic cop to assist.


(Peter Yates, 1968)

Frank P. Keller isn't exactly a household name, but he is notable for putting together the famous car chase sequence in Bullitt from about five weeks worth of footage. A lesser editor might have been intimidated by the vast discrepancies that no doubt occurred during shooting. But, this sequence is not only famous for inspiring many of the Hollywood car chase sequences to follow, but because it spent as much time on the city of San Francisco as it did on the Charger pursuing the Mustang. If you've ever seen a car bounding over the apex of a hill in any movie, chances are, it took its inspiration from this iconic, Oscar-winning scene. No music. No dialogue. Just the roar of the engines, the squeal of the tires, and plenty of fast, careening action. Matt Damon nearly flips a Mini Cooper in

The Bourne Identity

(Doug Liman, 2002)

Before the remake of The Italian Job became a giant advertisement for the new Mini Cooper, director Doug Liman gave us a riveting chase with one of the old vintage models. Making a tiny old clunker the focal point of a high-speed police chase definitely raises the stakes a little bit - unlike a Mustang or even a Dodge Monaco, the Austin Mini Cooper isn't exactly known for its heavy horsepower. Nevertheless, Liman keeps us glued to the edge of our seats - particularly in the scene when Bourne's car almost careens top over bottom down a set of stone steps. Once you realize that all of this pursuit is being done in the rain, you'll appreciate the dramatic twists and turns in this sequence all the more.


(John Frankenheimer, 1998)

There aren't a lot of car chases in cinema that make such handy use of a Peugeot 406. But for those of you who believe that a European family sedan can't be the focal point in a riveting ca chase sequence, turn on John Frankenheimer's Ronin and be prepared to be proven wrong! Like the iconic scene in The French Connection - this scene's clear inspiration - the car chase in Ronin works because even its biggest risks are not so outlandish as to make you drop your suspended disbelief. The Peugeot, hotly pursued by a BMW E34, bombs through the streets of Paris - down narrow corridors, through tight tunnels, and even the wrong way down the Boulevard Peripherique - until its final crash sequence. It's tightly edited, beautifully shot against the gray Parisian skies, and definitely one of the more exciting chase sequences in modern cinema. Jake and Elwood wreak havoc in a shopping mall in

The Blues Brothers

(John Landis, 1980)

In many ways, a viewer could regard the entirety ofВ The Blues BrothersВ as one big car chase with a few musical numbers here and there. During filming, John Landis and crew wrecked 103 cars - a cinematic record at the time. But, by far the very best car chase inThe Blues BrothersВ has to be where Elwood and Joliet Jake shake off some relentless highway patrolmen by barreling full-tilt boogie through a shopping mall. To the peppy strains of Can't Turn You Lose , the 1974 Dodge Monaco lovingly known as the Bluesmobile crashes through store after store as the two errant musicians remark blithely on the sales and wares available. There aren't very many car chases with such great comedic timing. For dedicated fans the phrase Do you have a Miss Piggy? will always herald the high-speed hijinks. Of course, if you're going to set up your inflatable screen for a night of cinema under the stars, you'll want more than just a simple car chase. You might even be looking for more than a mere movie, even. Try to make an event out of the evening, whether you're augmenting a classic car show with an outdoor film or just meeting up with some of your fellow gearheads in the backyard. Either way, making outdoor movie night a whole experience is as easy as turning the key in the ignition.

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