We're in the home stretch of summer movies, that point in August where Hollywood knows that our heat-exhausted little brains can only handle watching one thing chase another thing, in hopes of getting it or blowing it up (see: Premium Rush, Hit and Run). But this week's releases have a lot to live up to, as you can see from our picks for the best chase sequences of all time.
Bill Simmons: I think Ronin was the fourth or fifth DVD I ever bought. And just for the chase scene. Nobody remembers Ronin because it came out during that 1996-2000 stretch when Hollywood was pumping out so many good movies you couldn't even keep track of them all. It's actually De Niro's last good action movie — one year later, he moved into Analyze This/Meet the Fockers mode and also may have had a partial lobotomy.
Back to the Future Part II
Bryan Curtis: The most anticipated chase scene of 1989. It was actually a spin on the skateboard chase in the original, in which the residents of Hill Valley didn’t recognize the “board with wheels,” though I’m 100 percent sure I didn’t make the connection. BttF 2’s chase has a few memorable elements: (1) the '80s vision that the future would look like Universal Studios, (2) the '80s vision that we’d still be trying to improve skateboard-based technology, (3) “Those boards don’t work on water!” The scene proved the flying machines in the back of Boys' Life weren’t fakes. They were just ahead of their, uh, time.
Dirty Mary Crazy Larry
Sean Fennessey: DMCL is a hilarious movie from 1974, one that would be both impossible and entirely logical to make right now. An aspiring NASCAR driver (Peter Fonda) and his mechanic (Adam Roarke) hold up a supermarket (cool heist), then, before making their getaway, run into the driver's one-night stand (a fantastically obnoxious Susan George), scoop her up, and set out on a 70-minute car chase through back roads, walnut groves, and dragnets. That's the whole movie. In this pivotal scene (not really — this movie is about nothing), a Bell JetRanger helicopter (occupied by a mad-eyed sheriff played by America's crankiest actor, Vic Morrow) chases the trio. They've just changed cars, from an ocean-blue '66 Chevy Impala to a neon-piss-yellow '69 Dodge Charger, the most beautiful ugly car ever made. Real stunts, real driving, real helicopter skids landing on the Charger's roof. Normal chase stuff.
The Return of the Jedi
Emily Yoshida: OK, so this is already well-accepted as one of the greatest chase scenes ever, but what is this, the Williamsburg of YouTube clip shows? I think I'm allowed to bust out something mainstream every now and then. (For the record, this would be my indie cred pick, though it's not a "chase" per se.) And in a column called "The YouTube Hall of Fame" I wouldn't put it past myself if I failed to nominate the first video clip I ever watched on the Internet. It was a two-minute 300x200 .mov file of the Endor speeder bike chase (about 1:49-3:59 in this clip), and it took at least three hours to download in 1996, and I watched it almost ever day for about a year. If it was a video tape it would be a pile of magnetic dust by now. I'm sure if I went to the Redwood forest even today I'd recognize a few trees. Every moment of Ben Burtt's sound design in this scene is forever imprinted on my brain, and even now, I would really love it if someone could help me figure out how to turn the whooping sound the bikes make into an e-mail alert for my phone.
Katie Baker: You could make an amazing Game Gear game based on this opening chase scene alone. (Sega always did the best ocean animations.) My personal favorite part is when they throw the gun back and forth at each other — it's the James Bond equivalent of a slap fight.
The Way of the Gun
Bill Barnwell: I remember being so excited for The Way of the Gun. Christopher McQuarrie (the writer of The Usual Suspects) directing a crime movie starring Benicio del Toro! James Caan! Ryan Phillippe being weird! Unfortunately, it was out of theaters in two weeks after a terrible advertising campaign. It's not a great movie as much as it is a decent movie with some great moments, one of which is this five-minute "slow" car chase apparently (according to the Internet) dreamed up by del Toro after watching an episode of Cops.
Mark Lisanti: Jay Baruchel. Jason Segel. Sexual intercourse. Razor scooters.
Megan Creydt: If memory serves, this is a mere two minutes of one of the more ridiculous chases in cinematic history, including, at 1:25, the Alien chestburster of speedboat action sequences. (That made sense, right? Eh, neither does any of this movie.)
Sarah Larimer: BUCKLE YO SEAT BELTS for the greatest chase scene ever. The car noises in this clip are insane, right? I wish I could drive like this. Minus the massive explosion at the end, of course.
O.J. Simpson Bronco Chase
Andy Greenwald: The colors are too washed out. Not enough jump-cuts. No one swaps vehicles or swerves. Couldn't they have shoehorned a motorcycle in there, at least? And you can't even see anybody's face! Was Gene Hackman not available? Plus, the subject matter? Way too depressing.
This is your high-intensity chase scene, IRL.