There have been some great car action movies over the past few years no doubt. But let’s look back to the pre-CGI days for car action movies done old school.
The films were selected on the basis of the the realism of the action in which the cars were filmed, the selection of the cars themselves (based both on the desirability of the car as well as whether its the appropriate car for the film or sequence), and, well, the wow factor. Here goes:
There’s so little to discuss about Bullitt that’s not been covered 100 times, and I know it’s not actually from the 1970s. But without Bullitt the movies that followed would never have been made.
At 10 minutes in length, it’s the chase scene that set the bar for every other movie chase scene that followed. Sure there are some continuity issues in the film, but if that’s what you’re watching for, then you’re watching the wrong movie.
Le Mans (1971)
If there were ever an award for the feature-length film with the fewest pages of dialogue Le Mans would certainly be in the running. In fact, it makes The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly seem chatty in comparison. What you get instead is a fictionalized account of the 1970 24 Hours of Le Mans that is still hard to beat for its realistic (and slightly romanticized) portrayal of endurance racing in the 1970s.
American Graffiti (1973)
Director George Lucas’ American Graffiti is a film about that transition from adolescence to adulthood. But it’s also a film about cars. The four-wheeled cast includes a ’58 Impala, the famous yellow ’32 Deuce Coupe, ’55 Chevy that also starred in Two Lane Blacktop, a ’56 Ford T-Bird, and a time-traveling ’67 Citroen 2CV.
Grand Prix (1966)
First with in-car cameras and now with Go Pros, seeing a drivers point-of-view is not an act of magic. But in 1966 it was. Director John Frankenheimer captured the world of Formula 1 racing through innovative camera placements and the use of the actors in actual (though not Formula 1) race cars for the film Grand Prix. The results, when projected in the widescreen Cinerama format are nothing less than magic (just ignore the soap opera between the race scenes).
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