The automobile and its various offshoots, those gas-guzzling, defining innovations of the twentieth century, are as integral to movies as they are to our daily routines. Since films are the magic mirror held up to our everyday lives with (as Hitchcock said) “the dull bits left out,” this only makes sense.
To borrow an advertising term, cars are also “high-involvement” decisions — due to the hefty price tag of course, but also because what we drive makes a big statement about who we are as individuals: our stations in life, priorities, characters, and taste.
My selection criteria: I always favor movies that are excellent overall, which means that a film that’s not outstanding beyond the chase scenes won’t cut it. This takes me to the tricky area of the cult film. “Vanishing Point” (1971) with Barry Newman, “Dirty Mary, Crazy Larry” (1974) with Peter Fonda, and “Smokey and the Bandit” (1977) with Burt Reynolds, are undeniably fun to watch for us speed freaks, but none could be categorized as stand-alone great films in my playbook.
I’m also only dealing with feature length films, which forces me to exclude French director Claude Lelouch’s classic “Rendezvous” (1976), a concentrated, breathless marvel of speed spanning just nine minutes.
Now, fast down the track, come my own top high-speed vehicle movies, and the scenes that put them on the list.