Car chases have become a staple of the modern action movie genre, but they all owe a debt to Bullitt from 1968. The car chase scene in Bullit is 50 years since its release still regarded by many as the best movie car chase of all time. And it’s easy to see why.
Featuring the legendary Steve McQueen as San Francisco cop Frank Bullitt, Bullit is an Oscar-winning film that has one of the greatest car chase sequences of all time and helped solidify the highland green ’68 Mustang as one of the most classic movie cars in history.
Bullit was directed by Peter Yates, produced by Philip D’Antoni. The picture stars Steve McQueen, Robert Vaughn, and Jacqueline Bisset. The screenplay by Alan R. Trustman and Harry Kleiner was based on the 1963 novel Mute Witness, by Robert L. Fish, writing under the pseudonym Robert L. Pike. Lalo Schifrin wrote the original jazz-inspired score, arranged for brass and percussion.
The nearly 11-minute car chase scene made every big-time movie producer in need of a high-speed car chase scene head on down to the streets of San Francisco to use those endless hills for some truly breathtaking jumps. Besides some incredible driving of stunt driver Bill Hickman, Steve McQueen did most of his own stunt driving. The iconic car chase features a Ford Mustang 390 GT and Dodge Charger R/T 400.
Before Bullitt, car chases in movies were unrealistic as they were done for comic effect in films, but this chase was the most realistic depiction of a car chase movie-goers had ever seen. The film essentially did for movie car chases what Star Wars did for science fiction films. There were no cheap rear-screen projections used for the close-up shots of the actors, and none of the scenes were sped up in post-production to heighten the sense of speed.
There is a sense of danger throughout the scene unlike any movie chase before it as the two American muscle cars weave through traffic and jump over the hills of San Francisco. It feels as if you in the car as the camera literally puts you in the driving seat. The sound mix is brilliant, not a word of dialogue is spoken during the 11-minute long sequence. Apart from the iconic jazz score that does a great job of building tension before the chase erupts in a cloud of tire smoke. All we hear is the sound of two screaming V8 muscle cars battling it out.
The star of the movie, the 1968 Mustang Fastback, was sold at Mecum Auctions for a record price of 3.4 million dollars ($3.7 million including auction fees) on January 10, 2020.