Ronin. The French Connection. Bullitt. Mad Max: Fury Road. These are the films that typically come to mind when one considers which films have cinema’s greatest car chases. And while all of those are fairly disparate films, the connective tissue is that they’re all fairly serious, straightforward action films. Car chases are de rigueur for action films. Comedies? Not so much. And yet there are several comedies which contain car chases that manage to balance both thrills and laughs in a way “pure” action flicks typically don’t attempt.
THE ROCK – SAN FRANCISCO CHASE
Yes, yes The Rock isn’t exactly a comedy. And yet, when you watch its chaotic, bombastic car chase over and through the iconic hilly streets of San Francisco it starts to become evident that director Michael Bay actually is going for intentional laughs. It’s pretty much a constant barrage of wild edits, crashes, collisions, unrealistic driving (somehow Nic Cage’s wimpy lab rat of a character immediately becomes a proficient high speed evasive driver by simply hopping into the seat of a Ferrari) and massive explosions. It also gets progressively more comedic, beginning with Sean Connery stealing a Humvee (remember, this was 1996 and Hummers were still a novelty owned only by wealthy people with nothing but money to burn) from a comically accented chubby European guy and proceeds to tear down the hilly streets of San Francisco in a way that would make Frank Bullitt blush. Along the way, he crushes a VW Bug painted all hippie-like, smashes through a truck carrying water jugs, narrowly avoids hitting a frail old lady in a flowery hat crossing the street, only to have to swerve out of the way of a team of wheelchair racers. It’s like the whole thing was storyboarded by Chuck Jones.
HOT FUZZ – SHORTEST CHASE EVER
Edgar Wright’s second feature film is, in equal measure, a tribute to and deconstruction of action films and Agatha Christie murder mysteries. Wright and co-stars Simon Pegg and Nick Frost clearly love American action films as much as they love lampooning them. This isn’t the only car chase in Hot Fuzz (a longer one takes place during the film’s climax) but it is the funniest as its editing and structure are a perfect upending of what the audience likely expected. *Warning: A couple somewhat mild uses of profanity are contained in the clip below, so use of headphones may be advised*
21 JUMP STREET – EXPLOSION DISAPPOINTMENT
Part of what makes this film adaptation of the 80s TV show of the same name so great is that writer/directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller are constantly playing with expectations. They know precisely how silly and absurd it is that we’re even watching a movie adaptation of 21 Jump Street and thus take every opportunity to remind us of that very fact. As such, and much like Edgar Wright with Hot Fuzz, Lord and Miller love undercutting and subverting our expectations, as can be seen in the (specifically) non-explosive highway car chase. We can’t post a link to the scene here due to some overly salty language, but if you’re in the mood for a smart R-rated comedy, this is definitely one to check out.
THE BLUES BROTHERS – MALL CHASE
The Blues Brothers has no shortage of car chases, but in truth there’s really only one that matters. If you’ve seen The Blues Brothers, you know the one we’re talking about. Heck, even if you haven’t seen it (and if you haven’t, you’re missing out on a classic) you probably know the one we’re talking about. And the one we’re talking about, of course, is the mall chase. Pursued by Illinois State Troopers after a traffic stop gone awry, Jake and Ellwood Blues attempt to lose said troopers by driving through the mall. Literally. The sequence is absurd in the grandest fashion possible as Jake and Ellwood calmly point out how “this place has got everything” even as they wreak havoc upon shop after shop, all as the pursuing troopers cause as much property damage as the Bluesmobile does.
THE DA VINCI CODE – CAR CHASE IN REVERSE (LITERALLY)
Alright, so this one isn’t a comedy either, but the car chase certainly is hilarious even if unintentionally so.