The Greatest Chase Scene in Cinema History

It’s not the one in Bullitt. Not the one in the French Connection, under the El. It’s not in Raiders of the Lost Ark or the one in To Live and Die in L.A. (again from director William Friedkin) where William Petersen drives the wrong way on a highway. It’s not the one in the original Road Warrior or in any of the Jason Bourne flicks.

It’s the one in 1939’s Stagecoach, directed by the great John Ford. And you can see its influence on all of the above.

If you haven’t seen the film, please do, and look at how Ford plays with camera height, positioning the mini-fridge-sized monstrosity below the action, above the action, behind the action, and at mid-height (which characterized much of the camera play in the Mad Max films). And, of course, that iconic stuntwork, including the “Apache”* who falls between the horses as the coach rides over him. (Think Raiders of the Lost Ark and Indy falling beneath the truck and being dragged behind it.)

It’s like watching Buster Keaton’s Sherlock Jr. for the first time—you inevitably ask yourself, Haven’t I seen this before? Yeah. So had Woody Allen.

The world-class stuntman (in this case, stunt artist) was Yakima Canutt. His bio can be found here.


3 thoughts on “The Greatest Chase Scene in Cinema History

  1. It’s a classic to be certain but the best cinematic chase must be, in all good conscience it simply must be, The Road Warrior. I gasp in rhythmic waves at the majesty of George Miller’s work. Mmmm…


    1. I admit that Miller’s work there was amazing and pushed the genre convention forward. But when you consider long-term influence, wedded to relatively primitive technology, Stagecoach still “wins.”


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