Steve McQueen's Car Chase In 'Bullitt' Set The Standard For All That Followed

By | November 7, 2017

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Steve McQueen burning rubber in 'Bullit' (1968). Source: IMDB

Every movie car chase has to be compared to Steve McQueen's car chase in Bullitt (1968). In the film, a '68 Mustang GT fastback driven by McQueen runs wild in the streets of hilly San Francisco, chasing and being chased by a '68 Dodge Charger. The chase lasts over 10 minutes, and for muscle car fans and regular folks it's a mesmerizing sequence. It just keeps going, and going, and going. For a semi-professional race car driver like Steve McQueen, the car chase in Bullitt was more than just an action scene -- it was a statement. McQueen couldn't make a car chase scene that was anything less than definitive. He just couldn't.

McQueen, also known as the “King of Cool,” starred in the 1968 box office hit movie, “Bullitt,” which had us all sitting on the edge of our seats. McQueen’s personality depicted the very essence of what was so popular with young people at the height of the counterculture revolution. He was seen as a hero of sorts but was unconventional in his tactics to accomplish his mission.

Bullitt Was Guarding A Mob Informant

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McQueen was cast as the character of San Francisco Police Lieutenant Frank Bullitt. His mission was to protect a person he thought was an important Mob witness/informant and surprise, star witness, Johnny Ross (Pat Renella); a member of organized crime, who was supposedly prepared to testify against the Mob. Bullitt's mission was to guard and keep him safe for a weekend; until he could testify that Monday -- and by keeping his charge safe, he was also keeping himself safe. Bullitt was advised that if he failed in his duty, that it meant “his head.” He was given carte blanche to take whatever measures were necessary -- and he did.