Many films can be livened up with a good driving scene, whether it’s integral to the plot or just to spice up the proceedings with some high-adrenaline action. Although car chases have long been a cliché of filmmaking, when they’re done right they can really be memorable, sometimes more than the films in which they belong.
Driving scenes were already familiar staples of films by the sixties, and this decade would see some of the most famous car chases, crashes and other stunts recorded on celluloid. Director Stanley Kramer’s classic comedy It’s A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World (1963) features a memorable climax engineered by stunt coordinator Cary Loftin, in which a Dodge convertible is driven into a ditch around the Agoura Hills. The iconic chariot scene in Ben Hur (1959) is another classic driving scene, even if no cars were involved, and astonishingly did not lead to any people or horses involved being seriously injured.
The seventies were an even more prolific decade for driving scenes, and for many people the so-called ‘Astro Spiral Jump‘ scene in 007 movie The Man With the Golden Gun (1974) is the pinnacle of stunt driving recorded on film. Designed by Cornell University computer expert Raymond R McHenry, the stunt involved precise calculations of the speed and number of ramps required to propel an AMC Hornet X between two sets of ramps and execute a 360-degree barrel roll without the use of wires or CGI imagery.
Fast-forward to the nineties, and Ronin (1998) features a wealth of high-speed driving excellence and explosive accidents. Many of these vehicles are being driven through narrow tunnels and lanes, all the while followed by a camera crew performing the same feat. Over the last decade, no film series has been more closely associated with driving prowess than the Fast and the Furious movies, and it’s the 2006 entry in the canon,Tokyo Drift that features a particular stand-out driving moment, as a Nissan travels sideways up a spiral ramp just inches from the concrete wall.
Most people will never get the chance to emulate these iconic driving performances, and with good reason – stunt driving requires years of training and particular skill behind the wheel, and can be an extremely hazardous profession. Make sure your vehicle is covered against everyday accidents and other eventualities by renewing your car insurance and keeping up with your servicing schedule.