3x3: great scenes set in cars

For this week’s 3x3, we talk about great scenes set inside cars. You can listen starting at the 39-minute mark of this week’s podcast.

Our picks:

3. Close Encounters of the Third Kind
2. Death Sentence

  1. Virgin Suicides

3. Reservoir Dogs
2. Seven

  1. Say Anything

Kelly Wand
3. Children of Men
2. Stranger than Paradise

  1. Cannonball Run 2


Incidentally, spoiler alert for Se7en here, since I talk about the second to last scene. I’m sure this is grandfathered in for most of you, but I’m warning you all anyway.

Also I think there’s a spoiler alert for Children of Men.

If you haven’t seen those two films and intend to, you might hold off.


“Who are you John? Who are you really?”

The whole “Christine” movie, but especially the scene where Arnie plays chicken on the motorway at night, and of course Moochie Welch.

The scene in “Scarface” where Montana shoots the bomber who wants to blow up their target’s children in the face and then taunts his corpse.

The chase- and crossing children-scenes in Stephen King’s “Sleepwalkers”, the shape shifting and invisibiliy. I also love when the officer plays with his cat; “get the BAD guy, get the BAD guy, Clovis!!!”.

The totalling of the Charger in “The fast and the furious”. I love the look on Diesel’s face just before the crash, and the slowmo.

Chuck Norris escaping from being digged in in a hole with his supercharged jeep in “Lone Wolf McQuade”.

“Man on Fire”, when Denzel gets driven to his death with a smile on his face. Genious.

“The Road Warrior”, when the cycle gang leader’s eyes pop out when he realizes he’s about to die smashed by a truck, IIRC.

“Convoy”, “Vanishing Point” and “Smokey and the Bandit” are full of cool driving scenes.

Goodfellas has a number of great car scenes but my favourite is the one where they’ve just set fire to the bar and then get into an argument about doubledating until they notice the smoke pouring out of the building.

  1. The murder of Old Man Smith in The Postman Always Rings Twice
    3b) Lana Turner starting to get frisky with John Garfield later in the same movie, which was an inspiration for 3c) the scene with “Heavens to Betsy!” line from Billy Bob Thorton in The Man Who Wasn’t There.

  2. Super-long tracking shot that starts with Julianne Moore playing ping-pong in Children of Men

  3. “I coulda been a contenda” scene from On The Waterfront

The hitchhiker scene in “Fear and loathin in Las Vegas”.

“Jeepers Creepers”, when the two discover the monster’s house and see him throving something down a chute, and later return to investigate. Their fight over returning/not returning and going in/not going in was great.

I loved the scene in “No country for old man” where the protagonist finds the Mexican’s jeeps and goes in to investigate. I don’t remember if he finds them while driving or while on foot, though.

The Ferrari scenes in “Ferris Bueler’s day off”, of course.

Gun Crazy. Fantastically awesome 1949 film noir which for some reason is listed as “Deadly Is The Female” on the IMDB. Gun Crazy’s a way better title.

Anyway, this is a Bonnie & Clyde style riff (done a good two decades before Arthur Penn’s Bonnie & Clyde) about a dude fresh out of the army who falls for a particularly fatale femme fatale, who introduces him to a life of crime and wild implied sex.

The showstopper of the picture is a shot-in-real-time bank heist, filmed from the backseat of the getaway car. It’s one take and the camera never leaves the backseat. Check it out.

Uh, Bad Lieutenant?

Spielberg has always been really good at using cars in his movies.

  1. Jurassic Park - The T-Rex attack. OK, technically this is a long sequence involving two separate cars (three is you later include the jeep). It would be hard to pick a favorite moment out. I think maybe I’d choose when Grant has to climb the tree to find Timmy and Timmy tells him, “I threw up.” I also really like depiction of these Ford Explorers on a meta-textual level. They take these brand new 4x4s chosen to keep with the safari theme of the park, kit them out with expensive A/V systems, make them driverless as a means to control the experience, make them electric, put them on rails, essentially neuter them of their very car-ness and as a result put everyone in danger when it would have been very useful to drive away from the threat.

  2. 16 Candles - The Geek drives the Babe home. Just a great funny scene where Anthony Michael Hall’s character has had to borrow a very expensive car to drive this drunk, out of control character home. He’s not licensed, terrified of crashing and trying to manage this crazy, beautiful girl he barely knows. Best part: when she feeds him some birth control pills. “Now we’re both on the pill!” He spits them out into the street and squeaks, “Are you crazy? Do you know what those things can do to a guy my age?!”

  3. Rushmore - Max surprises Mr Blume. It’s a turning point in the movie after Dirk writes Max about Ms Cross and Mr Blume having an affair. It’s such a Max thing to lie in wait to ambush Blume in his car parked outside Ms Cross’ house. This is where we get:
    “I love her, Max.”
    “I loved her first!”
    After that, they’re at war.

It’s a small but pivotal bit, in Broadcast News when Holly Hunter recovers her cab-backseat driving power.

The opening bit in the underrated Speed Racer, where kid-Speed daydream drives to victory in the glorious hand drawn grand prix in his mind.

Margaret Whitton cranking the cougar dial to 11 in the backseat of the limo in the Secret of My Success.

Billy Crystal fucking around with the bad guy’s car phone in Running Scared. “He don’ pay me no mo’, ohh noo!”

Pulp Fiction has a couple. The beginning Royale with cheese conversation and later on when Jules accidently shoots the guy in the backseat. I was not expecting that at all. It was hilarious and gross at the same time.

Does the cat bus count as a car? Because if it does I nominate any scene that happened inside the cat bus in My Neighbor Totoro. Also the end of Taxi Driver.

1: Wayne’s World - Bohemian Rhapsody. Especially at 1.11, that cracks me up every time.
2: Pulp Fiction - The shooting of Marvin.
3: Bullit. The granddaddy of all car chases.

Vanishing Point. The 1970 Dodge Challenger was the star of the movie.

3 - Pulp Fiction for both shooting Marvin and the hamburger discussion
2 - Peewee’s Big Adventure as Large Marge is in the vernacular of every person scarred by her story. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RryZV8NK9-Q
1 - Twilight Zone: the Movie. I’m torn on this one as I am sure there are better choices, but the inane conversation between comedy legends Albert Brooks and Dan Akyroyd descending into madness is one that I never get tired of watching. Seen here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XD0JKT3eDCw

Star Wars, the scene where Luke drives the speeder back to the homestead with that look of fear on his face.

Another great one is in “Snatch”, where the robbers’ driver is constantly mocked for being useless and finally crashes into the back of Del Toro’s van, trapping him. That whole scene was hilarious.

“Thelma and Louise”, the ending, while totally unbelievable, is a classic.

These are fantastic #1 picks. Xtien, Say Anything is very near and dear to my heart as well, and I love what you have to say about it. “Why are you shivering?” Fuck! I knew somebody was gonna pick a love scene, but I didn’t think it would be such a good one.

Tom’s pick is rad, too. I thought for sure he would pick the final scene of the movie when the boys find Lux, but I’ll have to go back and watch it again.

And who can possibly add anything to Kelly’s pick?

  • Frank

“Am I wrecking my car?”
“Yeah… a little.”

Drag Me To Hell - The parking garage ambush.

The Hitcher (1986) - The truck and trailer choice.

Pulp Fiction - Butch and Esmeralda’s conversation.

I like your choice, but car chases are a whole 'nother category.