There's something inherently relatable with a foot chase scene. Sure, car chases in the FAST AND FURIOUS movies or BULLIT can be fun, but how many of us have actually been in a car chase? Or how many of us have been in a helicopter chase like the opening of MISSION IMPOSSIBLE 3? Or a down hill ski chase like in FOR YOUR EYES ONLY?
But we've all had to run. One foot before the other. We've all had to run from bullies, from cops, in marathons, late to meetings, etc. When sitting in the theatre and watching Jason Bourne booking it through the narrow streets of Morocco, our legs tingle with memory because the sense of running is deeply carved into our DNA, dating back to ground-roaming vertebrate ancestors who were constantly running from man-eating dinosaurs.
A great foot chase scene has a low-fi kinetic energy that is both universal and a metaphor for life: No matter how straight of a line you try to run, something always get in the way.
These are my TOP 10 FOOT CHASES IN CINEMA:
10. RESERVOIR DOGS
Bringing up the rear of our list is Mr. Pink's foot chase in RESERVOIR DOGS. Though short in length, the chase makes it up with intensity and its punctuation of violence. There's a sloppy realism to it that adds to its impact, already accented by being sandwiched between two lengthy talking head scenes. Classic Tarantino.
9. MR. NICE GUY
Jackie Chan has done some of cinema's greatest chases. From the motorcycle chase in ARMOR OF GOD 2: OPERATION CONDOR, the bicycle chase in PROJECT A, the roller-skate chase in WINNERS AND SINNERS. This was a difficult one to choose as Jackie has done numerous chases on foot, though many quickly evolve into an out-and-out fight scene, such as the monkey bars scene in POLICE STORY 2 and the market chase in SHANGHAI KNIGHTS. So I'm picking the chase through the mall in MR. NICE GUY as the most pure of his foot chases.
8. NAKED PREY
The 1966 film NAKED PREY is the grandfather of foot chase sequences. In fact, most of the movie is one long foot chase through Africa as Cornel Wilde plays a man on the run from a vicious tribe. Must see movie.
Mel Gibson's film owes much to NAKED PREY. Like the Cornel Wilde film, APOCALYPTO is one long extended foot chase with its young, unknown star Ruddy Youngblood doing most of his own stunts. Poetic in its visceral violence.
6. THE BOURNE ULTIMATUM
Julia Stiles is running from the assassin. Jason Bourne is chasing after the assassin as the cops are on his heels. Through streets, alleyways, roof-tops -- the chase ends with an explosive hand-to-hand fight where Bourne tries to make the assassin eat a book. Dynamic and dizzying camera-work from Paul Greengrass makes this one of the best!
5. POINT BREAK
This is a classic foot chase from a classic film. Kathryn Bigelow's direction takes you right into the action. It starts with Keanu Reeves chasing after a flaming (literally) Ronald Reagan. Moral of this story: Don't interrupt a house-wife in the middle of vacuuming.
4. DISTRICT B13
The cinematic foot chase evolved to the next level with the introduction of Parkour, a French originated discipline of overcoming obstacles in one's path by adapting to one's environment. For more on the art of Parkour, check out Alec Wilkinson's NEW YORKER piece which is considered the quintessential word on the topic. The foot chase in DISTRICT B13 has Parkour founder David Belle doing what he does best.
3. CASINO ROYALE
CASINO ROYALE opens with such an amazing foot chase that no other action scene that follows in the movie even compares. What's particulary clever about this foot chase is how the filmmakers figured out ways for Bond (played by Daniel Craig) to keep up with the nimble Parkour runner.
ONG-BAK's scene has more OH MY GOD moments than any other foot chase. What action star Tony Jaa is able to do with his body forces the mouth to drop repeatedly. No CGI. No clever editing. You won't believe what you're seeing. The Rewind button is your friend.
1. RAISING ARIZONA
Only the Coen Brothers could come up with a foot chase as kooky, surreal, and hilarious as Nic Cage's scene in RAISING ARIZONA. Top it off with the goofy hillbilly music and you've got yourself the greatest foot chase in cinema!
Mike Le is a writer/producer living in Los Angeles. He is also the creator of the webcomic DON'T FORGET TO VALIDATE YOUR PARKING.