It’s a familiar horror scenario: you’re hitching a lift, and against your better judgement, you get in a car with someone you gradually realise isn’t entirely stable. Too late, you notice the huge black bin bags on the back seat, and as the driver skitters off down the road as though the forces of hell are at his tyres, you quietly pray that those bin bags aren’t full of dismembered body parts.
This actually happened to me about a dozen years ago (I was the hitcher, not the drive), and while I never discovered the contents of those sinister bin bags, I was eventually deposited safely at my destination by the kind, yet terrifying driver.
Get in a car with these movie drivers, however, and you may not be so lucky…
See No Evil, Hear No Evil – Wally Karew and Dave Lyons
An odd couple, one blind, one deaf, find themselves on the wrong side of the law in Richard Pryor and Gene Wilder’s uneven (and politically incorrect) 1989 comedy.
As the film’s chase scene ably demonstrates, driving a car without the benefit of sight isn’t advisable. Gene Wilder’s character (the deaf one) could just as easily have taken the helm instead of Richard Pryor’s (who’s blind), though this would have made for fewer uneasy laughs, I suppose. In any case, you really wouldn’t want to be a passenger in Wilder and Pryor’s police car, here, especially once the shotgun blasts begin…
Falling Down – William Foster
One of Joel Schumacher’s best films, Falling Down saw Michael Douglas in one of his finest performances as William Foster, an otherwise mild-mannered white collar worker who embarks on a murderous rampage.
If you’re in Los Angeles and happen to spot a car with the number plate ‘D-Fens’, start running in the opposite direction. There’s a man inside with an entire bag full of automatic firearms, he’s missed breakfast, and he’s not in a good mood.
Police Academy – Hightower
Scattershot 1984 comedy Police Academy may not have endeared itself to critics (Roger Ebert once described it as “a movie that doesn’t even bother to put the punch lines in”), but it was a hit with audiences, earning around $80 million from a $5 million budget, and spawning no fewer than six sequels and a weird animated TV series.
A scene where Mahoney (Steve Guttenberg) teaches gentle giant, Hightower (Bubba Smith), to drive is one of Police Academy‘s most funny sequences. At almost seven feet tall, Hightower can barely fit in the tiny Honda Civic he attempts to drive. Given that there’s barely enough room in the car for another passenger, and that Hightower drives like he’s rushing home to put out a fire, we’d advise you to take a bus. Or walk.
Christine – Arnie Cunningham
A 1958 Plymouth Fury comes to life in John Carpenter’s 1983 adaptation of a Stephen King novel, crushing hands under bonnets, corrupting impressionable youth, Arnie Cunningham, and running over school bullies.
Quite aside from the hideous fuel consumption, we strongly advise against the purchase of a haunted American classic of any kind, particularly one called Christine. The vehicle may have the power to repair itself (which is extremely handy in the event of a crash), but she’ll also have the unnerving habit of killing everyone you know, as her temporary owner, Arnie Cunningham, finds out in Carpenter’s cracking film.
Whether you’re sitting in the passenger seat or standing by the side of the road, Christine will probably try to kill you, even when she’s on fire, as this atmospheric scene from the film reveals…
Die Hard With A Vengeance – John McCLane
The second sequel to the classic Die Hard, which sees Bruce Willis team up with Samuel L Jackson, and Jeremy Irons cast as the brother of Hans Gruber, for a film light on the disaster genre elements that distinguished the first two entries, but high on action and odd couple banter.
If you’re in New York, don’t let John McClane take you anywhere. If you’ve ever played the videogame Crazy Taxi, his driving technique will seem unnervingly familiar. Get in a cab with McClane and you’re likely to end up speeding through a park, with terrified joggers scattering left and right, while Samuel L Jackson screams groundless threats and insults in the front passenger seat.
Crash – James Ballard
David Cronenberg’s creepily erotic adaptation of JG Ballard’s novel of the same name was released to an outpouring of histrionic outrage in 1996, as Crash‘s conflation of sex and car accidents caused media guardians everywhere to sputter out their tea in righteous indignation.
The secret’s in the film’s title. You definitely don’t want to sit in a car with James Ballard at the helm. In fact, our advice is, if you’re sitting in a vehicle and the driver looks even remotely like the actor James Spader, simply open the door and throw yourself onto the pavement,particularly if he asks you creepy questions such as, “Do you see Kennedy’s assassination as a special kind of car crash?” Before you know it, you’ll be lying in the twisted wreckage of a Nissan Sunny with a strange man licking your ear.
Duel – mysterious truck driver
An efficient, tense and near wordless thriller, 1971’s Duel was the film that put a young Steven Spielberg firmly on the Hollywood map.
If you’re stuck in the Californian desert and a rusty old truck pulls up, don’t even think about getting in. Sooner or later, the driver will happen across Dennis Weaver in his Plymouth Valiant, and suddenly lose all sense of perspective. It’s not clear whether the now crazed trucker hated Weaver’s performance in Gentle Ben, or if he’s simply envious of the actor’s luxuriant moustache, but whatever his motives are, you’ll be left clinging to the dashboard as he chases the unsuspecting actor across mile after mile of dusty highway.
The Fast & The Furious – Dominic Toretto
The cars were the stars of Rob Cohen’s movie about illegal street racing, The Fast And The Furious, largely because the acting’s so bad. A real guilty pleasure, there’s a certain amount of fun to be had from both this film and its sequels, mostly thanks to their spectacularly ripe dialogue, most of it car related: “Why don’t you girls just pack it up before I leave tread marks on your face?”
Quite apart from the fact that Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel) drives like a maniac and eventually flips a classic car while playing chicken with a locomotive, there’s another reason why you shouldn’t hitch a lift with him: he only ever drives in straight lines at speeds of around 200mph. If your destination involves turns or roundabouts, forget it. Toretto’s simply too tough for steering wheels.
Death Proof – Stuntman Mike
Quentin Tarantino’s talky half of the Grindhouse double-bill is both a car-based slasher movie and a loving homage to the 1971 film, Vanishing Point. Tarantino’s insistence on using practical stunts, rather than CGI, results in one of the most audacious extended chase sequences of recent years, not to mention a brave performance from stuntwoman, Zoe Bell.
Kurt Russell puts in a rare villainous performance as Stuntman Mike, a crazed serial killer who kills his victims with modified 70s cars, a bit like an insane Dominic Toretto, in fact. If you’re hitchhiking, and you’re offered a lift by a long haired man in an American muscle car, back away. You’ll either end up with your head smashed against the dashboard, like poor Rose McGowan, or left clinging to the bonnet, screaming for your life. Don’t say we didn’t warn you.
Airplane! – Ted Striker
This spectacular 1980 spoof of disaster movies such as Airport has remained an enduring comedy classic, even as the films it parodied have faded from our consciousness.
A departure from the other drivers on this list, Ted Striker in Airplane! is probably quite competent behind the wheel. The danger he poses isn’t to life and limb, but to your bank account.
Traumatised by his war experiences, ex-pilot Striker is, at the beginning of the film, a taxi driver. In a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it scene, Striker assures his elderly passenger, “I’ll be back in a minute,” before becoming embroiled in the film’s mid-air events. An apparently disposable incident that could easily be forgotten, it’s later returned to in a brilliant post-credits sequence, which reveals that the passenger’s still sitting patiently in the taxi. “I’ll give him another twenty minutes, but that’s it,” the old man says, as the taxi’s meter, still running, notches up an astronomical fare of $113.
Drive Angry 3D arrives in UK cinemas on 25th February.
Follow Den Of Geek on Twitter right here.