The Classic "Bullitt" Chase Sequence - Then And Now

Given access to a time machine, where and when would you choose to go? For some reason, I always seem to think about 1960s San Francisco, and I don’t think it’s (just) for the sex, drugs and rock and roll. I think it’s because I saw the classic Steve McQueen movie "Bullitt" at such a young age that it left an indelible mark. If you’ve ever wondered what Bullitt (and specifically, the amazing car chase sequence) would look like if it were filmed today, you need to check this video out.

I hadn’t thought about Bullitt for years until a photographer and classic-car-loving friend (thanks Jeff) sent me a link last week with this video. Bullitt set a precedent for hard talking, hard boiled cop thrillers, not to mention an eleven minute car chase sequence through beautiful San Francisco that holds up 45 years later, as one of the all time greatest chase scenes in movie history.

The use of drivers point-of-view shots, a three week filming schedule for the chase from multiple camera angles and the permission to film through downtown San Francisco led to the unprecedented chase sequence. Undoubtedly, the setting of San Francisco, with those crazy hills, gave the car chase something that just wouldn’t have been as exciting in any other city.

If you’ve ever been curious to compare modern day San Francisco with shots from the original Bullitt chase sequence, look no further. Herve Attia, through his YouTube channel “On The Set”, specializes in going out to scout modern day movie locations of classic movies and then attempts to recreate some of the most memorable scenes, using split screening to show us what they would look like today. Surprisingly, San Francisco seems to have not changed a great deal, and in some instances looks almost identical to what it did almost half a century ago, retaining much of the look, feel and charm it had in the late 1960s.

Unfortunately we don’t get to see Herve and his friends blow through stop signs, jump their cars over the brows of those hills or power slide through intersections like in the movie (probably a good thing for all concerned, actually), but it’s still a great comparator of the wonderful city itself.

Via [Herve Attia / ‘On The Set’ – the Movie Locations Channel]

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Jason Vinson's picture


BannedOnceAgain's picture

looks crooked...? because of all the earthquakes?

spiralphoto's picture

My guess would be it's because the cameraman is basing their composition of the shot to their perceived horizon while standing on such an incline, rather than lining up the shot to the vertical lines of the buildings.

Spy Black's picture

If I remember correctly, McQueen lost his brakes on that shoot, no? He went on with it anyway. Tough comparing a modern driver to that guy.

Tobias Solem's picture

I guess you have to be a fan of the movie to appreciate the reason why painstakingly going through remaking the cuts. Particularly since I don't think the scenes/subjects by themselves are interesting/shot at a time of day where the photography is appealing.

Anthony N's picture

Great idea but could've used a bigger budget to make it worthwhile.