Car chases, chariot races
Will the Guggenheim shoot-out in "The International" go down as one of the most rip-roaring action sequences in movie history? Time will tell. For perspective, let's look at a few movie moments that are slam-bang classics.
Three months in production, featuring 8,000 extras on the largest set built to that time, the chariot race in this multi-Oscar winner is still a brutally fast knuckle-biter that just keeps amping up the action. Contrary to urban legend, no stuntmen were killed, and that may be the biggest miracle of all.
THE FRENCH CONNECTION (1971)
The car chase to end all car chases is actually a subway chase, as NYC cop Popeye Doyle (Gene Hackman) races under the Brooklyn elevated B line after a train holding his quarry. Shot with not nearly enough official permission, and it looks it.
THE UNTOUCHABLES (1987)
Brian DePalma has some nerve: The Union Station gunfight between Eliot Ness and several of Al Capone's meanest is modeled on the Odessa Steps sequence from the 1925 Russian classic "The Battleship Potemkin" - right down to the runaway baby carriage.
SAVING PRIVATE RYAN (1998)
Calling Steven Spielberg's re-creation of the Normandy landing an "action scene" is like calling the Mona Lisa a drawing - it's almost disrespectful. On the technical levels of camerawork, editing, and sound recording, though, this is one of the signal achievements of physical cinema.
THE MATRIX (1999)
The whole movie is one long action scene, so which frames do you pick out? The subway fight? The rooftop set-to? We'll go with the lobby shoot-out, which set the bar for destruction of corporate interior design.