My Nominations: The French Connection. Vanishing Point. Shaft. Red Sun. Macbeth. Le Mans. A Fistful Of Dynamite. Evel Knievel. Duel. Dirty Harry. The Big Boss.
There’s an obvious winner here, and if you’ve looked at my nominations then you already know what it is. Let’s start in the east first – The Big Boss was the first real film to showcase Bruce Lee’s talents. It doesn’t have the scope of Lee’s later films, but it abandons the wuxia style so popular at the time for a prototype one man army style grit – the stunts are all real, dangerous, and pack a punch. Red Sun has gun fights, swordplay, a train robbery, while A Fistful Of Dynamite switches out the swordplay for explosions and motorcycles. Speaking of motorcycles, Evel Knievel features both manufactured stunts and real life jumps performed by Knievel and other performers while Le Mans does a similar job with cars, featuring plenty of real footage and simulated crashes.
Macbeth I throw in here just for having the audacity to be more visceral and charged than any other version till that point while Shaft has plenty of punches and gunshots on the way to its explosive finale. Dirty Harry features similar levels of stunts and action to Shaft while my final three picks are all car-heavy. The French Connection features a number of fights and chases, but is most notable for one of the most famous car chases in history – when a car chase enters pop culture, you know it’s good. Vanishing Point is almost entirely set in or following a car chase, and while there is just as much time spent enjoying the vastness and beauty of the US landscape the film has a throttle-down pace and plenty of skids, near misses, spins, and crashes. Finally, Steven Spielberg’s debut sees a malevolent truck causing mayhem in one long chase movie with as much suspense as stunt action.
My Winner: The French Connection.
Let us know in the comments what your winning choice is!
My Nominations: Brewster McCloud. They Call Me Trinity. Catch-22. Little Big Man. Kelly’s Heroes. Tora Tora Tora.
We return to one of my favourite awards, namely because it has never been an official award, and also because stunts are one of those things which draw you to Cinema at a young age – a good stunt will stay in your mind just as much as a powerful line of dialogue or piece of acting. Many people will tell you that, for practical stunts, the 1970s are the finest decade. Certainly we saw an explosion of car chases and stunts, and not only on the big screen, but also through hit TV shows which continued into the 80s, such as CHiPs, Knight Rider, The A-Team, The Dukes Of Hazard etc etc. There’s something unique about the stunts of this era – the way they were filmed, up close, from multiple angles, with realism, and with plenty of slow mo. And they always seemed to take place on some dusty LA highway or desert road. Brewster McCloud has a plethora of stunts, from the aforementioned car chases and crashes to fisticuffs, well placed bird crap, and a boy flying like Icarus. Little Big Man features some stunts which deserve to be more well known and are visually iconic if not part of the public consciousness – the horsework and leaping from carriages here is second to none. They Call Me Trinity doesn’t come near the iconic status of the other films, but is still an underrated and very funny spaghetti western with plenty of action.
Our last three movies are three standard war movies each with their own flavor of action and stunts – Tora Tora Tora most notable of course for its aerial scenes – the same can be said for Catch-22, while Kelly’s Heroes is a more traditional mixture of gunplay, tanks, explosions, and punch-ups.
My Winner: Brewster McCloud
Let us know in the comments which film of 1970 you would hand the Best Stuntwork Award to!
My Nominations: Butch Cassidy And The Sundance Kid. The Wild Bunch. The Battle Of Britain. On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. Marlowe. The Italian Job. Downhill Racer.
BCATSK is of course known for for the cliff jump scene – impressive at the time but it has of course been surpassed many times in the decades since. There are plenty of other great stunts and action in the movie, from the gripping train introduction to the various shoot outs, fights, and even Paul Newman’s whimsical bike antics. Similarly, The Wild Bunch is filled with shoot outs, more train action, and horse falls aplenty. Battle Of Britain has all the explosions and action you would expect from a war film – a Guy Hamilton war film no less, but where it raises the game is with the exceptional aerial set pieces – some of the best you’ll ever see in terms of scale, pace, and realism. On Her Majesty’s Secret Service I have always felt to be one of the more action-lite Bond movies, but it has its fair share of stunt too – the Piz Gloria ski slope scenes are memorable. Speaking of ski stunts, Downhill Racer also has excellent snow action, though the focus is much more on realism than Bond’s fun and games. Marlowe’s nomination goes almost single-handedly to Bruce lee, whose demolition of James Garner’s office is both humourous and a sign of things to come for the Chinese star – though there is also standard gun action towards the end of the film. Finally, The Italian Job has car chases galore which have become iconic, at least in Britain.
My Winner: Battle of Britain
Let us know in the comments which film of 1969 you think deserves the Best Stunt Work award!
My Nominations: Bullitt. The Love Bug. Once Upon A Time In The West. Planet Of The Apes. Where Eagles Dare
There is an obvious choice for winner here with Bullitt – famous for one of the greatest car chases in history. It has all the ingredients – classic cars, great drivers, solid direction throughout iconic streets, and realism. It’s that final part which means it doesn’t get my vote – it’s a deserving winner, but with stunt work sometimes I want something a little more over the top. The Love Bug does deliver over the top thrills, Once Upon A Time In The West features another selection of shoot-outs and fights, while Planet Of The Apes has many exciting scenes. My win goes to Where Eagles Dare, something of a forgotten war movie which is strange given its unquestionable star power. It has a lot of set pieces, from treacherous car chases to fights on top of cable cars, as well as parachute stunts, fights, and gunplay. Yakima Cannutt directed most of the action scenes while a host of the best stunt performers in the business helped to create the thrills.
My Winner: Where Eagles Dare.
Which film of 1968 do you think deserves the Best Stunt Work award? Let us know in the comments!
My Nominations: Grand Prix. The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly. Is Paris Burning? The Sword Of Doom. The Wild Angels.
A selection of films from around the globe this year, with a Western, War movie, a Samurai epic, and two films focusing on man and machine making my list. Grand Prix takes my win for making car racing look much more exciting than it actually is, with Max Balchowsky, Tom Bamford, Carey Loftin, and Ronnie Rondell Jr performing the majority of the driving.
My Winner: Grand Prix
Which film of 1966 do you think had the best Stunt Work? Let us know in the comments!
My Nominations: Thunderball. The Great Race. Von Ryan’s Express. For A Few Dollars More. The Battle Of The Bulge. Dr Zhivago.
Bond’s 1965 outing is full of the usual exceptional fight and chase scenes, but it is most notable for its underwater work. Naturally, taking the action below the waves has inherent dangers and gave a unique twist to action thrillers of the time, but many of the scenes drag on and lack pace, so although they were remarkable at the time, and still an impressive achievement, they feel a little dated now. Von Ryan’s Express has fights on top of trains, large and small-scale gun battles. The Agony And The Ecstasy has horse battles. The Battle Of The Bulge features a fair amount of epic war scenes and tank combat. Dr Zhivago has a bit of everything, from battle scenes across icy wastelands on horseback, to epic gun battles while For A Few Dollars More has gritty gunplay and tense build-ups before the release of action. The Great Race is like a live action Wacky Races, mixing exciting, nitro-fuelled car action with absurd, extensive pie fighting. There is a massive list of stunt performers, mostly who went criminally uncredited in the film – basically everyone involved in stunts in the 60s was involved in this one.
My Winner: The Great Race
Which film of 1965 do you think has the Best Stunt Work? Let us know in the comments!
My Nominations: 633 Squadron. Goldfinger. A Fistful Of Dollars. Zulu.
With each passing year, Hollywood writers, directors, and stunt performers grew more ambitious and adventurous with their stunt ideas. 633 Squadron became a perennial British Christmas hit and the aerial battle scenes remain some of the most impressive ever filmed. The film lacked a huger star though and was not a big commercial hit. John Crewdson and Joe Powell are the uncredited geniuses here. Both men again had illustrious careers but are barely remembered. Zulu raised the bar for sheer scale of ground battle scenes, and while there are no obvious single outstanding stunts, the onslaught of fighting and action on screen at any given time must have been hell for the stunt crew and director to manage. Joe Powell again gets in on the act with John Sullivan providing stunt direction. A Fistfull Of Dollars features plenty of stylized gun play with Benito Stefanelli acting as co-ordinator and stuntman, becoming the go to guy for Spaghetti Westerns. Goldfinger features many of Bond’s most famous setpieces – the laser table, the aerial scenes, the DB5 ejector seat and crash, and of course Bond’s fight with Oddjob. Bob Simmons and his large crew are to thank for some wonderful moments.
My Winner: 633 Squadron.
Which movie from 1964 do you feel has the best stunt work? Let us know in the comments!