By Jessica Wheeler
With so many classic moments to choose from, it’s hard to narrow it down to only seven. Here are the best of the best, Steve McQueen’s greatest movie moments.
- Running for the Border in The Great Escape
McQueen spends most of the movie imprisoned in a German POW camp, so when he breaks out, steals a German motorcycle and uniform, and heads for the Swiss border, the rush of energy is palpable. It’s an exciting chase sequence, where he’s almost captured, then makes it to the border…but will he make it over the fence? A true classic.
- World’s Greatest Car Chase in Bullitt
Despite emphasizing style over plot, Bullitt has become a classic for two reasons: McQueen’s too-cool performance and its legendary car chase sequence. Beginning in the streets of San Francisco and then heading out into the hills, the chase is a heart-stopping scene that ranks among the greatest ever filmed.
- Solitary in Papillon
McQueen was known for playing to the camera, letting his face do much of his acting. In many cases, he asked for lines to be removed from his scenes, stating, “I’ll do it with my face.” In this harrowing scene from Papillon, McQueen is a prisoner in French Guiana, condemned to solitary confinement. Much of the power of the scene is in the silent moments.
- The Train Station in The Getaway
While The Getaway is filled with bank robberies and shootouts galore, it’s McQueen’s chemistry with leading lady Ali MacGraw that makes the film something special. The two began a relationship during the filming of the movie, and later married.
- Driving the Hearse in Magnificent Seven
In this scene, you can actually watch McQueen become a movie star. Old Sam has died, and some kindly strangers want to pay for his burial up on Boot Hill. There’s just one problem: Old Sam was Native American, and some of the townsfolk think only white people should be buried in their cemetery. Enter Yul Brynner and Steve McQueen, who volunteer to drive the hearse out to Boot Hill and face down the gun-toting protesters. As they drive, McQueen lifts his hat, shakes his shotgun shells, and does anything else he can think of to steal the scene from Brynner, the movie’s headlining star. By the end of the scene, he’s established himself as a star in his own right, bagging his own starring roles in subsequent movies. View the scene here.
6. The Final Hand in Cincinnati Kid
The kind of scene that McQueen loved, with its tight closeups and high tension, the final poker showdown in Cincinnati Kid sees him facing off against the legendary Edward G. Robinson.
- A Steamy Game of Chess in The Thomas Crown Affair
Although McQueen was originally against the casting of Faye Dunaway in The Thomas Crown Affair, he eventually had to admit that she was the right choice. In this racy scene, the two square off over a suggestive game of chess, a clever way of getting around the movie censors.
AliveTampaBay continues its salute to Steve McQueen this summer. See also: Five Things to Know About Steve McQueen.
Jessica Wheeler is a columnist for AliveTampaBay.