If you want to escape the summer heat, why not check out the King of Cool, Steve McQueen? Here are a few of my McQueen favorites including his two racing films Le Mans and On Any Sunday. McQueen was an avid motorcyclist and race car driver. McQueen once commented, “I’m not sure whether I am an actor who races or a racer who acts.”
Whenever possible, he performed his own stunts including the classic and legendary car chase in Bullitt as well as much of the motorcycle chase scene in The Great Escape (the actual jump over the fence was performed by Bud Etkins because of insurance reasons).
Bullitt (1968): A San Francisco cop becomes determined to find the underworld criminal that killed the witness in his protection. This is an essential film and one of my favorites of all time. It is action-packed, stunning, and almost silent film-like in its sparse dialogue and heavy emphasis on action and body language to tell the story. Based on the novel by Robert Fish. Directed by Peter Yates. Award winning for best film editing. Also stars: Robert Vaughn.
The Cincinnati Kid (1965): A poker player tries to prove himself in a high-stakes match against a master. It moves a little slow for traditional audiences but if you stay with it, it is unpredictable and curious. It’s a film that once it is over, you realize it had much more to it than you first thought. Based on a novel by Richard Jessup. Directed by Norman Jewison. Also stars: Edward G. Robinson and Ann-Margaret.
The Getaway (1972): After Doc McCoy is granted parole, the Sheriff expects him to return the favor by robbing another bank. Here is another action-packed film with great plot twists and complex characters. Based on a novel by Jim Thompson. Directed by Sam Peckinpah. Also stars: Ali MacGraw.
The Great Escape (1963): Several Allied POWs plan a daring escape from an “escape proof” German POW camp. This is one of the most powerful and suspenseful films of all time. It is an essential film. Based on a true story written by author Paul Brickhill. Directed by John Sturges. Also stars: James Garner, Charles Bronson, and James Coburn.
Le Mans (1971): Considered to be the most historically realistic presentation of the Le Mans (the 24-hour endurance race in France), watch this film for the racing and not for its plot. Directed by Lee Katzin.
Nevada Smith (1966): A naive young man evolves into a hardened killer as he tracks down his parents’ murderers. This is a powerful revenge film with complex characters and a well-crafted story. Based on the novel by Harold Robbins. Directed by Henry Hathaway.
On Any Sunday (1971): This is a documentary on motorcycle racing featuring stars of the sport including Steve McQueen. It is still considered one of the most impressive films made on motorcycle racing. Directed by Bruce Brown.
The Thomas Crown Affair (1968): An outlaw who also happens to be a very wealthy man decides to rob a bank. An insurance investigator tries to catch him. This film is captivating and electric. I’ll never understand why Hollywood remakes masterpieces. Watch the original with McQueen and Faye Dunaway. Directed by Norman Jewison.
Ann Marie White is the Library Director at OWL.