In honour of today’s London Marathon, here are 15 great scenes where people run in the movies (Dustin Hoffman not included):
This is probably the greatest running scene from recent cinema but one that in fact also involves just as much climbing, jumping, falling and rolling. Our James, with a new face and a blonde coiffure, is chasing down a bad guy. Unfortunately the enemy is none other than Sébastien Foucan, the early proponent of parkour and inventor of free-running, not an easy man to catch on shank’s pony. Still Jimbo always gets his man and is led a merry chase up, down, around, through, inside and out of a building site. The moment near the start where Daniel Craig runs straight up that crane instantly cemented him as a great James Bond, putting Roger Moore’s skip across the crocodiles into sharp perspective. The pursuit ends up at the Nambutu Embassy and what is really cool is that when 007 finally catches up with his man he is just walking. It’s like the hair and the tortoise sequence of action cinema.
I am not in love with this film as much as some people but the design is undeniably great. This is perfectly demonstrated in the scene where astronaut David jogs around the inside circumference of his cylindrical space craft. Gravity shmavity, I don’t know what Sandra Bullock was getting so stressed about.
Approximately half of this film involves running as Mayan warrior Jaguar Paw flees those who have kidnapped him to be a ritual sacrifice. James Bond may have dashed around a hard hat area but this guy has the whole jungle and one big waterfall to cover if he wants to get back to his wife and unborn child. In terms of tension and excitement, it makes director Mel Gibson’s best known film Braveheart look like Carry On Up the Khyber.
Attack the Block
This film, in which vicious mega fanged bear like extra-terrestrials invade a council estate high rise, involves quite a lot of running away down graffitied corridors. The one moment at the end though, where 15 year old gang leader Moses draws the monsters away from his friends and toward fireworky, gassy, explody annihilation, is a beautiful and thrilling piece of slowmo cinema.
Back to the Future Part 3
Marty McFly, in an 1885 Western Saloon, is forced to ‘dance, dance’ by murderous outlaw Buford Tannen emptying his six shooter at his feet. Marty’s random skips turn into a moonwalk and then a little leap. His landing dislodges a floor board propelling the spittoon vase up through the air. The contents of said spittoon are promptly emptied all over the bullying cowboy. He doesn’t look happy. “You’d better run, squirrel!” says a grizzly old barfly. Marty does run. He tries to get away. He doesn’t get away. If only they has skateboards in the old west.
Beasts of the Southern Wild
Six year old Hushpuppy runs across the grass, surrounded by fizzing fireworks, she herself holds two burning sparklers by her side. It might fly in the face of those Guy Fawkes Night public safety films but it is the most beautiful shot from a stunning and gorgeous movie. No wonder they put it on the poster.
Superpowered adolescent Dash has never properly been allowed to test his incredible abilities. Now, escaping from danger in the jungle, he runs at full pelt. Bursting out of the foliage he suddenly finds himself hurtling over open water. At the realisation that he is travelling so fast that he can actually sprint across the surface of the lake without sinking, he just looks down at his feet and gives a little chuckle. It is pretty cool.
Raiders of the Lost Ark
Of course this one is here. A fedora wearing adventurer is navigating his way through a booby trapped tunnel. He has already escaped the treacherous chasm and the lethal darts so what is next? Why it’s a gigantic, perfectly spherical, rolling boulder for him to out run. It is simultaneously completely stupid and totally totally brilliant.
Captain America: The First Avenger
This film, made very much in the style of an Indiana Jones movie, has its own great chase scene. Newly genetically pumped up Steve Rogers suddenly gets a chance to try out his powers as he chases down a German assassin. Like Dash before him, he doesn’t quite know what he is capable of and is clearly a humbly impressed by himself. It is a perfect introduction to Captain America for both him and us. He is determined, resilient, heroic, impeachable, always looking to protect the public but a little inexperienced in relation to the situations he finds himself in. Finally he punches his quarry out of a slowly sinking submarine and his efforts are rewarded, he has captured his man alive. It’s a shame he hadn’t anticipated the cyanid pill.
This Spanish film from 2001 centres around men who steal luck from other people. They then test who has amassed the greatest amount of good fortune by running as fast as they can through a dense forest, while wearing blindfolds.
Little Miss Sunshine
Whilst driving from New Mexico to California to take their seven year old daughter to compete in a beauty pageant, the preoccupied Hoover family leave her year behind at a petrol station. On realising their error they go back to find her patiently waiting on the forecourt. Unfortunately though if they stop their camper van the engine will cut out so Olive has to run to get on board. She’d give any of these other guys a run for their money, no problem at all.
North by Northwest
We’ve had Indy, Cap and Bond but the mother of all great escape/chase scenes comes from Hitchcock. Ordinary guy Cary Grant has become mixed up is some spy conspiracy and finds himself (literally rather than figuratively) standing at a crossroads. Confused as to why it has been engineered that he end up at this location in the middle of nowhere, he sees a biplane in the distance. As the plane heads straight for him and the pilot opens fire with an automatic weapon, the seriousness of his situation becomes abundantly clear.
I can’t describe this in a way that will make you truly appreciate its greatness but in this scene Michael Fassbender goes for a run. The camera stays with him, shooting him from the side as the streets of New York fly past. He isn’t chasing anyone and he isn’t being pursued but it is a moment as tense and compelling as any on this list.
Repunzel just wanted to see the floating lights. She never anticipated that she’d end up running from millions of gallons water from an exploded dam and the subsequent rock fall it causes. Fortunately though that is exactly what happens because it looks spectacular. I apologise to the Lion King wildebeests but this is the single most exciting action scene ever to feature in a Disney cartoon.
“The first rule of Zombieland: Cardio.” It makes sense. Of all the reasons to keep fit, being surrounded by the wheezing undead seems like a pretty sensible one. This is a situation those slower marathon runners can imagine themselves in if they want something to keep them going. I’ve been there, believe me, after twenty miles and four and a half hours it may not seem like such a stretch.