Critics Consensus

Steve McQueen is cool as ice in this thrilling police procedural that also happens to contain arguably the greatest movie car chase ever.



Total Count: 37


Audience Score

User Ratings: 39,985
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Movie Info

Robert L. Pike's crime novel Mute Witness makes the transition to the big screen in this film from director Peter Yates. In one of his most famous roles, Steve McQueen stars as tough-guy police detective Frank Bullitt. The story begins with Bullitt assigned to a seemingly routine detail, protecting mafia informant Johnny Ross (Pat Renella), who is scheduled to testify against his Mob cronies before a Senate subcommittee in San Francisco. But when a pair of hitmen ambush their secret location, fatally wounding Ross, things don't add up for Bullitt, so he decides to investigate the case on his own. Unfortunately for him, ambitious senator Walter Chalmers (Robert Vaughn), the head of the aforementioned subcommittee, wants to shut his investigation down, hindering Bullitt's plan to not only bring the killers to justice but discover who leaked the location of the hideout. ~ Matthew Tobey, Rovi


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Critic Reviews for Bullitt

All Critics (37) | Top Critics (8) | Fresh (36) | Rotten (1)

  • It is simply one of the most exciting and intelligent action films in years, probably the best good-cop film we can expect to encounter.

    Oct 17, 2018 | Full Review…
  • Good scripting and excellent direction by Peter Yates maintain deliberately low-key but mounting suspense.

    Mar 1, 2007 | Full Review…

    Variety Staff

    Top Critic
  • There isn't much here, and what there is is awfully easy.

    Mar 1, 2007 | Full Review…
  • The action sequences are brilliant, done without trickery in real locations (including a great car chase which spawned a thousand imitations) to lend an extraordinary sense of immediacy to the shenanigans and gunfights.

    Feb 9, 2006 | Full Review…
    Time Out
    Top Critic
  • Even though the story almost makes no sense and the Oscar-winning editing has several illogical cuts, Bullitt is an exquisitely satisfying motion picture, particularly if there is still an adolescent boy lodged somewhere in your psyche.

    Jun 21, 2005
  • McQueen is great in Bullitt, and the movie is great, because director Peter Yates understands the McQueen image and works within it. He winds up with about the best action movie of recent years.

    Oct 23, 2004 | Rating: 4/4 | Full Review…

Audience Reviews for Bullitt

  • Jan 30, 2018
    Most known for its classic car chase through the streets of San Francisco, Bullitt is one cool action movie. It has those moments of high energy, but at the same time, it's masterful in its pace and spare in its dialog, which is refreshing. Director Peter Yates really lets the story breathe, and by doing that puts the viewer in those moments, whether it's sifting through evidence or searching for someone in airport terminal. There is a wonderful sense of realism about the film. Steve McQueen personifies cool, and I loved how quiet his character is. He expresses himself through his eyes, and it's not until late in the movie that he allows himself to say "Look, Chalmers, let's understand each other... I don't like you" to the shady politician, played well by Robert Vaughn. At a time when America was highly divided, McQueen plays a cop who is not above stealing a newspaper from a dispenser, but at the same time, has a strong moral compass, resists offers to look the other way for his own gain, and does the right thing. When an underworld figure gives him information, he asks him what he can do in return, and refrains from heavy-handed muscling. As he listens to jazz in a nightclub and is inadvertently brushed in the head with a menu by a waiter, he doesn't get indignant or angry, he just smiles, in what seems like a very natural moment. He's tough without having to show how tough he is. As hippies might refer to him, he's 'The Man', and yet, he stands up to 'The Man'. And, as he's also dating Jacqueline Bisset, he's the guy every guy wishes he could be. The rest of the cast is strong, including Don Gordon as his partner and Simon Oakland as his captain. Robert Duvall makes a brief appearance as a cab driver. Georg Stanford Brown is an African-American doctor, and it was nice to see the diversity. I loved the soundtrack, which is cool jazz and used sparingly, which is refreshing. The ending is understated, and slightly ambiguous, adding to the realism. There are beautiful scenes in San Francisco, and while residents will notice the chase inexplicably jumps from the Marina district to an area near Daly City, that ride down the Taylor Street hill is fantastic. Even the cars are super cool in this film, a '68 Ford Mustang and '68 Dodge Charger. If you're in the mood for a great old-school action film, this is it.
    Antonius B Super Reviewer
  • Jun 04, 2017
    The word "classic" is thrown around a lot and many people use it as a term that just means "something old." To me, classic means something that has gone down in the past and will be remembered in some form or another. Bullitt is definitely a classic film in my eyes, not just because it's an old film, but due to the fact that it has an incredibly engaging array of characters and the action sequences are some of the best ever put to film. Quite often you will hear film buffs exclaiming the best films of all time to be that of Back to the Future, Jurassic Park, Citizen Kane, The Godfather, or anything else that is valid in pop culture, but some of the other films that should truly be remembered as classics only have a small fan base that remembers it or even discovers it. Bullitt is one of the overlooked classics that needs the spotlight treatment once again. Here is why this film still holds up today. Although there are quite a few scenes dealing with investigations and paperwork, making the overall film feel more like a procedural television show than anything, Bullitt always manages to keep you engaged with likeable characters and a great screenplay, for what it's worth. Hired to protect a witness to a crime, police officer Frannk Bullitt makes it his mission to hunt down the murderer after the failure of his initial job in keeping the man safe. When this film gets moving, it doesn't let up and that just goes to show how entertaining films will always be entertaining, no matter how much time passes since their theatrical release. Film fans and critics across the world have been talking about the long climactic chase sequence to be one of the best in the history of cinema, and don't let that hype ruin this portion of the film, because there is a reason it's talked so highly about. Bullitt single-handedly has one of the best car chases ever, bar none. It honestly has to be seen to be believed. That being said, that chase isn't the only impressive thing this film has to offer. From gun fights to chases on foot under planes on an airport runway, everything about this film would've been done with CGI these days, but I don't believe there was a single special effect present anywhere in this film. Practicality was second nature to director Peter Yates and actor Steve McQueen, and it shows in spades when you watch the final product. Yes, the dialogue and action-packed moments are truly what make this film as incredible as it is, and as much as I will defend that this film has great pacing, there are undeniably too many scenes with two characters conversing. This makes the overall film feel the whole two hours that it is. This is the only drawback that I faced when watching this film, but that's easily forgivable, because it was clear that they were going for the procedural feel in order to blow audiences away once they reached the big moments in the film. for that reason, I have no problem giving some of the pacing a pass. This is a great film from start to finish. In the end, Bullitt offers much more than just a procedural story with great action, because the deep character study into the mind of Frank Bullitt is really what puts this film over the edge in terms of quality entertainment. This is a film that I can easily recommend to adults of any age and it still welcomes the young film lovers of today who want to discover the best films from the past. This is one of the all-time classics in my personal opinion. It does have a few small issues, but the sheer impressiveness of the overall film makes me want to revisit it over and over again. Bullitt is fantastic entertainment.
    KJ P Super Reviewer
  • May 12, 2013
    It been about a month since I last cover anything from cinematic past so I chose to see to the well known regarded classic Bullitt. Age hasn't been too kind on this one, but is still a solid film. Bullitt is about a San Francisco cop, Bullitt, who has a witness in his protection killed and must uncover the culprit whilst being pursued by an ambitious politician angry that his star witness is dead. The plot is a good complex mystery unfortunately plagued by a slow pace. Now usually a slow pace mystery would not bothersome, but here it tends to drag. The reason for this is from the characterization. While it is appreciated the protagonist, Bullitt, is developed there is no sense of urgency for him. It's just another case and another killer to catch with nothing that appears to make this particular story in Bullitt life worth telling. The film is heavy on talking and is never in a hurry to move on to the next scene. The dialogue is witty and holds our attention. Though not every scene has someone talking. Whenever there is a chase of any kind it characters remain silence for a much needed break of the slow pace talking. A major miss in the plot is the love interest who doesn't much of a use for the story. The love interest could have been written out and nothing drastic would have been changed. If slow moving dialogue films aren't your things avoid since it takes it time getting to the end. For those who do will enjoy the journey while it last. The much praised car chase doesn't live up to expectations, but that by no mean faults of the filmmakers. The structure of the car chase scene in Bullitt has pretty much been done to death since it release. The chase sequence, which starts with us being aware that the cab and then McQueen's car are being followed by a car with the two hit men in it. The beginning of the sequence is mild, as we see them driving after McQueen, but the turning point is when they have apparently lost him, and he reappears following their car. Then they go into the outskirts of San Francisco, and the roads from the city, with the added threats of other vehicles and of a twelve gage sawed - off shotgun one of the hit men uses. It's structure has been copied many times and the influence of the car chase scene is still present. Steve McQueen is understated, cool, and intense. This is mostly McQueen film for he takes up a considerably large amount of screen time. The other actors are worth mentioning for their good effort, but it's clear that this is a showcase for Steve McQueen. The soundtrack is jazzy and gritty adding intensity to the scenes when the story fails to do so. Bullitt car chase won't have the same effect on viewer as it did when it was release. What does hold up is a good slow moving story for solid entertainment.
    Caesar M Super Reviewer
  • Apr 10, 2013
    If you were a kid in the 80s, you can rest assured your dad or grandad was parked in front of the tv on a sunday afternoon. Because if it wasn't football or baseball season, then right after wrestling, the local channel would air either one of the many classic John Wayne movies or "Bullitt", starring Steve McQueen. It has that kind of reputation. But, and 'sssh, don't tell anybody' this has a lot more going for it than the average brain-dead Jason Statham movie. Granted, there isn't a whole lot to McQueen's character, but the movie that surrounds him is enthralling and clever. McQueen plays "Frank Bullitt", a San Francisco police lieutenant who is put in charge of protecting a mob informant. It's a job he doesn't particularly want, and he especially doesn't like the smell of the way things are set up. His suspicions are confirmed when the witness and the cop on duty are both shot up in the hide out location. Who did the shooting and how did they know where to find him? Bullitt has only 48 hours to solve the crime before Chalmers pins everything on him and makes him the fall guy. Steve McQueen personally hand-picked director Peter Yates after seeing another film Yates had done which featured an intense car chase. With Bullitt, the car chase is the centerpiece of the film. Set in the streets of San Francisco, it takes us through harrowing twists and turns and flying up and down hills. It's tense, fast and gritty. As intense as that car chase is, the rest of the film keeps up the pace, but the twists and turns come from following the plot. Bullitt isn't a complicated guy, but he knows that what he does and sees is disturbing to the average civilian.
    Devon B Super Reviewer

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