Aaron DiManna
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3 Unexpected Car Crashes In Cinema

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A cartoon image of a film projector.
Photo: mohamed hassan via CC

This should go without saying, but there’s nothing even remotely amusing about car crashes. According to Driver Knowledge, 6 million people experience crashes every year, and more than 90 people die every day in car-related incidents.

For all of the tragedy these figures represent, they can spur on creativity. Some filmmakers have taken that idea and used it to showcase how we’re rarely aware of an accident before it happens. The best place us, the viewer, in the metaphorical front-row passenger seat, and we never see the collision coming.

There are spoilers for “Whiplash,” “No Country for Old Men,” and “Joker” below. Also, since all three movies hold an R rating, the relevant videos are hyperlinked rather than embedded.


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“Whiplash”

If there’s ever been a film about suffering for your art, it’s Damien Chazelle’s 2014 Film “Whiplash.” Powered by captivating performances from Miles Teller and J.K. Simmons, “Whiplash” is a laser-cut gem of a movie, and it uses its cars well. During a sequence that takes place toward the end of the story, our protagonist Andrew Neiman (Teller), is forced to speed home to retrieve his drumsticks before his college jazz professor/director/dictator kicks him out for good. On the way, Neiman is blindsided by a semi-truck. As a viewer, you can barely see it coming, which puts you in line with the character you’re rooting for and effectively emulates the unpredictable nature of many car crashes.

No Country For Old Men”

On the opposite end of the spectrum, we have “No Country For Old Men.” This time, the driver who gets T-boned is the antagonist — Anton Chigurh. In the relevant scene, he’s casually trying to put distance between himself and yet another murder scene. Unfortunately — only for himself — he’s blasted by another sedan in the middle of an intersection. Luckily — only for him — two local kids stop by, and one is kind enough to give Chigurh his shirt to use as a sling since the crash resulted in a compound fracture. Unfortunately — for every character who isn’t played by Javier Bardem — he leaves the smoldering wreckage of his vehicle in the intersection and limps into the sunset.

“Joker”

Trying to find a comic book villain more iconic than the Joker is like trying to find a pen or an apple in a pile of pineapples. While loyalists may swear by the animated version voiced by Mark Hamill, the off-the-wall portrayal by Jack Nicholson, or the chaotic persona adopted by the late great Heath Ledger in “The Dark Knight,” it’s hard to deny that Oscar-winner Joaquin Phoenix’s interpretation is every bit as gripping it is troubling. After being taken into custody, Joker — previously known as Arthur Fleck — finds himself in the back of a police car. Following a thorough admonishment by the authorities, he takes a look out the window and sees streets filled with rioters wearing clown masks. He leans forward and says, ”Isn’t it beautiful?

Then, the vehicle is smashed by an ambulance. Its position then provides something akin to a ramp, which launches following drivers into a line of curbside cars, further incensing the angry clown-masked crowd. Joker is pulled out through the window and revived on the hood of the cop car he was recently confined in. Then, he dances while the city burns behind him.

If you take only one thing away from this article, I hope it’s the fact that car accidents never happen when you expect them to, so you should be fully aware and at the top of your game before you jump behind the wheel. But also watch at least a few movies on this list. That’s pretty important too.


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