Box art for Bullitt


Steve McQueen's on target in the definitive police/action thriller, featuring one of the screen's great car chases through San Francisco streets. Starring STEVE MC QUEEN, SIMON OAKLAND, DON GORDON, ROBERT DUVALL, ROBERT VAUGHN

Rotten Tomatoes® scores

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common sense

ON for kids age 14
3 out of 5
0 out of 5
Drinking, drugs, & smoking
1 out of 5
2 out of 5
Positive messages
1 out of 5
Positive role models
1 out of 5
2 out of 5

Great chase scene still works in violent, classic cop tale.

what parents need to know

Parents need to know that this 1968 cop movie remains famous for its lengthy, white-knuckle chase scene through the streets of San Francisco. It's a no-nonsense, grown-up thriller with a focus on characters and details rather than action and suspense. Even though star Steve McQueen is still cool, and even though the car chase still works, some younger viewers may find the movie a bit dull. It does have some grisly shootings, with spurting blood and gory corpses. The main character and his girlfriend share some intimate scenes with no nudity, and there are a couple of choice swear words saved for the film's final sequence.

what families can talk about

  • Families can talk about the violence in the film. Why was the main character so nonchalant about looking at dead bodies?
  • The hero does some slightly shady things in order to solve his case and bring about justice. Is he a better person than the ambitious politician Chalmers? If so, why?
  • Is the famous chase scene still exciting? What makes it work? Is it realistic or cartoonish?

movie reviews from Rotten Tomatoes®

  • Tomatometer®

    reviews counted: 10
    see all Bullitt reviews
  • Audience


Top Critic Reviews


- Cole Smithey,, Thursday, June 24, 2010

Rotten: There isn't much here, and what there is is awfully easy.

- Dave Kehr, Chicago Reader, Thursday, March 1, 2007

Fresh: 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.

- Douglas Pratt, Hollywood Reporter, Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Audience Reviews

3 stars

much imitated making it hard to judge fairly i suppose. i had heard steve mcqueen had made one decent film and it's true lol. ultra jazzy lalo schifrin score kind of dates it for me

- rubystevens, Tuesday, August 3, 2010

5 stars

To see this movie for the car chase is a defilement to how good it is. This is one of the most unique and human cop movies to ever exist, it constantly pulls at your emotions and values. Not only does it look flawless and have a great story, it does so in a way that makes it more than just an action movie. Steve McQueen is a great cop who always gets the job done, but somehow it s never enough for anyone. He is selfless and does things that only benefit someone else, one of the last true hero cops in a city of corruption. Bullit not only lives up to its reputation, it exceeds it.

- ythelastman89, Friday, June 18, 2010

4 stars

"Look, you work your side of the street, and I'll work mine." Helmed by Peter Yates, 1968's Bullitt is the film which positioned Steve McQueen at the forefront of American movie stars. Bullitt was truly a turning point for McQueen - he had previous starred in several films (The Magnificent Seven and The Great Escape stand out the most from this period), but this was the role that propelled him to genuine stardom. With his sex appeal, desire for accurate detail in his movies, and plain old cool, McQueen was a perfect fit for the iconic Frank Bullitt. With that said, it's critical to note that Bullitt is nothing like the slam-bang, action-oriented crime pictures so prevalent in the 21st Century. The film's celebrated car chase is certainly exhilarating, but it lacks the over-the-top excitement of modern action sequences. There are no spectacular shootouts in Bullitt either, and, while the climactic ending brings about a few tense moments, this is not an especially exciting film. It is cool, though, and that's why Bullitt has become a deserved classic. In the story, Frank Bullitt is assigned the task of protecting a witness who's set to testify against the Mob in a few days. He decides to place the witness in a seedy hotel for the night; a location he feels is both secure and well hidden. But in spite of his best precautions, both the witness and Frank's colleague are gunned down by professional hit-men. With the victims near death, Bullitt sets out to track down the thugs responsible; quickly becoming ensnared in an elaborate conspiracy and finding himself in the sights of a vast criminal network. Frank Bullitt is not your standard action movie protagonist. He is not cut from the same cloth as Dirty Harry or John McClane. He's instead soft-spoken and maintains restraint. More importantly, Frank is a loner who is not understood by anybody. His beautiful girlfriend wants to understand and love him, but Frank appears further detached from reality with each case he solves and every ounce of blood he pays witness to (consider a scene in which a corpse is found: Frank himself is calm and casual, but his girlfriend is horrified). While his superiors look upon Frank as a man to count on who'll complete the job, they are unable to understand his methods. He's perceived by those around him as someone who's more machine than man, and who exudes little humanity...just coolness. Contrary to popular belief, Bullitt did not invent the car chase. Car chases have appeared in movies since the silent film era. That said, however, Bullitt did reinvent the car chase. Exceptionally choreographed, skilfully shot and blazingly fast, the chase sequence in this film is truly magnificent, and set the precedent for action movies to follow. Even despite all the sophisticated filmmaking technology available since 1968, it's almost impossible to beat the mesmerising chase in Bullitt. The entire sequence was done for real, too, with no over-cranked footage (the norm for chases at the time) and with McQueen doing virtually all of his own driving. Best of all, there's no music blasting throughout the sequence; just screeching rubber, the thud of tires against asphalt, and the roar of the spectacular engines. Rather than focusing on action, the runtime of Bullitt is spent examining politics and procedures in police-work required to solve a crime. Realism was paramount in the creation of this movie, and director Peter Yates has pulled off an outstanding job. The atmosphere is heightened by the fact that the whole movie was filmed on location rather than in a studio - hospital scenes were filmed in a hospital, morgue scenes were shot in a morgue, the run-down hotel room was an actual run-down hotel room, and so on. This approach tested the film technology of the era since lighting was difficult in such cramped conditions, but the filmmakers' dedicated exertions afforded a gritty, dark, almost documentary feel. It's also crucial to reiterate that the car chase was staged at actual speeds, and was actually filmed on the streets of San Francisco (roads had to be shut down by the filmmakers). On top of this, actual professionals were employed as extras instead of mere background actors - real doctors and nurses were shown in the background during hospital scenes, for instance, as opposed to a parade of Hollywood hopefuls with a headshot and a smile. Similarly, the brilliantly economical script solidifies the atmosphere of realism. Characters carry out their tasks without contrived explanatory dialogue, and it gives a viewer the sense that they're watching actual events. Clearly, the filmmakers understand the time-honoured adage that a picture says a thousand words, because the body language and movement during periods of silence often convey more than what is spoken. Yet, beyond McQueen's definitive anti-hero and the exhilarating car chase, everything else is somewhat humdrum - Bullitt constantly feels as if it's half-asleep. The plot is perhaps too convoluted and a second viewing is required to get the details straight. Furthermore, while the character of Bullitt is reasonably complex, the characters surrounding him are clichd. Most of all, the narrative may be a tad too reserved to satisfy every taste. The lack of directorial flourish instils an unfortunate sense of datedness as well. Inevitable flaws aside, Bullitt is a classic cinematic artefact highly deserving of all the accolades and acclaim which has been bestowed upon it. With its meticulous attention to detail and a terrific examination of the happenings behind the scenes of a police investigation, this is a crime-drama that entertains with intelligence. If you don't watch this movie closely, you'll miss vital details, and that's what makes it more than just another cop movie with a car chase.

- PvtCaboose91, Sunday, January 10, 2010