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The Driver (1978)

A getaway driver becomes the latest assignment for a tenacious detective.


Walter Hill


Walter Hill

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Cast overview, first billed only:
Ryan O'Neal ... The Driver
Bruce Dern ... The Detective
Isabelle Adjani ... The Player
Ronee Blakley ... The Connection
Matt Clark ... Red Plainclothesman
Felice Orlandi ... Gold Plainclothesman
Joseph Walsh ... Glasses
Rudy Ramos ... Teeth
Denny Macko Denny Macko ... Exchange Man
Frank Bruno ... The Kid
Will Walker Will Walker ... Fingers
Sandy Brown Wyeth Sandy Brown Wyeth ... Split
Tara King Tara King ... Frizzy
Richard Carey Richard Carey ... Floorman
Fidel Corona Fidel Corona ... Card Player


"The Driver" is a specialist in a rare business: he drives getaway cars in robberies. His exceptional talent prevented him from being caught yet. After another successful flight from the police, a self-assured detective makes it his primary goal to catch the Driver. He promises remission of punishment to a gang if they help to convict him in a set-up robbery. The Driver seeks help from "The Player" (Isabelle) to mislead the detective. Written by Tom Zoerner <Tom.Zoerner@informatik.uni-erlangen.de>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


A Game ... A Challenge ... A Chase to the Death! See more »


Action | Crime | Thriller


R | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

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Release Date:

5 October 1978 (UK) See more »

Also Known As:

Driver See more »


Box Office


$4,000,000 (estimated)

Gross USA:

See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs


| (director's cut)

Sound Mix:




Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See full technical specs »

Did You Know?


Sylvester Stallone was in talks for this film. He turned it down, as he was busy with F.I.S.T. (1978). See more »


When the cops are chasing the Driver through the parking garage, the siren sound effect disappears for a few seconds then abruptly cuts back in. See more »


The Driver: You know I don't like guns.
See more »

Alternate Versions

At Los Angeles's American Cinemateque, a 131 minute version of "The Driver" was shown. While it does add insights to some characters in the story, this longer version features many more car chases. See more »


Referenced in Cinemassacre's Top 10 Car Chases (2008) See more »


It's Such a Pretty World Today
Written by Dale Noe
Performed by Wynn Stewart
Heard in the Driver's first visit to his connection
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

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User Reviews

"Get in"
3 November 2009 | by Ali_John_CatterallSee all my reviews

Less is more: a superb existential thriller to rival Point Blank and car chases to equal The French Connection, along with a couple of outstanding performances from the leads.

Here, the underworld's most talented getaway driver (O'Neal) is obsessively pursued by a corrupt, power-mad cop (Dern), who'll stop at nothing to catch him - even if it means blackmailing a seedy gang of bank robbers to help lure him into a trap. Aiding The Driver (these are characters who don't need names) is the beautiful and enigmatic Player (Adjani), who helps double-cross The Detective.

Walter Hill once mused that all his movies, like those of fellow director John Carpenter, were really westerns in disguise; hence the cowboy hats, Winchester rifles and, er, cowboys in the case of The Long Riders - which crop up repeatedly in his pictures. (Although where that leaves Brewster's Millions is anybody's guess.) The Driver, originally devised as a vehicle for Steve McQueen, is no exception: if O'Neal's country music-loving driver is referred to as 'The Cowboy', Dern, who once received death threats for killing John Wayne on screen, plays his twitching, preening nemesis like every crooked sheriff from Rio Lobo to Unforgiven.

Everybody is A Man (or Woman) With No Name - archetypes defined by their roles ('The Player', 'The Connection'), existing purely to drive the plot forward. O'Neal plays the eponymous anti-hero as half-man, half-automobile, speaking only when absolutely necessary - "Get in", "Go home" - expending just the right amount of energy to get the job done, as evinced by three of the most incredible car chases in cinema. (Hill's previous work as assistant director on Bullitt obviously stood him in good stead here).

As with Jim Jarmusch's Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai, or Jean-Pierre Melville's Le Samourai, which The Driver most resembles, nothing is wasted. "How do we know you're that good?" asks a doubtful crime baron, on procuring The Driver's services. O'Neal's unspoken reply providing rare light relief, as with casual insouciance and surgical precision, he reduces the dismayed owner's Mercedes to jigsaw pieces against an underground car park's concrete pillars to display his credentials.

Like a manic mechanic, Hill similarly strips the story - part-action thriller, part-existential noir - back to its essence, siphoning off dialogue, back story, character development and love interest, until only the Zen flesh and bones remain.

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