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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:

8 June 1978 (Netherlands) See more »

Also Known As:

Driver See more »


Box Office


$4,000,000 (estimated)

Gross USA:

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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?


The studio wanted Charles Bronson for the lead as Walter Hill had previously worked with him on " Hard Times ". However, Bronson wasn't happy with how Hill had edited Jill Ireland's performance in " Hard Times ", and that was the end of that. See more »


During the first chase, the driver swings to the right, bumping the police car running next to him solidly broadside (judging by the sound effect), causing it so slide out and crash into a pile of sacks of cement. But in the next shots, we can see the police car's left side and the driver's car's right side clearly, and neither car shows any sign that they made contact. See more »


The Detective: Well, well, here's my new man. How do you like it here so far?
Red Plainclothesman: Just great.
The Detective: Let's get something straight right now. I don't like new men. They make mistakes.
Red Plainclothesman: Well, I haven't made any yet.
The Detective: Yeah, yeah. You're new. That's a mistake. And you talk too much... that's a mistake. That's the first thing you can learn. When you're talking, you're not thinking. Never talk... unless you have to.
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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 Franklin & Bash: Control (2013) See more »


One Fine Day
Written by Gerry Goffin and Carole King
Attributed to Linda Ronstadt (http://everything.explained.at/One_Fine_Day_(song)); original version by The Chiffons
Heard just prior to the first chase
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Frequently Asked Questions

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User Reviews

Empty Lives
17 January 2006 | by Teebs2See all my reviews

The Driver (1978)

Walter Hill's underrated film may have been forgotten completely had it not been for the success of the "Driver" series of Playstation games on which this film is a massive influence. Ryan O'Neal plays the Driver, a ronin-like character, willing to act as an unbeatable getaway driver for anyone as long as the price is right because, well...it's what he does. Bruce Dern is the Cop set on finally catching the elusive criminal, even if it means aiding and abetting criminal activity himself.

This most reminded me of Michael Mann's crime films from the 80s onwards such as "Thief" and "Heat" - Hill's film shares the same kind of existentialist themes about identity - men defined and ruled by their actions, to the extent that they have no room in their lives for anything else. It also shares Mann's style - creating an urban environment that's both chic, yet realistically gritty.

Ryan O'Neal may not have quite the cult status of Steve McQueen but his portrayal of the Driver as an empty, emotionless human being is strengthened through the characters sheer self-confidence and survival instinct. Bruce Dern gives the Cop a nice contrast to his lifeless target, bringing a kind of goofy, obsessive tenacity, as he sets up a bank job with some petty criminals in his attempt to be the first cop to catch the Driver. Isabelle Adjani is strikingly vacant, although her role in the proceedings is far from well defined.

It has to be said that the car chases are brilliant - from the opening getaway police chase to the Driver's calculated destruction of a very shiny Mercedes in an underground parking lot and the final cat and mouse game in a labyrinthine warehouse. The dramatic scenes do inevitably feel a bit sluggish sometimes and the constant hard-boiled dialogue does start to grate. Despite a seemingly sparse, clear-cut plot there are moments towards the climax which are confusing and frustrating.

The existential aspect of the plot is emphasised with a complete absence of character names, so maybe it is fitting that the film, and it's central character, only really comes alive during the car chase scenes - though this may be very relevant to the film's philosophy it does limit the sheer entertainment value as those looking for constant thrills, which the film does deliver, may find the wait between them in such a barren landscape a little tedious while armchair philosophers may find the existential "coolness" forced.

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