Five Of The Best Steve McQueen Movies - ManlyMovie

Five Of The Best Steve McQueen Movies

Tough upbringing? Steve McQueen knew all about that.  Absent father and a heavy drinking mother who married a string of abusive men.  Running with gangs in LA at fourteen.  Two years in a reform school, from which he tried to escape, and then into the marines at seventeen.  He went from that to become the highest paid star in the world. So, here’s a chronological look at the pick of his movies.

The Great Escape – 1963

There’s a whole bunch of established stars in this film but it’s McQueen’s character, Virgil ‘The Cooler King’ Hilts, that everyone remembers.  He may not be the greatest actor there’s ever been but whatever star quality is, he’s got it.  He’s super-cool, even when he’s doing something as simple as chucking a baseball against a wall.  OK, so although he was famous for doing his own stunts, he didn’t actually do the bike jump over a twelve-foot barbed wire fence, but you never for a moment doubt that he could.  And when he does escape, there’s nowhere to go, he’s in no-man’s land, ain’t it always the way.

The Cincinnati Kid – 1965

This time it’s a co-starring role and McQueen is up against Lancey ‘The Man’ Howard and the mighty screen presence of Edward G Robinson: once again he’s effortlessly cool. He doesn’t need dialogue, it’s all there in the eyes and the body language.  Rated as one of the best gambling films of all time, that final poker hand is still being debated.

The Thomas Crown Affair – 1968

Clooney might well have taken notes for his character in Ocean’s Eleven from McQueen’s character in this movie.  He’s a charming crook who sets up heists for fun.  It’s a stylish cult movie, well split screen was stylish when it was made; which is really all about the sexual chemistry between Dunaway and McQueen. He was a man with a strong libido, without it he wouldn’t have been around to make his next movie.  He was on his way to Sharon Tate’s party, the one where the Manson Family showed up, but he met a girl on the way and decided on a little infidelity instead.

The Getaway – 1972

Now here we’re talking real sexual chemistry; McQueen married his co-star Ali MacGraw straight after and made sure that she never made another film.  The film is based on a weird novel by cult writer Jim Thompson and it’s kind of long and rambling but it’s McQueen’s authenticity that holds it together.  Just watch the way he handles a gun, he knows what he’s doing.

Papillon – 1973

This is a story of human endurance based on the autobiographical account by Henri Charriere, who was imprisoned in the French penal colony on Devil’s Island.  Again, it’s one of those roles with limited dialogue that McQueen does so well.  His character escapes, gets captured, does solitary in total darkness, eats insects to survive, escapes, gets betrayed by a nun, does five more years in solitary, gets transferred to Devil’s Island…It’s not a glamorous role but McQueen is as riveting as ever.


  1. Fred C Dobbs

    April 11, 2017 at 12:12 pm

    Towering Inferno, Bullitt and Hell is for Heroes ain’t bad either!!

  2. ColonelBobi

    April 11, 2017 at 12:39 pm

    You forgot Bullitt! I would swap that out for Thomas Crown Affair and there’s his top 5. McQueen was a manly legend if ever there was one. The coolest of them all.

  3. New_Rodro

    April 11, 2017 at 1:23 pm

  4. Just Some Polack

    April 11, 2017 at 2:23 pm

    Good list. And a lack of “Bullitt” doesn’t surprise me. The chase scene is still awesome, but the movie overall got really old and now is… slightly better than “meh” IMO. Not to mention McQueen looked kinda… disinterested there.

    • jim

      April 11, 2017 at 5:35 pm

      Don’t like Bullitt? Off to the manly naughty step with you..!!..Bullit is full of cool well as a very nasty Robert Vaughan..I love it…Cool music too. 1:58.

      • Just Some Polack

        April 11, 2017 at 7:53 pm

        Mea culpa! As an atonement I promise to watch 20 Bronson movies in a row… some time in the future. But with Bullitt… I have a difficult back story. At first viewing I adored it, just like you. Couple of years ago I rewatched and – aside from the chase scene – it just kind of bored me. Then a year ago, I gave it another chance and… I appreciated it more again, but it just seemed OK, nothing special. Probably it’s the Yates’ direction, for me it just seemed so… bland and lacked the intensity of Siegel, Peckinpah, Aldrich, Sturges, Schaffner and other manly directors of that era. I don’t know, maybe if I get to know Yates’ filmography better, I’ll be able to appreciate him.

  5. jim

    April 11, 2017 at 3:54 pm

    That shotgun scene in Getaway is priceless..You skipped the very dry bit where he takes the gun without paying for it…Together with Bullitt, it represents an unmatchable peak in manly cool..No question about it..They were better men. This is the age of the beta cuck…….I always thought Le Mans was a cool movie…and Tom Horn has a lovely elegaic quality as befits a man getting near the end ..Here is some groovy jazz funk by Michel Legrand from the soundtrack of Le Mans.

  6. Vincent Everett

    April 11, 2017 at 6:46 pm

    Nevada Smith