Gone in 60 Seconds is a good example of what it is to make a good car movie without having much of a plot. Though the original movie is aged and not as professional as some of the others—like Bullitt—the 1974 movie was directed, produced, written, funded, and starred in by H.B. “Toby” Halicki, who before then had owned a junkyard in California. The movie was a passion project and came out to be a cult classic in a sea of box office success.
The story centers around a man named Maindrian Pace who is hired to find 48 cars. Maindrian is an insurance investigator who also boosts cars on the side. Maindrian and his team complete most of the list but are left with only one car to get their hands on, a 1973 Ford Mustang Sportsroof named Eleanor, a car that stars in the historical 40-minute chase all through LA and its suburbs.
H.B. had released a few more movies before his untimely passing on the set of his sequel, Gone in 60 Seconds 2, in 1989. A decade after the incident, Jerry Bruckheimer produced a remake of Gone in 60 Seconds, which starred Nicolas Cage supported by a star-studded cast. This one tells the story of a long-retired carjacker named Memphis Raines, who has to gather his old team together to save his brother from an evil mobster who has hired him to steal 50 cars. It's not long before the police discover what he is up to and Memphis takes them on a long chase through the city streets in a 1967 Shelby Mustang GT500 named Eleanor.
There are things about the new film that are both better and worse than the old one. Each movie has its fans but some details stand out to differentiate the two.
20 Worse: Believability
With regards to the new Gone in 60 Seconds, we can't say it's very believable when compared to the older movie. Though the older movie does have some of that famous Hollywood magic displayed throughout (not excluding the miraculous escape in the end), the newer one is all very over the top. Sure, someone could be coaxed to save their brother but would he have really been conveniently on time to save him in the first place? Something tells us that reality would've been harsher than the fantasy of the movies. I'll shed some more light on this topic more through the list as the reasons get explained further.
19 Better: Eleanor Redesign
The image of Eleanor has obviously changed from one movie to the other and I have my own opinions of what they should've done for the newer movie. However, no one can deny that the custom Shelby Mustang fits in a lot better with some of the supercars featured in the new film, like the Jaguar XJ220 and Mercedes-Benz 300SL. The 1973 Mustang would have stood out as sort of a boring car when compared to the amazing machinery it shared screen time with and for that, the newer Eleanor is the better car. It was a movie star in the fullest, though I mean no disrespect to the original Eleanor, of course.
18 Worse: Relatability
This is not to say anyone can relate to being a professional carjacker but to some of the various situation throughout the films, the original movie featured a plot point that we all can relate to no matter what. That is that Maindrian Pace was ultimately set up by a person he thought he could trust. Rather than trying to confront and defeat a dangerous man to save his brother, we simply see someone trying to complete a job the right way despite others trying to stop him, and we can commend that kind of mindset even if it's doing something totally against the law.
17 Better: The List
This is not to say the old list has any issues (with a Manta Mirage and an offroad racing Ford Bronco) but it was just restricted to whatever Halicki could get his hands on at the time. He pulled all sorts of favors for the movie and got some pretty sweet cars featured in his film, but the list overall had an overabundance of Cadillacs and Rolls-Royces making it kind of copy-paste (there are 6 Cadillac Limousines in the list). The new list includes a broader range across automakers with a lot more exclusive eye-candy for us motorheads to ooze over. Though money and the production may have had sway in getting those cars for the movie, they add to the kind of taste a person would have to hire someone to find them.
16 Worse: Inspirational
The newer iterations was very professional, with hundreds of people working on it, where the original is the vision of one man who raised his own money to produce it. I'm not talking about the inspiration to become the character but to become a movie maker. Sure, the AAA title could inspire someone to try to break into acting, anything is possible. It's the story of how Halicki made his dream come true and then continued that dream through three more movies. Though making movies is a lot harder than it used to be, these independent filmmakers seem to be the only original content coming out today.
15 Better: Main Character Development
In any good movie, there must be some sort of character development. The newer movie displays more of this, with a sort of trust growing between Memphis and Kip. The original movie was more about overcoming conflict and trying to complete what would seem impossible and there is no sort of development among the characters. Maindrian still boosts cars at the end of the original and he's back at it in the sequel, whereas Memphis seems to be happy to make it out alive. He is also happy to not go back to the life that got them all in this trouble.
14 Worse: Lead Actor
Though the characters develop better, nobody can get by Nicolas Cage's acting throughout this movie. In some parts he is great, other scenes he is a little off. Though Nicolas is known for his "hit or miss" roles, Halicki was no perfect actor. However, who better to act the starring role of their own movie than the original creator himself? Though the character was a little stale, it was miles better than some of the strange reactive moments we got from Nicolas. Though both of them do share one thing in common: they're both kids in a candy store during the making of the movies.
13 Better: Overall Plot
I'll be frank here, the plot of the original 1974 movie was so broken and pieced together that it was hard to follow, which makes the 2000s-made film stand out as the better movie in the terms of overall plot and the ability to understand it. All respect to Halicki's dream but the original Gone in 60 Seconds is kind of drab for the majority of the run time before the crazy chase that makes up much of the screen time. The new one has more excitement and has more going on, in the way of a side story with some of the other characters' lives impeding on the main story. There's also the connections between characters, as well.
12 Worse: Realistic Jobs
The actual jobs throughout the movies are some of the most interesting scenes, second only to the final chase. Between the movies, however, the classic 1974 movie represented more realistic boosting of cars. Instead of using weird mechanical tricks like Memphis did with the classic Thunderbird, Maindrian tricked a dealer to give him a ride in the Manta and then took off without him when the dealer got out to switch seats. The ploys in Halicki's are more clever and some of them make me chuckle a bit seeing how they play out as opposed to the chuckles I get out of Bruckheimer's while seeing the unlikely tricks they pull. Some of them are hard to figure out how they would work in the real world.
11 Better: Plot Flow
The plot is more clear in the newer version than in the old one. Case in point, in the original movie, they had to destroy a Cadillac because it has a certain something hidden throughout the car. But it doesn't show nor does it tell how they were going to replace a car that was on the list. We can assume they just did so without any fault because of the following scene shortly afterward, when Maindrian claims that Eleanor is the last car on the list. This isn't to say the newer movie doesn't have its inconsistencies (they stole the same Jaguar twice and nothing was wrong with it the first time), it's just that these are easier to look over than a plot hole you could fit the Cadillac inside of.
10 Worse: Realistic Escape
I'll be talking about the endings here—spoiler alert. The end of the 2000 film saw Memphis save Castleback and defeat the evil Calitri, ultimately saving his brother and getting Castleback's thanks. The end of the 1974 movie saw Maindrian come across another Mustang (that also happened to be yellow) and tricked the owner away from her car so he could boost it and get away clean. Both of them are highly unlikely but I think you'd have better luck finding another Mustang than getting away with nabbing 50 cars, one of which is an expensive custom that has since been destroyed. Castleback may be a good cop but to lose Memphis would surely cost him his job.
9 Better: Entertainment (Without The Cars)
Where Maindrian was having problems finding cars with insurance and trying to lose the cops after being double-crossed, Memphis deals with trying to get his old crew together to help save the little faith his family has in him and also tries to keep the cops off of their backs. Both plots are just about equally dramatic if it wasn't for Maindrian's crew being so well-behaved. Not to say that being mild-mannered isn't a good thing, it shows how professional they are to not cause trouble for Maindrian. Sadly, it doesn't help drive the movie and that's where the newer movie kind of stands out. Though it's not as realistic, it's entertaining.
8 Worse: The Chase
This is it, the big one. Besides some good stunt work, the new Gone in 60 Seconds is only a fraction of what the old one was. Though to be fair, times have long changed since the 1974 movie was made. What you see is what it was: places were blocked off for shooting but the pedestrians on the sidewalk were real and unscripted, the big accident was a complete mistake, and the cop car pile-up was just for fun. Sure, the final chase may take up a good portion of the movie and take the trophy for the most crashed cars in one movie, but it also solidified itself into car movie culture as being a must-see. And that's something the 2000 movie is having trouble doing to this day.
7 Better: Continuity
To say that Halicki's movie is flawless is, in itself, a flawed statement. Though we would love to see what Halicki really had in mind for his first movie, it struggles with continuity errors all over the plot. That's not to say Bruckheimer's is much better, with plenty of continuity errors as well. To pit them against each other comes down to the overall organization and the new movie had a whole crew to handle how the movie is edited, rather than Halicki tossing the film to an editor who had to go through it all and try to fill in the blanks, which must have been quite a nightmare.
6 Worse: Relevance To The Era Which
When Bruckheimer's Gone in 60 Seconds was released, we were seeing a little upsurge in car movies. Vanishing Point was just remade for TV and let's not forget that The Fast and The Furious was in the making. Comparing this to what was being made during Halicki's time is up for no debate: American Graffiti had just come out and Cannonball was set to release the following year. I could go on and on about the car movies that came out that decade—and some may have stood the test of time better than Gone in 60 Seconds—but the movie still stands today as an example of the era it was made in.
5 Better: Casting Choice
Apart from Nicolas Cage's sometimes odd acting style, the rest of the cast was just about perfect, bar none. Angelina Jolie, Christopher Eccleston, Robert Duvall, Vinnie Jones, and Frances Fisher making a small appearance as Otto's wife, Junie; these are only some of the bigger stars among the cast of other fairly successful actors. To compare this laundry list of talent to what the 1974 movie had is not really fair considering the kind of connections and resources Bruckheimer has compared to what Halicki. Since the old movie was a labor of love, much of the supporting cast was made up of friends and loved ones who did their bit for a friend's ambitious project.
4 Worse: The Big Jump
To narrow down things further, the big jump that takes place during the big chase is something of a marvel. The new movie loses a lot of respect for how the jump is performed in comparison to the old jump scene in the beat-up 1973 Mustang. The original jump was 128 feet long and 30 feet high, completed by Halicki himself, who suffered life-changing injuries doing it. In the 2000 film, Nicolas Cage's character has to clear a car wreck on a bridge, rocketing up a big ramp of a flatbed truck. There aren't any definitive numbers for that jump and it is very obviously staged, with a couple of inconsistencies between shots that give the stunt away.
3 Better: Overall Setup
We've gone over how Bruckheimer's Gone in 60 Seconds is more organized than Halicki's. The same applies to the overall setup of the movie's final scene, which was done way better and more thoughtfully than Halicki's. The story of an insurance salesman who boosts cars by night is interesting and ironic by itself but the story of a retired criminal called back to save his brother and gain the respect of his family and friends serves to make a better story and a better reason why someone would go through all the trouble to deliver that ridiculous amount of cars in such a limited time.
2 Worse: The Cadillac Scene
I have to point this out because it bugs me how irrelevant they made this scene in the Bruckheimer movie. Toby (played by William Lee Scott) stole a random Cadillac that wasn't on the list. This scene is not completely lost, leading Detective Castleback to learn that Memphis is planning on taking those cars in one night after seeing a list of police call signs. The Cadillac scene is more relevant in the original movie, though, without a doubt, as the car did indeed belong on the list and wasn't just picked at random (though it's because of the car's secret cargo that they have to get rid of it before someone else discovers what was found).
1 Better: Supporting Characters
I've gone through the list of some of the heavy hitters featured in Bruckheimer's movie and that Halicki's movie suffers from the lack of anyone notable. The problem is that the supporting cast for Halicki's movie doesn't do a whole lot of support but rather responds to Halicki's every movement throughout the film until the final chase. Of course, the newer movie tries to give every character their own personality, no matter how dull or strange it may be. Sway and Otto seem to stick out more than most, as Memphis' love interest and father figure. These two characters care about Memphis deeply and see him through till the end, when the rusty Eleanor is revealed to Memphis as a gift from his new family.
Sources: IMDb, Gone In 60 Seconds, and Motor Authority.