In the movies gas stations offer much more than just a place to use the bathroom and top your tank. There have been all sorts of cool and funny movie scenes involving gas stations. So this is one of those weird Phenomenal 5 lists that looks at great movie gas station scenes. Now there were several scenes I really love that were left out just for the sake of variety. That being said, I wouldn’t call this the definitive list. But there’s no denying that these five movie gas station scenes are absolutely phenomenal.
#5 – “IT’S A MAD, MAD, MAD, MAD WORLD”
This wacky 1963 comedy is known for possibly having the biggest ensemble cast of great actors in movie history. It also has one of the greatest gas station scenes you’ll find. In this wild race to get to a load of stolen money first, a furniture mover named Lennie (Jonathan Winters) gets double-crossed by the greedy Otto (Phil Silvers). Lennie finally runs Otto down at gas station and chases him all over the property causing all sorts of damage. Otto escapes and the attendants tie Lennie up while waiting for the men in white coats to come get him. Lennie gets loose and ends up leveling (quite literally) the entire station. It’s a hilarious scene.
#4 – “ROBOCOP”
There’s a great and pivotal gas station scene in the 1987 sci-fi action romp “Robocop”. Emil, a member of the brutal gang that killed Alex Murphy which in turn caused him to become Robocop, stops at an all-night gas station. He robs the place and fills up with gas while terrorizing the attendant. Robocop notices a crime in progress and pulls up. After triggering Robocop’s memory, Emil sprays gas everywhere, throws down his cigarette, and tears off on his motorcycle. The gas station explodes with Robocop walking out of the flames. He thwarts Emil’s getaway but this scene is mostly important for putting Murphy on track to remembering who he was.
#3 – “KALIFORNIA”
There are actually two great gas station scenes in the 1993 gritty thriller “Kalifornia”. Pre-mega star Brad Pitt gives what I believe is his best performance as Early Grayce, a psycho who, along with his wife, hitches a cross-country ride to California with David Duchovny and Michelle Forbes. In the first unnerving scene, they stop for gas and a man with a wad of cash catches Early’s eye. Early follows him into the restroom, stabs him to death, and takes his money. But in an even more frightening scene, later they arrive at a different gas station as a huge electrical storm brews. It’s in this key scene that the rest of the group discovers the brutally unbalanced man that Early really is. Both scenes are intense and disturbing but also incredibly well done.
#2 – “THE BIRDS”
Alfred Hitchcock’s classic killer birds movie has several great moments but few are better than the gas station scene. As an attendant gasses up a customer’s car, two birds attack him knocking him down. As people rush to check on him, no one notices the nozzle continuing to spew gasoline. The flow of gas crosses the street into a parking area where a man steps out of his car and lights a cigar. Before he can be warned the match burns his finger then falls into the gas. BOOM! The man and several cars are gone and the flame blazes up the gas stream and the gas pumps explode. Hitchcock ends the scene with an amazing overhead shot of the horrible event. Classic!
#1 – “NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN”
Hands down my favorite gas station movie scene has to be from Joel and Ethan Coen’s fabulous “No Country for Old Men”. Hired killer Anton Chigurh (Javier Bardem) stops by a small isolated gas station to fill his tank and grab a package of peanuts. The elderly attendant makes the mistake of making small talk with Chirgurh which leads to one of most tense yet hilarious conversations I’ve ever scene. It ends with a coin toss with the attendant’s life on the line. I swear, I can watch this scene over and over and never get tired of it.
So there they are. What have we learned from this week’s Phenomenal 5? For one thing, it doesn’t pay to be a gas station attendant in the movies. So many good ones could have been mentioned. So what’s your favorite?