The recent release of Baby Driver has audiences, critics, and the internet buzzing. It’s one of those rare movies that’s both something we’ve seen a million times before and simultaneously nothing we’ve ever seen before-a romantic chase movie psuedo-musical. The overwhelmingly positive response to the film indicates that Ansel Elgort, as the titular Baby Driver, will be joining the pantheon of famous cinematic wheelmen. Since the movie is still in theaters and its overall impact on pop culture and the future of the genre is yet unknown, it’s tough to say where Baby ranks as an all time great movie driver.
The movie got me thinking about some of the other well-known movie drivers and how they stack up against one another. So we’re going to rank four different drivers on a star-rating system, as if we were using Lyft or Yelp. The drivers are being rated on their appearance (when getting into a strange car, strong first impressions are crucial), the quality of their vehicle (cars are super important for driving), the degree of difficulty involved in successfully earning their fare (this is a contest), and whether or not they completed their assignment (professional driving is results oriented). It’s simple. They either get a star, or they don’t. Wait, sometimes they’ll get half a star. You’ll figure it out.
There are two ground rules for choosing our drivers. First, they have to be full-time drivers. If they were filling out a mortgage application or a speed dating sign-in sheet, they’d write “Driver” or “Chauffeur” or “Transporter” under occupation. This eliminates people like Vin Diesel’s Dom Turreto from the Fast and Furious Franchise, who was a full-time mechanic and at one point, a part-time owner of Toretto’s Market. This also disqualifies people like Steve McQueen’s Bullitt, who was a fantastically talented driver but paid the bills on a detective’s salary. Secondly, we’re avoiding any sport drivers. No Talladega Nights or Days of Thunder. Why? I don’t like NASCAR and I made the rules.
The Driver: Lloyd Christmas (Jim Carrey)-Dumb and Dumber
The Ride: Drive Mary Swanson to the airport. That’s it.
Outfit/Appearance: (no star) Lloyd Christmas looks like a small child dressed in a bargain bin, generic Airline Pilot Halloween costume. His hat appears like it’s made out of felt and a highly flammable plastic. His suit is two sizes too big in the chest and three sizes too small in the sleeves. His hair looks like it was cut by accident, either by a drunken friend or a sober power sander. He looks aggressive, abrasive, slimy. The chip on his front tooth indicates that he’s accident prone, arguably the worst trait to have as a professional driver. I’d say the top five worst traits for a driver go as follows:
Lloyd Christmas checks at least three of these boxes. Not good.
Vehicle: (half star) Christmas drives a limousine, probably the most luxurious land-based form of travel outside of maybe a horse-drawn carriage or a magical pumpkin. That’s great. However, this particular limo is in desperate need of an exterior wash, a few years past its prime and a little bit on the smaller side of the stretch sedan spectrum. This limousine is the equivalent of a carriage being pulled by a tired, old donkey. Half-star.
Difficulty of Assignment: (no star)Christmas is tasked with driving his customer, Mary Swanson, to the airport. An airport run is the most basic of limo-driver assignments. Day one stuff, really. Awarding a driver any kind of credit for difficulty for an airport trip is like rewarding an electrician for screwing in a light bulb.
Completion of Assignment: (one star)Despite a sequence of criminally negligent behavior behind the wheel, including multiple moving violations and potentially vehicular homicide, Lloyd Christmas successfully delivered Mary Swanson to the airport in time for her to board her flight.
Customer Testimonial: “This ride was a near-disaster from start to finish.From the moment Mr. Christmas arrived he just seemed…off. I can’t quite think of the word to describe him. Dense. Idiotic. Slow. Vapid. He thought Aspen was a city in California (!) He went on and on about his plan to sell worm farms (!!) Worse still, he refused to keep his eyes on the road. At one point he blatantly ran a red light at a busy intersection and caused a massive, probably fatal accident-a large oil tanker literally exploded right behind us. It’s a miracle we survived. If it wasn’t for some…family issues I was dealing with I would have run right out of the car screaming. The odds of me choosing Lloyd again are about one and a million. No chance! Please share with any friends and family who are thinking of using this service!”—Mary Swanson
Final Rating: (1.5 out of 4 stars)
Lloyd Christmas was a very, very bad driver.
The Driver: Driver (Ryan Gosling), Drive
The Ride: Take a recently paroled criminal and his accomplice to a pawn shop so he can commit an armed robbery.
Outfit/Appearance: (one star) Driver (a fantastic, fitting name for a driver, a name that joins The Lion King’s Scar and New York’s Anthony Weinerin the pantheon of strangely prophetic monikers) wears a gold and ivory Members-Only jacket emblazoned with a giant scorpion on the back. It’s a jacket that doubles as a metaphor for his killer instinct and poisonous nature. It’s a fashion-statement and a statement-statement. He wears driving gloves, a subtle but illustrative touch to show that he takes his job seriously. He also looks like Ryan Gosling, which I imagine makes his passengers feel alert and uncomfortable in an exciting way, like a first slow dance or a student on his first day at college.
Vehicle: (one star) A 2012 GT Ford Mustang. I don’t know much about being a getaway driver for the middle-class of the criminal underworld, but this seems as good a car as any for that kind of work. It’s stylish, which makes people feel cool and confident, feelings I imagine are important to be feeling before committing a dangerous crime. It looks fast, which is reassuring to the clientele, and it is fast, which is reassuring to the driver, Driver.
Difficulty of Assignment: (one star) Not an ideal fare, even for a professional-criminal. What he’s been tasked with here is driving his pseudo-girlfriend’s former-convict-current-husband, a man named Standard, to a pawn shop, so Standard can rob the store and pay off a debt incurred in prison. Driving Standard is difficult, even for an experienced Driver. Standard, by nature, is unreliable, prone to stalling out and rolling dangerously backwards, on the road and in life. Drive loves metaphors. Further adding to the difficulty of the trip is the addition of an accomplice named Blanche, who sits in the back and whose apparent role in the crime is to get in the way of things. Driver should not have taken this assignment. He’s too emotionally invested-though if he has one accessory with more gold trim than his jacket, it’s his heart.
Completion of Assignment: (no star) In a perfect universe, Standard and Blanche would have robbed the pawnshop, paid off Standard’s debt, and Standard would then realize that his never-ending forays into brazen criminal acts were bad for his family, leaving his wife and child and Driver to live happily ever after. In this universe, Standard is shot in the ear and then the chest by the pawn shop owner, his criminal creditors give chase to Driver and Blanche, and Blanche’s head is later blown into hundreds of pieces by a shotgun. There’s an old saying in high school yearbooks that goes, “It’s not about the destination, it’s about the journey”, and while I’d like to give a little credit to Driver’s impressive getaway acumen, it’s a little hard to ignore the number of people who were shot in the head by the end of the trip.
Customer Testimonial: “This trip really took a turn for the worst! What was supposed to be routine pawn-shop robbery turned sour quick. First, my partner was shot and killed in broad daylight. Then we were being chased by what I believe to be anonymous henchman for several miles. The Driver was impressive in removing us from danger but this has not gone smoothly. I did NOT expect this when I woke up this morning. Would only recommend Driver as a last resort. Right now I am literally typing this as we are holed up in some dingy motel room. I feel like my head is going to EXPLODE if this goes on for any longer.”–Blanche
Final Rating: (3 out of 4 stars)
Driver was a really good driver, though not without flaws. Room for improvement.
The Driver: Hoke Colburn (Morgan Freeman), Driving Miss Daisy
The Ride: Take Miss Daisy on a road to self-discovery, teaching her about prejudice, racism, and maybe, just maybe, teaching her a little bit about herself. (I’m cheating here.)
Outfit/Appearance: (one star) This is the look that Lloyd Christmas was after. Hoke Colburn is sort of our bizarro-world Lloyd Christmas. Colburn is sophisticated and street-smart. His teeth are straight and his eyes are forward. Where Lloyd Christmas was a driver, Colburn was a chauffeur. The chasm between driver and chauffeur is as wide as the gap between a packet of French’s mustard and a jar of Grey Poupon. This is the type of look– the type of visual attitude– that makes passengers feel comfortable. A driving cap that looks like the real deal. A suit, well-fitting and adorned with a bow-tie. It’s classy and elegant. Distinguished. His hair is peppered with salt, interestingly enough. That’s the hair of a man with some experience. Experience is a fine attribute for a professional driver.
Vehicle: (one star) A 1949 Hudson Commodore 8 Four-Door Sedan. Now, today, if you were to call a car and the driver pulled up in a 1949 Hudson Commodore, you’d probably have some reservations. Old cars are often unreliable, prone to breakdowns, and aggressively bad for the environment. However, Driving Miss Daisy took place in 1948, meaning Hank Colburn was chauffeuring about town in a brand new car. The Hudson was everything Miss Daisy was not. Sleek, smooth, not-racist. The 1949 Hudson was Miss Daisy’s best self. Easy star.
Difficulty of Assignment: (half Star) On the one hand, the hand purely concerned with logistics and gas mileage, driving around an elderly woman is a pretty easy gig. A quick ride to the market for milk and bread. An easy drive to a fancy dinner where old-Southerners talk about rocking chairs or whatever it is that old-Southern people did in the 1950’s. No chases, no long slogs through traffic, no henchmen or hitmen to deal with; just you and Miss Daisy and the bumpy country road. On the other hand, the hand concerned with morality and feeling, you’re dealing with a passenger who is struggling for the first time in her life with a certain lack of autonomy and fighting against the nature of her deeply ingrained prejudices. You’re dealing with being underestimated and undervalued and underappreciated. You’re looking at a woman who is so used to identifying herself in terms of race and class that she can’t see that her spirit is intertwined with yours. That’s a difficult thing to deal with, even for Morgan Freeman.
Completion of Assignment: (one star) All Hoke Colburn had to do was safely transport Miss Daisy around town. He didn’t have to look after her when he retired. He didn’t have to care for her when her dementia set in. He didn’t have to visit her in the nursing home. He didn’t have to feed her Pumpkin Pie when she was too fragile to feed herself. He didn’t have to do any of that. That’s not what drivers do. That’s what friends do.
Customer Testimonial: “I’ll be honest. I didn’t think I needed Mr. Colburn. I didn’t think I needed anybody. I hated the fact that I couldn’t drive. I hated losing my independence. Life will sneak up on you like that. Time is a scary thing. All those years ago, I never asked for a driver. I never asked for a friend. Turns out I needed both. I got the best of both. Hoke Colburn is my best friend. Would recommend.”—Miss Daisy
Final Rating: (3.5 out of 4 stars)
Hoke Colburn was an excellent, patient driver and an excellent, patient man. He was nearly perfect, though he was not the best.
The Driver: Frank Martin (Jason Statham), The Transporter
The Ride: Drive, no, transport three (and only three) thieves away from police after they’ve stolen 254 Kilos of something. The thieves are wearing shoddily cut ski masks and masked men rarely, if ever, carry kilos of anything that’s not nefarious, so we can assume these thieves are into some pretty heavy stuff.
Outfit/Appearance: (one star) Martin wears a suit. A suit so well-tailored that it fits him like a glove. Coincidentally, he also wears driving gloves that fit him like a well-tailored suit. He’s obviously a professional. Martin has a neatly shaved head and perfectly manicured stubble. There isn’t a hair out of place. He’s obviously a perfectionist. Martin looks like a long, sinewey bicep with eyeballs. He’s obviously self-motivated. I can’t say for certain, but he at least looks like he smells good. There isn’t a direct correlation between smelling pleasant and being a good driver, but for anyone who’s been stuck in the backseat of a taxi in late August, it’s certainly not an insignificant attribute for a driver.
Vehicle: (one star) A beautiful black BMW, equipped with three different license plates, able to be switched automatically at the push of a button.The ignition is triggered by secret passcode. Two helpful features for someone in Martin’s line of work. It’s also manually shifting, which adds a certain degree of difficulty but definitely looks cooler than say, pulling on a wheel-mounted gear shift before peeling out and away from police. The BMW has conditioned leather seats and plays soft, classical music, two small touches to help put passengers at ease and comfort during an otherwise stressful time.
Difficulty of Assignment: (one star) A getaway job with an extraordinary, cruel degree of difficulty. The trip begins on the wrong foot when four masked men enter his car, one more than the previously agreed upon number of masked men. Martin is nothing if not a man of routine and principal. He calmly explains to the men, like a father talking to his rambunctious children on a road trip, that the car wouldn’t go another mile until they settled down and obeyed the rules. The head thief chooses to shoot one of his friends in the head to satisfy Martin’s demands. It’s never good to begin a trip with skull fragments and brain matter sprayed across the rear windshield. It gets even worse from there. Once the semantics have been figured out, the car is immediately put upon by roughly 237 police cars. It’s difficult to even describe what happens next, so dizzying and complicated the action plays, but basically Martin is forced to navigate through rush hour traffic, tight turns, European cobblestone, dead ends, rear ends, gun shots, vomiting passengers, inconveniently placed garbage trucks, and conveniently placed super Tow Trucks. At one point, and I’m sure you won’t even believe me if you haven’t seen the movie, Martin brings the car from a complete stop and jumps it off a bridge and PARALLEL PARKS onto a passing auto-transport trailer. He then uses the other cars on the transport to fight off approaching police units. It’s unbelievable. Literally unbelievable. I didn’t believe it. If Lloyd Christmas had an elementary level driving gig, and Driver had an AP level assignment, Martin was working his way through the Harvard Law School of Getaway Driving.
Completion of Assignment: (one star) Martin gets the men to their destination, even taking less money than offered by his gracious criminal passengers. Granted, one guy died, but he wasn’t supposed to be there in the first place. That’s not on Frank. As he drives away, you notice he never looks back. You also notice he never even broke a sweat.
Customer Testimonial: “This guy was the very best. Tough, but fair. On time. Very professional. He did make me shoot my friend in the head, but I guess that’s what I get for not reading the fine print! That’s more of a reflection on me than it is on Frank. He’s an incredibly talented driver. Fearless. Results oriented. One of my fellow thieves lost his lunch during the ride, but if it wasn’t for Frank, we would have lost our lives. He’s a very impressive guy. Handsome. British, but not overwhelmingly so. Would highly recommend his services. Just remember to read the contract before you sign!”—Henchman #2
Final Rating: (4 out of 4 stars)
Frank Martin is our greatest movie wheelman.