All right, Popeye's here! Get your hands on your heads, get off the bar, and get on the wall!
— Popeye Doyle
The French Connection, a 1971 film directed by William Friedkin, written by Ernest Tidyman and produced by Phillip D'Antoni, is the tale of NYC cop "Popeye" Doyle (Gene Hackman) and his partner, "Cloudy" Russo (Roy Scheider). One day, they stumble upon a huge shipment of heroin from France. The trail leads to notorious drug kingpin, Alain Charnier (Fernando Rey). Car chases ensue. A huge success and a classic piece of seventies Hollywood cinema. Based on the true story of the two cops who would stop the drug trafficking between France and the US, it was a huge success, both financially and critically. The film won 5 Oscars including Best Picture, Best Director for William Friedkin, and Best Actor for Gene Hackman. Thus it would come close to winning the five big, but lacked a female main character. It also won for Best Adapted Screenplay, and Best Film Editing and the car-chase alone is worth it.
Academy Award: It won 5 of them: Best Picture, Best Director (Friedkin), Best Actor (Hackman), Best Adapted Screenplay (Tidyman) and Best Film Editing. It was further nominated for 3 others: Best Supporting Actor (Scheider), Best Cinematography and Best Sound Mixing.
Affably Evil: Charnier is always polite in his conversations, and silent when evading the police. It's only when talking with Nicoli at one point, that the fašade slips a little where he refers to Popeye Doyle as "that bastard".
An Ass Kicking Christmas: Doesn't make a big deal out of it, but little holiday elements like Popeye undercover as Santa Claus, different store windows loaded with Christmas decorations and the bitter winter cold continually pop up.
Chained to a Bed: Sonny walks into Popeye's apartment to find his ankle handcuffed to his bed.
Chronically Crashed Car: The front ends of the NYPD's 1966 Chevy Biscaynes are quite bashed up note 1966 was the only year in The Sixties NYPD bought Chevys. Justified for being five year old New York police cars.
Conspicuous Consumption / Suspicious Spending: What tips off Doyle and Russo about Sal and his wife Angie being involved in drug running. Despite running a diner/lounge and making about $7,000 net a year, he owns two cars, a brand new Ford LTD and a 1961 Comet note The Comet was planned to be part of the Edsel lineup, but became an independant model after Edsel was axed, and finally was absorbed by Mercury in 1962 (though the Ford is in Angie's name and the Comet is owned by his brother, a garbage yard worker), and wears very expensive suits.
Contrast Montage: When Doyle is staking out Charnier across the street from the restaurant where he is dining, the sequence cuts back and forth between the lavish interior and Doyle watching outside in the cold. When Charnier samples a bottle of wine, Doyle is brought a styrofoam cup of coffee so bad he only takes one sip before emptying out the rest in disgust. When Charnier's elaborate main course arrives, Doyle is brought a single slice of pizza.
Digital Destruction: For the first Blu-ray release of the film in 2009, director William Friedkin supervised some significant changes to the film; no scenes, dialogue, characters or story elements were altered, but the color timing of the film was significantly changed to give the film a colder and more low-fi look. Cinematographer Owen Roizman and many fans were less than pleased, especially since the original version wasn't included in the Blu-ray. Comparison images can be found◊ online for the curious, but consensus is effectively "just stick with the DVD", maybe because Real Is Brown.
Doyle:(flags down approaching car) Hold it! (the car stops; Doyle opens the door and pulls the driver out) Police emergency! I need your car! Driver:(startled) When am I gonna get it back? Hey! (Doyle jumps in the car, does a U-turn, and speeds off) For Christ's sake...
Fruit Cart: Popeye crashes through some garbage cans during the car chase.
Ironic Echo: Non-verbal example. Charnier waves goodbye to Doyle after eluding him on the subway; later, Charnier runs into a police roadblock after making the drop on Ward's Island and Doyle, catching his eye, waves to him in the same manner.
Karma Houdini: The bad guys all had their charges dropped. The only one who got jail time was there for only 4 years.
New York Subway: About halfway through the film, Doyle pursues Charnier in a subway station. Charnier manages to lose Doyle by repeatedly boarding and alighting from a waiting train until he and Doyle are on opposite sides of the doors when they close.
Nice Job Fixing It, Villain: Doyle is forced to drop the investigation by his superiors. One of the traffickers tries to assassinate him. Doyle gets the investigation re-opened.
Pragmatic Adaptation: The actual car used in the drug smuggling ring, which took place between 7 October 1961 and 24 February 1962, was a (then new) 1960 Buick Invicta, and most of the heroin was hidden in the wheel wells, which are quite large on the Invicta, as well as the rocker panels as depicted. Because of the time that passed between the books's publishing and filming, it was changed to a newer luxury car, a 1971 Lincoln Continental Mark III, because by 1971, a French film star was more likely to buy a Lincoln than a Buick. Popeye's car was also a 1960 Chevy Corvair, changed to a '68 Ford Custom 500, because NYPD was issuing detectives Fords and cycled out the Corvairs by that point.
Eddie Egan and Sonny Grosso (the real-life inspirations for Popeye Doyle and Cloudy Russo) appear in the film as Simonson and Klein, respectively.
The bar patrons during in the fake bust to cover talking to his informant (where he finds out about the shipment) were all played by real NYPD officers.
Irv, the police mechanic Popeye and Cloudy help to tear apart the Lincoln was an actual NYPD fleet mechanic.
Because of New York Transit Authority rules forbidding unauthorised personnel from operating trains, the motorman and transit police officers were actual transit employees.
Rule of Cool: The real "Popeye" Doyle (or "Popeye" Egan, rather—his name was changed for the film) thought at first that the famous image of Hackman shooting the criminal at the top of the steps was offensive since he would never actually shoot someone In the Back, but he realized later on how the moment worked on film and forgave it.
Sequel: 1975's French Connection II, which has Doyle traveling to Marseilles in pursuit of Charnier, finding himself a Fish out of Water in the French city, and being forced into heroin addiction by Charnier's henchmen. Unlike the original, the sequel's plot is entirely fictional.
Popeye Doyle, a 1986 Pilot Movie for a prospective TV series starring Ed O'Neill, picks up right where it leaves off.
Stop or I Will Shoot!: 'Popeye' guns down the EL assassin as he turns to flee, despite the fact that a) he's now unarmed, and b) Popeye couldn't have been sure the man was the same guy who'd taken a shot at him earlier, as there was little opportunity to get a clear look at his face.
Spiritual Successor: 1973's The Seven Ups, starring Roy Scheider as another New York City cop leading a special organized crime task force. It had the same producer and composer of The French Connection and also had a high speed car chase. The main character was also based on Eddie "Popeye" Egan.
"Where Are They Now?" Epilogue: The end credits state the all but one of the drug dealers had their charges dropped (the one who was convicted only faced four years) and Alain was never caught, and Doyle and Russo were transferred out of the narcotics division (in Real Life Eddie Egan and Sonny Grosso were assigned to another case before being transferred).