NASCAR driver hopeful Larry Rayder (Fonda) and his mechanic Deke Sommers (Roarke) successfully pull off a heist to finance their jump into big-time auto racing. In making their escape, they are confronted by Larry's one-night stand, Mary Coombs (George), who coerces them to take her along for the ride, while evading Captain Everett Franklin (Morrow) and his troopers.
This film features examples of:
- Badass Driver: Larry. He hopes to get into NASCAR, after all, and pulls quite the stunts while being chased by Captain Franklin. Too bad about the train at the end, though.
- Car Fu: A few notable scenes in the second half of the movie.
- Casual Danger Dialogue: Between Larry and Mary, as they are driving at high speed on a country lane while a police cruiser is trying to ram them off the road.Larry: He wants to play!
Mary: I think someone's knocking on the door...
Larry: Yeah, well I'm gonna open it.
- Chivalrous Pervert: Larry.
- Cool Car: Larry and Deke's souped-up 1966 Chevrolet Impala. Then they later ditch the Impala for the film's best-remembered car, a lime green 1969 Dodge Charger R/T 440. Both cars are able to easily outrun Captain Franklin's patrols.
- The Determinator: Franklin is not giving up anytime soon. He even orders his pilot to land the helicopter on the car he's pursuing.
- Doesn't Like Guns: Discussed when Cpt. Franklin is berated for not wearing his sidearm.
- Farmer's Niece: Downplayed with Mary, who is not as naive as some would assume.
- The Film of the Book: A rather loose adaptation of Richard Unekis' 1963 novel The Chase.
- Jerk with a Heart of Gold: The three main characters have all shades of this; coarse as they may be, they still care for each other.
- Mr. Fixit: Deke shows to be a competent mechanic.
- Only Sane Man: As the film goes on Deke seems to be the only level-headed member of the trio.
- Pet the Dog: Deke reassures the two hostages whom he seized a few minutes earlier flatly stating that no harm will come to them.
- Police Are Useless: Zigzagged. The cops seem to be fairly competent and a couple of times are on the brink of apprehending the trio. Larry is just better (and luckier).
- Reality Has No Soundtrack: Apart from the credits theme and a small amount of music heard over the radio, the film contains no incidental music.
- The '70s: Where to start? Hairs, clothes, music... You name it, you have it.
- The Sheriff: Captain Everett Franklin, who in his pursuit of Larry and company comes off as a (slightly) more serious Buford T. Justice.
- Shoot the Shaggy Dog: See below "Sudden Downer Ending".
- Sir Not-Appearing-in-This-Trailer: Adam Roarke is absent from the TV trailer. Downplayed in the case of Vic Morrow who appears but is not mentioned.
- Sudden Downer Ending: At the end of the film, Larry and company appear to have beaten the police, only to meet their end when they randomly collide with a freight train. Alternately, one could see the main characters as Villain Protagonists and their fate the result of a well-earned Karmic Twist Ending due to their reckless driving.
- Villain Protagonist: The audience follows Larry and Deke, who committed a heist, after all, and spend most of the movie doing reckless driving and endangering others.
- Woman Bites Man: Mary does NOT like to be fondled.