A milestone film from 1971 and winner of five Academy Awards including Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Actor, The French Connection
transformed the crime thriller with its gritty, authentic story about New York City police detectives on the trail of a large shipment of heroin. Based on an actual police case and the illustrious career of New York cop Eddie Egan, the film stars Gene Hackman as Jimmy "Popeye" Doyle, whose unorthodox methods of crime fighting are anything but diplomatic. With his partner (Roy Scheider), Popeye investigates the international shipment of heroin masterminded by the suave Frenchman (Fernando Rey) who eludes Popeye throughout an escalating series of pursuits. The obsessive tension of Doyle's investigation reaches peak intensity during the film's breathtaking car chase, in which Doyle races under New York's elevated train tracks in a borrowed sedan--a sequence that earned an Oscar for editing and was instantly hailed as one of the greatest chase scenes ever filmed. Produced on location, The French Connection
had an immediate influence on dozens of movies and TV shows to follow, virtually redefining the crime thriller with its combination of brutal realism and high-octane craftsmanship. Boosted by the film's phenomenal success, director William Friedkin gained even more attention with his follow-up film, The Exorcist
. --Jeff Shannon
'Popeye' Doyle (an Academy Award-winning Gene Hackman) and Buddy Russo (Roy Scheider) are tough New York cops attempting to crack a drug smuggling ring. They have a small candy store under surveillance, but Doyle is not happy when he receives the order to work with a pair of French federal agents on the case, one of whom he has a long-standing feud with. Gene Hackman and director William Friedkin both earned Academy Awards for the film, which also took Best Picture.