Car chases are a tricky thing to get right in film – for every sleek John Wick style scene out there, you’ve got at least a hundred spastic, awful Ultraviolet messes. But, as we’ve seen in the newly released Baby Driver, when it’s right, it feels soooooooo damn good.
So, to save you the pain and wasted hours of digging through crap, we bring you the bright nuggets of the industry. The best car chase scenes, coming out of some spectacular films. On your marks, ready, go!
Gone in 60 Seconds (1974)
No. Not the Nicolas Cage and Angelina Jolie movie that you’re probably thinking of. I’m talking about the one movie that has well over 30 minutes of police trying to catch one 1971 Ford Mustang Sportsroof. The remake took the plot from the original as it is about a group of car thieves that must steal 48 cars in a matter of days. There is destruction as well, but the thing that this one has, that the remake lacked, is complete and utter awesomeness.
Directed by actual stunt driver, H.B. “Toby” Halicki, the film is filled to the brim with cool car shots and incredible stunts that have yet to be duplicated. The film is known for having 93 cars wrecked in a 40 minute window and it looks spectacular. The plot and acting was thinner than a piece of paper but that didn’t matter for this type of film. Near the end, Halikci is chased in his Ford Mustang, named Eleanor, through the many cities in Southern California, from Long Beach to Carson, with the cops in close pursuit. Halikci had such a blast making this film that he tried it again by making a sequel to Gone in 60 Seconds, only this time to include 400 cars in some serious elaborate stunts.
Unfortunately, he died during one of these stunts and the film was never completed. Rest in peace H.B. “Toby” Halicki. I’m sure you’re doing amazing stunts on that big freeway in the sky. – Mark Salcido
Mad Max: Fury Road (2015)
When you think of car chase films, you think of Gone in 60 Seconds or The Fast and the Furious movies. Those are pretty straight forward when it comes to cars moving fast; a non-conventional car chase movie would be Mad Max: Fury Road. The whole movie is based on vehicles moving at a high rate of speed. True, they may not be as flashy as a muscle car, but it counts. In a lot of ways, the chase is more exciting in this film than the typical car chase film.
The lead is a female, which already goes against the grain what we expect from a film of this sort. Her name is Imperator Furiosa, and she is badass. Equally so, the vehicle she drives is an armored tanker — not pretty by any means but it gets the job done — and it’s moniker, the “War Rig” suits it well. The other vehicles are all muscle and distortion, ripping up the desert as they give chase. The characters in this film are insane on a major level, and these cars have to keep up with the level of war and craziness this group invokes. And don’t forget… there is even a vehicle with a surreal guitar player keeping up with everything and playing some awesome tunes. Can you keep up? – Kelsey Mejiarodarte
The Blues Brothers (1980)
“I’m gonna catch that sucka……….if it’s the last thing I ever do.”
So begins Officer Mount’s all-consuming vendetta against the Blues Brothers (and their “shit-box Dodge”). What made him so angry, you might ask?
It started as a routine traffic stop, pulling over a dilapidated ’74 Dodge – a decommissioned police cruiser – for running a red light. After running his license and finding 116 outstanding warrants, the officer asks the driver to step out of the car. Offering a polite protest (“The light was yellow, sir”), Elwood Blues suddenly floors it, putting the car’s police-issue engine to good use.
Trying to shake the fuzz, Elwood pulls into a mall parking lot. However, evasive maneuvers are unsuccessful, so he does the next logical thing, driving directly *into* the mall itself. Because who wouldn’t, right?
What follows is one of the most bonkers car chases ever put to film. Sixty vehicles were totaled during the filming of this one scene, which found the Dixie Square Mall utterly demolished as a cavalcade of cops pursued the Bluesmobile on its destructive path. Recently sprung Jake makes innocuous observations (“This mall is very spacious.” “Oh look, a Pier One.” “Wow, this place has everything!”) while his brother drives directly through one store after another.
The chased caused $100,000 in damage to the mall (and that’s in 1980 money), involved 120 cars and 300 collisions, and even included a cameo from director John Landis as one of the officers in pursuit. And, despite the fact that the film is a comedy-musical, this isn’t even the only car chase in the movie. There’s also the classic “Illinois Nazis” scene, in which the good brothers interrupt a rally; and then the pursuit by “The Good Ole Boys” after stealing their stage slot at Bob’s Country Bunker.
They made it out, of course. They’re on a mission from God. If you’ve never seen this classic comedy, there’s no time like the present. –Jennifer Huneycutt
Bullitt is one of those classic films that never gets old, even with repeat viewing. Bullitt follows Hollywood legend Steve McQueen, as Franklin Bullitt; a lieutenant of the San Francisco Police Department who is hired to protect a star witness in a Senate subcommittee hearing on organized crime. When the star witness is killed during several attempts on his life, Bullitt investigates who’s behind the hit and brings them to justice.
Everything is well played and executed, but the reason why it’s on this list is because of the masterfully shot chase between a 1968 Ford Mustang GT and a 1968 Dodge Charger R/T through the streets of San Francisco. The action set piece is– for a lack of a better word – awesome. Instead of playing music in the background to ramp tension, director Peter Yates lets the car engines do the work. You get a feel of the chase as there are many times the camera is put in the passenger seat, allowing the audience to get a feel of the action. Find this film and see where the Mustang vs. Charger debate began in Bullitt. – Mark Salcido
Of course, no list of cinematic vehicular pursuits would be complete without at least one entry from the Bond franchise. I mean, after all, there’s a memorable car chase featured at some point in every single one of the Bond movies, but which one is the most deserving of a spot on our list? Well, my friends, let me take you on a journey back to 1995. With a straight-laced Timothy Dalton having failed to effectively fill the void left by the late-great Sir Roger Moore, the makers once again pressed the Reboot button, and cast Pierce Brosnan as the new James Bond.
Goldeneye remains one of the most spectacular and unashamedly demented Bond movies ever made. From the initial bungee jump from the top of a mountain dam, to Sean Bean having a giant satellite dish dropped in his head whilst inviting Bond for a pint in the local pub, it’s a movie full of delightfully memorable sequences. And it’s the car chase from that movie that we’ve gone for. Well, technically I guess it’s a ‘Tank Chase’, if you want to be picky.
As love interest Isabella Scorupco is abducted by Russian military nasties and spirited away through the backstreets, the building wall behind their fleeing vehicle disintegrates in the path of a rampaging T55 Battle Tank. Sat proudly exposed at the helm of said behemoth is everybody’s favourite secret agent, who proceeds to effortlessly glide the giant vehicle around corners and in 360 degree turns in pursuit of his prey. Traffic jams are crushed, as military vehicles frantically reverse in fear along riversides in the oath of their stolen vehicle. Alleyways are demolished, buildings toppled, pretty much no fixed or moving object is safe.
Fast forward four and a half minutes later, and it’s all over. As two police cruisers are crushed beneath a falling iron Pegasus statue, Bond pulls up to a halt, the tank by now covered in a mixture of fallen masonry and shattered soda cans. And what does the cheeky bugger do having caused all of this chaos and destruction. He smirks and straightens his damn tie. Epic… – Simon Andrews
The Driver (1978)
This car heist film was released with little to no fanfare at the end of the 70’s and remained unknown for quite awhile. Yet, many filmmakers like Quentin Tarantino, Edgar Wright, Nicolas Winding Refn, and even Guillermo del Toro hold Walter Hill’s story of a getaway in high regards. The simple story follows a nameless getaway driver, who is the best at what he does, as he is hired for a job and is later betrayed. From there, he does whatever he can to stay one step ahead of the cops as he seeks revenge on those who deserve it.
The film doesn’t carry a whole lot of dialogue but the acting is top notch from Ryan O’Neal, Bruce Dern, and Isabelle Adjani. The biggest selling point of this movie is the well crafted and realistic car chase scenes. The rawness of the film is beautifully shot with the nightlife of the city of Los Angeles that is awe inspiring.
The climactic action set piece hooks you in from start to finish as it turns into a cat and mouse game that’ll leave you on the edge of your seat. Grab a copy of this and find out what the hell I am talking about. – Mark Salcido
The Castle of Cagliostro (1979)
Hayao Miyazaki’s directorial debut, The Castle of Cagliostro, is often regarded as one of the best animated films, period. Its influence can be seen in Pixar films (John Lasseter is a major Miyazaki fan boy, as we all should be), Disney, and, allegedly, in many Spielberg productions. It follows another adventure of gentleman thief, Arsene Lupin III, as he strives to save a princess, bring down a counterfeit money ring, and steal some valuables for himself while he’s at it.
That all being said, the opening scene in this movie is one of the most bad ass, mad-cap car chases I have ever seen. Lupin and his partner Jigen, fresh from a successful casino heist, run from baddies in a bright yellow Fiat 500, ties flying in the wind and cigars clamped between teeth. It’s a tone setting opener – over-confident, charming Lupin outsmarting his foes with some sweet ass jazz inspired tunes playing in the background. It’s just an insane amount of fun, and despite its age, is still an impressive piece of animation. – Sylvia Maixner
The French Connection (1971)
Gene Hackman and Roy Scheider starred in this classic crime action drama at the beginning of the 70s and many people talk about this film to this day. It was a typical “catch the bad guy and stop the drugs from hitting the streets” type of film, but the reason it’s on our list is because of one badass scene in particular. It featured a car chase that was steeped in plenty of “holy shit” moments. What makes this so different? Let’s find out.
Here’s the setup; Jimmy Doyle (Hackman) has to catch a criminal that will get him closer to the crime boss he’s been raising hell to get to. Doyle barely misses him as the criminal boards an above ground subway. What’s Doyle to do? Hop any car he can find and chase the train through the city of New York at any cost. What happens is one of the greatest realistic action scenes by director William Friedkin. Doyle races across the city, smashing and crashing into any car that gets in his way. Hackman brings intensity into the action with the expression he gives – which includes pounding his fist in frustration – which is absolutely thrilling. Rumor has it that Friedkin couldn’t get the proper permits for the scene, said “fuck it” and just had the driver do his best not to cause too much damage. It’s an amazing set piece and should be seen by anyone that’s looking for some excitement in their film diet. – Mark Salcido
For my second pick, I’m staying in the 90’s (I suppose in reality I never really managed to leave), and technically also staying with James Bond due to the existence of a simply wonderful little fan theory that Sir Sean Connery is once again playing said iconic MI6 super spy. The Rock couldn’t be more 90’s if it tried, and harks back to a happier and more innocent time for the big budget summer blockbuster. When there was no need to engage an audience’s mind in order to make a successful movie, and nobody really gave a shit what the critics thought or wrote.
This is the mother of all ‘Over The Top’ car chases, packed to the rafters with a combination of tongue-in-cheek developments and highly unlikely interventions. From the moment an unfortunate German tourist is carjacked halfway though his rant at a Valet, to the point where Nic Cage is politely informed by a street punk what he just did to his Ferrari, the streets of San Francisco proceed to be utterly demolished, whilst Connery breaks a number of traffic laws in order to get to grips with the concept of driving and using a mobile phone at the same time.
It’s not so much the fact he wipes out an entire FBI Mobile Command Team in the process, or indeed Nic Cage’s spectacular trademark gurning that make this so utterly bonkers. It’s the sheer number of random objects that get destroyed in the process. The only thing the sequence is missing is two clowns crossing the road carrying a plate glass window, or a school bus full of nuns transporting an emergency transplant heart. As the music screams “THIS IS A FUCKING CAR CHASE, MAN!!!!”, Connery and Cage manage to collide with yellow cabs, roadworks, a water delivery truck, a motability scooter, power lines, a tram full of passengers, parking meters and finally an entire wheelchair basketball team.
The Fast & The Furious? Bitch, please. They’ve got nothing on Sir Sean… – Simon Andrews
Hot Fuzz (2007)
Is there anything Edgar Wright can’t do an excellent job at? He can direct horror, action, superhero, sci-fi, and comedy, all while maintaining a spectacularly wavy and luscious head of hair. We could all hope to aim to achieve as much as him and his milk chocolate locks.
Hair fetish aside, Wright had already proven that he knew how to execute a car chase scene before Ansel Elgort donned a pair of shades; 2007’s perfect action movie Hot Fuzz.
The story of a straight-laced London cop transferred to a sleepy village, Hot Fuzz is the best form of satire, making fun of the tropes of the genre while simultaneously embracing the most excellent parts of said genre – in this case, the buddy cop action flick. It also contains the funniest car chase I’ve ever seen, and it’s only five seconds long.
In the time it takes for a hearty sneeze, Hot Fuzz condenses everything about a police chase into 8 shots, and it made me laugh for approximately a year. (Seriously, I would randomly think about this scene, and it would make me just start laughing.)
Really, if you’re reading this list and you haven’t seen Hot Fuzz, close down this browser, and correct yourself, because it is amazing. Oh, and this is another car chase, closer to the end, which is also excellent, so really, you do need to watch it. – Sylvia Maixner