22 of the Best Car Chases in Movie History Ranked | TheReviewGeek Recommends

The so-called “car movie” has never really gone away.┬áCar chases are what make the cinematic experience what it is today. From 1970s drive-in films on a double bill all the way to contemporary films that reinvent what makes an iconic chase scene. Every movie lover sits in awe while the chase scene unfolds. So let’s see which ones are truly the best.

Here are the 22 of the best car chases in movie history!


22. The Man With the Golden Gun (1974)

Some would argue that The Man with the Golden Gun is a forgettable installment in the James Bond franchise. But exceptions can be made about the car chase scene in the film. The great thing about Bond films is that, despite being confined to their own little tropes, they do cater to the era of movies. Roger Moore’s 007 movies came out primarily during the 1970s, and car chase movies were all over that decade.

And all of them had a climactic stunt that wowed audiences. Bond chases Scarmanga (Christopher Lee) and henchman Nick Mack (Herve Villechaize) through the streets of Bangkok. He operates an AMC Hornet, manages to pull off a corkscrew flip off of a broken-down bridge, and sticks the landing like how 007 would, with finesse and swag.


21. The Fast and the Furious (2001)

The first installment of the franchise took place long before heists and giant safes swinging around through the streets of Rio. The Fast and the Furious has some great race sequences through the streets of Los Angeles. But the climactic sequence that races the train down a quarter-mile is one of the most definitive moments of the franchise. This is a moment that bonds Dom and Brian going forward and makes us reminisce on the impact the late Paul Walker had on the franchise.


20. The Rock (1996)

Michael Bay’s 1996 blockbuster is about a chemical weapons expert named Staley Goodspeed (Nicolas Cage) and a former inmate at Alcatraz named John Patrick Mason (Sean Connery) who must stop disgruntled General Francis Hummel from firing chemical missiles into the San Francisco Bay.

Leading up to all that, there’s another great car chase through the streets of that city to add to its list of great Bay Area chase scenes. It’s Michael Bay, so you know there are always going to be flashy cars in it. This time around, it’s a Ferrari and Hummer, and not one turn signal was properly used in the scene.


19. Dirty Mary, Crazy Larry (1974)

Peter Fonda led a 1970s cult classic about a wannabe NASCAR driver who holds up a supermarket. He plans to use the funds from his robbery to buy a nice car to help him leapfrog into the racing business. The whole film becomes one big, long evasion from the law that has anything from Impalas to Dodge Chargers. However, none of this really ends well with the film’s anti-heroes.


18. Baby Driver (2017)

Edgar Wright takes his love for 1960s and 1970s British crime movies that always have a fun car chase in them and puts it into his film Baby Driver. The bank heist sequence is unforgettable, engaging, and kind of witty as it introduces all the parties in the heist. At the center of it all is Baby Driver himself, Ansel Elgort, operating an unassuming getaway car, with a soundtrack playing in his ears to go along with it.


drive

17. Drive (2011)

People went into Drive expecting something like The Fast and the Furious and ended up getting a big dose of cinema. The film’s opening sequence has Ryan Gosling’s ‘Driver’ character operating the wheel of a robbery while he evades the police in an industrial section of Los Angeles.

The film is done in a very lo-fi manner. Like everyone in the car during the scene, it’s calm on the surface, but everyone in the scene is tense about the situation at hand. And lastly, it’s all shot entirely from inside the car that Gosling is operating.


16. The Driver (1978)

If it weren’t for The Driver, we may not have had Drive. The late Ryan O’Neal stars in the crime drama about a wheelman who knows how to get out of any sort of hairy situation. There is no better example of the magnificent camera techniques and adrenaline rush this film can give you than when O’ Neal’s character is operating a pickup truck and has to chase down a few bad guys in a silver Trans Am.


15. Vanishing Point (1971)

Part car chase movie with a touch of the drug-induced, psychedelic feel of the late 1960s and early 1970s is on full display in director Richard C. Sarafian’s film Vanishing Point. The film is about a car delivery driver named Kowalski (Barry Newman), who believes he can make it from Colorado to California.

Heavy drugs are utilized by Kowalski to get the job done. And yet, in a movie that lacks a plot, it makes up for it in the famous chase scene with the Dodge Challenger operated by Kowalski and a Jaguar on a one-lane bridge after a race down a winding dirt road. Vanishing Point, and this scene in particular, is often referenced by the likes of other directors like Quentin Tarantino and Steven Spielberg.


wanted

14. Wanted (2008)

The summer of 2008 was full of memorable blockbusters. The MCU started in May with Iron Man. In July, The Dark Knight was released. But slap dab in the middle of it was the June release of the graphic novel adaptation of Wanted.

Angelina Jolie was heavy in her action movie roles at the time and worked the camera in a chase scene where she and James McAvoy were being pursued by a batch of bad guys. The scene then consists of Jolie’s character hanging out the windshield and shooting at some bad guys while she operates the steering wheel with her foot.


Terminator II - Arnold Schwarzenegger

13. Terminator 2: Judgement Day (1991)

Ah, the 1990s. An era when any action movie had to devote 10 to 15 minutes of the run time to a chase scene. Terminator 2: Judgement Day is a decade-defining film loaded with some of James Cameron’s brilliant special effects skills. But it also has a cool chase scene with a Mac truck operated by the murderous T-1000 (Robert Patrick) out to get motorbike riding, punk teenager, and leader of the resistance post-Judgement Day, John Connor (Edward Furlong).

Then, to save the day, Arnold Schwarzenegger comes in on his Harley Davidson, twirling his shotgun to reload it as he shoots at the T-1000. Fun Fact: If you watch the original version of True Grit with John Wayne, you’ll notice that Wayne twirls his rifle before going into the climactic shootout. Hence, why Arnold is pretty acrobatic with his rifle in T2.


12. Mad Max (1979)

We are introduced to crazed police officer Max in George Miller’s 1979 classic film Mad Max, with a gripping police chase. The film has the character Nightrider (Vince Gill) and his girlfriend on the run from many police officers who they outmatch, that is until they encounter Max (Mel Gibson). Max gets right up on their tail and runs them off the road, where they crash and die into a parked truck on the side of the road. And thus, an iconic character was born.


11. Thelma and Louise (1991)

An iconic car chase that ends in one of the most memorable pieces of American cinema history, Thelma and Louise, is one of the best road movies of all time. Directed by the well-admired but unlikely Ridley Scott, both Geena Davis and Susan Sarandon shine in the title roles and have a star-making supporting role delivered by Brad Pitt.

The film’s climactic chase stems from the pair being chased by the law due to Louise shooting and killing a man who is trying to assault Thelma at the bar where she works. It ends with the pair at the Grand Canyon with nowhere to go as the police have them surrounded except for one avenue out of it. They drive off the cliff, presumably meeting their deaths, but end up becoming some of the best characters in Hollywood history.


10. Duel (1971)

A little unknown director at the time named Steven Spielberg began his reign atop Hollywood with this Hitchcokian thriller about a businessman out on the road being stalked by a menacing-looking 18-wheeler. Spielberg’s camera angles throughout these chase scenes make you wince your eyes a bit as you try to see who’s driving the truck, but you never do find out who’s behind the wheel, thus adding more horror to the movie.

Duel was shot for half a million dollars, and most of that budget went into the film’s climactic chase between the victim of all of this mayhem, Dennis Weaver, and the giant truck. It’s a statement of a movie, letting us know a new name in cinema was here, and boy did that Spielberg guy never let up at the box office.


9. The Italian Job (2003)

The remake of the 1969 crime film helmed this time around by F. Gary Gray goes from a test movie to a revenge tale, and somewhere in the middle of it is a wild car chase scene involving Mini Coopers.

In the sequence that gets the movie on this list, Mark Wahlberg, Jason Stratham, and Charlize Theron all drive Mini Coopers through the Los Angeles metro system to escape the views of Edward Norton’s villainous role, Steve, who is up high in a helicopter. The Coopers even jump the track and race a train. Shooting this shows a ton of masterful technique, which would go on to direct an installment of the Fast and Furious franchise.


8. The Matrix Reloaded (2003)

Despite the sequel to The Matix never living up to its potential, there are still some moments throughout that warrant a good time. The Matrix Reloaded, which is likely the most likeable sequel, has an iconic freeway chase scene that is still a piece of eye candy to this day.

You can hate the whole movie if you want, but credit goes to the team behind the scenes here, especially R.A. Randell, who created over a mile of road to shoot on so that the Wachowskis could create a splendidly wild chase scene involving car wrecks, motorcycles, and fight sequences. If anything, put the film on and skip to just this scene, and then shut it off.


7. To Live and Die in L.A. (1985)

William Friedkin will be appearing twice from here on out as a director who just knew how to get it done in his films. To Live and Die in L.A. is one of the best crime dramas of the 1980s. The chase scene we were all talking about here centers around William Peterson and John Pankow playing partners who are secret service agents who are being pursued by gangsters.

The chase moves from parking lots full of Big Mac trucks to the infamous Los Angeles flood control roads. Friedkin is no stranger to shooting a chase scene and how it should look and feel. It should be a scary thing where, at any moment, an unexpected collision could happen. It’s the second-best chase scene Friedkin has ever made.


6. Ronin (1998)

The Robert De Niro-starring action film utilized 300 stunt car drivers. There are a lot of car chases in Ronin; the one we are talking about here is the climactic final one. De Niro and Jean Reno play intelligence officers in pursuit of a mysterious briefcase and are close to obtaining it.

But first, a chase through Paris with cars hitting speeds of over 100 miles an hour. They must be more flexible with filming chase scenes in Europe; there are so many more iconic chase scenes shot over there, and Ronin, now 25 years old, is one of the last great ones.


Mad Max: Fury Road

5. Mad Max: Fury Road (2015)

If you met someone who has been in a coma since prior to May of 2015 and they needed to see the best action film since they have been out cold, show them Mad Max: Fury Road and all will be right with them again. George Miller, director of the original Mad Max, its sequels, and Babe and Babe: Pig in the City.

Knocks us flat with one incredible set piece after another. The first of which is the big chase scene in the film’s first act, which starts as an escape mission for Furiosa (Charlize Theron) to get the wives away from Immortan Joe and turns into a series of gunfights, explosions, and giant sand storms. During all of this, Max (Tom Hardy) was tied to one of the trucks like a hood ornament.


4. Smokey and the Bandit (1977)

A fun fact about the scene being discussed here — Smokey and the Bandit director, Hal Needham, is driving the car during its big stunt. The film has one big chase scene of Burt Reynolds evading the grips of lawman Jackie Gleason and his dimwit son.

In one stretch of the movie, as he drives down a backroad, the black Trans Am makes a jump across a broken bridge. It’s an iconic shot that many think of when they think of the movie, and it kept the Burt Reynolds star shining bright throughout the decade (even though Hall Needham was behind the wheel for the shot).


3. Bullitt (1968)

For today’s audiences, Bullitt may lag a bit with the police procedural side of the movie, yet it’s known as one of the most definitive car chases in the history of movies.

Steve McQueen plays San Francisco police detective Frank Bullitt, who is tracking down a kingpin in the city’s crime world. McQueen and fast cars are synonymous, as he loved them in real life as well. The chase through the city streets and out to the coastal areas of San Francisco is what defines the movie. People pay tickets to retro screenings of the film to see that ’68 Ford Mustang GT in action.


2. Death Proof (2007)

Death Proof is arguably Quentin Tarantino’s biggest flop at the box office, and yet year after year, it seems to get more love. The second part of Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez’s experiment is titled Grindhouse. Where this and Planet Terror played as a double bill was not given its flowers upon its release.

Stuntman Mike (Kurt Russell) goes on the attack of a team of innocent women in the film’s climax. Here we see scary, death-defying shots of Zoe Bell on the hood of a white Dodge Challenger. Every time you watch this scene, it looks like she is about to fall off and die. Once done watching a scene like the finals chase scene, one needs to go watch bonus features on how they made that work.


1. The French Connection (1971)

Remember how it was mentioned that William Friedkin would be on this list once more? Here you go. The French Connection is one of the most gritty cop movies of all time. A film that was looked at as controversial for its look at the world of New York City police detectives in the 1970s. Pulse-pounding realism should be what tops this list, not flashy, over-the-top CGI.

Gene Hackman plays Detective Jimmy “Popeye” Doyle, who, at one point in the film, avoids a sniper attack. He then chases the perp via the overhead subway system in New York City. He steals a car and constantly goes back and forth between looking up at the train and watching the road.

He nearly hits a woman with a stroller. It’s all right there for us to see on Hackman’s face. The scene is tense and makes your palms sweaty from the anxiety of it all, and if you’re ever driving through an area of the Big Apple where the subway is above you, you can’t help but feel the French Connection vibes.


So, this was our 22 top picks of the best car chases in movie history. Did your favorite make the cut? Leave a comment below and let us know!

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