Best Movie Car Chase Scenes!
We can all agree that the worst movie chase is in fact Chevy Chase. But which iconic chase scenes were the best? We’ll dig through decades of burning rubber and twisted metal to bring you the most exciting, visually striking, or off-the-wall crazy pursuits of all time.
#10: Taxi! – The Bourne Supremacy (2004)
In the second film in the Bourne series, our protagonist spy/assasis/amnesia victim Jason Bourne (Matt Damon) is in Russia, trying to evade KGB agent Kirill (Karl Urban.) Bourne is shot in the shoulder by Kirill and tries to escape in a stolen taxi…but Kirill is in hot pursuit in much faster and better armored SUV.
The chase is hectic and brutal, much like the hand-to-hand combat featured in the series. There’s no graceful near-misses or perfectly timed reversals: Bourne’s crappy taxi rubs panels with Kirill’s juggernaut Mercedes and other motorists, hemorrhaging scrap metal all the way. The final leg of the chase heads into a three-lane tunnel, and comes to a spine-crunching finale as Bourne pile-drives Kirill’s car into a concrete pillar. Bourne goes over to collect his fare, but Kirill can’t reach his wallet with the steering column wedged into his rib cage.
#9: Freeway Battle- The Matrix Reloaded (2003)
The sequel to the Matrix, Reloaded returned Neo, Morpheus and Trinity to the computer generated playground so they could wreck some cars…and motorcycles…and two tractor trailers…pretty much just about everything. Attempting to escape from 3 different factions chasing them, Morpheus and Trinity head to the freeway for extraction (though they are explicitly told that nobody has ever survived trying to use the freeway exit.)
The scene itself is perfect insanity. There’s a two car chase, a six car chase, a motorcycle chase, machine guns, knife fights, fist fights, and then Morpheus kills an SUV with a sword. Here’s the first 3 minutes of the scene, which manages to total at least 20 cars!
To capture the ludicrous action of the Freeway Battle, a 1.5 mile fake freeway (complete with overpasses) was constructed, and the filming took nearly three months. A spectacular amount of vehicles were donated (and subsequently wrecked!) and the whole scene lasts nearly 30 minutes, shifting between car chases, gun fights, motorcycle stunts, and a particularly bad-ass fight scene on a moving truck that features a samurai sword and a bitching purple suit-vest. Yeah, it’s good.
#8: Now Approaching the Grand Canyon- Thelma and Louise (1991)
Two friends in a world of trouble decide to leave it all behind and see the Grand Canyon up close and personal. Thelma and Louise were on a road trip when they were robbed and nearly raped, and then figuratively screwed over by every dude with swinging set they ran into. Given their shitty day, the girls decide to flip society the finger and break the rules. When the rules (here played by dozens of police cars and a helicopter) finally catch up to them, they manage to outrun everything but their luck. Trapped between the Grand Canyon and a wall of law enforcement, they decide to rev the engine one last time and soar triumphantly out into the wide blue yonder. The film doesn’t show the (surely) tremendous wreck, but I figure if Evel Knievel couldn’t make the gap in one piece, our lady friends probably didn’t stand much of a chance either.
#7: Tanks for the Ride- Fast & Furious 6 (2013)
The Fast and Furious series is known for two things: Car chases and flimsy plot lines that exist as an excuse to have more car chases. Well, Furious 6 upped the ante by adding a tank into the mix. Roaring across a divided dessert highway, Vin Diesel and Paul Walker pursue the villain’s tank, trying to get back one of their crew being held inside it. It’s three cars versus a tank, and yet the good guys manage to make it work out, while only managing to destroy a half dozen vehicles, including having one of their own cars pancaked by the aforementioned tank.
The driving is tense and artistic…the ending…not so much. Vin Diesel flies through the air to catch the damsel in distress and looks like he’s auditioning for the next Superman movie. See for yourself.
#6: Honk Honk Honk! – The French Connection (1971)
Gene Hackman is a cop in a 1971 Pontaic chasing a crook on foot. Unfortunately the crook is on foot in an elevated train, and Hackman has to race underneath the train, through congested traffic and concrete pilings, hoping to reach the station before the perp can escape into the crowd.
There are crazy chase scenes, and then there are certifiably demented chase scenes. Filming for this chase was done semi-illegally, without the complete course of the race being closed off and monitored by police. At least one non-prop car was crashed due to the director taking it fast and loose with city ordinances. Gene Hackman actually drove some of the scene, and his white-knuckled, profanity laced shots look so genuine for a reason: this chase is nuts. A front mounted camera catches the action from outside, and the director himself is inside the car filming (and he took over the camera because he didn’t have a wife and kids.) Yup, they kinda figured somebody was going to get wrecked in this scene, so the director decided he might as well be the guy holding the camera. No dialogue from the car can be heard (probably because of the heavy profanity you can see Hackman mouthing) so you get a fraught five minutes of car-crunching with only the blaring sound of a honking horn audible for most of it.
#5: The Streets of San Fransisco- Bullitt (1968)
Steve McQueen was the man to go to if you wanted a gritty car chase. Here, our hero spots a car full of hit men trying to kill him, and he decides to nip the problem in the bud by chasing them down in his Ford Mustang GT. The dupes, in a Dodge Charger, lead him through the hills of San Fran and out onto the highway before submitting to an orderly arrest…just kidding, they crash into a gas station, explode like the Death Star just shot them, and can be seen writing in agony as the flames lick their upside-down vehicle. Now that’s justice.
#4: The Whole Movie Minus 5 Minutes of Story- The Cannonball Run (1981)
So Burt Reynolds, Farrah Fawcett and Dom DeLuise being chased across the country by Sammy Davis Jr, James Bond, and Jackie Chan. Nuff’ said!
#3: Lord Humungus Wants the Gas!- Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior (1981)
Here at Deluxe Video Online, we’ve been getting pretty geeked up about the new Mad Max. We’ve talked about how you should see the original, and now we’re going to tell you why to see the sequel, The Road Warrior: it has one of the most intense pursuits in movie history. Our anti-hero Max has managed to convince a group of survivors to give him enough gasoline to last a lifetime, if only he can manage to cart it away from the hordes of skags who are willing to kill to get at the go-juice. Led by Jason Vorhees’ buffer bigger brother, Lord Humungus, the entire motor gang follows Max through the wasteland as he desperately tries to outrun them in a souped-up oil tanker.
This scene is what a demolition derby would look like if you removed all of the safety barriers and most of the drivers’ frontal cortex. Cars and body parts go flying everywhere, people get shot and mangled in inventive ways, and explosions are had aplenty. Once again I wonder why you’d race 100 vehicles around if you were worried about running out of gas…but to hell with it! Fire it up, boys, Humungus wants his gasoline!
#2: Chase Along the French Riviera- Ronin (1998)
Ronin deserves to be on this list twice, the chase scenes are so good. In the finale, Robert DeNiro and Jean Reno are in furious pursuit of members of their own team of mercenaries who have are attempting to double cross the pair. The chase involved hundreds of stunt drivers and wrecked a spectacular amount of cars as it wound its way through the tights streets of Paris and out onto the freeway. There’s plenty of near-misses and pedestrians diving for cover, and the whole affair ends with one car being flipped off the edge of an unfinished bridge…and this is not even the best chase in the film!
The real reason to see Ronin (besides Jean Reno, because, c’mon, it’s Jean Reno) is the early chase scene set along the French Riviera. The whole team is present, chasing down a rogue agent who is trying to get away with a mysterious case, which is to be sold to the Russians. The chase involves three cars plus a surveillance van tearing across a winding countryside road. Other cars quickly join the fray, and just as quickly explode. DeNiro forces the target car off the road…but the two drivers continue down dirt roads, through tight city streets, through a fish market, and right down to the dock, where they “convince” the thief to stop for a croissant and espresso…by T-Boning his car into a French Cafe. How’s that for service!
#1: On a Mission from God- The Blues Brothers (1980)
Trying to raise money for an orphanage, blues musicians/petty criminals Jake and Elwood Blues (John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd) manage to make enemies out of just about everybody- from the Illinois branch of the Neo Nazis, right on down to Carrie Fisher and Aretha Franklin. Now that is dedication to your craft. They even manage to irritate Ray Charles, and that cat was pretty unflappable.
After throwing a successful concert to raise the funds (and subsequently sneaking out the back door with the cash) the boys of blues attempt to outrun the boys in blue (and the Nazis, and The Good Ol’ Boys Band, and the National Guard…and Carrie Fisher…) The ensuing chase is pure mayhem, as Jake and Elwood lead the entire cast of the film in a frantic demolition derby race across Illinois in their refurbished police cruiser. The highlight is the final showdown with the Nazi’s, complete with Ride of the Valkyries playing as they speed across derelict streets and an unfinished span of highway…where the Bluesmobile defies physics and does a 180 degree backflip over the pursuing cars. For all of the over-the-top chicanery, The Blues Brothers takes the top spot for our look at incredible movie car chases!