Pedal to the metal, squad cars in pursuit and plenty of near misses… there’s nothing quite like a high-octane movie car chase.
As a viewer, you’re likely to find yourself rooting for the hero as they risk it all, while you hold your breath on the edge of your sofa.
With the help of IMDB rankings, we’ve created a run-down of some of the best movie car chases from the past six decades.
Fasten your seatbelts, these movie picks will take you on a bumpy ride.
We’re starting with the ‘60s and possibly the most famous car chase of all: detective Frank Bullitt, played by Steve McQueen, racing through the streets of San Francisco behind the wheel of the iconic green Ford Mustang in Oscar-winning movie Bullitt.
The 12-minute chase - which is commonly considered the best Hollywood has ever created - took two weeks to film and McQueen did most of his own stunt driving.
Honourable mention from the ‘60s: The Italian Job
The French Connection (1971)
The 1971 film which starred Gene Hackman and Roy Scheider as narcotics detectives Popeye Doyle and Cloudy Russo, included a car chase with a twist: Hackman’s Doyle commandeers a 1971 Pontiac LeMans and tears after a train.
Filmed on the streets of Brooklyn, New York, movie legend says that the car chase was shot without obtaining the proper permits from the city.
Honourable mention from the ‘70s: Vanishing Point.
Blues Brothers (1980)
This ‘80s film features a particularly destructive car chase through the Dixie Square Mall in Chicago; no less than a world record 103 cars were wrecked while filming the scene.
Meanwhile, the brothers, seemingly unphased while being pursued by police cars, casually discuss the shops they see as they flee at high speed. “Baby clothes”, says Elwood Blues (Dan Aykroyd). “This place has got everything” retorts his brother Jake (John Belushi). An iconic scene.
Honourable mention from the ‘80s: Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior
Bad Boys (1995)
“Now that’s how you’re supposed to drive! From now on, that’s how you drive!” yells Mike (Will Smith) to Marcus (Martin Lawrence) after the pair have just chased down villain Fouchet (Tchéky Karyo) in the 1995 movie.
The high-speed pursuit, which is the final scene of the buddy cop movie, is as much a showcase for the two central characters’ wisecracking as it is the rubber on the tarmac - but it’s none the worse for it.
Honourable mention from the ‘90s: Ronin
Quantum of Solace (2008)
How can any list of the top movie car chases not include a Bond film? In the 2008 film Quantum of Solace, it’s Daniel Craig in the driving seat.
As soon as the film starts, viewers immediately find themselves gripped by a car chase in full pursuit. Bond in his Aston Martin DBS is being pursued by gun-toting villains in an Alfa Romeo, as they wind their way around curving Italian hillside roads.
Such scenes are often genuinely dangerous to create. One of the Aston Martins used for the filming ended up at the bottom of an Italian lake.
Honourable mention from the 2000s: The Bourne Supremacy
Baby Driver (2017)
If you haven’t seen this film, treat yourself to the six-minute opening sequence and you’ll be hooked. The titular baby driver coolly motors a trio of bank robbers away from the pursuing cops, all to the rhythms of Jon Spencer Blues Explosion’s track Bellbottoms.
What makes this scene - and the other car chases in the film - all the more impressive is that there was no computer-generated imagery (CGI) involved. Instead, a racing seat and controls were mounted on the roof of each car - a Subaru WRX in the opening scene - enabling a stunt driver to control the car while cameras captured the actors’ actions and reactions.
Honourable mention from the 2010s: Drive
Not just for grown ups
Exciting car chases aren’t just for adults and there are some high-octane film scenes for kids too.
Try Pixar’s Cars (2006) police car chase; or the scene towards the end of Toy Story 1 (1995), when Woody attempts to steer Buzz away from ferocious dog Scud - like many classic road chase scenes, it results in a pile-up.
You’re all set for a movie night full of excitement. Time to make some popcorn and enjoy the ride.
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