Cinema’s Greatest Car Chases

Classic Car Chases from the Big Screen

Car chases are back on the big screen, and they seem more popular than ever. British director Edgar Wright’s love letter to both cinema in general and car chase movies, Baby Driver, is in cinemas now. It has already climbed as high as the number two spot in the box office charts. The film stars Ansel Elgort as a gifted car thief turned getaway driver to repay a debt. Joined by Jon Hamm, Jamie Foxx, and Kevin Spacey, the story is one wild ride when it comes to action, dialogue, and of course, cars. From a Subaru Impreza WRX, to the new Dodge Demon, there’s plenty to keep both petrol heads and film buffs happy. There’s also some ingenious uses of the technology we see in our modern cars, such as reverse parking cameras, making the chase scenes even more exciting and interesting. Here are some of our other favourite car chases to hit the big screen.

The Rock

The backdrop of San Francisco proved too much of a pull for director Michael Bay, who put a Ferrari F355 Spider and a Hummer H1 up against the steep hill roads of the oft-used car chase location. Already considered one of Ferrari’s greats, the F355 is seen weaving through the traffic and around obstacles left in the marauding wake of the Hummer with pinpoint precision, and screaming at the top of its Italian V8 lungs as it does so.

Bullitt

Car chases - Steve McQueen and the iconic Mustang in 'Bullitt'

Perhaps the most iconic and best car chase of all time. Cop against hitmen. Mustang against Charger. McQueen against Hickman (legendary Hollywood wheelman). V8 against V8. Okay, so McQueen only did about 10% of the actual driving, and that green VW beetle does get passed more than once. But it’s probably the first film that made you want to go out and buy driving gloves. And a muscle car.

The French Connection

After the fame afforded to the Bullitt car chase, director William Friedkin set out to better it. It could even be said that he attempted to do so twice, as he was also at the helm of another great movie with a car chase at its core, ‘To Live and Die in L.A’. In this, his first attempt, he pitches a car against a train, literally pulling out all the stops (pun intended), and racing through an open Brooklyn neighbourhood…and allegedly without any permits.

Ronin

This film features not one, but several great car chases. One of the first features an Audi S8 driven with precision through the narrow streets of Nice. The second, almost unfeasibly, sees a Peugeot 405 take on a BMW M5 and actually keep up.

The Blues Brothers

Another great car movie with another great soundtrack. There’s beginning to be something of a theme here. John Belushi and Dan Ackroyd take their ex-police Dodge through a shopping mall to escape the Chicago PD and a psychotic Carrie Fisher. Cameos from every great director of the 1970s, as well as soul stars like Aretha Franklin and Ray Charles make this a must-see.

Vanishing Point

Car Chases - Vanishing Point

In both Baby Driver and Vanishing Point, it is arguably the soundtrack that helps ‘make’ the movie. A drug-fueled delivery driver decides to drive across the states in the white Dodge Challenger SRT his client is expecting to take delivery of in a mere 48 hours. Throw in a nude motorcyclist and cops, and you’ve got yourself a classic road movie.

Gone in 60 Seconds

Not the remake starring Nicholas Cage (he was the driver of the Ferrari F355 in The Rock, so we’re not ignoring him completely), but the 1974 original. The film was directed by and starred HB Halicki, who decided that after years of being a stunt man, nobody had ever made a car chase movie that really challenged him. With a 40-minute finale, and a 30-foot jump, many would argue he set the bar high.

The Bourne Identity

Don’t worry, there’s room for two car chases involving Minis on this list. Whereas muscle or even super cars dominate most car chases, in this Matt Damon feature, it is the humble Mini that brings Paris to a standstill. The chase culminates in a reckless descent of a narrow staircase, proving the little car was always the perfect tool for the job, just like Bourne himself.

The Italian Job

Three mini coopers through a traffic jam in Turin. Whereas the movie plot is set around Michael Caine’s band of thieves trying to escape the Mafia, it was in fact the mob who helped ‘organise’ the city’s co-operation in the end. And yes, we presume they made them an offer they couldn’t refuse.

Of course, there are many great car chase movies and we can’t mention them all in one sitting. So, it’s a subject we’re bound to revisit again in the future. Did we miss your favourite? Let us know, and you may see it on the list next time round.

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Author: Luke Phillips (59 Articles)