What is it about a good car chase scene in a movie that gets the adrenaline pumping and engages the senses? Is it the quick reflexes and talent of the stunt driver, the high-stakes action sequences, the authentic visual effects or all of it together?
The best car chase scenes flirt with the edge of the impossible, but show they are actually physically and humanly possible. The art of the escape has immortalized movies like "Bullitt," "Ronin," "Mad Max" and the Fast and the Furious series. A good car scene can elevate a movie from B status to A status in just a few minutes of filming. Consider these 10 classic car-chase standouts that have taken moviegoers on the ride of their lives.
This American action film’s 40-minute car chase is the longest in movie history according to The Telegraph. The action focuses on a yellow 1973, Mustang Mach 1, known affectionately as Eleanor. The film was written, directed, produced by, H.B. "Toby" Halicki, who also is the show’s star. The film is remembered for having wrecked and destroyed 93 cars in its lengthy, but artfully edited car chase scene. To pull off this action sequence, director Halicki bought the police cars and other city vehicles at an auction for $200 each. He opted with installing the cameras inside the cars to increase the intensity for the viewer. The closing jump by Eleanor is an unbelievable stunt that hasn’t lost any of its prestige even 43 years later.
A quick Google query on “top car chase scenes of all-time” returns this movie every time. "Bullitt" set the bar for car chase scenes and has inspired directors for decades. This 1968, Steve McQueen classic has pursuits all over San Francisco as cars zoom over hills with jaw-dropping height and distance. The chase scene is seven minutes long, but it shows the importance of both inventive stunts and critical editing to create the adrenaline-filled result the director desires. According to Turner Classic Films, "Bullitt" won that year’s Academy Award for Best Editing.
The 1998 film "Ronin" has several notable car chases, but it is the last one through the tunnels and streets of Paris that is most remember. Some car chase scenes in the movie used up to 300 stunt drivers and demolished 80 cars, according to a review by Brother’s Ink. Under the direction of former amateur racing driver John Frankeheimer, "Ronin" skips the common digital effects and films many sequences live to support the authenticity of the chase. Frankenheimer rode along in many of the chase scenes as did the actual actors.
"Baby Driver" starts with a high-octane chase scene featuring a music-obsessed getaway driver named Baby (Ansel Elgort), his red Subaru and a gang of bank robbers. Baby blasts Jon Spencer Blues Explosion's "Bellbottoms" and takes viewers on an edge-of-your-seat journey all around downtown Atlanta. Edgar Wright’s six-minute chase sequence has been hailed as one of the best action filmmaking of 2017 according to IndieWire.
Director George Miller introduced us to the iconic "Mad Max" in this 1979 action film featuring the young Mel Gibson. According to Vanity Fair magazine, the low-budget film used a real-life biker gang for the chase scenes. The cast was frequently pulled over by law enforcement while filming in Australia. The movie begins with Nightrider racing away from the highway patrol in a stolen police cruiser with his girlfriend. Ditching several officers, Nightrider is finally matched up with Max but doesn’t live to tell the tale.
“I’ve gotta get me one of those” exclaims Jim Gordon at the beginning of this 2005 epic chase scene when he first sees the Tumbler emerge. While some may argue that Batman’s latest ride isn’t the sleekest, director Christopher Nolan sets out to offer audiences a more realistic take on the superhero. Filmed on the streets of Chicago, aka Gotham City, the film’s keynote chase covers city roads, rooftops, highways and countryside.
The life-threatening stunts that make up this chase scene are almost as impressive as the high-end cars used in the filming of it. The Wall Street Journal reports that 230 cars were destroyed during James Wan’s shoot in Colorado, Atlanta and Abu Dhabi. This extreme street racing sequel, features fast cars, fast filming and fast fun.
Lauded by UpRoxx as one of the best chase scenes involving a semi and a motorcycle ever put on film, the movie's famous motorcycle scene in the San Fernando Valley’s Bull Creek made history. Out of the movie’s $100 million budget, nearly half of it was dedicated to the film’s special effects and action sequences. The intense chase scene uses a truck, a motorbike and the Terminator on a Harley-Davidson with truck-bashing, bridge-jumping and shotgun-twirling action. The action sequences leave moviegoers with much to love about director James Cameron’s cinematic accomplishment.
Under director Paul Greengrass, the car chase in this 2004 sequel is filled with intense scenes and dramatic narrow misses as Bourne expertly maneuvers a stolen taxi. In one scene, you actually see Bourne pour vodka into a shoulder wound while driving. Movie-watchers forget to blink as they participate in the chase through the streets of Moscow. Cameras inside the speeding car bring a jostling perspective and you feel the impacts shake through your body.
Filmmakers had big shoes to fill with the 2003 remake of this 1969 classic film. While the original still contains one of the best car chase scenes ever made, the 2003 retake took it to a new level. The Mini Coopers used in this movie were rebuilt with electric motors since combustible engines aren't allowed in the subway tunnels they filmed in. Actors Mark Wahlberg, Charlize Theron and Jason Statham are seen racing underground through a rarely-viewed area of Los Angeles. If that wasn’t enough to grab your attention, get this — most of the actors did their stunt driving.
And that’s a wrap on the most unforgettable movie car chase scenes to date, but before you go take note of one blaring factor each of these blockbuster films possessed. You’ll notice not one of the drivers is using a cell phone while they are driving. Drive smart. Drive safe. Don’t text while you drive.