The Hollywood Car Chase – an iconic cinematic scene which has become common in every genre from Action, to Thriller, to Comedy. There are so many good car chases to choose from, but we’ve narrowed it down to our Top 10.
10: Gone In 60 Seconds
Overall, perhaps not the best film on this list, but Gone in 60 Seconds has a chase worth tuning in for. Nicholas Cage plays Memphis Raines in this cross-city affair, hounded by detectives Castlebeck and Drycoff for carrying out a huge car heist. Raines is also being stalked by a huge 18-wheeler, which was clearly too expensive to crash into, as it appears throughout the car chase for episodes of near-contact. Nevertheless, there are enough great crashes, helicopters and emotionally unstable gas canisters smashing around to keep this sequence high-octane.
9. The Transporter
Spawning a film franchise which would seem to go on forever (Transporter: Refuelled anyone?) The Transporter gave us a great BMW car chase scene which was as slick as Jason Statham himself. With a backing track that sounds like something your parents would get jiggy to, this scene is as fun as it is suave. Sure, the quick cuts and rotating shots down narrow streets may make the sturdiest stomachs a bit nauseous , but you can’t help but find this playful car chase pretty enjoyable.
8. The Blues Brothers
The car chase by this iconic pair is a blundering mess of hilarity. Whilst Elwood and ‘Joliet’ Jake Blues have a domestic argument, they take an unexpected turn through a shopping mall. With both the brothers and the police equally unconcerned with pedestrian safety, they crash through the mall inflicting maximum collateral damage. It may not be the slickest chase on this list, but it’s rare to see such an epic example in a comedy.
7. The Seven-Ups
Phillip D’Antoni‘s 1973 thriller harks back to a time when cars were a long way off from being able to fly through the air with the help of CGI. Gritty, loud and realistic, this race between a Pontiac Ventura, Pontiac Grand Ville and a police car with the world’s most annoying siren, has the raw energy of a chase without frills but a bucket-load of energy instead.
6. The Driver
The Driver strikes a fine balance between a classic action car chase and something a bit more atmospheric. ‘The Driver’ himself pulls some amazing moves, with a seemingly ever growing number of police cars and gunfire in pursuit – all whilst remaining stony faced. One of the few chases on this list to take place at night, the light from downtown LA and police sirens also make something that is as aesthetically pleasing as Ryan O’Neal’s immovable face.
5. The French Connection
This car/train chase from this 1971 film intercuts scenes from both vehicles to build a huge amount of tension as the chase progresses. Proving you should never stop your car for a crazy guy waving in the road, Gene Hackman manages to inflict some impressive damage to his borrowed Pontiac Lemans in his race against time. With the assassin mindlessly killing people aboard the train, there is an effective sense of urgency built despite the lack of high-octane soundtrack.
4. To Live and Die in LA
The chase in this scene from the 1985 action-thriller is generally pretty awesome with a cleverly executed false sense of security mid-way. The highlight, however, is undoubtedly when the car chase takes a turn the wrong way down a highway. It is the stuff nightmares are made of and purportedly took an equally nightmarish six weeks to shoot. Director William Friedkin said he would only use this car chase if it was better than the one in The French Connection and, at least on our list, it seems he was just about right.
Now here is a car chase that ticks all the boxes. Badass hand break turns? Check. Random motorcyclist abuse? Check. And a female driver? Finally. This chase takes a turn the wrong way down the road too. But what really stands out is that all this takes place in the tunnels and archways of Belle Paris, which also allows for so many close shaves it’s impossible not to hold your breath. We’re just glad the 300 stunt drivers used and 80 cars that were purposefully ruined during production were worth it.
2. The Italian Job
Ok, so this British classic isn’t quite Hollywood, but with its jaunty soundtrack, fumbling pedestrians and other humorous touches, The Italian Job’s Mini Cooper car chase must surely be the most enjoyable car chase in cinematic history. The Coopers’s small size meant the chase could continue through shopping arcades, up and down stairs, across rooftops, along a footbridge and through a sewer causing minimal disruption. Moreover, the scene and indeed the film finishes on what must be one of the best literal interpretations of ‘cliff-hanger’.
The original and still the best, the 1968 film Bullitt is widely regarded by critics and fans as the first modern car chase movie. Dedicated camera work, such as these interior shots that must have required an uncomfortable level of intimacy with the camera guy, makes you feel as if you were riding shotgun with Steve McQueen. Cityscape to landscape, random dramatic motorbike crashes, gunfire, to dramatic explosions – this car chase really does have it all and its influence can be seen in the Hollywood car chases that followed.