The best car chase movies include Baby Driver, Bullitt, and The Italian Job.
The car chase has been a staple of Hollywood cinema since the dawn of the motion picture, even though in recent years, the Fast and Furious franchise has made cars into the tools of a superhero. The 10 films listed here don’t feature the flashiest of stunts or the coolest of cars, but they embody the classic chase sequence better than any action film of the last few years. Tom Cruise may do his own stunts, but he has nothing on the gritty realism given to some of the scenes on this list.
10. Gone In 60 Seconds (2000)
Gone in 60 Seconds, starring Nicolas Cage and Angelina Jolie, is a remake, but it contains a car chase that surpasses everything from the original when Kip Raines (Cage) gets behind the wheel of Eleanor, the Shelby GT 500, and outraces the police. The highlight is either the sequence going down the Los Angeles River, with helicopters in pursuit, when Raines guns the gas and leaves the LAPD in the dust, or it’s the jump. Faced with a traffic jam and an empty car carrier, Raines lines up, and flies over first responders and stuck motorists in the greatest jump since The Dukes of Hazzard.
9. The Blues Brothers (1980)
For a movie based on a Saturday Night Live sketch and about getting the band back together, The Blues Brothers surprised audiences with the biggest car chase ever filmed. Tearing through a real mall and involving real, decommissioned police cars that were destroyed in a pre-CGI world, this was the most expensive scene in movie history. Dan Akroyd and John Belushi did some of the driving themselves but mostly relied on stunt drivers, including the son of John Wayne, for the scene.
Out of all the car chases on this list, The Blues Brothers involves the most cars, and again, it’s in the middle of a movie about music, making it the most random of all the chases on this list.
8. The Italian Job (1969)
Forget the Mark Wahlberg/Charlize Theron remake, the original version of The Italian Job starring Michael Caine has the better car chase scenes. Both films focus on Mini Coopers, the least likely car to be involved in an intense chase, but the filmmakers took advantage of the small cars to take them off-road, onto the sidewalks, and through shops. Played as a comedy, the choice of car is supposed to elicit laughter, until the chase begins and the audience realizes how well-thought-out the insane plan really is.
For inventive car chases, nothing comes close to the use of the Mini Cooper, which is what helped make The Italian Job one of the greatest British films of all time and one of the best car chase films ever.
7. Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991)
From the smallest vehicles on the list to the biggest in a car chase, Terminator 2: Judgment Day features motorcycle vs. tow-truck in the best chase of the early 90s (but not for the entire decade). Arnold Schwarzenegger and Edward Furlong are significantly outclassed by Robert Patrick’s T-1000 behind the wheels of a Freightliner tow truck, relying on speed and agility to stay ahead of the metal monster. Using the large truck for the T-1000 is also a thematic choice since nothing better captures the unrelenting liquid robot’s mindless pursuit like a behemoth that keeps going even after the cab is shredded off.
6. Baby Driver (2017)
Baby Driver starts the movie off with a car chase that has a twist, it is, in-universe, timed to the beat of “Bellbottoms” by Jon Spencer Blues Explosion. Starring Ansel Elgort as Baby, the gifted wheelman, the film continues to show off his talent behind the wheel, but nothing matches the kinetic opening that stands as the most recent entry on this list.
Car chases have become somewhat of a lost art in Hollywood, with the Fast and Furious franchise featuring them as more physical extensions of the superhero cast performing death-defying feats, but no one is showing them as Edgar Wright did in this film: a tool to reach point B from point A, faster than anyone else.
5. The Bourne Identity (2002)
The second appearance of the Mini Cooper on this list comes from The Bourne Identity, which brings the gritty realism of the ground-breaking fight sequences to the car chase sequence. Set in Paris, again, the small size of the Mini Cooper is played with as the pursuit goes down tight alleyways and side streets. At the time of the chase, Matt Damon‘s superspy has no memory and no idea why he has fighting and tactical skills, but during the chase, he’s not questioning how he knows to drive this way; he just does it.
None of the other films in the franchise could match the first film’s car chase, with the sequel playing with the trope in a shocking and surprising way.
4. Ronin (1998)
Ronin, described as a “spy thriller for car fanatics,” has some of the best car chases ever filmed. The best of them involves Jean Reno driving Robert De Niro with a rocket launcher as they try to retrieve a briefcase amidst the complex plot’s multiple double and triple crosses. Director John Frakenheimer has been praised for this sequence, roughly three-quarters of the way through the film, by not having the cars do anything impossible.
Since the car chase goes from the hilly countryside of Paris and into the woods, it’s amazing that, again, the Audi, Mercedes, and Citreon involved can drive those speeds across those surfaces while making tight turns. The attention to detail is what makes this a favorite of car lovers.
3. Mad Max: Fury Road (2015)
The majority of Mad Max: Fury Road is a car chase featuring heavily customized vehicles in the post-apocalyptic wasteland. It’s hard to pick one moment, but the opening of the initial chase, with Immortan Joe’s full fleet, complete with the iconic flaming guitar player, stands out. The crazy car variations chasing down an armored tanker truck crewed by Charlize Theron’s Furiosa stunned audiences when it was first released, and amazingly, there’s almost no CGI used in the movie.
For sheer, over-the-top spectacle, nothing comes close to the car chase in Mad Max: Fury Road. Max, played by Tom Hardy, isn’t even involved until well into the sequence, spending most of it strapped to the front of a vehicle.
2. Bullitt (1968)
The Steve McQueen classic Bullitt features one of the greatest car chases of all time, making use of San Francisco’s hilly streets to add a vertical dynamic to the realistic sequence. Slowly, Detective Bullitt realizes he’s being tailed by hitmen in a Dodge Charger, setting off a frantic race through the streets in his own Ford Mustang. With no dialogue and little music, director Peter Yates let the cars do the talking for the scene, allowing the audience to hear the tires squealing, the gears shifting, and the engines thrumming.
Hailed as the most influential car chase in history, Bullitt was honored in 2007 by being inducted into the National Film Registry.
1. The French Connection (1971)
The French Connection won the Oscar for Best Picture, and the amazing car chase sequence is a large reason why. Ingeniously cut with shots from a first-person perspective, the scene milks drama and tension better than any other on this list, especially since it only features one car. Gene Hackman, in ana ward-winning role as Jimmy “Popeye” Doyle, gives chase to an elevated train carrying Pierre Nicoli, played by Marcel Bozzuffi, a mob hitman, kickstarting the most realistic chase committed to camera.
Doyle’s car is banged up and barely functioning by the time he reaches the stopped car, and along the way, there are no truly heroic moments, no glorious jumps, just a regular car being driven recklessly.