Great car chases are a hallmark of cinema. Stunt drivers from around the world have been burning rubber for the big screen for decades in pursuit of the perfect sequence. While there are too many exciting car chases to count, we have narrowed the list down to our top 10 picks for the very best movies that put car chases in the driver’s seat.
Gone in 60 Seconds (2000)
Gone in 60 Seconds was not received well by critics, who disparaged its acting, writing, directing, action… Basically everything about it. Despite its reviews, the film grossed $237 million at the box office. Why?
Because it is sexy as heck.
Nicolas Cage and Angelina Jolie star in this fast-paced joyride about a team of car thieves pulling off the job of a lifetime in order to save the life of one of their own.
It is two hours of fast cars, quotable quips, and good looking people, all built on the foundation of great car chases.
The Italian Job (2003)
Though 2003’s The Italian Job shares a title with the 1969 film that inspired it, it has an original story that director F. Gary Gray described as an homage. The film stars Mark Wahlberg, Charlize Theron, Edward Norton, Seth Green, Mos Def, Jason Statham, and of course, Mini Coopers.
The Mini Cooper heist sequence is one of the most iconic car chases of all time. This high-octane scene features the team speeding away with a payload that is more like payback; they stash $27 million worth of gold in their Minis and zip through tunnels beneath Los Angeles while being pursued by motorcycle bad guys.
Without its car chases, there would be no The Italian Job.
The Fast and the Furious (2001)
The Fast & Furious franchise is great at two things: racing and chasing. It has been perfecting its unique brand of thrills over the course of 10 movies, but it all started with 2001’s The Fast and the Furious.
Paul Walker plays Brian O’Conner, an undercover cop embedded in the world of underground street racing. Brian is there to take the operation down, but his loyalty is tested when he grows to love the race and the people that participate.
Nos-powered car chases through the streets of Los Angeles are where the high-flying stunts of the franchise began, and for cultural impact alone, The Fast and the Furious is one of the best in the business.
Death Proof (2007)
Quentin Tarantino was not happy with the state of car chases in cinema, so he made his own. No CGI, just good old-fashioned stunts. The result was Death Proof.
This homage to 1970s exploitation films stars Kurt Russell as an aging stuntman who picks up women in his “death proof” car and then kills them with it. The roles are reversed when a group of targeted women decide to give the old driver a taste of his own medicine.
Originally billed as part of a double feature with Robert Rodriguez’s Planet Terror, Death Proof has since been expanded and released on its own. The film is gritty and ridiculous, and it delivers some of the most fun car chases of the past few decades.
Ronin is an espionage crime thriller that follows Robert De Niro as a former U.S. intelligence agent who is now a high-level thief for hire. When he is brought on to steal a briefcase from an armored vehicle, epic car chases become inevitable.
Car chases through Nice and Paris earned Ronin a lot of praise upon its release. The film kept its action grounded and visceral, steering away from special effects and actually filming at high speeds. Formula One and other high-performance drivers were brought on to drive the vehicles while the actors performed scenes at 100 miles per hour.
The sequences were immediately compared to some of the greatest car chases of all time, so naturally, Ronin belongs on our list.
If you have ever wondered where Ryan Gosling got his “cool guy” reputation, look no further than Drive. Directed by Nicolas Winding Refn, Drive is a piece of neo-noir action arthouse cinema that has been getting film bros hot and bothered for more than a decade, and for good reason.
Gosling’s unflinching performance as a getaway driver caught in a dangerous love triangle is built around chaotic car chases and a synth-heavy soundtrack that can only be described as a major vibe.
With a supporting cast including Carrie Mulligan, Bryan Cranston, and Oscar Isaac, Drive is for lovers of car chases, romance, hyper-violence, and generally cool things.
Baby Driver (2017)
No car chases are quite as fun as the pursuits in Baby Driver. Directed by Edgar Wright, this clever and stylish film tells the story of a getaway driver named Baby who executes his death-defying maneuvers to the sounds of a personal soundtrack rocking in his earbuds.
Baby Driver’s use of music injects unparalleled energy into every moment of the film, especially the car chases. Baby speeds through the streets of Atlanta with the help of Orange’s “Bellbottoms”, The Damned’s “Neat Neat Neat”, Queen’s “Brighton Rock”, and more.
Baby attempts to escape his life of crime with the woman he loves, and the car chases only get crazier from there. For lovers of cars and music, Baby Driver is the movie for you.
The French Connection (1971)
This Academy Award-winner for Best Picture does a lot of things right, but The French Connection hangs its hat on its epic car chase. The film follows Detective Jimmy “Popeye” Doyle, played by Gene Hackman, as he tracks down a French heroin smuggler in New York City.
In one of the greatest car chases ever staged, Popeye commandeers a civilian vehicle to pursue a criminal who has boarded an elevated train. Popeye pursues the train from below, speeding through the busy Brooklyn streets.
Much of the sequence is shot by a camera mounted to the car’s hood that is capturing in 18 frames per second as opposed to the typical 24, giving the footage a slightly sped up look. The sequence is a breathless action set piece that has been inspiring great car chases ever since.
You would be hard-pressed to find a film car chase from the past 50 years that was not influenced by Bullitt. Directed by Peter Yates, this crime thriller stars Steve McQueen as Frank Bullitt, a no-nonsense San Francisco cop out to bring down a criminal empire.
The pinnacle of this classic film is a car chase to end all car chases. Bullitt is tailed through the streets of San Francisco, but he catches on and manages to get on his stalker’s tail. The bad guys zoom away and Bullitt pursues, sending both vehicles careening across the hills of the city.
Bullitt is a touchstone for many of the films on this list, and Steven Spielberg likes the movie so much that he is reviving the character with Bradley Cooper. If you like car chases, you will love Bullitt.
Mad Max: Fury Road (2015)
Many movies feature car chases, but Mad Max: Fury Road IS a car chase. Director George Miller had the idea to make a movie that was one long chase way back in the late 1980s.
Fury Road had a long and troubled development process that was impacted by schedule conflicts, the Iraq War, Mel Gibson’s personal life controversies, and wildflowers blooming in the desert.
Eventually, the film added Tom Hardy in the role of Max and Charlize Theron as the film’s true hero, Furiosa. The pair smuggle a group of concubines out of an oppressive settlement and race across the post-apocalyptic desert in search of refuge.
The crazed tyrant pursues them with an army of insane vehicles that delivers non-stop adrenaline in one of the greatest, zaniest, and most thrilling car chases ever caught on film.