There’s nothing better than a frantic, fast-paced, pulse-pounding car chase.
The kind that sticks you directly in the middle of the action at a hundred miles an hour, keeping you at the edge of your seat as the mayhem unfolds.
The kind that keeps you coming back to re-view (and in my case, “review”) time and again, just to relive it.
The kind that brings something new to a very crowded genre.
The kind that I’m crazy for not including in my top ten list. Well, did I miss any?
10. Bank Heist (Fast Five)
This would rank even higher if two Mustangs had been involved instead of two Dodge Chargers, but it’s still fantastic to see Vin Diesel and Paul Walker double-team the streets of Rio de Janeiro with a gazillion ton bank safe in tow.
Bonus points for the fact that when the safe opens, it’s to Danza Kuduro so I’m reminded of every Caribbean vacation I’ve taken since 2010.
9. Mall Escape (Terminator 2)
Normally, if you’re choosing between a dirt bike and a big rig tow truck for chase purposes, you’d take the truck, right? But what if the dirt bike also comes with an assist from Arnold Schwarzenegger’s T-800?
What makes this chase all the more awesome is that if you go in to this movie cold, you cannot be sure which killer robot is on little John Conner’s side – a masterstroke by James Cameron which the movie’s trailers spoiled for anyone who’d seen them.
8. Mall Break-In (The Blues Brothers)
You expect a crash or two as part of a chase. Maybe a car even flips over once in a while. The Blues Brothers took crashes to an entirely different level.
A total of 103 cars were wrecked during the film, many of them during Dan Ackroyd and John Belushi’s wild ride through a shopping mall. That triple-digit destruction was a record until Blues Brothers 2000 deliberately smashed one more car during its production. But it’s the original receiving the crown that matters, namely a spot on this prestigious list.
7. San Francisco Tour (Bullitt)
Steve McQueen takes a spin in maybe the most iconic Mustang ever and tames the streets of San Francisco and a rival driver in a Dodge Charger.
But it’s not only the car, it’s also that McQueen made sure to keep his head in view of the camers so you knew it was him doing the heavy lifting the whole time.
6. World’s Worst Valet (The Rock)
This is mostly about the car, as Nicolas Cage borrows a beautiful yellow Ferrari F355 Spider to chase down Sean Connery in a Hummer H1. And fucks it up badly.
Michael Bay puts his own spin on a San Francisco chase, complete with a runaway trolley car, and reminds us that at Bay’s peak his set pieces were as good as anyone’s.
5. Catching the Train (The French Connection)
The French Connection’s chase is iconic for good reason. This claustrophobic subway/car chase was filmed without a permit in real Brooklyn traffic, causing real car crashes that were left in the film (the producers paid for the repairs, but still).
While the choice to film on uncleared streets is one that would never be allowed by a Hollywood studio today, the camera angles used by director William Friedkin and his crew are still being used today.
4. Bellbottoms (Baby Driver)
It’s rare to have a car chase open a movie, but when it’s done right, why not?
Here, Edgar Wright gets the opening chase scene SO right, in part because he’d been dreaming of making this very car chase (complete with accompanying song) since the 90s. It was worth the wait!
3. Chasing a Black…Tank (Batman Begins)
Christopher Nolan can do it all, can’t he? You’d think the streets of Gotham City would be perfect car chase fodder but only Nolan got it right.
Nolan also got a Gotham chase right in The Dark Knight, but for my money the chase from Batman Begins is the best one since it shows us how bewildering it would be for the cops trying to keep track of a superhero’s black…tank as it defies the laws of physics.
2. Fourth Quarter Magic (Drive)
As good as Baby Driver’s opening is, the opening sequence in Drive wins out for Nicolas Winding Refn’s patience and subtlety.
This chase feels like it actually could have happened, and more importantly sets the tone for the rest of the film with its gritty realism, a hint of the pulsing synth soundtrack, and amazing attention to detail (only after seeing the chase play out do we understand why Ryan Gosling’s character is such a big basketball fan).
1. The Whole Enchilada (Mad Max: Fury Road)
Mad Max: Fury Road is essentially a two-hour long chase scene, so on that measure it has to be number one.
But what is most impressive is that I couldn’t pick just one short sequence of that chase to focus on because it’s all fantastic. The madness and desperation in Max’s world lend an unmatched urgency to the chase, and George Miller never takes his foot off the accelerator even for a minute – fitting for the best car chase scene of all-time.