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The 12 Best Car Chases in Movie History

Many things can make an action movie memorable, but one of the best things to include is an exciting car chase. Real-life car chases are stressful and can make onlookers worried for their safety. Still, there’s something incredibly satisfying about safely watching someone zip through traffic or try to evade authorities from behind the wheel. Whether it’s just one person being pursued or a whole group of individuals trying to outrace the competition, movie chase scenes are an art form all to themselves, and their success depends on the hard work and coordination of multiple teams working together on each film.

Buckle up and learn more about the 12 Best Car Chases in Movie History!

12. Opening Getaway in ‘Baby Driver’ (2017)

Writer-director Edgar Wright loves synchronizing movement to music, but the opening sequence of Baby Driver, a character-driven crime movie about a getaway driver trying to break out of the business-takes things to a whole other level. Set to Bellbottoms by The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion, the film’s first scene focuses on Baby (Ansel Elgort) as he preps for and ultimately embarks on a wild police chase through the packed streets and highways of Atlanta. The song’s energy pulses through every shot, making the fantastic stunt driving and performances from the ensemble in the car all the more exciting. 

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11. Outrun Everyone in ‘The Blues Brothers’ (1980)

John Landis’ The Blues Brothers is a comedy classic that sees the titular Blues Brothers, Elwood (Dan Akroyd) and Jake (John Belushi), try to get their old band back together in the hopes they can make enough money to save the orphanage they grew up in. The movie features memorable cameos from music icons like Ray Charles and James Brown, but the most technically noteworthy aspect of the film has to be its massive chase scene. With just half a tank of gas and dark sunglasses obscuring their vision, the brothers out chase police officers and nazis to make it to their show in time.

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10. Truck vs. Motorcycle in ‘Terminator 2: Judgment Day’ (1991)

In a movie full of explosive action sequences, there’s something about Terminator 2: Judgement Day’s chase scene that marks it as one of the franchise’s most memorable moments. Written and directed by James Cameron, Terminator 2 follows a reprogrammed T-800 Terminator bot (Arnold Schwarzenegger) after he is sent back in time to protect a teenage John Conner (Edward Furlong) so he can grow up and ultimately lead a rebellion against the evil Skynet organization in the future. The chase sequence sees the evil T-1000 (Robert Patrick) get behind the wheel of a giant semi truck as he chases down John Conner’s bicycle and ultimately T-800’s motorcycle throughout the streets and waterways of Los Angeles. 

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9. A Patient Getaway in ‘Drive’ (2011)

Nicolas Winding Refn’s Drive is a tense and action-packed movie, but part of what makes it so enjoyable is its ability to take its time and slowly allow the characters to move forward in the story. That sense of pacing is noticeable right away in the opening chase sequence where audiences are introduced to the nameless stunt/getaway driver at the center of the movie (Ryan Gosling) as he methodically helps his accomplices escape from the scene of a crime. The shifting camera angles and the driver’s permanently collected facial expression add to the sense that he is in control over this situation, but the movie slowly reveals to its protagonist that he’s never truly in control of his environment.

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8. Ethan Hunt’s Ride Through Paris in ‘Mission: Impossible – Fallout’ (2018)

Tom Cruise prides himself on doing as many of his own stunts as possible, but something about the motorcycle chase sequence in Christopher McQuarrie’s Mission: Impossible – Fallout feels extreme even by his over-the-top standards. As Ethan Hunt (Cruise) and his allies try to stop the deadly terrorist group known as The Apostles from detonating a number of bombs, he ends up being pursued by French authorities in a high-octane (and helmetless) chase through the heart of a traffic-filled Paris. The motorcycle sequence features some beautiful cinematography that perfectly accentuates just how impressive the stunt and driving work truly is. 

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7. Going the Wrong Way in ‘Ronin’ (1989)

One could argue that Ronin exists explicitly so director John Frankenheimer could orchestrate the two elaborate chase sequences in the movie. A movie about a group of former special operatives who are all hired to work together and acquire a highly sought-after briefcase, Ronin is a tense movie that is full of double-crossing and quiet moments that balance out the balls-to-the-wall sensation that the chase scenes evoke. Both chases are incredible, but there’s something about the sequence in Paris, where the squad drives on the freeway going the wrong way and the real-life fear on Robert De Niro’s face is palpable, that is especially worthy of praise.  

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6. The Subway Chase in ‘The French Connection’ (1971)

William Freidkin’s The French Connection follows NYPD Detective Jimmy Doyle (Gene Hackman) as he tries to hunt down a dangerous heroin smuggler named Alain Charnier (Fernando Rey). The 1972 Best Picture Academy Award winner concludes with a massive chase through New York City that sees Detective Doyle do everything he can to keep up with an above-ground subway car that Charnier has commandeered.  Separate from the excitement and anxiety the sequence brings to viewers, the chase sequence is also notorious for the real-world mayhem it caused during filming. Despite how perfect the chase looks on film, it turns out it was recklessly filmed without any permits and the crew often continued shooting after the drivers entered areas that didn’t have explicit traffic control in place.

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5. Dusty Chase in ‘Mad Max: Fury Road’ (2015)

In a way, Mad Max: Fury Road is all one giant, dusty chase scene. Starring Tom Hardy as the titular Mad Max and Charlize Theron as Imperator Furiosa, a captain in the villainous Immortan Joe’s (Hugh Keays-Byrne) army who ultimately turns against her boss and tries to rescue his five wives, the movie follows Max and Furiosa as they drive across the desert in a massive truck called the War Rig and try to keep the women safe from Joe’s henchmen. Helmed by franchise creator George Miller, Fury Road features some incredible sound design and stunning cinematography that makes every action scene feel all the more over-the-top and explosive.

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4. The Final Chase in ‘Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior’ (1981)

Fury Road may be the biggest technical achievement in George Miller’s Mad Max franchise, but it’s really Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior that cemented the series’ status as an iconic action franchise. Mel Gibson returns to the role of “Mad” Max Rockatansky in The Road Warrior, a roaming driver in the post-apocalyptic Australian outback who all of a sudden finds himself defending a peaceful camp of people from a group of roving marauders looking to cause mayhem. The film is full of exciting action scenes, but The Road Warrior’s final chase sequence, a scene that sees Max criss-cross across the desert in an oil tanker while fighting bandits, is likely the most remarkable and never fails at pulling viewers to the edge of their seats.

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3. The Finale of ‘The Italian Job’ (1969)

To get away with the ultimate gold heist, Charlie Croker (Michael Caine) and his Mini Cooper-clad crew lead the police on a massive chase that Croker hopes will ultimately bring the city of Turin to a standstill and allow them to escape. The chase sequence is incredibly elaborate and entertaining, but rather than going for a realistic tone, the chase feels almost theatrical and goofy at times as it slowly unwinds over thirty minutes. Directed by Peter Collinson, The Italian Job is one of the best heist movies of all time and this incredibly complex car sequence is the perfect way to cap off all the action. 

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2. Criss-Crosses Throughout San Francisco in ‘Bullitt’ (1968)

Steve McQueen is no stranger to action movies or playing talented drivers, but the role of SFPD detective Frank Bullitt in Bullitt stands as one of the most iconic and exciting performances of his career. Directed by Peter Yates, Bullitt follows the titular detective as he helps a U.S. Senator’s investigate a mob boss by watching over the criminal’s brother Johnny (Pat Renella) until he can present at a subcommittee meeting about organized crime. The movie’s famous chase scene unwinds over eleven glorious minutes as Bullitt and his iconic green mustang zip through the streets of San Francisco to evade a car full of hitmen sent to stop him. 

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1. Exploring The City in ‘To Live and Die in L.A.’ (1985)

As a Los Angeles native, I know just how crazy driving in this dense yet sprawled out city can be. William Freidkin’s To Live and Die in L.A., a sprawling crime drama that follows Secret Service agent Richard Chance (William Petersen) on his mission to stop a dangerous counterfeiter named Eric Masters (Willem Dafoe), perfectly displays the sense of stress and dread driving in this city can give to people in its pulse-pounding freeway chase scene. As Chance and his partner try to evade the scene of a sting gone wild, they dart across streets, flood pathways and even get on the freeway going the wrong way all in the hopes they can get away with their lives.   

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