Film

The 10 Best Car Chase Films

As Furious 7 rapidly approaches, it's time to look back on the 10 films that created our concept of the car chase and its place in the modern action effort.

It's almost here. No, not the summer movie season; that's still a good month and a highly anticipated Avengers sequel away. In this case, we are talking about the latest entry in the fluke franchise known as The Fast and the Furious. What started out as a celebration of all things racing, including an unnecessary diversion into "drifting", has now become one of the biggest multi-cultural action series ever. We can thank the various creative forces behind the scenes for transporting said narrative away from the illegal street car challenges of the original movie to the dizzying heist drama of Fast Five and the international intrigue and spy games of Fast and Furious 6.

With Part Seven promising to be a huge moneymaker at the box office (avoiding the May through August season all together), we've decided to go back and look through the history of film, picking the ten best examples of the "chase" movie ever made. Of course, during our research, we decided to bend the rules a bit. For example, The General, the brilliant silent film from Buster Keaton, would definitely belong on this list -- if it wasn't for the fact that his vehicle of choice is a train, not a car. We deemed that unfair. Similarly, we nixed including Raiders of the Lost Ark, The Matrix: Reloaded, and other similarly styled films as their purpose has more to do with other elements, with the car stunts merely adding to the narrative.

Of course, you'll see at least a couple of entries here where the chase is secondary to the story, but in those cases, the sequences were so good and so endemic of the films in general that we had to include them. So while you get your motor running to head out on the highway, here are our Top 10 Car Chase Films of All Time. Gentle readers, start your engines.

 
10. Bullitt
While it is not necessarily a "car chase film", on principle we had to include this. Like many of its time, Hollywood and its stuntmen were still trying to work out the complexities of non-CG physical effects, and the stunning result was this memorable bit of mayhem along the streets of San Francisco. The iconic Steve McQueen stars as a cop placed in charge of protecting a mob informant. When hitmen show up, a high speed chase ensues, leading to one of the most thrilling sequences in movie history. While the rest of the film is a boilerplate police thriller, the vehicular mayhem on display demands inclusion here.

 
9. Ronin
Yes, we've even included mediocre movies on this list. Robert De Niro, toward the beginning of his post-Oscar paycheck cashing career, plays a spy who gets together with a bunch of likeminded secret agents to steal the contents of a case. The resulting double crosses lead to some exhilarating action, included two memorable chases through the French cities of Nice and Paris. Again, the movie can't overcome its inherent flaws (De Niro has yet to fully remove himself from the Method-ology which made him a superstar) but when the car action is as memorable as this, it's easy to see why fans flock to its again and again.

 
8. Fast and Furious 6
Director Justin Lin has been credited with turning this otherwise ordinary series of car race films into some of the most amazing examples of vehicular stuntwork ever conceived (with or without CG help). While we will have to wait and see if James Wan tops his efforts, this movie in particular shows off the filmmaker's panache for four wheel overdrive. Aside from the finale, which features actual car on carrier plane action, there are moments of jaw dropping, fuel injected insanity, including an elevated overpass sequence that is guaranteed to take your breath away. As part of his resume, Part Five is also very good. Part Six sets the standards, however.

 
7. Freebie and the Bean
During the '70s, the notion of the "super cop" was born. Based in fact but limited by reality, the movie studios decided to showcase these risk-taking members of the badge with one inflated thriller after another (one was even called by that brand). On the opposite end was this confused comedy, a combination of gay panic and ethnic shaming that would be viable among the movies of 2015. James Caan and Alan Arkin are mismatched officers who seem to be complete incompetent and yet always seem to get their man (or in this case, man in drag). This film eatures one of the best car chase endings ever.

 
6. Vanishing Point (1971)
We now find ourselves in pure chase mode. As a matter of fact, this underrated gem (the inspiration for Quentin Tarantino's entry on this list) features Barry Newman as a professional driver who, during a job from Denver to San Francisco, runs afoul of the law and other desert characters. As with many low budget drive-in efforts of the time, the film is really nothing more than a travelogue elongated with a convoluted plot and lots of counterculture commentary (mostly provided by a blind DJ played by Cleavon Little). The car sequences, directed by Richard Sarafian, are pumped full of Newman's character's favorite drug: adrenalin!

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