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The Top 10 Best Car Chases in Cinema

October 18, 2013

Car chases – we can’t get enough of them. They’ve been a staple of action films for decades, but what separates the truly great cinematic car chases from the mindless pursuits of lesser features? Read on for our guide to the top 10 best car chases in cinema to find out.

Bullitt (1968)

Widely considered the first true car chase movie, Bullitt helped redefine what could be done with vehicles in film. Steve McQueen’s Lieutenant Frank Bullitt is pretty cool to begin with, but throw him behind the wheel of a 1968 Ford Mustang GT and put him up against a couple of hitmen in a 1968 Dodge Charger 500 and you’ve got the set-up for an epic ten-minute battle through the hills and streets of San Francisco.

The Matrix Reloaded (2003)

Nobody could accuse the Wachowskis of doing things by halves and, in the Matrix Reloaded, they gave us one of the most incredible, over-the-top car chases of all time. Laurence Fishburne’s Morpheus and Carrie-Anne Moss’s Trinity vehicle-hopping their escape down the freeway from Neil and Adrian Rayment’s Twins may not fit into the standard car chase mould, but then that’s exactly what makes it so awesome.

Smokey and the Bandit (1977)

Smokey and the Bandit is, in essence, one long car chase, as bootlegging Burt Reynolds’ Bandit attempts to slip a shipment of embargoed beer into Georgia past Jackie Gleason’s sheriff, Smokey. Reynolds drives a 1977 Pontiac Trans Am, which he uses as a blocking car to protect the truck full of beer from the sheriff, resulting in some classic sequences – with one of the most famous being that where Reynolds jumps the Trans Am over a broken bridge.

The Bourne Identity (2002)

There can be a tendency for film car chases to get a little samey − big cars with big engines roaring down straight American streets − which is why this sequence from the Bourne Identity was so refreshing. Matt Damon’s Jason Bourne drives a classic Mini Cooper through the streets of Paris, using the car’s small size and the French capital’s narrow streets in order to escape from the French police, offering viewers one of the most exciting car chases of recent years.

The Blues Brothers (1980)

A film about a rhythm and blues band might not seem the obvious place for a car chase, but that’s exactly what John Landis and Dan Aykroyd give us in their anarchic comedy. Aykroyd’s Elwood, pulled over for running a red light, ends up fleeing in The Bluesmobile (a battered, decommissioned Mount Prospect police cruiser) chased by two Illinois State Troopers, in a sequence which ends up with all concerned driving around (and through) the Dixie Square Mall.

The Town (2010)

One of the classic reasons for a cinematic car chase is, of course, getting away from a successful heist. Ben Affleck’s ‘the Town’ gives us some truly brilliant driving through the twisting streets of downtown Boston showing how a van can (almost) outmanoeuvre a bunch of police cars. True, in the end it’s some heavy weaponry which facilitates the gang’s escape, but it’s still a classic car chase up to that point.

The Italian Job (1969)

You’d think gridlock was the death of any good car chase film, but the Italian Job makes it a central plot point. Taking advantage of the light weight and manoeuvrability of three Mini Cooper S’s, Michael Caine’s gang load them up with gold bullion before speeding through a shopping arcade, up the roof of the Torino Palavela, around the Fiat Lingotto’s rooftop test track and then down the steps of a church mid-wedding, before finally escaping from the police through a large sewer pipe. Car chases don’t come much more inventive than that.

The Dark Knight (2008)

There are few cars in film cooler than the Batmobile, especially the tumbler variety used in the recent Christopher Nolan-directed version. Place that in a high-octane sequence with Heath Ledger’s Joker, an 18-wheeler lorry and a rocket launcher and you have the basis for one of the best car chases of recent years. Flipping that lorry and blowing up the Batmobile will certainly take some beating.

Lethal Weapon 4 (1998)

Arguably not the best of the series, Lethal Weapon 4 still provides a truly spectacular chase sequence which sees Mel Gibson’s Riggs switching cars, hanging off the back of a motorhome and crashing headlong into an office block. Full marks to everyone involved for having the audacity to take a Pontiac Grand Am, send it flying off the freeway, through the window of an office block and then keep going. The Pontiac smashes its way through an office full of desks, sending people running, before crashing out of the other side of the building, flying through the air and landing back on the freeway. They don’t come much more insane than that.

The Driver (1978)

Ryan O’Neal’s ‘the Driver’ is a career criminal who specialises in boosting cars for use as getaway vehicles. Bruce Dem is the detective determined to stop him.  A whole host of cars are used throughout the film, but two of the standouts are a 1974 Ford Galaxy 500 and a 1977 Pontiac Firebird Esprit, showcasing the best of 1970s cool.

Chances are, you won’t be getting in any high speed car chases any time soon, but that doesn’t mean you can’t feel like a movie star. If you think it’s time you upgraded your wheels for something with a little more oomph, let the experts at The Car Loan Warehouse help find the money you need for the car you want at a rate you can afford. It’s car finance, without the hassle.

About The Author

Jon Le Roux is co-founder and company director of The Car Loan Warehouse. Being a mad engineering and motorsport enthusiast, I spend more hours than is healthy, watching, reading or talking about cars, boats, motorbikes…..basically anything with an engine.