What is the best movie car chase ever filmed? It’s a debate that will probably rage on forever, and we are here not to solve it, but to stoke it. We’ve gathered video for some of the greatest car chases ever to hit the big screen and put them in one place. Turn up the volume and enjoy the destruction!
“Bullitt”: No tricks, just pure adrenaline
Arguably the first really great car chase scene in a major Hollywood movie (and if you’ve seen Cary Grant’s drunk driving scene in North by Northwest, you’ll understand why we say that), the ten-minute chase in Bullitt still holds up—and today for more reasons than ever. It’s huge fun to see a ’68 Dodge Charger and a ’68 Ford Mustang battle it out on the hilly streets of San Francisco, and what makes the chase so good by modern standards is knowing it was done in the days before CGI and Steadycam. Forget the constant half-second jump cuts of modern car chases that make inaction look like action—this chase is full of nice long shots of classic cars sliding around corners and crashing into things, so you can really take in the roaring V-8s, squealing bias-ply tires, and flying hubcabs.
“Ronin”: So nice, they did it twice
When it comes to movie car chases, 1998’s “Ronin” is the gift that keeps on giving, with two amazing car chases (and that’s if you don’t count the appetite-whetting run from the Paris cops after the arms deal goes bad). The first big chase is the pursuit of the movie’s MacGuffin, in which our guys (it’s never clear who is good and who is bad) in the S8 and an old Mercedes chase down the other guys in a flotilla of Peugeots and fluid-sprung Citroen XMs. The second involves a terrified-looking Natascha McElhone in a BMW 535i being pursued through the streets of Paris by Robert DeNiro in a Peugeot 406. Both are brilliantly shot and edited and worth watching over and over.
“Italian Job”: Old school vs new school
There’s a good debate to be had as to which is better, the Mini chase scene in the original 1969 version of “The Italian Job” or the chase in the 2003 remake. The original is fantastic—hokey, jokey, and full of Minis fitting into places where only proper Minis (the originals) would fit. You even get a lesson from Michael Caine about how to drive up a set of ramps and into the back of a moving bus. But the 2003 version has its own advantages: There’s the modern-day chase choreography and action, plus it won’t get that stupid “Self Preservation Society” song stuck in your head.
“The French Connection”: One car and loads of thrills
What makes this car chase so utterly cool is that it isn’t car versus car—it’s detective Popeye Doyle chasing a man on an elevated subway train through the streets of New York City. It’s also a great lesson in how to destroy a perfectly good Pontiac LeMans in the least amount of time possible. Despite the fact that it’s all just Gene Hackman driving hell-for-leather through traffic, there’s an amazing amount of tension, plenty of action, and a lot of bent metal—including at least one crash with a civilian-owned white Ford that supposedly wasn’t in the script.
“Beverly Hills Cop”: Wanton and glorious destruction
“Beverly Hills Cop” is a landmark movie, known best for being comedian Eddie Murphy’s first starring role. But why is it overlooked for the great car chase that starts it out? Three minutes after the opening credits roll, a loaded double-trailer big rig is being chased through the streets of Detroit by an armada of hapless cops. Much malaise-era metal is destroyed to the tune of the Pointer Sisters’ “Neutron Dance,” and let’s not forget the 40-foot GM RTS city bus that, for reasons that the visuals never make entirely clear, locks its brakes and does a complete 180. It’s a fantastic start to a great movie.
“Gone in 60 Seconds”: The biggest, baddest car chase ever filmed
Finally, we come to the holy of holies, a production that is not so much a movie with a car chase as it is a car chase with a movie. What is arguably the most epic chase scene ever filmed starts with Maindrian Pace (played by producer and junkyard owner H.B. Toby Halicki) in Eleanor, the elusive ’73 Mustang. Pace eyeballs the cops. The cops eyeball Pace. They flip on their red light, Pace mutters “Should have read my horoscope this morning,” and they’re off, beginning a forty-minute car-crash odyssey in which no fewer than 93 cars were wrecked… not all of which belonged to Halicki.