From the frenetic antics of the Keystone cops, to the heart-stopping mayhem of the latest action film, the car chase is a staple of motion picture entertainment. We just can’t get enough of the reckless, high-octane action of one car pursuing another. When properly executed, in a comedy or a drama, the car chase never fails to be captivating and thrilling.
It seems as though everyone has their list of favorite movie car chases, and I’m no exception. So, for the record, here’s my Top Ten Classic Movie Car Chases:
1. Bullit (1968) – The classic, and to me, still the best. The king of cool Steve McQueen, speed-shifting and catching air on the streets of San Francisco — it doesn’t get any better. The artfulness of the chase sequence is what won the Academy Award for film editing. You can watch a 3-minute clip from the 7-minute sequence by clicking here.
2. The French Connection (1971) – A close second. Brilliant with Gene Hackman driving at breakneck speed through a virtual obstacle course beneath the elevated tracks in pursuit of the train rattling overhead.
3. Vanishing Point (1971) – In my estimate some of the best stunt driving that has ever been captured on film. This cult classic is one long chase as the relentless, existential hero Kowalski (Barry Newman) attempts to outrun cops in a race across 3 states.
4. Death Proof (2007) – Quentin Tarantino’s wild contribution to the Grindhouse double feature. The crazed Stuntman Mike (Kurt Russell) and his “death proof” 1969 Charger.
5. To Live and Die in L.A. (1985) – A true masterpiece of absolute chaos, that ends with the memorable Chevy making a wrong way dash down a crowded L.A. freeway.
6. Duel (1971)– Uh-oh, this is my third film that was released in 1971, but Steven Spielberg’s stripped down movie featuring Dennis Weaver as an innocent motorist pursued by a murderous semi driven by a mysterious truck driver we never get to see, is one long, creepy, white-knuckle experience.
7. The Blues Brothers (1980) – John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd, on a “mission from God”, manage to wreck more police cars than Godzilla and King Kong combined.
8. Gone in 60 Seconds (1974) – Kind of a mixed B-movie but with a car chase that is world class, leaving 90 cars wrecked in the ensuing mayhem. A veritable demolition derby.
9. Dirty Mary, Crazy Larry (1974) – Peter Fonda stars in this low budget film that features a radical sequence with a police helicopter chasing Fonda in his ’69 Charger through an orange orchard.
10. And last, but not least, the hilarious chase scene at the end of the classic W.C. Fields comedy The Bank Dick (1940). Fields is taken hostage by a bank robber and forced to drive the getaway roadster, which, in the course of the chase, starts to fall apart piece by piece. Fields’ throwaway line, “The re-sale value of this car is going to be nil after this trip” is priceless.