Top 10 Movie Car Chases

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The movie industry has been using car chases to enhance immersion and excitement in films pretty much forever. A great car chase can inject a shot of pure adrenaline into an otherwise dull movie, and elevate it well above mediocrity. But while there are innumerable movie car chases out there, which ones are the best? We’ve rounded up 10 of our favourites, and if you haven’t seen any of them, add them to your watch list!
Dirty Mary, Crazy Larry
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Dirty Mary, Crazy Larry

10. Dirty Mary, Crazy Larry (1974)

There’s a good chance you’ve never heard of Dirty Mary, Crazy Larry, but if you’re into car chases, you really need to track it down. The titular couple, played by Susan George and Peter Fonda, find themselves on the wrong side of the law after Larry and his partner, Deke pull off a $150,000 heist. But Larry isn’t just a thief, he’s also an aspiring NASCAR driver, and once he’s behind the wheel of a bright green Dodge Charger, the police have little chance of catching them. There’s some great automotive choreography on show as Larry literally has the police chasing their tails for much of the movie.
Smokey and the Bandit
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Smokey and the Bandit

09. Smokey and the Bandit (1977)

Burt Reynolds was one of the most bankable stars in the world back in the 1970s, and while Smokey and the Bandit wasn’t a particularly challenging role for him, it proved to be somewhat defining.

Tasked with bootlegging beer across state lines, Bo “Bandit” Darville (Reynolds) decides that the best way to keep the “heat” off the truck full of beer is to give them something else to chase. That something else turns out to be a black Pontiac Trans Am, in which he leads police on a cross-State chase that elevates this film to deserving cult status. If you love the original, give the sequel a go, but avoid Part III at all costs!
The Italian Job
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The Italian Job

08. The Italian Job (1969)

“You’re only supposed to blow the bloody doors off!” Forget about the 2003 remake, it’s the 1969 Italian Job that you need to watch – not just for that unforgettable Michael Caine line, but also for one of the most innovative car chases ever filmed.

With an elaborate plan to steal a shipment of gold, it’s the getaway that defines the film. With the gold loaded onto three Minis, the drivers are able to evade capture by driving through shopping centres, sewers and even onto the roof of a building. The Italian Job proved that you don’t need high-powered monsters to make a car chase entertaining.
Death Proof
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Death Proof

07. Death Proof (2007)

Quentin Tarantino’s half of the Grindhouse double feature was less “over the top” than Robert Rodriguez’s Planet Terror, but no less entertaining. Kurt Russell plays Stuntman Mike – a professional stunt driver and card-carrying psychopath. Mike likes to kill young women with his car, something that we see in graphic detail as part one of the film reaches its climax.

In the second part, Mike bites off more than he can chew and the resulting chase between his Dodge Charger and the girls’ Dodge Challenger (an identical car to the one in Vanishing Point) is a sight to behold. Not for the faint hearted, or for anyone looking for depth of plot, but Death Proof is worth watching even if it’s just for the car chase and Tarantino’s razor sharp dialogue.
The Rock
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The Rock

06. The Rock (1996)

Let’s face it, any movie that casts Sean Connery as an ex-SAS operative who’s also the only man to have ever escaped from Alcatraz is going to be worth watching.

Nicholas Cage is somewhat less convincing as the FBI’s top chemical weapons expert, but he kind of grows on you as the film goes on. Surprisingly the showcase car chase in The Rock comes before the main part of the action even kicks off. With Connery trying to escape the clutches of the FBI in a Humvee, Cage steals a bright yellow Ferrari F355 Spider and gives chase. With San Francisco as the backdrop, memories of Bullitt are sure to spring to mind, but this is a very different chase indeed that leaves a trail of carnage in its wake. 
The Bourne Identity
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The Bourne Identity

05. The Bourne Identity (2002)

While many will consider the car chase in The Bourne Supremacy to be superior, there’s something utterly compelling about Jason Bourne’s first stint behind the wheel in The Bourne Identity.

Hammering around Paris in a clapped out Mini, with the entire Gendarmerie in pursuit was a challenge even for a man of Bourne’s talents. The narrow streets, oncoming traffic and steps (yes, steps) give this chase a real claustrophobic feel, with our protagonist akin to a rat in a maze.
The Driver
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The Driver

04. The Driver (1978)

Two years before Ryan Gosling was even born, a different Ryan was sliding behind the wheel of a getaway car. Ryan O’Neal starred as the titular Driver in this hard-boiled 1970s thriller.

O’Neal’s character as icy cool as he is ruthless, with his talents being as much to do with intelligence and strategy as outright driving ability. There are some fine driving scenes to savour, while Bruce Dern turns in a stellar performance as the detective obsessed with catching O’Neal. The Driver is also notable for it’s lack of character names – O’Neal is The Driver, Dern is The Detective, Isabella Adjani is The Player, etc.
The Blues Brothers
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The Blues Brothers

03. The Blues Brothers (1980)

“We’ve got a full tank of gas, half a pack of cigarettes, it’s dark and we’re wearing sunglasses.” There’s no shortage of reasons to watch The Blues Brothers, but the epic car chase at the end of the movie is one of the best.

With Jake and Elwood being pursued by the police, neo-Nazis, country and western musicians and eventually the National Guard, it’s a good thing that they’re on a mission from God! Driving an ex-police cruiser, the brothers have to evade capture long enough to save the orphanage where they grew up. We won’t spoil the ending and let you know whether they make it, but we promise you it’s a hell of a ride!
Vanishing Point
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Vanishing Point

02. Vanishing Point (1971)

Vanishing Point is a mess. You can’t help feeling that everyone involved in the production of this film was as drug addled as its protagonist, Kowalski. The plot makes no sense, the characters show no sense of logic or rational thinking, and there’s no explanation given for anything. Despite all of that, though, Vanishing Point is a classic car chase movie, and one that shouldn’t be missed.

Kowalski is a car delivery driver, but he used to be a cop, and a racing driver, oh, and a war hero too, just for good measure. He’s tasked with driving a white Dodge Challenger from Denver to San Francisco and for some reason he bets his drug dealer that he can make the delivery by the next afternoon. With Kowalski amped up on speed to keep him awake, he sets of on the drive of his life. You’ll be left with an arsenal of unanswered questions at the end, but you’ll be glad that you buckled up with Kowalski for the ride.
Bullitt
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Bullitt

01. Bullitt (1968)

Bullitt will always be remembered for the classic car chase, but that’s far from the only plus point for Steve McQueen’s ambitious detective story. For a start Bullitt was one of the first films to ever be shot entirely on location – there were no sets built and no sound stages used, the city of San Francisco was employed for almost every scene.

It’s also worth noting that Bullitt still stands up very well today – the plot is intelligent and well paced, the performances are convincing and the cinematography is both engaging and beautiful at times. But eventually all roads will lead to that prize fight between McQueen’s green Ford Mustang 390 GT Fastback and the Dodge Charger 440 Magnum driven by a pair of hit-men. The chase is a classic game of cat and mouse, with the hit-men tailing McQueen’s Frank Bullitt at the start, while Bullitt eventually turns the tables and chases them down.

The steep, hilly roads of San Francisco make for some amazing areal scenes, while the stunt driving is simply superb – there was no CGI back then! Yes there are some continuity issues, with the same footage used several times from different angles – that green VW Beetle sure gets around – but that’s not enough to detract from such an amazing piece of automotive cinematography. If you haven’t got Bullitt in your collection, you need to rectify that as quickly as possible. 
Brought to you by Evo magazine
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