Top 10: Film car chases

Everyone loves a good car chase. Well we do anyway. If anything, that's the only thing lacking in Love Actually which would otherwise be the perfect film. So rather than sit here arguing over the best car chases in films, we've decided to put together our favourite top 10. With a mix of old and new, here’s our list in no particular order. Oh and be prepared for no Smokey and the Bandit. Yes, we know....


Bullitt (1968)

We had to start here. Rather than being filmed by second units, as was tradition in 1968, director Peter Yates insisted on filming himself, partly because he knew that Steve McQueen would be performing a lot of the stunts. 

The 10 minute car chase took three weeks to film and saw the 1968 Ford Mustang 390 GT 2+2 Fastback and 1968 Dodge Charger 440 Magnum reach speeds of over 110mph. Oh, and Bullitt’s reverse burnout during the scene wasn’t in the script – McQueen has mistakenly missed the turn.


Gone In 60 Seconds (1974)

Don't panic. Not the rubbish Nicholas Cage version but the superb original from 1974. It's perhaps not the most stylish of car chases, but this high-speed hunt results in the finale of cinemas' longest ever car chase with the immense destruction of 93 vehicles in over 40 minutes.

Surprisingly not all the onlookers were extras, and not all the accidents were staged. In fact filming had to stop while HB Halicki, who wrote, directed, produced and starred in it alongside a Ford Mustang, recovered from crashing into a telegraph pole. 


The Driver (1978)

A film that’s about an achingly cool guy who drives getaway cars in robberies and has exceptional talent that prevents him from being caught – it had to make our top 10.

The film’s best chase sequence involved a 1976 Pontiac Trans Am and a 1977 Chevrolet Stepside pickup. At just over eight minutes long its car chase hedonism at its best. Astonishingly that orange Mercedes that was destroyed in an underground car part sold, in its damaged state, for over £8m.


The Bourne Identity (2002)

Five different Mini Coopers were used in the one of the most memorable scenes in The Bourne Identity, and only one of them was left when filming wrapped.

A star of another wonderfully tense chase scene in the classic 1969 film The Italian Job – it’s a delight to see Matt Damon take advantage of the car’s small size as he frantically steers it at high speeds through narrow alleyways, across sidewalks, down steps and up one-way streets the wrong way.


The Man With The Golden Gun (1974)

Did you know that the 360-degree cork-screw jump performed by British stunt driver ‘Bumps’ Willard in the 1974 Bond film, was filmed in just one take?

The barrel roll stunt launched a red 1974 AMC Hornet X Hatchback Special Coupe off of a slanted ramp, causing it to cork-screw mid-air over a narrow river and then land on the other side. Astonishingly, the AMC was moving so fast that the film had to be slowed down for the audience to catch what had happened.


Vanishing Point (1971)

Ignoring the terrible remake again (see Gone In 60 Seconds...), the 1971 original version of Vanishing Point features some of the best stunt-driving in the history of film.

Director Richard Sarafian allowed stunt-driving legend Carey Loftin, renowned for staging immaculate driving sequences, to design the vast majority of the film’s chase sequences. As a result watching Barry Newman as he tackles a bet to drive a 1970 Dodge Challenger R/T from Denver to San Francisco in less than 15 hours is truly mesmerising.


Cannonball Run (1981)

We couldn’t resist. Everyone loves this rubber-burning, cheesy comedy, how could you not? Its effectively one big car chase (loosely) based on a true story that involves beautiful cars such as a Ferrari 308 GTS, Lamborghini Countach and an Aston Martin DB5.

The ambulance driven by Burt Reynolds, a modified Dodge Tradesman was used by Car and Driver editor Brock Yates when he tried to resurrect the famous race in the 1970s, as part of a protest against the onset of 55 mph speeding limits nationwide.


The French Connection (1971)

It was the driving scene in Bullitt that netted Bill Hickman, the baddie who drives the Dodge, the stunt work in The French Connection. Featuring Gene Hackman giving chase in a 1971 Pontiac LeMans as the bad guy attempts a getaway on the elevated train above him, its arguably the best car chase scene in cinematic history.

But it wasn't fully choreographed and nor were there any permits from the city to film. Many of the near collisions in the movie in fact, were actually real.


Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior (1981)

Starring a customised V8 Interceptor, the car chase that concludes Mad Max 2 is both over-the-top and well-conceived. Apparently one of the more spectacular stunts in the film – when a motorcycle-riding raider hits a car rather than flying over it – was actually a serious accident. 

And at the end of the chase when a tanker flips over several times it was deemed so dangerous that the stunt driver was instructed not to eat for 12 hours in the likely event that he could be rushed into surgery.


Ronin (1998)

Notorious for featuring some of the most accomplished car chase sequences in modern film, as Robert De Niro's Peugeot 406 pursues Natasha McElhone's BMW 535i at breakneck speed through the middle of Paris.

To look as authentic as possible, director John Frankenheimer (of The French Connection and Grand Prix fame) took on hundreds of stunt-personal and sacrificed quite a few cars. The use of reportage style cinematography really puts the viewer in the driving seat.