Seven Best

Seven Best: Car Chases

It’s May, and in the Midwest that means it’s time for the Indianapolis 500. In honor of the big race, I’ll be covering the best car chases in cinema!! This of course means I’ll have to break the cardinal rule of “I don’t watch movies made before I was born,” but there aren’t enough recent entries to fill the list.

Car chases in movies are a dying art. I love action sequences just as much as the next guy, but I feel like too much emphasis has been put on special effects and fight choreography lately, and there’s not enough time dedicated to weaving in and out of traffic, and trying to get away. This month’s entries are:

  • Bullit
  • Ronin
  • The French Connection
  • The Italian Job (2003)
  • Smokey and the Bandit
  • Baby Driver
  • Vanishing Point
  • Death Proof
  • To Live and Die in LA
  • Gone in 60 Seconds (1974)
  • The Bourne Supremacy
  • Mad Max: Fury Road

7. Smokey and the Bandit

Driver: Burt Reynolds
Ride: 1977 Pontiac Firebird Trans Am
Location: Georgia to Texas and back

Make your case:

The entire movie was a car chase, and I’m pretty sure this is what led to the outbreak in cross-country car chase movies that permeated the late 70s and early 80s. The Gumball Rally and the original Cannonball, came first, but what followed were 2 sequels, plus the Cannonball Run series. It also might have been the origin for the weird fascination the US had with semi trucks, CB radios, and convoys. That’s right, kids, there was a TV show about a trucker and his monkey

6. The Bourne Supremacy

Driver: Matt Damon
Ride: GAZ Volga 3110
Location: Russia

Make your case:

This is more like it. I’m not a car person, so I don’t care what kind of sports car is being driven. Newsflash: sports cars are fast. Show me someone driving a regular car really well and I’m hooked. The original Bourne had him driving a beat-up Mini Cooper through the streets of Paris, and this one is no different. Through the ins and outs of Moscow streets, using his car as a literal weapon, despite Greengrass’s annoying shaky-cam footage.

And I’m a sucker for gear changes.

5. The French Connection

Driver: Gene Hackman
Ride: 1971 Pontiac LeMans
Location: New York City

Make your case:

I know I’m supposed to have this higher, but I don’t care. I don’t like older movies. I get bored. The car chase was pretty good, and learning that it was filmed on REAL STREETS that weren’t blocked off was just insane. But I can’t get past the bad dialogue, slow pacing, and casual racism, so it gets bumped down my list.

4. Bullitt

Driver: Steve McQueen
Ride: 1968 Ford Mustang 390 GT
Location: San Fransisco

Make your case:

Another instance of a movie made before 1975 that purists will have much higher than me. And they’re right, the car chase was fantastic. And like my dad is oft to remind me, this kind of thing wasn’t done at the time. Cameras placed on the dashboard so you can “feel” the cars jumping the streets. And I do like Mustangs, but again, the movie spent almost 20 minutes in a hospital watching a man on a ventilator…

3. Baby Driver

Driver: Ansel Elgort
Ride: 2006 Subaru WRX
Location: Atlanta

Make your case:

Don’t worry, everything from here on out was made after the invention of the web. First off, Baby Driver was just a fun movie. The way Edgar Wright integrated music into the dialogue and action beats was just brilliant. And the car chase after the first robbery was fantastic. I guess the one thing good I can say about all the early car chases, is that they paved the way towards making movies like this.

And no folks, the scene with the garbage truck was not faked.

2. Fury Road

Driver: Charlize Theron
Ride: Tatra T815 “The War Rig”
Location: The desert

Make your case:

I’m gonna mark this one as the first non-traditional car chase. The entire movie is a chase, but unlike Smokey and the Bandit, it takes place entirely in the desert and bullets are flying non-stop. There was also an incredible amount of this movie that was filmed practically, and that’s just impressive as hell. That’s right, when you see people swinging from large poles over top of other vehicles, that’s real, kids.

1. Ronin

Driver: Robert DeNiro
Ride: Peugeot 406
Location: Paris

Make your case:

Everyone else can go home now, Robert DeNiro and his BMW have left all the other candidates in his rear view. Everything I love in one car chase: A non-sports car racing through European streets, often going the wrong way down a one-way street, all with bullets flying.

Honorable Mention: The Matrix Reloaded

This only makes honorable mention because so much of it was CGI. That said, if you’re not on the edge of your seat the entire time agents are chasing Trinity down the 405, you’d better check your pulse.