After three years, Nicolas Winding Refn is back this week with the latest in his brand of visually striking and unsettling cinema. To mark his return, we’ve been reflecting on Drive, the film that brought him mainstream success; particularly its memorable car chase sequences. It got us thinking: what are the top car chases in movie history? Here are the contenders.
10. Drive (2011)
At a little over 90 seconds, the chase sequence midway through Drive doesn’t hang around. Beginning with the squeal of tyres in a car park, Ryan Gosling’s Driver attempts to evade his mysterious pursuers on the back roads of LA. The normally nonchalant Driver has to improvise in spectacular fashion to get away.
9. Bullitt (1968)
For all the many iterations of the car chase, they still don’t get much better than this. Unlike Drive, the chase in Bullitt lasts for the best part of 10 minutes and took three weeks to film. It’s likely that the film’s editor, Frank P. Keller, won that year’s Oscar for this sequence alone. Enjoy.
8. The Blues Brothers (1980)
The closing sequence of The Blues Brothers, in which Jake and Elwood drive the 106 miles from the Palace Hotel Ballroom to Chicago, is by no means a tense affair, but that’s hardly surprising given that they’re on a mission from God. At the time, the film held the record for the highest number of cars destroyed – 106 – during filming. We wonder how many this sequence is responsible for?
7. The Bourne Supremacy (2004)
Here’s a chase with some backstory: Jason Bourne vs. Kirill (surname unknown). Having already taken a bullet to the shoulder, Jason’s bad start is exacerbated by his choice of vehicle – an anemic-looking taxi – whereas Kirill commandeers a more impressive-looking Mercedes. Despite their prodigious driving skill, what’s great about this chase is both drivers’ willingness to smash into things in pursuit of their respective goals.
6. The Italian Job (1969)
An obvious choice and one we make absolutely no apologies for including. What those glorious images lack in tension, they make up for with charm and imagination. The sight of the three iconic Mini Coopers skating across Italian plazas and newly constructed buildings is the stuff of legend.
5. Gone in 60 Seconds (1974)
No list of great movie car chases would be complete without the longest in movie history. At roughly 40 minutes long, this sequence is notorious, in part due to the 93 cars which were destroyed in the process of shooting. The film was directed, produced, written by and starred H.B. Halicki, who also personally owned virtually every civilian vehicle seen close-up throughout the chase. The guy certainly didn’t take any half measures.
4. Mad Max: Fury Road (2015)
Yes, so technically the vehicle used by Max and Furiosa isn’t really a car, but we couldn’t really ignore one of the standout films of 2015, which is practically one long chase sequence. Featuring over 150 stunt professionals, including Cirque du Soleil performers, director George Miller left no stone unturned in pursuit of his “western on wheels.”
3. The French Connection (1971)
Gene Hackman’s pursuit of a cross-city train in William Friedkin’s classic is not your archetypal slick car chase. For starters, Gene crashes into a lot of things. He also lacks the calm demeanour that most participants in movie chases often seem to demonstrate – his face is contorted with stress and he slams his hands down on the steering wheel in frustration. He wouldn’t be our getaway driver of choice.
2. The Raid 2 (2014)
Of the many wonderful things about The Raid 2, the chase sequence is perhaps its standout element. Using 10 vehicles and multiple cameramen (one of whom was disguised as a seat), the camera itself was passed from car to car throughout the chase. To top it all off, whilst they’re hurtling along at breakneck speed, our hero is having a serious bust-up in one of the cars. In short, it is a sequence unlike any previously seen.
1. Toy Story (1995)
Forget Cars, the car chase at the end of Toy Story is easily the best of its kind in the animated genre, and rivals any of the other contenders in this list. In pursuit of a moving van, Woody and Buzz dodge and weave through oncoming traffic, before taking to the skies via rocket-propelled Buzz and falling with no shortage of style.