A gripping car chase is an essential part of any action or thriller movie. Whether it’s on the open road in the more recent Baby Driver, or down weaving streets and sewer pipes in The Italian Job. If done properly, a car chase is bound to get moviegoers lusting over the hottest wheels.
Here, the Classic Car Finance Team at Cambridge & Counties Bank rank some of the greatest movie car chases of all time.
The Italian Job (1969)
The Italian job is an essential watch for any thriller fanatic and its legendary car chases and stunt driving was revolutionary for its time.
Starring the 1967 MK1 Mini Cooper S, The Italian Job sees Michael Caine’s Charlie Croker and co fleeing the Italian mafia in a chaotic chase down flights of stairs, through buildings and even between sewer pipes. Although it was produced on a relatively low budget (around $3m), The Italian Job encapsulated 1960’s Cool Britannia and was praised by most critics.
It was not long after this movie that the Mini Cooper became so popular. A remake was produced in 2003 with the new model Mini Cooper, though many would say it doesn’t compare.
The Blues Brothers (1980)
Arguably one of the most ridiculous car chases of movie history, Jake and Elwood’s flee from the Palace Hotel Ballroom brought, what can only be described as, a trail of destruction. The pair had a full tank of gas, half a pack of cigarettes, and sunglasses on but still oozed confidence, managing to smash up herds of police cars (around 103) on the way!
The Rock (1996)
The Rock’s action thriller car chase scene is not shy of dangerous driving. Set in San Francisco, the iconic chase involves a yellow Ferrari F355, a gigantic Hummer, and various police and FBI cars. Every turn sees an explosion as driver, Mason, demolishes everything in his path, with his lack of empathy for pedestrians and obstacles coming across almost cartoonish. Ending with an explosive tram collision, The Rock’s car chase is certainly a chaotic one, and not one that is easily forgotten.
The Bourne Supremacy (2004)
Staring Matt Damon, The Bourne Supremacy’s car chase in Moscow, has to be one for the list. This iconic spy thriller brought the perfect mixture of stunts, editing and choreography and has won various awards since its release.
The scene sees Jason Bourne (played by Damon) escaping Russian agent, Kirill, in a yellow stolen taxi through the bustling streets of Moscow. Bourne is at an instant disadvantage as he’s lumped with a flimsy Volga 3310 taxi in comparison to Kirill’s sturdy Mercedes. Though it doesn’t stop him scraping and colliding with other cars on the road until the pair eventually collide into a concrete divider, bringing the chase to a sudden climax. Of course, Bourne emerges unscathed.
Baby Driver (2017)
Released more recently, Baby Driver opens with an energetic scene with lead star, Baby, driving himself and his partners away from the police like a mad man. The six-minute scene features a 2006 red Subaru and involves spinning, speeding and a swift swap over, everything you would expect in a car chase.
In this scene, the driving was shared by actor, Ansel Elgort, and stunt coordinator, Jeremy Fry, giving it both an authentic and dramatic feel.
The French Connection (1971)
Revolutionary for its time, the famous car chase in The French Connection was as dangerous as it looked. Lead character and detective, Jimmy Doyle (played by Gene Hackman), screeches and darts around people and traffic as he chases a parallel train to catch the bad guy onboard.
The scene was shot in the busy streets of New York without actually obtaining the correct permits, and places the surrounding pedestrians right in the centre of the high-speed action. This added to the ‘thrill’ of the chase as many of the (near) crashes were intentional and were real not staged. The exceptionally dangerous driving was shared between Hackman and his stunt man Bill Hickman, with camera men filming from the back seat.
Car chases have been around since the beginning of cinema and are guaranteed to give anyone a love for four wheels. A great car chase almost always has a mixture of successful stunts, camera work, direction and acting and a story line that usually involves a criminal, the police and a heroic good guy. As time goes on, the ability for special effects and riskier stunts is increasingly available, though the old classics still set the bar.