5 Awesome Movie Car Chases
To celebrate the release of the latest instalment in The Fast and the Furious franchise, we’re taking a look at some of the greatest car chases in honour of the series that has gone from the sublime to the ridiculous when it comes to high speed pursuits.
One caveat to this list is the recognisable absence of some undisputedly classic car chases that are amongst the greatest, and appear on these types of lists again and again. Some of these include Peter Yates’ Bullitt (1968), which famously involved star Steve McQueen performing his own driving stunts, William Friedkin’s The French Connection (1971), one of the most harrowing ever filmed, the mini-cooper chase in The Italian Job (1969), the introduction of the iconic 007 vehicle, the Aston Martin DB5, in Goldfinger (1964), the streets of Paris mayhem of Ronin (1998) and most recently the spectacular opening sequence in Baby Driver (2017).
In terms of the Fast and the Furious franchise if there is one chase to highlight it is Fast Five’s incredible vault heist sequence. The fifth installment breathed new life into the franchise (bringing in a very sweaty Dwayne Johnson to fill out the cast) embracing the over-the-top action with more swagger than we had seen before. The images of Dom and Brian dragging that vault around the streets of Rio (and through the shops lining the streets) is where this franchise entered insanity mode and has never looked back.
But, here are five awesome chase sequences that have been become etched in our memory. What better time for a re-visit?
One could make a strong case for the Paris Mini chase in the first instalment in the Bourne series, but it has always been Supremacy’s intense final-act chase on the rain-slicked Moscow streets that has got our adrenalin pumping. It is here that Bourne (Matt Damon) and his nemesis Kirill (Karl Urban) face-off. Bourne is in a beat-up yellow taxi, bleeding from a bullet wound to the shoulder, while Kirill is driving a Mercedes G-Class SUV, leaving a trail of carnage in his wake. The moment they lock eyes the intensity really ratchets up. Bourne plows head on into highway traffic, bumped on all sides, and Kirill pursues him at high speed into a cross-city tunnel where the technical brilliance of this sequence really shines – directed by the hand-held action pioneer Paul Greengrass (see also Captain Phillips), his first involvement in the franchise. This is essentially a combat sequence involving cars; incredibly realistic in that both drivers smash through cars and appear to be at the mercy of the unpredictability of the unsuspecting high-volume traffic.
The Bourne Supremacy is available to Buy or Rent in the Movie Store.
William Friedkin’s trashy erotic thriller really is a product of it’s time and remains a fascinating work of sleazy awfulness. Perhaps more the vision of screenwriter Joe Eszterhas (Basic Instinct and Showgirls) than Friedkin, it does feature the director’s signature – an insane car chase. While the rest of the movie may be phoned in, Friedkin really goes for it in this unique sequence. Featuring iconic work from David Caruso (his performance is memorably mocked in The 40-Year-Old Virgin), when he rushes behind the wheel in pursuit of a dastardly hit-and-run driver, the high-speed cat-and-mouse though the steep hills of San Francisco results in some terrifyingly ridiculous jumps. How do the cars stay together? But, the most interesting part starts when the pursuit enters a parade in Chinatown, dense with crowds, floats and performers. The villain car forces it’s way through the crowd, destroying floats and knocking participants to the ground. Caruso, in pursuit, is mobbed by angry spectators who attack his vehicle. He honks and slowly presses forward, with the path eventually opening for him but revealing a trail of carnage left by his target. The hopelessness of his situation, and a burden of guilt, begins to weigh on him as the chase continues clear of that claustrophobic setting.
Jade is available to Buy or Rent on Amazon Prime Video.
To Live And Die in L.A. (1985)
William Petersen (CSI) was the man in ’80s thrillers (see also Michael Mann’s Manhunter) and his involvement in the high-paranoia chase through Los Angeles, the centre piece of another William Friedkin masterpiece, has immortalised him ever since. Seeking to break up a counterfeit operation Secret Service officers Chance (Petersen) and Vukovich (John Pankow) attempt to seize unauthorised front money from a diamond smuggler, but their scheme is intercepted by the targets’ bodyguards. They attempt to evade the crooks through the obstacles of the industrial area and the expanse of the flood control channels. Eventually, Petersen pulls onto the wrong side of the freeway and swerves through the oncoming traffic to evade the swarming pursuers, which features some of the most emotionally-charged getaway driving you will see. The use of the through-the-windshield close-up of Petersen’s face as he works the wheel (this technique was also used very well in Jade) and considers his next move makes the most of the awesome, grit-your-teeth intensity of the performance while telling viewers all they need to know about the situation on the road (often very clearly reflected in the windshield).
Terminator 2: Judgment Day is one of the greatest action films ever made. It is so good that the chase scene – there had to be one – doesn’t naturally stand out as the most iconic scene in the movie. But who can forget how cool Arnie looks here as he completes the one-hand reload of his shotgun? He uses it to blast through locked fences to forge a street-level path of pursuit of John Connor (Edward Furlong), who is down in the flood channel trying to out-gun an enormous truck driven by the franchise’s most formidable Terminator, the T-1000 (Robert Patrick). Like the T-1000 this truck is indestructible, crashing through a concrete bridge and plummeting to the level of the channel at one point and catching the underside of another bridge and losing it’s entire top a short time later. It just keeps coming, the vehicular equivalent of it’s driver. Poor John Connor is doing pretty well on his Honda XR dirt bike, but it’s up to Arnie to pass the truck on a daring inside manoeuvre, pull up alongside John and hoist him on to the back of his Harley Davidson. The scene ends in a spectacular crash, with Arnie fulling proving he’s the good guy this time around and the T-1000, of course, living to fight another day.
Terminator 2: Judgment Day is available to Buy or Rent in the Movie Store.
We wouldn’t be wrong in calling George Miller’s apocalyptic carnage masterpiece, Mad Max: Fury Road, a complete chase film. The film opens with Max (Tom Hardy) being pursued on foot through a labyrinth of underground tunnels before re-capture and Furiosa (Charlize Theron) and her comrades are relentlessly chased across the wasteland in their War Rig. But, when our heroes make the decision to drive toward the unguarded Citadel the final act revs into gear and Fury Road becomes the best it can be. The images from the film’s epic final showdown – a complex and relentless thrill ride – are historically unparalleled. It is a mega fusion of genius practicality, streamlined driving choreography, innovative vehicular design, insane stunts, daring physical performance and faultless Oscar-winning film editing.
Mad Max: Fury Road is available to Buy or Rent in the Movie Store.