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The 50 Greatest Car Chases in Film History

As Bullitt turns 50, we dig through the racing and smashing of film's great pursuits

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Bullitt (Warner Bros.)
Bullitt (Warner Bros.)

    Vroom vroom, baby. It’s the 50th anniversary of Bullitt this month, and we can’t help but feel a little premium about the whole thing. What better way to celebrate decades of delicious vehicular madness than with a list of the 50 most moving, mashed-up car chases the movies have to offer?

    We went up and down, left to right, and u-turn to axels with this. We have black-and-white chases, chase with multiple cars, motorcycle chases, even a car-versus-foot chase here and there. No horse cop chases, though…spacing, time, gas money, you know how it is.

    Don’t like the list? Well then, hop in your car, hit the gas, and come complain about it. Yeah, that’s right, you got a problem, then ram your car into CoS’ offices at (at this point, the editor has decided to take to wheel and course correct straight to the list).

    –Blake Goble
    Senior Writer

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    50. Two-Lane Blacktop (1971)

    Taylor-Made Chase

    Make/Model: 1955 Chevrolet One-Fifty

    Blue Book: Monte Hellman’s story of cars, manhood, and the untamed freedom of the old American road is still one of the great existentialist car movies. The opening drag race is likewise a barnburner of a very particular sort, a film chase as much about theme as the roar of the engine. Dominick Suzanne-Mayer
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    49. The Other Guys (2010)

    There Go Our Heroes

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    Make/Model: 1972 Chevrolet Chevelle

    Blue Book: Adam McKay was drawing on decades of bad action movie trends, and his explosive car chase – with a very self-aware Sam Jackson and Dwayne Johnson – is pretty comparably exciting. Funny, too. But total popcorn, you guys. –Blake Goble


    48. The Man With the Golden Gun (1974)

    Car Flip

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    Make/Model: 1974 AMC Hornet

    Blue Book: Like, okay, the slide whistle is awful. Or, or, it’s so damn funny and embarrassing that we can’t help but admire its preposterousness. You decide. –Blake Goble


    47. Toy Story (1995)

    To Andy!

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    Make/Model: 1995 Pixar RC

    Blue Book: The first of our two animated chases to make the list, Toy Story‘s big finale checks every box on the great chases list. Close calls? Check. Emotional weight beneath the chase? Double check. A dog breaking itself in half to save the day? Well, only in animation. Dominick Suzanne-Mayer


    46. The Bank Dick (1940)

    Getaway Chase

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    Make/Model: 1929 Cadillac Series 341-B

    Blue Book: Often imitated, never replicated – the Bank Dick car chase is like the perfect companion to The General, Wages of Fear, and Looney Tunes. It’s zany, madcap, and all the other wacky hyperbole we can throw at Fields’ fast-paced flim flam man. –Blake Goble


    45. Christine (1983)

    Chased To Death

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    Make/Model: 1958 Plymouth Fury (modified)

    Blue Book: Don’t smoke at gas stations? Leave your phone off at gas stations? How about, “don’t get chased down to death by haunted cars at gas stations”? Carpenter took the chase to cleverly cruel places with this King riff. –Blake Goble


    44. Running Scared (1986)

    On the Tracks

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    Make/Model: 1981 Chevrolet Impala

    Blue Book: No, not the Paul Walker exploitation film. From O’Hare to the Loop, this has to be one of the most admirably dumb entries on this list. Billy Crystal and Gregory take the car chase down to the L tracks and you know what? Just go with it. Blake Goble


    43. Pineapple Express (2008)

    Foot Through the Windshield

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    Make/Model: 1999 Ford Crown Victoria

    Blue Book: Fun fact: Franco’s Slurpee all over the front windshield was darkened in trailers. Audiences and the MPAA seemed to think it was blood. The point being, this is a nice bit of silliness. Blake Goble


    42. Raising Arizona (1987)

    Huggies

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    Make/Model: 1972 Chevrolet Impala

    Blue Book: Only Nicolas Cage and the Coens could handle a car chase wherein Cage is on the run from the cops (with Huggies in hand). It’s the Rube Goldbergian comedy of escalating machinations and manic delirium. Blake Goble


    41. Rush (2013)

    “Why would I drive fast?”

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    Make/Model: 1971 Lancia 2000 Berlina 820

    Blue Book: Sometimes the great chases are great in their simplicity. Early in Rush, a film featuring several outstanding driving sequences, Niki Lauda (Daniel Bruhl) woos a young woman by illustrating, in a matter of thrilling seconds, just how fast he can drive when he has the proper incentive and reward. Dominick Suzanne-Mayer


    40. Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)

    Desert Pursuit

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    Make/Model: Mercedes-Benz LG3000

    Blue Book: Props to the stuntmen that looked like Harrison Ford getting pulled, or a Nazi getting run over. It’s like a cartoon, this chase. Sandy, silly, and sensational. Blake Goble


    39. Le Mans (1971)

    Lap Duel

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    Make/Model: Porsche 917 K/Ferrari 512 S

    Blue Book: It’s like watching a sword duel on wheels. No dialogue, just rumbling engines. Scary fast vehicles. And Steve McQueen in full-on machismo mode. [Editor’s note: machismode?] Blake Goble


    38. It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World (1963)

    Race to the Finish

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    Make/Model: A whole mess of them

    Blue Book: Gosh, there’s so much vehicular mayhem in here, like Buddy Hackett gasping his way through a flight, or Jonathan Winters trashing a gas station in epic fashion. But the rollicking last act, as an army of nuts in cars ascends to a Big W, is the most fun you’ll have watching people get greedy. Yeah, we’re throwing shade at Rat Race. Blake Goble


    37. Robbery (1967)

    Bullitt Before Bullitt

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    Make/Model: 1964 Jaguar MKII

    Blue Book: Robbery is an uncommonly realistic crime drama, and in keeping with that ideal, its centerpiece chase has a visceral grit that drops the style of so many chase scenes in favor of something more desperate. That windshield getting caved in is one of the more deeply unnerving beats on this whole list. Dominick Suzanne-Mayer


    36. The Lineup (1958)

    Golden Gate Chase

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    Make/Model: 1957 Plymouth Belvedere

    Blue Book: When Eli Wallach purrs, “we got a cool car for a change!” he ain’t kidding. Don Siegel’s crime stunner rides along with pulpy swagger, and the Plymouth looks like a tank, ready for battle. Or crime, really. Crime we kinda have to condone, it just looks so good! Blake Goble


    35. Diva (1981)

    Bike Chase

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    Make/Model: 1981 Malaguti Firebird

    Blue Book: See, mopeds might get you laughed off the street in 2018. But watch Jean-Jacques Beineix’s Diva and you’ll see: it’s a hell of an escape vehicle. The Paris Metro getaway is just too clever, and a great ad for the versatility of bikes when you’re on the lam. Blake Goble
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    34. The Seven-Ups (1973)

    Scheider’s Turn

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    Make/Model: 1973 Pontiac Ventura Custom Sprint

    Blue Book: All the best clichés are in here. Cars hitting fruit carts. Cars swerving into oncoming traffic. The involvement of Roy Scheider in a chase film. Gotta love this!  –Blake Goble


    33. Driver (1978)

    You’re Welcome, Refn

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    Make/Model: 1974 Ford Galaxie

    Blue Book: Walter Hill’s 1974 feature definitely left a little bit of its DNA for one of the most recent chases later on in this list, especially in the opening to his Ryan O’Neal-starring thriller. As O’Neal’s wheelman speeds through Los Angeles, Hill keeps the photography tight and the engines loud, watching as an expert wheelman tears through a claustrophobic urban nightmare like it’s nothing. Dominick Suzanne-Mayer


    32. The Rock (1996)

    “I’m Only Borrowing Your Humvee”

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    Make/Model: 1992 Hummer

    Blue Book: The chase scene goes Michael Bay at long last in our list, and it’s every bit as ridiculous as you’d imagine it might be. In fact, a Hummer rampaging through San Francisco might just be the most Michael Bay thing he’s ever committed to film. Dominick Suzanne-Mayer


    31. Blow Out (1981)

    Saving Nancy Allen

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    Make/Model: 1981 Jeep CJ-7

    Blue Book: It’s gratuitous at best, and arguably a primer for the remainder of the gripping finale, but any excuse to show some low-jack love for De Palma is fine by us. The overhead shot is what got Blow Out on here. And Travolta’s young, sweaty performance is worth the ride. –Blake Goble


    30. The Sugarland Express (1974)

    The Big Finale

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    Make/Model: 1973 Dodge Polara

    Blue Book: Duel rules. But The Sugarland Express leaves a mark on the streets of cinema. Spielberg’s Southland tale of a couple on the run is great shots. Steven Spielberg was learning and inventing his look with the camera. And cars, well, what subject matter! But the ending, the heart-rending close, is a reminder that all good chases must come to an end. –Blake Goble


    29. Who Am I? (1998)

    Alley Shortcut

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    Make/Model: 1996 Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution IV

    Blue Book: There are a lot of jaw-dropping stunts throughout Who Am I?, which remains one of Jackie Chan’s high points in his prolific film career. But this one, in which Chan sends a car tearing through an alleyway on its side, is pretty damn high on the list. Dominick Suzanne-Mayer


    28. Grand Prix (1966)

    Mediterranean Crash

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    Make/Model: 1964 BRM P261

    Blue Book: Sometimes, the cars need to crash. To remind us of the dangers of car races and chases. Frankenheimer, who you’ll see see later, knew where to put a camera around a car for full impact. This one hits, hard. Only ding – we get confused by the switching number 11 and 12 cars a little? –Blake Goble


    27. The Bourne Supremacy (2004)

    Moscow Free-For-All

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    Make/Model: 2002 GAZ 3110 Volga

    Blue Book: There’s a lot of great chasing throughout the Bourne franchise, which makes sense given that Jason Bourne’s perpetual lack of safety is the whole point of the series. The high point, we’d argue, is this chase from the first sequel, which sends Bourne flying through Moscow in a stolen cab for his life. Big-budget chases are sometimes the most fun, after all. Dominick Suzanne-Mayer


    26. Thunder Road (1958)

    Mitchum Rules the Road

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    Make/Model: 1951 Ford Custom

    Blue Book: Bob Mitchum looked buh-buh-buh-buh-bad as he barreled down the night highway in this B-movie classic. Smoking. Bootlegging. And riding. A vintage cool, and a foundational work in the chase cinema canon. –Blake Goble


    25. C’était un rendez-vous (1976)

    Racing Verite

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    Make/Model: Mercedes Benz 450SEL 6.9

    Blue Book: Just because this short about a man’s chase to meet his beau is as slim as a worn tire, doesn’t mean we don’t love all the little details, the real beauties and thrills within. Shot on 35mm film, with a camera tethered to the front of the car, enjoy this bold work of P.O.V. and cinema verité. The growl of the engine, the rush of the streets. Find us a VR game with Paris at sunrise like this. –Blake Goble


    24. The Cannonball Run (1981)

    The Big Finale

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    Make/Model: 1978 Ferrari 308 GTS

    Blue Book: Burt Reynolds sure got a lot of mileage out of Hal Needham, eh? The Cannonball Run has its roots in a famed outlaw cross-country race, but Reynolds, Dom DeLuise, Roger Moore, Farrah Fawcett, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis, and a whole cast of whackos made sure this chase epic was as fun as bumper cars. Minus the whiplash and hip bruises. –Blake Goble


    23. The Italian Job (1969)

    The Italian Job

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    Make/Model: Austin Mini Cooper S 1275

    Blue Book: Wahlberg ain’t got shit on Michael Caine. The ’69 Italian Job is so playfully choreographed, and so giddily charming. The cars twirl and fly and nimbly escape so many tight spots. Bonus points for the bongo-hearty Quincy Jones music, and the Caine ‘bloody doors’ meme.  –Blake Goble


    22. Dirty Mary Crazy Larry (1974)

    Cop Car Chase

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    Make/Model: 1969 Dodge Charter R/T

    Blue Book: So much fun is had during Dirty Mary, Crazy Larry’s chase that people forget what a downer the ending is. But that’s ‘70s cynicism for ya. A Quentin Tarantino fave, Peter Fonda burns rubber.  –Blake Goble


    21. The Raid 2 (2014)

    Violence at High Speeds

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    Make/Model: 1999 Opel Blazer

    Blue Book: This entry from Gareth Evans’ opera of violence is one of the shorter on this list, but the combination of a warp-speed fight scene and a crash-heavy sprint through Indonesian streets is just far too cool for us to deny. Give us the third one already, Evans. Dominick Suzanne-Mayer


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