In Honor of ‘Need For Speed’, Here Are My Favorite Chase Scenes on Film

By March 14, 2014
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Vanishing Point, Bullitt, and The French Connection. Search for lists of the best car chases in film, and it’s almost guaranteed that you’ll find some variation of these films in the top spots almost without exception. Need For Speed hits theaters today, and I was thinking about coming up with my own list of the best car chases in film, but I realized these three films have such iconic, indelible sequences, that it’d be practically impossible to avoid putting them on the list. So I’ve expanded the parameters a little bit: instead of just including car chases, I’m including chase sequences of all kinds on my list.

And all due respect to Vanishing Point, Bullitt, and The French Connection, but I’ve chosen to leave those off the list – not because they don’t deserve to be there, but simply because they’re so commonplace in this kind of discussion that they’re hardy worth talking about in this context anymore. I’d be interested in a discussion about the merits of those films outside of their car chases (hmm…I might get around to writing that article one day), but in the meantime, here is my list of what I consider to be some of the best chase sequences on film. Because there are so many great options out there, I’m sure I’ve left out a few of your favorites, so head down to the comments section and let me know which ones you think should have been included. Away we go…

The Man with the Golden Gun

Though we don’t actually see much of the chase in this clip, I had to kick this list off with one of the coolest car stunts of all time. The “Astro Spiral,” as it’s become known, was designed by an engineer to work perfectly based on the weight of the vehicle and the angle of the bridge design. Too bad the Bond filmmakers decided to put that ludicrous slide whistle sound effect in there – it completely undercuts what is ultimately a super impressive piece of stunt work.

Diamonds Are Forever

Bond films have historically had some amazing chases in them, and while there are a number I could have chosen for this slot, the simplicity of the one from Diamonds Are Forever gets me every time. Sure, Bond escapes by using that now-classic, physics-defying “up on two wheels” bit, but considering that the majority of the chase is him outsmarting cops in a parking lot, I just think it deserves a little credit.

Raiders of the Lost Ark

You all know the moment from Raiders of the Lost Ark, so I figured I’d give you this little behind-the-scenes look in case you’ve never seen it.

Stagecoach

This one inspired the truck moment in Raiders, and since it’s a much older film than everything else on this list, I wanted to include it just for our younger readers who may have never seen the John Wayne western. (Forgive the voiceover.)

The Raid 2

 

I couldn’t find a clip that only features the car chase near the end of The Raid 2 (partly because the film hasn’t been released yet), so just watch the trailer and you’ll have to trust me that the car chase will make action movie fans cheer out loud.

The Matrix Reloaded

Remember how amazing this was in theaters? Still blows my mind that the filmmakers had to build a one and a half mile freeway in order to film this thing, but it was totally worth it. What a cool scene.

The Blues Brothers

Doesn’t get much better than Jake and Elwood making a TON of cops look like absolute fools.

To Live and Die in L.A.

This film was directed by William Friedkin, who also helmed The French Connection, so this guy DEFINITELY knows what he’s doing when it comes to creating a compelling car chase sequence.

Against All Odds

I’ve never seen this movie, but when I came across this clip, I thought it was cool enough to share. It’s rare that you see a car chase in which there isn’t any destruction at all, and this one takes place on a portion of Sunset Boulevard that is rarely used in movies. Plus, it has a young Jeff Bridges!

Ronin

This is one that should absolutely be on every single “best of” list when it comes to chases. I admittedly don’t remember much John Frankenheimer’s film, but the car chase has stuck with me ever since I saw it ten or eleven years ago. And this one gets extra props for having a badass female driver – something you certainly don’t see every day when it comes to classic car chase scenes in movies.

Indiana Jones and The Last Crusade

Moving on from the world of car chases, how about another mode of transportation – a train? Indiana Jones and The Last Crusade is one of my all-time favorite films, and this opening with River Phoenix playing a young Indy serves as a perfect prequel for the character. It’s brilliant.

Casino Royale

Let’s get some foot chase action going, shall we? The opening parkour chase in Casino Royale set the tone for the type of Bond Daniel Craig would be: he’s agile, but he’s also a guy who will barrel through a wall when necessary. Awesome stuff.

Point Break

Parodied in Hot Fuzz, Kathryn Bigelow’s Point Break still 100% holds up as a stellar action film, and though I could have picked the scene in which Utah dives out of a plane without a parachute to catch up with Bodhi, this foot chase is such a great example of how to direct a fantastic scene while keeping the geography of everything perfectly clear.

Ong Bak

I’m going to go out on a limb and say that a lot of you haven’t seen this movie. For a while, Tony Jaa was the heir apparent to Jackie Chan, and before The Raid came along, his work was pretty much the only place you could watch truly amazing hand-to-hand fight sequences that were all done without wires or stunt doubles. Watching Jaa leap through obstacles (while carrying that knapsack, too!) is like watching a video game character or something – human beings shouldn’t be able to do the stuff that he does, but it’s a pleasure to watch him pull that stuff off.

That’s all I have for my list. What excellent movie chases do you think should have made it onto this list?

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Ben is a writer living in Los Angeles, California. His work has been featured at ScreenRant.com, FirstShowing.net, MySpace.com, GeekTyrant.com, and many more sites across the web. Some of his favorite movies include The Rocketeer, Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy, Tombstone, Lucky Number Slevin, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Ferris Bueller's Day Off, Collateral, Double Indemnity, Back to the Future and The Prestige. Follow him on Twitter: @BenPears.
  • Susan P Graham

    Let’s not forget Sean Connery’s scene in little Nellie in You Only Live Twice. One of my all time favorites!!

    • For sure! There are so many excellent Bond chase sequences, I could have devoted the entire list to them.