I don’t like movie car chases. This makes me either the worst or the best person to be compiling this “Fate of the Furious“-inspired list (our nitrous-drunk review is here). I chalk it up to two things: first, being a child of the 1980s when, after the car-chase heyday decade of the ’70s, suddenly they were ubiquitous. Not just in films, but in the inescapable American TV shows of the 1980s (an era we could maybe start calling, in contrast to our current peak, “Trough TV”). I grew to dislike them for sort of the same reason that Steven Soderbergh has said he dislikes nudity scenes — though in this case it’s not so much that a car chase turns a film into a “documentary,” but it does often divert attention away from the story. Suddenly the emotional stakes are put on hold in the name of suspense, and the next few minutes devolve into what can frequently feel like a rote, purely technical exercise. In the very lamest TV shows of my youth, a car chase was often, in contrast to its purported, pulse-pounding effect, an excuse to put the kettle on: filler, b-roll material that it didn’t matter if you missed, you’d be able to pick up what happened afterwards just fine.

The second reason is that I don’t care about cars. Not even a tiny little bit, beyond the basic “hey, that looks cool,” the way one might feel about a character’s shoes. So, sorry if you’re the kind of petrolhead who has come here to get the skinny on which movie emulates the roar of a V6 best, or to snort nose milk about how dumb it is that someone appears to change gear in reverse or whatever. There are about 15,000 other lists that are far more heavily focussed on details of make and model and driver expertise than this one. In fact, try to spot the several deliberate mistakes in this regard, included just to keep you on your toes. (*Any mistakes are not deliberate, but I’ve probably made some and this seems like a pretty slick way to cover my ass).

What this predisposition to dislike does mean is that a car chase has to be great to get my attention at all. And by great, I don’t mean technically accomplished, necessarily, or a bravura showcase for a particular stunt driver (here’s our list of Best Car Stunts, by the way), or an OTT game of Top Trumps to decide who’d win in a fight between a Ford Mustang and a Dodge Challenger. The main criterion for “great” here is that, much more than being exciting, the car chase has to be necessary–for the story, for the characters, for the movie. After that, added points for ingenuity and inventiveness, because we’ve all seen enough of these to mean that a little novelty goes a long way (arguably the entire ‘Fast and the Furious‘ franchise is based on this principle, up to and including driving a car out of one UAE skyscraper and into another, and then doing it again). With those parameters alone in mind, here are the 35 Best Movie Car Chases ever — if even I like them, you might too.

35. “Duel” (1971)
Prepare to be scandalized: one isn’t really supposed to say it because of the rule that even the obscure debut films of  successful filmmakers must be lost masterpieces, but Steven Spielberg‘s lean little thriller is just the tiniest bit dull to watch today. That’s really because it’s a beautifully neat idea, stretched out to feature length, without quite enough characterization to fill the gaps. However the idea itself–of a malevolent unseen trucker inexplicably hellbent on driving Dennis Weaver’s increasingly sweaty salesman off the road–is kind of fab, with the truck being an obvious precursor to the shark in “Jaws.” It’s fascinating to watch Spielberg work out how suspense works here, and it’s present right from Weaver’s first dangerous encounter with the truck that really feels like something that could happen to anyone.

34. “Goldeneye” (1995)
Martin Campbell, aka The Man Who Saved Bond Twice, did so the first time when Pierce Brosnan took over the role after an uncharacteristically long hiatus since Timothy Dalton‘s last outing. “Goldeneye”‘s success was a great deal down to how it distinguished itself from the slighter dourer ’80s Bonds, and established Brosnan’s take on the role. And really no scene did that better than theis one, in which Bond steals a tank, crashes it through a building, reduces half of Moscow to rubble, in a chase that is about as subtle as well, a turreted armored army vehicle. But it’s also a blast and immediately established Brosnan as a Bond who could look suave and unflappable in literally any situation.

33. “The Rock” (1996)
Michael Bay‘s best film contains his second-best car chase, which sees mild-mannered, somewhat weedy chemist Stanley Goodspeed (Nicolas Cage, in his first role after his Oscar-winning turn in “Leaving Las Vegas“–seriously, God bless this man forever and ever) behave exactly as we would expect a mild-mannered, somewhat weedy chemist to do. That is, he commandeers a bright yellow Ferrari and goes careening through the streets of San Francisco in hot pursuit of Sean Connery‘s indestructible, old-skool Captain Mason, who has stolen a Hummer. Ah, how elegantly do the vehicles here convey reams of character information! Like the rest of the film, it is ludicrous, noisy, dumb as a stool and a lot of fun, particularly for Cage’s “Hmm yeah, why not?” reaction.

32. “Dirty Mary Crazy Larry” (1974)
This is a tricky one to include since, along with “Vanishing Point,” “Duel” and a couple of others from the ’70s, it’s essentially all car chase, and the cumulative effect of the film can’t really be judged from watching bits of it (hence two clips below). Part of a kind of nihilist road-movie subgenre that also included stuff like Spielberg’s “The Sugarland Express,” “Dirty Mary Crazy Larry” stars Mary Coombs and Peter Fonda, respectively, and concerns three bandits on the run after a kidnapping and extortion caper has netted them the money they need to set up as pro racing drivers. Here, the chase is the thing, with the amorality of our heroes contributing to a loose, free-wheeling, very ’70s vibe, right up until that surprising, dumb-luck ending.

31. “Jack Reacher” (2012)
Like, I suspect, many of you, I’d largely forgotten about this film, except in the context of Werner Herzog and remembering that it had a good car chase. Revisiting the chase, it’s actually really good, and not just because it reminds you that Jai Courtney and David Oyelowo were once in the same film, which has got to help out with any future Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon games. Director Christopher McQuarrie wisely plays the whole thing without music, and while obviously influenced by the chase films of the ’70s, Caleb Deschanel’s nighttime photography is beautifully sharp and slick, often favoring an unusual half-screen shot of the driver with blurred background taking up the whole right side of the frame. Of course, a lot of that is to show off star Tom Cruise who did all his own (impressive) driving stunts here, and it shows.

  • John W
  • Jeremy Carrier

    Bourne Identity car chase instead of Supremacy…whoever put this list together gotta be fired dawg

    • jh

      No way. Supremacy’s far better.

  • Chris Parkes

    Although Bay’s bombastic Bad Boys 2 bonanza still makes my jaw drop with it’s sheer ferocity, I still think his chase in The Island is better, the way it moves from foot to truck to sky to skyscraper, all the while getting faster and faster still gives me glee.

  • suitablecustard

    Part of me was hoping there would be an honorable mention toward the taxi and police chase from The Fifth Element, despite the fact that all vehicles involved hover well above the actual ground.

  • Daniel Thron

    “(seriously, if you just cut out the entire first half with the other set of girls, you get exactly the film everyone wanted).” And miss the entire point of the movie. Death Proof is meant as a double feature all by itself, to juxtapose the difference between two kinds of seventies grindhouse indies; smashing them together to make a positive statement about how women’s roles have evolved.

  • jh

    I know ‘best Michael Bay film’ is setting the bar low, but I recently re-watched The Rock. It is dreadful. Verging on incompetent. There’s definitely a so bad it’s good quality to it, most noticeably Cage’s performance (and his incredible vanity), but man, it is not good. It made me feel bad for Ed Harris, who’s trying really, really hard.

  • I love the chase in A Most Violent Year, very low key and realistic yet thrilling at the same time.

  • Paul

    Surprised the original Mad Max didn’t make the list. As much as I love “The Road Warrior,” the car chases feel way safer to me. They sped up the film a lot, which they didn’t do in Mad Max. In Mad Max they were doing it by the seat of their pants, doing everything for real. It just feels way faster and way more dangerous, because it really was.

  • loudrockmusic

    ha ha! I was holding my breath until I came across The Raid 2 and was going to write up a very stern comment if you guys left it out! IMO, top 5 should be (in any order):
    The Raid 2
    French Connection
    Ronin
    Death Proof
    Bullitt

  • Scott Serradell

    I suppose with some of the choices on here, you could have made room for the car chase from “Freebie and the Bean” (Richard Rush, 1974). The OTHER great San Francisco chase scene…

    But what’s more interesting is that you folks, Collider, and Slashfilm all published the same article (great car chases) within 24 hours of each other. Was there a conference call made on how to capitalize on “The Fate of the Furious”? Or is this just a stunning coincidence?

  • Matt Miller

    One of my favorites is also the fantastic one-take inside the car chase scene in Children of Men. Great movie and incredible work of Alfonso Cuarón (arguably his best film).

  • “Gone in 60 Seconds” – sometimes even Halicki didn’t know what was going on.

    At right about 21:00, you can see that either he or the other driver missed their mark, sending him spinning off the road and into the light pole for real.

    According to his widow, his first words whenh he regained consciousness were “Did we get coverage on that?”

  • Have to disagree about the “Quantum of Solace” chase – it’s so incoherently edited that it makes no sense at all, visually.