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The 50 Greatest Car Chases in Film History

on October 24, 2018, 2:57pm
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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

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

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48. The Man With the Golden Gun (1974)

Car Flip

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

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47. Toy Story (1995)

To Andy!

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

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46. The Bank Dick (1940)

Getaway Chase

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

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45. Christine (1983)

Chased To Death

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

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44. Running Scared (1986)

On the Tracks

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

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43. Pineapple Express (2008)

Foot Through the Windshield

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

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42. Raising Arizona (1987)

Huggies

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

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41. Rush (2013)

“Why would I drive fast?”

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

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40. Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)

Desert Pursuit

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

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39. Le Mans (1971)

Lap Duel

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

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

Race to the Finish

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

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37. Robbery (1967)

Bullitt Before Bullitt

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

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36. The Lineup (1958)

Golden Gate Chase

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

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35. Diva (1981)

Bike Chase

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

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

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33. Driver (1978)

You’re Welcome, Refn

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

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32. The Rock (1996)

“I’m Only Borrowing Your Humvee”

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

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31. Blow Out (1981)

Saving Nancy Allen

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

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30. The Sugarland Express (1974)

The Big Finale

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

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29. Who Am I? (1998)

Alley Shortcut

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

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28. Grand Prix (1966)

Mediterranean Crash

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

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27. The Bourne Supremacy (2004)

Moscow Free-For-All

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

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26. Thunder Road (1958)

Mitchum Rules the Road

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

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25. C’était un rendez-vous (1976)

Racing Verite

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

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24. The Cannonball Run (1981)

The Big Finale

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

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23. The Italian Job (1969)

The Italian Job

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

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22. Dirty Mary Crazy Larry (1974)

Cop Car Chase

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

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21. The Raid 2 (2014)

Violence at High Speeds

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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20. Gone in 60 Seconds (2000)

Eleanor, Reprised

Make/Model: 1967 Shelby Mustang GT500

Blue Book: Let’s just get this out of the way: yeah, that CG-augmented “final leap” at the end of this sequence is goofy as fuck. It really truly is. But right up until then, this distinctly Bruckheimer-looking demolition derby through half of Los Angeles is still an absolute blast, and one of the great, memorable modern chases. Dominick Suzanne-Mayer

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19. The Matrix Reloaded (2003)

Freeway Mayhem

Make/Model: 2003 Chevrolet CTS/Ducati 996

Blue Book: Absurdism operating on four cylinders. What happens when you let those genre and reality-bending Wachowskis play in the realm of the car chase? Something like the obscenely big and green-tinted chaos of this movie’s action centerpiece. They brought samurai swords and creepy twins! –Blake Goble

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18. Drive (2011)

Opening Getaway

Make/Model: 2006 Chevrolet Impala

Blue Book: Again, Drive owes quite a bit to Walter Hill, particularly in its stylish opening. But where Hill chased thrills, Nicholas Winding Refn instead pursues a more coiled kind of tension. This feels like a chase scene for present-day cinema: all style, silence, and ruthless efficiency. Dominick Suzanne-Mayer

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17. The Dark Knight (2008)

Bat on the Pedway

Make/Model: 2005 Wayne Enterprises Batmobile/2008 Wayne Enterprises Batpod

Blue Book: Which part is best? The Batpod hiding in plain sight, just inside of the Batmobile? The breakneck run through Lower Wacker Drive? Or the breathtaking truck flip on LaSalle Street filmed, for real, in camera, in the middle of the night in downtown Chicago? –Blake Goble

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16. Speed Racer (2008)

The Big One

Make/Model: The Mach Five

Blue Book: Speaking of modernity, the Wachowskis’ take on the retro cartoon is one of the great, triumphantly excessive uses of a lot of studio money ever made. All kaleidoscopic neons meant for the biggest IMAX screens possible, Speed Racer feels like a cartoon brought to life in ways that few other movies have ever matched. Its big final race, then, is a real brain-bender, and proof that saving the best for last is often a virtue. Dominick Suzanne-Mayer

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15. Fast Five (2011)

Heist in Rio

Make/Model: 2010 Dodge Charger SRT-8

Blue Book: They drive a fucking bank vault through Rio. There’s a lot else to say about the grand chase at the end of Fast Five, the movie that turned a Point Break ripoff series into a billion-dollar series of live-action cartoons for good. It’s not even the only great chase in this film. But THAT IS A DODGE CHARGER DUO, DRAGGING A FUCKING BANK VAULT THROUGH RIO. Long live this stupid, wonderful franchise. Dominick Suzanne-Mayer

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14. Baby Driver (2017)

Bellbottoms

Make/Model: 2006 Subaru WRX

Blue Book: The newest chase on our list is a doozy. Edgar Wright not only staged a completely analog chase sequence in the CG age, but he used it as an opportunity to introduce an entire new generation to The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion. It’s thrilling, it’s full of stylistic verve, and it involves a staging of three-car monty on an Atlanta highway. In so many words, it absolutely rules. Dominick Suzanne-Mayer

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13. Thelma and Louise (1991)

On the Run

Make/Model: 1966 Ford Thunderbird

Blue Book:  A two-hour chase in the form of two budding feminist buds on the lam from awful men? From the man? We love it. We love this road movie’s moxie and friendship, and we still get a little wound up at the courageous ending. –Blake Goble

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12. Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991)

Through the Reservoir

Make/Model: 1991 Harley Davidson FLSTF “Fat Boy”

Blue Book: On one hand, Arnie rocking a Harley Davidson is so laughably swinging-dick that it’s almost a shock he wasn’t chomping a cigar throughout the entire scene. On the other, James Cameron stages a rescue race that is so pulse-poundingly heroic, we loved leather Arnie on a hog here. A triumph. No, not the brand. –Blake Goble

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11. Death Proof (2007)

Stuntman Mike Gets His

Make/Model: 1970 Dodge Challenger

Blue Book: For Quentin Tarantino’s half of Grindhouse, he paid homage to the car movies of yore by staging a brutal ’70s slasher within their framework. Yet for all the trash some talk about the listless nature of Death Proof‘s first half, it’s all really just preamble to the long final chase at the end. As a real-life stuntwoman dangles off the hood of a real-life Vanishing Point Challenger, with Kurt Russell’s murderous scumbag in hot pursuit, this cements itself as one of the most daring homages ever staged. Dominick Suzanne-Mayer

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10. Vanishing Point (1971)

The Eternal Rider

Make/Model: 1970 Dodge Challenger

Blue Book: Hey, speaking of the Vanishing Point car! Like Two-Lane Blacktop, Vanishing Point is a relic of an era when muscle cars could still be considered true counterculture. As Kowalski burns through the desert, on the path to his salvation and ruin alike, the white Challenger stands as a physical icon of an American ideal long passed by. Speed, equaling freedom of the soul. Dominick Suzanne-Mayer

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09. To Live and Die in L.A. (1985)

Wang Chung Chase

Make/Model: 1985 Chevrolet Impala

Blue Book: 33 years later, we’re talking about and taking seriously a car chase scored to Wang Chung? A miracle. The automotive successor to Friedkin’s French Connection chase crackles and screeches with a sort of coked-up energy that is positively 1980s. A big, rolling rush, as they say. –Blake Goble

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08. Akira (1988)

Cyberpunk Hell on Wheels

Make/Model: Unknown – Shotaro Kaneda’s Bike

Blue Book: The opening to Akira accomplishes what most chase scenes never dare to try: the conveyance of story and character and place alike, all delivered in a handful of whirlwind minutes through the streets of a futuristic world beyond comprehension. Through animation, speed is untethered from the limits of reality, and has rarely felt as manaically fast as it does here. Dominick Suzanne-Mayer

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07. Smokey and the Bandit (1977)

Burt Reynolds Forever

Make/Model: 1977 Pontiac Firebird Trans Am

Blue Book: 1800 miles, 30 hours to go, and a shitton of Coors. Smokey and the Bandit takes the action-oriented seriousness of car chases and adds a degree of absurdism so affectionately corny that it’s a small wonder Hall Needham’s hit-and-run classic has lasted without being fully excused as camp. Burt Reynolds rode into film history with this one. –Blake Goble

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06. Ronin (1998)

DeNiro on the Move

Make/Model: 1996 Peugot 406

Blue Book: Yes, John Frankenheimer’s latter day work of surreal action with a two-way street of chases. Bobby DeNiro with the bazooka? Dazzling, daring. But for our gas money, the Paris chase – complete with a car going into oncoming traffic – takes the prize on precision and anxiety alone. The stomach drops at this one. –Blake Goble

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05. Gone in 60 Seconds (1974)

The Whole Goddamn Second Half

Make/Model: 1971 Ford Mustang

Blue Book: Back before you could stage a car chase with an entire city street full of computer animated vehicles, you had to send one prop car into the next for the desired effect. The original Gone in 60 Seconds, largely a relic of car movie culture these days, is a symphony of destruction, with what stands to this day as one of the biggest on-camera pile-ups in movie history. It’s nearly half of the movie, too. Dominick Suzanne-Mayer

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04. The Blues Brothers (1980)

Jake & Elwood vs. Illinois Nazis

Make/Model: 1974 Dodge Monaco

Blue Book: There’s more than one great chase in John Landis’ fully stuffed comedy classic, but our favorite comes at the very end, as the state police, Chicago cops, and a legion of Illinois Nazis alike pursue Jake and Elwood through the streets on their way to the Daley Center. The Bluesmobile only just makes it, but the amount of anarchy flying through real city streets here is still dazzling. Dominick Suzanne-Mayer

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03. The French Connection (1971)

Hackman Under the Tracks

Make/Model: 1971 Pontiac Le Mans

Blue Book: Dude, they did this so illegally! William Friedkin, that punk wunderkind of the ‘70s, had no time for precious permits and safety. He basically shoved Gen Hackman into a Pontiac, and got help from off-duty cops (involved in the movie’s real case) and assistant directors to shut down several blocks just for the chase. Some unlucky civilian leaving his house got hit. The producers had to pay for the damages. And that recklessness is so palpable. It’s why we (worryingly) love this chase. Not to bang on a clichéd expression, but boy you couldn’t get away with this one today. –Blake Goble

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02. Mad Max: Fury Road (2015)

The entire film, start to finish

Make/Model: T815 Tatra “War Pig”

Blue Book: KAMAKRAZEE WAR BOYS. (WAR BOYS!)

Three years later, we’re still awed that Fury Road exists at all. George Miller took a pile of Warner Bros. money and went to the African deserts to send vehicles careening through perfect sands for two hours of blissfully uncontrolled screen time. We can’t really highlight any one sequence from the film, because really, all of Fury Road is a long, beautiful chase, with the kind of final impact that creates legendary movies. This thing is gonna live forever, shiny and chrome, in Valhalla. Dominick Suzanne-Mayer

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01. Bullitt (1968)

Down the Frisco Hills

Make/Model: 1968 Ford Mustang GT

Blue Book: No judgment, but does anyone remember anything beyond Bullitt’s signature car chase de résistance? Exactly. Call it a revolution in camerawork, in kinetic storytelling, in unabashed whirlwind stunts and action filming. Bullitt’s gassed chase still gets mileage after 50 years on the screen. There’s a moment at the very beginning of Bullitt when Steve McQueen puts on a seat belt to signal that he ain’t horsing around. Neither are we, when we say Bullitt is the benchmark classic chase. Lalo Schifrin’s groovy bongo music, Peter Yates’ cleverly escalating camera placement and trickery, and McQueen’s epically cool confidence behind the wheel of a green Mustang, hunted and hunting a Dodge in the pursuit of justice (or whatever). Even the continuity errors (we see you, dizzying number of hub caps) almost make this more important. It’s like this bred and began an era of pulp cinema that gearheads have been racing to compare to since, and Bullitt still leaves the competition in the dust. A masterpiece, for movie nuts and motorheads alike. –Blake Goble

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