Nothing says motion-picture escapism like a car-chase scene. It’s been an essential part of cinema since movies were created (the first example is considered to be a 1903 short in which a wealthy man in a limousine pursues his eloping daughter and her intended). Car-chase scenes are not complicated, there is not a lot of dialogue, and the action, in effect, puts you in the driver’s seat.
To determine the greatest car chases in movies, 24/7 Tempo reviewed movies tagged with the keyword “car-chase” on IMDb, an online movie and TV database owned by Amazon. We included only films in which one or more car chases figure prominently. IMDb user ratings and number of votes are current as of June 24, 2022. (These are the best car movies of all time.)
Technology and the skills for shooting car chases has evolved dramatically, making the film sequences more realistic and compelling. According to the car-themed website Motorious, the celebrated car chase in “Bullitt” was a departure from previous chase scenes, which had been done using a studio set, or a green screen, to make the scene appear as if it had been filmed on location. “Bullitt” director Peter Yates was among the first to utilize smaller cameras during the chase scene shot in San Francisco, elevating the sense of risk and excitement.
In “The French Connection,” director William Friedkin upped chase-scene realism by mounting cameras on Gene Hackman’s Pontiac LeMans as he chased drug dealers through Gotham. It was later revealed that Friedkin didn’t get permission for the chase sequence to be shot in New York City, so the streets filled with pedestrians were the real thing.
Car-chase sequences have been a must for movie franchises such as Bourne and Mission: Impossible, and the Fast & Furious franchise, which debuted in 2001, is all about fast cars.
Two movies with famous car-chase scenes in the 1960s and ‘70s – “The Italian Job” and “Gone in 60 Seconds” – were remade for 21st-century audiences.
Besides the actors who drove them, some of the vehicles have become famous in their own right: the Aston Martin in “Goldfinger;” the Mustang GT Fastback in “Bullitt;” the Ford Eleanor Mustang in the original “Gone in 60 Seconds;” or the gigahorse, a fusion of two 1959 Cadillac DeVilles, in the reboot of the Mad Max franchise in 2015. (Here are the 25 most iconic film and TV cars.)
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