Since neanderthals were airbrushing Camaros on cave walls, man has struggled to answer the question, “Which car chases are the sick-nastiest?” In the Laser Time mode, we’ve assembled a list with some stone cold classics and a few personal wildcards. And remember, it’s not about your car, it’s not about chases, it’s about sharing every Corona with your family a quarter mile at a time.
Interested in hearing more on our picks? Give our recent the Laser Time podcast episode about car chases a listen.
Le Mans (1971)
Dir: Lee H Katzin
Cars: Porsche 917, Ferrari 512, Porsche 908, Lola, many others
Barely a movie, Le Mans is a straight love letter from Steve McQueen to the legendary Le Mans race, with over half of the movie just depicting straight racing footage from the previous year’s actual Le Mans race. Filmed with cameras strapped directly to his personal Porsche 908, Le Mans may be a nearly wordless vanity project, but it’s equally an historical document and a pioneer in filming car chases.
Khiladi 420 (Roller skates, rocketsRPGs, a huge anchor, and explodingc ars that chase the hero *kisses fingertips*. Truly worthy of the sex number.)
Skyfall (It’s not cars but really this whole sequence rules)
Jade (Fuckin lmao, ridiculous.)
Ninja Thunderbolt (Coolest car, coolest pursuers)
10.Short Time (1990)
Dir: Gregg Champion
Cars: 1982 Plymouth Caravelle, 1976 Pontiac Catalina
Millennial Icon Dabney Coleman plays a cop diagnosed with a terminal disease, and his kid only gets the life insurance if he dies on the job. Which he tries to do. It’s never been released on DVD, and Matt Frewer’s lines are likely more famous for being sampled by Ice T.
9.Dukes of Hazzard (2005)
Dir: Jay Chandrasekhar
Cars: 1969 Dodge Charger (General Lee)
The much-reviled 2005 reboot of the beloved show features some A+ driving from Formula D/Rallycross competitor Rhys Millen (See also: Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift). The movie, directed by Jay Chandrasekhar of Broken Lizard fame, features some awesome jumps and extended drifting sequences, including the movie’s peak which features an excellent extended drift around a roundabout and a massive, Duke Bros-worthy jump.
8.Death Proof (2007)
Dir: Quentin Tarantino
Cars: 1970 Dodge Challenger, 1972 Ford Mustang, 1971 Chevy Nova, 1969 Dodge Charger
I’ll defend Death Proof to death, but the scene above in particular doesn’t need defending. Anybody awake at the end of the 4 hour Grindhouse experience will likely sing this scene’s praises.
As with any Tarantino movie, Death Proof is chock full of references to older films for fellow movie nerds to sniff out. Let’s take a look:
—The white 1970 Dodge Challenger is an open reference to the main vehicle from Best Car Chases Movie List stalwart Vanishing Point< —The yellow 1972 Ford Mustang is another open reference to Eleanor from the original Gone in 60 Seconds (see: this very list), albeit with a brighter paint job and red interior taken from Kill Bill’s legendary Pussy Wagon
—Kurt Russel’s 1971 Chevy Nova sports two references, a cigar chomping duck hood ornament referencing the 1978 big rig flick Convoy, and a JJZ 109 license plate, the same as Steve McQueen’s Mustang from Bullit.
—The Dodge Charger is one of the most popular movie chase cars, popping up in Dukes of Hazzard, Bullit, and countless others. While this one isn’t a direct reference, it does sport a 938 DAN plate, a reference to the Charger from Dirty Mary, Crazy Larry. <
7.Speed Racer (2008)
Dir: Lana and Lilly Wachowski
Cars: Mach 6
YOU, SLOVENLY OAF: This movie is fake as shit and it’s a car race, not a chase you dumb idiot.
ME, ENLIGHTENED SAGE: John Goodman wrestles a ninja, beats him and says “More like a Non-ja.”
Movie car chase lists like these tend to focus primarily on big body American iron getting launched miles into the air and powersliding around corners into fruit stands. And for good reason; practical effects rule and the legit danger involved in filming some of these shots is palpable. That said, movies are getting more digital, and with that tech comes a lot of possibilities that don’t involve a 76 Pontiac LeMans narrowly avoiding a baby stroller.
Speed Racer is a green screen extravaganza that uses every color in the rainbow to create a high speed world on par with F-Zero. The future race tracks are massive roller coaster super structures that encourage racers to do 360s at speed while slamming into one another. Sure, it’s re-godamn-diculous, and would set a new CinemaSins world record, but that’s sorta the point. Grizzled old white guys in brown 4 ton heaps going 25 mph through some cardboard boxes will always have its place, but if you say you don’t enjoy a viking race car with a bunch of maces on it doing a barrel roll over Speed, you’re lying to yourself.
6.Fast Five (2011)
Dir: Justin Lin
Cars: One Million Dodge Chargers (SRT-8s for Dom/Brian, normies for the cops)
As the Fast and Furious franchise evolves into ever more ridiculous levels of car-related luncacy (outer space and Riddick haven’t been ruled out), it’s easy to forget the series’ origins as a bunch of neon underbody lit Honda Civics with harpoons stealing DVD players off a truck. Oh and family. While the iconic drag race from the original Fast & Furious between Dom and Brian may almost seem quaint by comparison (deep in our hearts, it’ll always be the best), Fast Five is a great example of the pivot to massive “put all logic aside” setpieces that have become the series signature. Any nerdlinger with a calculator and pocket protector can point out none of this makes any sense, but guess what, massive safes smashing cars is cool as hell and always will be! *smashes can of Hamms on forehead*
The top five movie car chases await you on the next page, vroom vroom!