/Answers: The Greatest Movie Car Chase Scenes

Every week in /Answers, we attempt to answer a new pop culture-related question. This week's edition asks "What is your favorite car chase scene in the movies?" As always, we have submissions from the /Film writing crew and podcast team, along with a special guest. This week, we are joined by The Fate of the Furious director F. Gary Gray.

If you'd like to share your favorite movie car chase, please send your thoughts to slashfilmpitches@gmail.com for a chance to be featured on the site. Find our favorite movie car chases below!

F. Gary Gray: The French Connection

Gene Hackman, underneath the [elevated train] – The French ConnectionBullit was dope, too. I know that's a film school answer, but those are pretty dope because you have to really understand that they didn't have the equipment that we have today. So to get that level of feeling was really tough with those big cameras back then.

Peter Sciretta: Bad Boys II

I have many favorite car chases and it would be easy to pick one of the obvious candidates. But the one car chase sequence that doesn't get nearly enough love is the highway chase sequence from Bad Boys II. Maybe it's because it's a Michael Bay movie, or maybe it's because Will Smith and Matthew Lawrence are cracking jokes throughout, but it's thoroughly entertaining and does things I had never seen done in a car chase sequence before.

Notably, the bad guys are throwing cars off of one of those big automobile haulers at our heroes, who are attempting to avoid the explosive carnage as it hits the pavement. The intense sequence is shot practically, and it feels like it, even though the explosions, wreckage and chaos is often larger than life. The camera feels closer to the action than most car chases, with the shots providing the point of view of the cars in the sequence as they swerve in and around the action.

Christopher Stipp: The Blues Brothers

"It's 106 miles to Chicago, we've got a full tank of gas, half a pack of cigarettes, it's dark...and we're wearing sunglasses.""Hit it."

There has never been a more auspicious beginning to what is one of the best car chases in cinematic history than the beginning to the one that brought the Blues Brothers back to Chicago proper and into the company of a completely oblivious Steven Spielberg as the Cook County Assessor's clerk who would take the boys' cash, thereby saving Sister Mary Stigmata's orphanage. The chase itself is just amazing. It reaches level of pure absurdity, with Nazis falling from great heights (with one revealing his unrequited love for the other), a jump over a police cruiser that makes no sense whatsoever, police getting out of their busted-down rides and opening fire in broad daylight out of complete frustration, and just copious amounts of car carnage that is completely unnecessary in every way. This was a movie that introduced me to the idea of a fantastical car chase.

There is actually another car chase that happens earlier in the movie within a mall that still delights me when I watch it, but there was, and is, something about how that final chase goes down that will always be something of a high water mark. The action here feels more kinetic because cars really are meeting their demise as they crash into one another in ways that aren't perfect. Perhaps that's why its greatness still resonates with me. I still am in awe of any modern car chase that is well choreographed, but these original men in black will never be topped.

Devindra Hardawar: The Bourne Supremacy

By the end of The Bourne Supremacy, Jason Bourne is limping, bloody and beaten. With Moscow's cops and the man who killed his girlfriend on his tale, his only escape route is a ratty taxi cab. What follows is one of the most brutal car chases ever filmed. It's less about speed and more about destruction and survival – that poor taxi takes a whooping, and Paul Greengrass's camera makes us feel the impact of every hit.

This chase evokes everything I love about the Bourne series: action that means something; a great accompanying score by John Powell ("Bim Bam Smash" is a perfectly appropriate title); and a unique spin on typical movie trips. Jason Bourne might be outmatched – Karl Urban's relentless agent pursues him in a much larger and tougher SUV – but he figures out a practical way to survive. And while Paul Greengrass's shakey-cam style might be getting a bit tired today, The Bourne Supremacy and Ultimatum both show how it can be effective.

I'll never forget seeing this chase for the first time with my family in a crowded theater. It was almost as if everyone was holding their breath throughout the crescendo of violence. And when it ended, with Bourne's taxi smashing in the big bad's SUV in a highway divider, we all breathed out a sigh of relief.

Ben Pearson: Drive

I love balls-to-the-wall car chases as much as the next action movie fan, but I also appreciate the quiet precision of the chase that opens Nicolas Winding Refn's 2011 film Drive. Ryan Gosling's nameless Driver is effortlessly cool, projecting a sense of calm and control at all times in this scene – even when it looks like the jig is up. It's the rare cinematic car chase in which the camera almost never leaves the car, and by keeping the perspective limited to the driver's and not giving the audience the satisfaction of a wide shot, it makes the scene infinitely more effective. We can only see what he sees, so we aren't able to guess ahead of time how he'll possibly be able to squeeze out of the L.A.P.D.'s grasp.

On first watch, I kind of thought the Driver was nuts for listening to the play-by-play of a basketball game during a chase. But as the scene comes to a close, we realize it's the key piece of his plan, and the way he times his escape to the end of the game is pretty brilliant. It's somehow able to simultaneously be the most relaxed and one of the most suspenseful car chases I've ever seen.

fast five car chase

Hoai-Tran Bui: Fast Five

Ironically, the best car chase scene in the Fast and Furious franchise was when the movies stopped being about street racing. Fast Five was the turning point for the Fast and Furious movies, transforming the series into a veritable superspy franchise, with the villains getting badder, the stakes getting higher, and the chase sequences becoming more ludicrous.

This nearly 15-minute-long sequence in Fast Five is a lesson in escalation, as a simple heist scene turns into two cars dragging a vault through the streets of Rio, destroying half of the city in the process. It's equal parts absurd and exhilarating, with the movie playing straight one of the most ridiculous premises that the Fast and Furious franchise had offered thus far. Only Fast Five could pull off a chase scene which required Vin Diesel and Paul Walker to remain completely stony-faced as they crashed a bank vault through a glass building — which funnily enough, turns out to be a bank. The bank vault chase scene was the pinnacle of everything Fast and Furious had been, and everything it was to be: an oil-drenched testament to the power of cars, testosterone and over-the-top stunts.

Jack Giroux: The Italian Job

The reason why my gut leaned towards The Italian Job's car chase is partly because of how funny it is. Even Quincy Jones' score has a sense of humor about a pack of mini coopers, led by the coolest of the cool, Michael Caine, having no trouble losing their tails in Italy. It all goes smoothly (hilariously so) until a literal cliff-hanger. There aren't many reaction shots and cutting to the interiors of the cars during this scene – it's mostly great, cheeky shots of these little cars causing trouble in some odd and wonderful locations. When the chase takes the film's thieves to the top of a building and the camera zooms out to show some of the action unfold from a distance, it's equally cool and funny how gracefully and slowly these cars move. Rooftops, tunnels, stairwells...the sequence has a variety of locations, too. It's a crowd-pleasing chase and a fantastic ending for a great popcorn movie.

Jacob Hall: Jack Reacher

As much as I love the CGI-enhanced cartoon wackiness of the Fast and Furious series, car chases with attention to geography and physics will always prove more thrilling. It's one thing to generate excitement when a car can do anything, when it can ramp off skyscrapers and endure all kinds of outrageous punishment– it's another thing altogether to generate excitement when the automobiles operate entirely within the rules of reality.

Christopher McQuarrie's Jack Reacher is a great "old school" thriller before it reaches its incredible car chase, but it's this car chase that solidifies it as a modern classic. Wrongfully accused of murder, Tom Cruise's military policeman turned drifter turned investigator finds himself on the run from cops while also pursuing the men responsible for framing him, turning the streets of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania into the nation's loudest chess game. There isn't much chaos here – even a minor accident can incapacitate a car. There aren't any outrageous stunts or graceful driving maneuvers – no one is here is an expert driver.

With our expectations firmly established in Jack Reacher's realistic and recognizable world, the low-key thrills on display are elevated into something extraordinary. This is a car chase where a minor fender bender threatens to derail the entire chase, where the most intense moment involves an engine that refuses to cooperate after the car is pushed a little too hard. High speed pursuits give way to a game of cat and mouse, where automobiles slink through unlit alleys, searching for each other and lying in wait. The entire sequence plays out without the aid of a musical score – it's just these men, their unreliable real-world vehicles, and the slick, dark streets. The purr and the roar of engines is all the soundtrack we need as we see just how difficult a car chase can be.

None of this looks effortless. McQuarrie lingers on the details: close-ups of feet on pedals and hands on gear shifts. Driving is not second nature to these characters – it is all they can do to stay on the road, let alone keep up with one another. This chase is so thrilling because it is so tangible. These cars move like cars. They handle like cars. You see the sharp turns and feel the sudden stops and hear the engines scream and can actually place yourself in the middle of it. This sequence doesn't put you at arm's length. In invites you in. It allows you to understand how it feels to be in a car chase.

Ethan Anderton: Speed Racer

As someone who is generally not a fan of anime, I can't really explain why I absolutely love the way the Wachowski siblings took the visual style of the classic series Speed Racer and transferred it magnificently to live-action. They retained the cartoonish style, complete with bright colors and fast-moving visuals that mesh into each other, but managed to make the action sequences just as exciting as any of the most revered grounded action sequences. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the two legs of the deadly race known as the Casa Cristo 5000.

This is the race where Speed Racer's brother Rex is believed to have lost his life. It's one of the most corrupt and dangerous races on the circuit because there are so many areas that make it easy for the racers to cheat by using illegal gadgets in their cars. The races in Speed Racer were already incredible, with how the cars flip around and smash into each other, fighting in choreographed moves as if they were martial arts fighters that weigh thousands of pounds. Those races are made even more insane in the Casa Cristo 5000.

All throughout the race, drivers activate the wackiest weapons. There are classics like oil slick, spiked balls on chains, and things of this nature. There's one moment where a spiked projectile in a racer's tire attempts to take out one of Speed Racer's tire for a second time, and Speed activates a shield and suddenly there's a high speed sword fight happening during a race between two race car driver's and their tires. Plus, let's not forget that one of the weapons used is a hive of bees thrown at another driver.

Finally, the above video only shows the first leg of the race, but there's another six or seven minutes of fast-paced racing action just like this. One of the best moments of the race comes at the end of the second leg, when Speed's team wins and we get to see the signature shot of Speed Racer leaping out of the Mach 5 and standing in that trademark pose by the side of his car. If you haven't watched Speed Racer recently, you should rectify that very soon.

The Fate of the Furious

What do you think of our picks? What is your favorite car chase in the movies? Talk about it in the comments below or email your personal answer (a paragraph or more) to slashfilmpitches@gmail.com with the subject title "Favorite car chase." Our favorite responses will be featured on the site in a future post!

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