Argh. We're missing the two quintessential examples of the art from recent times. The car chase from To Live and Die in L.A. was, at the time of its release, one of the most elaborate and 'realistic' put to film, with slow-speed sequences as well as tire-squealing insanity; the classic traffic jam obstacles and more. Unlike most car chases, where there are typically a pursuer and an evader, in To Live and Die in L.A. the protagonists found themselves apparently being chased by everybody, which they just couldn't figure out until later. It added a note of surreal panic to the scene when normal-looking civilian cars would suddenly come careening around the corner to join the pack howling at their exhaust.

Even this chase, however, is eclipsed by the masterpiece of urban piloting and creative mayhem granted us through the imagination and lens of Mr. John Frankenheimer. In his film Ronin, Frankenheimer offers us two car chases worth noting (I'll try not to offer spoilers here). The first example is quite nicely done in a workmanlike fashion; it contains gunplay, explosions, chases, escapes, off-road, terror, elation, urban, country, pedestrians and more. However, the excitement of the chase is somewhat muted by the audience having watched the pursuing 'team' plan a big operation; therefore, you are never surprised when a new element is introduced. Rather, there's a feeling of 'ah, there they are.' While unavoidable, and necessary given the plot flow of the film, it really puts a damper on the raw adrenaline and acrid sweaty palms that should be part of all good car chases.

The second one, however - ah, now here is mastery. The reason that this chase surpasses all others put before us can be summed up in one word - realism. This is not a planned operation, with professional drivers coolly sparring in prepared cars, gunmen dueling from the passenger seat. It's not part of a chain of events so extraordinary that the movie has had to prepare you for their onset. No, this car chase is the stuff of legend - two cars, two drivers; neither driver comfortable with what they are doing but forced into it anyway. There is gunplay, true, but limited pistol work which does not directly result in big fake explosions. Shattered windows, shoulder wounds; these are all much more plausible.

The realism (or, as the French would say and I quote here strictly for pretention), the verité of the scene is enhanced by several factors. One; the drivers are clearly terrified and remain so for the entire chase. Two, the driving style; both drivers are not performing high-speed graceful swooping maneuvers, but are white-knuckled on the wheel, jerking the cars around in the particular corner/nose-diving fashion that cars exhibit during a panic evasive maneuver. I actually was curious about how they captured such wonderful shots ot terror from the drivers. After all, they are visibly not on a stage, but driving; the actors have the controls in their hands and are in the left seat; and even though both actors are accomplished, the fear has a painful sting of true life. Apparently, the way Frankenheimer captured this was to have right-hand drive cars, driven by professional stunt/racing drivers - and have the actors in the left seat with false controls. The fear is at least partially brought on because the car they are in is actually performing severe maneuvers which they are not in control of. Genius.

Some more bits - there is very little 'miraculous avoidance' or 'divine intervention' in this sequence (some would call it 'serendipity'). In a car chase, there is usually a certain amount of damage that will result from any maneuver; the key is to make sure it happens to other people. That's what goes on here. The participants survive as long as they do through vicious, almost Machiavellian disregard for other vehicles, people and the like, treating them as mere obstacles.

Finally, perhaps the most important piece - sequences of the chase were, in fact, filmed on location in Paris, with professional drivers traversing the narrow back streets (which had been closed off) at speeds of up to 100 MPH in real life - with less than two or three feet of clearance on either side, in some cases. The end of the chase tends to leave even viewers weak with exhaustion from nervous tension.

If you want a car chase in your life tonight, don't hesitate. Pick up Ronin and get thee to a DVD player.

What is it?

Simply, a person or persons chasing another person or persons, while both parties are in a car, or vehicle of some type.

When was the first ever movie car chase?

The first ever movie car chase was in a 1903 black and white, silent film called Runaway Match. It wasn't the most exciting chase ever filmed, but it belongs in the history books anyway, purely for getting there first. A couple elope, but are pursued by the bride's father—they escape when the father's chauffeur driven car breaks down.

Who is the best car chase driver?

The master of the car chase and car stunt is Remy Julienne. He has done stunt work for over a thousand films, including lots of the Bond movies, and has his own production facility where his team custom builds their own special stunt cars. His team did all the stunt driving in The Italian Job - the roof jump was incredibly dangerous, but Julienne worked it out meticulously and it went without a hitch on the first take. Before the stunt, all the extras said goodbye to him, because they thought he would be killed. (The Italian Job DVD has an excellent documentary about the final chase sequence, and is worth a look.) He also works with Jackie "I'm mad, me" Chan quite a lot.

How do they film car chases?

Very boringly. It's not done in one continuous series of shots. Car chases take days, weeks, sometimes months to film. Streets are closed off - the other cars you see are all trained stunt drivers. All the various elements are shot separately, slowly, in little bits and pieces, and rarely at the high speeds implied in the final cut. A good car chase is all in the editing and sound effects.

What is the most destructive/expensive/biggest car chase movie ever?

Not The Blues Brothers, as you might have suspected - it is The Junkman (1982), directed by H.B. Halicki - "over 150 cars, trucks, motorcycles & planes wrecked!" squeals the poster, excitedly. This is the Guinness World Record. So far. The same director also made the original 1974 version of Gone In 60 Seconds, in which 93 cars are wrecked in 97 minutes - Halicki financed the movie himself, and owned most of the cars. The Blues Brothers trashed between 30 and 80 cars, opinions vary. Some reports suggest that the police cars were rebuilt after they were crashed. Some websites state that The Blues Brothers was the previous world record holder, but I can't find any confirmation of this - if anyone can, I'd appreciate a msg. I've tried contacting Guinness, but no response as yet...

In 2003, The Matrix Reloaded overtook The Junkman with its chase, which used over 300 cars and a custom-built highway. All 300 cars were wrecked by the end of the shoot, which took about six months to film.


The rules of a movie car chase are the same whether it is a serious chase or a comedy chase. The chase itself can vary, the type of car/truck/boat/etc doesn't matter, but there are some things that must be included:

One or more of the following must be in the way: a fruit stand, some boxes (empty), two men carrying a large pane of glass across the road.

A bemused onlooker either drinking beer or smoking dope. When an amazing stunt happens in front of him, he must do a double take, look at his bottle/spliff, and throw it away in disbelief.

The cut ahead - this is crucial in establishing tension and/or comedy. At a suitably exciting moment in the chase, you must suddenly cut to a location ahead of and in the path of the chase. This must be a peaceful, happy location - weddings, dinner parties, brass bands, truck backing into the street etc etc - so that the chase can suddenly invade the scene and cause maximum mayhem. See the boat chase in Live And Let Die where the speedboats trash the wedding ceremony. If you don't cut ahead, it is acceptable to just suddenly have the chase burst in on something, although the cut ahead is preferable - when the chase suddenly stops and cuts away to show you someone's wedding, you just know it's all going to go tits up, and that's half the fun.

Don't just have the cars stop, or run out of petrol - they must crash, and crash well. Flips, somersaults, bits coming off them, explosions, innocent bystanders, the bigger the better.

What is the best car chase movie ever?

Ooh, subjectivity... Well, everyone always says Bullitt, but I'm going to be controversial here - I don't like the car chase in Bullitt at all, it is totally undeserving of the number 1 slot. It's boring, nothing happens, and it just fizzles out at the end. I think everyone automatically says Bullitt because it's expected of them. But ask anyone what their favourite car chase is, ever, and 9 times out of 10 they'll say The Blues Brothers. This is my favourite. It's exciting, it's silly, it goes on for about 6 weeks, there are stupidly massive car pile-ups, a million cop cars chasing the boys, the quiet, almost religious moment when the Bluesmobile finally comes to a halt, and just when you think the chase can't possibly get any better, the Illinois Nazis appear to the sound of Ride of the Valkyries. At the moment when that car is falling from soooooo high up (and that payoff line), if you're not soiling yourself with laughter then you, my friend, have no soul.

Second best? What's Up Doc?, a 1972 Peter Bogdanovich film starring Barbra Streisand and Ryan O'Neal. WhatwhatWHAT? Barbra bloody Streisand? Yep, you heard me. Watch this film. It's a fabulously silly screwball comedy - several identical suitcases, one with diamonds, one with a secret formula, one with underwear, you know the score, they get mixed up, blah blah blah. The best bit is the glorious chase sequence with Barb and Ryan on an ice cream bicycle being chased by several cars. There's a man up a very tall ladder putting up a banner, and two guys carrying a pane of glass across the street - you know they're in for it, and they know it too, the fun lies in not knowing when it's going to happen (and it doesn't happen how you expect, either). The chase is beautifully choreographed, cars whizzing past inches away from the rickety ladder, the bike freewheeling backwards down a hill, oh, it's sublime. Yes, I know, it's got Mecha Streisand in it, but after the Blues Brothers it is the funniest car chase ever. Trust me.

Still not sure? Any of these movies will satisfy your car chase cravings, check out each and every one of them:

Ronin (the cafe bit - fuck me! Please read the above excellent writeup for more on this film)
The Bourne Identity (2002) - a solid, thumpingly good chase featuring real cars, real speeds, and bloody good driving
Vanishing Point
Live And Let Die (speedboat chase)
Most other Bond movies (particularly Goldeneye, The Man With The Golden Gun, and The World Is Not Enough, the opening ski chase in The Spy Who Loved Me)
The Terminator and Terminator 2 (all of the chases)
The French Connection
Mad Max 2
The Rock
Raiders Of The Lost Ark
Taxi and Taxi 2
The Peacemaker (surprisingly good film, this isn't so much a car chase as a fist fight using cars, but by christ it kicks ass)
The Driver
To Live and Die in LA
The Hidden (watch the opening 5 minutes, and prepare to be gobsmacked)
The Italian Job
Ben Hur (still stands up today, the chariot race is painful to watch, particularly due to the persistent rumours of the deaths of stuntmen on the shoot - once, when asked if anyone really died during the making, Charlton Heston winked, and said "Y'know, even back then, we knew how to promote a movie...")
Tron (the lightcycles chase)
Return of the Jedi (the speeder bikes)
Toy Story (the final chase with the car and the dog and the truck, purely for the moment where it cuts to the inside of the car, as the baby notices the chaos in the wing mirror)
Operation Condor
Police Story
Oh, go on then. Watch Bullitt if you must, not for the car chase, but because Steve McQueen is just one of the coolest guys on the screen.

If you think I've missed out any fantastic car chases, please /msg me - if the chase is worthy, then it'll go in. But remember, the quality of the film doesn't matter, if it's got a cool car chase, it qualifies.

Already they're coming in! Your suggestions:

The Custodian says: I'd add the silly one in Dragnet just for the line "Look out! Muppets!" ...but that's me.

Me, me, me! I want to be in a car chase! Are there any games I can buy?

You too can be in your very own car chase - just buy one of the following games, and experience all the thrills of the chase, with none of the accompanying arrests, maiming, or death. Used to be that you had to buy a normal racing game and pretend you were in a chase, but now there are games specifically designed to give you that special car chase thrill. For that reason, I've included hardly any straight racers, as they're quite limited as to what you can do with them. All games are great with the exception of Midtown Madness, but I've included it because it's a pretty good laugh:

Driver - PlayStation, PC (fabulous game based on 70's car chase movies, the first one to feature proper car chases instead of racing)
Driver 2 - PlayStation
Driver 3 (or Driv3r as they insist on calling it) - PlayStation 2, PC, XBox (filled with maddening bugs, piss-poor walking controls, but the driving is superb fun, there's even a mission with cars inside a shopping mall)
Grand Theft Auto 3 - PlayStation 2, PC (the best game ever made? quite possibly)
Midtown Madness 1 or 2 - PC (not half as good as the above, but good fun for a while)
Stuntman - PlayStation 2 (you play a movie stuntman, and have to do car stunts according to the director's whim - the closest a game has come so far to a real live movie car chase - it can be infuriatingly hard, but it's damn good fun, and the replays make great use of the cut ahead technique)
The Getaway - PlayStation 2 (cars, guns, and Central London mapped out in detail - cause a pile up in Piccadilly Circus, race down Oxford Street - nice!)
San Francisco Rush 2049 - Dreamcast (hysterically fast racer with ludicrously big jumps)
Hydro Thunder - PlayStation, Dreamcast, PC (speedboats! jumps! loud American announcers!)
The Italian Job - PlayStation, PC (haven't played it, it's either poo or fab, depending on who you believe - the final mission is the entire car chase sequence from the movie, and is bloody hard by all accounts)

First movie car chase info:
/ Italian Job facts:
Everything else: my memory and complete + utter love of movie car chases

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