We take a look at ten of the best car chases to grace the big screen
Mustang vs Charger. Nothing more needs to be said really, however the chase scene itself lived on to become one of the most iconic of all time. Set in San Francisco, Hollywood’s coolest actor Steve McQueen plays the role of Lieutenant Frank Bullitt. Being tailed by a pair of hit-men in a 1968 Dodge Charger R/T, Bullitt manoeuvres his 1968 Ford Mustang GT to fall behind them, and embark on an lengthy-yet-gripping pursuit, over the hills of San Fran and out on to the highway, where the ‘Stang nudges the Charger into a gas station and subsequent fireball.
Prepared by Max Balchowsky, the man who also maintained the Mustang and Charger in Bullitt, the 1970 Dodge Challenger R/T helped the car become an all-time classic on the American highways and on the big screen. The chase-at-hand sees Barry Newman, portraying a car delivery driver named Kowalski, drive across Utah and Nevada with the police unable to catch him. Kowalski is referred to in the film as ‘the last American hero’, but in truth it was he who helped the Challenger become an American hero in its own right.
Strictly speaking the entirety of The Cannonball Run is a car chase based on the Cannonball Baker Sea-To-Shining-Sea Memorial Trophy Dash, with Wacky Racers connotations throughout. In essence the film is a parody, with Roger Moore comically depicting his James Bond-self in an Aston Martin DB5, Jackie Chan driving a Subaru GL (the joke being that both are asian even if Subaru are Japanese and Chan is Chinese), and Terry Bradshaw and Mel Tillis playing the role of a pair of 'good ol’ boys' in a NASCAR-liveries 1979 Chevrolet Malibu amongst others.
Die Another Day is not the greatest Bond film ever produced, nor was the movie's star car the most iconic. The Aston Martin Vanquish was a suitable Bond car, but that invisibility cloak was simply too gimmicky. That said, it was the film that brought Bond kicking and screaming into the 21st century, and in the Bond vs Zao/Vanquish vs Jaguar XKR was a brilliant chase scene. Set in a rapidly melting ice palace, Bond is pursed by Zao’s missile-equipped XKR. Desperately seeking his drowning companion (Halle Berry), Bond crashes the Vanquish through a wall of ice to find her, but only after forcing Zao into pool of water, with a razor-sharp falling chandelier entrusted to finish the job.
It’s unlikely that any film directed by a stuntman is to go without a car chase. Alas, in Hal Needham’s 1977 epic, a Pontiac Trans Am was enlisted as the star car, which in context was used to draw police attention away from a lorry carrying illegal bottles of Coors beer state-to-state. The second half of the film sees the Pontiac embroiled in a constant chase, with Bandit relying on the support of other truck drivers to help him, the cargo and the Trans Am evade the clutches of the cops.
BMW M5 vs Peugeot 406. Not the most enthralling prospect but in Ronin they became the stars of a movie that featured a number of chase scenes. John Frankenheimer directed the scenes (including our chase of choice), after gaining accolade for his scenes in Grand Prix (1966) and The French Connection (1975). Set in the capital of romance, Paris, this gritty chase saw gendarmes’ disposed of, civilian cars rolled, and in the face of the Parisian traffic, some of the most dynamic driving sequences ever filmed. And you've got to love the sound of that screeming M-Sport engine...
Compared Casino Royale that went before it, Quantum of Solace was a bit of a flop. That said, the opening scene was one of the best in Bond history, as Daniel Craig is tailed in his Aston Martin DBS by a convoy of equally stylish Alfa Romeo 159s complete with machine guns, a maniac lorry driver, and a Land Rover Defender. Twisting through mountainside tunnels and across a quarry, the chase sees a number of dynamic driving manoeuvres (including a high speed in a two-way tunnel) both on road and off-road.