The Greatest Movie Car Chases

Movies and movement, the two go hand in hand and there is nothing quite as visceral or gripping as the big screen for conveying the thrills of speed. The early pioneers of cinema, the Lumière brothers, knew this and their 50 second film; The Arrival of a Train at La Ciotat Station (1895) has become legendary. Early cinema goers reportedly fled in panic at the realistic portrayal of a train pulling into a station.

Since these pioneering days, cinema has embraced the technology of its age with open arms and has relished in capturing the thrills of a chase. So sit back and relax as we take a look at some of the best chase scenes to have appeared on the silver screen, all that’s missing is the smell of gasoline!

The first cameras could not move and, as such, each shot they took was static but they captured with aplomb the speed of its sister technology, the car. With the legendary Keystone Kops often seen hurtling around corners on the running boards of early cars, it was in silent films such as Buster Keaton in Sherlock Junior (1924) that the art of dramatic chase scenes took off. The film features a particularly inventive chase scene that started off on foot and ended up with some of the most stunning sequences of stunts ever seen on a motor vehicle. As a blissfully unaware Buster Keaton ends up driving a motor bike with just his legs, over broken bridges, explosions and road works.

Perhaps the most famous of chase scenes, and one that has certainly entered folklore as the greatest, is Steve McQueen in Bullitt (1968). The film has it all, the cool machismo of McQueen and the sex appeal of a Ford Mustang GT powered by a snarling 390/4V, chasing down a mean, all-black Dodge Charger 440 R/T. With speeds of 110 m/ph clocked during filming, it is a motor-head’s dream and the fiery explosion that rounds it off is the only way it could have ended.

Equally intense and grittier in its approach was the 1971 classic; The French Connection, masterfully directed by William Friedkin. As a furious Gene Hackman, commandeering a Pontiac Le Mans, hurls and honks the car with a reckless abandon through the rough streets of New York. Clipping cars en route, smashing into vans and leaving the car a wreck which no chip repair could hope to salvage.

A different approach is seen in the cult classic; Death Race 2000 (1975). A young Sylvester Stallone races it out against a gnarled David Carradine in an apocalyptic black comedy where racers compete to not only finish first but to kill the most.

The influence of these classic films can be seen in many recent films, such as the B movie charms of the 2007 Tarantino film; Death Proof, which with its over the top violence, pays homage to Death Race 2000. Or The French Connection inspired visceral quality of the chase scene in The Bourne Supremacy (2004). What’s certain is that as long as speed exists, the camera will joyously capture the anarchy and danger and let us enjoy all the thrills, without the spills.

Paul is a part of the digital blogging team at who work with brands like Belron. For more information about me, or to keep up to date with the latest in retail news, check out my posts at or visit my Twitter account, @shoutingID.

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