There's a special art to crafting a great car chase movie. Directors have to juggle a lot of moving parts and somehow craft exciting chase sequences without killing every single stuntman in the process. In honor of the 20th anniversary of "Ronin," here are 13 car chase movies that set the gold standard.
Even 50 years later, "Bullitt" may well be the coolest car chase movie ever filmed. What else would you expect from a movie featuring legendary badass Steve McQueen as a hotshot policeman named Detective Frank Bullitt? Even after all this time, "Bullitt's" iconic chase sequence is the gold standard by which all others are judged (and usually come up short).
Long before he established himself as the master of the Hollywood blockbuster, Steven Spielberg got his start directing a humble TV movie about a lone driver being hounded by a murderous trucker. Even at this early stage, Spielberg's mastery of the craft was on full display. It's streamlined, direct and very effective.
'The French Connection' (1971)
If any car chase movie can rival "Bullitt" for boasting the greatest chase scene of all time, it's definitely "The French Connection." This crime film features Gene Hackman in one of his most memorable roles and chronicles the deadly rivalry between police and a group of heroin smugglers. There's a reason this became the first R-rated movie to take home the Best Picture Oscar.
'Gone in 60 Seconds' (1974)
The 2000 remake has its merits, but the original "Gone in 60 Seconds" is pretty tough to top. Its centerpiece is a massive, 40-minute-long sequence wherein the main characters struggle to steal 48 cars in the course of a few days. Well over 100 cars were destroyed during the making of this film, but we like to think all that carnage paid off.
'Smokey and the Bandit' (1977)
Burt Reynolds' recent passing has renewed interest in this 1977 classic, one of the most purely entertaining car chase movies ever made. Reynolds delivered one of his true career-defining performances as the cocky, lovable Smokey, and you can't help but love his dynamic with costar Sally Field. Heck, even Alfred Hitchcock once named "Smokey and the Bandit" as one of his favorite films. If it's good enough for him, it's good enough for us.
'Blues Brothers' (1980)
Even ignoring the car chases, we'd forever have a soft spot for this 1980 comedy. It's hilarious, over-the-top and graced with some truly incredible musical numbers. But the ambitiously staged car chase sequences push this one over the top. They sure don't make them like this anymore.
It took a long time for a new car chase movie to come along and revive the spirit of classics like "The French Connection," but "Ronin" finally managed that feat. This stylish spy thriller stands out because of director John Frankenheimer's insistence on not cutting corners. He made his actors enroll in high-speed driving school and insisted on not using special effects or camera tricks to spice up the action. The result is a high-octane thrill ride that's tough to beat.
'The Fast and the Furious' (2001)
While no longer regarded as one of the best movies in the franchise, "The Fast and the Furious" deserves some credit for keeping the focus squarely on racing at all times. This film still boasts some of the most exciting chase scenes in the series, whether it's those inexplicably long quarter mile drag races or the incredible highway robbery sequences.
'The Matrix Reloaded' (2003)
In a lot of ways, "The Matrix Reloaded" proved to be an underwhelming follow-up to the original. But if nothing else, it gave us a truly amazing car chase sequence. Ina world where the laws of physics can be broken with impunity, "The Matrix Reloaded" gives us a lengthy chase sequence that revels in doing the impossible.
'Death Proof' (2007)
Several years after Quentin Tarantino proved himself to be a terrific martial arts filmmaker, he showed that he also had a knack for car chase movies in "Death Proof." This exploitation movie features Kurt Russell as a sadistic stuntman trying to slaughter a group of innocent joyriders. The stunts and the generally tense approach to framing this conflict result in a very satisfying car chase movie.
In "Drive," Ryan Gosling played the coolest driver this side of Steve McQueen. Director Nicolas Winding Refn proved he has a strong eye for crafting great chase scenes here. Once you factor in the terrific atmosphere and Gosling's haunting, silent performance, you have one of the greatest car chase movies of the 21st Century.
'Fast Five' (2011)
The "Fast & Furious" franchise had started downplaying its focus on drag racing by the time the fifth movie rolled around. Even so, "Fast Five" packs in some of the franchise's most memorable car sequences. That's especially true for the thrilling climax, as our heroes rip a bank vault out of a building and drive it down a crowded metropolitan street. This series is never one to do things by half measures.
'Mad Max: Fury Road' (2015)
When it comes to the sheer, concentrated amount of car chasing, no film can really rival "Mad Max: Fury Road." Nor is this a case of quantity over quality. Director George Miller reminded everyone that he's among the best in the business, with a nonstop lineup of vehicular carnage set in a haunting post-apocalyptic world. Better still, a shocking amount of the stunts her were achieved through practical means rather than special effects.