"Bullitt" is the quintessential car chase movie. If you haven't seen this film's '68 Ford Mustang versus '68 Dodge Charger chase through the streets of San Francisco, then you are not really a car guy (or a car gal)!
'The Italian Job' (1969)
The entire second half of this film is little more than an epic car chase involving three Mini Coopers, a couple of Jaguars, and a bus, through, under, and above the streets of Turin, Italy.
'The French Connection' (1971)
I accidentally rented this film many years ago when I couldn't remember the title of "The Italian Job." Little did I know that I'd picked up one of the greatest chase scenes in film history. The hero, Detective Jimmy "Popeye" Doyle, commandeers a 1971 Pontiac LeMans and races it through the streets of New York, frantically chasing an elevated train.
'Vanishing Point' (1971)
"Vanishing Point" is to MOPAR guys what "Bullitt" is to Ford lovers, although in my opinion 'Bullitt' is a much better movie than this meandering film. At center stage is the white 1970 Dodge Challenger R/T that our hero Kowalski is charged with driving from Denver to San Francisco.
David Mann is minding his own business, driving his Plymouth Valiant, when he encounters a faded and grimy Peterbilt 281 tanker truck in the California desert. Mann soon finds himself in a bizarre cat-and-mouse game with the truck, which won't let him pass, but won't let him stop. This movie is 90 minutes of pure suspense and is a must-see.
'Gone in 60 Seconds' (1974)
A South American drug lord pays a group of thieves $400,000 to steal 48 specific cars for him, including a 1973 Ford Mustang Mach 1. Ninety-three cars are crashed in this 97-minute movie. Skip the year 2000 remake for the classic's better, longer climatic chase.
'Dirty Mary, Crazy Larry' (1974)
Larry and Mary are washed-up NASCAR drivers who rob a small-town grocery and are pursued in their 1969 Dodge Challenger R/T by police. "Ain't nothin' gonna stop us!"
'Death Race 2000' (1975)
Sometimes a movie is so bad that it's good. "Death Race 2000" (not the 2008 remake, "Death Race") is a wacky film starring David Carradine and Sylvester Stallone. Based in a post-apocalyptic America, the Transcontinental Death Race is now a national sport. The only things funnier than the one-dimensional drivers are their themed, custom vehicles.
'Smokey and the Bandit' (1977)
This southern classic about the world's greatest beer run from Texas to Georgia is chock full of car chases and epic jumps--and definitely deserves a place on our list.
'The Driver' (1978)
The title character in 'The Driver' is a professional who steals cars to drive as getaway vehicles for big-time robberies. He only says 350 words in the entire movie. Why? He's busy driving, that's why!
'Mad Max' (1979)
Personally, I don't think this first film in the "Mad Max" trilogy is that great--the second film is where the series gets good. What I do like about it are the long bumper-cam shots of Max's 1973 Ford XB Falcon Hardtop GT351 ripping down the Australian highways. The sound of the supercharged V8 is incredible!
'The Blues Brothers' (1980)
For the large car chases, filmmakers purchased 60 police cars at $400 each, and most were destroyed at the completion of the filming. At the time of the film's release, it held the world record for the most cars destroyed in one film until it was surpassed by its own sequel, "Blues Brothers 2000."
'Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade' (1989)
OK, so this film isn't a car movie, but it does feature car chases, boat chases, motorcycle chases, even horse versus tank chases. If it moves, this film has someone chasing someone in it or fighting on top of it. In fact, the entirety of the "Indiana Jones" franchise is chase after chase for a series of MacGuffins.
'Short Time' (1990)
This obscure 1990s comedy is about a Seattle cop who, after being told he has 2 weeks to live, is trying to get killed in the line of duty for the insurance benefits. This film features a pretty epic (and pretty silly) 7-minute car chase that's definitely worth seeing.
'Tomorrow Never Dies' (1997)
You could really take your pick of any of the James Bond films--they all have awesome chase sequences--but I'm choosing "Tomorrow Never Dies" because Bond spends the whole chase in the back seat of his BMW 750, piloting the car with his cellphone! That has to be a violation of hands-free laws.
'Who Am I?' (1998)
Mostly, this is a martial arts/crazy stunts extravaganza, but the car chase scene in this 1998 Jackie Chan film introduced me to the four-wheeled wonder that is the Lancer Evolution IV. However, I still can't get this movie's theme song out of my head.
I'm sure there's a plot, but the only thing anyone remembers about "Ronin" is the car chases. Several cars are used in the chases, including a Peugeot 406, a Citroen Xantia and XM, a BMW M5, and a Mercedes-Benz 450SEL 6.9, a rare Mercedes-Benz W116 variant with a high-powered engine, and, most famously, an Audi S8.
'The Fast and the Furious' (2001)
Laughable dialog? Check. Stupid plot? Check. Lots of explosions and car crashes? Check and check.
Say what you will about "The Fast and the Furious" series of films, I still find the car chases and variety of vehicles involved to be quite interesting. I especially love playing Spot the Inaccuracies with my friends!
'The Transporter' (2002)
"The Transporter" isn't what I'd call a "good" movie, but the first film of the series opened with an apologetically over-the-top chase in a modified BMW 7-Series. For the true Bimmer-phile, the first 20 minutes of this film are worth the price of admission.
What is it with bad movies and good car chases? This 2002 film starring Vin Diesel was so utterly forgettable that it almost didn't make the list. Then we remembered that epic Pontiac GTO done up 007-style.
Bonus: A Chevrolet Corvette gets base-jumped off of a bridge in the opening scene.
'The Bourne Identity' (2002)
Another great Mini chase, this time through the streets of Paris. Actually, all three "Bourne" films have pretty good chases in them. I'd recommend you check them all out.
'Bad Boys II' (2003)
Detectives Lowery and Burnett pursue the villains in a silver Ferrari 575M Maranello, but the baddies have stolen a loaded vehicle carrier and are throwing whole cars (and boats) in at our heroes.
If director Michael Bay could make a chase scene this exciting for a buddy-cop film, why was "Transformers 2" so devoid of car-based mayhem?
'The Matrix Reloaded' (2003)
OK, so there's a lot of digital trickery used to make this chase happen, but we're Car Tech, so that's fine! This chase starts with the (at the time) unreleased Cadillac CTS being chased by the also unreleased Cadillac Escalade EXT, and quickly devolves into an explosion-filled, crashing mess involving big rigs and motorcycles.
This film by Quentin Tarantino culminates with a high-speed chase through the desert with our heroine trapped on the hood of a speeding white 1970 Dodge Challenger (like the one in "Vanishing Point"), pursued by a washed-up stuntman in a 1970 Dodge Charger modified to be death-proof!
'Speed Racer' (2008)
"Speed Racer's" car-fu driving style may have been a bit much for many viewers, but I enjoyed this digital effects extravaganza, with its half-pipes, loop-de-loops, and extreme vehicle acrobatics. Then again, I'm easily influenced by shiny, colorful things...
Honorable mention: The Keystone Cops
The silent Keystone Cop films, produced between 1912 and 1917, practically invented the movie car chase. These bumbling lawmen were often depicted crowded onto their jalopy to the point of overflowing into the street as they chased down the baddies.