A good car chase in a film can lift what's otherwise a flat and somewhat lifeless film into a mythic status.
There's been many a film that's been elevated by them and even some that have been defined by them. When we sat down to write this list, we made a rule - no CGI. That's why we've purposefully excluded The Matrix Reloaded, any of The Fast & Furious chases, Gone In 60 Seconds and a few others.
While there's nothing wrong with CGI, the skill is doing it for real. Here's the five greatest (real) car chases in film history.
5. MAD MAX 2: THE ROAD WARRIOR - The tanker chase
Although you could argue that Mad Max: Fury Road had more spectacle and madness to it, there was an incredible amount of CGI used which disqualifies it from our list. Here, in The Road Warrior, it was pure. Pure carnage, pure adrenaline, pure action. George Miller's direction and editing is breathtaking, the sheer amount of moving parts going on in the scene really does take your breath away as you watch it. The whole sequence - the whole film, in fact - has a look and texture that, despite its post-apocalyptic setting, feels real.
4. THE FRENCH CONNECTION - Chasing the train
William Friedkin admitted that he filmed the chase sequence in New York without obtaining a single permit. With a camera mounted in and on the car, Friedkin and his stunt driver, Bill Hickman, tore through the streets of New York. Friedkin operated the camera himself as the other operators had wives and children whereas he, at the time, did not. That scene where the car hits someone? That was completely unplanned and, in order to make it seem more real, Friedkin left it in. As well as this, Friedkin used Santana's Black Magic Woman for editing the scene. If you play this scene below with it, you can see the changes.
3. RONIN - The M5 versus the Peugeot 405
The film itself is a little weak in places and is pretty forgettable, but it does have some incredible car chases. Robert DeNiro and Natasha McElhone were actually in the car during some of the scenes throughout the Paris chase. Director John Frankenheimer added a fake steering wheel while legendary stunt driver Remy Julienne drove the car for real. You can see DeNiro's panicked expression in a few of the hairier parts, particularly in the part when they go through the tunnel. What makes Ronin so interesting is that they're not particularly flashy cars or remotely interesting to look at. It's an M5 and a Peugeot screaming through the streets of Paris, yet it's easily the greatest car chase of the past 25 years.
2. THE BLUES BROTHERS - Supermarket Sweep
It's important to look at The Blues Brothers and understand that it was all real. There was no CGI, no do-overs, John Landis filmed it all in one day and moved on to the next scene. They really drove through a mall and destroyed everything you saw on the screen. All the mall customers were stunt people, but they didn't know which way the cars were going - they had to react accordingly. Can you honestly imagine this happening nowadays? Exactly.
1. BULLITT - Chasing Steve McQueen
It's often considered as the best car chase ever put on film and we can't really fault it. Steve McQueen did the driving in the close-up scenes in a '68 Mustang Fastback GT. Facing off against him was Bill Hickman, a well-known stunt driver (who also drove the car chase in The French Connection) in a Dodge Charger. The director, Pete Yates, asked the stunt-driving team to hit speeds of around 75 to 80 miles an hour. In reality, the team was regularly hitting close to 110 miles an hour. The editing in the chase, however, is what makes it. It's all done with such subtlety that you almost forget certain little goofs, like the now-infamous green VW Bug that loops the streets of San Francisco. The build-up with Lalo Schifrin's jazz score, the hilly streets, the Mustang and the Dodge Charger - it's all so effortlessly cool and it still holds up to this day.