With James Bond and Indiana Jones arriving on Blu-ray this month, Mania counts down the 50 greatest chase sequences of all time. They include cars, trains, planes, stagecoaches, and spaceships, as well as a few scenes of good old-fashioned shoe leather. A chase here is defined as a pursuit of any kind involving at least one chaser and one chase-ee. (This disqualifies a few films, such as Jan de Bont’s Speed which technically has no pursuer.)
50. The Dead Pool
“This is not a rip-off. It’s a homage.”
The underrated fifth entry in the Dirty Harry franchise benefits from a healthy dose of humor, not the least of which comes in a surprisingly funny riff on the famous chase from Bullitt. The bad guy wires a remote control toy car with explosives, then sends it out to blow up Harry (Clint Eastwood) and his partner (Evan C. Kim). Sure, the sight of a rinky-dink Radio Shack escapee closing in on a full-fledged sedan is ridiculous, but the film is well aware of it. And as we watch the toy catch air as it revs over San Francisco's famous hills, our laughter blends with legitimate suspense. It turns an extended parody into something weirdly unique… and a great way to kick off our list.
49. Death Race 2000
“A clean hit! A perfect hit! And no pain for the target.”
The entirety of Death Race 2000 consists of one extended car chase, as David Carradine’s ace drive Frankenstein literally mows down the competition in a future transcontinental demolition derby. Director Paul Bartel treated the whole thing as a farce, and added ghoulish bits of gallows humor like “Euthanasia Day” wherein a hospital wheels its elderly patients onto the road for the racers to flatten. That extends to the stunts, performed in modified Volkswagens that were anything but street legal and often driven by the actors themselves. Bartel undercranked his cameras to lend the impression of speed, but those cheap tricks actually adds to the film’s endearing camp nature… so strong that even the big budget remake with its more polished stunts still felt like a stodgy afterthought.
48. The Rock
“Where's that son-of-a-bitch now? I'm gonna hunt him down!”
Michael Bay has done a lot of chase scenes, but this one's probably the Michael Bay-est. it's got everything: San Francisco, a Ferrari, crashing police cars, taxis, fruit carts, old ladies crossing the street, guys in wheelchairs, downed power lines, explosions, worm's eye camera angles, William Forsythe dropping the F-bomb, a water truck, cheezy one-liners, a trolley in peril, and a hippy-dippy VW getting mauled by a Hummer. Bay throws it all at you at twice the speed of shriek and all you can do is laugh and stare at the mindblowingly awesome idiocy on display here. Nick Cage shoots his airbag! Awesome! You can't describe anything Michael Bay does without an exclamation point!
47. The Living Daylights
“She'll call you back…”
If history teaches us anything, it's that a new actor in the James Bond franchise has to be awesome right out of the gate. This went double for Timothy Dalton, who was coming into the role behind Roger Moore, who had played Bond for 12 years and finally aged out of the role he inherited from Sean Connery (quickie trivia: Dalton was actually scouted for the role before Moore, but turned it down). The Living Daylights proves a wonderful premiere for Dalton, who delivers a cheer-inducing chase/fight down the winding roads of Gibraltar even before the opening nekkid-chick-laden credits. It was refreshing to see a Bond actor able to sink his teeth into a fight again (Moore was pretty creaky in his last outing, A View to a Kill). Dalton brought it, and brought it right.
46. Endiran the Robot
“Happy Diwali, folks!”
It may be too early to assess this sequence’s significance in chase scene history, but it’s created such a stir online that we felt it couldn’t be ignored. The full version of Bollywood sci-fi action flick Enthiran still isn’t widely available in the US, but the ten-minute clip that’s been circulating on the internet contains more unbelievable mayhem than we can describe. All you really need to know is that it involves an army of identical Indian Elvis impersonator robots who join together to form shapes like a sphere, a snake and a giant middle finger. Absurd, yes, but to such an extreme degree that it achieves the comic hysteria of a Looney Tunes short. If India keeps putting out product like this, Hollywood will have start watching its back.
45. Raiders of the Lost Ark
“Jock! Start the engines!”
Raiders of the Lost Ark has the distinction of being the only film with two chases on our list. The first one takes place early on, as the redoubtable Dr. Jones emerges seemingly triumphant from a booby-trapped temple, only to find an entire tribe of headhunters waiting for him at the entrance. Suddenly, his prize lies abandoned in the hands of his archnemesis and all he can do is run for his life. The sequence also displayed an all-important side to its hero: no matter how awesome he is, no matter how many superhuman feats he performs, the poor guy just can’t buy himself a break.
“Somebody help me please!”
There are several thrilling elements to masked serial killer Michael Myers’s pursuit of Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) near the end of Halloween: Myers emerging from the shadows, Laurie’s vertiginous fall down the stairs, etc. The most pulse-pounding moment, however, comes when Laurie finally reaches the door of the Doyle house, only to find it locked, with Myers approaching briskly from behind. It’s a simple setup—Laurie isn’t moving, and Myers never breaks out of a walking pace—and yet it puts you on the edge of your seat so effectively that you can barely resist yelling at little Tommy Doyle to get downstairs and open the damn door! Countless Halloween imitators have recreated this scenario, and for good reason; even the derivative knockoff versions still sometimes manage to get under our skin.
43. North by Northwest
“That plane’s dusting crops where there ain’t no crops!”
Only Alfred Hitchcock could design a puzzle-box chase so ingeniously simple, and yet so unforgettable as this. After being pursued across the country by unknown assailants, hapless ad men Roger Thornhill (Cary Grant) literally finds himself in the middle of nowhere. With miles of open ground between him and any attacker, he has nothing to fear… until a seemingly innocuous biplane tries to mow him down like so much corn. Suddenly, the unassailable safety of his location turns into an active liability, with nowhere to run and an implacable enemy able to strike at will. In order to survive, Thornhill must embrace the very mistaken identity that got him into this mess, and become the brilliant secret agent everyone else seems to think he is.
42. Vanishing Point
“The vicious traffic squad cars are after our lone driver, the last American hero, the electric centaur, the demi-god, the super driver of the golden west!”
Shady courier Stanley Kowalski (Barry Newman) finishes a brutal non-stop trip from San Francisco to Denver… then reverses the path almost on a whim with a customer’s brand new Dodge Challenger. Hopped up on bennies and with only a lone voice on the radio as his companion, he runs a hallucinatory phalanx of dirty cops, hustling robbers and a prick of a Jaguar driver en route to his destination. The urgency of the chase – which basically runs the length of the movie – contrasts with the fact that there’s nothing at stake but Kowalski’s self-imposed deadline. He fights his own rootlessness as much as the police, and the encroaching sense of doom starts to feel like the ultimate escape: leading him to the one place his pursuers would never dare to follow.
41. The Fellowship of the Ring
“If you want him, then come and claim him!”
Peter Jackson made his share of alterations when adapting The Lord of the Rings to the big screen, but never lightly and never without purpose. Frodo Baggins’ flight to the ford – pursued by the immortal Ringwraiths as his life slowly drains away – thus morphed into a rescue mission for the elf maid Arwen (Liv Tyler), who needed more to do than Tolkien’s text allowed. Despite the change, the chase still works brilliantly, with Jackson’s camera alternately flying high above the chase and plunging headlong into the midst of the riders. We feel the horses’ thundering hoofbeats in the base of our spines and sense their increasing terror as the wraiths close in on their foe. Naturally, Arwen has a few tricks up her sleeve… tricks made less comforting by the fact that the implacable monsters behind her don’t mind them one little bit.
Mania is the premiere online destination for fans of science fiction, fantasy, horror, and anime entertainment. It is the largest community offering profiles, video, science fiction movies, sci fi TV, art, sci fi comics, photos, cheats, blogs, science fiction books, forums and feedback. Mania offers insider entertainment industry info and original content for science fiction, fantasy, and horror entertainment genres including: video games, comics, gadgets, movies, television, toys, music, books, DVDs and more.