The 50 Best Chase Scenes: Part 3 -

The 50 Best Chase Scenes: Part 3

14 Comments | Add


Rate & Share:


Related Links:



  • Series:

The 50 Best Chase Scenes: Part 3

From Orson Welles to Vin Diesel

By Rob Vaux, Matt Hoffman and Loren Dean     September 19, 2012

With Indiana Jones and James Bond 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.) Mania continue's with part 3 of the 50 Best Chase Scenes. 


30.  The Fast and the Furious

“Vince! Don’t! Get back in!”
The cheerfully ludicrous Fast and the Furious series gave car movies an upgrade for the 21st century… though it largely kept the hard-knocks reality of using real cars instead of CG images. So when Dominic’s (Vin Diesel) hijacking crew tries to take down a semi full of goods, we don’t have to speculate on what a Honda might look like zipping under the truck’s chassis. Things go sideways when the truck driver produces a shotgun, forcing the crew to attempt a rescue of one of their own clinging precariously to the grill. The scene borrows inspiration from The Road Warrior and Raiders of the Lost Ark, but the beat is uniquely its own: a new generation of stuntwork that pays reverent respect to its forebearers.

29. Gone in 60 Seconds

"I'll fix you, Mr. Big Shot!"
The original 1974 version of Gone in 60 Seconds ends with a 34-minute chase, longer than any other and taking up a full third of the film’s running time.  Writer/director/producer/star H. B. Halicki assembled the film with chicken wire and spackle: casting friends and family rather than professionals, and shooting key sequences at his day job in a repair shop. But that go-for-broke intensity results in a truly astonishing sequence. Halicki’s well-regarded car thief plays the hare. The cops play the hounds as they chase him through five cities from Long Beach to Carson. You can never be sure how many of the spectacular tricks were faked and which ones arose on the streets themselves. The Nic Cage remake couldn’t hope to match that kind of flair.

28. The Third Man

“Balloon, mein Herr?”
Director Carol Reed took verite filmmaking seriously when he actually shot his post-war thriller The Third Man in Vienna… which was still clearing away the rubble after World War II. Small wonder, then, that he went back to the studio for the climactic chase, in which the trap finally closes on affable-but-evil black marketeer Harry Lime (Orson Welles). The sewer tunnels through which he flees become an echoing maze, with  pursuers’ flashlights bouncing off the walls and the roaring water grabbing at his heels. When he finally finds what appears to be a way out, the grate just won’t open. He dies within a fingertip of escape… gazing at the same streets that kept him hidden for so long.

27. Return of the Jedi

“I see them… wait, Leia!”
Man, who didn't want a speeder bike after this scene? Was that not the great dream of your 12-year-old fanboy self (okay, maybe third, after “a lightsaber” and “Princess Leia in the slave girl bikini")? Shot on steadicams walked through a redwood forest and then matted over at high speed with the bikes, it's a technically fantastic sequence. This scene blew everybody away, inspired countless "vroooo!" sound effects while we were on our bicycles, and still has a visceral charge that no amount of CG pod-racing can ever match.

26. The Great Escape

“I haven't seen Berlin yet, from the ground or from the air, and I plan on doing both before the war is over.”
The Great Escape’s motorcycle chase sequence, though only about a minute long, serves as an old-school reminder that action scenes can be thrilling without MTV-style close-ups or rapid cuts. We watch Captain Virgil Hilts (Steve McQueen) attempt to escape from a bevy of German soldiers mainly through a series of distant long shots, but Hilts’s magnificent jump over one of the fences blocking his way to freedom still gets our hearts racing. The scene seems even more badass when you consider that it only appeared in the movie at McQueen’s request; the actor was an avid cyclist and wanted to show off his skills.

25. Batman Begins

“He’s not on a street, he’s flying on rooftops!”
We'd seen images of the re-imagined "tumbler" long before Christopher Nolan's magnificent reboot of the Batman franchise hit the screens, and we'd watched Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) tool it around the underground test track like a kid with his dad's Ferrari. But nothing could prepare us for the sight of the Caped Crusader ramming it straight down the throats of Gotham City's assembled police force.  Nolan keeps us guessing at every turn as the Batmobile takes to rooftops and underground tunnels in an effort to evade prusuit. But the real juice comes from the growing shock on all those cops' faces, as they slowly realize just how badly they've underestimated their prey.

24. The Shining

“You can’t get away! I’m right behind ya!”
Most chase scenes are constructed to produce suspense; the viewer is prodded to wonder whether or not predator will catch up to prey, or who will reach the finish line first. The Shining’s climactic chase, in which axe-wielding maniac Jack Torrance (Jack Nicholson) pursues his young son through a hedge maze in the middle of a blinding snowstorm, conjures up some suspense—though the audience has to be somewhat skeptical that a major Hollywood film, even one based on a Stephen King book, will end with a little boy getting butchered—but the dread it evokes is based less around any will-he-or-won’t-he questioning and more around the atmosphere constructed by master director Stanley Kubrick. The cinematography’s racing Steadicam shots and stark, almost black-and-white lighting create an aura of spiraling terror that lingers even after the credits have rolled.

23. The Bourne Identity

“So we got a bump coming up…”
Authenticity is the name of the game in the Matt Damon Bourne films (brainwashing notwithstanding), and the principle informs every minute of his flight from the Paris police in The Bourne Identity. Director Doug Liman fought with the studio to actually shoot the scene in The City of Lights instead of a cheaper location like Montreal.  We immediately grasp that we’re looking at real Parisian streets, not some stand-in city – which makes us grip our armrests just a little tighter as Damon’s Mini Cooper zips through traffic, onto sidewalks and down a very steep flight of stairs with irritated French fuzz in pursuit. They even throw in some cool spy facts in the middle of it all, as when Damon tells his girl (Franka Potente) to look away from the pursuing cops so she won’t be recognized.

22. Police Story

“Miss Fong, it's much too dangerous out here. Please go home.”
Jackie Chan listed Police Story as the all-time favorite of his movies and who are we to disagree? We could have gone with the magnificent shopping mall chase towards the end, but even it can’t compete with the film’s signature showcase, in which a busted sting leads to a harrowing chase down the side of a mountain. The vehicles crash through a shantytown en route while Chan – in perfect comic form, as always – runs a staggering gauntlet of escapes and near-misses in the process. It ends with a bit on a bus with an umbrella… a moment that would make Chan’s idol Buster Keaton proud. It served as the high point for a career that could have filled this list all on its own.

21. To Live and Die in L.A.

“We’re going this way!”
Sweet breakdancing angels! What's even going on in this scene? We don't know, but it's so tense we're about to pee our pants by the time it's over. Who's chasing agents Chance (William Petersen) and Vukovich (John Pankow)? What do they want? Why are there so many of them? Why are they so heavily armed? We don't even know (though the movie reveals it later in a cinematic kick to the nads like you won't believe), but whoever they are, they're crazy-persistent. To Live and Die in L.A. did all the things on film that Miami Vice couldn't do on TV--graphic violence, pervasive profanity, full frontal nudity--and the pinnacle of that capacity is this chase, ending in a last-ditch wrong-way-on-the-freeway escape that makes you clench your chair's armrests so hard you'll leave a mark. 


Showing items 1 - 10 of 14
1 2 >  >>  
jedibanner 9/19/2012 5:34:19 AM

Yep, the list is getting better and better.

fenngibbon 9/19/2012 5:43:20 AM

 The sinking feeling that the chase in Bullitt will be Number 1 grows.

I honestly do not understand why people give that chase such high marks. I just rewatched it and there's no sense of tension or danger or excitement, even when they're weaving in and out of traffic.  Plain and simple, it is dull.  And that assessment is not because my modern short attention span and overstimulated senses have de-sensitized me to the point I can't appreciate more classical filmmaking; I've seen chase scene from earlier films that are far more exciting.  So what it is that supposedly makes it a great chase scene?

stonedtodeath 9/19/2012 5:58:21 AM

The chase scene from the Matrix Reloaded will be included, really it's the only reason to watch the movie.  I knew The Bourne Identity chase would be included and I'm sure we can expect at least one more Star Wars chase scene and it mentions the chase scene from Mad you can bet it'll be there too.  Bullitt was a good chase scene for it's time and influenced many others after it.

AbeFroman 9/19/2012 6:34:21 AM

Bourne and Jedi should both be top 10, if not top 5.

AbeFroman 9/19/2012 6:35:00 AM

I vote Road Warrior as #1, without a close second.

DaForce1 9/19/2012 7:22:22 AM

If the chase scene from "Bourne" is here, the chase scene from "Go" (which is just a little bit better) has to be here too.


monkeyfoot 9/19/2012 7:33:29 AM

I'm so happy that you've included lots of 70s movie chases on this and previous installments. The modern sense for a big chase started in those movies. I'm expecting French Connection to come up pretty soon, hopefully near the top.

Also happy that Jackie Chan has made it to the list. He also is a benchmark for stuntwork. Many of his pieces were copied to American films before and after he made a name for himself in Hollywood. From the above Police Story the driving downhill through exploding shacks was copied for Bad Boys 2 and the end scene of braking the bad guys withonly a handgun resulting in them crashing through the windsheild was copied for Tango & Cash.

EagleManiac 9/19/2012 7:42:12 AM

I agree with AbeFroman! Most of The Road Warrior IS a "Chase Scene"!!! Bad ass pulse-ponding music, fantastic stunts, and great cinematography round out scene after gut-wrenching scene!!

redhairs99 9/19/2012 7:43:36 AM

I'm thinking the truck chase scene from Raiders of the Lost Ark will be number one.  Just rewatched it on IMax a couple weekends ago and it hasn't aged a day.  Simply Awesome, and I'm not a fan of long chase scenes.

Moz72 9/19/2012 3:15:54 PM

Just thought of thre more films that should be on this list.1st, The Chase (1994) w/ Charlie Sheen and Kristie Swanson,  2nd ) Bad Boys 2, Will Smith and Martin Lawrence in the Ferrari chasing the Jamaican thugs on the MacArthur Causeway, and 3rd, Deathproof, the girls in the 74 Dodge Challenger vs. Kurt Russel in the 1969 Dodge Charger

1 2 >  >>  


You must be logged in to leave a comment. Please click here to login.