15. On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969)
The car chase: George Lazenby’s sole Bond outing is one of the most characterful and emotive in the series (after all, 007 does get married in it), but it still knows how to pack in those socking action scenes. Midway through, after Bond has escaped Blofeld’s (Telly Savalas) base, love interest Tracey (Diana Rigg) proves she’s more than a token Bond girl by taking the wheel during a spectacular chase. Across slippery Swiss mountain roads and into a stock car smash-em-up, it’s one of the most thrillingly edited chase sequences in the whole series. Are we ever going to get another where Bond is essentially a back seat driver?
Destruction rate: Given those stock cars were going to get pummelled anyway, it’s otherwise a pretty tame affair.
14. Bad Boys 2 (2003)
The car chase: It’s brilliantly referenced in Hot Fuzz and Michael Bay’s insane sequel more than lives up to its billing. The high prince of the pyrotechnic throws subtlety to the wind with a gloriously OTT, frenetically edited bonanza of a chase in which cops Mike (Will Smith) and Marcus (Martin Lawrence) go in pursuit of a stolen morgue van. It’s also a car chase with a decidedly bad taste twist as the corpses begin to spill out onto the road.
Destruction rate: Pretty high, with bodies suffering just as badly as the cars
13. Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991)
The car chase: So technically speaking there are no cars involved in the jaw-dropping tanker chase sequence from James Cameron’s sequel. But who’s quibbling when you’ve got Arnie, Linda Hamilton, and Eddie Furlong frantically trying to outrun Robert Patrick first in a police chopper and then in a liquid nitrogen tanker? Not only a staggering well-staged and shot chase (the sleek blue lighting lends everything an otherwordly hue). It also reinforces the sheer unstoppable menace of the shape-shifting T-1000, whose utter resourcefulness catapults the suspense into the stratosphere.
Destruction rate: Hasta la vista, freeway - helicopters, trucks and cars are all demolished before that magnificently staged final crash into the oil refinery.
12. To Live and Die in L.A. (1985)
The car chase: The French Connection director William Friedkin is one of the godfathers of the modern car chase. But it’s easy to overlook the absolute belter that comes in this glossy 1985 thriller, one that hurtles us through the warehouses and along the freeways of Los Angeles with breathless precision. Plus, that climactic pursuit headlong into oncoming traffic still has me chewing my nails now. Even if this was a thinly veiled attempt to recapture past French Connection glories (more on which momentarily), it’s still a brilliantly staged and edited sequence.
Destruction rate: Less city-wide destruction, more severe tyre damage.
11. The Italian Job (1969)
The car chase: Most chase sequences in movies are set-pieces that extend the plot. In the case of this loveable cheeky British classic, the chase is the culmination of everything we’ve been building towards. Throughout the movie we’ve been waiting to see how Michael Caine and his crew will pull off their audacious heist in their instantly iconic Mini Coopers. During the climax we get the joyous pay-off as they avoid the Carabinieri and make off with their pilfered gold - only for it all to culminate in that cliff-hanging finale. It’s not so much a chase as a sequence that defined an entire era.
Destruction rate: Not one bloody door is blown off - but it breaks my heart to see those beloved Minis ultimately getting dumped down a mountainside.
10. The Seven-Ups (1973)
The car chase: By the start of the 1970s moviegoers were hungry for the thrill of the chase, something that had accelerated into global popularity off the back of Bullitt and The French Connection. This underrated thriller starring Roy Scheider features one of the decade’s best, a full-throttle, tyre-squealing pursuit around New York City, notable for its creme-de-la-creme of stunt co-ordinators behind the scenes. Most famously, the scene demonstrates the extraordinary talents of stunt driver Bill Hickman, veteran of both Bullitt and The French Connection who is able to pull us into the danger of the sequence like nobody else.
Destruction rate: Given it takes place in the most built-up of built-of cities, fairly low.
9. Vanishing Point (1971)
The car chase: Another movie where the chase is essentially the story. Except this time the exhaust fumes are undercut with a distinct whiff of nihilism and bleakness. Richard C. Sarafian’s atmospheric cross-country nightmare uses the structure of a feature-length chase sequence to comment on Vietnam-era America, but if that sounds heavy it’s still packing a solid engine under the hood. The showdown between hustler Kowalski’s (Barry Newman) Dodge Challenger and the cops in a Charger is still one of the most visually arresting ever lensed, beautifully shot amidst the southwest American landscapes.
Destruction rate: Only the Charger is totalled - but to see such automotive finery destroyed is pretty devastating.
8. The Blues Brothers (1980)
The car chase: Less a conventional ‘car vs car’ showdown than a glorious orgy of destruction, the centrepiece action scene of John Landis’ classic comedy is a celebration of folded metal and crashing glass. As Jake (John Belushi) and Elwood (Dan Aykroyd) lead both the Chicago police and rival band the Good Ol’ Boys on a merry game through the city, more cars begin to pile up than improv notes at a jazz club. Plus, it’s all capped off with a riotously ludicrous escape from the Illinois Nazis that has to be seen to be believed.
Destruction rate: The amount of devastation is surely equivalent to the GDP of a small country.
7. Drive (2011)
The car chase: The tone of Nicolas Winding Refn’s razor sharp, ultra-cool neo-noir thriller is immediately established in the foot-to-the-floor opening sequence. As Ryan Gosling’s utterly implacable stuntman/getaway driver calmly evades the Los Angeles police and helicopter crews, the Chromatics’ steadily repetitive ‘Tick of the Clock’ slowly begins to accelerate our heart rate. Lushly drenched in all the nighttime sheen money can buy, it’s a reminder of how stealth, rather than strength, can often win the day in a chase.
Destruction rate: Non-existent - Gosling’s character is too skilled to indulge in mindless destruction.
6. The Driver (1978)
The car chase: Ryan O’Neal’s moody anti-hero isn’t just a getaway driver. His whole life is quite literally defined by his prowess behind the wheel. Walter Hill’s utterly sparse thriller uses terse dialogue but the real soundtrack is provided by the fender-bending mayhem of the opening and closing chase sequences. Both are shot on Los Angeles streets at night and act as a clear influence on the likes of Drive, not to mention PlayStation game hit Driver. Even so it’s the one near the climax that really gets the blood flowing, inventively slowing down at one point to become a cat and mouse game in a giant warehouse.
Destruction rate: Barely breaks a sweat, let alone other cars.