Cinema’s 30 Greatest Chase Scenes (Part 2 of 2)

Chase scenes have created some of cinema’s most memorable and thrilling moments of all time. From frantic foot chases through exotic locales to cars speeding down both new and familiar streets, chases provide visceral excitement that takes a simple concept and spins it in constantly new ways.

Whether it’s the centerpiece of an epic story or a gritty little scene that captures movie magic in new way, there are countless ways for a chase to be memorable.

After counting down the first half of these 30 amazing chases, we’ve come to the Top 15. These are not just some of the best chase scenes, but some of the best film scenes, period. What makes these 15 the greatest? They’re masterfully done, wholly original, excitingly memorable, and infinitely rewatchable.

Read Part 1 for #30 to #16. Now on to the list!

15. Mini Cooper Mayhem – The Bourne Identity

Escaping from the police who have been alerted to his potentially dangerous nature, Jason Bourne takes new companion Marie on a wild ride through the tiny streets of Paris in a slightly beat up Mini Cooper. Sporting a far from glamourous look and a thoroughly gritty feel, the practical stunts and escalating intensity made this a far different chase from the many slick Hollywood chase scenes that came before it. Putting Bourne in a Mini Cooper helped open up new possibilities, as the amnesiac assassin barrels down alleys and between cars while being pursued by motorcycle police.

Best Moment: “Um, we’ve got a bump coming up.” Cue a thrilling ride down a set of stone stairs that would only be possible with Bourne behind the wheel of a Mini Cooper.

14. On a Mission From God – The Blues Brothers

Finally having the funds they need to save their childhood orphanage but with time almost up, Jake and Elwood Blues are chased by dozens of cop cars and the many enemies they have made on their mission from God. This is one epic car chase, spanning an entire night and travelling though states as the cars in pursuit keep piling up, but Jake and Elwood stay cool the entire way. The brothers even smash into and through an entire mall, destroying countless cop cars and storefronts along the way. Countless police vehicles are smashed and flipped along the way, with the destruction eventually bringing the sheriffs, SWAT, and Army down on them.

Best Moment: With one quick turn, The Blues Brothers cause the dozens of cop cars in pursuit to create a massive pileup, giving them the chance to pay for the orphanage’s bills before being locked away for a long, long time.

13. Oil Tanker Carnage – The Road Warrior

Surrounded by marauders, Mad Max Rockatansky and a group of warriors decide to make a mad dash with an oil tanker in order to give other settlers the chance to escape. Pursued by Lord Humungous (The Ayatollah of Rock and Rolla!) and his minions, Max’s companions are offed one by one while Humungous’ crew gets decimated in turn. Cars crash, flip, and smash while both good and bad guys are shot, stabbed, and flambéd. In this end, it’s just down to Max, the feral child, and Max’s shotgun. Ending with an insane and jaw-dropping head-on collision, this is an unforgettable roadway clash that’s both chase and battle rolled into one.

Best Moment: Max’s head-on crash with Humungous’ vehicle sends the oil tanker crashing into the dunes, showing that it was filled with nothing but sand! It was all a sacrificial distraction to save as many people as possible.

12. Asteroid Field – The Empire Strikes Back

In a desperate bid to escape from an Imperial Armada without a working hyperdrive, Han Solo decides to take the Millennium Falcon into a nearby asteroid field. It’s not just a thrilling extended sequence, but also leads to some fantastic character pieces, as Han, Leia, Chewbacca, R2-D2, and C-3PO all get moments to shine. From Han’s lunatic choice to dive into the field (“Never tell me the odds!”) to his quick thinking escape by latching onto an Imperial Star Destroyer, there are so many amazing moments in this one chase. Plus, it’s all backed by composer John Williams’ magnificent score.

Best Moment: After hiding in a giant asteroid, the company onboard the Millenium Falcon decide to ditch the cave they are hiding. Flying out, they discover they were inside a gigantic monster the entire time!

11. Objects in Mirror Are Closer Than They Appear – Jurassic Park

Happening upon the carnage of the Tyrannosaurus Rex escape, Robert Muldoon and Dr. Ellie Slater find the seriously injured Dr. Ian Malcolm. But they aren’t alone. Cue the telltale shaking of an approaching T-Rex, with the giant prehistoric beasts leaping from the jungle just as the heroes take off. While the jeep should be able to outrun the beast, who was clocked at a 30 mph sprint, panic and Malcolm accidentally missing with the stick keeps the T-Rex at a deadly close range. The creature even gets so close he rams the side of the Jeep with its head! Just one of the many thrilling moments in Jurassic Park, but definitely one of film history’s most memorable chases.

Best Moment: Malcolm states the imperatively obvious. “Must go faster. Must go faster.” Thankfully, they do.

10. Diaper Robbery – Raising Arizona

Giving into his old lawless ways, H.I. McDunnough (Nicolas Cage) decides to rob a liquor store for the cash from the register and a box of Huggies diapers, all while his wife Ed and the baby they have kidnapped unknowingly wait in the car outside. “I’ll be taking these Huggies and whatever cash ya got.” The beauty of this chase is how the insane situations begin to pile up on each other as the chase becomes more and more frantic. While Ed abandons him for his recidivism at the store, it only gets worse from there. A wild pack of dogs get involved, countless shots are fired, and H.I. is delicately thrown through the busted out front windshield of a pickup truck. It all perfectly wraps up where it begin, with the Huggies snatched off the road on the way to escape. Plus, Carter Burwell’s banjo and yodeling score make this all even better.

Best Moment: The pack of dogs that chased H.I. into a super market end up saving his life, as they chase a lady with a shopping cart into a policeman about to shoot the robber dead.

9. Scherzo for Motorcycles – Indiana Jones and The Last Crusade

Indiana Jones and his father, Henry Jones, Sr., escape from a Nazi controlled castle on a sidecar-equipped motorcycle, only to be doggedly pursued by Nazi motorcyclists. The chase itself is filled with thrilling moments that feel right at home in the Indiana Jones franchise while also keeping a great sense of humor about itself. It’s the interplay between Indy and his father that really make the scene, though. The way they play off one another, both in dialogue and simply with the looks on their faces, keep the scene centered on their relationship, better serving the movie as a whole. Filled with big hits, giant stunts, and great music from John Williams, this easily ranks among the best.

Best Moment: Driving head-on toward a Nazi motorcyclist, Indy improves. Snapping off a flagpole, the adventurer becomes a makeshift jouster, knocking out his opponent and using the broken off pole to destroy another Nazi’s ride.

8. Paris Chase – Ronin

Hot on the heels of the people who betrayed them Sam (Robert DeNiro) and Vincent (Jean Reno) take off in a lengthy car chase through the streets of Paris. The greatness of this chase is dependent on the realism that is infused throughout it. The cars are nice but not flashy and the streets are filled with the vehicles you could find on any streets. Plus, it’s a chase between two characters who are obviously great at their highly illegal jobs and it features plenty of stars, all jammed into two separate cars. Driving into oncoming traffic in tunnels, sliding over sidewalks, and slamming into police cars, this is an expertly executed chase sequence. The tension simply ratchets up higher and higher until it comes to a fatal conclusion.

Best Moment: Both cars weave between countless oncoming vehicles while driving on the wrong side with no way out. Perfectly choreographed while still feeling dangerously real.

7. Scenic Route Carnage – Quantum of Solace

Starting at the very opening moment of Daniel Craig’s second Bond outing, Agent 007 is viciously pursued by Quantum henchmen in Italy. The entire chase taking place on tiny two-lane Italian roads and through claustrophobic tunnels, adds to its intensity. Plus, numerous head-on collisions and countless bullets being fired add to the fury of the chase. I The reveal of Mr. White in Bond’s trunk not only gives explanation to the entire chase, but it reveals the entire movie takes place only moments after Casino Royale! It’s dizzying and absolutely brutal. It also makes the rest of the movie look far weaker in comparison.

Best Moment: Finally grabbing a machine gun that he’d been unable to reach, Bond turns the tables on his trigger-happy pursuers by shooting up the last car, putting a definitive end to the chase.

6. Racing the Train – The French Connection

Chasing after an assassin, hard-headed New York Detective “Popeye” Doyle refuses to give up when his target boards an elevated train without him. Jumping in his car, Popeye chases after the train on NYC streets to keep him from getting away. The detective’s stubbornness is what has helped him get his man so many times, but it also nearly gets him killed here. When the assassin forces the train to keep going at gunpoint, Doyle takes even more risks as he rages behind the wheel. Driving head-on into oncoming traffic and smashing through trash, not even multiple crashes stop Doyle. Director William Friedkin even filmed much of the chase from inside the car, with much of the filming done on real streets with unsuspecting civilians!

Best Moment: Frantically chasing his target, Doyle almost smashing head-on into a woman with a stroller. Swerving out of the way, the detective plows into a huge pile of trash. Undeterred, he keeps speeding after the train.

5. 100 Mile Dash – The Incredibles

Syndrome’s goons get wind of Dash and Violet in the jungles of their leader’s evil island base. Giving chase in superfast and razor-sharp flying saucers, Dash finally gets to cut loose! This chaotic and whiplash-fast chase goes from lash jungle to dark cave to sunny lake in mere moments. While the stakes are high (it’s a young boy being chased by deadly flying saucers!), it’s also insanely fun. Dash’s joy in finally being able to run as fast as he can and discovering new capabilities is shared by the audience in turn. The vibrant colors and fantastic animation make it a visual treat as well and along with Michael Giachinno’s score create one of the most memorable scenes in Pixar’s fantastic film cannon.

Best Moment: Hitting the lake, Dash realizes that he’s running so fast he’s actually gliding over water. It’s a moment of pure joy as the young hero goes faster than ever, slicing through the water and bringing smiles to audiences’ faces everywhere.

4. Slaughter is the Best Medicine – The Dark Knight

Harvey Dent tells the public he’s Batman, leading to his arrest and transport to prison in the hopes of luring out The Joker. And boy does it ever work. This is an incredibly epic chase with multiple acts and game-changing decisions, this single chase involves some of the greatest Batman film sequences ever created. The destruction of The Tumbler, the debut of The Batpod, and mayhem galore, it’s all an inescapable plot created by The Joker that results in widespread destruction on the glowing nighttime streets of Gotham. All the while, Heath Ledger’s Joker is menacing and magnetic at the same time. He truly loves his job. The Dark Knight has quickly become a modern classic and this is its single greatest scene.

Best Moment: Playing chicken with Joker’s semi truck, Batman attaches cables to the truck’s grill. Sliding underneath and between lightpoles, The Dark Knight hitches the giant truck to a sudden halt, sending in up and over in easily one of modern film’s greatest practical stunts.

3. San Francisco Madness – Bullitt

Lieutenant Frank Bullitt notices a pair of hitmen on his tail as he cruises the hilly streets of San Francisco. Not to be outdone, Bullitt quickly turns the tables and begins following them instead. What starts out as a quiet cat and mouse game quickly turns into a rubber burning, engine revving thrill ride that sends both cars flying over hills and skidding around corners. Lalo Schiffrin’s jazzy score and Steve McQueen’s quintessential cool make this easily one of the most stylish chases ever put on film while the perfect pacing, amazing location, and serious stunts make it one of the most memorable. Plus, not a single word is said. The cars and the actors’ expressions do all the talking.

Best Moment: After three-plus minutes of quiet jazzy cat and mouse, the assassin’s punch the gas. The music cuts out, replaced by blaring engines and screeching tires from there on out. And that’s all that’s needed.

2. Madagascar Foot Chase – Casino Royale

When tracking a bomb maker in Mombasa quickly goes awry, Bond must pursue his target on foot through city streets, construction sites, and a government embassy. There was no better way to reintroduce a tougher and more rugged Bond than with this thrilling foot chase. The bombmaker is all slick parkour moves and speed while it’s Bond toughness and bullheadedness that help him catch up to his physically superior opponent. Tracking through multiple construction sites and into an embassy where countless bullets start flying, the intensity never lets up and the scenarios are constantly shifting. It’s easily the greatest chase in a Bond film, and that’s saying something.

Best Moment: Sprinting through a building under construction, the bomb maker skillfully jumps and slides through a tiny opening. Chasing after him, Bond simply smashes through the drywall. A blunt instrument, indeed.

1. Going After the Ark – Raiders of the Lost Ark

This one has it all. Sticking to the classic sensibilities of 1940s pulp serials while infusing it with modern movie making magic, Indy’s chase to steal The Ark of the Covenant from the Nazis is filled with iconic images. It also has some of film’s best stunts, including climbing under a speeding truck and jumping from a horse onto the side of the moving truck. This isn’t just a frantic chase, it’s a brutal battle as Indy takes on numerous Nazi soldiers and really gets beat up. Harrison Ford’s performance sells both the drama and the comedy, with Indiana Jones being equal parts vulnerable human and charismatic action hero. Like the best chase scenes, this tells a story within a story, as the chase itself has numerous narrative beats and callbacks. This is a masterpiece on its own and has easily stood the test of time as cinema’s greatest chase scene.

Best Moment: In one of the greatest stunts ever put on film, Indy latches onto the back of the speeding truck. First being dragged behind, Jones slowly pulls himself up to the truck, then crawls underneath foot by foot to get the drop on the Nazi behind the wheel. It’s truly amazing.

Honorable Mentions: Reservoir Dogs, Ben Hur, Tron, The Warriors, Temple of Doom, Last of the Mohicans, Brick, Vanishing Point, The Mask of Zorro, Death Proof, The Great Escape, The Matrix, Apocalypto, Minority Report

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2 thoughts on “Cinema’s 30 Greatest Chase Scenes (Part 2 of 2)

  1. Pingback: Cinema’s 40 Greatest Fight Scenes (Part 1 of 2) – Crisis on Infinite Thoughts

  2. Pingback: Cinema’s 30 Greatest Chase Scenes (Part 1 of 2) – Crisis on Infinite Thoughts

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