Ranking the best car chase scenes in ultimate action movie history!
An action movie without at least one car chase always feels as if something is missing, and a well done car action sequence often is the highlight of the entire film. The thrills of speeding combined with the havoc a car can wreak on its surroundings and other cars is just an unbeatable combination for adrenaline-charged spectacle.
So let’s join the cult of the V8, in this article we’ll present you the 20 ultimate car action sequences!
20) Lethal Weapon 4 (1998)
In the fourth installment of the classic action franchise, chaos cops Riggs and Murtaugh go after a gang of human traffickers. One of their pursuits brings them against a black Mercedes (the standard bad guy vehicle in US action films) on a crowded highway. Instead of ramming their adversaries’ car with guns blazing, Riggs decides to sneak up on them for a change. He climbs onto a truck, and tries to do an ambush from the side. I guess it seemed like a good idea at the time.
19) Rage (1995)
No list of car action scenes would be complete without a sequence from a film produced by the mighty C-grade action forge PM Entertainment. All the cool things you imagined when playing with toy cars as a child happen in PM movies, and the trinity of cars crashing, jumping and exploding can be enjoyed in most of their productions. There are many examples for cost-efficient carnage to be found, but their best sequence may be from Gary Daniels’ Rage. Daniels’ character hijacks a fuel truck (what else could it be?), and thrashes dozens of police vehicles and a school bus (no children inside) during his wild escape on the highway.
18) The Matrix Reloaded (2003)
The second part of the Matrix trilogy was a bit of a snoozefest, but patient viewers were rewarded with a great showdown. It’s a surprisingly grounded action sequence with plenty of practical stunt work, a few goofy CGI effects, and questionably fashion choices of almost every character involved in the scene. Trucks, cars, and motorcycles are violently going against each other with the virtual villains switching from one wrecked vehicle to the next one in an instant. Plenty of spectacular crashes and explosions makes this one of the more memorable set pieces from the Matrix trilogy.
17) Cobra (1986)
Violence, macho contests and more violence make Cobra a totally bonkers entry in Stallone’s filmography. One of the archetypal 1980s action movies also gave us one of the classic car chases from its era with testosterone levels in overdrive. “Cobra” Coretti fights off a bunch of terrorists in his nitro-boosted vintage Mercury as he jumps over bridges, crashes from the first floor of a parking garage, and spins his car while emptying his magazine. Cars explode when hit by only a couple of bullets, are flipping over as if caught in a tornado, and fuel trucks go up in flames when only slightly grazed.
16) GoldenEye (1995)
The former Soviet Empire lies in ruins, and James Bond is tasked to stop a group of ex-Soviet military and KGB operatives that have gotten their hands on a powerful weapon. While chasing after them in St. Petersburg, fortune puts an unattended tank across Bond’s path, and the remodeling of the city can begin. Subtlety is not on display in this scene when Bond starts a brute force assault and plows through enemies and buildings in a very un-Bond like manner, but yet manages to slide elegantly over the pavement as if he was still sitting in an Aston Martin. Tank you, Mister Bond!
15) The Corruptor (1999)
The Corruptor had Mark Wahlberg and Chow-Yun Fat team up as police officers who become entangled in the machinations of New York’s Chinatown. A botched attempt to arrest some triad members turns into an ultraviolent car chase as the hunted are going amok, and shoot every unfortunate civilian that gets in their way in order to slow down their pursuers. Glass is shattering, blood spurting and rims flying towards the camera, it’s a brutal and tense sequence that fits perfectly into this grim action thriller.
14) Universal Soldier (1992)
The ultimate showdown between action stars Jean-Claude Van Damme and Dolph Lundgren is a fun action flick, and gave us a furious chase between a prisoner bus and a big-ass military truck as part of its finale. It’s not exactly a fair fight for Luc Deveraux who is chained to his seat when his nemesis Andrew Scott has a full arsenal of weapons at his disposal, and indulges in playing hand-grenade ping-pong while tailgating the bus towards a cliff.
13) Speed (1994)
Speed is the wildest bus ride in movie history and was the start of Keanu Reeves’ career as an action star. The crazy idea of a bus rigged with a bomb that will go off if its speed drops below 50 mph gave us a high-speed chase without an adversary. Agent Jack Traven just learned about the bomb, and impressively displays his multitasking skills as he drives, yells and makes a phone call while trying to get on the moving bus during rush hour.
12) The Rock (1996)
Michael Bay’s action extravaganza took all the elements we love from classic genre flicks and turbo-charged them into an insane spectacle. Master escape artist John Mason escapes once again. He hijacks a Hummer and a goes on a wild ride through downtown San Francisco while being pursued by FBI agent Stanley Goodspeed in a Ferrari Spider. The hills of San Francisco are the perfect setting for a turbulent race, cars are jumping, crashing and exploding as Bay set a new standard for action sequences at the time. It’s a perfectly choreographed inferno that culminates in the explosion of a cable car, and you’re gonna feel sorry for that beautiful Ferrari.
11) Fast Five (2011)
The Fast & Furious series has given us many great moments of insane car action, and the best one may be found in the fifth installment of the series. Toretto and his crew decide to hurt Brazilian crime lord Zizi by embarking on a large-scale heist of his assets in Rio de Janeiro. Instead of taking the inconvenient route to walk into a bank and empty its safe, they just rip it out of the building and drive away with it. While being chased by dozens of police vehicles, the safe becomes a wrecking cube that plays bowling with cars and smashes plenty of city infrastructure.
10) Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines (2003)
Terminator 3 does not show up regularly on movie lists other than worst sequel rankings. It’s actually not a bad movie on its own, but just had the ungraceful task of following in its predecessor’s footsteps. The T-101 is sent to the past once again to protect John Connor from Skynet and it’s newest avatar, the T-X. Their first confrontation already escalates into a destruction derby between a crane truck and a fire engine. Cars are crashing and exploding at a staggering frequency, but it’s all just child’s play compared to the carnage caused by the giant vehicles that plow through everything in their path. If there was a ranking of most real estate property destroyed by cars, this sequence would easily take up the number one spot.
9) The Raid 2 (2014)
What is better than a car chase? A car chase combined with ferocious martial arts action! In the sequel to The Raid: Redemption the level of bloody violence and insane fight scenes was cranked up even more, and Iko Uwais again showed us that he is one of the masters of modern martial arts cinema. Police officer Rama goes undercover, and finds himself in a van packed with gangsters planning to execute him. While he’s fighting four people on the back seat, cars are crashing into each other on the outside. The montage of the simultaneous martial arts and car chase sequences is done spectacularly, and gives us some high-octane action with jaw-dropping stunts and fights.
8) Ronin (1998)
Ronin has become a legendary action thriller, and it’s car action had a big contribution to it. Two master drivers chase each other through the narrow streets of Paris, drifting through roundabouts, driving against traffic at neck-breaking speed, and leaving plenty of collateral damage in their wake. The camera is always close to the action, seamlessly moving with the cars, and the cinematography of this scene probably set a new benchmark for any car chase that came afterwards. Even now it is still one of the best-looking car action sequences ever created.
7) Tango & Cash (1989)
The dream team of Sylvester Stallone and Kurt Russell give it all in this campy classic that is as over-the-top as an action movie can be. The start of the movies’ finale has Tango and Cash crashing into the headquarter of drug baron Perret with a heavily armed jeep. “Remember: Use extreme caution!” is a warning by Tango that goes completely unheard as a comical inferno of violence is unleashed with massive explosions, bullets flying everywhere, and cars jumping in and out of the screen from all angles. The whole thing is just pure chaos and senseless destruction, and is probably what action movie heaven looks like.
6) The Dark Knight (2008)
Christopher Nolan is a master of storytelling and of staging perfectly choreographed action scenes. The Dark Knight may be the best superhero movie ever created, and it features a car chase that is almost unparalleled in its visual elegance. The Joker opens heavy fire upon a police convoy he believes to transport the captured Batman. The real Batman arrives eventually and joins the party to save the day. The sequence has all the elements of a traditional car chase with cars grinding and crashing, explosions and shootouts, but the cinematography and level of detail is the very embodiment of perfection, and is rendered even more impressive as Nolan used almost exclusively practical effects for its creation.
5) Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)
An eternal classic of action cinema, Indiana Jones’ first adventure has him searching for the mythical Ark of the Covenant that is believed to imbue invincibility. After digging it up, Hitler’s goons take it from him and take off with a truck. Indy chases after them on a horse, jumps on the truck, and the most fun action sequence on this list begins. There may not be explosions or cars crashing all the time, but it features some incredible stunt work, and every second of it oozes awesomeness.
4) Mad Max 2 (1981)
The Road Warrior created a benchmark for the post-apocalyptic genre and car action for the 1980s and beyond. In the sequel to Mad Max, Max Rockatansky finds shelter in a fortified settlement, and agrees to its protect inhabitants from a group of motorized barbarians led by Lord Homungus in exchange for fuel. In the finale of the film, Max drives a heavily armored truck filled with gasoline through the wasteland, and is getting attacked from all sides by Homungus’ gang and their murderous vehicles. The creative energy of director George Miller knew no boundaries in The Road Warrior with insane stunts, crazy-looking cars, and violent shootouts and fights taking place on moving vehicles. The Road Warrior still holds up easily today in every respect, and only Miller himself was able to surpass it more than 30 years later with Mad Max: Fury Road.
3) Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991)
James Cameron had his finest hour as a director with this masterpiece, a perfect Sci-Fi action movie, that also featured one of the most iconic car chases to ever make into a film. After encountering both terminators, John Connor decides it is time to hit the dust and dashes away on his moped. The T-101 catches up with and saves him from getting crushed by the T-1000 and his truck, and a frantic chase through a flood channel begins. The style, tension and editing of this scene, it all plays together to create one of the all-time epic moments of action cinema.
2) Bad Boys II (2003)
Bad Boys 2 is Michael Bay at his best, an awesome buddy action comedy with Martin Lawrence and Will Smith in the performances of their life, that features as much action as laugh-out moments. It’s also a film filled with insane car action. After a shootout with the Miami police, the gangsters need fast wheels to escape and choose to hijack a big-ass truck loaded with cars. It turns out not to be the worst choice, when they start throwing cars at Miami PD detectives Marcus and Mike who are pursuing them.
1) Mad Max: Fury Road (2015)
30 years after his Mad Max trilogy, Frank Miller got the opportunity for a do-over that enabled him to perfect his vision of the ultimate post-apocalyptic action movie. And with Mad Max: Fury Road Miller took car action to a completely new level. He created some of the weirdest and greatest looking vehicles to ever be created for a movie with an astonishing level of detail. The film chains one crazy car action sequence into another, and we’ll just give you a glimpse of the insanity this film is with a clip that shows Imperator Furiosa abducting a war rig from V8 cult leader Immortan Joe, while also fending off a posse of Buzzard bandits.