Top 16 awesome movie chases


24th November 2010

Few can deny that even the dullest of films can be enlivened by a hot pursuit, whether it's on foot or with cars, bikes or biplanes. But with this oft-used action set-piece so frequently resulting in a run-of-the-mill tearaway through city streets, here are the 16 movies that did it best - the ones that fully embodied the thrill of the chase.

16. Death Proof

With Kill Bill, director Quentin Tarantino demonstrated he was capable of staging one hell of an action sequence. However, it wasn't until Death Proof that the promise he displayed in his revenge epic was fully realized, and he delivered one of the most exhilarating, nail-bitingly tense car chases ever put to film.

Tarantino chose to forego any sort of digital effects in favor of shooting the entire sequence with real cars and real people driving them, and that lends the chase a lot of raw, primal power. However, the whole thing is made all the more thrilling thanks to the presence of tough as nails stuntwoman Zoe Bell, who spends the entire sequence hanging off the hood of a white muscle car that's barreling down the highway at speeds that aren't exactly conducive to safety. Needless to say, this is one chase that's guaranteed to get your heart pumping, and have you white-knuckling it right up until the very end.

15. Blade Runner

There is no rule that says a chase sequence needs to be fast and furious to generate excitement. For proof of that, one need look no further than the climax of director Ridley Scott's cyberpunk classic. Hard-boiled cop Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford) has spent the entire film hunting down a group of escaped replicants, but by the end he finds himself being hunted by their leader, the deranged and deadly Roy Batty (Rutger Hauer).

Batty chases Deckard through an abandoned high rise apartment complex, taunting him and tormenting him as they make their way up to the rain-soaked roof. The sequence isn't exactly propulsive or kinetic, but there is such a sense of desperation about it that it becomes thoroughly gripping and powerful, and the moody lighting and atmospheric music ensure that the viewer can't help but be drawn in by Deckard's plight.

14. Point Break

It is true that not all chase scenes need to be staged in an aggressive and dynamic manner, but sometimes it's best to just rely on what works. Kathryn Bigelow understood that better than most of her male counterparts, and thus she unleashed upon the world Point Break, a patently ridiculous action movie that nonetheless contains one of the all-time great chase sequences.

The whole thing starts with a bracing car chase through the traffic-filled streets of Los Angeles, and then turns into a frantic foot chase through the back alleys (and residential homes) of the city, as rookie FBI agent Johnny Utah (Keanu Reeves) pursues the enigmatic surfer/philosopher/bank robber Bodhi (Patrick Swayze) with single-minded intensity. Bigelow's deft direction, combined with some thoroughly engaging camera work, drops the viewer right into the middle of the action, and it's hard not to get swept along with it right up to the moment when Utah futilely fires his gun into the air.

13. The Third Man

For most of the film's running time, director Carol Reed keeps things light and airy, not unlike the zither music that permeates every frame of The Third Man. By the time the film's climax rolls around, however, Reed has ratcheted the tension up to a fever pitch. Charismatic criminal Harry Lime (Orson Welles) has been ratted out to the local authorities by his best friend, perennial loser Holly Martins (Joseph Cotton), and so Lime retreats into the labyrinthine sewers of Vienna to escape their reach.

Unfortunately, in doing so he has essentially doomed himself, but not before leading the police on a tense and frenzied chase through the city's underbelly. The sewers resemble nothing less than a cavernous German Expressionist nightmare, and Lime manages to use them to his advantage at first, losing himself in the shadows for a time, but eventually he comes face to face with his own mortality, which bears the face of a man he once called friend.

12. The Blues Brothers

By the time the car chase sequence rolls around in director John Landis' classic musical comedy, the titular characters have managed to make enemies of nearly every group under the sun, and they are pursued by all of them across the highways and byways of their sweet home Chicago. In addition to every last cop in the city, the boys are being chased by angry country western singers, a crazed ex-lover, and even a bunch of Illinois Nazis (Jake hates them). Jake and Elwood manage to stay one step ahead of their pursuers the whole way, pushing the Bluesmobile to the limit, leaving a trail of comically exaggerated carnage in their wake.

A Winnebago crashes into Lake Michigan, hundreds of police cruisers tumble end over end as they smash into one another, and the Nazis are sent flying off a bridge only to plummet to the ground far below. The Blues Brothers are eventually caught, but not until after they've completed their mission from God. It's too bad nobody was able to stop Aykroyd from making the execrable Blues Brothers 2000.

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