Any great action movie will have Hollywood stars saving the day with impossible feats of heroism.
All the better when those stunts feature expert driving skills and very fast cars.
Below are eight of the best car stunts Hollywood managed to pull off. Each shares a common theme: amazing action sequences that push the limits of what movie cars can do.
The Bourne Identity
The first film in the “Bourne” franchise brought the promise of a new age James Bond type character. There are many great action and car stunts throughout the 2002 movie, but the most notable is the four-minute Paris chase scene where Bourne and Marie escape the police in a classic model MINI.
Bourne uses his former spy skills to drift and maneuver through obstacle after obstacle in the tiny Paris streets. He jumps the car up sidewalks, veers the MINI through oncoming traffic and swerves around corners to avoid blockades and other police vehicles. The best moment, though, is when Bourne slides the MINI down a narrow set of stairs at the end of an alley.
“Bullitt” remains one of history’s most iconic car movies in no small part due to its major chase scene. The sequence involves Frank Bullitt (Steve McQueen) chasing a pair of mob hit men up and down San Francisco’s hilly downtown district.
This scene crackles for the suspense it holds on the audience without many camera effects. The Mustang Fastbacks used are the marquee muscle cars, and the ensuing high-speed chase between the Mustangs is unlike any other car chase. From hopping up and down long hills to cutting tight corners deftly, the “Bullitt” chase scene is one to watch for any car movie fan.
The fifth film in the popular franchise delivers some of the most unbelievable car stunts ever. In this installment, Vin Diesel’s Dom and crew attempt to steal a safe from a crime lord in Rio de Janeiro to finally earn the freedom they crave.
In the scene, Dom tethers the safe vault, a large shipping container, with a cable to his Dodge Charger and races it across Rio to the crew’s safe location. While attached to the back of his Charger, Dom swerves and maneuvers through oncoming traffic while sideswiping many police vehicles with the safe vault.
The Fast And The Furious
Speaking of the “Fast and Furious” franchise, the original 2001 movie was replete with numerous muscle cars, like Dom’s Dodge Charger, as well as many stunts and chases.
Brian’s chase is one of the more memorable scenes. Using his orange Toyota Supra, he zooms past cars and other obstacles in a crowded neighborhood in order to catch up to the criminal on a motorbike. The scene ends with Brian capturing the bad guy at gunpoint after he falls off of the bike.
Bad Boys II
One of the best buddy cop movies of the 2000’s, “Bad Boys II” offered huge explosions, harrowing shootouts and yes, many car chases. Racing through Miami in a Ferrari may sound incredible already, but when criminals and guns are mixed into the equation, the result is a stunning escape sequence.
With little room to spare on a narrow highway, Will Smith’s Mike Lowery swerves in and out of traffic in order to avoid being hit by cars from the large semi-truck driven by the criminals. With a healthy dose of punch lines and power-packed car handling, “Bad Boys II” delivers a funny and exciting car chase.
The 1998 crime thriller “Ronin” follows the story of Sam (Robert De Niro) and his team of intelligence officers who are tasked with tracking down a mysterious stolen briefcase. While the film features many impressive action scenes, the chase sequence in Paris is by far the most intriguing and engaging.
The scene starts with many cars taking off after a failed foot pursuit. Sam takes off in his BMW and begins to navigate the curvy and narrow roads of Paris in order to overtake the briefcase thieves. With numerous drifts, hard brakes, and a lot of sidewalk driving, Sam stays with the thieves until they reach the freeway. As the thieves take the oncoming traffic ramp, Sam trails them through to the end of the freeway’s construction ending with the target car tumbling off the freeway.
The French Connection
1971’s “The French Connection” is yet another example of a crime thriller making great use of car chases to build suspense and intrigue into the movie’s plot. The film follows Detective Popeye Doyle’s journey to stop a French heroin smuggler in New York City.
The most iconic scene from the movie was the train chase scene. As Gene Hackman’s Doyle attempts to catch up to a renegade train hijacked by the smuggler, he must dodge oncoming traffic and risk hitting innocent citizens as he tries to save the lives of train riders.
One interesting fact about this scene was that it was completed without any closed roads or city permits. This meant that the pedestrians walking by the chase scene were genuinely shocked and awed by the events unfolding.
Gone In 60 Seconds (1974)
The final movie is also a spectacular example a great car movie. The original 1974 thriller “Gone In 60 Seconds” is a testament to live action stunt choreography. While the whole movie is dedicated to high-speed car racing, the final scene of the film is a thrilling display of jumps, twists, and turns.
Riding in a contemporary Mustang, car thief Maindrian Pace (H.B. Halicki) must jump over a mound of destroyed cars in order to evade police. Similar to the “Dukes of Hazzard’s” unforgettable car jump motif, the Mustang hangs in the air as it ascends and descends rapidly over the car rubble.
Scott Wolff is a freelance writer who enjoys writing about cinema history. When he’s not brushing up against a deadline, he may be found at the beach with his dog Louie.