There are many reasons to watch movies, such as to witness the high-octane action that vibrantly fills the screen. Car chases in particular are incredible showcases of blockbuster excitement.
In honor of the action scenes that thrill us so much, we’ve formed this top ten list of the best car chases of the 2000s. Sorry to say that movies like The Road Warrior or Bullitt will obviously not be found on this list. However, this list still contains some of the finest chases in the last 19 years. Some are iconic, while others may have been forgotten over the years.
Before you @ me, I know that there are numerous great car chases not featured on this list but when you’re deciding the 10 great sequences in the last 19 years, you have to make some unfortunate cuts. We all know that at least 3 of these 10 spots could’ve gone to Mad Max: Fury Road alone but where would be the fun in featuring only the obvious choices (especially from the same movie)?
10. The Dark Knight – Police Convoy Ambush (2008)
Clocking in at two hours and thirty-two minutes, Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight is full of exciting moments. One of these takes place on Chicago’s Lower Wacker Drive. The scene I’m talking about is of course when the Joker ambushes a GCPD convoy transporting Harvey Dent.
Before Joker can take out the whole convoy, Batman arrives in the Tumbler to even the odds a bit. What makes this car chase so memorable is that whereas most big-budget superhero films feature massive action scenes enhanced with CG, this scene achieves that same level of excitement with very little use of digital effects. Filming in Chicago gives the scene a distinctly gritty look and feel, which helps Gotham seem more real than ever.
9. Baby Driver – Opening Scene (2016)
Edgar Wright’s Baby Driver proved to be his most commercially successful film when it debuted in late June 2017. The movie revolves around the titular driver, Baby (Ansel Elgort). As we learn very early on in the film, he’s a getaway driver that constantly listens to music. The opening scene of the movie is one of the best showcases of its slick style and clever editing.
Set to the tune of the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion’s Bellbottoms, this scene sets the tone for what the audience will see in the following two hours. A stacked cast, slick look, killer soundtrack, and action scenes that put some of the Fast and Furious films to shame.
8. Jason Bourne – Las Vegas Chase (2016)
Jason Bourne isn’t exactly the most beloved entry of the franchise, but it does arguably feature some of the best Bourne action. One particular sequence finds Jason Bourne trying to stop an enemy who is causing chaos in an armored police truck. The sequence features insane practical stunt work and choreography, such as a moment early on in which Bourne’s enemy plows through heavy Vegas traffic at full speed, sending a bevy of cars soaring through the air.
However, Jason Bourne has the super power of being the title character, so he is able to heroically stop his car in front of the armored truck in an effort to slow it down. Thankfully for the audience, this doesn’t stop the bad guy (played by Irreversible star Vincent Cassel) from making time for more mayhem in the streets of Vegas. This eventually leads to an intense chase within a parking structure, then coming to a close when Bourne jumps his car on top of the bad guy’s truck, causing both of them to fly into a nearby casino. Don’t worry though, Bourne’s car was safely launched into the roof outside the Casino, so of course he’s perfectly safe.
Is it an incredibly over-the-top and silly scene? Yes. But, is it also an incredible showcase of editing, stunt work, and choreography? Absolutely.
7. Fast Five – Vault Heist (2011)
2009’s Fast & Furious reinvigorated the franchise with impressive results but Fast Five is what solidified the franchise’s blockbuster status. The finale of Fast Five in which our heroes steal a vault right from the walls kicks off with our heroes leading a less-than-subtle charge straight into enemy lines, with the help of new allies Luke Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson) and his partner Elena (Elsa Pataky).
After blasting baddies and strapping a vault onto two cars, our heroes tear through the streets of Rio de Janeiro. This results in one of the most chaotic car chases in recent memory. As our heroes evade enemies, the vault in-tow plows through cars, buildings, and anything else that gets in the way.
The Fast films have gotten bigger and bolder over the years, with a ninth film on the horizon and the series’ first spin-off arriving this August. Yet, Fast Five‘s vault heist remains one of the franchise’s most exciting sequences almost ten years later. If you’re a fan of total mayhem in your action movies, Fast Five delivers that in spades.
6. Death Proof – Finale (2007)
Quentin Tarantino’s half of he and Robert Rodriguez’s Grindhouse double feature, titled Death Proof, is a very polarizing movie. However, one thing that people seem to agree on is that, whether or not the journey to get there was enjoyable, the film’s climactic car chase is one of the most white-knuckle inducing car chases ever put to film.
The scene begins with our protagonists driving a “Vanishing Point Challenger” and playing a dangerous game known as “Ship’s Mast”. The game involves one person sitting on a car hood while it’s driving at high speeds. During this, they are holding onto the car only by a pair of belts fastened to the windows. This then leads to a thrilling pursuit between their car and the nefarious Stuntman Mike. But, there’s a twist.
That chase, with Mike ramming the car whilst real-life stunt performer Zoe Bell dangles atop the car is totally thrilling. However, the chase gets even more exciting when the women turn the tables on Mike, bringing the film to its exhilarating, satisfying conclusion.
5. Jack Reacher – Wanted For Murder (2012)
Jack Reacher isn’t Tom Cruise’s most iconic film. But, it’s a personal favorite of mine and features one of the most underrated car chases in recent memory. The 2012 film based on Lee Child’s ninth Jack Reacher book titled One Shot, is more of a thriller than a flat-out action film like Mission: Impossible or Edge of Tomorrow. However, the few small-scale action scenes that are in the film are incredibly well executed. Most notably, Tom Cruise’s chase with the police.
The scene begins with Reacher arriving to a motel, only to find a crew of cops outside. This is because, unbeknownst to Reacher, the woman he was supposed to meet has been murdered. After an incredibly well-acted, edited, and directed stare-down with Emerson (David Oyelowo), Reacher sees the cops believe that he did it.
Having seen the real murderers nearby as he was approaching the motel, Reacher peels out and pursues them. This, of course, prompts the police to make haste as well.
In the Bourne franchise, as long as Jason Bourne is driving a car, it has to defy the laws of physics. What happens when Jack Reacher takes too many hits? His car flat-out stops working and he has to restart it. The scene, as well as the specific moment of Reacher’s car stopping, is a great way to use action to showcase the character’s personality and intentions. It also makes for a great moment of unexpected tension and genuine worry for Cruise’s character.
Throughout Jack Reacher, the titular character is a force of nature. He’s like Michael Myers mixed with Bryan Mills. When Reacher wants something, he works efficiently to get it, so of course he would slam his car into enemies without thinking of the consequence. It’s not just action for action’s sake, it’s a key part of the story that doesn’t feel out of place during the film’s 130-minute runtime. The extensive chase ends with a perfectly hilarious escape by Reacher, that once again showcases his ability to vanish out of thin air.
4. The Matrix Reloaded – Freeway Chase (2003)
The Matrix franchise is known for its incredible stunt work and visual effects, all of which are showcased in The Matrix Reloaded‘s highway chase scene between a few of our heroes
and some digital enemies. The chase sequence is brought to life using a mix of groundbreaking CGI and practical stunt work. The scene begins like many car chases do, with bad guys and good guys zooming between cars and exchanging gunfire.
Eventually, the characters arrive to a busy highway. Then things go bonkers, with heroes and villains jumping from car to car, leading up to Morpheus slicing through the enemy car with a Katana and blasting the fuel tank to bits, resulting in an awesome explosion that decimates the supernatural bad guys.
Say what you will about the sequels to The Matrix but this scene is arguably one of the most rewatchable scenes from either The Matrix Reloaded or The Matrix Revolutions.
3. Bad Boys II – Haitian Chasin’ (2003)
Bad Boys II is full of explosive action sequences, one of which is an elongated chase scene between Will Smith, Martin Lawrence, Gabrielle Union, and a squad of Haitian enemies. The extensive sequence begins in a parking garage, then goes to the streets of Miami, before arriving to the iconic bridge scene. It’s here that the Haitians hijack a truck transporting vehicles.
They begin unhooking the cars and lobbing them at our heroes. This makes for some of the most insane stunts in the film, especially when the chase results in an epic pile up, thanks in no small part to a speed boat being tossed into the mix.
2. The Town – Nuns On The Run (2010)
Ben Affleck’s sophmore directorial effort was 2010’s The Town, an adaptation of Chuck Hogan’s book Prince of Thieves, about a group of bank robbers in Boston. The film doesn’t shy away from the cops-and-robbers action and features one of the most tense car chases in the last decade. After Affleck and co. rob an armored truck outside of a bank, they take off down the road to escape, while all of them are donning elderly nun costumes. The chase isn’t as flashy as something from Mad Max or Captain America, but it doesn’t need to be.
Dodging the cops throughout the narrow streets and alleyways of Boston create constant tension around every corner. Most of the chases on this list take place in large, cinematic landscapes that deliver a visual feast for fans to enjoy. That’s what makes the nun sequence in The Town so special and unique. It takes the best grounded aspects of Jason Bourne‘s Vegas chase and The Dark Knight‘s convoy ambush and makes it even smaller, which doesn’t sound like a positive thing but it works in spades.
It subverts all of the Hollywood glitz and glammer to create a very gritty, grounded scene that features mystery and suspense around every corner. It’s the car chase equivalent of a haunted house.
1. Mad Max Fury Road – Return To The Citadel (2015)
Mad Max: Fury Road is arguably one of the best action films of the 2000s, full stop. It’s two hours of pure gritty, fiery chaos that is 20% strange sci-fi, 80% balls-to-the-wall
chase scenes atop a series of cars, motorcycles, and other modified motor vehicles. What makes the high-octane action of George Miller’s epic fourquel so special is the use of stuntmen and in-camera effects with minimal CGI enhancements.
When you’re seeing warboys spitting guzzoline into their cars while laying out on the hood, all while being part of a blockbuster action sequence, you’re actually seeing it happen. When you’re seeing bad guys using poles to travel vehicle-to-vehicle, it’s actually happening. George Miller & Co.’s expert use of visual effects and stunt work comes to a culmination during the film’s climactic chase back to the citadel. This chunk of the film is full of expertly-executed fight scenes on top of moving vehicles, fiery explosions, shoot outs, and even impressive acrobatics.
After watching this film, it’s no wonder it was nominated for 10 Oscars the following year, including Best Achievement in Directing and Best Motion Picture of the Year. Of these 10 awards, it successfully walked away from the ceremony with 6.
If your favorite car chase of the 2000’s is not on this list, share this blog on your preferred social media platform, tag us, and let us know who you think deserves a spot on the top 10.
I know it may seem like sacrilege to put a movie like Jason Bourne (No offense Paul Greengrass, you’re a Prince) above a movie like The Dark Knight on any list but did you see Vincent Cassel plowing through those cars? Come on, that short clip is a high-octane, visceral treat for any fan of practical stuntwork.
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