Police car chases are as much a part of American cinema as the sappy love story and the life-like animated robot movie. With so many directors having tackled the police chase it has become a bountiful field from which to pluck perfectly formed flowers of destruction and tire smoke. As we continue our Jalopnik Automotive Amerigasm this week with the second part of our review of the 2008 Dodge Charger Police Edition, we figured we should see what the celluloid forefathers of this blacked out beast have been able to do on film. Except, the "top ten car chases" thing's been done so many times it's not funny. Since we know there's more out there than the usual Bullitt-to-Bandit list we've shaken things up a little — with five of the obvious best and five of the not-so-obvious best — silver screen police car chases. So grab your popcorn and hit the jump.
Top Five Famous Police Chases:
#5: The French Connection
This one makes the cut for nothing else if not innovation. Hack Man wasn't even chasing a car in the French connection's most famous scene, indeed he was after an elevated train carrying the sniper who tried to gun him down. The brilliant use of hand held second person camera work and bumper cams while driving through thick traffic make this one a brass balls special.
#4: Smokey And the Bandit
How can you not credit a movie at least in-part responsible for the CB Radio renaissance? Of all the flicks on the list, this one is practically a shoo-in, considering it's an entire movie dedicated to evading the fuzz — with five major chase scenes as a result. If you don't want to grow a mustache after watching this movie, you might be a communist.
#3: Blues Brothers
This icon of American college cinema is both brilliant in it's scope and magical in its wanton destruction.
Bullitt is a much-lauded car chase wrapped in a gritty, 60's era cop drama. The epic battle between Mustang and Charger has been committed to memory for a great many car dorks. Hell, it even got us all together for a night out in Highland Park. The only thing holding this one back is the well documented, and well loved, inconsistencies in it's production. Some love it for those post production snafu's while other call it shoddy attention to detail. we just love all that tire squealing goodness topped with a dollop of burning bad guy.
#1: Gone In Sixty Seconds
There's something to be said about a flick which is basically a flimsy plot used to frame the scene for a forty minute police chase. Our hero dons the miter of the original Eleanor, a 1973 Ford Mustang Mach 1, which is used to evade, confound, embarrass and destroy an entire squad's worth of patrol cars. We've selected our favorite clip of the movie, the dirty, dusty construction chase. Today it would be a brilliant product placement opportunity for Fram air filters. In our opinion, this is both brilliantly executed and fiendishly simple, a hallmark of excellent chase-making.
Five Great Chases That Aren't As Obvious
#5: Beverly Hills Cop
The level of destructive power in a twin-trailer semi truck is hard to imagine until you see this cab-over ploughing through the streets of Detroit circa 1984. Huge props for actually filming on those streets (it was a dangerous place at the time) and even today we recognize some of the old mansions they drive past, though now they're rebuilt and occupied, instead of hollowed out drug dens. (Sorry about the long, foreign dubbed clip, it's amazingly hard piece of hosted film to find)
#4: The Bourne Identity
Take a Mini, some French Police in cars and on motorcycles, shake vigorously with a marked spy, and serve with a rousing soundtrack. The Bourne Identity is a good ride start to finish, but the chase sequence here made everyone's eyes pop when it first flitted cross the silver screen. Tight European streets, death defying dances through traffic and damn impressive driving make this one for the ages.
#3: Short Time
What's more dangerous than a cop with nothing to lose? One that gets rewarded if he dies on the job. Dabney Coleman plays a cop in this little known flick as a cop who thinks he's got a terminal illness, so he goes about attempting to kill himself off on the job, so his family gets a big fat pension and life insurance bonus. The ensuing suicidal police chase is both amusing and brilliantly filmed.
#2: The Seven-Ups
All right, fess up. In every police chase ever committed to film, a little (or even big) piece of you wanted to see the bad guys get away, to see the cop take the fall, and to see justice not served. Nothing quite says car chase like a giant Pontiac flying down the cramped streets of New York and actually getting air at times. Roy Scheider saddles up for a hair raising chase which end in an unexpected bone crushing finale.
#1: Dirty Mary Crazy Larry
This is the quintessential anti-hero police chase. Our robber heroes are chased over hill and dale by an angry back-country cop who can't quite chase down their bright green Dodge Charger, heck, even a helicopter can't stop em. Just as we think it's all over, random chance and poor driving habits snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.