Some of the most memorable scenes on screen involve chases. Agents pursuing hit men through a busy city. Imperial troops on the heels of rebels and smugglers in a galaxy far, far away. Whatever the scenario, they captivate us with elements of surprise, stress, sometimes comedy, and always top-notch action.
We’ve put together a list of the 10 best chase scenes in Hollywood history you’ll probably want to check out, and the fun trivia behind the epic action.
Star Wars: Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back (1980)
Pursued by four TIE fighters, Han Solo, Princess Leia, Chewbacca and C-3PO enter the Hoth asteroid field trying to lose Imperial ships while simultaneously avoiding massive asteroids. Not the easiest feat, even for Han. Mixed with comedy and fast-flying action, it’s here that Han utters the famous line, “Never tell me the odds.”
- The Millennium Falcon model was made much lighter than in the previous film in order to have the ship move and turn more fluidly.
- During the scene, a pilot briefly can be seen bailing out with a parachute after the TIE fighter is hit by an asteroid.
- When the Millennium Falcon first enters the asteroid field, the third asteroid to appear in the top-left corner is actually a potato!
What’s Up, Doc? (1972)
They don’t make them like this anymore. The 11-minute chase is relatively slow-paced by today’s standards, but perfectly choreographed for comedy. It features the two protagonists, Judy Maxwell (Barbra Streisand) and Howard Bannister (Ryan O’Neal), stealing four suitcases and being pursued by multiple characters all wanting their possessions back. Starting on a delivery bicycle in downtown San Francisco, the duo take their lives in their hands as they ride through Chinatown, down the steep inclines of Lombard Street, and end up crashing a stolen Volkswagen Beetle in the San Francisco Bay.
- The chase scene cost $1 million to shoot, took 19 days and required 32 stuntmen.
- Shots of the floating Volkswagen Beetle were a parody of the vehicle’s ability to float on water, which was shown in advertisements at the time.
- The comedic scene was a spoof of the 1968 movie “Bullitt.”
Mad Max: Fury Road (2015)
Though the whole movie is one big car chase, the finale takes the cake with Furiosa (Charlize Theron), Max (Tom Hardy) and the Vuvalini tribe driving back to Citadel and clashing with Immortan Joe and his armies. The scene features vamped-up cars and plenty of weapons as the two sides speed through canyons and desert, battling each other to the death.
- More than 80 percent of the effects in the film are real, practical effects, stunts, makeup and sets.
- The older actresses playing the Vuvalini did their own stunts.
- The film used three identical war rigs based on a Czech all-wheel-drive military vehicle.
Fast Five (2011)
The Fast and the Furious franchise is loaded with over-the-top car chases and “Fast Five” is no exception. In the finale, Dom (Vin Diesel) and Brian (Paul Walker) are racing through downtown Rio de Janeiro in their modified Dodge Charger SRT-8s while being tailed by the Rio police. The catch? Attached to the cars is a vault that belongs to Rio’s biggest crime lord, Hernan Reyes.
- Some of the downtown Rio scenes in the chase were actually shot in Hato Rey, Puerto Rico.
- More than 200 vehicles were destroyed by the vault during filming.
- Six versions of the eight-foot high vault were created with specific uses – some for close-up shots, others to drag through the streets.
The Bourne Ultimatum (2007)
In the third installment of the Bourne series we find Jason Bourne (Matt Damon), still tracking down his true identity, in a high-speed, adrenaline-pumping pursuit through the streets and homes of Tangier, Morocco. This time Bourne is after Operation Blackbriar asset Desh Bouksani, and prevents him from killing Nicky Parsons (Julia Stiles), who has been helping Bourne.
- While filming in Tangier, the crew had to close down the busiest square in the city for several hours.
- The meeting place Nicky chooses in Tangier is Café de Paris, which was a popular spot for spies and emissaries back in the day.
- Because Tangier is a very crowded city, the flow of people was hard to control and the actors had to push through a crowd of locals, not extras.
North by Northwest (1959)
One of the most iconic scenes in movie history is when Roger Thornhill (Cary Grant) is attacked by a crop duster plane, while waiting for a meeting with the mysterious Kaplan, at an isolated bus stop. Alfred Hitchcock’s camera angles create panic throughout the scene as Thornhill ducks and dives for his life.
- The crop duster chase scene featured a real airplane while the scene in which the plane crashes into the fuel truck included large models of both the truck and plane.
- The crop duster scene was meant to take place in northern Indiana, but was shot on location on Garces Highway in Kern County, California.
- This scene inspired the helicopter chase in the James Bond movie “From Russia with Love.”
The Dark Knight (2008)
The first showdown between the Joker (Heath Ledger) and Batman (Christian Bale) does not disappoint. This memorable scene shows the Joker and his clowns chasing down and attacking Harvey Dent’s (Aaron Eckhart) convoy, which inevitably lures Batman into the fray, on his übercool Batpod. What ensues is an epic ride through the dark, underground streets of Gotham as Batman attempts to capture the villainous Joker.
- The Gotham City license plates were based on Illinois license plates.
- One very pricy IMAX camera was destroyed while filming the chase scene. It was one of just four in the world at the time.
- As filming took place in downtown Chicago, citizens called police to report that “police” were in pursuit of a dark vehicle of an unknown make and model.
Point Break (1991)
When federal agent Johnny Utah (Keanu Reeves) goes deep undercover to find bank-robbing surfers he finds himself chasing leader of the pack Bodhi (Patrick Swayze), who’s wearing a Ronald Reagan mask, through a Southern California neighborhood. It’s a high-paced and enthralling foot chase.
- Keanu Reeves observed real FBI agents in Los Angeles to study for his role.
- Director Kathryn Bigelow used a stripped-down, hand-held 35 mm camera nicknamed the “Pogo-Cam” to film the chase scene.
- Patrick Swayze, who usually did his own stunts, did not do the stunts his character performs while wearing the Reagan mask – they were carried out by a stunt double.
The French Connection (1971)
Detectives Popeye Doyle (Gene Hackman) and Buddy Russo (Roy Scheider) are on the hunt to intercept a massive drug shipment from France. Naturally, an awesome car chase follows. Popeye takes over a civilian’s car and goes after an elevated train, with the hit man aboard, through the streets of New York.
- Many of the near-collisions in the movie were real and unplanned since the chase scene was filmed without the proper city permits.
- Gene Hackman did a lot of his own driving throughout the chase scene.
- The most famous shot of the chase comes from a camera mounted on the car’s front bumper, giving a low-angle point of view.
For perhaps the best car chase scene of all time, “Bullitt” gives us a 10-minute pursuit, with unmistakable ‘60s cool, on the streets of San Francisco. Here, Frank Bullitt (Steve McQueen) is careering after criminals up and down busy roads in a green 1968 Ford Mustang Fastback GT. This full-throttle, tire-squealing scene became the inspiration for later Hollywood car chases.
- Steve McQueen made a point to keep his head near the open car window during the chase scene so audiences would know he was driving.
- The car chase called for speeds of 75 to 80 mph but the cars actually topped speeds of 110 mph.
- Filming the chase scene took three weeks and resulted in 10 minutes and 53 seconds of footage in the film.