In 2007, audiences were treated to one of the tensest car chases ever filmed. In Quentin Tarantino's Death Proof (part of the Grindhouse double-feature) stuntwoman Zoe Bell plays an insane game called "Ship's Mast," where she rides on the hood of a car at high speeds, holding on to a couple of belts to keep from sliding off. As if that wasn't enough, along comes Stunt Man Mike (Kurt Russell) with murder on his mind. The two classic Dodges go careening down the road in a scene bereft of any CGI tricks. Bell's really on the hood of that Challenger, and you're terrified she's going to go flying off at any minute.
This 1969 British caper film could have served as an advertisement for the Mini Cooper. Charlie Croker (Michael Caine) and his gang have the perfect heist: create the mother of all traffic jams in Turin, steal a consignment of gold bullion, and escape in cars small enough to dodge the snarled traffic. The three Mini Coopers are as much the stars of this movie as Michael Caine was, and you get to see them driving through shopping centers, over roofs, down stairs, and through sewer pipes.
Detective Popeye Doyle (Gene Hackman) is runing down a hitman, only to see the hitman jump onto an elevated train. So naturally, the next step is to commandeer a civilian's car and chase the train, right? Keeping up with the train is no easy task though, and true to the character, Doyle breaks almost every traffic law you can think of while trying to get his man.
One of director John Frankenheimer's last films, and one of his best, Ronin tells the story of a diverse groupe of former (but not really former) government agents trying to steal a case, and the aftermath of the theft. The target case is transported in a small, heavily armed convoy of cars, but since that's the only time the case is out in the open, the team has to hit the convoy. The heist we get to see involves high speeds, mountain roads, narrow alleys, machine guns and a rocket launcher. That sounds a bit over the top, but it works within the context of the film, and Frankenheimer gives us a modern chase scene that is a good as any we've ever seen before.
It may never get any better than watching Steve McQueen barreling down the streets of San Francisco in his 1968 Mustang. Sure, some of the sequences are repeated, meaning you see McQueen's Mustang and the Dodge Challenger pass the same Beetle four times, but that's not unforgivable. Seeing McQueen himself behind the wheel for much of the chase definitely makes up for that, and seeing a star do their own driving isn't something you get to see much of in this day of CGI effects and production insurance. This is the chase scene by which all other chase scenes will forever be measured.