From Burt Reynolds' highway hijinks in Smokey and the Bandit, which led to a sharp rise in sales of the Pontiac Firebird, to Mel Gibson's getaway in The Road Warrior, moviegoers love their hot rods—particularly when they burn rubber.
As race-car fans rev up for the Indianapolis 500 this weekend, we're putting the pedal to the metal with five of the greatest car chases in the history of cinema.
And no, we don't mean you, Cannonball Run. Take a look!
1. Ronin: There's plenty of tire screeching going on in this classic 1998 crime thriller about a bunch of special ops guys—led by Robert De Niro—out to steal a briefcase. Late filmmaker John Frankenheimer, a former amateur race-car driver, fielded over 300 stunt drivers for two major chase sequences, the most notable of which above takes place on the narrow streets of Paris toward Ronin's end. Hold on to your butts!
2. Bullitt: San Francisco's dizzying hills have been the home of many a car chase, but before The Rock, none was more famous than SteveMcQueen's wild white-knuckle ride behind the wheel of a '68 Dodge Charger in Peter Yates' 1968 drama. As Lt. Frank Bullitt, the legendary actor is aiming to take down a notorious Chicago mobster. After this case, he's gonna need another pair of shock absorbers.
Twentieth Century Fox
3. French Connection: Detective James "Popeye" Doyle (Gene Hackman) gets his man in this seminal 1971 film. When a drug dealer tries to take him out because he's getting too close to a smuggling operation, Hackman's hard-nosed copper commandeers a car and drives like a maniac through Brooklyn to keep up with his assailant who's fled on an elevated train. Here's some trivia: Director William Friedkin was actually the camera operator in the vehicle when they shot the harrowing sequence.
4. Matrix Reloaded: Neo (Keanu Reeves) and company may be in the Matrix, but this hair-raising action sequence from the 2003 sequel set on a highway is real enough to provide the thrills. Morpheus (Lawrence Fishburne) and Trinity (Carrie-Anne Moss) escape with the Keymaker, who can help them unlock the source of the Matrix. Hot on their trail are the Merovingian's ghostly twin henchmen and numerous agents. There's a fantastic scene on an 18-wheeler, but the best part is watching Trinity fly off the roof on her Ducati motorcyle and dodge agents on the road before Neo flies to the rescue.
5. Blues Brothers: Jake and Elwood Blues (John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd) upped the car-wreck quotient big-time in director John Landis' 1980 musical-comedy classic. After playing a concert to save their orphanage, the wanted duo hop in their Bluesmobile, pursued by dozens of police vehicles and some bumbling Illinois Nazis, culminating in a slew of pile-ups and one hilarious finale.