Remember, these are the greatest car chases, not races. That means no Cannonball Run or Days of Thunder. I also want to single out the James Bond franchise. I plan on doing something with that in the future. Reason being, the list would be overrun with entries from Bond.
The films were judged on 3 specific criteria:
1. Originality. The obstacle course involved. How the chase works into the story.
2. Technique. How the camera is used. Editing. Use of music. etc.
3. Visceral thrill.
5. Blue Brothers(1980)
About as fun as it gets when it comes to car crashes.
4. Death Proof (2007)
Quentin certainly built this up to be the chase to end all car chases. & I must say it certainly outdid the sources it drew from: Vanishing Point, Gone In 60 Seconds ("the 70's one, not that Angelina Jolie bullshit.") & Dirty Mary Crazy Larry. It does deliver in spades in both originality and visceral thrill. First off, we've never seen a woman on the hood of a moving car. There's nothing faked about the stunt either. Then you have the integration of the chase into the plot-- sweet revenge against Stuntman Mike.
3. To Live and Die In L.A. (1985)
Everything builds up to this point in the film. Friedkin also scores major points for doing something I've never seen done in a car chase: cutting to psychological states of the characters during the car chase. The obstacle course itself is something that car chases have been taking from since '85: a car on a freeway traveling against traffic. This is a film (criminally) missing from several car chase lists.
2. The Road Warrior (1981)
14 minutes of pure adrenaline. What makes this one unique is how it basically mixes an entire battle with a car chase.
1. The French Connection (1971)
Unmatched in visceral thrill to this day. The chase exemplifies Popeye Doyle's obssessiveness as a cop. It's also the scene that elevates this from "Wow. This is a really good film." to "Fuck! That was an amazing film."
Some honorable mentions: The Seven Ups, Die Hard With A Vengeance, Bullitt
What are yours?