The car chase has been a staple of the action movie for decades. Before over-the-top effects were achieved with CGI, the car chase was used to “wow” movie fans with loud engines, death-defying crashes, explosions, and driving maneuvers that we all thought we could imitate in our 1990 Ford Escort wagon. Movies like Vanishing Point, Bullit, and the original Gone in 60 Seconds revolutionized the use of fast muscle cars in major action scenes while Mad Max and its sequels brought the concept of post-apocalyptic battle vehicles into those scenes.
When it comes to post-apocalyptic movies specifically, there are a few notable car chase scenes that come close to ranking right up there with those in the best blockbuster action movies. I compiled this list to honor those movies that had the most memorable impact on me as a kid and adult.
So here is my list of the top 10 best car chase scenes in post-apocalyptic movies.
Death Race 2000 (1975)
This dystopian cult classic has several epic car scenes but my favorite was always the bull car going after the matador. It’s goofy but also macabre. Ahh, the ’70s.
Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome (1985)
By the third Mad Max movie, the best parts of George Miller’s car chase ideas were over, but this is still a magnificent scene. It does get a bit silly with the wacky sound effects and attempts at physical comedy, but it’s still one of the best in my book.
While this might be the only post-apocalyptic car chase movie that features British cars decked out in animal hide and scrap metal, I will celebrate that fact by saying that this scene is bloody brilliant. It also might be the only one that features a modern luxury car in a chase with clapped-out wasteland rigs.
Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines (2003)
This scene where the crane truck is chasing Arnold on a police bike and the crane is out and it’s knocking down every pole and parked car along the way and then Arnold hangs from the crane and kicks over an ambulance and… whew… this one is intense. Yes, this scene (and the one for T2) are not technically taking place DURING an apocalypse, but the Terminator movies are post-apocalyptic.
Mad Max (1979)
You can’t deny the fact that, while this chase scene does not have much of the same level of action as others on this list, it does have some of the most memorable moments and quotes. I mean, how many times have we all screamed, “I am the Nightrider!” out the window while running from the cops doing 100 mph on the freeway? No? Just me?
Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991)
This James Cameron classic features one of the most memorable Terminators in the franchise with Robert Patrick’s T-1000, but it’s the dirt bike chase through the San Fernando Valley flood control canals that made it so great. I think we all remember when that black Freightliner jumped the bridge rail to land down in those canals.
Death Race 2008 (2008)
Remember when Jason Statham was in everything? This “remake” of the classic 1975 film barely resembles the original, but the vehicles are absolutely top-notch. When the Dreadnought semi-truck was released on Statham and his fellow opponents, the result is pure entertainment. Watching this movie is like watching a Crossout tournament.
While Duel isn’t technically post-apocalyptic, it still has the look and feel. Filmed in the Southern California deserts and featuring a huge Peterbilt 281 tanker truck that looked straight out of Mad Max, Duel is a cult classic that started life as a made-for-TV movie directed by Steven Spielberg.
Mad Max: Fury Road (2015)
This entire movie is one big car chase scene, but the part with the Rock Riders is a favorite of mine. Besides the fact that the Rock Riders’ aesthetic is completely badass, harassing a huge tanker truck with dirt bikes looks like so much fun. I mean, in the apocalypse.
Mad Max: The Road Warrior (1981)
The classic sequel to Mad Max featured what I think is the best post-apocalyptic car chase scene to date. Sure, the scene has some intense wrecks, fighting, and death, but it also has some pretty remarkable drama thrown in to all that chaos.
So which were your favorite? Do you agree with this list or do you have some scenes to add? Let us know in the comments!