The Most Awesome Car Crashes In Movie History

At a time when special effects departments work overtime to create entire cities, worlds, and galaxies from a few billion pixels, there is something viscerally satisfying about a good old-fashioned car wreck. Car crashes are so analog, but the spectacle of seeing an actual car smash into another car, collide with a wall, or pinwheel end over end gives audiences a jolt, as they see physics at its coolest level. There is mass, momentum, and brilliantly controlled chaos unfolding on screen, and the realness of the characters and vehicles is like mainlining adrenaline. One needs to look no further than the following films to understand why car crashes are a staple of great action films.

No Country For Old Men

This scene has zero frills, but its simplistic realism, plus the chilling portrayal of Anton Chigurh, the victim and lone survivor of a car crash, succeeds in being downright terrifying. The stripped-down way the scene is shot lends the footage a gruesome, true-life feel, and only further enhances the unsettling feeling the audience has for Chigurh. Despite clearly being worse for wear, the nigh-unkillable Chigurh makes his way out of that suburban neighborhood to terrorize the next poor soul to cross his path.

Vanilla Sky

Approaching Glenn Close in Fatal Attraction-levels of crazy, Cameron Diaz begins to drive more and more erratically as an outward expression of her internal gears misfiring. We watch a helpless Tom Cruise slowly come to realize that he is at the mercy of a person whose obsessive impulses are destroying her sanity. The final scene shows the simple brutality of a car crash as both something very ordinary, and also horrifyingly real.

The Bourne Supremacy

Car chases — and subsequent crashes — have become just as much of a calling card for the Bourne franchise as Matt Damon disemboweling a trained killer with a Bic pen. This scene, from the second Bourne film, has Damon zipping around Paris in a taxi, trying to evade Karl Urban's Range Rover. The scene is masterful in its editing, creating tension as each driver tries to out-think the other. It's also wonderfully creative with its individual action set pieces, while still keeping some small connection to reality.

The Dark Knight

Christopher Nolan's second Batman film is ... less realistic then Bourne. The Dark Knight features a car crash that is fairly short and to the point, but incredibly powerful for the visual it produces. In a setup reminiscent of David versus Goliath, Batman attempts to take down a tractor-trailer with his weaponized Batpod motorcycle. At first, you see Batman on his motorcycle appearing to play a game of Chicken with the Joker's semi. However, instead of attacking Joker head-on, Batman anchors the front of the truck to a series of light poles, causing the semi to flip back-to-front. The scene is direct, understated, and brutally stylized.

Death Proof

In Quentin Tarantino's ode to "grind house" cinema and old-school stunts, he sets Kurt Russell's "Stuntman Mike" on a literal collision course with four attractive young women, as they rock out to the radio while cruising down a country road at night. The scene brilliantly builds tension until the audience witnesses the crash again and again, as we watch what happens to each of the girls as a result of the brutal head-on collision.

Bad Boys II

You know things are going to get gonzo-crazy when Michael Bay shows up. This scene takes place on a freeway as our heroes, Martin Lawrence and Will Smith, pursue bad guys who attempt to get away on a double-decker car carrier. Armed with machine guns, the villains decide to go all King Koopa, and use the transport's car payload to play a life-sized game of Mario Kart. They release the cars one by one, turning them into rolling obstacles that Lawrence and Smith must avoid if they're to survive and make it to the next sequel, currently slated for 2017. The sheer audacity of this scene, plus the banter between Lawrence and Smith, make it one of the all-time great car crash sequences.

Final Destination 2

When you've already cheated Death and it comes looking for you, it's probably best to stay off the highway. This sequence combines the stunt work of a quality car crash with the splatterific gore of a supernatural horror film. The result is a visually entertaining and gruesome set-piece for the ages.

Mad Max: Fury Road

George Miller's latest post-apocalyptic offering has enough car wrecks to make this entire article all about itself. No where else has vehicular violence reached the levels of mayhem than in Fury Road. The average viewer likely would've been satisfied with the explosions, car flips, and general destructo-derby atmosphere the movie maniacally throws our way. But Miller took the production to a whole other level, with sandstorms, exploding spears, and a guitar-playing maniac strapped to a high-speed death machine. Witness!