james bond car chases



As the new 007 book 50 Greatest Bond Cars leaves the garage forecourt, David Black lines up that staple of James Bond movies with his choice of the ten best car chases.


10. On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969)
Countess Teresa 'Tracy' di Vicenzo (Diana Rigg) drives a red 1969 Mercury Cougar XR7 and finds herself chased by a black 1963 Mercedes-Benz W111 full of Blofeld’s henchmen lead by backseat driver, Irma Bunt (Ilse Steppat).

Skidding about on the ice obviously adds to the excitement of a car chase, but the route this one takes leaves the roads behind and becomes embroiled in a stock-car race. Neither car fares well weaving in and out of the stock cars, but while Tracy's car emerges in one piece, Bunt's explodes. The stock-car race lends the sequence both a frenetic energy and a geography which keeps it coherent. Notably Bond (George Lazenby) is a passenger throughout this chase and somewhat oddly spends much of it kissing driver Tracy on the cheek. 


9. Diamonds Are Forever (1971)
Bond (Sean Connery) evades the Las Vegas PD in a red Ford Mustang Mach 1 with a terrified Tiffany Case (Jill St. John) as his passenger. The Las Vegas strip provides a stunning backdrop for this chase, but just how big is the Golden Nugget? Bond seems to drive for miles and still be Nugget adjacent. The action moves to a much cheaper parking lot elsewhere as the police cars arrive en masse and begin crashing into each other like a scene from The Blues Brothers. The final police car confidently follows Bond down a side alley, but 007 uses a ramp to get the Mustang onto two wheels as it narrows leaving the police car marooned. Bond drives away as if nothing had happened and all without a mark on the car.


8. Spectre (2015)
Under fire, Bond (Daniel Craig) leaps into his silver Aston Martin DB10 and flees across Rome pursued by Mr. Hinx (Dave Bautista) in an orange Jaguar C-X75. The pair criss cross the city's narrow streets, at one point pushing a tiny blue Fiat 500 bumper to bumper faster and faster to avoid Hinx catching up to him. The terrain opens up to show off the beautiful scenery of the Italian capital.

Bond manages to get in a phone call with Moneypenny (Naomie Harris) to keep the exposition moving and then down to the river. 007's car may be laden with gadgets, but almost none of them work as intended until the flaming exhaust sets the front of Hinx's car alight and Bond escapes with the ejector seat abandoning the car to splashdown in the Tiber.


7. Die Another Day (2002)
When his invisible Aston Martin Vanquish V12 is rumbled by a crashing skidoo, Bond (Brosnan) must escape from the diamond-encrusted Zao (Rick Yune) on the ice, around a palace made of...well, more ice. The palace begins to melt with concentrated sunlight reflected by a mirror in Earth's orbit – just go with it – and the cars are suddenly driving through torrents of water. The Aston Martin's 'adaptive camouflage' fixes itself just in time to help 007 avoid being impaled on the front of Zao's car and Bond rescues a drowning Jinx (Halle Berry).

It sounds beyond ridiculous and CGI heavy, but the driving on show here is nothing less than spectacular. While the car chases in the Daniel Craig movies have sought to level the playing field somewhat by limiting the amount of gadgetry on show and have Bond be the better driver rather simply having the better car, Die Another Day takes the opposite approach and Zao's Jaguar XKR is as armed to the teeth as anything Q-Branch has to offer.


6. Tomorrow Never Dies (1997)
Bond (Pierce Brosnan) uses a gadget on his phone as a remote control drives his BMW 750IL around a multi-storey car park in Hamburg from the relative comfort of the back seat. As it moves between levels, the Bond fires rockets, drops spiked 'caltrops' to burst his pursuers' tyres and then when the exit is blocked, he turns around sacrificing his own tyres as well before using another gadget to re-inflate them. Bond jumps out of the car and, with the remote control, drives it off the roof of the car park. It comes to rest at ground level in a car-rental shop. All with constant commentary from the car's sat nav.

This works so well because we understand the geography of the confined space and the remote-control gadget feels so much more plausible now than it probably did in 1997.


5. The Spy Who Loved Me (1977)
No less than four chases for the price of one. Bond (Moore) and Anya Amasova (Barbara Bach) are followed in their Lotus Esprit S1 by a motorcycle with an exploding sidecar, Jaws (Richard Kiel) hanging out of a black Ford Taunus Ghia and a helicopter armed with twin machine guns.

To avoid the latter, Bond drives off the end of a jetty and underwater. He then turns the car into a submarine and destroys the chopper with sea-to-air missile. The relative calm comes to an end as a group of torpedo-firing divers take up the chase. Once these are dispensed with they drive up onto a tourist-filled beach.


4. The Man With The Golden Gun (1974)
This time it is Bond (Roger Moore) doing the chasing. With Mary Goodnight (Britt Ekland) trapped in the boot of the AMC Matador Coupe driven by Scaramanga (Christopher Lee), 007 steals a Red AMC Hornet, which just happens to have unlikely racist holidaymaker Sheriff JW Pepper (Clifton James) in the passenger seat. Surely, if he's planning to take a test drive, he'd be in the driver's seat?  Also American Motors seem to be doing inexplicably well in a country that drives on the left and in which they've never sold a single car. It's one of the franchise's least subtle attempts at product placement.

Both AMCs drive headlong into traffic and arouse the interest of the local police. In the melee of collateral damage and racist diatribe, Scaramanga somehow manages to elude Bond and is later seen driving sedately on the opposite side of the river. Undeterred Bond turns around and returns to a nearby broken bridge and jumps over the river in a corkscrew. It is quite simply one of the most impressive pieces of driving ever caught on film utterly diminished by the most unnecessary slide-whistle sound effect in cinematic history.


3. Skyfall (2012)
Bond (Craig) and Moneypenny (Harris) chase an assassin called Patrice (Ola Rapace) around, over and through Istanbul's Grand Bazaar. While Moneypenny gets caught in traffic in a Land Rover, Bond gives chase on a stolen motorbike across the rooftops, before crashing the bike into the side of a bridge and leaping on to a moving train to continue the chase on foot.

Most car chases are simply set pieces and serve no real narrative function, but this has purpose to it. It informs the audience about what is at stake, it gives Moneypenny something to do outside the office, it shows Bond being heroic and most importantly it isolates Bond for the next stage of the mission. The bikes on the roof is a glorious moment that shows Bond literally going over and above the call of duty.


2. The Living Daylights (1987)
Bond (Timothy Dalton) is attempting to get Kara Milovy (Maryam d'Abo) and her cello to the border in an Aston Martin Volante V8 whilst the Czechoslovakian police give chase. The car has “a few optional extras installed” namely lasers and rockets on his car to destroy police cars and roadblocks. 007 drives on to a frozen lake, but he doesn't let losing a tyre slow him down, instead he drives in a perfect circle using the wheel rim to cut through the ice, leaving his pursuers to sink into the icy water below. Bond activates skis and tyre spikes to grip the ice better. He uses rocket booster hidden behind the rear number plate to jump another blockade and away to freedom. Yes, this is another gadget-laden car chase, but refreshingly this time around Bond's most useful asset is a bare wheel rim.


1. Quantum Of Solace (2008)
This one begins like a car advert. It is moodily shoot with fleeting glances of the Aston Martin's beautiful curves and then a demonstration of its horsepower interrupted by machine gunfire. The cars weave their way through narrow tunnels and Bond (Craig) controls the car effortless as it spins a full 360 degrees in heavy traffic. The chase opens out on to mountain roads and into a quarry, but along the way 007 sends multiple pursuers crashing into oncoming vehicles or solid rock. Bond shoots a driver dead and his car somersaulting away into the quarry. The car continues on its journey but the beautiful curves, and one of the doors, are gone. 

The editing is choppy, disorientating and gives a palpable impression of the frenzied nature of the chase. Bond does all this without a single gadget and with the unwilling cargo of Mr White (Jesper Christenson) locked in the boot of the car.


Special mention: Goldfinger (1964)
What is this sacrilege? This car chase is an undisputable classic that set the pattern for all those that followed and surely it deserves to make the list, except for the fact that it is utterly pointless.

Bond (Connery) and Tilly Masterson (Tania Mallet) escape Goldfinger's henchmen in the famous Aston Martin DB5. Bond shows off the famous gadgetry on offer blinding them with smoke and leaving an oil slick as he goes, but the most overlooked aspect is it all proves ultimately fruitless as Oddjob (Harold Nagata) catches up the Bond and kills Tilly with his razor rimmed hat. Bond is captured and astonishingly permitted to drive the war machine with a single henchman to keep him in check and the ejector seat soon puts pay to him. This simply wouldn't have made the cut in a more tightly plotted movie and shouldn't get a free pass because the car is cool.