Smashing Good Time – My Favorite Car Crashes

I’m not a big Cars fan (or car fan). I like it okay, after watching it 50-plus times with my kids it has kind of grown on me. Either way, Cars 2 is upon us. Now, I could do some Pixar-type list or spy movie list (the new movie is supposedly a spy caper . . . with cars!), but then I thought: eff that, let’s talk about destruction, carnage, and mayhem.

What follows is a list of my favorite car crashes on film. Cars does have a decent speedway wreck, much like the over-the-top antics in Talladega Nights. Alas, my list is less “action” heavy, and generally more about impact. This wasn’t some bias. It’s just what floated to the top. See for yourself, and maybe you’ll agree (although most of these work better in context). Fair warning: some clips will be either NSFW or spoiler-ish. To the list!

10. The Descent (2005)

The best horror film of the last decade also has a grisly and shocking accident. We’re still mid-credits when the car drifts into oncoming traffic and splat. That’s how you start a movie!

9. The Road Warrior (1981)

Couldn’t do this list and leave off the car-pocalypse masterpiece. The dazzling final battle climaxes with a double-dose of villainous comeuppance. I mean . . . cars go vroom then bang. (You could skip to the 11-minute mark, but why would you want to do that?)

8. Fearless (1993)

Let’s crash into a wall, why not? But seriously, this is a powerful scene with great acting from Jeff Bridges and Oscar-nominated Rosie Perez (You so stupid Billy!). Also, great, great, use of U2.

7. Fight Club (1999)

The dialogue in the scene leading up to it, the places Fincher puts his camera during it, and the Dust Brothers all-time great score fading up at just the right time.

6. Crash (1996)

1996! Not that piece-a-poo Best Picture winner, but Cronenberg’s provocative piece about sex and car crashes. The crash I like most shows the importance of safety belts, and if you stick around some Holly Hunter boob. Sex and violence, what more can you ask for? (The James Dean Porsche Spyder reenactment is pretty awesome too)

5. The Bourne Supremacy (2004)

All three Bourne films have great chases and great crashes, but I think Supremacy has the best of both (Maybe the best chase of the last decade). Damon’s like a pinball of metal and glass, it seriously makes me giddy watching it. I’m cheating a little here because within this one chase there are about 10 different crashes that I love and I’m counting all of them . . . so screw you.

4. Adaptation (2002)

There are many out-of-the-blue car crashes, but this one made me jump the first time. It’s also quite tragic and shades Chris Cooper’s character perfectly.

3. Punch-Drunk Love (2002)

I’m cheating again. This movie has two, almost bookended, crashes and they’re both equally fantastic. There’s the eerie opening crash with Sandler’s expression perfectly capturing the audience’s own thoughts, and there’s the side-swipe near the end. I love the other-worldliness of both crashes. Plus, Sandler kicks some ass. (Start the first clip at the 2-minute mark)

2. Amores Perros (2000)

There’s one crash, seen 3 different times throughout the movie, from 3 different angles, 3 different perspectives, and 3 different consequences to the story. It’s just brilliant.

1. Death Proof (2007)

This is just perfect and gruesome and cool. The movie has been leading up to this one crash and Tarantino delivers with the crème de la crème of car crashes.

A few Honorable Mentions:

The Blues Brothers (1980)

The entire final reel of this movie is one big car chase and with that comes a whole lot of busted metal. I particularly enjoy the massive cop car pile-up. The sheer number of cars piling on one another is hilarious. Like a kid playing with his toys. (Pile-up is @ 0:52)

Final Destination 2 (2003)

This nightmare accident has a bit of everything and basically refuses to be ignored on a list such as this. The log through the windshield is the obvious standout. Too bad the rest of the film is such a waste.

The Big Lebowski (1998)

It’s exactly how you’d expect The Dude (or El Duderino if you’re not down with the whole brevity thing) to crash. He’s smoking a teeny-weeny roach and jamming to his CCR whilst drinking. These are also all possible causes for his comical collision.

Intacto (2001)

A fun, yet little-seen, thriller about luck that has some amazing set pieces. It also has a fantastico crash seen in flashback. The cars are truly frightening coming head-on and then the camera stays on the woman as the car rolls indefinitely. You’ll have to trust me, as this is the best clip I could find. (Start it at about the 3:46 mark)

Bonus Crash:

Jonathan Glazer’s fantastic 1998 music video for “Rabbit in Your Headlights”. If you’ve never seen it, you’re in for a treat.

What’s your favorite? Did I leave it off my list?


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