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The 10 Most Terrifying Movie Car Crashes

Think of cinematic car crashes and you might picture the wacky hundred car pileup in The Blues Brothers, some sexy alien-turned supercar written off by Michael Bay in his Transformers franchise or the results of Clark Griswold falling asleep at the wheel in National Lampoon's Vacation.
Fine in their own right, but a world away from more serious films such as thrillers, horrors or true life dramas, where much like real life, car crashes are terrifying ordeals capable of changing everything - taking someone's life or changing one forever.
So here we salute those scenes which frankly almost have us watching from the gaps between our fingers. Those moments in cinema doesn't seem so warm anymore.
Buckle up, it's going to be a bumpy ride...

Final Destination 2

Even if the opening scene of Final Destination 2 had been set in a hamper-strewn playing field, it was never going to be a walk in the park. The franchise promises death and lots of it, hence the giant fireball traffic montage inside this fateful premonition. Sure, it's teed up with a few daft omens (creepy kid smacking toy cars together is actually pretty hilarious, to be fair) yet it's pulled off in such a gorily over-the-top way that it’s near impossible not to squirm. We'll never complain about traffic jams again.

Vanilla Sky

“Ouch”, was one decent way of encapsulating the wince-worthy, grill-snapping crash that followed an argument between Tom Cruise’s playboy and his mentally unhinged ex-girlfriend (Cameron Diaz) as she takes him for a final ride in Vanilla Sky. We'll also have taken, “I’m never getting in a car again”, because no matter how detached from reality the film is, a growing realisation that she’s going to commit murder suicide from behind the wheel as the camera spins between the pair and her foot hits the gas a little louder makes us feel as trapped as Cruise’s quickly repentant passenger.


In this full-on scene from Adaption, featuring a career-best Chris Cooper as John Laroche, Spike Jonze gives an unflinching masterclass in how to shoot a car crash, taking us inside the vehicle, switching camera angles to show different passenger viewpoints - front seat to backseat - as the car rolls down the driveway to the looming doom that we all know awaits - and yet, somehow, Jonze still manages to catch us all off guard.

Death Proof

Inspired by Quentin Tarantino’s fascination with the way stunt men ‘death proof’ cars so they can walk away from otherwise fatal accidents unscathed, the concept for the director's homage to Grindhouse, starring Kurt Russell as a seriously warped stuntman who - how should we put it? - took his work home with him, was nasty enough. However, the execution of it all, specifically the moment Russell's nasty soul collides with a car full of young women, sending their dismembered bodies flying in a bloody sea of twisted metal and glass? Well that was downright horrifying.

Amores Perros

Unlike Jeremy Clarkson, who might chalk a traffic accident in Mexico City down to people necking tequila and wearing vision-obscuring sombreros, more considered people would assume the city’s gridlocked nature would have played some part. Which is indeed one reason for the crash at the heart of Amores Perros, binding three separate stories as a panicked Gael Garcia Bernal slaloms his way through hectic traffic in a bid to outspeed some trigger-happy mobsters. And just when he thinks he’s free...

Casino Royale

Bloody hell, Daniel Craig. Your first outing as Bond and you go and write off your first shiny Aston Martin only minutes after getting behind the wheel - M was right, you weren't ready for 00 status. Though perhaps therein lies the secret of Casino Royale's twisty charm: in having the the spy's kidnapped love interest placed right between headlights on a dimly lit road, giving Bond no chance but to sacrifice his handsome vehicle to save the girl before we even got to see as much as an ejector seat, audiences didn't know whether to clap or cry.


Normally when Shia LaBeouf is caught crashing a black SUV on camera, it's posted on TMZ. On this occasion it was entirely fictional, setting the pitch black tone for this teen thriller which begins with Shia's young scamp driving back from a fishing trip with his dad. It’s not so much the first flip that surprises - you see that coming a mile off. It's the second, and fatal, shot, taking us inside the car as the pair attempt to see if one another is okay seconds before another motor powers towards Shia’s helpless dad. If you cried at Simba in The Lion King, further arteries will be tugged here.

Vanishing Point

To some critics, Kowalski (the all-round daredevil racing driver pursued across the states in this trippy seventies thriller) didn’t really die. No, he transcended death, embodying the free loving, counter culture spirit of the hedonistic seventies by sacrificing himself so others could get groovy. The smile pasted across his face before he wilfully crashes into a barrier might have you thinking likewise, but the sheer fact his demise comes seemingly from nowhere makes it even more of a shuddering car wreck. Unforgettable.

No Country For Old Men

So pokerfaced was Javier Bardem’s portrayal of an unstoppable, sadistic hit man who violently cattle prods his way through this grizzly Coen Brothers offering, we wouldn’t have batted an eyelid had it transpired the bowl-haired assassin was sent back in time by Skynet. As it was, this final, fender-bending scene of his proved he actually was flesh and blood. We bet he's not insured either, the monster.


Throughout the entirety of Steven Spielberg’s masterful thriller Duel, in which a trucker chases the film’s white collar salesman protagonist across a scorched Californian desert, we’re never shown the face of the driver, just his hulking tanker. But then who wants Scooby and the gang unmasking some dead redneck as Old Man Williker? The oil-splattered vehicle is a character all of its own, a living, fuming menace, making for the film's finale in which it eventually meets its doom at the bottom of a ravine. A breathless showdown.



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