Three reasons Ronin has the best car chases in movie history

10th February 2022
James King

With each passing year, technology improves cars and removes the analogue nature of driving, as we get further and further away from top tier movie car chases. If you take the Fast and Furious series that has been dominant in providing car chases in recent years, they heavily rely on dramatic editing, CGI and a loud soundtrack to inject entertainment into the chase.


For many of you, the car chases of the ‘60s and ‘70s were never bettered. The Italian Job, Bullitt and Vanishing Point are often hailed as the unbeaten kings of the movie car chase, but I’m going to make the case for Ronin having not just the best car chase in history, but a second one that makes the top five.

I’ve broken down my argument into three categories in which Ronin stakes its claim as the greatest of all time.

Action style

A consistent criticism of the more modern car chases is their lack of nuance. To make sure the audience’s attention is not lost for one millisecond, the directors have become used to fast camera cuts from a huge variety of angles to give the scene its sense of action. You’ll find that a lot of the shots are extreme close-ups where you can’t see what’s actually happening and you’ll lose your sense of immersion. Ronin does have its wide variety of shots, but you’re never out of the action. For the entirety of the seven-minute chase, you’re zoned in without a chance to breathe.

The concept that Ronin keeps at its core is a sense of realism and that won’t be the last time it gets a mention. The action feels raw. Every impact and every crash you can feel. There’s the odd explosion, but most of the crashes are ones that give you the sense you’re going to need to fill out a witness report and exchange insurance details.

The other key to the level of immersion that Ronin achieves is its use of sound. For the first four minutes of the chase, there is no music. Fast & Furious will have a loud song throughout its chases to help dictate how you should be feeling. Ronin excels where it lets the pure sound of screeching tyres and engines revving to set the mood.


You’ll not see any building jumps, submarines or jumping from car to car in the Ronin chase. Just throw a few every day ‘90s cars into the middle of Paris and let havoc commence. As Ronin was released in 1998 we’re treated to the absolute best of the ‘90s. 

Robert De Niro is chasing Jonathan Pryce (yes that is Elliot Carter from James Bond’s Tomorrow Never Dies) through the Parisian streets and we’re greeted with so many pairs of blue jeans and black leather jacket combos it’ll make the hairs on the back of your neck stand up.

How on earth they managed to close such large areas of Paris down to shoot this scene I'll never know. I'm starting to believe that they didn't close it down at all and just drove like lunatics through Paris on a Wednesday afternoon. They just dealt with the insurance aftermath later on.


Here comes the ‘realism’ again. One of my biggest criticisms of most of the ‘best car chases’ in movies is the cars used. I just can’t feel any sort of affinity with watching a 5.0-litre V8 muscle car chasing an unattainable supercar. By far the best aspect of Ronin is the casting of the cars.

Using everyday cars adds an immediate level of inclusion for the audience. In the main Ronin chase, we have a Peugeot 406 chasing a BMW E34 5-series. From the first rev of that Peugeot 406 taking up the chase, every audience member considered driving home from the cinema in their mundane salesman car and being an action hero.

The use of those cars also added to the dynamic of the chase itself. There’s no endless RWD drifts in perfect harmony with the traffic. Instead, we see the front-driven 406 struggling for grip, yawing on its sidewalls and losing control. The handbrake is used not to control that perfect drift, but to come to a quick enough stop as De Niro misses his turning. Nothing feels seamless, it all feels gritty and hard work, like a real car chase would.

In the other Ronin chase, if you’re even a little bit of a big barge fan, you’re going to have a good time. Cue a Mercedes 450 SEL chasing a Peugeot 605 which soon develops into a Citroën XM being chased by an Audi S8. It’s like I wrote the scene myself.

Ronin will always hold that title as the best car chase in movie history for me. No film has come close to the realism and excitement that the two chases in this film provide. If I was to pick a challenger, the Bourne Identity’s Mini chase in Paris would be considered, but I can’t make a case ahead of Ronin.

Let us know what your favourite car chase is of all time.

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