Road Rage: Top 10 Films Featuring Terror On The Highway

Where we’re going, we DO NEED ROADS as Top 10 Films hits the highway to check out the greatest movies featuring bad driving, crazy drivers and malevolent vehicles…

(11). Jeeper Creepers (Salva, 2001)

Jeepers Creepers Victor SalvaVictor Salva’s malevolent road user The Creeper and “its” unrelenting pursuit of siblings Trish (Gina Philips) and Darry (Justin Long) across the Floridian countryside is pulsating entertainment of the horrific kind. Part Duel, part The Hitcher, part Christine, Jeepers Creepers celebrates tropes, traits and terror seen in many of the best films on this top 10…

10. Black Cadillac (Murlowski, 2003)

Road Rage Movies - Top 10 Films - Black CadillacA crappy Saab 900 goes toe-to-toe with a 1957 Cadillac Series 75 Limousine after a bunch of guys draw the unwanted attentions of the black Cadillac’s sadistic driver. It’s cat and mouse thrills from then on, in director John Murlowski’s forgettable thriller that stars Randy Quaid.

9. Highwaymen (Harmon, 2004)

Road Rage Movies - Top 10 Films - HighwaymenDirector Robert Harmon (the man who was previously at the helm of 1986’s The Hitcher) returns to the place he knows so well: the road. Here, Jim Caviezel plays a widower determined to track down the psychotic man responsible for killing his wife in a deliberate hit and run. Rhona Mitra plays the unwitting woman caught in the diesel fumes of Caviezel’s 1968 super-stock 426 Hemi Head Plymouth muscle car and the deranged killer’s adapted 1972 Cadillac Eldorado.

8. The Car (Silverstein, 1977)

Road Rage Movies - Top 10 Films - The CarOne of the post-Jaws knock-offs, The Car is everything you want from a b-movie. Swapping the sea for the desert dust of Utah, a driverless black car takes over from the shark on killing duties, terrorising the inhabitants of a small town, its motives remaining mysteriously and unnervingly ambiguous.

Discover More: The Unseen Monster: Why Steven Spielberg Had To Use The Reaction Shot For Dramatic Effect In Jaws – And Why It’s So Good

7. Mad Max 2 (Miller, 1981)

Road Rage Movies - Top 10 Films - Mad Max 2Mad Max lives life on the desolate roads of a post-apocalyptic Australia scavenging for food, water and gas. In the best film of the series, he must battle a crazed motor cycle gang while helping a group of innocents escape their clutches. There’s some brilliant action set-pieces while Vernon Wells’ Mohawked Wez is a great villain.

Discover More: Top 10 Sequels Of The 1980s

6. Dead End (Andrea/Canepa, 2003)

Road Rage Movies - Top 10 Films - Dead EndThe road gets a distinctly paranormal feel in this horror about a family seemingly trapped on the same stretch of highway. After Dad, Frank Harrington (Ray Wise) narrowly misses a head on collision things begin to go bump in the night as a series of strange occurrences befall him and his passengers.

5. Death Proof (Tarantino, 2007)

Death Proof, Quentin TarantinoQuentin Tarantino’s Death Proof was originally supposed to be featured as a double-bill with Robert Rodriguez’s Planet Terror but after the concept largely passed audiences by, each film was extended to become a standalone feature. Thus, Death Proof suffers from an overly verbose first half but when Kurt Russell’s psycho stunt driver with the reinforced 1971 Chevrolet Nova SS 396 starts driving into people, the film really heats up.

4. Christine (Carpenter, 1983)

Road Rage Movies - Top 10 Films - ChristineKing of the haunted car movie, John Carpenter’s adaptation of Stephen King’s novel mixes high school angst and teenage bullying (a la Carrie) with carnage on the roads as a murderous Plymouth Fury possesses the heart and mind of social outcast Arnie Cunningham (Keith Gordon).

Discover More: Top 10 Stephen King Film Adaptations

3. Joy Ride (aka Road Rage) (Dahl, 2001)

Road Rage Movies - Top 10 Films - Joy RidePranksters get their comeuppance when their juvenile use of a CB radio gets the attention of a psychopathic truck driver. As friends Lewis (Paul Walker), Fuller (Steve Zahn) and Venna (Leelee Sobieski) desperately try to escape the clutches of the road-raged driver known only by his handle Rusty Nail, the chief villain appears increasingly supernatural as his vengeance holds no bars.

2. The Hitcher (Harmon, 1986)

Road Rage Movies - Top 10 Films - The HitcherRutger Hauer delivers a chilling performance as John Ryder, a drifter who is offered a ride by well-meaning young man Jim Halsey (C. Thomas Howell) while journeying along the desolate desert roads of America’s south-west. What transpires is a nail-biting cat and mouse battle to the death with Jennifer Jason Leigh’s waitress unwittingly becoming caught in the middle. This leads to one of American cinema’s most devastating climaxes.

Discover More: Top 10 Horror Films Of The 1980s

1. Duel (Spielberg, 1971)

Duel - Steven SpielbergSteven Spielberg’s film laid the groundwork for other terrific “road rage” films with The Hitcher and Joy Ride owing a great debt to this 1971 thriller. When Dennis Weaver’s David Mann overtakes a rusty, smoke-expelling truck in his Plymouth Valiant, little does he know he’s just set into motion a chilling battle to the death. The truck, its driver unseen, becomes the inanimate villain with a twisted motive to bring terror to this mild-mannered electronics salesman’s day. What begins as a series of inflammatory driving manoeuvres spirals into merciless car versus truck fight. The film features some terrific visuals (the dusty wilderness of the desert highway evoking a sense of desolation while the grill-mounted camera thrusts the viewer into the action sequences) in addition to an intriguingly enigmatic villain, the monster personified in the weathered metal and groaning engine of a 1955 Peterbilt 281 tanker truck.

Discover More: Top 10 Films Of Steven Spielberg | First-Rate Thriller “Duel” Marks the Beginning of a Hollywood Phenomenon

Written and Compiled by Daniel Stephens

Over to you: what are your favourite “road rage” movies?

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About the Author
Editor of Top 10 Films, Dan Stephens is usually found pondering his next list. An unhealthy love of 1980s Hollywood sees most of his top 10s involving a time-travelling DeLorean and an adventurous archaeologist going by the name Indiana.

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  1. Avatar
    CineGirl Reply

    Okay, I’ll admit to not having seen Black Cadillac but since when has Randy Quaid done a decent movie?! 🙂 I’ll take your word for it, but I sense a guarded recommendation there!

    As for the rest of your choices – can’t fault them as usual. Duel is incredible, set Spielberg up perfectly for Jaws, and Joy Ride (aka Road Rage) needs to be seen by more people.

    The Hitcher is very scary thanks to Rutger Hauer’s brilliant performance. Another “b-movie” worth seeing.

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      Dan Reply

      Totally agree about Rutger Hauer’s performance – spine-tingling.

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      Dan Reply

      Joy Ride = Roadkill (UK title on original release) not “Road Rage”! 😉

      • Avatar
        CineGirl Reply

        Whoopsie! 😉

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    ArchE Reply

    Ah, some strangely very “good” drivers on this list. I mean, without David Mann’s skill or endeavour in Spielberg’s Duel he’d surely be a dead man. Meanwhile, Cunningham’s ability to do things with “Christine” while sat at home in bed is truly miraculous.

    Nice list, sir.

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      Dan Reply

      Haha – yes, some “skilled” drivers on show – definitely.

      You know Christine was possessed – right? 😉 🙂 😉

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    davey boy Reply

    Love Joy Ride. One of the best modern thrillers ever made and totally frightening.

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      Dan Reply

      Joy Ride – a dark and scary celebration of the fading light of CB radios! 🙂

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    Micheal Peters Reply

    Good to see Dead End. A good, little-seen indie horror with a great cast and some nice humour.

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      Dan Reply

      That was my left-field choice in some ways. A small independent horror with a very basic idea and execution, but very well made in my opinion.

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    Pilen Reply

    There’s plenty of road rage in Cannonball Run but I understand why you wouldn’t put it on ANY top 10! 🙂

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      Dan Reply

      Cannonball Run 2, one of the few times a sequel is better than the original, might have made the list if I could have included 20, or maybe 30!

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    Michael Scoates Reply

    I’m quite glad that ‘Speed’ didn’t make it into the top 10. Duel is one of my favourites, I’ll throw in Death Race 2000, I was only 12 or so when I first saw it, so of course it’s now rose-tinted awesome.

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      Dan Reply

      Nice addition Michael, I think Death Race 2000 would complement the list quite nicely. But like you, Duel is one of my favourite thrillers – I love its simplicity.

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    Daniel Dignan Reply

    Great list. No argument about Duel at number one. Also, great to see Joy Ride and The Hitcher.

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      Dan Reply

      Good to see so many fans of Joy Ride (which was called RoadKill in the UK folks). I’ve always known it as Joy Ride hence why I’ve used that name here.

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    Roger That Reply

    Haven’t seen Black Cadillac in years, do they still show that on TV. Is there even a DVD out there? That Randy Quaid – what a menace2

    Great list – I do echo Michael’s comment about Death Race 2000, probably in place of Black Cadillac.

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      CineGirl Reply

      Looks like it’ss a region 1 DVD purchase for me then…

    • Avatar
      Dan Reply

      There certainly is a DVD out there – and it’s available in the UK on region 2 as well. Just search on

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    Georgie Reply

    Only an honorable mention for Jeepers Creepers – it’s ace!

    • Avatar
      Dan Reply

      And Number 2 is good too! Unfortunately, I couldn’t find a place for either in my top 10.

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    Martin Iversen Reply

    It’s a shame 60% of Death Proof doesn’t need to be there otherwise it’d be a great film – maybe a 30min version could be cut? Good list though.

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      Dan Reply

      It’s my biggest criticism of the film but somehow Tarantino makes it work with some terrific action sequences (indeed, some of the best work he’s ever done).

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    Lemony Reply

    nice list dan, Duel is one of Spielberg’s best.

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      Dan Reply

      Thanks Lemony.

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    Callum Reply

    Haven’t seen as many films from this list as I’d like. Duel is one of them I’m sad to say. I did however see Joy Ride a few years ago and thought it was a tense thriller that lost its edge towards its finale. I really like Jeepers Creepers though.

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      Dan Reply

      Joy Ride is an excellent film – it uses the “unseen” villain motif really well.

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    Horlicks Reply

    Popeye’s street race in The French Connection might nudge its way onto this list given his obvious “rage”. Nice top 10 though.

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      Dan Reply

      Yeah, great sequence. Definitely unforgettable.

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    jackdeth72 Reply

    Cheers, Dan:

    Great list and thumbnails!

    Having owned a 1957 black Caddy with bullet bumpers and chrome everywhere. There’s no way to describe the feeling of invincibility when driving. Kind of like blaring Wagner’s ‘Ride of The Valkyrie’ while putting an Abrams tank or Bradley Fighting Vehicle through its paces at Maryland’s Aberdeen Proving Grounds.

    So, great choice with ‘Black Cadillac’. Also got a kick out of clean cut, flawless outlined hole ‘The Car’ made when plowing through a trailer home!

    ‘Christine’ rocks! But, I expect no less from John Carpenter. While ‘Death Proof’ is an all over the made ode to ‘Faster, Pussycat. Kill! Kill!’ and ‘Switchblade Sisters’.

    • Avatar
      Dan Reply

      Thank you Jack.

      What a wonderful possession it must have been to have a Caddy! In the UK, you only see them in specialist museums or car shoes! They are a thing of legend for me!

      Yes, that hole in the house from The Car! It does stretch your ability to suspend disbelief but it’s pure exploitation and, for me, that’s it charm.

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    Ted S. Reply

    Lol, The Car, that’s a pure 70s “horror” fun flick. Definitely love the inclusion of Duel and The Hitcher on the top 2. Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior, that’s just pure action masterpiece and it will always be #1 on my list of car chases.

    • Avatar
      Dan Reply

      Thanks Ted. Mad Max 2 tops your list of car chases ahead of that amazing sequence in William Friedkin’s To Live and Die In L.A.?

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        Ted S. Reply

        I enjoyed To Live and Die in LA’s chase but I didn’t think it’s that memorable compare Friedkin’s other chase in The French Connection. To me The Road Warrior sets the standard for spectacle big car chases. For example, Cameron pretty much modeled his chases in The Terminator films after what Miller did.

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    Rory Fish Reply

    Big soft spot for Duel. In my opinion, it’s one of Spielberg’s finest pieces of work – up there with Close Encounters, Jaws, ET, etc. The Hitcher and Joy Ride are both excellent but I’d push Mad Max 2 and Jeepers Creepers further up the list. Shame there wasn’t a spot available for Jeepers Creepers 2!

    • Avatar
      Dan Reply

      I’d suggest Spielberg learned a lot from the production of Duel. It was a big chance for him, albeit initially made only for TV. Importantly he grasped the opportunity to make something very cinematic out of limited production means. It also showed him how he could make a villain exceptionally scary without giving him/it a face, personality or reason. Many of things that made Jaws so terrific.

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    Yen Zunotta Reply

    yayy.. Black Cadillac and Joy Ride are on the list! I love these movies very much. I think I m gonna watch Dead End and Duel. I haven’t watched it yet lol. Thanks for sharing 🙂

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