Science is becoming increasingly international in terms of breaking down walls in its pursuit of high impact. Despite geographical location and distance still being major barriers for scientific collaboration, little is known about whether high-impact collaborations are similarly constrained by geography compared to collaborations of average impact. To address this question, we analyze Web of Science (WoS) data on international collaboration between global leader cities in science production. We report an increasing intensity of international city-city collaboration and find that average distance of collaboration of the strongest connections has slightly increased, but distance decay has remained stable over the last three decades. However, high-impact collaborations span large distances by following similar distance decay. This finding suggests that a larger geographical reach of research collaboration should be aimed for to support high-impact science. The creation of the European Research Area (ERA) represents an effective action that has deepened intracontinental research collaborations and the position of the European Union (EU) in global science. Yet, our results provide new evidence that global scientific leaders are not sufficiently collaborative in carrying out their big science projects.