When the season’s over and there are no rallies left to watch, a motorsport fan can always entertain themselves with some good films about racing and speed. During the past year, we’ve brought a few to your attention and now is a great time to revisit the whole list.
There are many ways to look at racing and humankind’s eternal desire for speed. You can turn it into a drama of great men battling each other and the odds, of danger and even death (especially if you look at the old days of automobile racing), or you can make it into a spectacle of pure speed and the art of perfect car control. You can also make a feel-good movie for kids and families that will not only make for great entertainment, but can tell a lot about racing and history as well. Or you can forget about cars and just pick a story of an old man relentlessly pursuing his dream of being faster than anyone else.
The eight films on this list range from an epic story about glorious Formula 1 racing in the 1960s, to a kids’ animated movie about NASCAR and the old days of Route 66, to a stunning depiction of a rally legend dancing his car towards the clouds in one of the most dangerous hillclimbs of the world. Then, there’s a story of an old man with an old motorcycle, going for the speed record.
Whether you have just five minutes of spare time or an afternoon to spend with your family, we’ve got something to suit you (click to the title to read more about the film)!
Let’s start with the shortest one. If you haven’t seen Ari Vatanen’s breathtaking dance up the Pikes Peak, it’s time to do so now. It’s just five minutes long, but it will stay in your memory forever. And remember – it was shot before GoPro cameras and drones. This was all done with film. And with helicopters.
Got ten more minutes? Then we’ll take you on a date. Or, to be more a precise, a drive to a date. This short “story” about a man driving through Paris to meet his date would be really tedious – had he not driven crazy fast, and had it not been filmed in real traffic…
After a crazy ride through Paris it’s time to spend some quality time with your children. Maybe you’ll spark their interest in fast cars and racing if you show them the story of Herbie, the sentient Volkswagen Beetle that loves to race.
While we’re talking kids’ movies, we must’t forget Cars. This time, it’s not about a sentient car in a humans’ world – here we have a whole world populated by cars. While your kids cheer for Lightning McQueen and his pals, you might learn something about automotive history, or enjoy the part where Paul Newman (who was a great racer in addition to being a great actor) as Doc Hudson teaches the young racecar to drive sideways.
A bit of an unknown legend, the 1966 film Grand Prix, directed by John Frankenheimer, is an epic look at the old days of Formula 1. In its almost three hours of running time, it offers one of the most realistic depictions of the highest-level motorsport of it the time. Besides stunning shots of real formula cars, you can enjoy a great cast, including Yves Montand and James Garner.
Steve McQueen wasn’t the only famous actor associated with racing, nor was he the most successful one. Still, his racing background helped him create one of the greatest – and most realistic – racing movies ever made. Most of the racing footage was shot during the real Le Mans race and the result is spectacular.
The latest addition to the genre, Rush depicts the rivalry between two greats of late 1970s Formula 1 – “bad boy” James Hunt, and professor-like Austrian driver Niki Lauda. The story of the 1976 season is one of the most interesting you will find in the history of motorsport. Even though the film was made decades after the original events, with no possibility of using real race footage, the filmmakers have managed to achieve an exceptional level of realism.
To finish our list, we have added one film that isn’t actually about cars. However, the story of Burt Munro, the motorcycle racer from New Zealand who completely rebuilt his Indian motorcycle into a record-breaking machine and managed to get to Bonneville Salt Flats against all odds, will be endearing to anyone who ever felt the need for speed.