Top Car Movies

by Feb 22, 2024Uncategorized

Top Car Movies – 

I distributed a list that grew to 81 entries for “Top Car Movies”, or top auto racing/car/motorcycle movies to a number of COM members and friends, and asked them to select their Top Ten (or fewer) movies, using whatever criteria they wanted. Responses were returned from eight (myself, Max Allers, Juan Nazario, Randy Williams, Dave Olufson, Shawn and Jan Hanna, Ron and Susan Marks, and Wally Mahlum). A total of 63 votes were included in the tally.

Here are the results:
Tied for First place, with 5 votes each, were:
A. Vanishing Point (1971), with Barry Newman as Kowalski, Cleavon Little as DJ “Super Soul”, a 1970 white Dodge Challenger. Music by Kim Carnes, Delaney & Bonnie, Mountain. Based on a driver who (Kowalski) who bets he can drive from Colorado to California in under 15 hours, with the price of his latest purchase of amphetamines as the wager. Five Challengers were used in the filming, and none survived as complete cars to the current time.

B. LeMans (1971), with Steve McQueen as Michael Delaney, driving for Porsche, including footage from the 1970 LeMans 24 Hour Race. The classic Porsche-Ferrari battle for the win in the 24 hour endurance race.

C. Ford vs. Ferrari (2019), with Matt Damon as Carroll Shelby and Christian Bale as driver Ken Miles. Based on the 1963 corporate battle between Ferrari (Enzo Ferrari) and Ford (Lee Iacocca and Henry Ford II) for purchase of Ferrari, and the following development of the Ford Cobra to unseat Ferrari from domination of international endurance racing.

In Second Place, with combined 4 votes:
A. Mad Max (1979) and Mad Max II/Road Warrior (1981), with Mel Gibson as Max Rockatansky, Australian Highway Patrol driver, plus Bruce Spence as the Gyro Captain, and plane pilot. Post-apocalyptic dramas set in Australia, where petroleum products have become extremely valuable, and formal law has broken down, and tribalism among survivors battling lawless rogue desert gangs sets the stage for epic battles.

In Third Place, with 3 votes each:
A. Grand Prix (1966), with James Garner as a Formula 1 driver. Directed by John Frankenheimer, with stunning visuals and a fabulous sound track. Included some real F1 cars and drivers, and locations from the F1 season around the world. Winner of 3 Oscars that year. Some of us saw it in 105 MM Cinerama at the Cooper Theatre! Garner’s personal car was a ’65 Shelby GT 350 Mustang in the movie, and he went on to form a top level Formula Car team.

B. Cars (2006), animation with Owen Wilson as Lightning McQueen and Paul Newman as Doc Hudson. Battle with the young driver and old veteran, plus good vs. evil drivers. And of course, Mater, the tow truck (Larry the Cable Guy). Stock car racing, but the real Paul Newman of course was an SCCA Champion in his BRE Datsun 510 and later other cars, and even was a part-owner of Brainerd International Raceway.

C. Bullitt (1968), with Steve McQueen as Bullitt, driving the Mustang, and Robert Vaughn as his boss. Classic chase scene through San Francisco with the 1968 Mustang and 1969 Dodge Charger. Watch the same VW Bug get passed three times during the chase, and the Charger lose 4 wheel covers during the chase. Lots of airborne shots, too.

D. The Art of Racing in the Rain (2019), based on the Garth Stein novel. Ven Singlia plays the sports car driver, and his dog Enzo (voiced by Kevin Costner) is with him during his whole racing career, and tells the story from the dog’s perspective.

Honorable Mention, with 2 votes each:
A. The Formula One Drivers (1976), Director DuBoc, with Webber, Lauda, Mass, Coulthard, Revson, dedicated to the dozen drivers in Formula 1 who perished in the ’60 and ’70s, with lots of vintage footage from F1 races

B. Rush (2013) with the epic F1 battle between Hunt and Lauda.

C. Rendezvous (1976) short, about 15 minutes, through the streets of Paris at dawn. Stunning in-car footage of a mad dash by the driver to meet his “rendezvous” girl, with amazing sounds of exhaust echoing through the streets of Paris.

D. The Italian Job (1969), original with Michael Caine. Mini Coopers in fantastic driving sequences.

E. Winning (1969), with Paul Newman. The movie role that got Newman hooked on racing.

F. The French Connection (1971), with Gene Hackman and Roy Scheider. Amazing chase scenes from detective Popeye Doyle chasing a drug smuggler through the streets.

G. Ronin (1998) with Robert DeNiro and Jean Reno, again great chase scenes.

Another 19 films received one vote each: Dirty Mary and Crazy Larry, Blues Brothers, Gone in 60 Seconds (Cage version), Spinout (Elvis), Senna, Cannonball Run, Dust to Glory (Baja 1000), Mad Max Fury Road, Death Race 2000, Smokey and the Bandit, World’s Fastest Indian (motorcycle; Hopkins), Schumacher, Tron, Bourne Supremacy, Man With the Golden Gun.

Truly some great films selected. Some with fantastic cinematography, some with great music, some with good stories, lots of racing and chase sequences, some technical break-through films, and all entertaining. My thanks to those who participated in the survey. See you at the movies!
Don G.

Click on the image below to launch into a series of great movie posters and promos!