Top 10 Racing Movies (Not Including Senna)

Rush roars into theaters everywhere on Friday, and after you see it, you’ll probably light the burner for some more cinematic racing action. But like our own George Kennedy wrote in his review last week, making a good racing movie isn’t easy. The vast majority tend to try and make off-track drama a part of the film, when it’s the on-track material we’re really interested in. (What made Rush unique was that the off-track dialogue actually lived up to the on-track excitement.) The result is usually a mess that neither racing fans, nor girls who like kissing in movie theaters find satisfying.

With that in mind, we’ve chosen ten racing films – other than Senna and Rush, which we imagine everybody that’s ever thought about racing has seen by now – that really hit the mark. Some are fictionalized dramas, some are comedies, some are documentaries, but all of these films really get it right.

World’s Fastest Indian (2005)

A lot more people should’ve seen The World’s Fastest Indian, but many avoided it because they don’t think they like racing, they don’t like motorcycles, or they think going fast in a straight line isn’t racing. Balderdash. See this movie, and better yet, make your significant other see this movie. It’s got everything: Motorcycles, salt flats, Mickey Thompson, a sense of humor, a transvestite, and a crotchety old guy that pees on his flowers. If you come away from this without thinking that the real-life Burt Munro was the coolest old geezer in history, you have a wizened, black caraway seed for a heart.

Le Mans (1971)

Le Mans

I have many problems with Le Mans, but the racing portions of the film are beyond reproach. Lee H. Katzin gets directorial credit for the film, but Steve McQueen bullied and blustered his way behind the lens in almost every racing shot. After the first half-hour, I’d suggest having your thumb on the fast-forward button, because the “story” in the film is crushingly boring, but be that as it may, the racing is as authentic as you’re likely to see anywhere.

Grand Prix (1966)

Grand Prix

Same deal here. Grand Prix is five years older than Le Mans, and it stars Jim Garner, who also went on to race competitively. John Frankenheimer directs, and you can feel his influence in every shot, as the Formula One cars jockey for position in Monaco and elsewhere. Again, the off-track romance is unnecessary and distracting, and it takes away from an otherwise engaging film. Skip that nonsense and stick with the racing and you’ll have a blast.

The Last American Hero (1973)

Last American Hero

The fictionalized account of the life of Junior Johnson, heavily borrowing from Tom Wolfe’s article for Esquire magazine of the same title. The Last American Hero stars a young Jeff Bridges in the title role, as a moonshiner-turned-NASCAR champion. This movie, and the Esquire story it’s based on, accounts for about 95 percent of the urban myth associated with NASCAR racing in its nascent days. It’s a tough film to find now, but it’s well worth watching.

Gumball Rally (1976)

The Gumball Rally is the fictionalized version of Brock Yates’s “Cannonball Baker Sea-to-Shining-Sea Memorial Trophy Dash,” conceived as a protest against the national 55 mile per hour speed limit. Many of the characters in the film are loosely based on real competitors in the rally. For example, pro Trans Am driver Tony (“Tony A-to-Z”) Adamowicz competed with Oscar Koveleski and Brad Neimcek in a Chevy Van that was parodied with a 1971 GMC “Acme Plumbing” van in the film. The entire movie’s a blast. Don’t worry much about plot, continuity or script. That’s not the point.

Dust to Glory (2005)

Dust to Glory

The first of two documentaries on this list. Dust to Glory documents the amazing, largely lawless Baja 1000, and follows the pro trucks driven by the likes of Tony Stewart, along with motorcycles, and the fantastic SCORE Class 11 unmodified VW Beetles. The pre-run sequence with Mario Andretti is pretty much worth the price of entry, but the most exciting racing sequences are those featuring the motorcyclists. Mike McCoy embodies the spirit and determination of the lone privateer, determined to finish the race alone. With nothing but guts and a few bananas, McCoy attempts not only to finish, but to win it outright. The racing footage is unreal, and the DVD extras are just as good as the movie.

On Any Sunday (1971)

On Any Sunday

On Any Sunday was directed by Bruce Brown, the father of Dust to Glory’s director, Dana Brown. It’s stupefying that people who say they like Steve McQueen have never seen this movie. This isn’t Steve McQueen acting in a role. It’s the real Steve McQueen competing in real amateur motorcycle racing events under the assumed name “Harvey Mushman.” Along the way, you meet the young versions of motorcycle racing legends like Mert Lawwill, J.N. Roberts and Malcolm Smith, who is about as engaging as any character ever filmed.

Greased Lightning (1977)

Another true-to-life version of a story of a NASCAR competitor, Greased Lighting is the fictionalized story of Wendell Scott, the first black stock car driver to win a NASCAR Grand National race. Scott is portrayed by Richard Pryor in 1977, at the height of Pryor’s career. Other notable cast members include Pam Grier, (the title character in Quentin Tarantino’s Jackie Brown), Cleavon Little (the sheriff in Blazing Saddles, and the blind DJ “Super Soul” in Vanishing Point), and a brief acting appearance by Richie Havens. Along with the fun dirt-track racing footage, and later scenes from NASCAR’s greatest era, it’s also an indication of Pryor’s acting chops in a fairly dramatic role.

Winning (1969)

Winning

This is the forgotten member of the triumvirate of great racing movies that inspired their stars to race professionally. Paul Newman starred in this movie and never spent any time in a race car prior to its filming. After this film, he spent as much time racing as he did acting. It literally changed his life. Pretty much every brand of racing is represented here, from Indy cars to Can-Am to NASCAR and everything in-between. Even Paul Newman’s love interest – his wife, Joanne Woodward – seems authentic enough. Its’ a cross-section of all the racing going on in the late 1960s.

Days of Thunder (1990)

Days of Thunder

Oh, boy, we can hear the comments coming in already. This movie has more haters than fans, but Days of Thunder has aged better than you’d expect. It would’ve been better to cast…well, anyone other than Tom Cruise in the lead role, and again, we’re saddled with a sappy love story, but the racing is actually pretty decent. And how can you not love erstwhile presidential candidate Fred Thompson cursing like a truck driver, or Robert Duvall as Harry Hogge with the quote “He didn’t slam you, he didn’t bump you, he didn’t nudge you. He rubbed you. And rubbin’, son, is racin’.”

Image Credit: www.unionjalisco.mx, IMCdB.com, theselvedgeyard.com

Most Viewed

  • Dum Laga Ke Haisha: Bhumi Pednekar’s Journey From An Assistant To A Heroine
    Dum Laga Ke Haisha: Bhumi Pednekar’s Journey From An Assistant To A Heroine

    After Parineeti, it’s Bhumi Pednekar, who is the new heroine.Weighing 85 kgs, she is obviously here to change the way we look at heroines.Rani Mukherji was at YRF recently where she saw portions of the film starring Bhumi.Rani was amazed to see the confidence and screen presence Bhumi had and asked the team to inform her whenever she is around as she personally wanted to meet Bhumi. In fact, Bhumi was also looking into the casting for Maardani and that’s when she had interacted with Rani …

  • Nawazuddin Siddqui Thinks Being Compared To Irrfan Khan Is Insulting!
    Nawazuddin Siddqui Thinks Being Compared To Irrfan Khan Is Insulting!

    We had recently reported that Irrfan Khan actually walked out of an interview when questioned about colleague Nawazuddin Siddiqui. The two have been constantly compared ever since Nawazuddin started delivering stellar performances and it is important to note that Irrfan is much more senior that Siddiqui. We now hear that Nawazuddin, who garnered a lot of acclaim for his role in Badlapur is not too happy about the comparisons either. …

  • Shah Rukh Khan Comments On Salman Khan’s Bigg Boss And Aamir Khan’s Satyamev Jayate
    Shah Rukh Khan Comments On Salman Khan’s Bigg Boss And Aamir Khan’s Satyamev Jayate

    At a press conference for his new TV game show ‘India Poochega – Sabse Shaana Kaun‘, Shah Rukh Khan was asked why he does question-answer sort of shows, to which SRK said that he likes doing that sort of TV shows. The actor went further on and gave his views on the other different shows like Salman Khan‘s Bigg Boss and Aamir Khan‘s Satyamev Jayate, SRK said, “I think they are all wonderful. “I have never been offered Bigg Boss, I’ve not been offered those shows. …

  • Gautam Gulati’s New Found Love
    Gautam Gulati’s New Found Love

    Bigg Boss 8 contestant Gautam Gulati received a lot of love from his female fan following. After winning the Bigg Boss 8 trophy as a winner, he created more buzz on social media as well as amongst female fan following. Gautam Gulati calls his fan following as Ggians and he usually stays updated and in touch with them on social media websites. Among all the messages, Gautam Gulati received a heart warming letter from one of his fan named Yashvi Jangid. …

  • Gautam Gulati’s New Look!
    Gautam Gulati’s New Look!

    Bigg Boss 8 has surely brought out the hidden star out of Telly actor Gautam Gulati. From the day he has made his entry in Bigg Boss 8 house as a contestant, he has made his fan followers go crazy. Ultimately Gautam became the winner of Bigg Boss 8. From the day he has come out as a winner from Bigg Boss house, he is seen attending parties, events and shows. …

  • Who Is Twinkle Khanna’s Daughter Nitara Buying Flowers For?
    Who Is Twinkle Khanna’s Daughter Nitara Buying Flowers For?

    Proud parents Akshay Kumar and Twinkle Khanna never got their daughter Nitara Khanna Bhatia publicly. In 2012, during the death Anniversary of Rajesh Khanna that was the first time 10 month old Nitara was clicked by the shutterbugs. Nitara looked cute dressed in pink with cute little hair clip accessorized her hair. Later in 2014, during Makar Sankrati, Akshay Kumar celebrated it with his daughter Nitara. …

  • Shah Rukh Khan: I Don’t Like People Smoking Around Me
    Shah Rukh Khan: I Don’t Like People Smoking Around Me

    Bollywood’s King Khan left everyone in a confused state of mind after tweeting a very mysterious picture recently. Shah Rukh Khan tweeted a picture in which we see three images of him, in one image we see him smoking while in other two images, the actor is looking at different sides. At a press conference for his new TV game show ‘India Poochega – Sabse Shaana Kaun‘, SRK explained the whole concept and message that the image is trying to portray. SRK also asked people to not smoke. …

  • Indian Owned Company Wins Oscar For Interstellar
    Indian Owned Company Wins Oscar For Interstellar

    Indian-owned company Prime Focus formed by Namit Malhotra bagged the award for Best Visual Effects for the worldwide hit film Interstellar at this year’s Oscar. Not expecting to win this time Namit Malhotra skipped the Oscars. Namit is the owner of Double Negative, the London-based VFX studio that merged with a subsidiary of Prime Focus in 2014. Double Negative has been involved in Inception, Gravity, and The Amazing Spiderman 2. …

Loading...