21 April 2021

Top Classic Racing Films

Over the years there have been some fantastic racing films, featuring some of the best cars and motorbikes tearing up the track (or even street) seeking new fame and fortune. Today we have put together some of the best classic racing films for you to enjoy.

1. Cannonball Run (1981)

This cross-country car race is an absolute gem and features all of the craziness and wild antics that you would expect of the ’80s. The film features an all-star cast including Burt Reynolds, Roger Moore, Jackie Chan and Dom Deluise. The concept of the film is simple; a number of race teams have assembled in Connecticut with the goal of reaching the finish line first. It sounds simple, but as the cars evade police, adopt superhero identities and get embroiled in kidnapping, it becomes a bit more complicated and a lot more fun.

2. Vanishing Point (1971)

Road movies have long been a staple of cinematic history. The narrative of an individual setting out on a long journey and coming back a different person is something that fundamentally appeals to almost everyone, and is something that most drivers will appreciate. The Vanishing point is a fantastic example of this.

A car delivery driver named Kowalski, played by Barry Newman, accepts a bet to drive 1,200 miles from Colorado to San Francisco in just under 24 hours. Unlike ‘Cannonball Run’ the ensuing road race between Kowalski and the pursuing police, as he speeds through towns in his 1970 Dodge Challenger R/T 440 Magnum, is both enthralling and thought-provoking. The film is touted as being representative of a post-Woodstock mood in the US, but the antidisestablishment themes and feeling of disempowerment is something which many will relate to in some way.

3. Le Mans (1971)

1971 was a great year for racing movies! This one depicted 24 Hours of the Le Mans auto race. The film is a fictional reconstruction, but uses actual footage from the 1970 race and stars Steve McQueen. The film didn't do fantastically at the box office at the time but has since become a fan favourite of many drivers around the world due to its realistic portrayal of professional racing at the time. For fans of high adrenaline racing, this is a must-watch.

4. On Any Given Summer (1971)

Completing our triathlon of excellent films released in 1971 is ‘On Any Given Summer’. This American documentary shows the various personalities and skills required of a number of different motorcycle racers. Instead of just focusing on one aspect of motorcycle racing, director Bruce Brown chose to explore desert racers, motocross racers and Grand National racers. The documentary was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Documentary and is one of the best films around for not only exploring the exhilarating world of competitive motorbike racing but the people involved in it.

5. Le Mans 66 (2019)

Newer onto the scene, Matt Damon and Christian Bale star in Le Mans ‘66, the remarkable true story of the American car designer Carroll Shelby and the fearless British driver Ken Miles, who together battle to build a revolutionary race car for Ford Motor Company and take on the dominating race cars of Enzo Ferrari at the 24 Hours of Le Mans in France in 1966.

6. Grand Prix (1966)

‘Grand Prix’ was one of the top-grossing films of its release year, won three Academy Awards and featured cameos from Formula One champions including Phil Hill, Graham Hill, Juan Manuel Fangio, Jim Clark, Jochen Rindt and Jack Brabham. It is easy then to understand why ‘Grand Prix’ is one of the top racing films for car lovers today. There is often competition between this film and ‘Le Mans’ between car enthusiasts, and where the other impresses with its accuracy and dedication to an accurate portrayal of the race, ‘Grand Prix’ dazzles with camera effects and spectacle which were groundbreaking at the time. The story itself ties everything together as it focuses on a number of characters taking part in a Formula One season. 

7. Love Bug (1969)

Although a Disney film, Love Bug is a classic that no petrolhead can deny. Racecar driver Jim Douglas and his mechanic, Tennessee Steinmetz, find themselves in possession of a white Volkswagen Beetle that has a mind and spirit of its own. Calling the car Herbie, Jim and Tennessee become the talk of California’s racing crowd -- much to the annoyance of sports-car dealer Peter Thorndyke, who tries to sabotage the friends and their car.

8. Days of Thunder (1990)

In the fast-paced world of NASCAR, a rivalry brews between rookie hotshot Cole Trickle and veteran racer Rowdy Burns. When both of them are seriously injured in competition, the former bitter rivals become close friends. With Cole's spirits restored, Cole decides to race Rowdy's car in the Daytona 500 against underhanded newcomer Russ Wheeler. Tom Cruise stars in this epic racing film.

9. Senna (2011)

This documentary-style film beautifully illustrates the events of Aryton Senna’s life to lead him to be a three-time Formula One racing champion. From his early kart races and his first world championship to his controversial clash with Prost at Suzuka in 1990 and his fatal accident at Imola in 1994. The film relies on real-life footage of Senna over the years, so you get an accurate representation of the events that unfolded. 

10. Rush (2013)

Rush is a biographical sports film that centres on the fierce rivalry between two Formula One drivers, the British James Hunt and Austrian Niki Lauda during the 1976 Formula One season. Hunt and Lauda burn up the track, all the while pushing themselves to the breaking point of physical and mental endurance to win. Chris Hemsworth and Daniel Brühl star.

These are just a few of our favourite classic racing films. There are some amazing ones out there, so make sure to let us know any films we have missed. Also, be sure to tell us which racing films are your favourite when you want to sit on the sofa and feel the need for speed!


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How could you leave out two lane black top?

Keith, 06/11/2020

Great idea , well done

Stewie, 06/11/2020

What about The Italian job and Bullet

Jfs , 06/11/2020