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10 Best Racing Movies of All Time

Updated July 27, 2018
9 min read

Racing is one of the most adrenaline packed sports in today’s world. The sound of engines revving, the pungent yet pleasing smell of burning rubber as it rubs against the tracks, the picture-perfect finishes, racing has got it all. It’s no surprise that when you combine movies and racing, you are left with a powerful combination. With the help of a bit of artistic license, a story of racing can be turned into moments of pure entertainment. With that said, here is the list of top movies about racing. Most of these are car racing films. You can watch some of these best racing movies on Netflix, Hulu, or Amazon Prime.

10. Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby (2006)

What would happen if you were to pair two of the best comedians working in Hollywood today? Sacha Baron Cohen and Will Ferrell excel in this comical take on NASCAR racing. The amount of improvisational comedy in the film, especially the exchanges between the three leads Cohen, Ferrell and Reilly is obvious as they take hilarious digs at each other throughout the movie. The film does have plenty of fast paced action, muscle cars and massive car crashes but also packs in a large amount of laughs as it unfolds as a parody of NASCAR. The constant pop culture references throughout the film are pure gold and will definitely have you in a hysterical state.

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9. Death Race (2008)

‘Death Race’ is a textbook lesson on how to make a good, solid action film. The movie puts a dark spin on the racing genre. It is set in the future where prisons are getting overcrowded and as a result, inmates are forced to participate in a race to the death where they are allowed to brutalise each other in order to claim victory and freedom. While plot holes are aplenty and the story is practically non-existent, Death Race keeps the audience entertained with explosions and mayhem. Jason Statham plays the wrongly convicted Jensen Ames, who is made to participate in the Death Race. Amongst all the adrenaline filled action, the occasional character development is tossed in with Ames coming across some pseudo-dramatic realisation which are stereotypical to most action movies. The movie stays true to what it is, a high-octane, ridiculously violent action thriller.

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8. The Love Bug (1968)

A true Disney classic. As a matter of fact, this film was one of the last films that Walt Disney had a hand in developing. Sadly, he never lived to see it hit the big screen. In ‘The Love Bug’, we are introduced to ‘Herbie’, a car with a mind of its own which follows Jim (Dean Jones) home after he saves it from being scrapped. A film which has it all, comedy, drama and romance. A film that created the ‘cuteness’ associated with Volkswagen Beetles today. As a matter of fact, the film spawned of a series of sequels with the most recent one being ‘Herbie Fully Loaded’ which released in 2005 starring Lindsay Lohan. A wonderful, feel good film which is best when watched with your family.

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7. The Fast and The Furious (2001)

The first installment in the Fast and Furious series was the only film in the series which revolved around a central theme of ‘racing’. It also happened to be the best film in the series, according to me. The late Paul Walker (May he Rest in Peace) was brilliant, introducing us to Brian O’Connor, an undercover cop on a mission to infiltrate the street racing world. This movie has some of the best car racing scenes ever filmed, as well as the best cars. Petrol-heads will orgasm at the sight of some of the gorgeous machines that the characters ride in the film. Vin Diesel also puts in a solid performance as Dominic Toretto. The action sequences in this film are also well executed, especially the high-speed highjacking of the truck (Although, we’ve seen a very similar scene in almost every installment of the series) by three Honda Civics. The Fast and The Furious does leave you dazed and breathless with its non-stop entertainment.

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6. Two-Lane Blacktop (1971)

This racing classic is one of the most compelling and original American movies of the twentieth century. Shot from the inside of a car, it is an authentic vision of what it is like to be driving across America at a specific historical moment. The film was originally released in 1971 to a less than enthusiastic audience but it has since taken on the status of cult classic and is richly deserved. The movie is about everything and nothing at the same time. It is an exceptionally beautiful and poetic description of a world without possibilities. The chemistry between James Taylor and Dennis Wilson is incredible. The dialogue is kept to a minimal and the film is paced slowly but this only adds to the brilliance of the film.

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5. Grand Prix (1966)

This technically superb film hasn’t aged particularly well but is a great period piece. One of the greatest racing movies of its time, the real stars of this film are the cars, the beautiful ‘F1’ cigar cars of the ’60s with their exposed engines and elegant lines. The film is set in the era before aerodynamics and advertising which changed the look of racing forever. Yes, the plot is cookie-cutter but the performers make it work well enough to not detract from the outrageously realistic action sequences. The groundbreaking cinematography the film employs set the tone for racing films in the coming decades.

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4. The Great Race (1965)

It is rare that a comedy film gets the epic treatment. It’s even more rare to get an epic comedy focused on racing. ‘The Great Race’ is just that, it follows an automobile race across three continents. Jack Lemmon is splendid in this film, I regard his work in the film as his most underrated role. The film is funny, enjoyable and a great tribute to the heyday of silent villains and heroes in a way that doesn’t overdo it. Besides the great slapstick humour, there are a million subtle details that you don’t notice unless you are really paying attention. One of the movie’s several charms is that it draws heavily from Victorian cliches that still linger in the public mind today, gives them a gentle comic spin and then drops them into the tale of an early 1900’s auto race from New York to Paris. The film never sags or has any dull moments. It is downright hilarious from start to finish.

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3. Cars (2006)

It’s difficult to write an article about racing without including the greatest animated racing film of all time. This film, which is now a global phenomenon with a third part en-route, is an absolute delight for all ages. The animation in this film is a class apart, the landscape and settings which portray Southwest USA have captured not only the visuals but also the atmosphere and character of America’s Main Street perfectly. Owen Wilson voices Lightning McQueen, who has grown to become one of the most iconic animated characters this century. The story, along with its intense races packs a message of friendship, which is easily understood by kids and adults alike. The film manages to maintain the humour and sincere emotions which are a trademark of Pixar films, yet, manages to lift the bar with effective storytelling and first-rate animation.

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2. Senna (2010)

Whether you’ve heard of the legend of Ayrton Senna, three time F1 World Championship winner of the year or not, one thing is for sure: ‘Senna’ will take you on an emotional roller coaster. A documentary film which tells the story of the legendary driver who met with a fatal accident in 1994. A flawless documentary with a perfect narrative, the film almost seems like fiction at times with the dramatic yet subtle ways it unfolds. You see Senna as a true, consistent human being, who did what he loved and was the best at it, who grew up poverty stricken in Brazil. The well-arranged archive footage lets you be closer to a great man who loved and lived for a passion, who had errors and fought against them and who taught us a great lesson of attitude and coherence. The background score by Antonio Pinto is an enthralling and sensual delight, complementing this cinematic masterpiece.

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1. Rush (2013)

An epic. The ultimate tale about sporting rivalries and Formula One racing. The intense, merciless rivalry between James Hunt and Niki Lauda in the ’70s has been immortalised in this tale for the ages. Bolstered by a pulsating soundtrack by Hans Zimmer,  Chris Hemsworth and Daniel Bruhl produce what are arguably career-best performances, Hemsworth as James Hunt, the fun partyholic with his brash and raw driving talent and Bruhl as Niki Lauda, a more restrained man, who is a methodical thinker and leads a professional lifestyle. The stark contrasts between these personalities is explored in this film which can also be called a ‘commentary on human nature’. The remarkable cinematography which portrays a gritty backdrop with dark and grey colours gives the entire film a tough 1970’s aesthetic. Watch out for the track ‘Lost but Won’ by Hans Zimmer in this film, it is my favourite piece of music from the man.

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