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The Way.com guide to the best car movies of all time

  • Cars Explained
  • Renee Martin
  • 6 minutes

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If there’s one medium that’s constantly pushed the boundaries of what a car can do, it’s cinema. Movies and cars go intricately hand-in-hand, and our obsession with four wheels has created some truly enviable feats of filmmaking! Hollywood has churned out some truly entertaining car capers – from heist thrillers and action flicks, to animated and CGI fests. Here is the Way.com guide to the best car movies you should catch if you’re a true motorhead!

The best thing a petrolhead can experience is being behind the wheel of their favorite automobile. The next best thing? Seeing them in action in your favorite flick! Whether tentpole franchises or one-off movies, cars have an irresistible appeal to filmmakers and keep drawing fans in droves. We thought it would only be fair to try and pick out the best of the lot!

Disclaimer: Choosing just 10 from an endless list of amazing car movies was a challenging task. If you don’t find your favorite movie on this list – let’s agree to disagree!  

1. Duel (1971)

Did you know Steven Spielberg’s first time behind the camera was directing this road movie? Technically, calling this just a ‘car movie’ is wrong – it’s more like Jaws on the road! The setting of Duel is simple: a commuter is driving down a California highway in his red Plymouth Variant. However, he soon realizes that he is being pursued by a sinister-looking Peterbilt truck. From there, things take a turn for the worse. The truck driver (unseen throughout the film) terrorizes him and the audience with his menacing driving. You can see where Spielberg got the idea for his iconic great white shark – he already had practice filming a lone predator!

                                                                       

2. Gone in 60 Seconds (1974)

Though millennials may be more familiar with the 2000 remake starring Nicholas Cage, the original Gone in 60 Seconds set the standard for action and car movies in Hollywood. Firstly, an actual stuntman directed the movie. He also featured one of the longest car chase scenes in history, running up to 40 minutes. Oh, and did we mention the whopping 93 cars that were destroyed to film that sequence? For that alone, we’d chalk it up to as one of the best car movies ever made.

3. The Italian Job (1969)

This 1969 classic heist thriller was responsible for driving the demand for Mini Coopers through the roof! Starring Michael Caine in the lead role, this caper film features a gang of thieves who decide to steal gold blocks from an armored security truck. It is most famous for the Mini Cooper chase sequence (which was re-enacted in the 2003 remake).

4. The Fast and The Furious (2001)

The Fast and The Furious popularized the line “I live my life a quarter-mile at a time” and introduced fast cars to a new generation of petrolheads and speed freaks. Starting with this gritty and grounded depiction of illegal street racing in Los Angeles, it has since spawned a nine-movie franchise (and counting). While it’s easy to wonder at the stratospheric heights the franchise has gone to (the last movie has the crew going to SPACE), it always helps to come back and see where it all started – with fast cars, burnt tires, and stolen DVD players.

5. Rush (2013)

This story about the intense competition between two ace drivers in Formula One delivers just what the title promises – a rush of blood to the head! Rush is a cinematic and emotional spectacle set during the height of the rivalry between racers James Hunt and Nikki Lauda. It shows the lengths to which Formula One drivers push themselves and their cars for glory, and the horrific accident that scarred Lauda and put him out of competition for several months. We guarantee it will have you reaching for that box of tissues as much as you wow over the race sequences!

6. Ford vs. Ferrari (2019)

Everyone loves an underdog story. In 1966, automobile behemoth Ford was an underdog on the racing track against reigning champions Ferrari. Ford vs. Ferrari tells the story of how two men – automotive designer Carol Shelby and racer Ken Miles – created an absolute beauty of a car that ultimately beat Ferrari at their own game. The racing sequences are a vision for sore eyes – who can forget the ethereal race to the finish line? Easily one of the best car movies in recent times.

                                                                 

7. Baby Driver (2017)

With a stellar cast and a soundtrack that’s an absolute bop, Baby Driver already ranks as a classic. The protagonist, Baby (yes, that’s his name), is a young getaway driver who works best when tuned into his music. You’ll see his driving involve a lot of close calls and near-misses! The opening chase sequence is easily one of the best car chase sequences in modern cinema. It’s safe to say we came for the insane car stunts but stayed for the soundtrack – and the magnificent acting!

                                                             

8. Speed Racer (2008)

Anyone who’s watched The Matrix franchise knows that when the Wachowski siblings take on a project, people sit up and take notice. As a result, fans went ballistic when they adapted the beloved 1960s Japanese anime franchise Speed Racer for the big screen. True to form, they brought the same gravity-defying and mind-bending gimmicks from The Matrix and used it to amp up the car tricks in Speed Racer’s repertoire! A fun watch for fans of the original manga series.

                                                               

9. Mad Max: Fury Road (2015)

Fury Road is often (and quite rightly) called one of the greatest car movies of all time. It showcases the anarchy and madness of a world where cars are transformed into beastly machines, rigged to survive the harsh terrain of a post-apocalyptic world. Fury Road features high-octane car chases through sand and lightning storms, and almost every other hellish landscape. The cars in this dystopia are fashioned to appear as menacing and dangerous as their drivers!

                                                                 

10. Days of Thunder (1990)

After touching the skies in 1986 with Top Gun, Tom Cruise brought his cinematic self down to the gritty race track with  Days of Thunder. In brief, Cruise plays a talented young driver vying to enter the high-octane, heady world of NASCAR racing. Soon, he catches the eye of a pit crew chief (Robert Duvall), which sends him eventually to the Daytona 500. Watch it for some great performances and an iconic soundtrack (Hans Zimmer, Guns N’Roses, Elton John).

                                                                     

Have a favorite car movie you’d like to include? Tell us what we missed and we’ll include it in one of our upcoming posts! 

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