Popcorn double feature: Seven of our favourite car movies

by Nik Berg
27 May 2020 3 min read
Popcorn double feature: Seven of our favourite car movies
20th Century Fox

Let’s not open that internet tinderbox called “The best car movie ever made” where Bullitt fans rage against Fast and Furious franchisees and Bourne takes on Bond. Instead, here are six suggestions for motor movies from different genres to entertain you. All you have to do is find a quiet couple of hours without interruption, grab some popcorn and enjoy an escape to another place.

Watch it for the A-list cast: Le Mans 66 (2019)

With Matt Damon as Carol Shelby, Christian Bale as Ken Miles and John Bernthal as Lee Iacocca, Le Mans 66 (also known as Ford vs Ferrari) is Hollywood’s latest attempt at taking on a motor racing legend. If you can forgive the historical inaccuracies and clichés, then this is the most watchable racing film since Rush. The headline trio are true to their characters and the racing action is filmed with a dedication to putting the viewer into the race car that hasn’t been seen since McQueen’s Le Mans.

Watch it for the car chases: Ronin (1998)

Director John Frankenheimer hired former racer Jean-Pierre Jarrier to co-ordinate the incredible chase sequences of this classic heist movie. There’s no CGI, no slow-motion, just real, fast car action, from the man who also directed Grand Prix. With a brilliant selection of modern classics from the Audi S8 to the Peugeot 405 and Citroen ZX police cars driven by no less than 300 stunt drivers during the final Paris car chase, even 20 years on Ronin is hard to beat.

Watch it for the fear: Christine (1983)

Put Stephen King and John Carpenter together and you get the scariest car movie ever made. In 1957 a Plymouth Fury kills someone even as it is being built on the construction line. Some 20 years later the rusting remains of “Christine” are resurrected by geeky teen Arnie Cunningham. As he restores the car Arnie becomes more and more arrogant, much to the horror of his girlfriend Leigh and best pal Dennis. The pair discover Christine’s dark history and plot to destroy it, but the car has other ideas. Yes, it’s pretty dated and a little cheesy, but there are moments of real tension in this imaginative tale.

Watch it to remember why we ride and drive: On Any Sunday (1971)

“It’s the free-spirited, shaggy-haired, helmet-optional, no-padding, sunshiny 70’s classic biker movie,” says the puff about On Any Sunday. Watch Bruce Brown’s 1971 film that follows motorcycle racers and enthusiasts, including Steve McQueen, and you’ll appreciate it’s not puff, it’s true. The feelgood vibe shouldn’t come as a surprise. Brown had previously scored a hit with the surf documentary, The Endless Summer, and his style carries across into On Any Sunday. If you’ve ever wanted to understand why anyone would ride or race a motorcycle, this is the film for you.

Watch it for the laughs: Talladega Nights, The Ballad of Ricky Bobby (2006)

Ricky Bobby (Will Ferrell) has it all – NASCAR trophies, a trophy wife and loyal teammate Cal (John C Reilly). But when gay French Formula One Driver Jean Girard (Sacha Baron Cohen) arrives on the scene to challenge him, everything soon falls apart in hilarious fashion. Ferrell and Reilly are a well-established double act and throwing Baron Cohen into the mix spices things up even further. This is Days of Thunder meets Step Brothers and is easily the funniest racing moving ever made. Shake and Bake!

Watch it for the opening sequence: Baby Driver (2017)

For Ronin John Frankenheimer refused to add music to the car chases, but Edgar Wright’s Baby Driver was choreographed around the soundtrack. And it hits you right from the start as Ansel Elgort (Baby) – who was trained to do some of the stunt driving – gets behind the wheel of a Subaru Impreza WRX in the most amazing opening car chase to the sound of Bellbottoms by the John Spencer Blues Explosion. No dialogue, just five minutes of sideways, smoking, Subaru action. And that’s only the beginning.

Watch it for the crazy cars and explosive stunts: Mad Max Fury Road

The Mad Max franchise may have lost its way a bit by the time it reached the Thunderdome. But George Miller’s 2015 take on the original road warrior is simply epic. The sheer scale of the desert chases, the imagination that went into the vehicles from Imperator Furiosa’s (Charlize Theron) rig to the sound-system truck with its flame-thrower guitar-wielding loon suspended on bungees. Tom Hardy (Max) is moodily silent throughout most of the film, but in a movie that’s all about the motor mayhem that’s probably a bonus.

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