Journal: These Are the Top Ten Car Movies of All Time

These Are the Top Ten Car Movies of All Time

Benjamin Shahrabani By Benjamin Shahrabani
August 29, 2014
46 comments

On Monday we asked you what the best car movie was, where the automotive talent or cars used in the film overshadowed their human counterparts. Not all of you stuck to the question asked, precisely speaking. There are countless number of films that could fit into a definition of “car movie,” so we received many, many differing answers.

But there was some consensus amongst you about what your favorites were, and as a bonus, a few of you volunteered some very cool-sounding films we were not aware of so we’ll be checking those out in the future (does anyone have a US copy of Carnapping?).

Without further ado, we’re reporting back in the spirit that you took the question. Here’s what you came up with, so don’t blame us if you don’t agree!

#10 Rush (2013)–The Hollywood version of the 1976 Formula One battle between Messrs. Niki Lauda and James Hunt. A movie with an amazing story (made that much better because it’s based on reality) and an incredible cast, both of cars and actors. While they used CG as little as possible, we’re of the opinion that less computer animation would’ve helped.

#9 Two-Lane Blacktop (1971)–A story that combines the social zeitgeist of its time period and a road movie. Two men, one the driver, and the other a mechanic, traverse the country in search of cars to drag race in their ’55 Chevy, resplendent in primer grey. The movie focuses on the journey across the states, embodying an existential outlook on life through drag racing. The characters appear to be drifting along through meaningless society thanks largely due to the Vietnam War deeming them outcasts, having never fully assimilated to life without war.

#8 Cannonball Run (1981)–Inspired by Mr. Brock Yates’s race, the Cannonball Baker Sea-To-Shining-Sea Memorial Trophy Dash, a smorgasbord of movie stars race from coast to coast in the film version of the real-life run. The first one there wins. Hijinx with Burt Reynolds, Roger Moore, Farrah Fawcett, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr, Jackie Chan, Peter Fonda, and so on and so forth, ensue. The real star? A Lamborghini Countach, of course.

#7 Bullitt (1968)–Mr. Steve McQueen plays Frank Bullitt, a cop on the hunt for the mob enforcers who killed a witness. He drives a green Ford Mustang Fastback in case anyone doesn’t remember and duels with a baddies in a Dodge Charger over the hills of San Francisco. His car was so iconic that many years later, Ford released a “Bullitt”-edition Mustang.

#6 The Italian Job (1969)–The original, mind you. Mr. Michael Caine leads a motley crew on a caper to steal a load of gold in Torino. The film helped popularize the Mini internationally (and has some great Mini chase sequences), but the opening scene features a Lamborghini Muira powering through the alps.

#5 C’était Un Rendezvous (1976)–This short film by Claude LeLouch speeds us through the streets of Paris in real-time on an early morning to meet with the protagonist’s girlfriend. The concept, execution, and style are as amazing as the footage. The soundtrack is pure Ferrari, but the movie car is said to be a Mercedes 450SEL 6.9. But everything else is real.

#4 Ronin (1998)–In this film directed by Mr. John Frankenheimer, Mr. Robert DeNiro plays an undercover CIA agent trying to get close to a member of the IRA. John directed all the numerous chase sequences and insisted that no computerized effects be used. And it’s the chases that make this such a compelling car movie (which is why a number of you chose it). A Mercedes 450SEL 6.9, and Audi S8 are two of the films stars. But if you watch closely, you’ll notice some of the Citroëns in the chases get swapped in and out (look for different grilles).

#3 Senna (2010)–The only documentary on the list. It’s easy to say that this film could be about any gone-too-soon Formula One driver. But that’s not true. Mr. Ayrton Senna was the last F1 driver to die during a race and as a triple-World Champion, one of its brightest stars. The movie is a fascinating progression that follows him through his climb up GP’s ladder until his untimely death, and the legacy that he left. Whether you’re a fan of Formula One, or Ayrton, it is a sobering, beautiful tribute both to him and the sport.

#2 Le Mans (1971)–Another Steve McQueen film. This time he plays a racing driver trying to win the 24 Hours of Le Mans. Unlike many other “car movies” Le Mans has a plot, however the look and feel of the film is almost documentary. Steve and the rest of the cast don’t speak for the first thirty-seven minutes. Enjoy the wonderful sounds of the soundtrack. This movie is part of the canon for Petrolisti.

And finally, #1… Grand Prix (1966)– No other movie captures the glamour and danger of the “Golden Age” of Formula One, like Grand Prix. During an era when a racing driver had a good chance of being maimed or killed in any given race, it’s the story of the fictional 1966 GP season. Of particular note is its original racing cinematography that transformed the genre. You must see this movie to understand the genre’s real starting point. Enjoy!

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46 Comments on "These Are the Top Ten Car Movies of All Time"

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Cliff Claven
Cliff Claven

Petrolicious, shame on you. How could you compile a Top 10 list of car movies and omit “American Graffiti”…? IMO, this is far and away the biggest omission in your list.

“The Cannonball Run” was a smouldering turd. “The Gumball Rally” was a far better movie, and should’ve made the list in its place (as others have said).

And as terrific as the car chases were in “Bullitt” and “Ronin”, neither film was really a car movie. You could’ve used those places for something else, like “Vanishing Point”.

Aurel Vicentiu
Aurel Vicentiu

LeLouche, Rendezvous,…
He use the Merc because the weight of the camera and the story behind the film is superbe, illegal, dangerous…
Read all about it !
What’s wrong with Vanishing Point ?
Just asking!.

ThePorscheMan
ThePorscheMan

What drug addled mind came up with this group and ranking? The Gumball Rally is FAR superior to Cannonball, Rendezvous is actually fake/crap, Bullitt should be ahead of Ronin and BOTH should be ahead of LeMans. Dang… dang… DOUBLE dang!

Don’t drink and choose car movies.

ra168e
ra168e
I can’t get with Rush. racing scenes too phony. it was a nice try. how about something like Bobby Deerfield instead? good old 70s film with Al Pacino playing an F1 racer. also agree with the commenter who nominated Speed Merchants but I think that and some others mentioned are more documentaries than feature films, if that’s the line we’re following here. But maybe it’s not – “Senna” is on here. when it comes to Senna I actually prefer my old VHS tapes of “Racing is in my blood” and “A star named Ayrton Senna” which feature extensive interview footage… Read more »
Raff
Raff

Polish version of the Bullit poster rulez!

Son of stig
Son of stig

and what the heck…..MAD freaking MAX

Son of stig
Son of stig

There’s 6 Fast and Furious films you missed

ThePorscheMan
ThePorscheMan

NObody missed that crap.

Paul Thompson
Paul Thompson

I don’t believe anyone has sat all the way through Le Mans without going to sleep. It’s impossible…

Adam Kerr
Adam Kerr

I love just about every movie on this list. For fun, though, whenever someone names [i]Bullitt[/i] as one of the best car films ever, ask them to summarize the plot. I’d say 9 out of 10 have never actually seen anything except the car chase.

B.Adrian
B.Adrian

Speed Merchants has to be on this list. It is the soul and foundation of it all.

Todd Cox
Todd Cox

How in the world did Dust to Glory fail to make this list?

Charles Leach
Charles Leach

I would agree with much of this list, however, Gumball Rally is a glaring omission. I would expect it in the top 5.

BlueBug
BlueBug

I can’t believe you didn’t include “Vanishing Point” or “The Driver”

Jono51
Jono51

Can’t argue with ‘Grand Prix’ and ‘Le Mans’ – everything else is I think pretty much a matter of taste and I’m sorry to see that “Climb Dance” didn’t make the list – much better than ‘C’etait un rendezvous’.

Steve Gravelle
Steve Gravelle

Two Lane Blacktop deserves to be much higher – top three, probably. The locations are terrific – the film was shot on a small budget and on the run, basically retracing the characters’ route across rural America in the early ’70s. And I’d take Vanishing Point or Duel over Cannonball Run any day.

Jon
Jon

I can’t believe Cannonball Run made the list but Gumball Rally didn’t.

Susan Gratien
Susan Gratien

Well if documentaries are included: Love the Beast.

………….. and the first 15 minutes of The Transporter

cml
cml

Oh nooo! I consider myself a petrolhead, and that film was a disaster – boring and self appreciating Bana, who could possibly wank of over his car and himself. Ghh, never again

Metric Wrench
Metric Wrench

Occasionally, I play the audio of first five race minutes of either LeMans or Grand Prix. And I’m OK for a few more months.

ae
ae

surprised only one doco made the list…
how about weekend of a champion or 1- life on the limit ?

Woerkstatt
Woerkstatt

I think “Drive” (2011) should be also on the List. Nicolas Winding Refn is a artist!!

cml
cml

I think that film wasn’t about cars, it was about Ryan Gosling

Aaron Cole
Aaron Cole

no I think he means Driven. Driven is without a doubt the best car movie ever made.

Gianni Burrows
Gianni Burrows

I would put either of the first two Mad Max movies on the list before the Cannonball Run.

Stephen Stuart
Stephen Stuart

Come on… how many votes did RUSH get? It was an awful film and it had my negative vote in your original poll…

Aaron Cole
Aaron Cole

tell me what was wrong with Rush. Well, after the first half hour. At that point I was ready to turn it off, but the rest of it was beautiful. And I am an F1 fan.

King
King

you’re one of the few who didn’t like it then. Considering that it was meant for audiences around the world and not tailored to a few die hard F1 fans, it was great. It made an F1 fan out of my mother, so how bad could it be, really?

Mart.
Mart.

this one is definitely on my top 10 list: [url=”http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Goodbye_Pork_Pie”]Goodby Pork Pie[/url]

Andrew Ackerman
Andrew Ackerman

If you include Bullitt you have to have ” The French Connection” !

Robert Goldstein
Robert Goldstein

All good movies…..However, The Gumball Rally blows Cannonball Run out of the water! You have a 427 Cobra and a Ferrari Daytona Spyder as the main stars! I am also a fan of the F&F movies. The 1st installment should have made the list. I also think that Gone in 60 Seconds should be added too.

Dan Sciannameo
Dan Sciannameo

The Last Run 1971 http://youtu.be/fliILaCkQts

Guest
Guest

WOW! Cannonball Run makes the list but Gumball Rally doesn’t? That is a faux pas, the scenes between the Daytona and the cobra alone are better than anything in Cannonball Run!

Swaybars
Swaybars

Agree with most of these, especially Grand Prix and Ronin. Spotting all the 50s and 60s F1 driver cameos in GP is always a fun game! I also submit Tarantino’s Death Proof for your consideration.

shoult
shoult

Any list of top car movies should include [url=”http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0500988/?ref_=nv_sr_1″]Claude Lelouch’s[/url] 1976 masterpiece, [url=”http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0169173/?ref_=nm_flmg_dr_33″]Roundezvous[/url]. Yes, it’s a short (under 9 minutes) but it has all the drama you need, a great soundtrack, and plenty of automotive action.

Patrick Frawley
Patrick Frawley

Which is why it’s at #5.

Ian Miles
Ian Miles

Great list and pretty much in the right order. Hire – a set of adverts not films. Honourable mention: Taxi and the Transporter?

MFP officer
MFP officer

where is Mad Max?!

Kurt Oblinger
Kurt Oblinger

I’d drop Cannonball Run and add Gumball Rally. “…the first rule of Italian driving, what’s behind me is not important!” The early scene with the Daytona and Cobra ripping through deserted Manhattan streets, the engine sounds reverberating off the buildings is epic.

Kurt Oblinger
Kurt Oblinger

I’ll just leave this here.
[url=”https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XTT1_JZp2Sg”]Gumball Rally – leaving NYC[/url]

Bill Campbell
Bill Campbell

Hmmmm? My favorite is VANISHING POINT. It was mostly about the car and a pretty cool car at that.
Check it out if you haven’t seen it.

Yoav Gilad
Yoav Gilad

Worth a look for sure, but consider the other movies on this list… consider it an honorable mention.

Chris H.
Chris H.

What, none of the “Fast and Furious” movies made the list? Shocker.

Peter Tabmow
Peter Tabmow

Glad to see Grand Prix on top. Even its soap opera aspects are pretty true to life, and the rest is simply superb at capturing the intensity, drama, excitement, atmosphere, personalities, and politics of the real thing as it was then (and it’s not so different now, either).

JB21
JB21

OMG, you know what we all forgot? I don’t even know you call it a movie, but there’s that The Hire series by BMW!!

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