This Is What We’re Watching For Our Holiday Movie Marathon
Surely one of the most asked questions in the run-up to the holidays (and in the direct aftermath of them) is: “What’s on TV?” It’s a question asked in my house every year, and while there is the occasional gem, here in the UK it’s usually the same old Bond re-runs, the annual unboxing of The Snowman, and if we are really lucky, The Great Escape. Snore. But if you want some alternatives to watch with your hot chocolates this year—something that satisfies the itch for petrol—then the following feature-length films and documentaries could be solid replacements for the usual dreck. This is by no means a comprehensive list, just a few suggestions, so, in no particular order, here’s what you could be enjoying instead of Sean Connery’s lisp.
Ferrari: Race to Immortality (2017)
A tremendous documentary, charting the Scuderia’s operations in the 1950s. It’s emotive, passionate, and extremely honest, to point of being difficult to watch at times. Featuring a fabulous mix of archival reels, interviews with “those that were there,” and tasteful contemporary footage, if you are a fan of Hawthorn, Collins, and Castellotti et al, then this is will be a treat.
Charting the genius and gumption of Sir Frank Williams and the team he built bearing his name, while it a wonderfully in-depth look at one of Formula 1s most storied constructors, it’s really the portrait of a family governed by the paths that motor racing would take them down. Truly poignant in places and mixed with triumph and tragedy both, this is as good a documentary as they come.
On Any Sunday (1971)
Bruce Brown’s iconic film about “motorcycle sport and the men who ride.” From the instantly recognizable intro, this is a feel-good movie about the thrills of riding bikes, featuring heroes of the period like Dick Mann, Dave Aldana, Mert Lawwill, and a certain Steve McQueen. I defy anyone to watch this and then not want to jump straight on a bike and head out for a ride. It’s just that kind of film.
TT3D: Closer to the Edge (2011)
Though this list is in no particular order, this would be my number one if I had to give ranks. Documenting the 2010 Isle of Man TT, and inadvertently turning Guy Martin into a TV star, this is the closest you can get to actually being at the world’s most exciting race without taking a ferry to the Isle. I saw this in the cinema—of course—and from the opening to closing credits the hairs on the back of my neck were raised and I was on the edge of my seat. If you don’t know what the Isle of Man TT is you’re in for a treat, and if you do, you owe it to yourself to watch what is perhaps the definitive film on the subject.
Sticking with the road racing theme, Road documents the lives and careers of the Dunlops, probably motorcycle road racing’s most famous dynasty. A family of some of the most successful racers ever to take to the streets, they unfortunately know more about the tragedies of this sport than most, even more so following the untimely death of William Dunlop earlier this year. Road goes some way toward explaining why these racers do what they do, and it captures the emotions in motorcycle road racing perfectly.
Mad Max (1979)
Before the arguably laughable later films of this franchise (barring the most recent addition), the one that started it all was a groundbreaking dystopian action film that featured a host of angry V8s and period motorcycles. The bikes in particular hold a soft spot for me. Expect to see a whole squadron of modified Kawasaki Z1000s and the odd two-stroke rat bikes before rat bikes were a thing.
Gone in 60 Seconds (1974)
Never mind the cringe-fest of the remake with Nicolas Cage, the original version of this film featured what for my money is still the greatest ever car chase in cinema. The rate of attrition for cars during this film was high, with 127 said to have been damaged or destroyed during production, and while that is a sad statistic, the 40-minute-long car chase scene will have you glued to the screen and rediscovering the original “Eleanor,” the ’73 Mustang that provides most of the mischief.
Ok, so this film doesn’t exactly feature a huge list of great cars, but the Spielberg’s directorial debut still offers a gripping 89 minutes of automotive action as Dennis Weaver is pursued across the remote canyon roads of California in his Plymouth Valiant, with the crazed captain of a Peterbilt 351 truck bearing down. It watches better than it reads, I swear, and is well worth a look.
Motorcycle Diaries (2004)
Let’s try to keep politics out of this one and see this film for what it is on the surface, a fabulous road movie and a tale of adventure around Latin America in the 1950s undertaken by two friends and a 1939 Norton 500cc motorcycle. Taken from the memoirs of Che Guevara (“the guy on the shirts” as most know him today), this film puts the sanitized “traveling” often undertaken by post-graduates into context, and is another film that just makes you want to get out and ride somewhere, with purpose or just for the sake of it.
Vanishing Point (1971)
A good bit of ’70s fun, this one. Nothing too high brow, and perhaps perfect to stick on after you’re full up with Christmas dinner (although perhaps not with the littler kids around!). Whilst Smokey and the Bandit turned this kind of film into a family favorite later on, Richard Sarafian’s film charts the story of car delivery driver Kowalski as he transports a supercharged Dodge Challenger R/T 440 from Denver to San Francisco against an impossible time window. “Everyone is after Kowalski,” announces the trailer, and it seems everyone is—but for all of the cheesy lines, this is still a great bit of entertainment.
So, there we have it. I’m fully expecting a lot of opinions on my opinions, but that’s the great thing about the movies, right? But seeing as it is the season of goodwill to all, let’s keep it clean and friendly, hey? Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays!