By on April 4, 2017

Empty Theatre

Any gearhead with a pulse and an internet connection knows the eighth (yes, eighth) installation of the never-ending Fast & Furious franchise is set to be foisted upon us next Friday. Fun challenge: sneak a fifth of Smirnoff into the theatre and down a shot every time someone says the word “family.” Please make sure to take a cab home.

Nevertheless, here’s an easy question not asked to date in this QOTD series: what’s your favorite car movie?

There’s no shortage of them, to be sure. Hollywood produced racing flicks ranging from Days of Thunder — deploying in-race footage and an entertaining, loosely grounded plot — to the flaming dumpster fire that was Sly Stallone’s Driven. On the opposite end of the spectrum, Ron Howard’s film Rush did a splendid job of depicting the rivalry between F1 stars James Hunt and Niki Lauda during the 1976 Formula One season, a time when the cars were little more than rolling coffins filled with gasoline.

The British documentary about Ayrton Senna, depicting his life and death, relies mostly on archival footage and not-oft-seen home video clips provided by the Senna family. Absent of formal commentary, the biopic allows the viewer to immerse themselves in the Brazilian driver’s tumultuous F1 career. It very nearly shows as a live-action drama and not a posthumous tribute.

Kids movies count too: Cars is a movie that, even as an adult, I won’t turn off if it happens to be on the screen when I walk into a room. (Only the first Cars movie, though; the abomination that was Cars 2 gets zapped off our television quicker than Jimmie Johnson racks up championships). Decidedly non-kid movies like the new Mad Max and The Car are suitable fodder for poker night out in the garage. While some movies have great car chase scenes (Ronin springs to mind), they’re not strictly car flicks but still check the boxes for a suitably octane-charged night at the movies.

For your choice, make sure to stick with celluloid featuring enough car action to make your popcorn taste like 10W-30.

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112 Comments on “QOTD: Big Screen Wheels?...”

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World

    Cannonball Run



    Smokey and the Bandit

    The Italian Job (2003)

  • avatar
    Chris Tonn

    Favorite: “Circuit”: A documentary-ish film about the 1981 Can-Am racing season – to be clear, this was the single-seat Can-Am, where the cars were based on old F5000 cars.

    Teo Fabi, Danny Sullivan, Bobby Rahal, Paul Newman..and many more.

    Sadly, I can’t find it online anywhere, and I’m pretty sure my old Betamax copy is gone.

    As is my Betamax player.

    • 0 avatar
      Corey Lewis

      Weird that this film isn’t on IMDB. It came out on VHS in 1991.

      There is a single copy available on Amazon for $30.

  • avatar

    Love the Beast

    From A to B: Tales of Modern Motoring – Over the Moon With the Cavalier

  • avatar

    Gone in 60 Seconds (the remake though)
    Driving Miss Daisy
    Tucker – The Man and His Dream

    • 0 avatar

      “Gone In 60 Seconds,” either the original or remake are both terrible movies, but at least H. B. Haliki’s original was more cheeky and upfront about its low rent origins, and for those of us familiar with or grew up in or near the South Bay area of LA county in those days it’s a bit of a nostalgia trip.

      • 0 avatar

        I know, it’s somewhat of a guilty pleasure for me, as are most Nicolas Cage movies in fact. That guy may not be the world’s best actor, but he’s cool. As is the movie.

        • 0 avatar

          It’s not a car movie, but Infinitely Polar Bear (2015, starring Mark Ruffalo) has a handful of marvelous car stars.

          1. a late ’50s, or early ’60s Citroen DS wagon. Ruffalo, playing a bipolar father, is a riot driving that thing around with the two little girls in the back seat. (The movie is taking place in the ’80s.)

          2. a Volvo P544

          3. A Valiant or Dart circa 1971

          4. a ’50s or ’60s era Bentley or Rolls–belonged to a wealthy relative in the movie

  • avatar

    Gumball Rally

    Not necessarily a car movie but American Graffiti

    • 0 avatar
      Shinoda is my middle name

      Driving Miss Daisy? Seriously?

      I would add Godfather (the original)…amazing how many scenes involved great old cars…Sonny getting whacked at the toll both, Paulie whacked in the car, “Leave the gun. Take the cannoli.”, Sonny being driven to the meeting where he kills his fathers rival, Sonny’s wife blown up in his car, the closing scene where Connie’s husband is strangled in the car….so many great pivotal scenes where Coppola used cars.

    • 0 avatar

      American Graffiti is very much a car movie. In 1962, George Lucas was racing at fairgrounds in much the same way as the characters in the film did on the streets.

    • 0 avatar

      Agree on American Graffiti. Gumball Rally was cool as well. Both had Cobra’s in them.

  • avatar

    “Decidedly non-kid movies like the new Mad Max and The Car are suitable fodder for poker night out in the garage”

    But TTAC already told me that Fury Road “is simultaneously boring and overwhelming, slow-paced yet carelessly plotted, predictable and joyless” feminist PC brainwashing.

    Which is it, I’m so confused?

    As for car movies, “Mad Mad Mad Mad World” and “Flash of Genius” get my vote.

    “Torque” gets an honorable mention for hilariously enjoyable garbage.

  • avatar

    2nd on Mad, mad World.
    Tops is Le Mans.
    Those that never raced think it’s “a mess”. However it captures, perhaps inadverdently, the chaos and myriad plots that carry on simultainiously in racing.

    Plus the racing scenes are the best and will likely never be rivalled due to cost and danger.

  • avatar

    LeMans, it made me aware of sportscar racing and changed my life.

    Second favorite: “The Speed Merchants”, a documentary directed by IMSA racer Michael Keyser about the 1972 World Championship of Makes season. I saw it in a little theater in Watkins Glen, during the week leading up to the Six Hour/Can Am race weekend in 1973.

  • avatar

    The older I get the more I like Vanishing Point.

  • avatar

    Vanishing Point (both versions)


    Dirty Larry Crazy Mary

    Death Proof (Both Versions)

    Maximum Overdrive (campy but worth mentioning)

  • avatar

    Bullitt and Ronin.

  • avatar

    It’s not a movie per se, but the Japanese animated series Wangan Midnight is the only show/movie I have ever seen that faithfully captures car enthusiast culture in all of its absurdity.

  • avatar
    87 Morgan


    Gran Torino: if only for the end when the ‘will’ is read with his instructions on what not to do.

    Two Lane Black Top: probably responsible for why I have a tri-5 in the garage today.

  • avatar
    Shinoda is my middle name

    +1 True Blue and Not a Luddite…y’all beat me to both Bullitt and Dirty Larry et al

    Any list that doesn’t contain Bullitt, turn in both your TTAC card AND your Man Card.

    I would add the Bourne series….chase/crash scenes with Audis, Bimmers, and Citroens and Land Rovers. Cars depicted as driven with skill and verve, integral to the plot. Tasty

  • avatar
    Adam Tonge

    Cars 2

    Larry the Cable Guy should have won an Oscar for his performance.

  • avatar

    Bullitt (but the Mustang is better than most of the plot or dialogue.)

    The Green Hornet (2011) the car, and the garage are the best part of the movie.

    Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (Hey Ian Fleming wrote the book and Roald Dahl wrote the screen play.)

  • avatar
    S2k Chris

    Ronin, Gumball Rally, Cannonball Run movies.

    Bullit has a good chase scene, but the rest of it was kind of dull if I’m honest.

  • avatar

    The Blues Brothers. I was tall and skinny, owned a 1974 Plymouth Fury ex company car, and had a friend who was short and stocky when that movie came out, so it was our “theme” movie. The interior scenes still bring back memories, and the chase and crash scenes were great. Can still quote a lot of the lines from it; though I have only seen it once in the past 30 years. Great soundtrack too.

    Also liked the original Cars movie as well.

    • 0 avatar

      One of my favorite lines is when they’re driving around the mall and crash through the plate glass window of an auto showroom.

      “Looks like the new Oldsmobiles are in early this year!”

      • 0 avatar

        “This place has everything!”

        • 0 avatar

          I think I’ve told this story here but my dad worked for a Chrysler dealer in the 80s. They had a couple of cars on display at the local mall one week and they needed to be removed after the mall closed on Sunday. My dad enlisted me to help and I got to drive a Turismo through the South Shore Mall. My 17 yo self pretended I was Elwood cruising through the mall, albeit in slow motion. Some things you don’t forget.

        • 0 avatar

          “Does this come in a Miss Piggy?”

    • 0 avatar

      There are so many you could fill a whole thread with them, our favorites were:

      Our Lady of Blessed Acceleration, don’t fail me now.

      It’s 106 miles to Chicago, we got a full tank of gas, half a pack of cigarettes, it’s dark… and we’re wearing sunglasses.
      Hit it.

      It’s got a cop motor, a 440 cubic inch plant, it’s got cop tires, cop suspensions, cop shocks. It’s a model made before catalytic converters so it’ll run good on regular gas. What do you say, is it the new Bluesmobile or what?

      Of course, my Fury did not have any of this. You could tell they were driving an ex-cop car in the chase scene under the Chicago El; my speedometer only went up to 120, but theirs was much higher than that. And they *were* going that fast during that scene.

      • 0 avatar

        The Pinto went faster after it got dropped from a helicopter from like 2,000 feet.

        “The Blues Brothers” answers a central question that movie buffs always asked: what if the entire cast and crew of a big budget movie had an unlimited supply of cocaine for the entire production? And now we have our (glorious) answer!

  • avatar

    I’ll try to throw some oddballs out there:

    The Hitcher (1986) – some great chase scenes
    To Live and Die in L.A. (1985)
    Christine (1983)
    The French Connection (1971)
    The Seven-Ups (1973)
    Sorcerer (1977) – the trucks over the wooden bridge scene!
    Grand Prix (1966) – captures the sheer speed of those early cars

    My personal favs – and the ones that got me into muscle cars:

    The Road Warrior (Mad Max II)
    and the original Mad Max

  • avatar

    The Jurassic Park Ford Explorer.

    Absolutely loved this vehicle since seeing the film as a kid. First gen Explorers were always a favorite of mine, but adding one of the most distinctive paint jobs in automotive history just sweetened the deal.

    As an adult, I decided to own this dream car and bought a 1992 Ford Explorer Eddie Bauer with only 61kmiles that I found on Craigslist (after searching years tirelessly for a clean example). The truck has been modified with the color scheme, grill guards, and aside from not having the glass roof (too expensive and impractical), it’s pretty screen accurate. We’ve even done The Hollywood Christmas Parade, shows, and museum dinosaur exhibits in it. We purchased it two years ago and at 65k miles currently, it gets a lot of attention and is great fun.

    It has its own Instagram (I don’t even have one) full of sightings #jpexplorer04

  • avatar
    spreadsheet monkey

    Drive (2011)
    Nightcrawler (2014)
    Dukes of Hazzard (2005) – I’m in the minority for liking this.
    All of the Transporter films, ridiculous though they are.

    Not a movie, but Breaking Bad was very car-literate, and the cars the characters drove (and their subsequent upgrades) all matched the story arcs.

    The Senna documentary is great as well.

    • 0 avatar

      I think Drive is quite underrated, possibly because the advertising made it out to be something it wasn’t (an action movie). The choice of an Impala SS as a getaway car – and the way he uses it – is much more clever than most such movies.

      • 0 avatar
        87 Morgan

        I totally forgot about Drive, the automotive choices were fantastic! His personal cruiser of a 73′ Chevelle in primer along with the Impala. I alwasy thought it was the standard non SS version that he used, with some slight enhancements..

        • 0 avatar

          Well, they do imply that it’s an upgraded standard Impala. But the soundtrack sounds like a V8, and they mention roughly 300HP, so I choose to believe it’s an SS with the badges removed. That’d be the easier way to achieve it, certainly.

  • avatar

    Blues Brothers

    Tie: Mad Max Fury Road and The Road Warrior

    The Car (1977)… hey I was 6 years old and it scared the crap out of me. Probably Rifftrax fodder if I watched it now.

  • avatar

    OK, I’ll toss one in that everyone hates on: Speed Racer. Yes, it’s incredibly dumb. But check it out on a good quality 4K TV – all the race sequences look SICK. And I want the damn Mach 5…bad.

  • avatar

    Mine? Le Mans. I just watched a great documentary about it, too (Steve McQueen: The Man & Le Mans), with Chad McQueen, and important figures from the original production.

  • avatar

    Bullitt, Vanishing Point, Two Lane Blacktop, Gumball Rally, The Italian Job

  • avatar

    Gumball Rally. Plot? Who cares, just listen to the sounds in that movie. It also has some good lines. “Whatsa behind me…”, “We dont even have a fixed wing…”.

    Bullit as a movies wasn’t all that great, but the car chase was decent.

    Vanishing Point(s), but the first was better.

    Hooper wasn’t bad. Actually, most Burt Reynolds car movies were decent enough and didn’t even take themselves seriously.

    Rush was pretty good.

    There are a lot of car movies out there I wouldn’t turn off if they were on, even “The Wraith”.

  • avatar

    Tucker – A Man and His Dream
    Grand Prix
    Both American Graffitis (one of the most underrated sequels made)
    Rush (currently my all time favorite)
    Torque (guilty pleasure, and I remember what Triumph went thru to get the tie-in, their first major)
    It’s A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World

    Then there’s the bikes:

    The Leather Boys (my all time favorite)
    The Wild One
    Easy Rider
    The Wild Angels
    Run Angel Run
    Born Losers
    The Glory Stompers
    Girl on a Motorcycle
    Hell’s Angels on Wheels
    CC and Company
    On Any Sunday
    Stone Cold

  • avatar

    White Lightning (1973), with Burt Reynolds. I saw it in the theater when it came out – twice!

    Shaky Puddin’!

  • avatar

    Any movie where people don’t upshift four-speed boxes fifteen times in a row, and pass one another on racetracks by suddenly deciding to use the throttle while halfway down the straight.

    The sh*t really grinds my gears. Le Mans and Grand Prix were both OK on that front, IIRC, but it’s been a while.

    • 0 avatar

      Watch the documentary on Le Mans (Steve McQueen: The Man & Le Mans). Steve McQueen’s insistence on authenticity and realism almost sank the movie. It ran way over budget, the original director (John Sturges) quit, replaced by an unknown, Lee Katzin, whose edict was to get McQueen and the budget under control, and get the film finished (filming started right after the 1970 race, and dragged on for five months, finally wrapping in November). McQueen’s film would have been a docudrama, with basically no plot.

      McQueen’s interference also destroyed the career of the original screenwriter, Alan Trustman. Trustman wrote the scripts for Bullitt, and The Thomas Crown Affair. After a pre-production script review at McQueen’s house, Trustman was fired, and said he never got another call to write a script. He ended up going into the currency trading business.

  • avatar

    “Eat My Dust” with Ron Howard. An actual ‘car’ movie and not one where cars play a ‘supporting role’ as used in some of the others mentioned above.

  • avatar

    Very different from the other films listed here, but Genevieve (from 1953) is what I think of any time someone mentions a “car” movie. It’s just a biiiit more old-fashioned than most would appreciate.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    Several Bond movies, but I’ll suggest these (yes, Daniel Craig is my favorite Bond actor):

    Casino Royale
    Quantum of Solace (opening scene)

    Also: Speed

  • avatar

    This thread made me watch some excerpts from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.

    Uff da! Sally Ann Howes was Truly Scrumptious for a skinny woman!

  • avatar

    Besides the obvious (but still great) films frequently mentioned the one that made me absolutely giddy and on the edge of my seat was ‘Death Proof’.

  • avatar
    bumpy ii

    Dazed and Confused. Everyone has some nice late ’50s- early ’70s car… except for O’Banion’s primered crapbox Plymouth.

  • avatar

    Bullitt, the original Vanishing Point, American Graffiti.

  • avatar

    The Blues Brothers
    National Lampoon’s Vacation
    Herbie the Lovebug
    Hollywood Knights
    Gone in 60 Seconds (remake)
    Smokey and the Bandit
    …in no particular order.

  • avatar

    More of a road trip movie but “Fandango” with Costner and Judd Nelson was great. There is what you might call an homage to “American Graffiti” that is hilarious.

  • avatar
    Dirty Dingus McGee

    No love for Stroker Ace?
    Or Talladega Nights?

    On a serious note; Duel, original Vanishing Point and 2 Lane Blacktop.

    • 0 avatar

      I am here to ask about Talladega Nights as well, finest of all the NASCAR movies.

      Speed Racer (I agree, it’s the most visually arresting car movie ever)
      Mad Max Fury Road
      Ronin (this movie has the two best car chases in cinema)
      Grand Prix (Frankenheimer said, late in life, that he couldn’t have flown the camera helicopters as close to the action today, because of insurance requirements)

      Lots of other great movies for people who like cars out there, but I think these ones put the car first, and in interesting ways.

    • 0 avatar
      SCE to AUX

      Duel – forgot about that excellent choice. An early Speilberg film about road rage, and he reused the truck crash sound effects for “Jaws”. Genius.

  • avatar

    ‘The Spy Who Loved Me’

    The Lotus Esprit is still my first and true love.

  • avatar

    “Corvette Summer” (1978) The movie’s tworth watching, still holds up good.

    “Bullit”? Just skip to the car chase. But if you really want a “car chase”, “To Live and Die in LA”. Watch the whole thing, it’s one of the best movies to come out of the mid ’80s.

    • 0 avatar

      So glad to see that someone out there still remembers Corvette Summer. It was probably the very first car movie I ever watched. Seriously weapons-grade nostalgia for me. I think it aired on TV not that long after Star Wars was released.

      As a kid, I used to love the styling of the Corvette because it looked different from just about every other car on the road. Just the experience of seeing Luke Skywalker piloting one of my favorite cars from that era was all it took to ensure that I’d spend the next four decades as a certified carguy/sci-fi nerd.

  • avatar
    Hoon Goon


  • avatar

    Can I say “Wayne’s World” without getting kicked off the site?

    How cool to be that age again, just hanging out with your friends, driving around in an AMC Pacer with its own licorice dispenser. You got to love that.

  • avatar

    Two-Lane Blacktop

  • avatar

    I just saw the “24 Hour War” that Adam Carolla did about the Ferrari vs Ford rivalry at Le Mans and thought it was well worth watching if you’re a car enthusiast.

    I’m not even really into racing, but I found it fascinating.

  • avatar

    Thanks for refreshing my memory:
    The Blues Brothers
    Vanishing Point (orig)

    A Man and a Woman
    Great period scenes of the male lead testing a GT40. And some from the Monte Carlo Rallye. Iirc they were in a Mini.

  • avatar

    Not a movie, but the original Mannix car was very sweet.

  • avatar

    World’s Fastest Indian – great true(ish) story and nice recreation of 1960s Bonneville.

  • avatar

    Death on the Highway
    Highways of Agony
    Signal 30

  • avatar

    Repo Man and Blues Brothers.

  • avatar
    Rick T.

    I’d have to put Heart Like a Wheel in the top 20.

  • avatar


  • avatar

    Used Cars.

  • avatar

    How about “C’était un rendez-vous” a 1976 short (8:35) by French director Claude Lelouch, who also made the classic 1966 film “Un Homme et Une Femme” (A Man and a Woman), a love story set around the LeMans 24H race. Rendez-vous was shot very early in the morning in the streets of Paris with no film permits at all and without closing the roads. The red lights blown through, the civilian traffic and the scrambling pedestrians were all real.

    See it here:

    Filming this was an act of monumental irresponsibility and the result is the best pure driving sequence I know of, and perhaps one of the best that’s ever been. However not everything you see or hear was quite what we were led to believe. The Wikipedia article on it tells some of the true story, but not all of it (see:'était_un_rendez-vous).

    You can see a “making of” video with Lelouch (in French with subtitles) here:

    There’s a really good story about the aftermath that Lelouch only told long afterward in an interview that I located over a decade ago on the director’s personal web site, now found here:

    Although he didn’t use the Ferrari, it’s true that he made Rendez-vous entirely unofficially and without any kind of permit to film the high speed drive. When the film airs in public he gets arrested and hauled in front of the Chief of Police of Paris. Here’s Lelouch’s priceless account (my translation from the original French):

    “Standing before the Chief of Police I felt like a child about to be punished. I braced myself for it to be harsh.

    In a prosecutorial voice the Chief of Police, who had personally summoned me, recites a long list of the driving offenses I’d committed while making Rendez-vous. It seemed endless. At the end he glares at me, sticks out his hand, and tells me to hand over my drivers license. It doesn’t seem like a good time to argue. I comply and he takes it, looks at it musingly for a few seconds and then…gives it back to me with a broad smile.

    ‘I promised to take away your license,’ he explains, ‘But I never said for how long.’ To my astonishment he adds, ‘My children really enjoyed your little film!’ ”


  • avatar

    to live and die in la, if you like b-bodies, diplomats, panthers.

  • avatar

    “Any gearhead with a pulse and an internet connection knows the eighth (yes, eighth) installation of the never-ending Fast & Furious franchise is set to be foisted upon us next Friday.”

    Gearhead? Check!

    Pulse and internet? Check and check!

    Fast & Furious franchise forthcoming film? Couldn’t give another flying F…

  • avatar

    * _Death Race 2000_ — The original, from the seventies. With Sly Stallone in a bit part (but of course billed first, in humongo-letters, on later re-runs) and, eh, which of the Carradine brothers was it?, in the lead as “Frankenstein”.

    * Oh yeah, _Repo Man_ — Thanks to someone above for reminding me. Must have seen that only the once, so it almost slipped my mind.

    * _Smokey and the Bandit_ — Purely for nostalgia.

    * And of course — _Blues Brothers_

  • avatar

    It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World – first movie I saw in a theater
    Gumball Rally

    and don’t shoot me…

    The Great Race – Tony Curtis, Jack Lemmon, Natalie Wood and all those cars

  • avatar

    Not a car movie, but Bridge of Spies had a chase scene with a Volvo p1800, and a ’57 Chevy, which conveyed Francis Gary Powers over the bridge back to freedom close to the end of the movie

  • avatar

    One word: GETAWAY

    OK, more words:

    “Former race car driver Brent Magna is pitted against the clock as he commandeers a custom Shelby Super Snake Mustang, taking it and its unwitting owner on a high-speed adventure at the command of a mysterious villain on a race against time to save the life of his kidnapped wife.”


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