By on February 5, 2018

Empty Theatre

Today’s an easy one: what, in your opinion, is the best car movie ever made?

We’ll even let you choose your own yardstick. Your selection can be a film that’s totally based in the car genre or it could simply have a phenomenal car chase at some point during its running time. Maybe it’s a unique take on the industry, or some sort of documentary based on real life events.

You know I’m going to toss Days of Thunder out there for consideration, if for nothing else than the beach scene where the two lads lay waste to a couple of rental cars. I remember watching this flick as a 10-year old, sitting on the hood of dad’s old Chevy Blazer at B&L Drive-In Theatre in Boyd’s Cove, Newfoundland. Being an impressionable young boy, it’s arguable my infatuation with cars was cemented in that gravel parking lot.

More recently, the documentary A Faster Horse provided the world with what I think is one of the best conversations about managing a team ever put to the small screen. Dave Pericak, then chief engineer of the Mustang, talked with a filmmaker about the importance of letting one’s team do their work and flourish, rather than micromanaging the place. It’s an incredible and beautifully delivered train of thought, and I encourage you to watch this clip.

Makes one wonder what would’ve happened if Mr. Pericak had gotten the top job at Ford after Alan Mulally instead of Mark Fields, eh? But that’s a topic for another QOTD.

Just don’t choose Stallone’s Driven. We don’t want to drag the ban hammer out of retirement.

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119 Comments on “QOTD: What’s the Best Car Movie (or Auto Industry Flick) You’ve Ever Seen?...”


  • avatar
    Penvon

    Easy….Cars 1,2 & 3….Lightning McQueen

  • avatar
    Sub-600

    ‘Dirty Mary Crazy Larry’ (1974) Peter Fonda, Susan George…Typical ‘70s car porn about a race car driver and his mechanic who can’t get a ride so they decide to commit robbery to finance their own wheels. They run into a girl and get chased by overzealous cops. Fun, silly film starring a ‘69 Charger R/T, a ‘66 Chevy Impala, and a few Dodge Polaras, oh, and a helicopter. The budget must have been low because you can briefly see the round taillights from a ‘68 Charger in some of the scenes. A must-see for Mopar buffs.

    • 0 avatar
      BigOldChryslers

      I am a Mopar fan. I finally watched that movie about a year ago. I hated it. The driver was an insufferable jerk and the acting was generally awful.

      If I could get the time back that I spent watching this, I’d instead use it to re-watch Vanishing Point or Two Lane Blacktop… two other car movies that ended abruptly because they just seemed to run out of story to tell, but at least were enjoyable to watch.

      • 0 avatar
        Sub-600

        To each his own. It’s not Shakespeare, it’s about the cars and the stunt driving. I realize Peter Fonda wasn’t the quintessential thespian, like say, Vin Diesel or Ludacris, but he was okay in this film, ‘Easy Rider’ and ‘Race with the Devil’.

      • 0 avatar
        gottacook

        For some reason I’ve never seen Two-Lane Blacktop even though since 1972 I’ve owned a mass-market paperback of the screenplay, with a (black-and-white) photo section – apparently the screenplay was originally published in Esquire. (An interesting way to publicize a movie: get a magazine editor interested in it.) According to the screenplay, it doesn’t merely end abruptly; it shows the film getting stuck in the projector and then catching fire! Sort of a meta-abrupt ending.

  • avatar
    Shortest Circuit

    Gung Ho

  • avatar
    Waterview

    Virtually any Bond film . . . . .(DB5, Lotus Esprit, Rolls Royce, Vanquish, AMC Matador

  • avatar
    Opus

    Planes, Trains and Automobiles.
    “You’re going the wrong way!”

  • avatar
    2drsedanman

    Two Lane Blacktop. Big block, 4-speed, fiberglass nose 55 Chevy!! Enough said.

    • 0 avatar
      BigOldChryslers

      I thought Two Lane Blacktop was even more interesting when you consider the time that it was made (1971). The GTO was a brand new muscle car right off the showroom floor, which needed nothing aside from gas. It pretty much kept up with the ’55 Chevy which was a custom built street/strip machine in need of constant attention to keep it running properly. The guys in the ’55 looked down on the GTO, but secretly they had to realize that technology was making their lifestyle obsolete.

  • avatar
    Matt Foley

    “Super Speedway,” the IMAX documentary about IndyCar, Newman-Haas, and the Andrettis. It’s on YouTube for free. It shows the restoration of an old front-engine roadster that Mario drove in the 60s, the construction of a mid-90’s Indy car, engine development, testing with Mario and Michael at Homestead (the old four-corner configuration)…

    If you care at all about American open-wheel racing, you have to see it.

  • avatar
    dividebytube

    some personal faves

    Comedy: “Used Cars” with Kurt Russell
    Car Chase: “To Live and Die in L.A.” or “The Road Warrior”
    Racing: “Grand Prix” – which really captures the speed of race cars.
    Others: “Two Lane Blacktop” or “Charley Varrick” (plane versus car)

    • 0 avatar
      FreedMike

      “Charley Varrick” was a TERRIFIC movie, and Don Siegel may be the best unheralded director who ever lived.

      Plus, it had that early ’70s Continental at the beginning of the movie, and the bad guy’s hot-rod Imperial.

    • 0 avatar
      KevinC

      Solid list. Charley Varrick is a VASTLY underrated flick, and I echo your endorsement and highly recommend it to every one here. Used Cars is also a largely overlooked classic. To Live and Die in LA is just plain hardcore.

      Charley Varrick trivia: the group The Pretenders named their 1993 album “Last of the Independends” after Charley’s tagline from the movie. They are huge fans of the film. Quentin Tarantino borrowed the line “a pair of pliers and a blowtorch” from Charley Varrick for use in Pulp Fiction.

    • 0 avatar
      spookiness

      Not high cinema, but Used Cars is a hoot.

  • avatar
    2drsedanman

    I would also add the documentary “1”. It is a history of Formula 1 and it is excellent.

  • avatar
    Boff

    Roger & Me

  • avatar
    Rnaboz

    Despite being a Prost fan, I am going with Senna

  • avatar
    strafer

    Vanishing Point and Maximum Overdrive haven’t been mentioned yet.

  • avatar
    cicero1

    Cannonball Run

    and

    “1” – F1 documentary – a must watch for the history of the sport.

  • avatar
    ponchoman49

    My favorite has always been Smokey and the Bandit. Sheriff Buford T Justice got so many funny lines in that movie:

    Junior -“Daddy my hat fell off”
    Justice- I hope you goddamn head went with it

    Justice as Junior is holding the door to the LeMans police car- ” Put the evidence in the back. Their is no way, no way that you could come from my loins”

    Sumbitch!

    Of course the best part was the gorgeous black Trans AM

    • 0 avatar
      vvk

      I second Smokey and the Bandit.

      “And it ain’t nothing but pure old fashioned communism!”

    • 0 avatar
      DenverMike

      No doubt and I love the scene where BTJ’s squad car is squeezing past the semi and a near miss with an oncoming car (not much clearance on either side) and catches the trucks front end, putting it in a pit maneuver, starts to get sideways, overcorrects, ends up with the semi with nowhere to go but T-bone the thing, kick it into the ditch while clearly it wasn’t called for in the script, as seen by trucks all 18 wheels smoky and fully locked up!

    • 0 avatar
      sgeffe

      “If Junior can get up in the morning, tie his shoelaces and take a pee, I’m not proud, I’m amazed!”

  • avatar
    krhodes1

    For me – the original Italian Job, followed closely by Ronin.

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    “Gone in 60 Seconds” (the newer one).

    Could be the best car porn ever. Plus Nicolas Cage…”yes, indeedy.”

    And I’m so glad no one mentioned ANY of the “Fast and the Furious” movies.

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      Such hardcore car porn, ’tis.

      Fast and Furious Part 23 coming soon!

      • 0 avatar
        CobraJet

        The original Gone in 60 Seconds from about 1974. Strictly low budget with poor actors, but nothing but pure driving insanity. No way they could ever get away with filming that on public roads these days. The scene where the Mustang slides into the street lamp pole on the exit ramp was a mistake. It was not supposed to happen that way. Surprised the driver (who was also the producer/director) didn’t get killed. The film is loaded with 60’s and early 70’s vehicles of all types.

    • 0 avatar
      JMII

      Gotta agree with “Gone in 60” (the new one) just because of the shear number of cars… and the playing of Low Rider by War. #2 on my list would be the Italian Job with all the stunts using the Minis. #3 would be Rush by Ron Howard, I credit that movie with getting my wife interested in F1.

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    By the way, “Stranger Things” and “Mindhunter” both have some first class malaise-era car porn.

  • avatar
    DenverMike

    Basic Instinct, 1992. Great car chase, and while not spectacular, they did a lot of damage to sweetass cars, no computer generated bullsh!t or generic engine sounds substituted, just a job well done.

  • avatar
    stingray65

    Comedy: It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World
    Drama: World’s Fastest Indian

  • avatar
    BigOldChryslers

    I’ll add two movies that haven’t been mentioned yet: Christine and The World’s Fastest Indian. The former needs no introduction, and the latter is an underappreciated movie based on a true story.

    (EDIT: Dang, I can’t believe stingray65 beat me to it while I was typing this.)

  • avatar
    bluegoose

    “Grand Prix” starring James Garner. “Le Mans” staring Steve McQueen is second. “Heart Like A Wheel” staring Bonnie Bedelia is Third. “Stroker Ace” starring Burt Reynolds deserves an honorable mention. Stroker Ace is one of those “so bad it’s good” masterpieces that must not be missed.

  • avatar
    arach

    No serious mentions of the Fast and the Furious?

    I’d definitely put that as number 1. While it may not be the best “movie ever”, it inspired a whole generation of car enthusiasts. Seriously, how many other movies made such a huge impact on an industry and a generation?

    Number 2 I’d put Pixar’s Cars. Again, how many kids first got exposed to cars and racing because of that movie?

    When movies redefine people, I call it a great movie- regardless of its “film quality”.

  • avatar
    PrincipalDan

    I’m always eyeballing the vehicles in cinema whether real or fake. Heck, when watching “Boss Baby” I was trying to determine the real world cars that inspired various cars in the background. Watching “Mater’s Tall Tale” (yes I have a 3 year old in the house) I was trying to decide if “BIG D” was supposed to be a Duesenberg and which generation of Toyota Century “Ito-San” was in “Tokyo Mater”.

  • avatar
    john66ny

    I’ll back up The World’s Fastest Indian, but also bring up Flash of Genius not so much for the cars but more for the story of Robert Kearns, the inventor of the intermittent wiper system.

  • avatar
    Rob Cupples

    An honorable mention for a very recent movie “Collide”. It received many poor reviews but I enjoyed it greatly once I got past the first half hour. The chases reminded me so much of movies from the 70’s with a script that matched which is why I think reviewers hated it. I got the sense that I was actually watching stunt men and didn’t notice any baloney CGI common to the recent generation of movies. Great performances by Ben Kingsley and Anthony Hopkins.

  • avatar
    Jimmy7

    “The Wages of Fear,” a white-knuckle trip over a mountain in trucks carrying nitroglycerin. For the industry, “Tucker: a Man and his Dream.” For vintage sports cars, “Viva Las Vegas.” And I loved “Baby Driver.”

  • avatar
    slavuta

    Everybody is going to say, ah this car chase, that car race. James Bond cars with rockets…

    Lets get back to car basics. Best car movie is “My Cousin Vinny”, where the whole movie is all about deep knowledge of cars, and their mechanical qualities.

    Honorable mention: Beware of the car (1966) http://www.dailymotion.com/video/x18r41p

    • 0 avatar
      FreedMike

      Good point. And Marisa Tomei…say no more.

      • 0 avatar
        WildcatMatt

        “My Cousin Vinnie” is a movie everyone on my wife’s side of the family can quote verbatim, so shortly after we were married my wife sat me down to view it. I watch the long opening shot and ask, “Is that a ’64 Buick? Special, maybe? Or Skylark?”

        My wife is suddenly angry. “You told me you’ve never seen this movie!”

        So I explain how I knew what the ’65 Buick grilles looked like, so it had to be earlier, that there weren’t fins or weirdly shaped glass so it couldn’t be much earlier, and it was smaller so it couldn’t be a LeSabre, Wildcat, or Electra.

        She harrumphed. How was I supposed to know it was a plot point?

  • avatar
    Sub-600

    While not as popular as ‘Smokey and the Bandit’, ‘Hooper’ almost felt like the same movie. It was an okay comedy for those of us old enough to remember what stuntmen were, and if there was nothing else on the other two tv channels.

  • avatar
    brettc

    I watched Car Dogs on Netflix recently, it was pretty good.

    Watched Gran Torino last night and while not really a car movie, the GT was pretty prominent in the movie.

  • avatar
    ColoradoFX4

    Love the Beast

  • avatar
    Johnnyangel

    Jacques Tate’s Trafic.

  • avatar
    Ermel

    I second Ronin and the Gone in 60 Seconds remake. Also, Death Proof. My other two suggestions are somewhat left field: Harold and Maude, and Driving Miss Daisy. I’d also like to mention Drive Angry as a sort of guilty pleasure.

  • avatar
    King of Eldorado

    Jacques Tati’s “Trafic” (1971) concerns Mr. Hulot’s efforts to take a gimmick-loaded RV to an auto show. Lots of old European cars and throwaway visual jokes, like the woman who stores her big sunhats in the continental spare cover of her yellow Siata Spring. Netflix has it on DVD.

  • avatar
    gottacook

    I thought by now someone would have listed The Driver (directed by Walter Hill, 1978, and starring Ryan O’Neal as “The Driver”) or Duel.

    Too bad the recent adaptation of On the Road didn’t catch on, for whatever reason; lots of time spent in cars in that movie, if it’s anything like the novel. (I haven’t seen it myself.)

    Baby Driver’s car scenes were fun, but overall I could have done with a lot less death-by-gunfire in the second half. [The gold standard in that area is still Midnight Run, in which the only deaths occur when Walsh (De Niro) shoots down the mob guys’ helicopter, with their deaths happening essentially off screen. No deficit of action in that movie, even though we don’t see anyone get killed close up.]

  • avatar
    05lgt

    Ronin, Gone in 60 seconds remake, Senna, Harold and Maude, The Graduate, Christine, Destiny Turns on the Radio (Roadrunner porn), Blues Brothers, The Wraith, The Road Warrior, Mad Max, Smokey and the Bandit, … choose 1? Ronin.

  • avatar
    daviel

    Bullitt

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    Here’s one that no one’s mentioned yet – “Children of Men.”

    Ever wondered what a bunch of mid-2000s Euro-mobiles would look 15 years later as the world creeped slowly to its’ doom? Here’s your answer.

    I figured these two cars were movie props, but they actually made the things.

    http://www.imcdb.org/vehicle_75495-Fiat-Multipla-186-1999.html
    http://www.imcdb.org/vehicle_75496-Renault-Avantime-D66-2002.html

  • avatar
    Stanley Steamer

    Is a car movie strictly about cars or do you mean a movie with cars?

    For me, best movie with cars; French Connection. Great sequence under the elevated train. Still amazes me that it wasn’t scripted.

    Best comedy movie with cars: Hard to decide between The Blues Brothers, Gumball Rally, and The Thing With 2 Heads (it’s just fun to watch lots of cop cars being smashed up.

    Best serious car movies: Toss up between Thunder Road and The California Kid.

  • avatar
    ldl20

    Serious answer: Senna

    Childhood memories answer: Cannonball Run

    Obvious Answer: Diehard! Love that Lincoln stretch limo.

  • avatar
    kenwood

    Since someone brought up Christine, I’ll add “The Car”. Been wanting a black Mark III with air horns ever since.

  • avatar
    Ermel

    Forgot to mention the Bourne trilogy. Some awesome (but not much exaggerated) chases in there.

  • avatar
    benz4kervin

    The Madonna clip from BMW The Hire series.

  • avatar
    stingray65

    My favorite childhood movies that still hold up well as an adult: 1) The Great Race (1964) and the original Love Bug (1968). If I remember correctly, the original Love Bug was the last movie that Walt Disney was directly involved with, which may explain why the many sequels and the reboot were so awful. Favorite line of The Great Race: Push the button Max.

  • avatar

    Grand Prix

  • avatar
    doublechili

    I’ve seen only a couple of mentions of “Senna”, which really surprises me. It’s an amazing story, and it’s told solely via archival footage of actual events as they happen. Best documentary ever for that reason.

    And it’s obviously not a car movie, but ever notice in the Godfather movies that if you see a car chances are someone’s going to die?

  • avatar
    NeilM

    1976 short film (~9 minutes) with a gorgeous sounding Ferrari (never seen) and a lot of blown red lights in Paris very early one morning: “C’était un rendez-vous” by Claude Lelouche. See it here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zvDXlDxMnb4

    1966 movie with cars: “A man and a Woman” (“Un Homme et une Femme”), starring Jean-Louis Trintignant, Anouk Aimée and a Ford GT40.

  • avatar
    Sub-600

    ‘National Lampoon’s Vacation’…the Griswold Family Truckster, are you kidding me? It had the optional luggage rack, it came in handy for Aunt Edna.

  • avatar
    NeilM

    And if I’d been able to edit my original post above, I’d have corrected the spelling to Lelouch (no final e) and mentioned that he also directed the other film.

    (For a site that relies on reader input, TTAC really does have the most brain-dead commenting system.)

  • avatar
    dal20402

    It’s cheesy, but I keep coming back to Duel, mostly for the truck. That truck is one of two vehicles that show up in my nightmares, the other being a scary black van I saw as a kid.

  • avatar
    GS 455

    In no particular order: Vanishing Point, Charlie Varrick, American Graffiti. Best chase scene: The French Connection, Ronin.

    Anyone remember the movie that ends with two detectives in a convertible chasing a private jet taking off and one of them climbs onto the jet’s landing gear and goes up with the plane?

  • avatar
    Sub-600

    ’The Love Bug’ (1968) Did more for European cars than 007.

  • avatar
    GS 455

    Repo Man

  • avatar
    chiefmonkey

    Lots of police cars were destroyed in the Blues Brothers. I vote Blues Brothers

  • avatar
    FinnEss

    “Wages of Fear”

  • avatar
    road_pizza

    Maybe not the “best” per se, but certainly the funniest: Used Cars

  • avatar
    Arthur Dailey

    After reviewing all the comments, GS 455 gets my vote: American Graffiti. It reintroduced or introduced the car scene for many. Even created a re-interest in music of that era. And launched a multitude of TV/Movie careers.

  • avatar
    slavuta

    I gotta add this one: Mr Bean Driving

  • avatar
    brn

    Death Race 2000.

    Just because no one else mentioned it.

  • avatar
    APaGttH

    Gung Ho with Michael Keaton. Still love it.

  • avatar

    Adam Carolla’s documentary, Winning: The Racing Life of Paul Newman is superb.

    The 24 Hour War, about Ford vs Ferrari at LeMans, is also very good.

  • avatar

    H.B. Halicki’s original Gone In 60 Seconds must be mentioned.

  • avatar
    Super555

    The 2007 Dukes of Hazzard film. Some killer dirt road scenes to open the movie and that nice jump. The main chase through Atlanta with all kinds of mayhem and amazing unreal tail out drifting of that ’69 Charger.

    The scene when Cooter rebuilt The General at night and it comes barrelling out of his shop with Mississippi Queen playing is perfect. A great soundtrack for my GoMango ’17 Challenger T/A 392 also!

  • avatar
    Zackman

    As a older grown-up, car movies no longer interest me if they ever did, but as a young man, “Vanishing Point” was the best, especially in those long ago times of 1971-72.

    At that time I had a great car myself, being young, single and in the USAF in NoCal. Paradise In those days!

    Then real life happened…

  • avatar
    Tstag

    Top spot goes to the orginal version of the Italian job, followed by the worlds fastest Indian, hunt vs lauda, Ronin and the Blues Brothers

  • avatar
    pbx

    Not the best car movie ever made but a worthy watch, McLaren. Documentary telling the story of Bruce McLaren. On Netflix currently I believe.

    • 0 avatar
      BigOldChryslers

      I’ve never heard of this one before. I checked out the first 5 minutes on Netflix and it seemed interesting so I will check it out. Thanks for the tip!

  • avatar
    KennyPowers55

    Maybe because it’s fresh in my mind after having watched it last week…

    Tucker: A Man and His Dream

  • avatar
    Super555

    Yes Zacman Vanishing Point and the 90s remake were both epic. I love that scene in the remake when the Challenger and black ’68 Charger cop car are playing chicken in the Arizona desert. Truly great filmmaking.

    Also Days of Thunder. Opening scenes and Cole’s first test at Charlotte great sound and camera work!

  • avatar
    gosteelerz

    The Wraith
    Death car on the freeway

    If you’re into cheesy movies.


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