MOTW: The Top 5 Car Racing Movies of All Time

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Fresh from prison, a street racer who was framed by a wealthy business associate joins a cross country race with revenge in mind. His ex-partner, learning of the plan, places a massive bounty on his head as the race begins.
Photo Credit: Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures
March 14th, 2014

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Nothing gets moviegoers' adrenaline pumping like the excitement of a high-speed car race on the big screen. Films like "Need for Speed" keep audiences on the edge of their seats, offering fast cars, beautiful women and an action-packed plot. Although the 2014 "Need for Speed" is the film on everyone's radar, many dedicated racing fans are wondering how it stacks up to other legendary racing movies. This short list details the top racing films of all time, including favorites like "The Fast and the Furious," "Grand Prix" and the promising newcomer "Need for Speed."

5. "Days of Thunder"

The 1990 film starring Tom Cruise has become a racing classic for its spectacular race scenes and decent acting. Cole Trickle is a hot-headed Indy racer who gets the opportunity to drive as part of a NASCAR team. Although many have compared "Days of Thunder" to "Top Gun," the film truly is original in its plot and unique in its cinematography. The film includes some cheesy dialog and an overly drawn-out love story, but it is still one of the best racing movies for its superior action sequences and accurate portrayal of NASCAR racing.

4. "The Fast and the Furious"

This film redefined the action genre in 2001, combining the acting talents of Paul Walker and Vin Diesel to create a fast-paced adventure surrounding illegal street racing. Brian O'Connor is an undercover cop sent to infiltrate a gang of street racers, and he is swept into the world of racing as he gets to know tough guy Dom Toretto. This film is filled with awkward dialog and plot holes, but this doesn't distract from the intense racing scenes which prominently feature some of the fastest, strongest cars up until the time of the movie's release.

3. "Need for Speed"

Based on the beloved video game series of the same name, the 2014 film "Need for Speed" is a breath of fresh air in the realm of modern car racing films. The movie uses incredible stunts, an interesting plot and renowned actors like Aaron Paul from the hit TV series "Breaking Bad" to create a high-octane adventure that thrills audiences at every turn. When small-town street racer Tobey Marhsall is framed by his rival Dino Brewster, he comes back to seek revenge through a winner-takes-all stakes race. Like many other racing films, "Need for Speed" focuses more on its action sequences than it does on character development and dialog. Although the first 30 minutes may leave viewers feeling as if the glitzy adventure is a guilty pleasure, they soon discover that this film is a worthy addition to the ranks of the best racing films ever made.

2. "Rush"

Released in 2013, this film is based on a true story, detailing the rivalry between James Hunt and Niki Lauda in the 1970s. In the golden age of F1 racing, wealthy English playboy James Hunt faces off against the strategic Niki Lauda from Austria as they compete to win the World Championship. Innovative cinematography captures the action on the tracks like never before, and CGI is used sparingly during the race scenes. The rivalry between the two vastly different characters is perfectly captured by Chris Hemsworth and Daniel Brühl. Car fans are sure to adore the use of classic Formula 1 cars and the realistic action sequences. The fast-paced score by award-winning composer Hans Zimmer adds emotion to every scene, resulting in an action-packed film that is worth watching more than once.

1. "Grand Prix"

This 1966 film has long been heralded as one of the best racing movies of all time for its realistic stunts, great acting and cinematography that is way ahead of its time. The story follows Formula 1 driver Pete Aron as he is fired after a severe racing accident that left a teammate injured. He begins driving for a new manager in the next big race, all the while falling in love with the estranged wife of his injured teammate. "Grand Prix" is unique in that the camera angles make audiences feel as if they are right in the driver's seat. Cameras were often placed in the cars during races, and the actors themselves drove the vehicles for a more realistic approach. This film is non-stop action from start to finish, forever transforming the racing subgenre.

From the 1966 "Grand Prix" to the 2014 "Need for Speed," these racing films have made an enormous impact on viewers and the genre as a whole. Each one offers plenty of high-speed race sequences and glamorous cars, keeping viewers thoroughly entertained from beginning to end.