25 best racing movies ever

Petrolhead? Wheel warrior? Tarmac-worshipper? We've got the films that'll crank your engine and get your cams spinning

A very special sub-genre of the sports movie, the racing film attempts to translate the thrill of pushing souped-up thrill machines around a track – or in some cases, down civilian streets – into celluloid-based entertainment.

Here, in no particular order, are our 25 favourites…

Cars (2006)

Pixar's automotive animation was something of a passion project for director John Lasseter, a dedicated petrolhead who wanted to pay homage to the American highway. So he created Cars, in which the small town of Radiator Springs is being destroyed by the soulless Interstate – until race car Lightning McQueen fetches up there. Packed with automotive in-jokes and cameos, Cars is perfect for tutoring kids (of all ages) in the ways of the petrolhead.

 

Speed Racer (2008)

Emile Hirsch stars as the titular Speed Racer – a young man who's completely obsessed with racing, to the exclusion of all else – in this live-action adaptation of Japanese Anime Mach GoGoGo. Speed Racer flopped at the box office – audiences were baffled by the Wachowski brothers following up The Matrix trilogy with this candy-coloured confection. But they were missing the point somewhat – Speed Racer's physics-defying lunacy and eye-popping palette were a perfect translation of the anime to live action.

 

More after the break...

Speedway (1929)

This late-period silent movie stars William Haines as Bill Whipple, a wannabe racing driver who reckons he can take on the best at the Indianapolis 500. But will he be able to woo flapper Pat (Anita Page)? 'Course he will. For racing buffs, this film's particularly interesting – it features scenes shot at the actual Indy 500, and cameo appearances from racing drivers of the day.

 

Senna (2010)

Asif Kapadia's documentary on Brazilian Formula One legend Ayrton Senna feels almost like a fictional biopic. Thanks to the vast amount of footage shot of Senna, Kapadia was able to cut the film like a feature, alternating between wide shots, close-ups and in-car views. It's particularly effective during the final act, when a series of accidents at the San Marino Grand Prix lend the film a feeling of impending doom, in the build-up to Senna's fatal crash.

 

The Fast and the Furious (2001)

Sure, Paul Walker wasn't a believable tough guy, and Vin Diesel is far too big to be good at racing in those light cars. But somehow The Fast and the Furious was still a positive evolution in the car chase film genre. Thanks to special effects taking us through the engine, more modded cars than at Santa Pod, and a love of street racing, it's spawned four sequels to date.

 

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