Culture

5 of the Greatest Car Movies

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Fast and the Furious 6 just came out — and, according to the Wall Street Journal, it made a “record holiday haul” with $316m in sales.  Part six of the series broke all prior Memorial Day weekend box-office records. I applaud Fast and its success — especially since it revolves around a topic that some people, WSJ included, consider a “niche topic,” and not necessarily interesting to a large swath of the population. I disagree. I like to believe that Americans are still car-lovers and that automotive movies are not “niche topics.” For starters, look at the box-office record for Memorial Day that a car moviejust shattered and, second, take a peek at some of our favorites from the silver screen.  Many of the “classics” involve cars. Still a niche topic? Here are some of the best car movies out there, proving the critics wrong.

Note: they are in no particular order and I didn’t put anything on the list that I had not seen — even if I knew it was a classic.  Add your favorites if they were not included. We all love a good car movie on a Sunday night.

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5. Cars (2006)

Pixar really had a winner with this animated gem. Who couldn’t love a racecar who learns the true meaning of family and friendship with the help of some old-school American classics? This movie is a good primer for car-loving youngsters.

4. Le Mans (1971)

Not only is this movie on a great race, the infamous 24 hour Le Mans, but it also stars Steve McQueen… and Steve McQueen is always a good choice. The movie was filmed in a very minimalist, documentary style that is almost a work of art in itself. Although you would think a car movie would be all blasts, screeching, and engines revving, many of the scenes have no dialogue, and almost no sound. It’s a fascinating take on the juxtaposition of Le Mans’ thunderous race machines and the quiet French countryside. Fun fact for any Patton (1970) fans out there: Siegfried Rauch, who played Captain Oskar Steiger, also plays the Ferrari driver, Erich Stahler.

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3. The Italian Job (1969)

Although I love Mark Wahlberg, we are going to go with the original movie for this entry. The Mini is still riding its wave of fame from the infamous car-chase scene that takes place both above and below ground in Torino, Italy  A couple of jaguars also make an appearance —adding a little bit of Brit to the Italian backdrop.

2. The Fast and the Furious (2001)

This movie made “nitrous oxide” a household term — and every teenager wanted it in his/her station wagon. TFatF’s take on street-racing won’t just entertain the gearheads and the racers — it will also entertain the ladies. Vin Diesel and Paul Walker provide the “hunk-factor” —but are still cool enough for the male audience to appreciate. The movie is loosely based on a magazine article called “Racer X,” on late-night street-racing groups in Japan. Like racing in the moonlight, the movie is also likely to give you a thrill.

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1. Senna (2010)

I admit that I watch this movie at least once a month — and I always cry. Senna is an amazing documentary on Ayrton Senna, an F1 legend who passed away before his time.  Featuring great race footage, interviews, private home-videos from the Senna family, and an energizing soundtrack, race fans and history buffs will both be sucked into the world of the late 1980s/early 1990s, F1 paddock.

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Honorable Mentions:

Bullitt (1968)

High-speed chase scene. Steve McQueen. 1968 Ford Mustang GT. What more could you want?

James Bond Series

He always has a sweet Aston Martin with a few gadgets. Casino Royale saw Bond with the new Aston Martin DBS — but Skyfall brought us back to our DB5 roots. When that garage door went up, the entire theater audience cheered.  We all love a good Bond car.

The Graduate (1967)

Gotta love the Alfa Romeo!