Top 10: Films for car enthusiasts

There's a huge range of genres within the 'car films' category, from comedies like Cannonball Run and low-budget slasher films like Deathproof to icons like Bullit and The Italian Job. However, we included those four titles (and a few more) in our 2018-roundup. We've picked another top 10 of our favourite car films this year so, hopefully, you'll find some that pique your interest.

Top 10: Best Car Films 2018


Smokey and the Bandit (1977)

Smokey and the Bandit was an unexpected hit in 1977 and the first film directed by Hal Needham, a well-known Hollywood stuntman who worked with Reynolds on a few other pictures. Like many of Burt Reynolds’s characters in the 70s, Bandit made the south feel like a kinder, freer place. He defied authority and embodied the best of the American dream. It's a classic tale of good versus evil, just with more beer drinking.

Everyone expected it to fail. Film critics panned it, but Smokey and the Bandit became the second highest-grossing film of 1977, right behind Star Wars. Many will argue that it's the ultimate car movie; fantastic stunts, an array of brilliant (now classic) American cars and Burt Reynolds undeniable charm. It also doubled the sales of the Pontiac Trans Am in the two years following the film's release.

Trivia: The Trans-Am used for the bridge jump was completely wrecked after the successful jump.

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Smokey And The Bandit [DVD]


Senna (2010)

Senna is considered one of the must-see films if you love motorsport. In fact, it's the first of two documentaries from director Asif Kapadia to focus on a legendary talent taken too soon. The second is Amy (about Amy Whinehouse), while this one obviously centres on three-time Formula 1 champ Ayrton Senna.

Senna is comprised of archival footage from his family and the media who followed the enigmatic character's short career. Asif Kapadia was given unprecedented access to the FOM film archives to create the documentary film, however, it has been accused of constructing a narrowed view of F1 during Senna’s best years.

Trivia: Senna is the first-ever documentary film produced by Working Title Films and distributed by Universal Pictures.

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Senna [DVD] [2010]


Ronin (1998)

Ronin is notorious for featuring some of the most accomplished car chase sequences in modern film, as Robert De Niro's Peugeot 406 pursues Natasha McElhone's BMW 535i at breakneck speed through the middle of Paris.

To look as authentic as possible, director John Frankenheimer (of The French Connection and Grand Prix fame) took on hundreds of stunt-personal and sacrificed quite a few cars. The use of reportage style cinematography really puts the viewer in the driving seat, too.

Trivia: 80 cars were destroyed while filming, while 300 stunt drivers were employed for the final chase scene. One of those stunt drivers was former Formula 1 driver Jean-Pierre Jarier. 

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Ronin [DVD] [1988]


Drive (2011)

Drive arrived in box offices aboard a big hype-train, with critics and columnists billing it as a masterpiece from the get-go. While many, including us, think of it more of a cult classic - it's a definite contender on this list. As the character with no name, Ryan Gosling plays 'The Driver', a mechanic and sometimes stunt driver by day and a getaway driver by night. 

As expected, it all goes a bit pear-shaped and ultra-violence ensues. While it isn't a car flick as such, it's got a fantastic chase sequence, a too-cool protagonist and an excellent soundtrack to match.

Trivia: In preparation for his role, Ryan Gosling restored the 1973 Chevy Malibu that his character drives in the film.

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Drive [DVD]


The French Connection (1971)

It was the driving scene in Bullitt that netted Bill Hickman, the baddie who drives the Dodge, the stunt work in The French Connection. Featuring Gene Hackman giving chase in a 1971 Pontiac LeMans as the bad guy attempts a getaway on the elevated train above him, its arguably the best car chase scene in cinematic history.

But it wasn't fully choreographed and nor were there any permits from the city to film. Many of the near-collisions in the movie, in fact, were actually real.

Trivia: To save money on the budget and because they didn't always have permits, William Friedkin had the cameraman carted around in a wheelchair instead of using a camera mounted on dolly tracks for the moving shots. This is most noticeable when Gene Hackman runs to then enters the subway car. As the camera follows Hackman hurrying towards the car the film movement is smooth but then shakes noticeably as the cameraman has to get up from the wheelchair to follow Hackman.

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French Connection 1 & 2 Duopack DVD


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Taxi Driver (1976)

Taxi Driver tends to be one of those films everyone recommends, yet - considering its status - many people actually haven't seen. Travis Bickle is one of De Niro's most well-known roles to date, as well as one of the first to gain him worldwide recognition, with the film being a stark portrayal of how loneliness and alienation can create dangerous men. 

Like many of the films on this list, Taxi Driver isn't strictly a petrolhead classic - but the cab Bickle drives becomes an intrinsic part of him, reaffirming his belief that society, and the people he drives around, are bad and deserving of his violent sense of justice. 

Trivia: De Niro worked fifteen-hour days for a month driving taxis as preparation for this role. He also studied mental illness and visited a US Army base in Northern Italy to tape-record conversations with Midwestern soldiers so that he could pick up their accent.

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Taxi Driver [DVD] [1976] [1999]


Rush (2013)

Ron Howard’s wildly over-the-top biopic about the ’70s rivalry between Formula One racers Niki Lauda (Daniel Brühl) and James Hunt (Chris Hemsworth) follows the two alphas as they face off in the usually conservative world of F1. The butting heads of the hedonistic playboy from Britain, James Hunt, and the stern Austrian Niki Lauda makes for very entertaining watching, in addition to the glamorous and often dangerous world of racing.

The animosity between the racers doesn't simply delve into a story of good versus evil (or some imitation of that), instead, we get a wonderfully depicted story of the feud between two men who couldn't be more different - both attempting to be the best on the track.

Trivia: When Niki Lauda first saw 'Rush' he said "Sh*t! That's really me."

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Duel (1971)

Many consider Duel to be the first time we got a glimpse of Steven Spielberg's talent, plus it's quite exciting as far as car movies go. Dennis Weaver plays David Mann, a mild-mannered, middle-aged salesman who's being terrorised by a mysterious lorry for no discernible reason. What starts off as oddly-fasciating thriller becomes a study in masculinity.

The film sees Weaver, the constant pushover, lock horns with the truck in a back and forth between his awaiting fate. It's a great film from start to finish despite being a made-for-TV picture.

Trivia: During the chase scene, a parked car resembling a squad car is seen but it turns out to be a service car for a pest exterminator named Grebleips - which is Spielberg in reverse.


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Duel (Special Edition) [DVD]


Logan Lucky (2017)

At its heart, Logan Lucky is a tale as old as time - a heist that's bound to wrong. And yet, it's much more than that. It can be argued that director Steven Soderbergh botched the release by essentially self-financing and releasing it without backing from a major studio, leading to audiences failing to resonate with the film despite its charm.

The impressive cast includes Channing Tatum, Adam Driver, Katie Holmes, Sebastian Stan and an Eminem-esque blonde Daniel Craig. Hinged on a heist happening in the middle of a NASCAR race, the film is a refreshing angle on a familiar story with authentic characters and plenty of twists to keep audiences interested.

Trivia: The state trooper who pulled over the elderly lady was retired NASCAR driver Carl Edwards.

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Logan Lucky [DVD] [2017]


Tucker: The Man and His Dream (1988)

Jeff Bridges plays Preston Tucker, a real-life automobile entrepreneur who produced the Tucker 48 in late 1940's America, which notably had a third headlight in the middle of the front grille that turned in the same direction as the steering wheel. The film follows Tucker's optimism to create a car that he believed modern Americans were ready for including revolutionary safety designs including disc brakes, seat belts and a pop-out windshield.

Tucker the Man and His Dream also centres on the following scandal with the Big Three Automakers (General Motors, Ford Motor Company, and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles US) amid allegations of stock fraud. While the film doesn't feature any exciting car chase sequences, it is a heartfelt biopic that shows another side of the American Dream. It also renewed interest in the Tucker 48, which is a very rare automobile these days.

Trivia: In the film, Jess Bridges (who plays Tucker) wears cufflinks formerly owned by the real Preston Tucker.

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