Great car movies love to show off great cars. They test their rugged performance, sometimes in the form of a high-speed chase or race that would never actually happen, and they might reveal the passion and pride that goes on behind the wheel. But most of all, they make cars a central part of the story.
Of course, many films have featured or debuted rare or new cars, but this list is concerned with the movies all about cars. So with the 90th Academy Awards fresh in our minds, here’s a list of top car movies and documentaries to check out.
Gone in 60 Seconds (2000)
A nerve-racking chase, a gang of unique characters, and a race against the clock to snag some of the most expensive and desired cars (at the time), this action flick has all the elements of a great car movie. It tests the endurance a prized Ford Mustang Shelby GT500 code-named Eleanor, but also has some neat cameos, like a 1995 Ferrari F355 GTS, a 1994 Lamborghini Diablo SE30, and refurbished 1959 Chevrolet Impala convertible. See the entire list.
I’ve never watched the original version from 1974, but this remake is still worthy of hitting the list, especially if you want a nostalgic taste of some high-end models from the ‘90s.
Le Mans (1971)
First, it has Steve McQueen, who is in Bullitt—another great movie not on this list. Second, it has real footage from the 1970 Le Mans Grand Prix. Third, it’s a movie about the love, courage, and perils of racing, with some high-intensity racing scenes, making it a great movie if you’re into racing.
Another racing movie, Rush explores the rivalry of F1 legends James Hunt and Niki Lauda during the 1976 Formula 1 season. It’s a historic car movie full of cutthroat racing that reveals a glimpse into their personal lives, and is recommended even if you’re not that into racing for the film’s ability to capture more than just the passion for the sport.
Senna is a documentary of three-time Formula One world champion Ayrton Senna. Using only real footage, it covers the brief history of Formula One during Senna’s rise and the tragic, heartbreaking accident that shook and changed the world of racing forever. Since Senna’s death, F1 enacted new safety measures. This is one of the top documentaries of the sport and shows the legacy of a great driver and man.
Apex explains what makes a hypercar a hypercar. This documentary explores the frontier of racing and our desire for pushing these machines to their greatest limits. It features a Bugatti Veyron, Porsche 918, McLaren P1, and Koenigseff One:1 and more. It won’t reveal a ton of new information about these beasts, but it’s still a great film if you want to know how these cars are developed, where they’re going, and why we do it. Also, you get to see these machines tear up the track a little, which is pretty cool.
Furious 7 (2015)
Really, any movie from the Fast and Furious franchise will do. These films are the most self-indulgent, car-infested movies to come out yet, and number 7 takes the gold for most gut-wrenching, actionable, and borderline ridiculous with stunts that will put any car chasing scene to shame. This is not for a movie for those seeking a realistic portrayal of life, but once in a while, fantasy is nice to indulge in.
Mad Max: Fury Road (2015)
Okay, there are no normal cars in this film, but that’s why it’s on the list. The entire movie is basically a car chase, but with cars that come with mods so ridiculous you’ll think you’re in another world (which, of course, you are). There’s an old oil rig with a sand-plow, an old Ford lifted like a monster truck, and two 1959 Cadillac Coupe de Villes morphed into some sort of weird hot rod. And the best part? They all get destroyed.
The Italian Job (2003)
Some may say this movie is just an advertisement for the new Mini of the time, but it’s still a classic. Mini Cooper S’s zipping through tunnels, tumbling down stairs, and out-running a helicopter are just a few scenes in this classic flick. At least half the movie has scenes of driving and getaways, which is enough to put it on any car movie list.
Love the Beast (2009)
Love the Beast is a documentary that will explain why car enthusiasts have such a deep passion for cars. It goes beyond just the love, but explores the deep relationship that can form with them through the story of Eric Bana and the rough crash of his beloved ‘74 Ford Falcon XB—a car he’s had since his teens. It shows what it means to have such enthusiasm for cars and how these beauties are more than just a hunk of metal. It’s a way of life.