Petrolhead? Film buff? We’ve been collecting our favourite driving films to have ever graced the big screen.
We’ve joined forces with some experts — both driving and film — to produce a definitive list of the best 9 driving films ever made. So get buckled up because here we go.
Star Car: Ferrari 312T
Formula 1 is exciting. No, really, it is! Let me take you back to nineteen seventy-six.
Formula 1 is still in its infancy. The tracks aren’t lined with highly flammable hay bales anymore but the safety measures still leave a lot to be desired.
Every Sunday single-seaters with huge tyres, giant wings and a trial-and-error approach to design would fly round tracks, teetering on the edge of control.
The smallest engineering mistake, the tiniest slip in concentration, the slightest drop of oil — that was all that stood between the drivers and a date with the corrugated barriers.
Rush tells the story of the 1976 season defined by the duel between cold, calculating Niki Lauda and brash playboy James Hunt.
The intense action on the track is brilliant to watch — it’s genuinely heart in hands stuff as the cars fly round at 200mph — and the rivalry is everything you want it to be.
Simply put, Rush is the finest professional racing film ever made.
The Italian Job (1969)
Star Car: Mk1 Austin Mini Cooper S
The Italian Job very rarely pops up on lists of the best driving films and I think that’s an absolute travesty.
Maybe because it’s more thought of as a heist film or perhaps it’s because the Mini Cooper isn’t quite as grand and impressive as other film cars.
Whatever your cinematic prejudices, as soon as the chase scene starts and the Minis take off through, over and under Turin, there’s absolutely no doubt about it. The Italian Job is one of the finest driving films ever made.
Le Mans (1971)
Star Car: Porsche 917
Earlier I claimed that Rush was the greatest professional racing film ever made. Well, turns out it’s got competition. And since its competition is championed by an actual racing driver, I thought we’d better listen up.
Here’s British racing driver, Rebecca Jackson, on why Le Mans is such a special film.
The 24 Hours of Le Mans is arguably the most prestigious endurance motor racing event in the world and the 1971 film Le Mans starring Steve McQueen captures the energy, atmosphere and sense of stamina required that remains a hallmark of the event today. McQueen’s film builds the tension and suspense, reminding the viewers of the perils of racing on this legendary circuit.
The Porsche 917 in iconic Gulf livery is the star of the show and has to be one of the most recognisable cars in motor racing history. Since I was a young girl I’ve watched Le Mans over and over again and dreamed of competing at that race. In 2013 I launched Project Le Mans, my four-year plan to climb the motorsport ladder to compete in the iconic event. This year I realised that dream and competed in the Road To Le Mans support race in an LMP3 prototype car just a few hours before the main 24-hour race. The film certainly played a role throughout Project Le Mans and its success.
The circuit may have changed since the film was released but there are plenty of recognisable land marks that still stand. I have attended the event as a guest, spectator, TV presenter and racing driver over several years. Being a Le Mans racer though is probably the most special achievement in my career to date and I will treasure the memory of those laps for many years to come. It will be an on-going dream to race there again.
Vanishing Point (1971)
Star Car: Star Car: Dodge Challenger R/T 440 Magnum
Part cross-country road trip, part art-house experiment and part shameless car classic, Vanishing Point was one of the first films on my list.
In a film known for its beautifully shot landscapes, it’s the Dodge Challenger that steals the show, rolling along the tarmac with its iconic throaty growl.
Star Car: Plymouth Valiant
Spielberg’s first full-length directorial debut simply had to make the list. A 74-minute, edge-of-your-seat thriller that sees a squishy human put up against an inhuman metal monster.
Here’s David Jinks, head of consumer research at ParcelHero, on the unique appeal of the film.
Our everyman hero David Mann cuts up a huge tanker, which then starts to pursue him across the Californian desert. Spookily, you never see the truck driver and the truck gradually becomes a kind of monster.
Mann — a hen-pecked and stressed salesman — drives an early ‘70s Plymouth Valiant and the menacing tanker is an ancient Peterbilt 281, which was chosen because it has a kind of a face.
It’s a nail biting drive that escalates in threat. Watch it and I guarantee you’ll never chop up a truck again!
Gone in 60 Seconds (2000)
Star Car: Shelby Mustang GT500
Yes, the original Gone in 60 Seconds is a good film. No, it’s a great film. Almost half of its 118-minute running time is dominated by a single car chase!
But I think the remake is better.
For one thing, the 2000 remake features Nicolas Cage. And it’s Cage — classic 1990s Cage not Ghost Rider Cage — at his very best.
Throughout the film Cage leads a crack crew of car thieves on a 72-hour car jack-athon around Los Angeles, nabbing everything from a three-tonne Hummer H1 to the gorgeous.
In a film featuring 50 cars, including an Aston Martin DB9, a Bentley Continental, a Dodge Viper, a Ferrari Testarossa a Jaguar XK8, a Porsche 911 and a Rolls-Royce Parke Ward Stretch Limo, you’d think it’d be difficult for one to stand out. It isn’t.
The gorgeous 1967 Shelby Mustang GT500 (codenamed Eleanor) stands head and shoulders above the rest. When you think of Gone in 60 Seconds you don’t of the other 49 cars, you think of Eleanor.
The GT500 would later go down in automotive history as the car that saved Mustang, directly inspiring inspired the retro redesign in 2005 and keeping the motoring icon alive.
Star Car: 1968 Dodge Charger R/T
It’s Steve McQueen in a Mustang being chased through San Francisco by bad guys in a Dodge Charger.
Need I say more? No.
Mad Max 2 (1981)
Star Car: Star Car: Pursuit Special
It’s post global nuclear war. There’s a worldwide energy crisis. Crazed motorcycle gangs roam the desolate Australian roads.
Mel Gibson, playing ex-cop “Mad” Max Rockatansky roams the deserted country in his supercharged V-8 Pursuit Special.
Based off a 1973 Ford Falcon XB GT Coupe, the Pursuit Special is an archetypal muscle car, complete with supercharger protruding from the bonnet. It’s big, brutish and slightly menacing. It’s the perfect car for the unforgiving Aussie backdrop and it feels just like losing a character when it’s blown up by Wez and his marauders.
Starsky & Hutch (2004)
Star Car: Ford Gran Torino
Is it risky to include the 2004 remake of Starsky & Hutch over the 1970s TV icon? Probably.
But this is a list of films not TV shows so we’re sticking with Owen Wilson and Ben Stiller’s
Here’s Ruth Walker, founder and editor of Ruthless On Film, on why Starsky & Hutch and the Gran Torino deserve to be on our list.
The red and white Ford Gran Torino in both the original and new Starsky & Hutch movie plays a pivotal role. It transports the mismatched partners on their many adventures and unfortunately takes a few bullets for it.
The 2004 movie is a favourite of mine thanks to the pitch perfect combination of Ben Stiller and Owen Wilson, Will Ferrell’s comic timing and the fantastic 70’s soundtrack.