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The 10 best racing movies, ranked

Have a need for speed? Try these racing movies

Twentieth Century Fox’

Auto racing has always fanned the human desire for adrenaline and competitive fire. Watching people enter a car and go as fast as possible feels like a metaphor for accomplishment and talent. These qualities make auto-racing an exquisite vehicle for an exciting movie genre! They could be considered a sub-category of the sports movie genre, but auto racing has carved out its own niche within that framework.

Racing movies have found success as documentary films, comedies, and historical fiction films with big-name actors. There are plenty of different types of racing movies to fit every taste. Let’s look at the ten best ones for you to stream immediately!

10. The Last American Hero (1973)

10. The Last American Hero
95m
Genre
Drama
Stars
Jeff Bridges, Valerie Perrine, Geraldine Fitzgerald
Directed by
Lamont Johnson
Watch on Amazon

Starring Jeff Bridges in one of his first great movies, The Last American Hero romanticizes the patriotic nature of racing by focusing on young driver Junior Johnson. Becoming a race car driver is all Junior has ever wanted. He views the sport as his awakening, but family and financial troubles obstruct his road to glory. 50 years after its original release, the movie is a great example of the feel-good, corny sports films your parents and grandparents grew up on.

9. Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby (2006)

9. Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby
108m
Genre
Comedy
Stars
Will Ferrell, John C. Reilly, Michael Clarke Duncan
Directed by
Adam McKay
Watch on Netflix

Sports can be a contrived, cheesy world of stereotypes and traditions. Racing is no different, and Will Ferrell brilliantly hones in on the funniest qualities of the sport and its athletes in Talladega Nights. While fans won’t learn anything new about the auto industry, they’ll get plenty of laughs as Ferrell portrays the satirical, titular protagonist. The Ballad of Ricky Bobby is the typical mid-2000s adult comedy with a fair share of innuendos and slapstick. John C. Reilly provides ample supporting as he often does in Ferrell’s movies. 

8. Rush (2013)

8. Rush
123m
Genre
Drama, Action
Stars
Chris Hemsworth, Daniel Brühl, Olivia Wilde
Directed by
Ron Howard
Watch on Amazon

A fictionalized version of the rivalry between racing legends James Hunt and Niki Lauda, Rush gave Chris Hemsworth one of his first chances to prove his acting worth outside of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The film examines how competitive fire and the obsession with defeating a singular opponent can completely overhaul someone’s life in negative ways. Special effects and thrilling race scenes make this a diehard racing fan’s dream movie.

7. Snake & Mongoose (2013)

7. Snake & Mongoose
102m
Genre
Drama
Stars
Jesse Williams, Richard Blake, Ashley Grace
Directed by
Wayne Holloway
Watch on Amazon

Snake & Mongoose is a unique sports film in that it dissects the action on the racetrack while also dealing with the interesting business ramifications of the sport in pop culture. Jesse Williams and Richard Blake star as Don Prudhomme and Tom McEwen, the men whose racing talents helped propel the world-famous Hot Wheels brand into a dynamite product in the 1970s. The movie is a little bit for racing films what Air was for basketball in the summer of 2023.

6. The Love Bug (1968)

6. The Love Bug
107m
Genre
Comedy, Family, Fantasy
Stars
Dean Jones, Michele Lee, David Tomlinson
Directed by
Robert Stevenson
Watch on Disney+

While many racing movies are marketed towards adults, The Love Bug is a Disney classic that children have enjoyed for decades. The story follows a driver and his best friend, a Volkswagen Beetle, who can talk, think, and feel all on his own. This relationship plays perfectly into the human desire to form a bond with inanimate objects like cars. The Volkswagen, Herbie, endures as one of Disney’s most underrated, yet classic characters!

5. The 24 Hour War (2016)

5. The 24 Hour War
99m
Genre
Documentary
Stars
Mario Andretti, Bob Bondurant, Ralph Nader
Directed by
Nate Adams, Adam Carolla
Watch on Amazon

The climactic, industry-altering rivalry between Enzo Ferrari and Henry Ford II has been recounted many times in media, but this documentary feature on the battle uses fascinating interviews and forgotten footage to paint a clearer historical picture of the conflict. Racing nerds and history buffs will get the most enjoyment out of this film, while more casual fans would probably rather watch the highly-stylized Ford v Ferrari (more on that one later in the list!) 

4. Grand Prix (1966)

4. Grand Prix
176m
Genre
Action, Drama
Stars
James Garner, Eva Marie Saint, Yves Montand
Directed by
John Frankenheimer
Watch on Amazon

Grand Prix is one of the pioneering films in the sports drama sphere. While James Garner stars as the lead driver, the movie masterfully jumps from one athlete to the next in anecdotal style while delivering a heavy dose of romance and interpersonal drama. Racing fans will love that this is one of the first movies where the directors were just in love with the sport as the people watching from the theaters, with a plethora of advanced shots and filmmaking techniques.

3. Racing Dreams (2010)

3. Racing Dreams
93m
Genre
Documentary
Stars
Annabeth Barnes, Josh Hobson, Brandon Warren
Directed by
Marshall Curry
Watch on fubo-tv

Basketball fans might be familiar with Hoop Dreams, the incredible documentary about two high schoolers in Chicago chasing NBA careers. Racing Dreams does some of the same things for the auto sports industry by honing in on three different young drivers as they fight for a chance at NASCAR competition. Including both male and female drivers is a key decision that makes the film versatile.

2. Senna (2010)

2. Senna
106m
Genre
Documentary
Stars
Ayrton Senna, Alain Prost, Frank Williams
Directed by
Asif Kapadia
Watch on Amazon

One of the most heartfelt documentaries made in recent memory, Senna gives Brazilian racer Ayrton Senna a poignant remembrance with unique imagery and standout interviews and archived footage of the driver and his inner circle. Senna was headed to racing glory before a tragic demise on the track at 34 years old. The film gives viewers a chance to celebrate a South American hero or learn about someone new, depending on the perspective of the person watching.

1. Ford v Ferrari (2019)

1. Ford v Ferrari
153m
Genre
Drama, Action, History
Stars
Matt Damon, Christian Bale, Jon Bernthal
Directed by
James Mangold
Watch on Amazon

Ford v Ferrari is what happens when big-time Hollywood producers and actors actually care about depicting a historical moment without forcing derivative drivel on the audience. The film leverages the talents of Matt Damon and Christian Bale to put a special spin on the famous conflict between Henry Ford II and Enzo Ferrari in the 1960s. Strong special effects, a well-written script, and just the right run time make this the perfect racing experience.

Editors' Recommendations

Movie images and data from:
Shawn Laib
Shawn Laib is a freelance writer with publications such as Den of Geek, Quote.com, Edge Media Network, diaTribe, SUPERJUMP…
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