Racing movies are such a special kind of film. They can be action-packed, comedic, dramatic, romantic, and suspenseful; but all of them will make you drive your car differently than you normally would after leaving a theater.

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There are a wide array of racing films, from the acclaimed Pixar franchise Cars, to the dramatic, minimal speaking role of Ryan Gosling in Drive, or Will Ferrell‘s comedic masterpiece Talladega Nights, which is still probably a top five quoted by a group of guys hanging out. Yes, some of these films don’t entirely center around racing, but there are at least racing sequences in them, which is all that matters.

Updated on October 18, 2023, by Jessie Nguyen:

People adore the adrenaline rush and thrill that fast-paced action offers, which is why racing movies are so well-liked. Moreover, with an Enzo Ferrari biopic titled Ferrari premiering in the US on December 25, there are plenty of awesome racing car movies to keep fans pumped for the latest film about a racing legend.

16 ‘Gone in 60 Seconds’ (2000)

'Gone in 60 Seconds' (2000) (1)

Before The Fast and The Furious there was Gone in 60 Seconds. The Nicolas Cage-led action movie didn’t receive great reviews from critics, but it was still able to be successful at the box office, making $237 million on a $90 million budget.RELATED: Every Nicolas Cage Role Referenced In ‘The Unbearable Weight Of Massive Talent’

After his brother, Kip messes up a car theft, master car thief Memphis Raines (Cage) must come out of retirement to steal 50 cars in 24 hours to save his brother. The dialogue may be cheesy, but that’s with a lot of action movies. The chase scenes are still awesome here.

15 ‘Fast & Furious’ Franchise (2001 – )

Two men riding on top of a car

The pinnacle racing movie and franchise. In 2022, this franchise is a far cry from what it started out as, an undercover cop turned member of the crew he was investigating, film. Vin Diesel and Paul Walker built this franchise into what it is today – Fast & Furious movies have become an absolute box-office juggernaut.

Who would have thought this franchise would get to 10 movies? It truly is incredible. The plots getting exceedingly ridiculous, with Fast 9culminating in a trip to space for Ludacris and Tyrese Gibson‘s characters (an idea that seemingly started out as a joke). The introductions of The Rock and Jason Statham spawned a spin-off, Hobbs & Shaw. And John Cena joined as Dom’s forgotten brother. This franchise consistently excels at one thing: keeping fans in awe with its mind-blowing chases. Now, it’s truly out of the world, quite literally.

14 ‘Thunderbolt’ (1995)

'Thunderbolt' (1995) (1)

Thunderbolt follows a sports car technician Chan Foh To (Jackie Chan) who assists the police in his leisure time by inspecting vehicles that have been improperly modified. One day, his sister is kidnapped and his business is trashed by a super-criminal street racer he once sent to jail. Thus, in order to free her, he must defeat the man.

Although Jackie Chan was connected to racing movies such as The Cannonball Run, early in his American career, it would take some time for him to star in his own interpretation of the genre. Thus, Thunderbolt includes all the hallmarks of a typical Chan film, including intricate action scenes, Chan’s gravity-defying stunts, and incredibly mad antagonists, along with some excellent racing scenes.

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13 ‘Days of Thunder’ (1990)

Days of Thunder (1990) (1)

Days of Thunder follows Cole Trickle (Tom Cruise), a young racer from Eagle Rock, California, who has years of open-wheel racing expertise and has won championships with the World of Outlaws, and now transitions into the competitive world of Nascar racing. He also has a strong temper and because of this, he frequently gets into arguments with teammates as well as other drivers.

Days of Thunder is a racecar counterpart of Top Gun that succeeds in its goals with just the right amount of tension, thrill, action, romance, and humor, making it a must-see in the genre. Moreover, fans who are knowledgeable about racing will enjoy cameo appearances by the top drivers and commentators of the era.

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12 ‘Speed Racer’ (2008)

'Speed Racer' (2008) (1)

Speed Racer is a car racing movie based on the anime of the same name, and it is not for everyone. It’s probably the most unique out of every movie on this list because it is a live-action version of an anime. It is very, very colorful, and even though the CGI may not hold up that well, it’s still one of the better anime live-action adaptations to date.

RELATED: Live-Action Anime Movies That Worked

The Racer family: Speed (Emile Hirsch), Pops (John Goodman), and the complicated brother Racer X (Matthew Fox) all give good performances. The action is great, and the score by Michael Giacchino is elite. Speed Racer, over the past decade, has gained a sizable cult following despite its underperformance at the box office.

11 ‘Le Mans’ (1971)

Le Mans

This will not be the last racing movie on this list that revolves around the 24 hours of Le Mans race. The 1971 film of the same name is hailed as one of the most realistic portrayals of racing in a movie to date. Steve McQueen plays Michael Delaney, who is a top-notch Le Mans driver.

Le Mans has some romance budding between Delaney and his rivals widow, Lisa (Elga Andersen), but it is mostly praised for its driving sequences, and also featured real footage from the 1970 Le Mans race that took place a year prior to the movie’s release.

10 ‘Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby’ (2006)

ricky bobby

Perhaps among Will Ferrell‘s most iconic films (it was his largest opening weekend box office at that point), Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby documents the hilarious rise and fall of the titular character, Ricky Bobby, as well as his complex relationship with his father (Gary Cole) and his best friend Cal (John C. Reilly). Directed by Adam McKay and written by McKay and Ferrell, the movie was praised for its use of satire and gags.

Ricky Bobby became one of Ferrell’s most iconic characters for his outlandish, supremely narcissistic, and cocky attitude. He was so quotable, from “If you ain’t first, you’re last,” (which was technically his father’s quote) to his drawn-out prayers to baby Jesus; everyone knows to chew Big Red because of him.

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9 ‘Cars’ Franchise (2006 – 2017)

cars

One of Pixar’s many successful franchises, Cars takes place in a world of anthropomorphic cars. Following Lightning McQueen (Owen Wilson) as he gets lost in the town of Radiator Springs, befriending the locals and learning there is more to life than just racing.

The success of the first movie spawned a sequel, which by all accounts was considerably less good, scoring only a 40% on Rotten Tomatoes, unheard of for a Pixar movie. However, the franchise did get a third movie 11 years after the original, and it is arguably the best of the three.

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8 ‘The Last American Hero’ (1973)

'The Last American Hero' (1973) (1)

The Last American Hero follows Junior Johnson (Jeff Bridges), a real-life NASCAR driver who became a legendary figure in the sport. Johnson’s life is realistically and grittily portrayed in the film, from his early days as a moonshiner in the rural South to his ascent to fame in stock car racing.

RELATED: All-Star NASCAR Movies You Should Race to See

The Last American Hero is not a typical sports movie. It goes beyond the thrill of racing and delves into the complexities of Junior Johnson’s character, his relationships, and the moral dilemmas he faces along the way. Moreover, the film immerses viewers in the world of stock car racing and captures the essence of the American spirit with its excellent performances, authentic Southern atmosphere, and memorable soundtrack, making it a timeless classic that continues to reverberate with audiences, both fans of the sport and those seeking a compelling human story.

7 ‘Snake and Mongoose’ (2013)

'Snake and Mongoose' (2013) (1)

Snake and Mongoose is a biographical sports drama film that explores the captivating and often intense world of NHRA drag racing in the 1960s and 1970s. The film revolves around the legendary rivalry between two iconic figures in the sport, Don “The Snake” Prudhomme (played by Jesse Williams), and Tom “The Mongoose” McEwen (played by Richard Blake).

The movie deftly strikes a balance between intense racing scenes and a thorough examination of the personal and professional lives of its main protagonists. It not only explores the business of motorsports and the marketing breakthroughs that made drag racing a well-liked and financially lucrative sport but also celebrates the dramatic races that take place on the track. Thus, Snake and Mongoose is a captivating tribute to Prudhomme and McEwen’s vision and their big influence on drag racing. A must-see for motorsport fans and anyone curious about American racing history.

Watch on Peacock

6 ‘Rush’ (2013)

Rush-Chris Hemsworth- Daniel Bruhl
Image Via Universal Pictures 

Set against the golden age of Formula 1 racing in the 1970s, Rush is based on the true story of a fiercely competitive competition between Austrian driver Niki Lauda (Daniel Brühl) and the attractive English playboy James Hunt (Chris Hemsworth). The narrative focuses on their strikingly different personalities both on and off the track.

Rush is not only one of the best racing movies ever created, but it’s also the greatest human narrative that has ever been told on screen. Moreover, under Ron Howard’s seasoned direction, the movie convincingly captures the setting and time, and how the race scenes are presented in real life.

5 ‘Baby Driver’ (2017)

Baby driver

In Baby Driver, Baby (Ansel Elgort) is a getaway driver in Atlanta for a heist crew led by Doc (Kevin Spacey). Baby suffers from tinnitus, and uses his iPod to soothe it, specifically when he is driving the getaway car. The movie does a tremendous job blending what is the soundtrack and what Baby is listening to.

As all action/heist movies go, Baby falls in love with a girl, Deb (Lily James), a waitress, and wants to leave his life of crime behind. “One last job” ensues, and eventually everything goes awry and Baby must figure out how he and Deb are going to escape. The movie sounds simple, but it is very well written, and directed, and the performances are exceptional.

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4 ‘Ford v. Ferrari’ (2019)

'Ford v. Ferrari' (2019) (1)

The second racing movie that revolves around Le Mans, Ford v. Ferrari follows Carroll Shelby (Matt Damon) and driver Ken Miles (Christian Bale) as they attempt to make a car for Ford Motor Co. that can race and go up against Ferrari in the 1966 24 hours of Le Mans race.RELATED: Movies to Watch if You Loved ‘Gran Turismo’

The incentive to build a race car that could win Le Mans came after Ferrari, which was bankrupt, used Ford as leverage for a deal with Fiat, so Enzo Ferrari could maintain control over the cars and the racing group. Shelby and Miles eventually built a car, and although Miles didn’t get the Le Mans win, Ford would go on to win Le Mans in ’67, ’68, and ’69.

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3 ‘Grand Prix’ (1966)

'Grand Prix' (1966) (1)

In a fictitious account of the 1966 Formula One season, Grand Prix chronicles the destiny of four Formula One drivers. Directed by John Frankenheimer and starring James Garner and Eva Marie Saint, the movie not only showcases the intense competition among the drivers but also delves into the personal lives, rivalries, and passions that drive these racers.

The movie is a perennial favorite among fans of motorsports because it provides an exhilarating cinematic experience and an enduring depiction of the beautiful yet dangerous world of Formula One. Moreover, beyond its technical achievements and breathtaking race scenes, Grand Prix stands out for the movie’s character-driven storytelling. The film’s racing spectacle gains complexity as it delves into the complicated relationships, aspirations, and sacrifices of the drivers.

2 ‘Drive’ (2011)

Drive (2011) (1)

Ryan Gosling‘s best movie is ironically one where he only had 116 lines of dialogue. Gosling stars as a character known only as “The Driver” in Drive. The protagonist is a stuntman, mechanic, and criminal-for-hire getaway driver in LA. After falling for his new neighbor, Irene (Carey Mulligan), Driver offers to be the getaway driver for a pawn shop heist involving Irene’s newly released from prison husband, Standard (Oscar Isaac).

Things go wrong, and money that is owed to Albanian mobsters puts Driver and Irene directly in their crossfire. Things continue to unravel and create a more complex plot, all the while Gosling puts on a serious and great performance, using mostly body language. The story is good, the action is great, and Gosling’s performance is one of his most memorable.

1 ‘Mad Max: Fury Road’ (2015)

Mad Max

One wouldn’t immediately think of Mad Max: Fury Road when discussing racing movies, but there are rigged-up cars and chase sequences that involve driving, so it fits the bill. Set in a post-apocalyptic world, Max (Tom Hardy) is captured by the warlord Immortan Joe (Hugh Keays-Byrne). He teams up with Imperator Furiosa (Charlize Theron) as they try to escape the warlord in a chase across the wasteland.

Director George Miller came up with the idea for Fury Road in 1987, but the movie was in production hell for quite some time, due to the September 11 attacks and controversy with Mel Gibson, which led Miller to recast the role, eventually landing on Tom Hardy. Luckily for fans, the film was made, and by all accounts was better than the original.

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NEXT: The Best Action Movies of All Time, Ranked

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