Need for Speed opens this weekend and it is nothing if not full of cars…..lots and lots of cars! So I have decided to share my picks for Top 5: Car Movies.
Sure, I could have added Bullitt, The French Connection or Ronin to the list but that would be too easy. Let’s drive a little stretch down the path less trodden. I want to look at some other films that may or may not be what you thought I would have picked.
First a quick note on my rules.
- Must have cars featured in the story
- I must have seen it
Sadly, while there are many movies featuring cars that could have been chosen only a few were worth our time. With that in mind, I wanted to highlight some of the car movies I like.
A group of friends who are in show business get together to hang out while they are in between shooting. They find out that a local farmer has the exact type of car from Vanishing Point. After convincing him to let them take it for a ride so they can do a stupid stunt, they are followed by Stuntman Mike (played by Kurt Russell). From here things really go sideways as Mike chases them down and tries to kill them. By the time we get to the end, things don’t quite play out the way we thought they would. I remember going to see Grindhouse when it came out and was sorely disappointed in Planet Terror. Thankfully Death Proof redeemed the experience. Here was a balls-to-the-wall action movie that felt right out of the 70’s era it was aping but then giving a nice twist along the way. A great entry by Quentin Tarantino to his film repertoire.
This is the film that made me, like many, believe that Jason Statham was an action star in the making. Here he plays Frank Martin, the transporter. It is that simple. He is a man built on his rules for driving and nothing, I mean nothing, will make him deviate from that rule set until now. Rule One: Never change the deal. Rule Two: No names. Rule Three: never look in the package. Well this time Rule 3 goes out the window as he looks in the package. When he finds a young woman there, he gets involved and things don’t go as Frank planned. As he fights up and down the road on his journey, the one thing we the audience and his foes learn is that Frank is not a man to be messed with. Sure, Frank can drive but we also learned about what I call Shirt-Fu, it’s a little gem of martial arts that Frank knows all too well. Jackie Chan can fight with ladders… Statham fights with a dress shirt and he is deadly with it.
Not quite post apocalyptic Australia is on display here. Mel Gibson becomes an international super star over night when it hits America. It helps launch him into super stardom that goes quite well until the last 10 years where he’s crashed and burned. Pretty much like Goose in this great film about cops and road gangs. Driving around in their tricked out cars causing carnage wherever they go. Eventually they run into Max and his family and things really turn ugly when the gang destroys all that he cares for. What comes next is one hell of a ride of revenge and bloodshed by Gibson and George Miller. Max is a man pushed to the limits by the Toecutter’s gang and he won’t quit until he has his vengeance. Such a great movie and characters. It also has the distinct pleasure of launching many fans’ love of cars. Eric Bana’s documentary The Beast talks quite a bit about how the cars (especially Max’s Ford XB Falcon) in this film made him love cars and racing them.
This documentary is about the birth and death of the modern electric car by General Motors. The EV-1 was being designed by GM to be the first big entry in the emerging market of electric vehicles. The marketing machine was on a full court press drumming up support for the vehicle. As development continued even in the face of the stacked odds, the car was making head way. Many environmentalists were quick to jump on board and support it. Just as things were starting to look good something went wrong. The project was scrapped, the cars recalled, and the ones returned were destroyed. Eventually the EV-1 did return as the Saturn line of cars but gone was the electric motor to be replaced by the standard combustion model we still widely use today. What the film looks at is what caused the program to shut it down and who was involved. It sounds very conspiracy nut levels of crazy but the truth about this is really, well crazy.
The film that launched a franchise. When it was first released, I really didn’t think much about the film until I saw it on video much later. I’m not a gearhead and I don’t get the whole culture of tuning in any way but boy, did this work for me. Brian O’Connor is sent undercover to bust up a ring of thieves who use high performance cars to commit their crimes. He goes after Dominic Torretto who is the top suspect. After finally making his way into the group, things don’t work out as O’Connor finds himself falling for Dom’s sister and the life in general. O’Connor is played by Paul Walker versus Vin Diesel as Dominic who both became stars from the success of this movie. After both guys dropped out early in the franchise, they returned for the fourth installment onward. But without this film to launch the series they wouldn’t have reached the heights they did. Unfortunately for fans of the series, Paul Walker died during filming of the latest sequel. While he wasn’t on set when it happened, it obviously has disrupted the filming as he was a central character for the film. Paul became a fan of racing because of this film and it showed in every scene he was in. Sure, it is basically Point Break with cars but it is still a good film.
So there it is, my list. There are so many more that I could have added but I wanted to go with what I think of as the best representatives of the group. If you are looking for something to watch this weekend, give one of these a try.
If you’re gonna geek out, GEEK HARD!