'Fast and Furious,' 'Days of Thunder' and More Memorable Car-Racing Movies

1:56 PM 11/17/2019

by Jillian Forstadt

'Cars,' 'The Love Bug' and 'Talladega Nights' are among the films that made it to the finish line.


Car-racing films have provided audiences with a theatrical adrenaline rush for decades.

In the 1960s, moviegoers were dazzled by the effects in Grand Prix and charmed by lovable race cars like Herbie the Beetle in The Love Bug.

Le Mans, The Cannonball Run and Days of Thunder put big stars behind the wheel in Steve McQueen, Burt Reynolds and Tom Cruise, respectively.

In the 21st century, Disney and Pixar reimagined the racetrack for its Cars franchise, complete with a determined talking automobile and many motor-themed puns; Universal's The Fast and the Furious revved up a winning series of films featuring Vin Diesel and the late Paul Walker; and Sony's Adam McKay-directed Talladega Nights, starring Will Ferrell, highlighted the humor in high-speed rivalries.

More recent entrants include critically acclaimed, real-life inspired films like Universal's Ron Howard-directed Rush, starring Chris Hemsworth and Daniel Bruhl, and Fox's James Mangold-helmed Ford v. Ferrari, with Christian Bale and Matt Damon.

From family-friendly comedies to fast-paced dramas, high-speed car-racing films have taken audiences for an exciting ride throughout the years.

Read on for a trip down memory lane in 10 well-known driving movies.

  • 'Grand Prix' (1966)


    Director John Frankenheimer's film follows an American competitor through a number of exciting racing sequences in the fictionalized 1966 Formula One championship. The movie won three Oscars, including best sound, best film editing and best sound effects.



  • 'The Love Bug' (1968)

    Buena Vista Pictures/Photofest

    While Dean Jones leads the cast of this romantic comedy, Herbie, the anthropomorphic 1963 Volkswagen racing Beetle, serves as the real star of the film franchise that began with 1968's The Love Bug. The charming race car was last seen on the big screen in 2005 with the release of Herbie: Fully Loaded, the sixth and final film in the franchise, which starred a young Lindsay Lohan alongside Michael Keaton.

  • 'Le Mans' (1971)

    National General/Photofest

    This documentary-like film depicts the famed 24-hour race in Le Mans, France, with actor Steve McQueen as a tortured American driver. The film runs for just 108 minutes and found little success in the box office, yet has gained a following in recent years for its realistic approach

  • 'The Cannonball Run' (1981)

    Twentieth Century Fox/Photofest

    In the 1981 comedy, Burt Reynolds, Roger Moore and a young Jackie Chan face off in an illegal cross-country race while chased by a patrol led by Farrah Fawcett and others.

  • 'Days of Thunder' (1990)


    Tom Cruise kicks it into gear in this high-intensity sports drama film, loosely based on the career of race car driver Tim Richmond. Nicole Kidman stars as Cruise's love interest in the movie, which was released just six months before their marriage in December 1990. 

  • 'The Fast and the Furious' (2001)

    Universal Pictures/Photofest

    Originally inspired by a magazine article about street racing, the Vin Diesel and Paul Walker vehicle launched a franchise that has spawned at least eight more movies and grossed more than $5 billion worldwide.

  • 'Cars' (2006)

    Buena Vista Pictures/Photofest

    Featuring the voices of Owen Wilson, Paul Newman, Bonnie Hunt and Tony Shalhoub, Cars combines family-friendly humor with the vibrant characters Disney's Pixar is known for. 

  • 'Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby' (2006)

    Sony Pictures Entertainment/Photofest

    The action comedy centers on the hilarious rivalry between Will Ferrell's NASCAR driver Ricky Bobby and a French Formula One racer, played by Sacha Baron Cohen. John C. Reilly co-stars in the Adam McKay-directed Sony film, which Ferrell and McKay scripted.

  • 'Speed Racer' (2008)

    Warner Bros./Photofest

    The Wachowskis employed CGI to transform the Japanese anime and manga series of the same name into a live-action film. Despite a star-studded cast and $120 million budget, the film fell flat, grossing only $18.6 million at the domestic box office in its opening weekend.

  • 'Rush' (2013)

    Universal Pictures/Photofest

    In this biographical drama, Chris Hemsworth stars as English race car driver James Hunt opposite Daniel Bruhl as rival Niki Lauda. The film recounts the adrenaline-riddled competition between the two Formula One races during the 1970s.