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Car enthusiasts are a fickle breed. They like what they like and they shun what they don’t know or what they don’t identify with. I grew up in 1970s and I was a car guy at the age of 4. As such, I grew up through the tail end of the muscle car era and in the malaise era.  However, I’ve seen all of the classic car movies and have lived through the more recent crop of car action movies.

So I took some time to write down my top picks for the top car 15 movies. My list is predicated on one main point: imagine you have a 15 year old boy in your household who loves cars. These are the movies I would show to my teen son so that I can show him how the car culture started, how it progressed and how it is now.

And if you don’t feel like reading this, you can watch this video:


  1. Fast 7

You thought I wasn’t going to talk about any Fast and Furious movies? Or maybe you thought I would pick the first movie. Although the first movie has influenced the car culture for more than 20 years, Fast 7 is a much better car movie.  This movie left behind the blingy and ricey cars of the first installments and in their place, audiences were treated to a smorgasboard of high horsepower high end cars.  A Lykan Hypersport, a Bugatti Veyron, a McLaren MP4-12C, a couple of classic muscle cars and  a wicked SRT 10 Viper joins an equally  impressive cast of actors. And so the only reason this movie is on the list because of the number of high end cars  and what they did with the car.

 14. Days of Thunder  

Two NASCAR Drivers are rivals with no intention of losing. Plenty of action on track but my favorite part was the rental car battle  – I may have done very close to the same thing back in the 1990s’. But for NASCAR fans, it was a treat to see Hollywood commit big dollars to showcase their favorite motorsport.

  1. Ford Vs Ferrari

Ford orders their racing division to build a car to defeat Ferrari at Le Mans. Iacocca hires Carroll Shelby to win at LeMans to prove that Ford is a match for the Ferarri. Based on a true story, but with quite a bit of creative license but it was nice to see the cars of that era on the big screen and more importantly, the movie introduce new audiences to the remarkable Ken Miles.

  1. The Transporter 2002

Jason Statham is a professional driver.   Whether its driving the get-away car or making sensitive deliveries, he’s in big demand.  So when a new client has a package to deliver, he gets the call.  When his employers learned that he opened the package, they try to kill him.  Now he’s made enemies as he tries to save immigrants who are being held inside a cargo container and time is running out.  This movie has several chase scenes, mostly without the use of CG.  The use of aa BMW 750i E38 with a manual six-speed gearbox makes this movie more legit in my opinion.

  1. The Italian Job 1969

Michael Caine plays  Charlie Croker, who is fresh out of prison and immediately starts planning to go to Italy rob a van full of gold. The film involves one of the best car chases in the history of cinema (with Mini Coopers) and one of the most famous lines in cinema, when someone uses slightly too much explosive on a van during a test and is reminded “You’re only supposed to blow the bloody doors off!”

  1. Smokey and The Bandit

When your movie is written and directed by a stuntman, you know it’s going to be packed with action.  Hal Needham delivers in a Big way.  The movie follows a truck driver who is trying to deliver untaxed liquor across state lines all on a bet.

To keep the cops at bay, Burt Reynolds plays the Bandit and using one of the newest Trans Ams as to run interference for Snowman played by Jerry Reed. Despite their best efforts, they attract the attention Sheriff  Buford T. Justice.  This movie was filmed before CG so all the stunts were done practical – no trickery (except a little speeding up of a couple of shots). Lots of car crashes but every stunt still fits within the known physics so it feels realistic. This movie has one of the longest pursuit sequences on film , more than 8 minutes long.

  1. American Graffiti

Set in a small-town California in 1962, the film follows several teenagers as they spend their last night of summer vacation goofing around, getting into trouble, contemplating their futures, and listening to Nothing but Hits. No, there really is no plot. It’s basically set around the car cruising culture, much like went on in Southern California starting in the late 1950s.  Why is it on this list?  For many, including people who grew up where the cruising culture was born, the movie takes us back to the days when the streets were packed muscle cars with powerful names like Firebird, Mustang, GTO, rather than emasculated hybrids and SUVs.  Gas was cheap, cops were chill. There were no intersection takeovers and no under glow neon lights.

 Ronin 1998

The plot centers around a team of ex-secret agents, now mercenaries, hired to steal a valuable metal suitcase that is permanently attached by handcuffs to a Courier. There are complex deals and double-crosses to get whatever is inside it. Apparently, it is valuable enough to cause lots of shootouts and car chases. Directed by John Frankenheimer, Robert De Niro stars.

The movie called for a complex chase scene in Paris at speeds over 100 mph. To make it look like the actors were driving, the stunt drivers sat either in the trunk or on the right side of the car  using a RHD car borrowed from England and a fake steering wheel on the left side.

All of the car stunts were real, no CG.


 Gone in 60 Seconds

I cant’ think of a movie that shows more cool cars in the same movie.  “Memphis” Raines (Nicolas Cage), a former master car thief forced to return to his former trade and steal fifty specified cars for crime boss Raymond Vincent Calitri, The whole plot focuses on  Raines’ team as they attempt to steal a long list of cars, not for fun but to save the brother of Nicolas Cage’s character. Angelina Jolie provides further eye candy. The final chase scene provides a worthy climax.

  1. MAD MAX 1979

This 1979 postapocalyptic movie is one of several in a series.  The series follows “Mad” Max Rockatansky, a police officer who lost his family and his mind in the chaos that came Just Before the End. Clad in the tattered remains of his patrol uniform, he roams the post-nuclear deserts of Australia in his customized V8 Interceptor, fighting to survive while reluctantly lending aid to people in need. For most automotive aficionados, it was all about the pursuits and crashes.

 CannonBall Run

The Cannonball Run is a 1981 comedy film directed by Hal Needham and starring Burt ReynoldsRoger MooreFarrah FawcettDom De LuiseDean MartinSammy Davis Jr.Adrienne BarbeauJackie Chan, and Jamie Farr. If my younger viewers don’t know who these people, let’s just that these people were among the most popular actors of the 1970s and early 80’s. Jackie Chan drove a rocket powered Subaru.

4. Bullitt 1968

Steve McQueen gets behind the wheel again once more, but instead of in a race car, in a crime drama.  I don’t remember much of the plot, but all that matters is the final chase scene. Two of that era’s most popular muscle cars engaged in a chase scene in one of the most scenic cities in America.  It’s a no holds barred pursuit in a time before CG. And more importantly, McQueen did much of his own stunt driving.  He and Bill Hickman practiced driving close together at a racetrack in order to get comfortable driving at speed just inches apart.

The 11-minute chase was all shot without any trickery except for a couple of seconds where they sped up some of the footage. Stunt man Bud Aikens jumped in for the more complex stunts, but the rest of it was McQueen. So whenever you see Steve McQueen’s face driving, it’s really him driving.

I’ve personally driven on these roads in my R35 and these roads are no joke, so I can’t even imagine doing that on bias ply tires.n The stunts were real, the sounds of the cars were real, and with a cacophony of four-barrel carbs screaming in competition with squealing tires, masculine gear shifts, and not a single, pop, or burble tune anywhere to be found.

  1. Rush 2013

Rush is a 2013 biographical sports film centered on the Hunt–Lauda rivalry between two Formula One drivers, the British James.  This movie does take some creative license but the story is mostly true.

The car action is superb, taking cues from movies like LeMans and Grand Prix.

Just Before I recorded this video, I spoke to Freddie Hunt, the son of James Hunt, and he confirmed that his dad was fond of women and partying – after it- everyone was doing it in the 1970s.

  1. Grand PRIX 1966

Grand Prix is a 1966 film set in the world of Formula One motor racing, directed by John Frankenheimer and starring James Garner, Eva Marie Saint, Yves Montand, Toshiro Mifune

The movie follows these four drivers through the season until the championship comes down to one last race. Aron wins and is reconciled to Stoddard, but it is a hollow victory. The movie is packed with real racing footage from back in the day when film cameras weight 50 pounds.

The actors did much of their own driving. And they actually used A Ford GT40 as a camera car.


  1. eMans 1971

Starring Steve McQueen, Grand Prix used new ways to mount cameras. Getting realistic footage was of paramount importance.

The film started filming without a script. They basically filmed 2000 hours of racing footage, then the Director went back to Hollywood and tried to edit a story from the footage they already had. He was able to edit a cohesive story but he did have to fly back to LeMans in order to film an ending.

McQueen actually drove the car, but the studio would not let him participate in the race. It took an army of cameramen and grips struggled to manage the mounting, rigging, moving, and preparing the cameras.

It made $22 million, as much as Dirty Harry. To this day, it is still considered one of the most realistic racing movies ever produced.


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