With the Oscars coming up this weekend, I thought it would be good to reflect back on my favorite (and not so favorite) racing movies of all time. There have been a bunch, but not that many good ones.

So here they are: My best, my worst, and the ones that have made me laugh the most.



Year of release: 1990
Cast: Tom Cruise, Robert Duvall, Nicole Kidman
Summary: Tom Cruise is a race car driver. He wrecks badly. He wonders if he’s still got it afterward.
Realism (1-10): 6.5
Acting (1-10): 8
Overall (1-10): 8

My favorite racing movie of all-time is Days of Thunder. I like stock car racing and always have, and on a 10-point scale, I give it a nine. I saw the movie for the first time when I was like six, and there’s this scene when Tom Cruise explains drafting to Nicole Kidman that’s pretty awesome. There’s another part where they’re in rental cars, and they wind up racing on the beach, tearing the hell out of the cars to get to a dinner. I like that part a lot. My favorite line in the movie is where the crew chief, Harry Hogge (Robert Duvall), looks over at his driver, Cole Trickle (Tom Cruise), and says, “Tires win races.” That’s the best. I used to say it all the time. The movie also did a good job with the shenanigans that go on with stock car racing with team dynamics.

My number one pet peeve with the movie is that for some reason, Cole Trickle never slows down for a yellow flag. He just drives through at full speed, and it’s one of the biggest premises of the movie. It’s awful.


Year of release: 1966
Cast: James Garner, Yves Montand Eva Marie Saint
Year of release:
Summary: Four different drivers fight to be the best over the course of the Formula 1 season.
Realism (1-10): 10
Acting (1-10): 6
Overall (1-10): 8

I love Grand Prix. My favorite part is the ending, and the racing action is unparalleled. It was a breakthrough film in that it changed the way that racing appeared in movies forever. Before Grand Prix, whenever they showed races in movies, it was an actor sitting in a car with a movie screen behind them, showing the road going by, the actor fake-turning the wheel. Grand Prix elevated the game in terms of what was possible when it came to making a racing film.

Because it’s from the ’60s, it’s got some of those classic movie cliches in parts of the story. But overall, I think it’s pretty strong.


Year of release: 2013
Cast: Chris Hemsworth, Daniel Brühl
Summary: Based on the true story of Niki Lauda and James Hunt, who fight to be the best Formula 1 driver—and build a friendship—over the 1976 season.
Realism (1-10): 7
Acting (1-10): 7
Overall (1-10): 7

Rush covered the story of Niki Lauda and James Hunt very realistically. It was introspective and smart. The opening sequence was really strong. And the part where James Hunt says that the closer you are to dying, the more you feel alive—I think that’s a very realistic way of portraying what it’s like to be a race car driver.

I had a chance to meet with the director, Ron Howard, before Rush was released, and thought he was really nice. And I know how much work he put into the movie, so that kind of makes me a little biased about it. Still, I thought the racing footage wasn’t up to the standard it should have been for the time in which it was made. They probably could have done a little bit better on it.



Year of release: 2006
Cast: Will Ferrell, Sasha Baron Cohen
Summary: Ricky Bobby is the king of NASCAR until his career is upended by the arrival of French Formula 1 superstar Jean Girard.
Realism (1-10): 5
Acting (1-10): 8
Overall (1-10): 7

There’s a scene in Talladega Nights that I still laugh about to this day. Where they’re sitting around the table joking and they live in the big, nice lake house, and all that stuff, which of course is a dig on every race car driver who lives in a nice house, which is kind of funny. Ricky Bobby’s wife Carley (Leslie Bibb) goes, “I don’t work. I’m a driver’s wife!”

To this day, that one just makes me laugh.


Year of release: 1983
Cast: Burt Reynolds, Ned Beatty, Loni Anderson
Summary: Driver Stroker Ace becomes the driver of a team sponsored by a chicken company. Chaos ensues.
Realism (1-10): 6
Acting (1-10): 6
Overall (1-10): 6

I would say Stroker Ace is the funniest racing movie. It covers the old driver-sponsor relationship very well. Stroker Ace (Burt Reynolds) switches rides and goes to drive for a different owner who runs a fried-chicken company. The owner, Clyde Torkel (Ned Beatty) makes him do a bunch of crazy, stupid stuff. He’s doing appearances wearing a chicken suit. They want him to wear a chicken suit in the car during the race. And he falls in love with the PR person—played by his eventual wife, Loni Anderson—along the way. It’s like all the kind of ridiculously funny things that actually do happen!


Year of release: 1990
Cast: Tim Conway
Summary: Tim Conway reprises his Duessel Dorf character in a comedic send up of the world of auto racing.
Realism (1-10): 1
Acting (1-10): 1
Overall (1-10): 4

Dorf Goes Auto Racing came out when I was six, and is part of this series from the late 80s and early 90s starring a character named Dorf, which was played by Tim Conway. Dorf is basically a dwarf from Scandinavia, and he appears as a bunch of different sports related movies: Dorf on Golf, Dorf Goes Fishing, that kind of thing.

I know it sounds terrible. But I remember thinking at the time—again, when I was six—that it was the funniest movie I’d ever seen.



Year of release: 2001
Cast: Sylvester Stallone, Kip Pardue
Summary: Jimmy Bly is a rookie NASCAR driver who draws on the guidance of former star driver Joe Tanto.
Realism (1-10): 1
Acting (1-10): 1
Overall (1-10): 1

The worst racing movie I have ever seen, by far, was the movie Driven.

It’s terrible. Awful. It’s overly-dramatized. It misses the whole point of racing. There’s nothing at all in that movie was worth a damn. There’s one part that kind of captures everything that’s wrong with it. Stallone drives puts a quarter onto a track and then drives over it a lap later. It flips into the air. It’s supposed to mean something, but it doesn’t make any sense. There’s no reason why it’s relevant.

Hands down, it’s the worst.



Year of release: 2010
Cast: Ayrton Senna
Summary: Documentary about the life and career of Formula 1 superstar Ayrton Senna, who died in 1994.
Overall (1-10): 10

If we’re going to put Senna in, then of course, it tops everything.

The racing action is supreme. The storytelling is supreme. Of course, it’s an amazing story to begin with, but it’s also told very well. It’s got both those things going for it. They captured the reaction to his death very well. They captured his legacy very well. And they had a lot of behind-of-the-scenes access.

Senna was just really well put together.