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Insider Report: The top 10 car movies of all time

Published September 21, 2012

Movie goers love a good action flick, which means that any story line that involves fast cars is a dream for directors. It gives them the opportunity to put the stunt crews to work while hopefully building a decent story around it. Of course we all have different opinions about what makes a great car flick, and some of my faves are not ones you’ll find on other lists of top car movies. So sit back with a fresh coffee and check out my Top Ten Car Flicks. Think I’ve missed one? Let me know in the comments section!

Grand Prix

I don’t think I’ve ever seen a top movie list that doesn’t have John Frankenheimer’s epic 1966 racing movie Grand Prix and who am I to disagree. The storyline is somewhat true to life, the cars and racing are awesome and the filming techniques revolutionized film making.

Bullitt

Another classic. Steve McQueen in a Mustang GT, a bad guy in a sinister black Charger and the streets of San Francisco make for the greatest chase scene of all time. The story itself is a bit weak, but who cares? The chase scene is the standard by which all car movies will forever be judged.

The Gumball Rally

When The Gumball Rally came on the scene, I was about 10 years old. The opening scene, of a gumball being delivered to a bunch of people as a signal that the Gumball was about to begin, has stuck with me to this day. Loosely based on Brock Yates’ Cannonball Baker Sea to Shining Sea Memorial Run, the comedy includes lots of cool cars and crashes.

Le Mans

What list would be complete without Steve McQueen’s opus? Obsessed with racing, Le Mans nearly bankrupted McQueen and the studio but the film has become legendary. Like Grand Prix, some of the filming techniques were revolutionary and the action was true to life.

King of the Mountain

Here is where I start to move away from the norm a bit. This obscure flick features Dennis Hopper, Harry Hamlin and Dan Haggarty in a tale about the racing scene on the legendary Mulholland Drive. The racing scenes between Hamlin’s character’s Porsche Speedster replica and Hopper’s Corvette are nail biters. One of the greatest lines came from Hopper: “Time is speed man, speed is time”. Ok, maybe not as epic as I remember it, but a fun flick!

Vanishing Point

Kowalski is a guy who just needs to get from Colorado to San Francisco in under 15 hours. His ride is a pristine, white ’70 Challenger. Sound like a recipe for a chase? Sure does and the movie doesn’t disappoint. The original was released in 1971, followed by a TV remake with Jason Priestley in 1997. Both are good, I’ll leave it up to you to decide which is best for you.

Death Proof

Quentin Tarantino is the same age as me, and recalls hanging out in the playground at the base of a drive-in movie screen while his parents watched gritty, b-movies, just like I did. Once he became successful, Tarantino was determined to make a b-movie just for guys like us. Death Proof is the result of that determination. Stunt cars, a crazy man, hot girls and a white ’70 Challenger as homage to Vanishing Point. Death Proof has it all, complete with the cheesy drive in snack ads!

Gone in 60 remake

Unlike Vanishing Point, where I like both old and new, I much prefer the 2000 remake of Gone in 60 over the ’74 original. Yes, I know, the purists like the fact that the original was shot in real time, parts of it in real traffic, but come on….the remake has Angelina Jolie, Nick Cage and a wicked custom Eleanor. Did I mention Angie?

The Cannonball Run

Much like Gumball, The Cannonball Run is based on Brock Yates’ adventures, but this one was actually a poor adaptation of his screenplay. No matter, it featured Burt Reynolds and a bra-less Farah Fawcett and a bunch of cars. That was enough for this guy who was 14 when the movie came out!

Two-Lane Blacktop

Not really a great movie, but how many car flicks can boast a cast of James Taylor and Warren Oates, backed up by Harry Dean Stanton? The real star of the movie is of course the primer coated ’55 Chevy. Some great racing here!

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