Cars have served a vital and often crucial role in many iconic and memorable films; their breathtaking visuals can be nostalgia-inducing for audiences. Some of the most epic and intense cinema masterpieces put automobiles front-and-center, and showcase nail-biting car chases, gritty action and never-ending adrenaline that’s a delight for moviegoers. Car culture has been a cinema staple for decades, with Steve McQueen’s 1968 classic Bullitt setting a precedent for future car chase sequences. Movie studios know that if a picture contains spectacular automobiles and explosive visuals, chances are it’s going to be a hit at the box office.
Car enthusiasts love big-screen extravaganzas that put the pedal to the metal and take them on a wild and thrilling ride. From edgy and hard-hitting films like Drive and Ford v. Ferrari, to wonderfully over-the-top actions such as the nearly 10 The Fast and the Furious films and Speed Racer, the silver screen has become home to some pretty fantastic car-centric films. 2023 saw two major car-centric films, Gran Turismo and Ferrari, take the spotlight, and with new entries in the Fast & Furious, Transformers, and Mad Max franchises coming, it doesn’t look like it will slow down anytime soon. These are the 15 best movies for car lovers, ranked.
Update January 9, 2024: This article has been updated with even more great movies for people who love cars, including a few recent releases and the streaming info on each title.
15 Gran Turismo (2023)
The most recent entry to the list, Gran Turismo, hit theaters in August 2023. With this motorsport-themed film, director Neill Blomkamp (District 9) brought a real-life story to the screen. Jann Mardenborough is an avid gamer, who spends his days struggling to find a balance between his working-class day-to-day and his passion. Playing a racing game called Gran Turismo as often as he can, he wants to fulfill his dream of becoming a successful and famous racing car driver. When the management of Gran Turismo sets up a unique competition, Jann’s dream suddenly doesn’t seem as impossible anymore.
Gran Turismo Made an Impression This Year
First and foremost, Gran Turismo stands out by telling a true story. It gives the entire movie even more excitement, creating an even bigger adrenaline rush, knowing that there is truth behind the scenes. What makes this film special is that it highlights the accomplishments of a previous underdog, taking the viewers along on his strenuous journey as a working-class citizen who goes on to achieve their dreams, even if the road to the goal is filled with more hurdles. Additionally, Gran Turismo combines outstanding camera movement with a pace that keeps the excitement going and overall stunning effects in truly impressive racing sequences. Stream on Netflix
14 Transformers (2007)
- Release Date
- June 27, 2007
Transformers had to be on this list. While the film and the franchise are focused on robotic aliens from outer space fighting an intergalactic war, they also need to take the shape of vehicles, and that gives the filmmakers (and toymakers) plenty of chances to highlight a wide variety of cars that fans can enjoy. They are the ultimate toys as one gets a car and robots together for the price of one. Even though the movie centers around a good portion of human characters, the audience is drawn in by Optimus Prime, Bumblebee, and Megatron.
Why Transformers Makes This List
Transformers might be one of the most important car movies for young audiences. It is likely for an entire generation, a yellow Camaro became a dream car because it was Bumblebee in Transformers, and to this day, when people see a yellow Camaro, they will think of Transformers. Combine that with Optimus Prime being a truck with red flames, or Ironhide being a GMC pickup truck or Ratchet being a Hummer, Transformers helped lay the groundwork for kids to want to know what vehicles their favorite characters turned into. As the franchise went, plenty of more vehicles would get the spotlight as Transformers, with the prequel films giving a focus on classic cars. The film also tapped into a powerful ethos many car drivers feel: “A driver doesn’t pick the cars. Cars pick the driver. It’s a mystical bond between man and machine.” Stream on TNT, TBS, and DirectTV.
13 Rush (2013)
- Release Date
- September 2, 2013
Esteemed filmmaker Ron Howard directed 2013’s biographical sports drama Rush, which focuses on the rivalry between two Formula One drivers; the Austrian Niki Lauda (Daniel César Martín Brühl) and the British racer James Hunt (Chris Hemsworth) during the 1967 Formula 1 motor racing season. The film is an adrenaline rush for audience members and features incredible race sequences, one that put an emphasis on dangers over thrills.
Rush is a Must-Watch
Howard manages to capture the essence of two of the most famous drivers, showing their clash of personalities and tying it all together when he focuses on the tragedy that occurred. The director stunningly captures the nerve-wracking danger of F1 racing at the height of its era, when safety protocols weren’t really implemented and the drivers were considered true daredevils, and simultaneously shows how it affected Lauda himself, but also the other drivers. The film gives space to the negative and also positive aspects of Formula 1, making it Rush is jam-packed with gripping races, fast cars, and edge-of-your-seat action, which truly makes it a thrilling and entertaining ride for moviegoers. Stream on Netflix
12 Gone in 60 Seconds (2000)
The 2000 action heist flick Gone in 60 Seconds is a loose remake of the 1974 H.B. Halicki film and follows a retired car thief who finds himself back in the game when he’s tasked with stealing fifty cars in order to save his brother’s life. Nicholas Cage and Angelina Jolie, two big names in Hollywood who are known to deliver outstanding performances, headline the picture, which is without a doubt a tribute to car lovers across the world as it shows off fifty lavish automobiles.
Why It Is One of the Best
On top of its exciting storyline, Gone in 60 Seconds stands out with an amazing soundtrack, creating a matching atmosphere by adding hip-hop music and alternative rock by famous artists such as Ice Cube or The Chemical Brothers. As for the high-speed excitement, the film features a stunning array of vehicles that’s every hot rod lover’s dream. From a classic 1953 Chevrolet Corvette to a 2000 Porsche Boxster, car lovers will certainly spot one, or many more, favorites. There is also enough time to admire spectacular stunts and chases, allowing for a depiction of the cars’ performances. Fans of over-the-top Hollywood action and mindless good-natured fun will love the heist flick, if not simply for the aesthetic and thrilling car chase scenes. Rent on AppleTV
11 Ferrari (2023)
- Release Date
- December 25, 2023
- 2hr 10min
Ferrari is the latest release on this list, which has just opened during the holiday season of 2023. The film stars Adam Driver as Enzo Ferrari and focuses on his struggles during the summer of 1957 regarding his car company and his own personal life, including his relationship with his estranged wife Laura (Penélope Cruz) following the death of their son, his affair with a woman named Lina (Shailene Woodley) while his company is on the verge of collapse.
Ferrari Examines the Man Behind the Car
While most movies on this list focus on cars, Ferrari decides to dig deep into one of the most creative and influential people in car culture. Enzo Ferrari was a complicated man, and director Michael Mann delves into the troubles of his life and what informed his company that makes cars that are still loved the world over. The film features impressive cars and a truly standout car crash sequence, and is both a great history lesson and character study for car fans. Ferrari is currently playing in theaters.
10 Cars (2006)
- Release Date
- June 8, 2006
The name Lightning McQueen probably rings a bell for many, considering that he became famous all around the world, even though he is not an actual person but much rather a hotshot racing car. While Cars clearly highlights themes such as friendship and work ethics, the animation does not forget about making it all about racing. It shows various cars and different companies and connects the majority of them to real-life car brands that have impressed fans for decades. The story is a simple one of a hotshot rookie racing a car living in the fast lane who, after being forced to do a detour and do time in a small town off Route 66, learns the value in slowing down and just going for a drive.
Cars Is a Great Intro for Kids
Cars does a remarkable job of capturing the highlights of car culture in America, including the world-famous Route 66 or classic Corvettes, in order to create an enjoyable atmosphere for car lovers of any age. The movie features so many different vehicles that invite audiences to learn more about. It is a film that inspired an entire generation to get into vehicles and racing, so it earns a spot on this list. Stream on Disney+
9 Bullitt (1968)
- Release Date
- October 17, 1968
Acting legend Steve McQueen stars in the 1968 neo-noir action thriller Bullitt, which centers on tough-as-nails San Francisco cop Frank Bullitt who has quite the task at hand. When a witness, who was under his protection, is killed, Bullitt sets off to identify the underworld kingpin that is responsible for the murder. The car-lovers classic features McQueen in all his tough-guy glory and is famous for its car chase scene through the streets of San Francisco, which is widely regarded as one of the most influential in movie history.
Bullit Perfected The Car Chase
Bullitt is notable for its extensive use of actual locations and according to McQueen, “The thing we tried to achieve was not to do a theatrical film, but a film about reality.” The Highland Green Bullitt Mustang ‘559 Frank drove around and became synonymous with the film, which became a critical and commercial hit. A year after its release, Bullitt even added an Oscar to its name, since Frank P. Keller won in the category “Best Film Editing” for his outstanding work regarding the car chase sequences and overall editing. Film critic Emanuel Levy declared in 2003 that “Bullitt contains one of the most exciting car chases in film history, a sequence that revolutionized Hollywood’s standards.” Rent on AppleTV
8 Drive (2011)
- Release Date
- August 6, 2011
The 2011 Nicolas Winding Refn action drama Drive stars Ryan Gosling as an unnamed Hollywood stunt driver who moonlights as a getaway driver and finds himself in danger after he attempts to help his cash-strapped neighbor. The dark thriller earned a standing ovation when it made its debut at the 2011 Cannes Film Festival, with Refn winning the festival’s highly coveted Best Director Award. With its sleek direction, hyper-stylized violence and stunning imagery, Drive features dynamite performances by Gosling as well as its supporting cast including Carey Mulligan, Bryan Cranston and Albert Brooks.
Drive is a Different Car Movie
With nail-biting car chases and riveting action sequences, the film earned praise for its direction, cinematography and true grit; Rolling Stone called Drive “a brilliant piece of nasty business.” There is no doubt that the finished film stands out with its captivating aesthetic, which captures the gritty mood an action thriller requires, but even before the film went into production, a lot of work had already gone into the preparation. Gosling, especially, took his role incredibly seriously, even going as far as to choose the character’s car himself and even doing all the restoration work before the car was ready to be featured on screen. Rent on AppleTV
7 The Italian Job (1969)
1969’s classic comedy caper The Italian Job tells the story of Charlie Croker, the leader of a Cockney criminal gang who devises a plan to steal a gold shipment from the streets of Turin by staging a traffic jam. The renowned Michael Caine portrays the suave Croker, and the film includes the additional talent of playwright Noël Coward, comedian Benny Hill, and Raf Vallone. The heist escape cars are red, white, and blue Minis, with gorgeous automobiles like an orange Lamborghini Miura, Jag E-Types, and Ashton Martin DB4 front and center in the flick.
Why It Is One of the Best
The Italian Job counts as one of the most brilliant British classics, bringing viewers from their couches right into the chaos of a car chase and creating a thrilling atmosphere through the use of impeccable costumes, a great pace, and overall impressive scenery reaching from green parks to fascinating rooftops with absolute ease. The Italian Job’s epic cliffhanger ending, in which the coachload of gold is suspended over the edge of a cliff, is one of the most discussed end scenes in cinema history. A remake of the caper was released in 2003, with Mark Wahlberg stepping in to Caine’s role, also featured some enviable vehicles on full display. However, the original has become a classic of its genre and has achieved cult status. Rent on AppleTV
6 Death Proof (2007)
Quentin Tarantino’s Death Proof is a slasher film, which was released in 2007 and tells the story of a stuntman who modifies a Dodge Charger and a Challenger and then uses them in a very unusual and deadly way. While this type of film is usually known for having murderers who kill with knifes or axes at the center, stuntman Mike’s weapon of choice is his car, which is built in a way that he, but not his passenger driver, is protected during an accident. Mike, who specifically targets women, continues down a dark path, luring women in and killing them, but when some of his victims survive his attack and they are burning with the desire to seek revenge, his fate takes a turn.
Death Proof Knows How To Use a Car
Considering that Hollywood legend Quentin Tarantino is the director and writer of the film, it should come as no surprise that Death Proof has a unique touch to it. The bigger part of the film is arguably a slow burner, but, just like any other of Tarantino’s masterpieces, there is an intention behind every scene, ultimately creating an unexpected turn of events. While, at first, it seems as though it follows the structure of a classic slasher film, there is indeed more to come, and the director used this slow start in order to lure the audience into believing there won’t. Then, by the time the killing does happen, Tarantino shows how deadly a car can be as a weapon. This sets up the films final sequence, a massive car chase showdown as one of the most impressive put to screen that plays out more like a sword fight than a car chase. Rent on AppleTV
5 1 (2013)
Car lovers listen up, because 1 is one of those movies which should be a part of a petrolhead’s watchlist. Telling the true stories of numerous well-known F1 drivers, this documentary from 2013 brought big names such as Lewis Hamilton, Niki Lauda, Sebastian Vettel and many more in old and new interviews in front of the camera. Highlighting the 60s and 70s of Grand Prix racing, the film focuses on the many successes this era held but still doesn’t shy away from explaining why it was also one of the deadliest times.
Why It Is One of the Best
1 tells a story of living life on the limit and taking, often life-threatening, risks, but the turning point is that it is all happening in one of the most famous sports in the world. Millions and millions of people either find their way to the tracks as spectators or gather in front of the TV in order to cheer on their favorite driver. While the energy and the adrenaline are always present, the reality of the sport’s danger is sometimes forgotten. This documentary sheds light onto the reality behind this fascinating motorsport, unveiling the sides that aren’t often spoken about and showing that behind every race, there is a driver who risks it all. 1 not only gives insights into the lives of many famous drivers, some who took over Formula 1 back in the day and others who are showing their skills on the track to this day, but it also offers a more technological view on racing, explaining the dangerous sides of the cars and making them safer is a long road. Stream on Prime Video
4 The Fast and the Furious (2001)
Undeniably one of the most successful franchises of all time, Fast & Furious is a series of action films that feature drool-worthy cars, epic heists, gritty street racing and gravity-defying stunts. The movie that started it all was 2001’s The Fast and the Furious, which focuses on undercover cop Brian O’Conner as he is tasked with determining the identity of a group of automobile hijackers led by Dominic Toretto. The action blockbuster memorably stars Paul Walker, Vin Diesel, Michelle Rodriguez and Jordana Brewster and is the quintessential car lover’s film, as it famously shows off a slew of luxurious and ultra-expensive vehicles like a 1994 Toyota Supra, Mazda RX-7 and a 1970 Dodge Charger R/T.
Fast & Furious Launched a Car Franchise
Production attended illegal street races to accurately depict the racing culture, and it is also notable for its inclusion of street racers. Variety called the action flick “a gritty and gratifying cheap thrill, Rob Cohen’s high-octane hot-car meller is a true rarity these days, a really good exploitationer, the sort of thing that would rule at drive-ins if they still existed.” The first film would be a hit and launch what is to this day one of Universal Pictures’ biggest movie franchises. While the series has evolved over time, the roots of the film series all start here with an appreciation for classic cars and the power of a vehicle being front and center. Stream on Prime Video
3 Mad Max: Fury Road (2015)
The highly-revered Australian dystopian thriller Mad Max: Fury Road is one of the most acclaimed films ever made. The action film takes place in a self-destructing world, right in the midst of an apocalypse, and focuses on two rebels who might actually be the key to restoring peace and order. Max Rockatansky, shattered after his wife and son were murdered, and Furiosa, who is trying to find a way back to her homeland, are at the center of this action-packed survival story.
Mad Max: Fury Road Drove All The Way to the Oscars
Mad Max: Fury Road is basically chaos and danger made into a film, offering already incredible scenery which is elevated even more by impeccable editing, daunting sounds, and thrilling vehicles with their very own touch, reaching from upgraded trucks to a Ford Falcon. While these aspects already make Max and Furiosa’s story stand out, pushing it even further and making it one of the best movies for all car lovers out there is the fact that the majority of the stunts are real. There certainly has been a great change in film stunts, considering the danger for anyone involved and the logistics behind them, but Mad Max: Fury Road went all in and delivered jaw-dropping scenes in which the adrenaline and the drama are more than palpable. The film went on to be nominated for ten Academy Awards, including Best Picture. Audiences are highly anticipating the prequel Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga, which is set for release on May 24, 2024, and likely will end up on this list in the future. Rent on AppleTV
2 Ford v Ferrari (2019)
Just as the title already reveals, Ford v Ferrari highlights the long-lasting competition between two of the most famous automotive manufacturers. Director James Mangold’s film, which was released in 2019, tells the story of Caroll Shelby (Matt Damon) and Ken Miles (Christian Bale), who are Ford’s vehicle designers and a driver, respectively, and dives into the hard work they put into creating the best race car yet. The year 1966 might ring some bells among car lovers because the reason behind coming up with a revolutionary car, the Ford GT40, for Ford was to beat Ferrari, who was dominating the motorsport world at that time at the famous Le Mans.
Ford v Ferrari is a Modern Classic.
Ford v Ferrari takes fans into the world of motorsport without holding back, delivering outstanding racing sequences of spectacular quality, which take up a large part of the film and ensure a high-speed and energy-filled watching experience. Mangold’s masterpiece was nominated for Best Picture at the Academy Awards. The movie is a powerful commentary on the conflict between art and commerce through the lens of racing. It shows people pushing the boundaries of what a car can do, mixing ingenuity with imagination. It truly is a sight to behold that not only will have audiences on the edge of their seats, but likely has the ability to make even the biggest tough guy cry. The cast and crew managed to elevate the film, taking it beyond its already thrilling storyline and turning it into one of the best films of 2019 and a must-watch for car lovers. Rent on AppleTV
1 Speed Racer (2008)
- Release Date
- May 7, 2008
Following their successful Matrix trilogies, The Wachowksis decided to cash their blank check in on Speed Racer. The film was an adaptation of the popular anime of the same name, focusing on the titular character and his journey to become the best race car driver in the world. Along the way, Speed takes part in many high-profile races that include bringing down an evil business conspiracy that threatens the integrity of racing as a sport.
Speed Racer is a Movie Made For Car Lovers
While Speed Racer might not be a realistic movie about cars, in fact, it is the exact opposite of that as it takes place in a brightly colored candy-coded world that is a cartoon come to life. Yet what makes Speed Racer the ultimate car movie is the emotion around driving and cars. It is a film that so earnestly believes in racing as an art form, where the character of Racer X beautifully delivers the line:
“It doesn’t matter if racing never changes. What matters is if we let racing change us. Every one of us has to find a reason to do this. You don’t climb into a T-180 to be a driver. You do it because you’re driven.”
Anyone who loves cars, or racing, or anything about automobiles will find something to relate to in Speed Racer. It captures the childlike joy of how a vehicle can be powerful and beautiful. With a wide array of gorgeous-looking cars and races that are unlike anything put to screen, Speed Racer puts the pedal to the metal in a rip-roaring good time. Plus, it is hard to argue that among the iconic cars in film and television, a car lover would not jump at the chance to give the Mach-5 a spin. Stream on Max.
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