Top 10 Auto Racing Movies: Who Wins Checkered Flag?

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Ron Howard’s Rush opened in a few select theaters last Friday and is expanding nationwide today. To celebrate the arrival of a film we believe will change the landscape for car racing movies forever, we’re revealing our Movie Fanatic Top 10 Auto Racing Movies.

Hollywood has had a long love affair with the racing movie. There were even silent movies that followed old timey cars racing around a track. Just check out the Rush trailer and see how far we’ve come!

Without further ado… we present our Top 10 Auto Racing Movies!

10. Days of Thunder
Love it or hate it, Days of Thunder was a virtual movie billboard for auto racing, and it helped send NASCAR into the stratosphere. Tom Cruise starred as a driver driven to succeed faster than the cars he drives.

Tom Cruise Days of Thunder

The racing world, as painted by producer Jerry Bruckheimer and director Tony Scott, is light speed fast, pulse pounding and as dramatic as a Shakespearean tragedy.

9. Speed Racer
Speed Racer gets a bad rap. When it comes to its racing scenes, they pop with an explosive color that makes the audience feel like not only are they in the front seat with Emile Hirsch's title character, but they're also able to experience a wider view of the frenetic pace from an emotional level.

8. Cars
Pixar scored in the little guy with racing dreams department with Cars. It is one of those films that kids play thousands of times and with good reason. It's a wildly fantastic movie that knows when to put its story in lower and then higher gears.

7. Death Race
Perhaps we're a little biased as a fan of Jason Statham, but there is something uniquely perfect about a prison movie meets a racing movie with Death Race. The stakes are higher. The drivers have little to live for and that makes them dangerous behind the wheel in a multitude of ways.

Toss in the carrot that is the race winner's freedom and the auto racing genre got a shoot of adrenaline -- straight to the heart.

6. Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby
If there is a sport that is perfectly attuned for Will Ferrell comedy, it's NASCAR. With Ferrell and John C. Reilly bringing the Shake and Bake, Talladega Nights quotes weren't the only things that raced into our heads. 

Best, Funny Friends

The film is not only an instant cinematic comedy classic, but it also still managed to be a terrific auto racing movie that captures the grit, guts and sheer competitiveness of the fastest sport on earth.

5. Grand Prix
Grand Prix landed in 1966 and quickly became one of the top 10 highest grossing films of that year. Like Rush, Grand Prix also follows the story of Formula One drivers through the entire season as they race across the tracks of the world with drivers from America, Britain, Italy and France.

For its time, it was a masterpiece of how to film cars racing while thrilling an audience in the process. The cinematography holds up amazingly well and should be a must-see for any racing fan. Period.

4. Senna
The documentary by Asif Kapadia was one of the best films of the year 2010, narrative, documentary or otherwise. It followed the red hot and all too short career of Brazilian Formula One icon Ayrton Senna. The footage used from the legend's races possesses a feel that is so real, it gives the sense you are witnessing a fictionalized version of this man’s life. It’s all real -- every last frame -- right up until his tragic death doing what he loved.

3. The Fast and the Furious movies
We're putting all six movies in one spot on our list because they collectively feature some of the most envelope-pushing car racing scenes in Hollywood history. Yes, they have many car chase scenes, but those street racing ones are movie moments to treasure. We, for one, cannot wait until Fast and Furious 7.

2. Le Mans
Put Steve McQueen behind the wheel and you already have a fantastic chance of a spellbinding movie. But that icon is not alone in the excellence department with Le Mans. Harry Kleiner’s script shows that when you couple a thrilling story with a great character being inhabited by an actor in a born to portray him role -- magic happens. And in this case it is coming at you at over 150 miles per hour in this story of a race car driver with dreams of checkered flags.

1. Rush
What Ron Howard did with Rush is produce a film that transcends the sport to celebrate the human condition. The tag line of "we are all driven by something" may seem hokey, but after witnessing the film, one can see it captures everything.

Daniel Bruhl Chris Hemsworth Rush

But lest we forget to salute the uncanny racing scenes that drive the movie -- as can be seen in the latest Rush theatrical trailer -- this is some spectacular capturing of a sport that is run at such a high rate of speed that it is not unusual for its competitors to die doing the thing they live for.

The real life rivalry of James Hunt and Niki Lauda fueled each driver to push the limits of racing greatness. And the film about their lives and extraordinary vocation pushes the limits of the marriage of movies and machines speeding around a track in front of millions of people.

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