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Grace
Hagerty Employee

The best and worst vintage racing movies of the 20th century

Back when car enthusiasts' attention was focused on Ford v Ferrari, rather than a microscopic nasty made of lipids and RNA, I started to do a deep dive into racing movies. That investigation led me down a rabbit hole that tunneled back into the silent film era. With so many people holed up in their homes due to the COVID-19 pandemic, this seems like a good time to present the results of my research. Here's a trove of the best, the worst, and the most innovative racing movies from the 20th century, plus some tidbits of history that I hope you'll find fascinating.

 

Read the full article on Hagerty.com: https://www.hagerty.com/media/automotive-history/the-best-and-worst-vintage-racing-movies-of-the-20t...

63 REPLIES 63
dhomuth
Intermediate Driver

If the director spends more than maybe 20% of the time on irrelevant things like plot lines, character development and most especially romantic involvement of the drivers, I become uninterested pretty quickly.  On the television, I record the movies and fast forward through all that nonsense.

Okey78
Intermediate Driver

From Elvis:

Clambake: Elvis drives the 1959 Stingray racer in which Dr. **bleep** Thompson had such success.

Viva Las Vegas: Cesare Danova drives a Ferrari 250 GT TdF.

Spinout: A Duesenberg J tow car for a Cobra racer!

 

Munster Go Home: Fred races the Munstermobile against a Ferrari 250 GT California Spider driven by the villain and assorted other cars: E-Types, a Vette, a Cobra, a 300SL, and an Austin-Healey.

 

Okey78
Intermediate Driver

Dr. Thompson's first name gets bleeped!  You do know that is a common diminutive of Richard and one the good doctor went by.

Okey78
Intermediate Driver

A couple of obscure British films from the '50s:

Checkpoint (1956): A crime drama set against a backdrop of an Italian "road rally" which is actually the Mille Miglia, with the Aston Martin team supporting.

Genevieve (1953): 1904 Darraq vs. 1905 Spyker in the London to Brighton Run.

 

And from Italy is Fellini's short: Toby Dammit.  Terence Stamp drives a rebodied Ferrari sports racer.

 

dougieg
New Driver

One movie that I liked was Silver Dream Racer staring David Essex. It's a bit hokie in places, but it has some great racing footage of bikes at Silverstone.

JackVan
Intermediate Driver

Saw Grand Prix when it first came out in a theater with full wrap around screens and sound. The opening had injector stack vertical views all around the perimeter. First one, then several and finally all of them starting and revving at the same time. The sound, 360 degrees, matched the progression. The camera cars were full up racers and had either six or eight cameras capturing views from all sides and back. Sound matching each view with directional mics. People were leaning in their seats compensating for turns on the screen. You won't ever see a theater set up like that again. James Garner did his own driving and at least matched, and sometimes exceeded, the pros in the other cars. The equipment and tapes probably still exists someplace. It would be a world attraction for a car museum to set it up

 

Okey78
Intermediate Driver

Quentin Tarantino's Deathproof (his half of Grindhouse).

 

truprecht
Passenger

no mention of Vanishing Point ! ! !

deutschcomm
Passenger

Dear Ronnie, you forgot one of the most famous race movies of all times „The great Race“ with Tony Curtis, Nathalie Wood and Jack Lemon. 

jtphoto
Passenger

Thunder Road with Robert Mitchem, running moonshine was a great movie, not a racing movie tho. James Garner made a film about 1970 on his Daytona 24 hr race & his Formula A cars. Can't remember the name??  - jt smith 

helman
New Driver

William haynes in "Speedway" is quite good although his approach to "charming" a lady at the track's diner would have gotten him arrested now.   In the original "Crowd Roars" (it was remade a few years later)  Jimmy Cagney and his mechanic are doing carburation adjustments inside of a closed railroad freight car.   This would seem a bad idea.   My friend the late Donald Lockwood claimed to have once owned the Kurtis  Indy car featured in "To Please A Lady"  and his comment to me was, "It wasn't as fast as it looked!"

biggem
Pit Crew

American Graffiti was a excellent movie, didn't have a lot of racing. A lot of great cars and story ! Never get tired of it ! 

biggem
Pit Crew

I think back in the 60's, there were beach movies, drag racing. One had TV Tommy Ivo, they were great. Also who could forget Speed Racer, LOL ! 

MGA
Passenger

Being a former racer and currently senior official these early movies rekindle some memories of mine back to 1958