'Ford v Ferrari' and other legendary racing films
Starring Matt Damon and Christian Bale, the film "Ford v Ferrari" looks back at a legendary era in racing sports. Here is a selection of famous movies that feature steel on wheels in the lead role.
'Ford v Ferrari' (2019)
"Ford v Ferrari" (titled "Le Mans '66" in the UK and other territories) is a new sports biopic about a team of US engineers who challenged in 1966 Ferrari, the perennial winner of the 24 Hours of Le Mans, the world's oldest active endurance sports car race. Starring Matt Damon and Christian Bale, it portrays the golden era of sports racing and how the will of individuals can beat bureaucracy.
'Le Mans' (1971)
In 1971, an extremely lavish film was dedicated to the legendary 24-hour race held annually in Le Mans, France. Racing fan Steve McQueen starred as Michael Delaney in the action adventure. "Le Mans" has hardly any dialogues and in parts feels like a documentary; it also features actual footage from the 1970 race.
'Grand Prix' (1966)
"Le Mans" was originally planned to be shot in the mid-60s, to compete with "Grand Prix," which depicts a fictionalized version of the 1966 Formula One season. Directed by John Frankenheimer and starring James Garner, Yves Montand and Eva-Maria Saint, the film won three Oscars for its technical achievements.
Along with Le Mans, the Indianapolis 500 is one of the most prestigious motosports events in the world. Just like Steve McQueen, Paul Newman (left) was also a car racing enthusiast. That transpires in the sports film "Winning," which also features many authentic racing scenes.
Beyond films portraying specific car races, fans of the genre also find their thrills in action movies that put fast cars in the spotlight. It was no coincidence that speed enthusiast Steve McQueen, who played a detective in "Bullitt," was at the wheel in one of the longest and most exciting car chase scenes in cinematic history: 10 minutes through the streets of San Francisco.
'Vanishing Point' (1971)
San Francisco was also the final destination in "Vanishing Point." Director Richard C. Safarian's film is about an ex-racing driver who bets he can cover the distance between Denver and San Francisco in 15 hours. Conflicts with the police are inevitable. The film achieved cult status, with director Quentin Tarantino repeatedly alluding to the film in his own works.
In the early '70s, screenwriter Richard Matheson and director Steven Spielberg had a simple but ingenious idea: A man in his car is chased across California by a heavy truck. The question of why doesn't arise; it is all about how the man (Dennis Weaver) can escape his fanatical pursuer. "Duel" is a car movie in its purest form.
'Two-Lane Blacktop' (1971)
This philosophical-existentialist road movie by director Monte Hellman is about people and their favorite means of transport. Two street racers (played by musicians James Taylor, above, and Beach Boys drummer Dennis Wilson) get into an illegal race across the US against a mysterious stranger.
'American Graffiti' (1973)
"Duel" boosted Steven Spielberg's career and director George Lucas rose to fame with "American Graffiti." The directors who later churned out record-breaking blockbuster films started out with car movies — an interesting footnote in cinematic history. In "American Graffiti," Lucas looked back at his own youth and the role cars played back then.
'The Love Bug' (1968)
Director Robert Stevenson's film "The Love Bug" may not have gone down in cinematic history for artistic reasons, but the Disney production was remarkable. The film is all about racing, racing drivers and a VW Beetle named Herbie. What made it special was its focus on a quirky-looking and iconic German-made car that people all over the world adored.
'Senna' ( 2010)
Brazil's Formula One champion Ayrton Senna is a racing legend because he was successful, extremely focused on his sport — and because he died in a racing accident in 1994 at the age of 34. Director Asif Kapadia made a documentary on him 16 years later, relying exclusively on original footage and allowing only off-screen commentary. The film is a fascinating document, and not only for racing fans.