Greatest Car Movies Ever Made
The only thing cooler than an awesome car is an awesome movie about an awesome car. Okay, maybe that’s a bit backwards; the cars are always going to be cooler than the movies about them. But nonetheless, we can’t stop watching these 50 car movies. The best car movies ever made, in our humble opinion. What do you think? Did we leave your favorite off the list? Find out!
50.Two Lane Blacktop
A near-mystical exploration of the world of drag racing and the Great American Road Trip, Two Lane Blacktop stars iconic folk singer James Taylor and Beach Boys drummer Dennis Wilson as the nameless characters guiding their 1955 Chevrolet 150 from town to town, making a living racing against the locals. The introduction of a rival racer and a femme fatale bring things to a head on an abandoned airstrip in a distant Southwestern town. This is what classic car movies are made of.
Classic cars, high-speed races, and a rather deep existentialist message. What else could you want in a film?
49. Corvette Summer
Corvette Summer is a 1978 adventure film with comedy overtones starring Mark Hamill piloting an iconic vehicle through a desert landscape . . .wow, the 70s weren’t very original when you think about it. The titular Corvette is a Stingray with an unusual right-handed drive, which is stolen from the streets of Van Nuys, California. Hamill’s character goes on a quest to find and reclaim his beloved car, and thus the hilarity ensues. It was a box office success at the time, winning praise from both viewers and critics. However, Corvette Summer is now sadly overlooked—so find a copy and give it a whirl. You’ll be glad you did.
48. Grand Prix
Featuring an ensemble cast of actors from all corners of the globe, Grand Prix charges hard through the world of Formula One racing. Focused on the rivalry between four racecar drivers in a fictionalized account of the 1966 season, the film is noted for its unique approach to race choreography—the vision of Hollywood icon Saul Bass.
You’ll get to see some of the most advanced vehicles of the day, from manufacturers like Ferrari and BRM. You’ll get to see James Garner and Toshiro Mifune in the same film. It’s hard to imagine what more you could really ask for—oh, wait: the amazing racing scenes.
Duel is an unusual piece: a made-for-TV film that went on to become a full-length theatrical release and receive critical glory. The first full-length film directed by Steven Speilberg, with a screenplay written by Richard Matheson, author of I Am Legend.
So what makes it one of the greatest car movies ever? The tension and pacing are pitch-perfect: a salesman on a business trip runs afoul of a tanker truck driver, and the two begin a game of cat and mouse on a desert highway. The cars may not be particularly sexy, but the driving scenes are masterfully done and both vehicles take on personalities of their own. Coupled with a nail-biting ending, this is worth a watch.
Robert De Niro, Sean Bean, and Natascha McElhone, Ronin is a spy thriller/heist film widely regarded as a minor masterpiece, especially in regards to car movies. A group of professionals is pulled together to steal a suitcase from a VIP on the French Riviera.
This is an action film which doesn’t lose sight of the importance of characterization, pacing, drama, and tension. The gunfights feel gritty and real—you’ll wince when characters take a bullet. To top it all off, there’s a car chase through the streets of a French town that will keep any viewer on the edge of their seat. Find a rainy afternoon, open a bottle of something, and turn this one on.
45.Need for Speed
What do you get when you lump a Lamborghini Sesto Elemento, McLaren P1, GTA Spano, Saleen S7, Koenigsegg and Bugatti Veyron Super Sport into one movie? The answer is Need for Speed. Most of us know Aaron Paul best from the ultra-popular series Breaking Bad, but he does a fair job in this movie racing souped-up cars in an underground circuit.
The plot centers around Aaron Paul’s character, Tobey Marshall, being sent to prison for a crime he didn’t commit. He was framed by a wealthy, but slimy, business partner. Upon his release, revenge will mean beating his former partner in a high-stakes race. To do that, he must elude the law and several bounty hunters by zooming around with his team in the exotic cars mentioned above. This movie is pure eye candy for motorheads.
The Nicolas Winding Refn action drama film starring Ryan Gosling, Drive, released in 2011 with a box office of $78.1 million. Drive is a movie about a mysterious Hollywood stuntman and mechanic moonlights as a getaway driver who finds himself in trouble when he helps out his neighbor. The movie features a 1973 Chevrolet Malibu and a 2011 Ford Mustang GT. The Chevrolet Malibu was actually a Chevelle with a Malibu trim option. The movie also features Bryan Cranston, Christina Hendricks, Ron Perlman, and Albert Brooks in supporting roles.
43. John Wick Chapter 2
Seems like John Wick, Keanna Reeves, still has a bone to pick in John Wick chapter 2. And he picks that bone rather well if we do say so ourselves. The film is rife with assassins, drama, and adrenaline, as well as some pretty sweet cars. Take the Mach 1 Mustang for instance. It is featured prominently, yet it wasn’t the only car use during the film. Not by far. Other classics you might see on screen include a 1970 SS 454 LS6 Chevelle, as well as a 1968 Dodge Charger. Look through the chop shop scene with John Leguizamo and you will notice a few other great finds. Just don’t mess with John’s car or his dog. He doesn’t take too kindly to that.
42. Dirty Mary, Crazy Larry
Peter Fonda and Susan George starred in the 1974 American Car Chase film Dirty Marry, Crazy Larry. The film was based on the 1963 Richard Unekis novel, The Chase. It brought in $28.4 million box office. The car features a 1969 Charger R/T.
41. Hell or High Water
Even though the film had a rather ambiguous ending that the screenwriter tried to explain, it still had a fair premiere at the 2016 Cannes Film Festival. Centered around two brothers robbing banks to save their family ranch, they are constantly dogged by two tough Texas Rangers. Chris Pine and Jeff Bridges star in this Bonny and Clyde type crime spree fan favorite. The feature a slew of old and new vehicles from a lime green Dodge Challenger to old 70s sedans and Ford pickup trucks. The mix of old and new vehicles plays well with the plot. Think vintage style for a younger generation.
40. Cool Hand Luke
What an iconic scene from a legendary movie. The woman washing her car while all the mean work is truly a memorable movie moment.
39. Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby
Does it get any better than this 2006 American sports comedy featuring Will Ferrell and Adam McKay? The plot is as outlandish as the cast, and you never know what to expect next. Except for one thing. You can expect a lot of stock-car driving. Only this time there is a little bit more involved than simply driving straight and turning left. The on-screen antics and high-octane races served to catapult this movie to a cultural icon status those in the south really appreciate. Plus it Leslie Bibb, Ricky Bobby’s buxom blonde wife, makes an appearance too. That probably had a lot to do with it now that we think about it.
38. Tucker: The Man and His Dream
Jeff Bridges starred in the 1988 American biographical comedy-drama film Tucker: The Man and His Dream. This film tells the story of Preston Tucker and his attempt to produce and market the 1948 Tucker Sedan. This came with scandal and accusations of stock fraud. The film brought in a box office of $19.7 million.
37. Herbie Fully Loaded
Consider this to be Herbie with a twist. As luck would have it, there is a new owner, Maggie Peyton. You know her as the infamous Lindsay Lohan. It seems Maggie has a goal to turn Herbie into a NASCAR competitor. The road is fraught with slapstick mayhem, but you have to admit, the original Volkswagen Beetle is a true standout. So is the book the entire series was based upon, but you won’t find it anywhere. Gordon Buford was the author. The piece was titled Car, Boy, Girl. It is speculated that he wrote it and immediately sold the rights to Disney.
36. The Hitch Hiker
The Ida Lupino 1953 film noir film starring Edmond O’Brien, Frank Love Joy, and William Talman, The Hitch-Hiker, was about 2 fishing buddies who pick up a hitchhiker during a trip to Mexico. The film was inspired by the crime spree of murderer Billy Cook.
35. The Blues Brothers
For Americans of a certain age, this film needs no introduction, explanation, or justification. Two brothers, one recently out of prison, get the band back together to raise money to save the orphanage they grew up in. The comedy is perfect, the guest appearances—Cab Calloway, anyone?–are marvelous, and the music will dance through your head for days after a viewing.
Oh, and there’s a really, really cool car, with some really great driving sequences and a Dukes of Hazzard style jump or two. If you haven’t seen it, stop what you’re doing and go watch it. If you have seen it, make sometime this weekend and revisit one of the best classic car movies ever.
34. Vanishing Point
Richard C Sarafian directed the 1971 action road film Vanishing Point. The film was about car delivery driver in the 70s delivers hot rods in record time but always runs into trouble with the highway cops. The film stars Barry Newman, Cleavon Little, and Dean Jagger. The film features a 1970 Dodge Challenger R/T.
33. Gran Torino
Clint Eastwood’s later masterpiece, Gran Torino is about way more than the titular car. It’s a meditation on the nature of American identity, the importance of family and community, the changing nature of masculinity, and the ways in which aging affects us all.
Eastwood’s performance is on point, the rest of the cast has beautiful chemistry, and the whole thing is brilliantly shot. While there are no car chases or high-speed driving per se, there’s enough gearhead material here to keep any car lover happy. Watching this one might teach you something about yourself, too. Give it a chance.
The Quentin Tarantino 2007 American exploitation horror film starring Kurt Russell brought in a box office of $30.7 million. The film is about two separate sets of voluptuous women are stalked at different times by a scarred stuntman who uses his “death proof” cars to execute his murderous plans. The featured cars in this film were a 1970 Chevy Nova and a 1969 Dodge Charger.
31. The Italian Job (1969)
This is not the remake. This is the original. This is the one with Michael Caine, with a soundtrack by Quincy Jones. You need this in your life if it’s not there already. Caine plays a London criminal recently out of prison looking to score one last big job in Italy. From there, we get a well placed dramatic plot culminating in a plan to steal $4 million dollars from the mob in the city of Turin.
This is a film for car lovers: the Lamborgini Miura plays an important role, along with the Aston Martin DB4. The starring role, however, goes to a fleet of three Mini Coopers, which perform above and beyond the call of duty. This is a work of art, so make time for it this weekend.
30. Fast Five
Vin Diesel, Paul Walker, and Jordana Brewster star in the 2011 action film Fast Five which was directed by Justin Lin. The film is about Dominic Toretto and his crew of street racers plans a massive heist to buy their freedom while in the sights of a powerful Brazilian drug lord and a dangerous federal agent. The film features a 1970 Dodge Charger R/T, a 2010 Dodge Charger SRT-8, and a 1971 Nissan Skyline GTR among many vehicles.
29. Mad Max 2 (AKA The Road Warrior)
Confused by a number of different names, depending on the country in which it was released, this is the only sequel we’ll be allowing on this list—but boy has it earned its place.
“Mad” Max Rockatansky reappears to defend a settlement of innocent bystanders in a post-apocalyptic world. The threat is, of course, an army of maniacs in leather bondage gear driving militarized civilian vehicles. There are gritty fights, shootouts, car chases, and a host of other action tropes—all beautifully done and well-acted.
The cars are amazing works of art, most of all Max’s V-8 Pursuit Special. Not much more needs are said: watch this and get a dark look at the future.
The Michael Mann 2004 American Neo-Noir Crime Action Thriller film starring Tom Cruise and Jamie Foxx. The film is about a cab driver who finds himself the hostage of a contract killer as he makes his rounds from hit to hit during one night in Los Angeles. The film features a 2003 BMW 3, a 2000 BMW X5, and a 1997 Buick Century among many other cars.
Speed is an extremely 90s action film, but unlike many extremely 90s things, it really does embody the best of the era. The plot is simple: Sandra Bullock and Keanu Reeves end up on a truck which Dennis Hopper has wired to explode should the vehicle drop below 50 miles-per-hour. The driving choreography is intense, the film makes great use of the relatively confined space of the bus, and the climax is explosive—pun fully intended. Not only a great car movie but a great way to relieve your adolescence.
26. Taxi Driver
Robert De Niro, Jodie Foster, and Cybill Shepherd starred in the 1976 Neo-Noir Psychological Thriller film directed by Martin Scorsese. The film is about a mentally unstable veteran that works as a night taxi driver in New York City. Perceived decadence and sleaze fuels his urge for violent action while attempting to liberate a 12-year-old prostitute. A 1974 Checker Cab is featured in the film.
At his best, Stephan King is the kind of author who can find horror in the most simple and mundane of things—which makes that horror all the more intense. Christine is a perfect example: the automobile, something so ironically American as to rank with baseball and apple pie—becomes a malevolent force, stalking the human characters and killing them. The dark forces behind the car’s powers are never explained, but the ending suggests that there’s more going on than meets the eye.
Christine herself is played by a 1958 Plymouth Fury, which adds a touch of retro class to the often tense scenes. This is pure 80s horror with an automotive twist.
24. Dukes of Hazzard
The Dukes of Hazzard released in 2005 telling the story of Cousins Bo, Luke, and Daisy Duke, and their Uncle Jesse, egg on the authorities of Hazzard County, including Boss Hogg and Sheriff Coltrane. The film stars Seann William Scott, Johnny Knoxville, and Jessica Simpson. The film featured a 1969 Dodge Charger.
23. The Transporter
A surprise hit when it was released, The Transport stars Jason Statham as the eponymous transporter—a mercenary type who will deliver anything without question—for a price, of course. This unusual choice of career draws him into a human trafficking ring. Statham’s character draws on all of his skills: driving, shooting, fighting, and a cocky sense of humor. While the reviews were mixed, this is well worth a Netflix streaming afternoon. You’ll laugh, you’ll gasp, and you’ll see some cool cars doing cool stuff while Jason Statham looks edgy. It’s hard to ask for more in a car movie, so please don’t.
Fastest Police Cars From Around the World
22. Repo Man
Alex Cox directed the 1984 American Science Fiction Comedy Film Repo Man. The film is about a guy named Otto who becomes repo man after helping to steal a car and stumbles into a world of wackiness as a result. The film is starring Harry Dean Stanton and Emilio Estevez. The film features a 1964 Chevelle Malibu.
21. The Cannonball Run
In what may be a unique entry on this list, The Cannonball Run is inspired by a real event: an annual US street race from coast to coast. Totally illegal, the ‘Run is a celebration of the open road, the American ideal of freedom, and automobiles of every make, model, class, and age.
Starring Burt Reynolds and Farrah Fawcett—which should be enough to get your eyes on the screen right there—The Cannonball Run hits a perfect balance of humor and action, with high-speed race choreography and great chemistry between Fawcett and Reynolds. Make a beer run before you watch this one, though—it’s best enjoyed with a brew in hand.
20. Holy Motors
Holy Motors released in 2012 telling the story of the shadowy mystic man Monsieur Oscar. It stars Denis Lavant and Édith Scob. The film features a 2005 Audi A6 Avant C6, a BMW 3, and 2009 Citroën C1 among many cars.
A 2013 film set in the often-tense world of Formula One racing, Rush was inspired by the real-life rivalry between iconic racers James Hunt and Niki Lauda, culminating in an intense Formula One season in 1976.
A more recent film, Rush takes full advantage of everything that contemporary special effects can do in creating tight, well-paced racing scenes, nerve-wracking tensions, and the occasional spectacular crash. It also takes the time to explore the personalities of the people who drive and maintain the amazing cars which dominate the story, so there’s something here for everyone. Just in case your significant other isn’t as into cars as you are.
18. Taste of Cherry
Abbas Kiarostami directed the 1997 minimalist film Taste of Cherry. The film is about an Iranian man that drives his truck in search of someone who will quietly bury him under a cherry tree after he commits suicide. The Iranian film stars Homayoun Ershadi, Abdolrahman Bagheri, Afshin Khorshid Bakhtiari, and Safar Ali Moradi.
17. American Graffiti
George Lucas’s first full-length film, American Graffiti is often overshadowed by Star Wars—and frankly, that’s a shame. This is a car film celebrating all aspects of car culture, teenage love and rebellion, and the coming of age moment American was experiencing during the 1960s setting. Ron Howard and Suzanne Somers hold the starring roles, but Harrison Ford makes his first appearance here and there’s a celebrity cameo by legendary DJ Wolfman Jack.
If you want to go back in time to remember your youth—or a pivotal moment in the cultural history of our nation—this is the movie for you.
16. Two for the Road
Two for the Road released in 1967 telling the story of a couple in the South of France who examines their relationship. It is starring Albert Finney and Audrey Hepburn. The movie featured a white Mercedes-Benz 230SL Roadster, a MG TD, a Triumph Herald, a VW Microbus, and a Ford Country Squire.
Yep, the Pixar family movie. Bear with us, here. We’re going somewhere with this.
Cars are more than a feel-good family film or even a triumph of computer animation. It’s a genuinely intriguing and imaginative look into the personalities and lives of the motor vehicles we drive every day. The imaginative use of the premise—a society composed of conscious and near-anthropomorphic cars—delves into the nature of the vehicles themselves and our relationship with them.
Check it out with that in mind, seriously. It’s more than a children’s film—though if you have little ones, they’ll love it as much as you will.
Forgotten Features From Old Cars
14. Baby Driver
Ansel Elgort and Kevin Spacey starred in the 2017 action crime film Baby Driver. The film is about a young getaway driver who is coerced into working for a crime boss, and he finds himself taking part in a heist doomed to fail. The film brought in a box office of $226.9 million. A Subaru WRX was featured in the film.
Robert Duvall and Steve McQueen may be the names on the poster, but the real star of the show is the 1968 Mustang GT that McQueen’s character drives throughout the movie, often to brilliant effect. The plot is solid enough: a police officer tasked with protecting a key witness from a pair of mob hitmen in 1968 San Francisco. However, the real reason to watch this is a hair-raising car chase that ranks among the best ever filmed. The setting—the hilly streets of the Bay Area—is used to great effect, and the soundtrack plays perfectly against the action on the screen. This is, if possible, the car chase as high art, and should be treated as such. Take a moment and really appreciate McQueen’s effortless cool.
12. Thelma and Louise
Thelma & Louise released in 1991 telling the story of 2 best friends that set out on an adventure, but it soon turns around to a terrifying escape from being hunted by the police, as these 2 girls escape for the crimes they committed. It stars Geena Davis and Susan Sarandon with Harvey Keitel, Michael Madsen and Brad Pitt in supporting roles. A 1966 Ford Thunderbird is featured in the film.
11. Mad Max
The original and still the best, Mad Max started as a low-budget independent production and emerged as a classic of Australian filmmaking. The title character, “Mad” Max Rockatansky, patrols the roads of a society on the edge of collapse. During his quest to keep justice alive, his wife and family are killed, sending him over the edge.
The cars are the key here, as much of the film takes place on the long, desolate highways. The car chases are intense, the setting is used perfectly, and the whole thing comes together like a slightly scruffy epic poem. This spawned a franchise and legend, and deservedly so.
Jafar Panahi starred and directed in the 2015 Iranian docufiction film Taxi Tehran. This film is about Jafar Panahi who is banned from making movies by the Iranian government as he poses as a taxi driver and makes a movie about social challenges in Iran.
9. Smokey and the Bandit
In our humble opinion, this is an American cinematic classic which has never gotten the high-brow critical praise that it so obviously deserves. Burt Reynolds plays the Bandit, a legendary driver who, on a bet, bootlegs a load of Coors from Texarkana to Atlanta. Along the way, he runs afoul of a sheriff played hilariously by Jackie Gleason—and boy does hilarity ensue.
The acting is spot on, and the bickering between Reynolds and Sally Field is some of the best comedy of the era. Gleason steals the show as the wonderfully named Sheriff Beauford T. Justice. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll enjoy some great highway scenes. Run on Bandit, run.
8. The Last American Hero
The Last American Hero released in 1973 and it was based on the true story of NASCAR driver Junior Johnson. It stars Jeff Bridges and Valerie Perrine.
7. Gone in 60 Seconds (1974)
No, not the 2000 remake with Angeline Jolie. This is the original, and you should watch it.
It’s pure 1974 cool. A South American drug lord recruits a chop-shop owner to steal 48 specific make and model cars within five days. With that starting point, we launch into a sea of fight scenes, car chases, tense moments and . . .
Ok, let’s be honest, this one’s like a NASCAR race: you’re here to see the crashes, and boy is there crashes. 93 cars were destroyed in one chase scene alone. It’s a masterpiece of automotive carnage, and it’s a must watch for car lovers.
6. Thunder Road
Arthur Ripley directed the 1958 drama-crime film Thunder Road starred Robert Mitchum. The film is about a veteran that comes home from the Korean War to go to the mountains and take over the family moonshining business. He had to battle big-city gangsters who were trying to take over the business and the police who were trying to put him in prison. This film featured a black 1951 Ford 1951 Two-Door sedan.
5. The Fast and the Furious
Vin Diesel, Paul Walker, Michelle Rodriguez, and Jordana Brewster may not seem like the ingredients to a classic film, but they actually pull together to form the epic that launched a franchise. We’re not even sure what the plot is, frankly: all we know is that a bunch of impossibly cool characters race around in a bunch of impossibly cool cars doing some impossibly cool driving stunts. There may not be a point beyond this—except for the fact that the act is pretty good and the stars do seem to have genuine chemistry. Following Paul Walker’s untimely death, the scenes between him and Diesel become especially poignant.
4. The Cars That Ate Paris
Admit that you’ve never heard of this one; it’s OK. The 1974 horror comedy by Peter Weir didn’t travel very far outside of its native Australia, and that’s a damn shame.
The setting is a small town in Australia, where the residents have found some ghoulish ways to profit from automobile accidents. The wrecks are salvaged and transformed into strange looking vehicles designed with death, destruction, and mayhem in mind. The climactic battle involves gangs of these cars going at each other and destroying the town in the process. The Cars That Ate Paris might be a bit hard to find, but it’s well worth it for automotive and horror buffs.
3. Rebel without a Cause
Oh hello, James Dean. It’s really good to see you here.
Rebel Without a Cause is both an iconic performance by a young star, and one of the first cinematic explorations of the confusing nature of coming of age in suburban America and the contrast between the sanitized ‘burb life and the grim of the urban slums. And cars play a huge role—both in the game of chicken that dominates the second act and as metaphors for the various social roles played by the characters in the film. The stunning climax will stick with you as a harsh commentary on the times in which the film was made.
2. The French Connection
Another monumental 1970s film, The French Connection is Gene Hackman Roy Scheider at their absolute best. A pair of cops investigating a narcotics deal go head to head with an international criminal organization, with a hefty dose of 1970s cool to boot.
There’s a car chase of course, through the crowded urban streets that will definitely stick out in your memory of the film. Driving the wrong way has never looked more daring, and the choices of cinematography elevate the whole sequence to high art. Check this out if you haven’t—the moral ambiguity and the thrilling action are worth it.
1. Death Race 2000
Oh yes, a Roger Corman film.
Set in the post-apocalyptic United States, Death Race 2000 is the story of the racers involved in the titular Transcontinental Death Race, a competitive event organized by the totalitarian government in which high powered cars race across the country, with no hold, barred and pedestrian accidents a source of bonus points.
It’s dark, it’s low budget, it’s gritty, it’s a hilarious satire of American life, politics, and car culture, and it stars Sylvester Stallone, David Carridine, and Simone Griffith. Critically panned at the time, Death Race 2000 is now regarded as a classic of exploitation cinema.