Five motorsport movies that you should not miss

A picture of the movie Le Mans being shot. Picture credit: commons.wikimedia.org/ Marc Le Beller

If it’s motorsport that gives you an adrenaline rush, then these are the movies to watch. Even if you’re not a fan of the track, you’ll find them engrossing.

Le Mans – 1971
There are two iconic things about the movie – the race that lasts for 24 hours at a stretch and ‘The King of Cool’ Steve McQueen, a real-life motorcycle racer.

Directed by Lee H Katzin, the movie is about the rivalry between American driver Michael Delaney (McQueen) and German Erich Stahler (Siegfried Rauch) in this race in the French town of Le Mans. Delaney is driving a Porsche 917 and Stahler is in a Ferrari 512LM.

Apart from the rivalry, Delaney is under a lot of pressure having to live with the fact that he is considered partly responsible for causing an accident the year before in which driver Piero Belgetti is killed. His meeting with Belgetti’s wife Lisa (Elga Andersen) is awkward when he goes to the scene of the accident and finds her there too.

The movie is incident-filled but also widely considered a documentary due to the detail that it has.

The Last American Hero – 1973
Directed by Lamont Johnson, this movie is based on the true story of NASCAR driver Junior Johnson.

In the movie, Elroy Jackson Jr. (Jeff Bridges), who has been selling liquor illegally, becomes a NASCAR driver after his father Elroy Jackson Sr. (Art Lund) is sent to prison for selling liquor illegally.

Junior then decides to mend his ways and concentrate on driving skills. He hopes to become a good driver so that he can earn enough money to get his father released from jail.

The movie is made more interesting as Marge (Valerie Perrine) begins to like Junior, but she is also involved with another driver Kyle Kingman (William Smith) so that she can eventually be with the winner in the championship.

Days of Thunder – 1990


Days of Thunder shooting. Picture credit: commons.wikimedia.org/ us44mt

Directed by Tony Scott, the movie is about Cole Trickle (Tom Cruise), who enters NASCAR racing after having won championships in other forms of racing.

Trickle is signed up by businessman Tim Daland (Randy Quaid) for the NASCAR Winston Cup Series. Trickle is given a good car after he shows good pace in practice.

Trickle has trouble adjusting to NASCAR cars and putting up with the on-track intimidation from Rowdy Burns (Michael Rooker). Their rivalry deepens even as Trickle has to put up with crashes and car failures. Harry Hogge (Robert Duvall) is brought in to train Trickle.

Trickle falls in love with neurosurgeon Dr Claire Lewicki (Nicole Kidman) when he is being treated for serious crash injuries.

Daland brings in rookie Russ Wheeler (Cary Elwes) to fill in for Trickle. Daland fields two teams and Trickle now has a new rivalry with Wheeler. Following a race crash, Trickle is fired.

Burns, meanwhile, has to undergo brain surgery and asks Trickle to drive his car in the Daytona 500 as the two become good friends. After a tough battle with Wheeler, Trickle emerges triumphant.

Driven – 2001
Rookie driver Jimmy Bly (Kip Pardue) begins to lose races in the fictional 2001 Champ Car season in the US.

The movie is directed by Renny Harlin.

Bly is also pressurised by his brother and business manager Demille Bly (Robert Sean Leonard) with the latter’s overzealous promotion.

Championship leader Beau Brandenburg (Til Schweiger) is not pleased with Jimmy’s success and his bad performance. He thinks his engagement with Sophia Simone (Estella Warren) is distracting and breaks it off. He then begins to do well.

Paraplegic team owner Carl Henry (Burt Reynolds) brings in former champion Joe Tanto (Sylvester Stallone) to mentor Jimmy. Tanto becomes Jimmy’s teammate, replacing Memo Heguy (Christian de la Fuente). Tanto is also battling memories of a near-fatal racing accident. Things are more complicated because Tanto’s ex-wife Cathy Heguy (Gina Gershon) is now married to Memo.

Tanto urges Brandenburg to reconcile with Simone because she is having an affair with Jimmy, who is losing form again.

Jimmy and Brandenburg’s rivalry takes them to the last race of the season.

TT3D: Closer To The Edge – 2011
Directed by Richard De Aragues, this is a British documentary on the Isle of Man TT race that takes place every year.

The Isle of Man is a British Crown dependency between Great Britain and Ireland and the motorcycle race they host on the narrow and winding roads of the island are killers.

This movie follows 2010 race and follows the leading riders of the race including Guy Martin, Ian Hutchinson, John McGuinness, Conor Cummins and others. McGuinness is the most successful living rider and has won the TT 15 times.

The documentary takes the viewers through the history of the race, its riders, the preparation and difficulty of the race itself.

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Five motorsport movies that you should not miss

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