There’s little time left before the sixth installment of the Fast and Furious franchise opens in theaters worldwide (around 23-24 May, but folks in UK do get an advanced premiere on May 7th). So we thought this would be a good time to see what movies might delight gear heads on a slow moving Sunday afternoon. So, old and new, good or bad, these are the car movies we consider the best to get the gasoline flowing through your veins while waiting for Fast & Furious 6, Rush and the first Need For Speed movie.
We believe here we have a consensus – the chase in Bullitt (1968) is the definitive movie car chase. Watched and obsessed about for the last 45 years, still holding up to scrutiny, and worth watching at least every other month.
We already know the chasing Charger loses too many hubcaps, and it would have easily caught up with the lesser-powered Mustang (the Ford was 390 cu. in. and the Dodge was the 440 Magnum V8 variety – 325 hp still cannot compete with 375 hp) but for the era it was groundbreaking, and it set the bar for many upcoming action movies.
The road warrior aka Mad Max 2
This is Mel Gibson at his prime (1981 feels like a lifetime ago), when he was more focused on his acting rather than creating scandals. Plus, George Miller’s (also of The Witches of Eastwick fame) dystopian post-apocalyptic world promotes the archetypal anti-hero role and makes for the perfect setting of open road action that results in wrecked cars and mayhem.
Also, we feel this is one of the few examples where the sequel is even better than the original (Mad Max – 1979) while still featuring the “last V8” – a beautiful Aussie ’73 Ford Falcon Coupe with a Roots blower. What more can we say?!
Death Race franchise
Ultimately, the transformation of a 1975 cult action flick (Death Race 2000) into a mindless car action sequence of movies is a bad way to go. But we do have some appreciation for the 2008 movie Death Race starring Jason Statham as Frankenstein, and his partner, the beautifully transformed 2006 Mustang – armed with machine guns (2xM134), smokescreen, napalm, oil and a 6 inch steel plate called “The Tombstone” for defensive purposes.
We also feel that for the 2008 movie the host of armored and modified cars has more sense than the utterly sci-fi 1975 cars, with European and US cars clearly recognizable and adapted to each of the support cast’s characters. Ok, there is also Death Race 2 and 3, but we really, really don’t care about them.
This is one of the most important movies for the Mopar community, and also a very good example of action road movies – the script only exists in order to give feeble motivation to all the stunt driving and Southwest American scenery throughout. Yes, they also say it’s a social commentary of the political mood in the day, but do we really care about that?
What we do care about is the white ’70 Dodge Challenger R/T and the fact that the stunt coordinator (also driver for the major stunts) is Carey Loftin, considered by many one of Hollywood’s best stunt drivers, numbering in his portfolio movies like Grand Prix (1966), Bullitt and The French Connection (1971).
Considered by many the best movie of director George Lucas, the 1973 flick American Graffiti is also an obvious choice in our list, with hotrods (’32 Ford, ’55 Chevy, ’58 Chevy), cruising, causing havoc and street-racing one summer’s night in 1962. For many years to come, this will be one of the movies to watch by all those who want to see how was America in the “baby boom” era of the fifties and early sixties.
Also, we should note that besides the cult classic status achieved today, the movie was a hit with both box office viewers and critics alike. Being nominated for the Academy Award for Best Picture, and included in 1995 by the Library of Congress in the National Film Registry.
Gone in 60 Seconds
Both movies – the 1974 independent smash hit and 2000 remake are notable of two things: Eleanor (alongside the other exotic cars and street chases) and the bad acting. The first movie is excusable, being a very low budget flick made with friends and family of director, producer, writer, stunt driver and main star H.B Halicki. Also, the first Gone in Sixty Seconds is notable because of the 40-minute car scene in which 93 cars were wrecked or destroyed – a real treat for us fans.
The Nicolas Cage production is notable mostly for the fans that brought to life Eleanor as a real car, for the final stunt destroyed by the FX guys (yes, the one with the incredible jump). And for Angelina Jolie…
This is considered as one of the best movies in the series, establishing many of the later Bond movie elements, like gadgets, and of course the technologically advanced Bond car – impersonated here by the beautiful Aston Martin DB5. And yes, we do feel that Sean Connery is by far the best Bond, James Bond.
Aside from Goldfinger, we do admit this entry in the list to be an equal tribute to all the Bond movies, which relied heavily on the appeal of famous, and usually, British cars, acting as a necessary sidekick to the character of 007. We’d dread to imagine what he’d be like if he didn’t have such awesome cars to help him out all the time…
The Italian Job
Both the 1969 Michael Caine and the 2003 Mark Wahlberg/Charlize Theron iterations are very much worth mentioning side by side, both being entertaining, with well choreographed action sequences and intelligent plots. Oh, yeah, not to mention those crazy original Minis made into supercars and keen on doing crazy stunts and acting very British while carrying out gold robberies.
The 1969 version is definitely more British than we could allow it, but it does add a flavor that many American movies lack, especially if you watch back to back this and the remake. Still, the latter is well done and respects the original recipe of the Minis doing all the hard work.
The Fast and The Furious franchise
This is “carxploitation” at its peak, with so many things about cars being utterly wrong (oh, God, make me forget 2 Fast 2 Furious) that it ended being very entertaining. So, it has lasted more than a decade in the hearts and minds of fans who know nothing about tuning, street racing, import cars, American cars, and technical stuff that we really don’t see an ending in sight.
Ok, we do give them the thumbs up for Vin Diesel, all the booty shaking and for bringing in Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. But what is in the producers minds for going sci-fi on us and bringing back the dead – is Letty coming back as a zombie some sort of cross with the Resident Evil franchise?!
Ronin is another heist/spy movie that features an all-star cast of Hollywood and European actors, and a number of good “old-fashioned” BMWs, Mercedes and Audis. The director, John Frankenheimer, is a car enthusiast – he made the spectacular Grand Prix in 1966 – and delivered a truly solid performance in every way with the 1998 film Ronin.
Of course, we do care mostly about the car chases – which allegedly involved around 150 stunt drivers and around 80 intentionally wrecked cars. We also heard whispers that DeNiro never felt comfortable in the cars, being replaced by the director himself for the stunt scenes – albeit the stunt driver was the one doing the actual driving, the cars being right-handed.