It used to be that films about car racing catered to a specific audience, mostly young and predominantly male. But recently, car racing films have tried to reach across the aisle and bring in more female fans. With more complex plots and terrific action sequences, car racing films have grown in popularity in recent years.
Much is expected of a new biopic film released in September 2013. “Rush” tells the story of the Formula One rivalry between James Hunt and Niki Lauda during the mid-1970s. Directed by acclaimed American master Ron Howard, the film is a joint production effort between Universal Pictures (United States), StudioCanal (United Kingdom), and Pathé Productions (France). Chris Hemsworth and Daniel Brühl take on the roles of Hunt and Lauda, respectively. The film was released to critical acclaim, with many calling “Rush” the best sports drama film in a long while. Apart from “Rush,” there have been many other car racing films that have achieved success at the box office. Some of the most memorable are elaborated upon in greater detail below.
“Days of Thunder”
Directed by the late Tony Scott, “Days of Thunder” features Tom Cruise teaming up with “Top Gun” director Scott once again. The film, which also stars Nicole Kidman, Robert Duvall, and Cary Elwes, follows the fortunes of a young NASCAR racing driver, Cole, played by Cruise. The early part of the film sees Cole and his archrival Rowdy Burns battle it out on the racetrack. At the Firecracker 400 in Daytona, each of them suffers major injuries from crashes that bring them together in the process. Cole takes longer to recover than Rowdy, and as a result he is shut out from the racing team. After Rowdy suffers another accident, Cole is allowed to get back on the race track. The final race is the Daytona 500, in which Cole overcomes the new hotshot Russ Wheeler to become the new champion. Film critics were mostly positive about the film, but some called it “Top Gun” on wheels.
“The Fast and the Furious”
The first film of what ultimately became the most successful car racing film series of all time, “The Fast and the Furious” showcases the very best street racing has to offer. Director Rob Cohen got the inspiration to make the film after reading a magazine article about street racing in New York City. Featuring Paul Walker, Vin Diesel, and Michelle Rodriguez among others, the film follows the fortunes of LAPD officer Brian O’Connor (Walker), who is tasked with going undercover to infiltrate a street-racing gang led by Dom (Diesel). The pair forms an unlikely friendship, and they engage in an impromptu street race at the end that O’Connor wins.
The film was mostly panned by the film critics, but this feeling was not shared by many moviegoers. “The Fast and the Furious” became a commercial success worldwide, making back almost five times its production budget. Film executives were so pleased that a sequel was ordered, followed by another a few years later. Twelve years after the original, the series is still going strong, with six films produced so far. Another film is scheduled for release in the summer of 2014; it will be called “Fast & Furious 7.”
A computer-animated film, “Cars” was released in 2006 and surprised many experts in the film industry. The film was the last to be produced by Pixar before its takeover by Walt Disney Pictures. Owen Wilson, Paul Newman, and Tony Shalhoub lend their voices to some of the key characters in the film. “Cars” was widely praised by film critics, some calling it one of Pixar’s best films ever. The film also appeals to more than just kids, with viewers of all ages able to enjoy it. “Cars” held the number one spot at the U.S. box office for its first two weeks and made more than $450 million worldwide. This made it the highest grossing animated film in the United States for the year it was released.
The film was nominated for and won a plethora of awards during the 2006 awards season. Walt Disney was so pleased by the response to the film that it produced a sequel, “Cars 2,” five years after the original. Also, a spin-off called “Planes” was released in the summer of 2013, and some short animated films known as “Cars Toons” have been airing over the last five years. Retail merchandise from the film helped break several retail sales records for a Disney Pixar film, with some estimating that the franchise has brought in an additional $10 billion since its release in merchandising sales alone.