Now Showing: The Super-Fan Guide to Racing Flicks

SEE: Winning (1969). Stars Paul Newman and is based on the “Indy Five-Hunnerd.” Some actual 500 footage, and racing notables Bobby Unser, Tony Hulman, Dan Gurney, and Roger McCluskey all make appearances.

SKIP: Days of Thunder (1990). Starring Tom Cruise, it’s pretty much Top Gun with cars.

SEE: Le Mans (1971). The film, starring one-time Beech Grove resident Steve McQueen, was filmed using actual cars and tracks from the period. Most shots are obviously from Circuit de la Sarthe in France.

SKIP: Driven (2001). A horrid movie based on the now-defunct ChampCar series, starring Sylvester Stallone. Fake cars, fake actors, fake everything. It should never have been made.

SEE: Grand Prix (1966). With James Garner playing lead, it had innovative split-screen shots and great engine sounds. Real tracks and cars, and many real drivers (mostly from Formula 2)—but credit goes to director John Frankenheimer for really creating a masterpiece. It took home three Oscars, for editing, sound, and sound effects.

SKIP: Fireball 500 (1966). Think Beach Party with cars. Super-Fan can’t remember whether Frankie and Annette sing in this movie, but he’s never been crazy about either of them, anyway.

SEE: Heart Like a Wheel (1983). Drag racing has never been embraced by mainstream auto-sports fans, and if it had been, this movie about female drag racer Shirley Muldowney might be better known. She wasn’t the first female professional driver in history, but was certainly the best in her sport. “Best” as in faster than any male driver of her era.

SKIP: Any Fast and Furious movie (2001 to 2011). Only saw the first one. Never bothered to see another.

SEE: The Cannonball Run (1981). And Cannonball Run 2 (1984). Not really “good” in the critical sense. But it has neat cars and a fun cast (Burt Reynolds, Roger Moore, Farrah Fawcett, Dom DeLuise). Thinking about it makes Super-Fan smile.

SKIP: Talledega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby (2006). Super-Fan has not watched this Will Ferrell vehicle, but he saw the movie trailer, and it looked bad. Apparently the movie was a commercial success. That’s when Super-Fan knew we were all doomed.


Editor’s Note: Super-Fan, an Indianapolis resident, told May Madness he wanted to give us his all-time picks and pans for auto-racing movies. “What makes you such an expert?” we asked. “I’m a racing fan,” he said. We told him Indy is full of people who claim to be racing fans, and we can’t run a movie list from all of them. So he explained that he went to his first auto race when he was only 5 or 6 years old—he was pretty sure it was at the Dixie Highway Speedway in Clarkston, Mich., but it has been awhile, so he can’t remember exactly. He then rattled off a long list of other races and courses he’s been to, many of which we’d never heard, and we were sold. “I also had the opportunity to drive an out-of-date, detuned Winston Cup car on the Darlington track [in South Carolina],” he said, “but I didn’t have confidence in the car and never really got it up to a competitive speed. Yes, I was chicken.”

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