Street Machine counts down 101 of the all-time best car movies. What's your favourite?
THE TOP 10
Mad Max (1979)
No surprises that Street Machine readers voted this baby their favourite car movie ever! A landmark Aussie film by any standards, Mad Max has it all – a gaggle of awesome cars and bikes, fantastic landscapes and some of the best dialogue you’ll hear anywhere. In fact, it is entirely possible to spend a whole day conversing with family and friends using Mad Max quotes. Try using “Kick it in the guts, Murray” in a sentence today.
Running On Empty (1982)
Despite having a much lower profile than the Mad Max series, Running On Empty slotted into second place by a mere handful of votes. It’s not hard to see why, with heaps of street racing (and crashing) in some classic muscle cars. Like Mad Max, Running On Empty makes the most of Australia’s wide open spaces. Highlights: The cars, including a GTHO, ’70 Dodge Challenger R/T, a tough Monaro and a blown ’57 Chev. Lowlights: Tight jeans, scary 80s haircuts. Best quote: “Green. Green is nice.”
Gone In 60 Seconds (1974)
You voted for the original version of this cops and crims caper over the remake by a huge margin. Why? Probably the 40-minute car chase where our hero’s Mustang evades an army of cops, destroying around 90 cars in the process! All the stunts are painfully real too. Recently re-released, so should be easy to find.
The Fast And The Furious (2001)
There might be plenty of rice-burners in this flick, but Vin Diesel’s blown black Dodge more than makes up for it. Wins the Most Unnecessary Gear Changes In Just 400 Metres Ever award. And just how does the Dodge manage to pop its front wheels up, while smoking the rear tyres at the same time?
Mad Max II (1981)
Max’s coupe goes feral and gets blown sky high. Look out for heaps of other fun stuff, like a twin-turbo Landau and the legendary truck crash.
Features one of filmdom’s most famous car chases through the streets of San Francisco between a ’68 ’Stang GT 390 and a ’68 Charger 440. It set the standard for EVERY car chase made since.
Days Of Thunder (1990)
Get out the DVD and crank the surround sound and subwoofer action for the awe-inspiring experience of NASCAR in your own home.
The Blues Brothers (1980)
A personal favourite of the Street Machine team. Great music, hilarious dialogue and the largest, stupidest car chase of all time. Best quote: “It’s got a 440-cubic-inch plant. It’s got cop tyres, cop shocks, cop suspension and it was made before catalytic converters, so it will run good on regular gas.”
Vanishing Point (1971)
A pill-popping ex-racer named Kowalski bets he can deliver a Dodge Challenger from Denver to San Francisco in 15 hours. Freaky stuff – watch out for the naked sheila on the minibike in the desert.
Midnite Spares (1983)
Cool Aussie flick, with possibly the only P76 chase sequence ever!
Vin Diesel stars as an extreme sports star forced into espionage by the US government. Vin drives a ’67 Pontiac GTO, complete with a rocket launcher and flame thrower. The upcoming sequel is said to star a brand new Pontiac ‘Monaro’ GTO!
Diamonds Are Forever (1971)
Bond, Las Vegas, and orbiting space lasers. Crazy stunts, including a chase scene with Bond escaping down an alleyway in a Mach 1 on two wheels.
Features Stallone rollin’ in an incredible custom 1950 Mercury, complete with Moon discs and nitrous. Great to see an old car serving it up to more modern machinery. Shame the dialogue is such rubbish.
Die Another Day (2002)
Car chase between a Jaguar XKR and an Aston Martin Vanquish in this spectacular advertisement, sorry, Bond movie.
The Bourne Identity (2002)
Excellent spy flick starring Matt Damon. More proof that if you are running from the cops in the tight streets of a European city, it is hard to beat a Mini.
Legendary gadget-laden Aston Martin DB5 makes its debut, as does the famously named Pussy Galore and Oddjob with his deadly bowler hat.
The Man With The Golden Gun (1974)
Has arguably the best-ever Bond chase scene, involving an AMC Hornet that does a loop. Yee-haa!
Mission Impossible 2 (2000)
An Audi TT and Porsche Boxster duel at the start of the film. More a car fight scene than a car chase scene.
The Chain Reaction (1980)
Known overseas as Nuclear Run, starring Steve ‘The Goose’ Bisley, Hugh ‘Toecutter’ Keays-Byrne and some mean Aussie iron.
Dirty Deeds (2002)
Gangster movie set in the Sydney in the late 1960s. Watch out for the tail-happy car chase between an FB Holden ute and a flash Holden Prem.
Running From The Guns (1987)
Another obscure but cool Aussie car flick, with an XY GT and a Cobra replica.
Young bloke gets retrenched from his job making twin carby manifolds for grey motors, so he steals a 911 Turbo. Best Bits: Soundtrack by Don Walker and his mates from Cold Chisel.
Okay, so it’s a biker movie, but it’s Aussie and it’s weird. The 500-bike strong funeral procession is pretty special, as is the Z900 chase through the streets of suburban Sydney.
Metal Skin (1994)
Dystopic exploration of illegal drag racing and modified car culture in suburban Australia. Some nice racing scenes, plus a chase in an Auscar!
Two Hands (1999)
Some hot Aussie cars in this flick, including a cool XB coupe.
The Big Steal (1990)
Danny wants a girl and a Jag. Jags are nice, but Danny’s mate’s Monaro is nicer.
In The Red (1999)
Australia’s answer to The Fast And The Furious.
BEST CHASE SCENES
The French Connection (1971)
Not really a car film as such, but The French Connection does feature an awesome scene in which copper Gene Hackman commandeers some hapless punter’s car and proceeds to mangle it while chasing down a train. Filmed in real time and without permission from the authorities, every crash and every near miss is real.
Gone In 60 Seconds (2000)
Not a patch on the original, but it polled well thanks to the sex appeal of the film’s star – a Shelby Mustang GT500.
The Italian Job (1969)
Pommy crims punt a pack of Mini Coopers through the streets of Turin. Best bit: Still very funny. Worst bit: You’ll end up saying ‘guvner’ a lot.
Great chase scene filmed in real time and a single take, featuring an Audi with nitrous.
The Seven Ups (1973)
A couple of Pontiacs race through the streets of NYC, pulling heaps of air in the process.
Grand Theft Auto (1977)
It’s not often that you get to see a Rolls drifting or a VW being chased by a bus. Add in all the great crashes and you’ve got a classic movie.
Dirty Mary, Crazy Larry (1974)
The car: Dodge Charger. The hook: Awesome chase action and amazing final sequence.
BEST CULT FLICKS
A violent Pommy flick about ram-raiding, starring Jude Law.
Two Lane Blacktop (1971)
James Taylor races his heavily worked ’55 Chev against a Pontiac GTO for pink slips. Trivia: The same Chev was used in American Graffiti.
Repo Man (1984)
“It’s 4am. Do you know where your car is?” For broad minds only.
The Cars That Ate Paris (1974)
A small country town engineers road accidents for profit.
The FJ Holden (1977)
Promoted as a happy slice of nostalgia, but is actually a bleak look at what it was to be a young adult in western Sydney in the 70s.
BEST FOR TEENS
Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (1986)
The epitome of 1980s cool. Watch for the destruction of a very collectable Ferrari 250 GT California.
Better Off Dead (1985)
Cult teen comedy starring a very young John Cusack and a ’67 Camaro. A very funny flick that stands up well to repeated viewings.
Back To The Future (1985)
Michael J Fox is sent back to 1955 in a time machine constructed from a 1981 DeLorean – a stainless steel-bodied, gullwing-equipped, mid-engined sports car.
BEST MOTOR SPORT
Stallone does an open-wheel version of Days Of Thunder.
Funny Car Summer (1974)
A fireman decides to race an experimental Funny Car.
Le Mans (1971)
Don’t expect much of a story (our hero, Steve McQueen, doesn’t say a single word until half an hour into the movie) but it has some awesome race action.
Grand Prix (1966)
Probably the best motor racing flick ever. Features real footage of grand prix racing shot at Monza and Monaco, among others, complete with all the spills.
Heart Like A Wheel (1983)
A biopic of Top Fuel legend, Shirley Muldowney.
A young fella buys a crusty 1958 Plymouth Fury and is pleased when it magically restores itself. He is less pleased to find it is possessed by evil!
A travelling salesman and his six-pot Plymouth Valiant are hunted down in the desert by one seriously pissed-off truckie. The ultimate road rage flick.
The Car (1977)
A strange car terrorises the people of a small town. So bad, it’s almost good. Custom work by George Barris.
Death Car On The Freeway (1979)
A freak in a van gets his thrills running innocent citizens off the road.
Wheels Of Terror (1990)
A possessed car stalks kiddies in a village, so the bus driver gets behind the wheel of a stomping supercharged V8-powered bus to save the day.
The Wraith (1987)
Horror show plot showcases some very cool street machines.
BEST HOT ROD
American Graffiti (1973)
Some of the coolest cars to ever appear on celluloid, and inspired thousands of ’32 Ford builds across the world. Watch out for a young Harrison Ford behind the wheel of a nasty ’55 Chev.
The Hollywood Knights (1980)
Think American Graffiti meets Porkys and you are there. Stars a blown ’57 Chev, Tony Danza, Michelle Pfeiffer and Fran Drescher! Not for kiddies. Best bits: A race between a Cobra, a T-bucket and the ’57 Chev.
Dragstrip Girl (1957)
Rite-of-passage story about an 18-year-old girl encountering boys, hot rods and drag strips. B-grade with a capital B.
Hot Rod (1979)
Pertinent in this day and age of the conflict between sponsorship, financially struggling racers, and getting hoons to race in relatively safe environments.
Hot Rod Girl (1956)
A concerned cop organises supervised drag racing after illegal street drags get out of control.
The Wild Ride (1960)
This hot-rods-and-juvenile-delinquents flick stars Jack Nicholson.
Smokey And The Bandit (1977)
The Bandit is Burt Reynolds driving a Pontiac Trans Am, pursued by the gormless Sheriff Buford T Justice. Trans Am sales went through the roof after the film’s release.
Cannonball Run (1981)
Another race-across-America movie with an all-star cast, including Burt Reynolds, Jackie Chan and Roger Moore. So bad it’s actually good, as are the sequels.
Corvette Summer (1978)
Mark ‘Luke Skywalker’ Hamill stars as a young bloke who’s out to recover his stolen ’Vette. Not sure if it is meant to be a comedy, but damn, it’s funny!
Catch Me If You Can (1989)
A school must raise $200,000 or it will close. The solution? Win the cash at the illegal street drags of course! Look out for a nice ’68 Chevelle and ’57 Chev.
BEST OF THE REST
Fast Company (1979)
Good-guy-versus-bad-guy dragster movie, but with more real-than-real feel, thanks to a driver’s-eye view of a Funny Car pass.
The story of Preston Tucker, who tried to take on Detroit’s Big Three with his own car. Not exciting, but interesting.
Banzai Runner (1986)
A cop gets involved with drug-running desert racers. As you do.
Black Moon Rising (1986)
Tommy Lee Jones stars in this spy flick, driving a prototype car dubbed Black Moon.
Thunder Road (1958)
Robert Mitchum plays a bootlegger in a 1950 Ford being pursued by the feds.
The California Kid (1974)
An insane sheriff runs speeding drivers off mountainsides, until a victim’s brother rocks up in his hot rod.
Another cool race-across-America flick.
Drag racer Daddy-O traps his best mate’s killers and scores with a hotty.
Death Race 2000 (1975)
A cross-country race where drivers score points by killing pedestrians.
Death Sport (1978)
Sequel to Death Race 2000, but set in the year 3000.
Desert Steel (1989)
Rival racers risk their lives in a big off-road race.
The Devil On Wheels (1947)
A son is inspired by his father’s reckless driving to become a hoon. Was misguidedly used in drivers education programs in the States, inspiring many teenagers to become hot rodders.
The Rock (1996)
Ferrari versus Hummer. ’Nuff said!
The Fast And The Furious (1954)
The original. Falsely charged with murder, the hero attempts to elude the law by stealing a car and entering the Pebble Beach race to make it over the border.
Faster Pussycat! Kill! Kill! (1966)
Three go-go dancers get mixed up in the hot rod scene in the California desert.
Gumball Rally (1976)
Cross-America race with a Ferrari, a Cobra, a Merc SL and a Camaro zooming 2900 miles in 34 hours.
The Junkman (1982)
Made by HB Halicki, the lunatic behind the original Gone In 60 Seconds. This time he manages to destroy 60 more cars than he did the first time around!
The Last American Hero (1973)
Chronicles the life and minor crimes of a whiskey-runner turned stock car racer.
The Love Bug (1968)
Spawned a whole series of sequels, including one where Herbie gets it on with a Lancia. The Herbie series subliminally affected the subconscious of an entire nation (Mexico), so they continued building VW Beetles way past their use-by date.
Mechanical genius turns to a life of crime and builds the ultimate getaway car-cum-motorbike.
My Science Project (1985)
This sci-fi flick features the only other known Mad Max-style switch for activating a car’s supercharger (in which they outrun electricity!). Has some cool 1980s lines, too.
Rebel Without A Cause (1955)
Made James Dean the poster boy for most of the hot rod generation. Dean plays Jim Stark, a troubled teen from the right side of the tracks who is alienated from his parents and peers. The climactic scene is a real cliffhanger.
Red Line 7000 (1965)
Top racing footage does not make up for an otherwise dull movie.
C’était Un Rendez-vous (1976)
Possibly the most infamous footage of a street-driven car ever. The eight-minute film features one continuous, on-board shot of what was originally thought to be a Ferrari being driven fast across early-morning Paris. In fact, it was a Mercedes with dubbed Ferrari engine noise to make it sound more powerful.
Return To Macon County (1975)
Billed as two guys, a chick and the hottest ’57 Chevy on the road, this flick stars Nick Nolte and Don Johnson as two young blokes who get mixed up in drag racing and get in trouble with the law.
Van Nuys Blvd (1979)
Cool movie about a hick that visits the infamous Van Nuys Boulevard to test his car and his drag racing skills against the locals.
Vanishing Point (1997)
Very similar plot to the original with a near-identical Dodge as its star car. However, the more-developed plot is like a padded bra – all anticipation and then a big letdown when all is revealed.
Viva Las Vegas (1964)
Regular Elvis movie but worthy of note because he plays a race car driver who has to find a new donk for his machine. A story many of us can relate to.
White Lightning (1973)
Another bloody ‘moonshine’ flick with Burt Reynolds playing some south-western hick, this time named Gator McGlusky, with some nice fast chase sequences.
Comedy about a car thief pulling off the job of a lifetime.
It’s French, but it’s a classic. Really.
Straight-to-video tale starring Billy Zane, about a jet-powered land speed team trying to break the 1000mph barrier.
The Driver (1978)
Ryan O’Neal stars as a getaway driver for hire.
Used Cars (1980)
Starring Kurt Russell, this baby features some spectacular stunts.
Burt Reynolds plays an ageing stunt driver. Look out for the rocket car jump!
Deuce Coupe (1992)
Two brothers love the same chick, so it’s lucky they both love cars and speed as well. Nice drag racing scenes.
Born To Run (1993)
US telemovie now available on video. Lots of nice street racing action.
Dead End Drive-In (1986)
Aussie flick about a drive-in used as a concentration camp for society’s riff raff. Weird, with some nice stunts.