The 10 Best Car Movies of the 2010s
Keep your eyes on the road, and your hands upon the wheel.
While the “Best Cars of the 2010s” story we did had a massive pool from which to draw, this one’s a little shallower. Nevertheless; as we peruse some of the best car films of the decade, you can see the hits just kept on coming for those of us who like our silver screens stained with petrol.
We start the list (and the decade) off with a documentary, yes, but a documentary centred around such a character that you’d think it was fiction. Brazilian superstar driver Ayrton Senna was known for his incredible pace first and foremost, but his character in the infield and off the track was deep, complex and riveting which made his untimely death at the 1994 San Marino Grand Prix that much more tragic. Of course, there was so much more to Senna’s racing life than that crash, and Senna does well to mix in great racing cuts with its more studious interviews.
While this Ryan Gosling, ahem, “vehicle” wasn’t as much about cars as the rest of this list, there’s a whole heck of a lot of great car content here anyway. From the classic rides in the garage owned by Shannon (played by a limping Bryan Cranston in the midst of his Breaking Bad days), to the surprisingly hard-hitting signature car chase between a Ford Mustang and a Chrysler 300 (nooooo…the producers weren’t thinking about Bullitt as they storyboarded this. Nooooo way), this is a really entertaining picture. I mean, when you can use a garden-variety Chevrolet Impala as a chase vehicle in the opening credits and still keep audiences glued to their seats for the duration, you know you’re doing something right.
Fast Five (2011)
Unlike Drive, this one is all about the cars. From Porsches, to Nissan Hakosukas, to Terradyne Gurkhas and of course, to Dodge Chargers, F5 is a riot from beginning to end. You want to see what vehicle best personifies Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson? Look no further. How about what would happen if two Dodge Chargers dragged a bank vault through Rio de Janiero? F5’s got it. Or what Jordana Brewster would look like behind the wheel of a Ford GT40? Oh yeah. This is the best movie of the franchise, and it deserves a spot on this list.
While Senna is a documentary that watched like fiction, Rush kinda watches like a documentary (albeit a really, really action-packed one). Both Daniel Brühl and Chris Hemsworth do fantastic jobs in their roles as Niki Lauda and James Hunt, respectively, while director Ron Howard’s love for the automobile and racing is shown clearly in the quick-cut, clutch-kicking, gearshift-punching (with a broken shift knob as evidence) race sequences. The best part? Era-specific Ferraris, McLarens and even a six-wheeled Tyrell were used for the race sequences, though replicas of the main drivers’ Ferrari and McLaren had to be used for the real nitty gritty stuff. Like, you know, when Brühl-as-Lauda has a bit of a shunt at the Nurburgring…
Mad Max: Fury Road (2015)
If any list of this sort were to leave this epic rev ‘em up, smash ‘em up, blow ‘em up on the cutting room floor, then I’d have to ask what the heck the writers were smoking. The cars are unreal – I mean really; they’re all Frankenstein-like mishmashes of well-known Holdens, Mercedes-Benzes, Cadillacs, and Fords – and while the CGI use is heavy, a lot of it wasn’t and that’s notable in itself. On the surface, the latest entry in the legendary series may seem like little more than a feature length car chase, but critics at the time lauded it for its good character studies and the pertinent themes lying below the surface, such as female empowerment, environmental issues, and the effects dictatorships have on their people. It’s a movie I’d watch again and again, though the frantic pace does mean you might want to leave yourself 4-6 months between viewings.
The Green Hell (2016)
Like Senna, this is a documentary but it’s a doozy. The Nurburgring Nordschleife race track (“The Green Hell” being one of its nicknames) is one of the world’s most infamous, from the stories of drivers dying there by the dozens to the bonkers parties that get held there during races. The Green Hell does well to talk to a number of drivers who have driven there (including Sir Jackie Stewart, the man responsible for the “Green Hell“ nickname) as well as those that live in the small hamlets that pepper the track’s surroundings. Through their accounts as well as some great classic file footage, the film succeeds at giving life to, of all things, a string of undulating, twisting and cracking tarmac that winds its way through the woods.
Baby Driver (2017)
Like Drive, this one will catch you off guard. What starts out as a movie seemingly about music and the effects it can have on those who listen to it turns into a turbocharged, AWD romp through the busy streets of Atlanta, GA (making this likely the first – and possibly last – time you’ll see a car chase filmed in Georgia’s capital) courtesy of a red Subaru STI sedan. As the movie goes on, more cars are driven, more shots are fired and of course, more classic tunes are heard (if Fury Road is a feature-length car chase, this is a rock concert set to video) and tons of fun is had. All the while, sweet undertones of a youthful romance and a beautiful relationship between an adoptive father and his son underscore the whole thing. What a film.
Cars 3 (2017)
We’re not sure how, but Disney Pixar manages to keep its various franchises going, going, going for sequel after sequel without the material ever seeming tired or worn out. They aren’t always smash hits – Cars 2, for example, really wasn’t that great – but they’re able to chug on thanks to great characters, voice acting and animation. So while the globetrotting of Cars 2 seemed a little too much of a stretch after the riches-to-rags-to-riches story of the first film, Cars 3 was a return to form. It was about cars doing car things – like racing and demolition-derbying in middle America – as opposed to doing things that any cookie-cutter spy character could do. It was also a neat look of how racing today is affected by technology that’s perhaps pushing the act of driving further and further to the fringes of the racing world, replaced by digital simulation training and (gasp!) science.
The Art of Racing in The Rain (2019)
Even reading the book may not fully prepare you for the emotional roller coaster presented here. A heartwarming (and, some may even say, heart¬wrenching) tale of a man, his dog, his family and his racing car, it’s the sophomore producing effort from actor – and Le Mans winner – Patrick Dempsey and it walks a line you may never thought would have to be walked in a tale of man’s best friend. Kevin Costner’s work as Enzo the dog’s voice actor is the icing on the cake.
Ford v Ferrari (2019)
What a fantastic way to end the decade. Star power in both the vehicle and acting sense and some great racing scenes make Hollywood’s take on one of the great stories in racing history the one we’ve all been waiting for. Matt Damon and Christian Bale are entertaining in their portrayals of Carroll Shelby and Ken Miles, and the movie is short one Robert Duvall sighting as having the most star-studded cast any racing movie has ever seen, with the likes of John Bernthal and Tracy Letts bringing greats of the car world Lee Iaccoca and Henry Ford II to the silver screen. If that’s not enough for you, there’s a smattering of faces from the world of motorsport as well, including The Stig himself, Ben Collins.