This classic 1958 crime-thriller stars Robert Mitchum, a tough-as-nails Korean War vet who served as a military policeman. When he comes home, he leaves law and order behind to run the family moonshine crime ring. Struggling with PTSD and his conscience, he is adamant about not allowing his younger brother to get involved with the moonshine business while battling city gangsters who are trying to take it over. Scenes depicting cars ripping down Tennessee dirt roads at top speed to deliver the goods plus epic car chases make ‘Thunder Road’ the best moonshine movie ever made.
Mitchum was the executive producer and he wrote the original story. Fun fact: He co-wrote and recorded one of the songs on the soundtrack called “Whippoorwill.” It became a surprise hit.
Death Race 2000
Mr. Frankenstein is a national hero in the effed-up futuristic world of 'Death Race 2000' (1975). Costumed like Batman, save for the perky ears, any vestige of a moral world in this film is held by him. Yet, he’s the most ruthless competitor of all. He’s a winner. Past wins took their toll. He’s lost three limbs, and that’s not all. Undeterred, he told his navigator he lost his “right eye in ninety-five, and my nose and my left eye in ninety-seven, and most of my cranium in ninety-eight. I’m held together with patches of plastic and steel plates.” The 2000 race finds him equipped with a newly installed mechanical right arm, engineered for lightning-fast precise shifting.
The cartoonish film takes place during the post-collapse era of the “world crash of ‘79.” It’s a parody of competitive, winner-takes-all American ideals that drives it to its logical conclusion. We wouldn’t have an American story without fan clubs who cheer on the blood sport car race and political protesters who rail against it. The President declares the coast-to-coast race the most popular sporting event in the history of mankind. The protesters call it a gratuitous display of inhumane violence, and the claim is not far off. The transnational race, a race to the death, destination LA, is based on a point system. Running over and killing an elderly person scores 100 points. Toddlers are worth 70. But it has a happy ending.
Dirty Mary, Crazy Larry
Based on Richard Unekis’ novel 'The Chase', 'Dirty Mary, Crazy Larry' stars Peter Fonda and Susan George. Released in 1974, the car chase movie also stars a yellow and black striped 1966 Chevy Impala and a 1969 Dodge Charger R/T 440.
Filmed on location in the back roads of Stockton, California, with plenty of space to race muscle cars, NASCAR hopeful Larry Rayder (Fonda) steals cash from a supermarket to finance racing ambitions. He planned to buy a race car. Fleeing from the heist, the racing enthusiast runs into Mary, she tags along, and they complete their outlaw team. More than a third of the film is dedicated to wild car chases and superbly staged crashes, so don’t look too far for a plot. It is what it is, a summer release with low cinematic ambitions.
The animated film 'Cars' came to us from Pixar in 2006. It’s one of Disney’s best successes, adored by children and parents alike. Though these cars aren’t real, individually they represent some of the most popular classic cars on the road. Doc Hudson, voiced by Paul Newman, is a ’51 Hudson Hornet, a famous NASCAR stock car nicknamed “the Fabulous Hudson.” Filmore (George Carlin) is the classic ’60 VW Bus. And lovable Luigi (Tony Shalhoub) is a ’59 Fiat 500. Representing classic 1950s automobiles is Flo, a ’57 GM Motorama show car. And we can’t forget Lizzie, a ’23 Ford Model T.
Owen Wilson voices the main character, an ego-heavy racer named Lightning McQueen, whose problems direct the storyline. It’s no wonder the band of anthropomorphic cars enamored kids. Toddlers sit for hours driving their Matchbox cars around, making them talk to each other in their world of pretend- 'Cars' animated the way kids play.
Here’s a movie that is truly about the cars. Heck, it’s a whole franchise all about the cars. In fact, 'Fast Five' (2011) is the fifth installment of the 'Fast & Furious' franchise. It is also a sequel to the 2009 film. So, why are these movies so popular Universal Pictures has made at least 10 Fast & Furious movies? Vin Diesel, Paul Walker, and Dwayne Johnson. Oh, and the cars. 'Fast Five', also known as 'Furious 5: Rio Heist', serves as the pivoting point in the Furious movies from street racing to heist action movies.
The first awesome car featured is a Ford GT40. But the opening scene also includes a classic 1971 Pantera muscle car and a 1965 Corvette Grand Sport. The movie hosts a parking lot full of various cars, it’s like a potpourri of automotive brawn. Notable, however, is the 1970 Charger manned by the strapping Dom Toretto (Vin Diesel). O’Conner (Paul Walker) is behind the wheel of a 1972 Skyline. And, to top the list, a Koenigsegg CCX. Roman Pearce (Tyrese Gibson) claims the rare carbon-fiber hypercar. He brags, in the movie, that his car is the fastest car in the world and one of only four ever made.