Racing has a universal appeal for a large number of enthusiastic fans. Many different cultures around the world are attracted to the idea of fast vehicles competing against each other for fame or glory. For this reason, it has become a common theme in the movies they watch.
One of the most successful racing films in recent years has been Rush. Directed by Ron Howard, it tells the true story of the rivalry between Formula One racers James Hunt and Niki Lauda. There is a strong focus on the lax safety regulations of the F1 races during the 1970s. This is most exemplified by the scene in which Lauda is involved in a near-fatal accident.
The accident happened on the Nürburgring track in Germany. Lauda’s car was affected by the wet weather, and he lost control of it. The vehicle then burst into flames with Lauda inside. He was quickly pulled out, but not before suffering extensive third-degree burns to his body. This event was a significant moment for F1 and led to many changes in the industry.
The lack of safety within Grand Prix races is also the focus of the documentary Senna. It tells the life story of racing legend Ayrton Senna. The Brazilian racer soon became a national hero, in his home country of Brazil, after winning a large number of races.
By his thirties, Senna had achieved worldwide stardom for his driving prowess. However, in 1994 tragedy struck. The documentary covers the events that led to Senna’s death at the Autodromo Enzo e Dino Ferrari track that year. During the race, his car hit a concrete wall, and he suffered fatal head trauma as a result. His death led to significant changes in the way these races were run, which, has since, helped to save further lives.
Not all racing movies are as serious in nature. The comedy film Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby is a fictional account of a bumbling NASCAR driver. Will Ferrell plays the eponymous dimwit, who, at the start of the movie, becomes a famous and successful racer. However, he is soon challenged by a superior Grand Prix driver, played by Sacha Baron Cohen.
Talladega Nights is a parody of other sports films. It takes the essential themes of these stories but chooses to focus on a ridiculous character. Despite having an abundance of comical sequences, the racing scenes are, more or less, played straight. They were shot using real NASCAR vehicles on well-known tracks.
Racing cars are even characters in their own right in some movies. Perhaps the most renowned of these is Herbie, the Love Bug. In the Disney series that focuses on his exploits, Herbie is a racing car with a mind of his own. Since his first appearance in 1968, Herbie has become a well known, and beloved, cinematic character.
The movie Cars is similar to the Herbie series, in that it features racing vehicles with their own personalities. This Pixar produced children’s franchise is set in a world where cars can talk to each other. It focuses on Lightning McQueen, an up and coming rookie who wants to make it big in the sport.
Sometimes the races shown in movies are not entirely legal. Vanishing Point tells the story of a man who is challenged to drive from Denver, Colorado to San Francisco in a short space of time. This character is a former racer who ended his career in disgrace. He still feels an addiction to driving fast, and this serves him well during his road trip.
As he speeds across America, he soon incurs the wrath of the police. They attempt to chase him down, but he is too fast for them. Eventually, the authorities use increasingly violent methods to get him off the road. Much like Easy Rider, this movie focuses on how racing across the streets of American can represent individual freedom.