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An Introduction to Classic Racing Cinema

What are the essential entry points to the world of racing movies?

  1. John Frankenheimer’s Grand Prix (1966)
  2. John Sturges’ Le Mans (1971)
  3. Paul Bartel’s Death Race 2000 (1975)


Cars and cinema go well together like doughnuts and coffee. Racing has always been a rich subject in cinema, with the Fast and Furious franchise currently reaching its inordinate heights, there’s definitely a distinct excitement that figuratively and literally gets your engines revved up –maybe even inspire you to upgrade and purchase a muffler for sale. The Philippines and the rest of the world have seen excellent racing films throughout the century, and if you are just getting into the genre, looking at the classics is the best place to start.

Even if you are not exactly a die-hard gearhead, the iconic vehicles in these films are easily recognizable and utterly embraced in many of the car shows here in Manila.

Below is a look at three of cinemas most genre-defining racing flicks:


Grand Prix (1966)

grand prix


Grand Prix is one of the later films of director John Frankenheimer’s astounding career. This film is arguably the grandest display of motorsports cinema. The ensemble cast that consists of James Garner, Eva Marie Saint, Yves Montand, Jessica Walters, and a small role by Japan’s legendary Toshiro Mifune all execute excellent performances that are fitting for this large-scale 70mm Cinerama Panavision film.

The film includes real-life racing footage filmed in Monaco and several other on-location race tracks. The story basically follows the inside lives of four Formula One drivers as they zip through the 1966 season. Technicolor at its most exquisite.


Le Mans (1971)

le mans


No ‘classic racing cinema’ list is complete without a Steve McQueen film. Le Mans is a movie that depicts a fictional 24 hours Le Mans race. It features actual high-speed footage from the actual 970 race itself. Steve McQueen plays racecar driver Michael Delaney in this (literal) fast-paced drama. The story basically covers the Porsche driver’s haunted memories of a competitor’s fatal accident from the previous year.

McQueen’s character finds himself incredibly infatuated with the widow as he is faced with the intense rivalry between him and his Ferrari-driving nemesis Erich.


Death Race 2000 (1975)


This film is definitely far from a true-to-life racing saga (although it does permeate a deeply-etched social commentary on violence and the media). This movie is a relatively low-budget b-movie about a dystopian future where a transcontinental race (to the death) is a national entertainment spectacle.

This absolutely bonkers sci-fi flick has the wildest modified ‘future’ muscle cars, the legendary cult sensation David Carradine, and a young Sylvester Stallone!


Key Takeaway

Cinema is one of the most powerful forms of art; it tells us things about ourselves and strikes inspiration for the things that we want to pursue. Whether as a serious hobby or just for plain fun, it’s nice to make tweaks to our cars and upgrade parts by purchasing mufflers for sale. The Philippines is a rich country full of car enthusiasts that have seen these types of films over and over throughout their lives.

Car shows in Manila are a great place to get a first-hand and in-person glimpse of the many majestic vehicles showcased in these films and many others.

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