Simanaitis Says

On cars, old, new and future; science & technology; vintage airplanes, computer flight simulation of them; Sherlockiana; our English language; travel; and other stuff


OSCAR NOMINATIONS have been announced for 2013, so here’s our own look at movies celebrating enthusiast cars, sports cars, auto racing and related passions. This list is in no sense exhaustive (a little automotive humor here; very little). Rather, these are movies I’ve actually seen—and some, even enjoyed.


A Man and a Woman, Un Homme et une Femme, 1966. A widower-meets-widow drama/romance en français, where the actor, Jean-Louis Trintignant, happens to be the nephew of late renowned race driver and vintner Maurice Trintignant. In the flick, Jean-Louis is a race/rally driver, competing in the Monte Carlo Rally in a Ford Mustang. (Ford ran teams there in the mid-1960s.) A sweet movie.


Driven, 2001. Sly Stallone’s take on the millennium CART/Formula 1 scene. Despite its emotionally-scarred-by-earlier-accident schmaltz (didn’t Elvis cap all in Viva Las Vegas?), this movie isn’t as bad as some say. One character is a pretty good Mika Häkkinen. And the 360 in the tunnel is neat.


Genevieve, 1953. Two ever-so-English pairs take part in the London-to-Brighton Run. The guys are good friends, but old jealousies set them to a wager about who’ll get back to London first. The one fellow’s new girlfriend is baffled by it all; the other’s long-suffering wife has seen it all before. Gentle Fifties fun with Edwardian motors; my favorite car flick.


Grand Prix, 1966. Director John Frankenheimer’s tribute to mid-1960s Formula 1, even to enlisting the Hills, Phil and Graham (not related) in cameo roles. Actor Brian Bedford does a really good Jimmy Clark. And I love the opening mosaic sequence. Whenever I see Grand Prix, though, I think it’s longer than its 176 minutes.


Johnny Dark, 1954. Fifties sports cars (starring a Woodill Wildfire!) racing on southern California roads in full color. Tony Curtis is the lead in a flick that won’t displace Un Homme et une Femme as drama/romance. But it’s fun to seek out local landmarks. There’s a YouTube sample at


Le Mans, 1971. Steve McQueen is cool personified. And this is almost a documentary of Le Mans in the 1970s. Forgive me, but it still reminds me of that Monty Python sex-education bit where the public-school headmaster and his wife demonstrate matters to a classroom of bored, fidgety boys.


Senna, 2010. A stunningly well-executed documentary of Ayrton Senna. It’s astounding that this was assembled from primary sources more than 15 years after his death. A powerful, wonderful tribute.


The Devil’s Hairpin, 1957. Directed by and starring Cornel Wilde, this is another emotionally-scarred-by-earlier-accident schmaltz. It likely used the same roads and cars as Johnny Dark, but the cinematography isn’t as good and the chemistry never really materializes between Wilde and Jean Wallace (the flick’s love interest; his real-time wife).


The Great Race, 1965. A bit of froth with plenty of Hollywood stars (including Tony Curtis again). Not quite as entertaining as Those Magnificent Men in Their Flying Machines, a contemporary flick produced in England.

The Racers

The Racers, 1955. The first in a lineage of Grand Prix and Driven. This one has Kirk Douglas as a Milanese (?!) and especially ludicrous dialogue (“Don’t worry, Gino. He was dead before you hit him.”). But it’s saved by color photography from European racing in the Fifties. Laugh at the wheel-churning close-ups and savor the long shots.

What about your favorites? ds

© Dennis Simanaitis,, 2013


  1. Bill Urban
    January 13, 2013

    Expanding on the “related passions” genre . . . Two For The Road, with that cad Albert Finney opposite the personification of elegance, Audry Hepburn, not to mention Jacqueline Bisset, also of Bullitt fame. (Speaking of Mr. cool personified, how about Bullitt? For a captivating taste of the chase, the lap belt click, and Jackie, watch the trailer at – and turn up the sound for the excellent musical accompaniment and unmuffled pipes.

  2. Michael Rubin
    April 27, 2016

    Just spotted this entry from three or so years ago, thanks to a link in today’s Simanaitissays. Yes, the entire chase sequence, with music from Lalo Schifrin, is terrific, especially from the seatbelt click on.

    Unmentioned is the more recent Hunt vs Lauda F1 potboiler than actually was quite good, credit Ron Howard for the effort. Chris Hemsworth did a great job as Hunt, even looks quite like him from seeing him in person some 30-40 years ago.

    Agree on Senna, an exceptional film, especially considering the length of time since his death.

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This entry was posted on January 12, 2013 by in And Furthermore..., Classic Bits and tagged .
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