When the pandemic started, DEMARAS.COM started reviewing racing movies. For gearheads like us, there wasn’t much else to do! We watched and reviewed old movies like Pit Stop and THX-1138 along with modern movies like the F&F series.

There’s plenty of Top 10 lists of best car movies, but they’re often chock full of late models, but we respect the classics, man! So we were excited when we stumbled across this August 2013 interview with Quentin Tarantino listing his favourite racing movies. Even though he’s a respected and influential director, Tarantino loves ‘schlock’ and B-movies and his list reflects that.

People say the greatest racing movies are Grand Prix and Le Mans, but those are a couple of the ones I don’t care for. Grand Prix should be great, but it’s not. It gets way too caught up in the soap opera. Shit, who cares about that? Le Mans sounds like it should be fantastic, but to be honest I’m not sure I’ve ever managed to watch it through till the end without blacking out. It’s very pretentious, and pretty boring. And Paul Newman’s Winning is even worse. I’d rather saw my fingers off than sit through that again.

Released: 1966

Studio: MGM

Director: John Frankenheimer

My favourite racing movies are the B-movie genre ones. I’m a big fan of some of the racing movies that came out of American International Pictures in the 60’s, like Roger Corman’s The Young Racers – I’m a big fan of that one, where this supposed bad ass driver takes bedding women as seriously as he does winning races. Action flick meets romantic drama, but nicely balanced.

Released: 1963

Studio: American International Pictures

Director: Roger Corman

Thunder Alley is another good one. Richard Rush is a terrific director and stunt man and I actually used part of the score from this film in the big car chase scene in my movie Death Proof. It’s a real 60’s hard-driving piece of music with bongos and a cintar. That’s really cool.

Released: 1967

Studio: American International Pictures

Director: Richard Rush

There are some fun Southern ones too. Rory Calhoun did a movie called Thunder in Carolina where a driver teaches his mechanic how to race. There’s also this amazing film that no one’s ever seen – I’ve only seen it once and I’d love to see it again – this really good Seventies backtrack exploitation movie which I think if memory serves me correctly is called Fury on Wheels. It’s hilarious and very satirical. I remember really liking that.

Released: 1960

Studio: Howco International Pictures

Director: Paul Helmick

Formula One is pretty new to me, and I love it. Most of my experience though, living in America and originally hailing from Tennessee, is of NASCAR. I’ve got a friend who works in the series and so I’ve been to quite a few races with her. I like stock car movies. There’s one from the Seventies about the king of stock car drivers in his early days, Junior Johnson, called The Last American Hero, staring Jeff Bridges. It’s also known as Hard Driver, that’s a terrific film. Jeff’s performance, as a young kid from the sticks trying to make it to the big time, is right on the money.

Released: 1973

Studio: 20th Century Fox

Director: Lamont Johnson

But I guess my favourite racing film is in the same AIP vain; a terrific picture called The Wild Racers. It’s with Fabian and Mimsy Farmer and directed by a guy named Daniel Haller. In it Fabian plays a famous stock car hotshot who comes across to Europe to make it as a Formula One driver. It’s shot like an Antonioni movie, with very little dialogue, most of which is voice-over. And no shot in the movie lasts more than twenty seconds. The quick edits keep you on the edge of your seat. It’s very avant-garde, but it still delivers a proper racing movie. Classy.

Released: 1968

Studio: American International Pictures

Director: Daniel Haller

If I were to direct a racing movie I would look to mimic a lot of that 60’s AIP flavour. I would probably draw inspiration from Howard Hawks’ Red Line 7000, which was made in 1965 and starred James Caan. It’s not pretentious, like Grand Prix and stuff, but the story isn’t dissimilar. It’s got soap opera with everyone trying to sleep with everyone else, but it’s done in a fun way. It actually plays like a really great Elvis Presley movie. Elvis’ racing movies were good but not this good. I like the way that Red Line 7000 has a community of characters all staying in this Holiday Inn together and hanging out. That’s a cool platform.

Released: 1965

Studio: Paramount Pictures

Director: Howard Hawks

Though I’m really interested in these low budget B-movies I also have to say I’m a fan of the big budget ones too. Hands down my favourite is Days of Thunder. Yeah, yeah, you laugh but seriously I’m a big fan. To me Days of Thunder is the movie Grand Prix and Le Mans should have been. Sure, it had a big budget, big stars and a big director in Tony Scott, but it had the fun of those early AIP movies. I just don’t think it works if you take the whole thing too seriously.

Released: 1990

Studio: Paramount Pictures

Director: Tony Scott

The above interview by Adam Hay Nicholls originally published on August 21 2013 on F1SOCIALDIARY

2 thoughts on “Fast Film Friday: Tarantino’s Favourite Racing Movies

  1. That interview is a nice finding indeed. Tarantino’s love for “B” movies is all over his work as a director, I am a fan of the guy. On the other hand, I love “Le Mans”. The movie has no plot, it is just a collection of wonderful images of the sports car racing of the early 1970s. I have watched the movie more times than I care to admit.

    1. Le Mans is a great movie. The editing, the sound, the sparse dialogue. It allows the race to be the main story. At the same time, it’s not shot like a documentary either. The lingering shot of Steve McQueen’s face (after he wrecks his car) communicates so much about what the driver is feeling.

      But I understand QT’s criticism of Grand Prix. It’s made in the old style of movie that my dad would watch. Looks almost like a soap opera by today’s standards. Yet, the movie has some highlights, like Jean-Pierre Sarti:’s line

      “I used to go to pieces. I’d see an accident like that and be so weak inside that I wanted to quit – stop the car and walk away. I could hardly make myself go past it. But I’m older now. When I see something really horrible, I put my foot down. Hard! Because I know that everyone else is lifting his.”


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