Best Lateral G Car Movies

This list is just personal opinion, some of the movies listed here may not be "great" but fit in with the theme of this site. Some of these I may not even have seen but they were listed by others as worthy of your consideration. Feel there is a movie that deserves to be listed here but isn't? Send me a message and let me know.

All descriptions from Amazon.com


American Graffiti - 1973

Here's how critic Roger Ebert described the unique and lasting value of George Lucas's 1973 box-office hit, American Graffiti: "[It's] not only a great movie but a brilliant work of historical fiction; no sociological treatise could duplicate the movie's success in remembering exactly how it was to be alive at that cultural instant." The time to which Ebert and the film refers is the summer of 1962, and American Graffiti captures the look, feel, and sound of that era by chronicling one memorable night in the lives of several young Californians on the cusp of adulthood. (In essence, Lucas was making a semiautobiographical tribute to his own days as a hot-rod cruiser, and the film's phenomenal success paved the way for Star Wars.) The action is propelled by the music of Wolfman Jack's rock & roll radio show--a soundtrack of pop hits that would become as popular as the film itself. As Lucas develops several character subplots, American Graffiti becomes a flawless time capsule of meticulously re-created memory, as authentic as a documentary and vividly realized through innovative use of cinematography and sound. The once-in-a-lifetime ensemble cast members inhabit their roles so fully that they don't seem like actors at all, comprising a who's who of performers--some of whom went on to stellar careers--including Ron Howard, Richard Dreyfuss, Harrison Ford, Cindy Williams, Mackenzie Phillips, Charles Martin Smith, Candy Clark, and Paul Le Mat. A true American classic, the film ranks No. 77 on the American Film Institute's list of all-time greatest American movies.


BMW Films - The Hire - 2005

The Hire: A Series of 8 Films The 8 films included are: Hostage: Stars: Clive Owen. Director: John Woo Ticker: Stars: Clive Owen, Don Cheadle, F. Murray Abraham. Director: Joe Carnahan The driver rescues a mysterious messenger carrying an even more mysterious briefcase after an ambush on a rural highway. As a helicopter gunman relentlessly pursues them, a game of political intrigue plays out, with an unforeseen ending. Beat the Devil: Stars: Clive Owen, Gary Oldman, James Brown. Director: Tony Scott Decades ago, the legendary James Brown sold his soul to the devil for fame and fortune. Now he wishes to renegotiate. Hired to take Mr. Brown to a rendezvous with the devil (Gary Oldman), the driver soon finds himself entangled in fiendish plans. Ambush: Stars: Clive Owen, Tomas Milian. Director: John Frankenheimer Chosen: Stars: Clive Owen, Mason Lee. Director: Ang Lee The driver meets a ship carrying an eight-year-old Tibetan boy at a dark, deserted New York shipyard. But he's not the only one waiting. The Follow: Stars: Clive Owen, Mickey Rourke, Forest Whitaker. Director: Wong Kar-wai The cunning and tactics of trailing another car quickly evolve into a mystery rife with deceit, as The Driver is hired to follow a woman accused of cheating on her famous husband. Star: Stars: Clive Owen, Madonna. Director: Guy Ritchie The driver faces perhaps his most perplexing challenge: Coming face-to-face with a hugely talented and successful rock star. But beneath her beauty lies a problem she always gets what she wants. Powder Keg: Stars: Clive Owen, Stellan Skarsgard. Director: Alejandro González Iñárritu


Bullitt - 1968

San Francisco has been the setting of a lot of exciting movie car chases over the years, but this 1968 police thriller is still the one to beat when it comes to high-octane action on the steep hills of the city by the Bay. The outstanding car chase earned an Oscar for best editing, but the rest of the movie is pretty good, too. Bullitt is a perfect star vehicle for cool guy Steve McQueen, who stars as a tenacious detective (is there any other kind?) determined to track down the killers of the star witness in an important trial. Director Peter Yates (Breaking Away) approached the story with an emphasis on absolute authenticity, using a variety of San Francisco locations. Jacqueline Bisset and Robert Duvall appear in early roles, and Robert Vaughn plays the criminal kingpin who pulls the deadly strings of the tightly wound plot.


Cannonball Run - 1981

Like The Gumball Rally (1976) before it, former stuntman Hal Needham's The Cannonball Run was inspired by the same real-life cross-country road race. If The Gumball Rally was the critical favorite, The Cannonball Run was the box-office favorite (spawning the almost-as-successful sequel, Cannonball Run II, a few years later). Aside from top-billed stars Burt Reynolds and Dom DeLuise (stars of Needham's Smokey and the Bandit series) plus Dean Martin and Sammy Davis Jr. (as horny priests), the movie features many of the same actors (Bert Convy, Jamie Farr) that could be found on a typical '80s episode of The Love Boat (along with the same caliber of writing). But as the tagline notes, "You'll never guess who wins"--and it's true. As in most road-race movies, it's the journey that counts, not the destination. This particular journey includes cool cars (like Adrienne Barbeau's black Lamborghini), crazed bikers (led by Peter "Easy Rider" Fonda), hot martial arts action (from Jackie Chan as a Japanese racecar driver), a conspicuously braless Farrah Fawcett (recipient of a Golden Raspberry nomination for her performance), and possibly the most egregious use of product placement featured in a movie up until that time (one vehicle has "GMC Trucks" noted prominently along the top of the windshield, another has "Hawaiian Tropic" painted on the hood). As with many of the films Jackie Chan has made for Golden Harvest, the Hong Kong-based production company behind The Cannonball Run, wacky outtakes are included during the closing credits.


Cars (Pixar) - 2006

There's an extra coat of hot wax on Pixar's vibrant, NASCAR-influenced comedy about a world populated entirely by cars. Lightning McQueen (voiced by Owen Wilson) is the slick rookie taking the Piston Cup series by storm when the last race of the season (the film's high-octane opening) ends in a three-way tie. On the way to the tie-breaker race in California, Lightning loses his way off Route 66 in the Southwest desert and is taught to stop and smell the roses by the forgotten citizens of Radiator Springs. It's odd to have such a slim story from the whizzes of Pixar, and the film pales a bit from their other films (though can that be a fair comparison?). Nonetheless, Cars is another gleaming ride with Pixar founder John Lasseter, who's directing for the first time since Toy Story 2. There's the usual spectrum of excellent characters teamed with appropriate voice talent, loads of smooth humor for kids and parents alike, knockout visuals, and a colorful array of sidekicks, including a scene-stealing baby blue forklift named Guido. Lightning's plight is changed with the help of former big-city lawyer Sally Carrera (Pixar veteran Bonnie Hunt), the town's patriarch Doc Hudson (Paul Newman), and kooky tow truck Mater (Larry the Cable Guy). The Incredibles was the first Pixar film to break the 100-minute barrier, but had enough story not to suffer; Cars, at 116 minutes (including some must-see end credit footage), is not as fortunate, plus it never pierces the heart. Trivia fans should have bonanza with the frame-by-frame DVD function; the movie is stuffed with in-jokes, some appearing only for an instant.


Dirty Mary, Crazy Larry - 1974

Susan George (Straw Dogs) is ex-groupie Mary and Peter Fonda (Easy Rider) is wannabe-NASCAR driver Larry. They're thieves on the run from sheriff Vic Morrow (The Blackboard Jungle), who carries neither gun nor badge. According to director John Hough (The Legend of Hell House), his white trash cult classic was "an action picture with a lot of stunts." That about sums it up. The Tarantino favorite is slim on character development, but overstuffed with automobile-oriented action (most revolving around a 1969 Dodge Charger). Notable stunts include a game of chicken with a couple of 18-wheelers, a low-flying helicopter chase, and a death-defying leap over a moving bridge (Speed would up the ante with a bus). Adapted from the novel The Chase, Dirty Mary Crazy Larry also has one shocker of an ending. Adam Roarke, as levelheaded mechanic Deke, and an uncredited Roddy McDowall, as supermarket manager George, provide solid support.


The Fast and the Furious - 2001

A guilty pleasure with excess horsepower, The Fast and the Furious efficiently combines time-honored male fantasies (hot cars, hot women, hot action) into a vacuous plot of crystalline purity. It's trash, but it's fun trash, in which a hotshot Los Angeles cop named Brian (Paul Walker) infiltrates a gang of street racers suspected of fencing stolen goods from hijacked trucks. The gang leader is Dom (Vin Diesel), ex-con and reigning king of the street racers, who lives for those 10 seconds of freedom when his high-performance "rice rocket" (a highly modified Asian import) hurtles toward another quarter-mile victory. Racing is street theater for a lawless youth subculture, and Dom is a star behind the wheel--charismatic, dangerous, and protective toward his sister Mia (Jordana Brewster), who's attracted to Brian as the newest member of Dom's car-crazy team.

Director Rob Cohen treats this like Roman tragedy for MTV junkies, pushing every scene to adrenaline-pumping extremes; when his camera isn't caressing a spectrum of nitrous oxide-enhanced dream machines, it's ogling countless slim 'n' sexy race babes. The undercover-cop scenario cheaply borrows the split-loyalty theme perfected in Donnie Brasco; a rival Asian gang adds mystery and menace; and digital trickery is cleverly employed to explore the fuel-injected innards of the day-glo racecars. It's about as substantial as a perfume ad, but just as alluring, and for heavy-metal maniacs of any age, Diesel's superblown '69 Charger proves that Detroit muscle never goes out of style.


The French Connection - 1971

William Friedkin's classic policier was propelled to box-office glory, and a fistful of Oscars, in 1972 by its pedal-to-the-metal filmmaking and fashionably cynical attitude toward law enforcement. Gene Hackman's Popeye Doyle, a brutally pushy New York City narcotics detective, is a dauntless crime fighter and Vietnam-era "pig," a reckless vulgarian whose antics get innocent people killed. Loosely based upon an actual investigation that led to what was then the biggest heroin seizure in U.S. history, the picture traces the efforts of Doyle and his partner (Roy Scheider) to close the pipeline pumping Middle Eastern smack into the States through the French port of Marseilles. (The actual French Connection cops, Eddie Egan and Sonny Grosso, make cameo appearances.) It was widely recognized at the time that Friedkin had lifted a lot of his high-strung technique from the Costa-Gavras thrillers The Sleeping Car Murders and Z--he even imported one of Costa-Gavras's favorite thugs, Marcel Bozzuffi, to play the Euro-trash hit man plugged by Doyle in an elevated train station. There was an impressive official sequel in 1975, French Connection II, directed by John Frankenheimer, which took Popeye to the south of France and got him hooked on horse. A couple of semi-official spinoffs followed, The Seven-Ups, which elevated Scheider to the leading role, and Badge 373, with Robert Duvall stepping in as the pugnacious flatfoot.


Gone in 60 Seconds - 1974

When car nut and aspiring B movie maverick H.B. "Toby" Halicki released his debut film, he gave top billing to his car, a yellow 1973 Ford Mustang named Eleanor. That's a good indication of Halicki's priorities in the original car-crunching, tire-squealing drive-in classic Gone in 60 Seconds. Halicki wrote, produced, starred, and did all of his own extraordinary stunt driving in the picture, the story of a career car thief who makes a deal to steal 48 cars for an overseas smuggler. OK, it's not Shakespeare. The plot is perfunctory at best, and Halicki's all thumbs when it comes to directing his wooden cast, but he gives a crash course in the mechanics of the car-theft biz and tops it off with one of the greatest car chases of all time: a 40-minute finale that roars through five Los Angeles-basin towns and destroys 93 cars in the process. It's a masterpiece of stunt driving, down-and-dirty photography, and sharp, furious cutting; the unsung hero of the picture is editor Warner Leighton, who paces the film perfectly and never lets it stall. Forget the messy Nicolas Cage in-name-only remake, this is outlaw auto cinema at its purest.


Gone in 60 Seconds - 2000

Kip Raines (Giovanni Ribisi) is a cocky young car thief working with a crew to steal 50 cars for a very bad man whose nickname is "The Carpenter." Being young and cocky, Kip messes up, so it's up to his big brother, Randall "Memphis" Raines (Nicolas Cage), to come out of car thief retirement and save him. With a cast that includes Robert Duvall, Angelina Jolie, Delroy Lindo, Cage, and Ribisi, it would be easy to say this story wastes all their talents--which it does, but that's not the point. This is a Jerry Bruckheimer film. A good story and complex characters would only get in the way of the action scenes and slow the movie down. No, Gone in 60 Seconds (based on the cult 1974 film of the same name) is not about the stars as much as it's about cars. Fast cars. Rare cars. Wrecked cars. All cars. Too bad director Dominic Sena (Kalifornia) doesn't come across as more of a gearhead; he seems less interested in fast cars than fast cuts. But is this movie fun? Absolutely, and it's fun because it's so stupid. With pointless car chases and hackneyed dialogue in one of the most predictable plots of the year, Gone in 60 Seconds is a comic film that's not quite a parody of itself, but darn close.


The Gumball Rally - 1976

It's fast, funny, outrageously illegal - and the granddaddy of the cross-country speed spectacles that have raced across movie screens in the past two generations. Put your pedal to the metal for The Gumball Rally. New York City is the starting point and this supersonic contest ends 2,900 miles later in Los Angeles. In between, director Chuck Bail (coordinator of many classic movie stunt sequences) and a crew of actors and stuntpersons treat you to a truly breakneck road comedy. Gary Busey plays a daredevil in a 600-horsepower Camaro. Raul Julia portrays an Italian Grand Prix champ who's also an incurable romantic in a fast Ferrari. Michael Sarrazin as the race's crafty, overconfident organizer pilots a classic Cobra. Ready, set, zoom!


Le Mans - 1971

A classic auto-racing movie starring Steve McQueen, Le Mans puts the audience in the driver's seat for what is often called the most grueling race in the world. The French auto race Le Mans is a 24-hour affair through the French countryside, a demanding ordeal for any driver. McQueen (Bullitt, The Great Escape) plays the American driver, locked in an intense grudge match with his German counterpart even as he wrestles with the guilt over causing an accident that cost the life of a close friend. McQueen is his usual stoic magnetic self, and the racing sequences are among the best ever committed to film. A solid character-driven story combines with raw visceral power to make Le Mans a rich tapestry of action and thrills.


The Road Warrior - 1981

A strong candidate for the designation of most thrilling action movie ever made (the turbo-charged exhilaration of its full-throttle highway chases has never been equaled), the second part of George Miller's post-apocalyptic trilogy is also a magnificently imagined movie myth. Like the Star Wars trilogy (by that other George) the Mad Max films draw their inspiration from the works of mythologist Joseph Campbell. In the 1979 original, Max (Mel Gibson) is a policeman, the last guardian of civilization and order in a devastated world reduced to chaos. But when a leather-clad gang of sadomasochistic speed demons mows down Max's family, his remaining connections to humanity are also permanently severed. After brutally exacting his revenge, Max wanders off into the wasteland alone, "a burned out shell of a man" who (to paraphrase The Searchers) is destined to wander forever between the winds. In The Road Warrior, Max rediscovers a sliver of his shattered humanity, and a spark of redemption, when he helps an embattled colony of pioneers fight off the savages who are after that most precious of all commodities: "guzzline." Max is transformed into a legendary hero, just as Mel Gibson was catapulted to international movie stardom. With its final stirring images, The Road Warrior transcends its genre (whatever that may be--science fiction? Western? action adventure?) and becomes something timeless. It's a great movie.


Ronin - 1998

In a world where loyalties are easily abandoned and allegiances can be bought, a new and deadlier terrorist threat has emergedfree agent killers! Featuring "high-octane action" (Gene Shalit, "Today"), a "first-rate cast" (L.A. Daily News) and exhilarating car chases that "are nothing short of sensational" (The New York Times), Ronin is "the real deal in action fireworks" (Rolling Stone) directed by "a master of intelligent thrillers" (Roger Ebert). The Cold War may be over, but a new world order keeps a group of covert mercenaries employed by the highest bidder. These operatives, known as "Ronin," are assembled in France by a mysterious client for a seemingly routine mission: steal a top-secret briefcase. But the simple task soon proves explosive asother underworld organizations vie for the same prize...and to get the job done, the members of Ronin must do something they've never done beforetrust each other!


Smokey and the Bandit - 1977

It's easy to assume this is just another dumb redneck comedy from Burt Reynolds's years of underachievement. But it's not bad as a dumb redneck comedy at all. Directed by career stuntman Hal Needham, Smokey and the Bandit is just a goofy chase starring a bunch of Reynolds's Hollywood cronies. New to the job as film boss, Needham brings a silly but energized sensibility to the production and an action man's need to see things moving. But he also has a distinctive feeling for relationships, and he's good with a joke. Put all that together, and Smokey is, at the very least (and unlike its sequels), a simple and original pleasure.


Thunder Road - 1958

Transporting illegal alcohol over dark two-lane mountain highways, Lucas Doolin (Robert Mitchum) races wildly through the night, crashing road blocks and outrunning ambushes, defying anyone who tries to stop him. A man has a right to do anything, he says, including making whiskey, as long as he makes it on his own land. But when ruthless racketeers muscle in on Doolin's territory and kill one of his men in the process the Kentucky bootlegger declares war, fiercely determined to maintain his hard-won business and independence...even if it costs him his life. Boasting breathtaking auto chase scenes (The Film Daily) and a superb performance from Robert Mitchum, Thunder Road is breathtaking excitement - the most exhilarating road thriller of them all.


Two-Lane Blacktop - 1971

James Taylor is The Driver, a car-obsessed racer with stringy hair and a concentration that precludes conversation. He travels the backroads of rural America with his buddy, The Mechanic (Dennis Wilson of the Beach Boys), an equally obsessed lost soul at home only in the car or under the hood. They have no names, only designations, and no life outside of their gypsy existence, riding the unending highway in their souped-up '55 Chevy from race to race. After picking up a hitchhiking Girl (Laurie Bird), whose presence breaks the tunnel-vision focus of the two men, they challenge a middle-aged hotshot, the garrulous G.T.O. (Warren Oates) to a cross-country race. Monte Hellman's Two-Lane Blacktop is the most alienated evocation of modern America ever made, an almost abstract study in dislocation and obsession set against a vague landscape of roadside diners and rest stops. Taylor and Wilson deliver appropriately blank performances, only expressing emotion when The Girl sparks jealousy between them. Oates is a glib dynamo constructing a new persona in every scene, as if trying on characters to play as he ping-pongs between the coasts. "How fast does it go?" asks The Driver, admiring G.T.O.'s car. "Fast enough," he answers. The Driver snaps, "You can never go fast enough." These are characters on the road to nowhere who can't work up enough speed to escape themselves.


Vanishing Point - 1971

Art film and road movie collide for Vanishing Point, an existential car chase across the desert in a post Easy Rider America. Barry Newman stars as Kowalski, a taciturn driver who bets that he can drive a new Dodge Challenger from Denver to San Francisco in 15 hours. He loads up on amphetamines and begins his odyssey through the contemporary west while a funky black DJ (Cleavon Little) turns the driver into a folk hero and broadcasts advice on dodging the cops. It's like a counterculture precursor to Smokey and the Bandit, with the road as the last bastion of freedom and the DJ as a combination commentator and mystical guide. The slim plot offers a network of society drop-outs that aid the "last free Man on Earth" (as the DJ describes him) on his obscure but obviously symbolic quest while flashbacks paint Kowalski as a world-weary hero. It doesn't really make much sense, but the amazing car chases and excellent stunt work are stunningly set against the American west, beautifully captured by cinematographer John A. Alonzo. Vanishing Point is most assuredly a product of its time, the heady, anything-goes era of rebellion in the early 1970s.


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