The Top 10 most authentic racing movies of all-time

To honor the brilliance of Ron Howard as the release of his newest flick “Rush” comes this weeked, it seems like a good time for a top 10 movies list. Rush opened Friday night in New York and Los Angeles with a wide release starting next week.

Rush is a racing movie, in case you haven’t heard. So, this top 10 list provides some of the most authentic racing movies of all time.


Days of Thunder

10. Days Of Thunder (1990)

It’s classic Tom Cruise. He plays Cole Trickle, a brash young NASCAR driver. I enjoy reviewing the names of the characters he portrays. This is good enough popcorn fare of the life of drivers in stock car racing, but it’s not good enough to crack the all-time Cruise movie list.


Downhill Racer

9.  Downhill Racer (1969)

Robert Redford was a great pick to play David Chappellet, a hotshot playboy U.S. skier in tough competitions.


Chariots of Fire

8. Chariots of Fire (1981)

This won the Oscar for best picture and is most noted for its music. The movie was a period piece done on the Olympics and of the tempestuous relationships between teammates on England’s national track team.



7. Hidalgo (2004)

I fell asleep many times during this movie, but its been shown on AMC enough that I have seen all of it, and it is a solid flick about a cross-country horse-race. Viggo Motensen gives an excellent performance.



6. Prefontaine (1997)

This is a solid movie that doesn’t necessarily get a lot of credit. It is a great biographical tearjerker on the life of one of America’s most famous distance runners, Steve Prefontaine.


Let It Ride

5. Let It Ride (1989)

A great cast of characters delivers funny lines and great scenes. It’s a bettor’s movie about horse racing track and the main character Jay Trotter (played by Richard Dreyfuss) keeps losing.


The Cannonball Run

4. The Cannonball Run (1981)

This was Burt Reyolds in his prime in a cross-country car race. It is  rerun at times on AMC, so you should catch it if you can. It will make you laugh and it just looks and sounds so early 80s.


Rat Race

3. Rat Race (2001)

This movie gives some belly laughs. A cross country race, getting there any way possible, is set up and the characters get involved in some ridiculous scenes. It’s dumb, but fun.


Talladega Nights

2. Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby (2006)

Talk about fun and dumb. This stock car racing flick takes the audience on a ride of Ricky Bobby’s psychological problems and Will Ferrell delivers.


Breaking Away

1. Breaking Away (1979)

A true underdog masterpiece. This movie is up there with Rudy and Rocky. It has a great plot, subplots, character development and it is based on true events of bicycle racing at Indiana University. It won the Academy Award for best screenplay written directly for the screen in 1980, and was nominated for four other Oscars including Best Picture and Best Director.

There are plenty of racing movies out there. I’m still waiting for someone to make an Affirmed/Alydar movie, although ESPN put together a wonderful documentary.

I have heard that Bobby Deerfield with Al Pacino and Black Beauty from the classic book were both great movies, but I never got around to seeing them.

Howard Alperin is Managing Editor of

About Howard M Alperin

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  1. Actually, Let It Ride isn’t really about a bettor that keeps losing, but a loser that finally has his day at the races. Pretty funny movie.

  2. David Earle says:

    Jordan. How sadly you missed “Grand Prix” by John Frankenheimer. I would consider it in the top 3 of all time. Dave from St.George, Canada


    I agree those movies were probably good ones and deserving of being listed. It’s pretty surprising how many ‘racing’ movies there are. What do you think of Schwarzenegger’s ‘Running Man’ or ‘Fast and Furious’?

  4. Hello again. Running man, although and enjoyable flic, in my opinion doesn’t belong in a top ten, top 25 maybe. Fast & Furious deserves to be on the list ahead of Let It Ride but only under the category of “Racing Movies”, Let It Ride is a far better all round movie.

  5. ‘Saint Ralph’ tops em all!


    which reminds me of another incredible documentary on Canadian Terry Fox, ‘Into the Wind’

  7. ANYONE that rates any ‘Cannonball’ movies in anything resembling ‘best’ shows how little they know about cars/racing.
    EVERYONE that knows anything about cars/racing knows ‘Gumball Rallye’ is one of the best car movies of all time, let alone ‘racing’. All ‘Cannonball’ moves are an admitted ripoff of Gumball Rallye’.

  8. Kind of a goofy list. Two Lane Blacktop, Iron Will, I agree with you on Gumball, Senna, and Breaking Away, but what about Costner in American Fliers? There’s a lot better “Racing” Movies than Talledega Nights. Even The original Death Race 2000 with Stallone and Carridine.

  9. Big Hos Little Fawlsy, Side car Racer are another two

  10. Stroker Ace?!?!?!…. You guys missed that one!

  11. Are you kidding? I thought we were talking racing. Automobile racing. Any films in this list about auto racing were strictly a joke. Including the stupidly insulting Day of Thunder. but then again Cruise hasn’t done much that isn’t stupidly insulting, especially since Jerry Maguire.

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