The past decade has been a great one for cars in cinema. Driving cars, racing cars, stealing cars – the 2010s gave us some of the most iconic and memorable automotive movies we've ever had the pleasure of watching. Cars have had a place in film for more than a century now and, moving into the second decade of the 21st, that doesn't seem likely to change any time soon.
Here are some of the best automotive films from the past 10 years. Whether you like car chases, small-budget dramas, thrillers or heartwarming family-focused future classics, there's something here for everyone during the coronavirus lockdown.
Baby Driver (2017)
This thriller from Edgar Wright got recognition for its unique storyline, critically acclaimed stunt driving and a killer soundtrack. Baby Driver tells the story of a young getaway driver’s rise and fall in the world of crime starring big names like Ansel Elgort, Lily James and Jon Hamm. It also features an iconic car stunt scene set to Queen’s Brighton Rock that is well worth watching the rest of the film for.
Mad Max: Fury Road (2015)
Having won over 100 awards (after being nominated for 225), Mad Max: Fury Road was hailed a successful installment in the iconic franchise. Max, portrayed by Tom Hardy, teams up with Imperator Furiosa (Charlize Theron) to escape the punishment of a cult leader and his army in a road-long battle. Well worth watching for impressive driving sequences and props which mirror the desert wasteland setting, such as Imperator Furiosa’s “War Rig”.
Logan Lucky (2017)
This delightful heist drama follows a family’s plot to steal money from the Charlotte Motor Speedway during a NASCAR race, and features Channing Tatum, Adam Driver and Daniel Craig. Apart from exploring the unique and intricate mechanics of NASCAR racing, it has been praised for being a high-spirited feel good family film. Not to mention, Daniel Craig finally gets to have his go at an American accent in it...
Green Book (2018)
Green Book entails the real story of black jazz artist Don Shirley and his journey through the southern states on tour in the 1960s. Shirley was driven by chauffeur “Tony Lip” Vallelonga, with whom he went on to form a warm friendship. Despite attracting controversy for alleged inaccuracies and over exaggeration of how close the two actually were, the film does touch on the dangers people of colour faced when travelling during the Jim Crow laws era and featured the use of the Green book, which listed African-American friendly establishments on the road.
Captain Fantastic (2016)
This film, which received a ten minute standing ovation at Cannes, entails a heartwarming road trip of a family on their way to their mother’s funeral. Having been raised in the wilderness to left-wing anarchists, the kids are forced to learn about technology, commercialisation and interaction with the outside world on the trip. A road trip movie must.
Ford v Ferrari (2019)
This movie entails the real life story of Caroll Shelby and Ken Miles (Matt Damon and Chrisitan Bale respectively) who teamed up with Henry Ford II to bring to life the Ford GT40, the car set to rival Ferrari in its racing prowess in 1966. A great watch for racing enthusiasts, with plenty of glossy scenes featuring the gorgeous racing cars of the 1960s.
This documentary explores the life of Frank Williams, founder of the Williams Formula 1 team. It follows his childhood ambitions to be a part of the racing world and struggles to become a big name in the industry and maintain there. Although it’s a little slow at times, stick with it and you will learn a lot about a fascinating and relatively unknown story.
Cars 2 (2011)
Fun for the whole family. The sequel to the Disney Pixar classic about talking cars did not disappoint with a plot that has it all: espionage, high stakes racing, and performances from big names like Owen Wilson, Michael Cain and Eddie Izzard. Although the movie did not receive stellar reviews and was criticised for a sub-par plot, it’s definitely cheerful and a must-watch with your kids.
Cars 3 (2017)
Being deemed a much better installment in the series than Cars 2, Cars 3 follows Lightning McQueen’s struggle to keep up with bigger and better cars, offering some poignant commentary on growing older, technology and advancements in the automotive industry. Not to mention, it comes with its original soundtrack featuring covers of classics such as Drive My Car, Glory Days and Freeway of Love.
This movie follows the story of a criminal-for-hire working at an auto-mechanic shop, who gets caught up in a messy gangster job. Drive won Best Action Movie at the Critics’ Choice Movie Awards, and had a positive critical response when it came out, praising the writing and narrative. A good watch for fans of race car scenes and art house films - as Drive manages to stylistically capture both.
This sports drama focuses on the historical rivalry between James Hunt and Niki Lauda, two Formula One drivers during the 1975 Formula 1 season. There are plenty of car racing scenes and drama to keep audiences glued to the screen - with endless praise for the Hans Zimmer soundtrack that comes with it.
If high stakes fiction isn’t your thing, how about high stakes reality? This documentary follows the life of Ayrton Senna, a Brazilian Formula One racer and his tragic death at the 1994 San Marino Grand Prix. Apart from interviews and footage outlining the racing legend’s rise and fall, Senna also explores safety in Formula One racing as a theme.
This entire film takes place inside a car, and follows the journey of a construction foreman on his drive from Birmingham to London, travelling to witness the birth of his son. Tom Hardy is the only actor on screen for the entirety of the film, and features a number of actors who we only hear through phone calls Hardy’s character takes. A gritty thriller that manages to convey a dramatic story all through the inside of a BMW X5 on the M6.
A Taxi Driver (2017)
This award-winning South Korean film is based on a real story, in which a German journalist and his Seoul taxi driver get caught up in the Gwangju Uprising in 1980 which resulted in an estimated 600 or more deaths. The journalist, set to cover the truths of the civil unrest, persuades the taxi driver to endure the political unrest with him.
An action-packed movie which tackles a tragedy very poignantly and carefully, A Taxi Driver was met with positive reviews and to this day is the eleventh highest-grossing film ever in South Korea.
Holy Motors (2012)
This Cannes Film Festival’s Prize of Youth winner follows a performer being driven around in a limousine, performing a number of unusual and eccentric jobs. Noted for its unconventional style, Holy Motors perfectly captures the fantasy-drama genre by being equal parts dramatic thriller and also incredibly bizarre, featuring talking limousines, crazy masks and motion capture suits.
Fast Five (2011)
Commonly agreed to be the best installment of the Fast & Furious franchise, Fast Five follows a very typical plot for the series: there’s a heist, which the gang agree will be their last job (spoiler: it’s not), thus ensuing a number of almost physically impossible but extremely cool car stunts and chase scenes. It’s an easy, fun, watch and also has an upbeat soundtrack to help pace it along.
Drive Angry (2011)
Drive Angry is about a criminal played by Nicholas Cage who is on a mission to kill a Satanist cult leader, joined by a young girl (Amber Heard), as they make the drive in her 1969 blue Dodge Charger R/T 440. If that plot summary alone doesn’t excite you, there are a number of vintage cars which feature amongst exciting stunt scenes, as well as one where Nicholas Cage drives off into hell in a 1957 Chevrolet Bel Air. This movie didn’t get the best reception, but despite it’s strange storyline and often violent scenes, is still both revolutionary in its special effects (it was shot entirely in 3D) and very watchable from start to end.
This Netflix film follows a double-crossed getaway driver who ends up on the chase to find out who betrayed him. With Frank Grillo playing the lead, Wheelman features a classic “bank heist gone wrong” sequence done well, with car chase sequences for action lovers and a mysterious plot for the thrillseekers.
APEX: The Story of the Hypecar (2015)
This documentary invites audiences to learn all about the world of “hypercars” - also often called “supercars”, high-performance sportscars on the cutting edge of technology. APEX follows company Koenigsegg, and their creation of a new sports car, providing a great history lesson into the best and brightest automotive innovation has to offer. This documentary is definitely worth a watch if you’re interested in the world and future of cars.
A 17-year-old is arrested for grand theft auto, and granted a chance to turn over a new leaf as part of a car racing team. Featuring great dirt car scenes and stunt choreography as well as a feel-good underdog storyline, Dirt is also a great sports drama film for loads of racing scenes and car shots, for all the thrillseekers out there.