Go see ‘Ford v Ferrari,’ then watch these 5 other racing movies over the weekend

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November 14, 2019 02:50 PM

Go see ‘Ford v Ferrari,’ then watch these 5 other racing movies over the weekend

These documentaries and dramas spanning Formula 1 and Le Mans will provide your racing fix.

Jay Ramey

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Cinema Center Pictures

Ford v Ferrari is the latest in the relatively rare niche of Hollywood films about motorsport, but it’s not the only one about the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

If early reviews are any indication, Ford v Ferrari is shaping up to be one of the year’s biggest blockbusters thanks to an all-star cast, realistic racing and approachable storytelling designed to appeal to racing fans and those just there to see Christian Bale and Matt Damon. In theaters starting Nov. 15, Ford v Ferrari is poised to reach a very wide audience at home and internationally, giving many moviegoers their first look at a chapter of motorsport history that many will be too young to remember or never knew about in the first place.
And after you get back from the theater with an itch to see more movies about racing, there are a few that come to mind, spanning drama and documentary genres.
Here are five movies to watch this weekend after you see Ford v Ferrari. Or before. Or even right now!

BBC Films, Artificial Eye

The life of Sir Frank Williams was made into a documentary in 2017.

1. Williams (2017)
This documentary focuses on the life Sir Frank Williams, who built one of the most successful Formula 1 teams in history and played an important role in the evolution of the racing series and motorsport in general. Released just a couple of years ago, this 149-minute film directed by Morgan Matthews features plenty of racing footage stretching back decades, but it’s really an intimate portrait of the man behind the racing empire, with plenty of interviews with Williams himself.
“Featuring heart-pounding racing footage, interviews with much-loved Formula 1 stars (including Sir Jackie Stewart, Nigel Mansell, Alan Jones and Sir Patrick Head) and candid never-before-seen accounts of what really went on behind closed doors, it is an honest, authentic and incredibly revealing portrait of one of the most extraordinary families in motorsport,” the studio says.

MGM

Grand Prix was ahead of its time when it came to capturing realistic racing scenes.

2. Grand Prix (1966)
Director John Frankenheimer’s 1966 classic now seems more like a documentary than a drama, given the innovative filming techniques used by the production team. Starring James Garner, Eva Marie Saint, Yves Montand and Toshiro Mifune playing various racers and team owners, the film also features plenty of real stars of the era, including Juan Manuel Fangio, Graham Hill, Jack Brabham and Phil Hill. The film focuses as much on the personal lives of the racers as the racing action, which is set in a fictional version of the 1966 Formula 1 season.
As with a couple other Frankenheimer films, the actual plot and the characters are a bit of a MacGuffin, serving secondary to the racing footage captured at Brands Hatch, Monza and Spa with the viewer along for the ride. This should tell you a bit about Frankenheimer’s priorities in filmmaking, and Grand Prix can certainly feel like a film that was based around a lot of racing footage, which Frankenheimer himself wanted to capture on a purely technical level. The focus on the racers’ love lives can feel a bit dated as a plot element, but it’s important to remember that Grand Prix was made at a time when Hollywood movies were either a Western, a slapstick comedy or a drama.
Decades after its release, Grand Prix stands out for being far ahead of its time when it comes to capturing very real racing.
 

Cinema Center Films

The 1971 classic starring Steve McQueen offers plenty of sights and sounds, but not much dialogue. And that’s fine.

3. Le Mans (1971)
Depending on who you talk to, Le Mans is either the best film of all time or a collection of racing footage that’s loosely tied together with something resembling a plot. Both of these descriptions sound just fine to us, and as a peek into the actual event the film is best viewed today as a docudrama, with racer Michael Delaney, played by Steve McQueen, inserted into very real racing footage. Sometimes described as “a meditation” on racing and risk-taking, Le Mans doesn’t have much dialogue, preferring to devote most of its soundtrack to screaming cars, screaming tires and screaming engines.
Le Mans is often compared to Grand Prix, released a few years prior, when it comes to plot and the percentage of running time devoted to racing footage. Indeed, it’s best to consider this film as a purely visual achievement—the plot is minimalist as in a few other well-known McQueen films, including Bullitt—and just relax and admire the scenery and the sound. Even the trailer for the movie looks like some kind of art film. Le Mans will soon be 50 years old, and there aren’t that many pieces of racing footage that stand up all that well after half a century. As for the plot, well, no one today watches and rewatches Le Mans for the plot—we think this much is certain. Instead, people watch it to be transported back in time and to take in the sights and sounds of real racing.

Universal Pictures

Rush, released in 2013, was the last big Hollywood film about motorsport until Ford v Ferrari.

4. Rush (2013)
Centering on the rivalry between Formula 1 drivers Niki Lauda, played by Daniel Brühl, and James Hunt, played by Chris Hemsworth, Rush follows the two racers through the 1976 F1 season. Directed by Ron Howard, the film sticks very close to the actual people and events of the day, taking only minimal creative license that only the most devoted F1 fans will probably notice.
Rush debuted just a few years ago, and at the time we had no shortage of opinions about the quality of the film and how true is stayed to source material, and whether nonrace fans were tempted by the action and the cast to go see it. Admittedly, it’s difficult to compress a 16-race F1 season into about two hours while also entertaining the audience that may not be in the theater for the racing, but overall, students of F1 seemed to agree that Howard did about as good a job as can be done for the attention spans of today.
“You can’t fault the performances of Chris Hemsworth as Hunt and Daniel Brühl as Lauda; Brühl is given far more to do, and if there are any Oscar nominations for Rush actors, he should be first in line,” Steven Cole Smith wrote in his review back in 2013. “Peter Morgan’s screenplay is spare and seldom sags, and reliable Ron Howard reminds us of what a good director he can be, spending the money exactly where it had the most impact. Drama doesn’t have to be manufactured when plenty is present in real life, and Howard and Morgan let the movie go where the story takes them.”

Universal Pictures

Senna received a number of awards after being released in 2010.

5. Senna (2010)
The documentary, directed by Asif Kapadia and released to critical acclaim in 2010, tells the story of Brazilian F1 star Ayrton Senna. As a look into relatively recent history, Senna exists at a point in time most viewers will remember while focusing on a man they never knew, except for news footage of the period that’s hard to come by these days in good quality. At the time the documentary was made, enough time had passed since Senna’s death for it to feel like a long time ago, even though his presence is still felt by F1 fans today, and his legacy on the sport still fresh. 
In making the film, Kapadia whittled down a seven-hour running time to just about 106 minutes, featuring interviews with many of the F1 greats of the era. The film also contains Senna’s family home movies, offering audiences well-schooled in F1 history a very rare look at Senna in a very different setting. 
Even in 2019 his death remains an open wound for many F1 fans, and at times it’s difficult to appreciate how big the sport is outside of the U.S. and the status of a national hero that Senna held in Brazil. 
“What has been interesting is that everywhere outside of the United States, everyone knows what happened to Senna, being killed in the crash at Imola in 1994. But many people in the United States didn’t know how the film ended. A lot of people didn’t know the ending,” Kapadia said at the time of the film’s DVD release almost a decade ago.

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Source:https://autoweek.com/article/racing/go-see-ford-v-ferrari-then-watch-these-5-other-racing-movies-over-weekend

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