Fast cars, beautiful people, lots of crashes, good triumphing over evil; the plots for the top 10 worst car movies are largely the same as the plots for the ten best car movies. So what’s the difference? Execution, or actually the fact the producers of the worst movies didn’t get execution—prescribed as a sentence—for hacking up one of the most tried and true genres of American cinema.
Bad acting, tired plot lines, clichéd scripting, I mean how many times can a guy be held hostage to his memories, or have his wife kidnapped, or get revenge because somebody killed his children/partner/brother/best friend—or even in one instance, him? This is why when something truly original comes along it is celebrated so vociferously. The rest of the time we just watch the crashes and chases and mindlessly acquiesce to the ludicrousness.
You see, the thing is if you like cars, whatever else is happening in the movie, you’ll be tempted to sit through the entire film just because it’s so rare to see fast cars actually going fast—or appearing to do so. That said, here’s the companion to our list of the top 10 best car movies of all time (so far).
It’s Autobytel’s list of the top 10 worst car movies ever made (so far).
And trust us, there will be more…
Hey, Tom Cruise killed it in Top Gun—right? So, why not put Top Gun on wheels in the form of a narrative based around that most American of motorsports—NASCAR? And while many of the film’s incidents had their basis in reality, the movie is just so sickeningly predictable; about the only thing worth watching in it are the racing sequences. Which, many of them, by the way were captured during the 1990 Daytona 500. In fact, one of the camera cars actually qualified for the race at the hands of NASCAR driver Bobby Hamilton. But don’t expect too much realism overall, the majority of the footage has about as much in common with real racing as Tom Cruise does with NASCAR champion Jimmie Johnson. Further, who didn’t see some misfortune causing Cruise’s character “Cole Trickle” (how’s that for a good ole’ boy NASCAR driver’s name?) to question his innate abilities and become debilitated by his fears, only to overcome them and win the all-important last race upon which so much was riding? Seriously? Did anybody not see that coming? Of course anybody going into a movie theatre back in the 1990’s to see a Don Simpson/Jerry Bruckheimer film for anything other than escapist explosions, car crashes, and general mayhem, well—they just weren’t paying attention.
Larry, played by Peter Fonda is a (yep) NASCAR wannabe, who robs a supermarket to get enough cash to go racing. Really? There’s enough cash in a grocery store to support a racing crew—for even one race? Not even a Whole Foods store has that much cash in it, and their prices are astronomical! And thus, the film begins with a serious implausibility and moves from one to another to another to another over the course of its 93-minute running time. Legend has it; two successful British industrialists got control of the movie rights to the book The Chase, upon which the film was based. Having paid $50,000 for the rights, they were looking to produce another Vanishing Point—one of the films on our list of the ten best car movies. Success eluded them and they sold the rights to one Jimmy Boyd, who through a series of fortuitous circumstances finally got the film made. It cost $1,140,000 to make the film, and it actually made $28 million. In that regard we’ll admit it was a success, but frankly the standards of the 1970’s were considerably lower than they are today. Watching the film back then it might have been an exciting romp. Today, it’s just an exercise in 1970’s camp.
Written and produced by Sylvester Stallone…do we really need to continue? Aside from the insanely improbable driving sequences; a 195 mile per hour chase scene in two race-prepped Champ cars through the streets of downtown Chicago? First of all, the guys jump in the cars and fire them up like they’re Honda Civics, when everybody knows you need an external starter to get one of those cars running. Second of all, who has ever seen that much smooth pavement in annually snowplowed Chicago? Third, the guys blow past a cop at 195 miles per hour in the equivalent of four-wheeled cruise missiles and the police department doesn’t marshal every weapon in its arsenal to bring them down? Third, everybody at the party sees them jump in the cars and take off, and the next day they’re back at the track—racing as if nothing happened at all? But of course! The sanctioning body wouldn’t pull their racing licenses for a stunt like that—not at all. Seriously Stallone? The film simply taxes your ability to suspend your disbelief. Other than that, you got wooden acting, a predictable plot, and a wholly foreseeable outcome. Trust us, even if you’ve never seen Driven, you HAVE seen Driven—it was just called something else.
Literally the driver from Hell, Nicolas Cage plays a guy who has escaped from down under (no, not Australia—the Biblical down under) to revenge the death of his daughter and rescue his granddaughter from a satanic cult, who plans to subject her to ritual sacrifice. An interesting premise—undone by weak writing and a stereotypical back-story. A huge flop, it cost north of 40 million dollars to produce and it made just over 28 million at the box office. It was said Cage was attracted to the project because the script called for his character’s eyes to be shot out. Interestingly, many people who bought tickets to the film wished the same would happen to them. Utterly formulaic, this is another predictable strip of celluloid, best consumed mindlessly. Everybody you expect to die does, and everybody you expect to live lives. What’s more, the cars perform outstanding feats of durability, considering what they’re subjected to. Of course that durability comes without a shred of believability, so we say watch at your own peril. Although, there is a lot to be said for the film’s masterful appropriation of the ‘70’s grind house style of filmmaking. However, whether Drive Angry’s production team was intentionally going after that style is up for debate.
A direct to DVD production from 2011, 200 MPH is cool in that it knows it isn’t a reasonable facsimile of the film it tries to emulate, Fast Five (AKA The Fast And The Furious Five). Alas, this is the best thing can be said of this low-budget train wreck of a film. If you’ve ever wondered just how far $200,000 would go when you’re trying to make a movie, keep this in mind. The Mazda RX-7 the protagonist drives at the beginning of the film was stolen halfway through production because they couldn’t afford security. To compensate, in the middle of the movie, the RX-7 inexplicably becomes a Nissan 240 SX, which might have been plausible (the two cars are shaped kind of similarly) except for one crucial detail. The Mazda was white; the Nissan was green. But hey, we aren’t supposed to notice that because we’re so caught up in the intrigue of the storyline, in which the protagonist is drawn into the shady world of street racing to avenge his—you guessed it—brother, who was run off the road by a ruthless drug dealing racer guy. Yes, you’ve seen this one before too—only with higher; much, much higher production values.
Former racing driver (you see this one coming already, don’t you?) “Brent Magna”, portrayed by Ethan Hawke, is coerced into stealing a Shelby Cobra GT 500 Mustang and wreaking mayhem all over a European city to preserve the life of his (wait for it…) kidnapped wife. Turns out, he’s actually being used as a pawn in a much bigger game. While “Magna” is keeping the police department of the city busy chasing him all over the place, the kidnapper is actually pulling off a larger heist and using "Magna" and the GT 500 to keep the cops looking the other way. Not a bad plot actually, until you realize no city is going pull every cop on its payroll off of everything else in the city to catch a guy on what is essentially a glorified traffic beef. In addition to causing all sorts of traffic mayhem, “Magna” is to pull off a series of robberies as well. Shot in Sofia, Bulgaria and uh, Atlanta, Georgia, the film cost 18 million to produce and made 10 million at the box office. Odds are, the only way you’re ever going to see Getaway is if you buy the DVD.
Opie goes rogue in this film written, directed and starred in by his alter ego, Ron Howard. Fresh off his Happy Days successes, Howard tried his hand at directing a movie. No, actually, a big budget car crash movie, and uh, there’s probably a reason he hasn’t done one since. And no, Rush doesn’t count because it was actually good. If hokey were a real word, in the dictionary next to it you’d find the Grand Theft Auto production poster replicated. It’s like what would happen if “Richie Cunningham” got involved with a stolen car. Basically, Howard’s character and his girlfriend steal her father’s Rolls-Royce and proceed to subject the stately automobile to all sorts of automotive indignities. In one scene, the car is even depicted driving on two wheels. Basically, it goes like this; rich girl wants to marry poor guy, her family wants her to marry the rich guy nobody likes. Instead, she and the poor guy steal the Rolls to run away to Las Vegas to get married and all sorts of automotive mayhem ensues. Absolutely nothing predictable about this one at all—except—everything! Howard’s directorial debut, it’s a good thing the industry didn’t hold him responsible for Grand Theft Auto, we might never have gotten Apollo 13.
Here’s what happens when a guy with more money than good sense acquires every fantastic car he’s ever wanted to own and decides to make a movie around them. Literally a product of the mid-decade economic meltdown, Redline was produced with money made from issuing bad subprime loans. The film’s writer and producer, Daniel Sedak, owned a mortgage company called Quick Loan Funding. Having made a boatload of cash from pushing dirty loans, he proceeded to buy pretty much every supercar current during his time. This included a Lamborghini Diablo, a Ferrari Enzo, a Mercedes-Benz SLR McLaren, a Porsche Carrera GT, a Saleen S7 Twin Turbo, and a Koenigsegg CCX. Redline depicts the shadowy underworld of high stakes exotic car racing funded by a group of millionaires who wager princely sums of money on drivers hired to race their exotic sports cars. Comedian Eddie Griffin, who had a role in the film, famously crashed the Enzo into a concrete barrier during a charity event held to promote the film. A huge bomb at the box office, the film made 6.8 million dollars in North America against a 26 million dollar budget. As you probably guessed, Sadek ultimately lost everything. Further, the film’s premise of wealthy gamblers was mirrored in real life, as Bellagio and a number of other gambling resorts around the world eventually sued Sadek for unpaid markers.
Professional car thief steals prototype super car, which just happens to belong to a superhot Euro-babe. Roger Avary wrote the original script, but he could never pull together enough cash to get it made. Options to the film were sold and the script was rewritten so many times when Avary saw it again he didn’t recognize it. Further, it was so bad he demanded his name be removed from the project. In the film, the car thief is portrayed by David Arquette as wealthy ne’er do well individual who uses his god-given intelligence to do things like rig remote controlled cars with cameras so he can look up women’s dresses. Nice. Interestingly, the film’s co-director, Donald Cammell, is reputed to have committed suicide—although it hasn’t been established that working on this steaming pile of fecal-infused celluloid had anything to do with it. Honestly, how a film featuring two smoking hot women like Famke Janssen and Emmanuelle Seigner could still manage to be practically unwatchable is truly beyond our ability to comprehend.
Charlie Sheen is the driver of a mysterious car (a Dodge M4S Turbo Interceptor Concept car), which mysteriously shows up in a town ruled by a notorious street racing gang. Yep, here we go again. Predictably, the gang was thought to responsible for the death of Sheen’s other character in the movie “Jamie”, though his body was never found. Turns out Jamie isn’t dead, he’s got a hold of the Interceptor and he’s using it to pick off members of the gang one by one in retribution for all of its crimes against the town. Apparently he was so disfigured by the attempt on his life that when he reappears in the town, his former girlfriend and his own brother don’t recognize him. And…you know what? Enough already. Take our word for it, the film is crap.