Car movies and summer go hand in hand. Both offer escape from the daily grind, travel, fun or excitement, and sometimes nostalgia. There is lots of possibility in those long summer days and nights. Here are a few of the best car movies of this century that capture the feeling of summer.

gone in 60 secondsGone in 60 Seconds (1974), (2000)

It doesn’t matter which one you go with, you can’t lose. The original movie has a questionable plot, terrible dialog, but an amazing chase scene. The remake in 2000 pretty much sticks to that plan. The star of these movies is Eleanor; a sweet silver/black modified 1967 Mustang fastback. Really, just skip ahead to the chase scenes, and turn up the sound as she rips through all of Long Island.

The Fast and the Furious (2001)

For sheer nonsensical fun, the first of the Fast franchise is hard to beat. It actually has a decent, albeit unbelievable story, and some of the lines are utterly groan-worthy, but the car chases are relatively good, and the movie comes off as entertaining. Plus the mistakes are hilarious to gearheads. Watch for the floor pan to drop out of the 2nd generation Eclipse for no apparent reason, and the “ten second” MK4 Supra that shifts 7 times and has trouble catching dirt bikes. It’s also great how Vin Diesel and Paul Walker have real charisma, as these were their breakout roles.

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Cars (2006)

Disney’s Pixar released this animated film to much critical and sales success. It’s easy to see why. The film is loaded with talent: Owen Wilson, Larry the Cable Guy, Bonnie Hunt, Paul Newman (an actual Le Mans racer), George Carlin, Michael Keaton, and even Nascar’s Richard Petty. This movie is short, fun, lighthearted fare, and is good for any age of gearhead. Movie challenge: see if you can spot the VW Micro Bus, Ford Model A, Chevy Impala, and Fiat 500.

speed racerSpeed Racer (2008)

While it was a rather large box office bomb, Speed Racer has a lot going for it. The visionary Wachowski brothers (The Matrix, anyone?) created a beautiful and futuristic look at the iconic cartoon character. Emile Hirsch stars as Speed, and Christina Ricci as Trixie, racing the gorgeous Mach 5 in several tracks around the world. While the CG is excessive, the acting is top notch, and the alternate history is deep. Speed Racer is predictable, but fun and worth the watch.

Horatio’s Drive: America’s First Road Trip (2003)

Summer is the perfect time for a long road trip, so take a look back at the first one. More serious than the other movies listed above, Horatio’s Drive is still a fascinating trip. Tom Hanks plays Horatio Nelson Jackson on a cross-country drive in his 1903 Winton. Keep in mind, there were no interstate highways, or even paved roads in much of the country then. Most of the time, Jackson went off-roading in a 10 horsepower, single cylinder horseless carriage that amazed the small town folk. The trip took 63 days, and the car made it with several minor, but no major, issues. It promptly, and fatally, broke down pulling into his garage outside Boston.

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