What better way to get into the F1 mood than by watching some of the best car races in films?
Top 10 race films
Le Mans – 24-hour race
Steve McQueen was known for his love of racing, and he got to celebrate it with this movie that uses actual footage from the 1970 Le Mans 24-hour race. At times the film feels like a documentary as the Porsche team battle the Ferraris in the world's most famous endurance race. There's no dialogue at all for the first half an hour, just edge-of-the-seat racing. Watch in a double bill with 1966's Grand Prix, starring McQueen's friend and Great Escape co-star James Garner.
Cars – The Piston Cup
There are two Piston Cup races in Pixar's 2006 animated movie, and both are edge-of-the-seat fun. Set in a world populated by cars, the movie follows young rookie Lightning McQueen (voiced by Owen Wilson) as he challenges the veteran racing car The King (Richard Petty) and the perennial runner-up Chick Hicks (Michael Keaton). Their first race - which has Lightning ignoring his pit crew and screeching to the finish line with blown-out tyres - ends in a three-way tie, so another race makes the movie's grand finale.
Grease – Thunder Road
The location is what makes Grease's 1950s-set climactic race so memorable: "Thunder Road", a concrete river basin in downtown Los Angeles that's been used in many movies, including Terminator 2, Transformers and the recent Ryan Gosling movie Drive. The race itself is a blast: after T-Bird Kenickie (Jeff Conaway) is injured by a car door to the head, Danny (John Travolta) steps in to drive the car Greased Lightning against Leo (Dennis C Stewart), whose own motor has flames and jagged knives mounted on the hub caps.
Death Race 2000 – Transcontinental road race
The director Paul Bartel's 1975 movie has become something of a cult classic, even getting its own prequel more than 30 years later (Death Race, starring Jason Statham). Set in a dystopian 2000 where the US is a police state, the movie focuses on a race on public roads that runs for three days, with the drivers gaining extra points for every innocent pedestrian they run over and kill. Among the racers are Frankenstein (David Carradine), who is rumoured to be part man, part machine, and Machine Gun Joe (Sylvester Stallone).
Rebel Without A Cause – Chickie Run
James Dean – who died at 24 in a car crash, a month before this movie was released – will always be remembered as Jim, the rebellious teen who just wants to belong. While the film has many memorable moments, the heart-stopping and much-copied "chickie" race remains the most unforgettable. Jim is challenged by the bully Buzz (Corey Allen) to race towards a cliff edge, the winner being the last to jump from his car.
Days of Thunder – Nascar Daytona 500
While not on anyone's "best movie" list, this film is one of the best depictions of the Nascar (stock car) race in film. Tom Cruise is Cole Trickle, a cocky young driver coached by old hand Harry (Robert Duvall) to win the Daytona 500 – when he isn't romancing neurosurgeon Claire (Nicole Kidman in her first major Hollywood movie). It may be cheesy but it was exciting enough for many critics to call it "Top Gun on wheels".
Herbie: Fully Loaded – Nascar race
Lindsay Lohan may be better known now for her off-screen antics than her acting career, but in 2005 she was still a bankable teen star who was fun to watch. Herbie, the loveable VW car with a mind of its own who made his first screen appearance in 1968's The Love Bug, is on the scrap heap when Maggie (Lohan) finds him. The daughter of a racing driver, she repairs Herbie in preparation for a stock car race against mean champion Trip (Matt Dillon). The race itself has to be seen to be believed, with Herbie driving over another car and flying around the racetrack wall.
The Cannonball Run – Cannonball Baker Memorial Trophy Dash
The Cannonball Run is real – an illegal race from the east to west coast of the US that began as a protest in 1971 against strict new traffic laws. The name of the race was a reference to George "Cannon Ball" Baker, who drove coast to coast in just 53 hours in 1933. The 1981 film features a line-up including Burt Reynolds, Dom DeLuise, Farrah Fawcett, Dean Martin and Sammy Davis Jr racing in a variety of vehicles including an ambulance and an Aston Martin.
Speed Racer – Casa Cristo 5000
Based on the cult Japanese anime TV series from the 1960s, 2008's live action movie Speed Racer was hotly anticipated as it marked the first movie to be directed by The Wachowski Brothers since The Matrix Revolutions. The film itself is forgettable but the jaw-dropping CGI racing sequences are definitely worth a look.
The Fast And The Furious – street race
There have been five Fast And Furious movies, each (except the most recent, Fast Five) focusing on street racing, and beginning with 2001's The Fast and the Furious. The first movie stars Paul Walker as the undercover cop trying to find out whether racer Vin Diesel and his pals are stealing high-end electronics when they aren't burning rubber. This instalment sees a jaw-dropping race featuring the two leads charging towards a railway track as a train approaches.