There’s no overstating the fact that Netflix has lost a lot of prime movie options in the last few years. Beginning with 2011’s loss of Starz licenses and continuing with the May 2013 loss of large chunks of the Warner Bros., MGM, and Universal back catalog, no film genre has remained untouched. Sadly, this means a lot of core car fanatic must-see movies are not currently available for streaming on this service. While you won’t find the likes of Vanishing Point, Two-Lane Blacktop, Bullitt, Christine, or even any of the entries in the Fast and the Furious franchise on this list, it’s not because we don’t love them. Rather, it’s because you can’t stream them at this time.
The good news is, all is not lost. We’d like to think that losing all the obvious things that top everyone’s list of great car movies makes it easier to focus on the hidden gems that you may have previously overlooked -- or that you didn’t even known existed. If you think the most comfortable seat in your house is actually in your car, you should definitely check out The 15 Best Car Movies Streaming on Netflix Right Now. (Just please, don’t watch and drive.)
Stars: Cedric Sanders, Natalie Knepp, Johnny Orsini
Although this is more a movie about dirt track racing in upstate New York than street racing (and we hate misleading movie posters), director Mustapha Khan's debut film has a lot of heart and some cool cars. And reggae. Bet you didn't see that coming -- or maybe you did, considering our protagonist is the son of a Jamaican immigrant? Also, the title. For a slightly different sort of car movie, check this out.
Stars: James Caan, Laura Devon, Marianna Hill, Gail Hire, George Takei, and an uncredited Teri Garr
Although not always mentioned in the same breath as Grand Prix or Le Mans, Redline 7000 is really a romanticized version of the NASCAR of yesteryear -- quite a bit like Grand Prix is for Formula One. There's lots of automotive action, plus James Caan and a pre-Star Trek George Takei. This film is a must for fans of Carroll Shelby. One more thing: It was directed and co-written by Howard Hawks.
Stars: John Pyper-Ferguson, Joseph Cross, Brando Eaton, Nicole Badaan
Don't hold this movie's usage of "2" in the title against it. It's full of cars that should make most enthusiasts happy, including a Buick Grand National. (By the way, yes, we're sad that Black Air, the GNX documentary isn't currently streaming on Netflix. It'd totally be on this list if it were.)
Stars: David Arquette, Salma Hayek
We know what you're thinking. David Arquette = no. Salma Hayek = very yes. We get you. Need another selling point? This is an early Robert Rodriguez film, done between El Mariachi and Desperado. Also: cars. Netflix might not have either of the Grindhouse entries (booooo!), but it's still thinking of you.
Stars: Rhys Millen and his Red Bull Hyundai Genesis
Rhys Millen. Pikes Peak. What more do you need? Actually, the only problem we have with this movie is that there's too much music bed and not enough wonderful engine growl -- but that could just be us. This is definitely worth checking out.
Stars: Patrick Dempsey, Jay Leno, Larry H. Miller
The Bonneville Salt Flats have long been the proving ground for anyone looking to set land speed records. This is a documentary about Ab Jenkins, who was a professional race car driver, and who is possibly the coolest mayor to have ever lived. (Salt Lake City, if you wondered.) More than that, it's a movie about the sheer pursuit of speed. Without Mayor Jenkins, the Bonneville Salt Flats wouldn't exist.
Stars: Anthony Hopkins, Diane Ladd, Bruce Greenwood
Of the films on this list, The World's Fastest Indian is the one you can watch with pretty much anyone -- whether they're into cars or motorcycles or not. It's based on the true story of certified New Zealand gearhead Burt Monro, and his attempts to (and eventual successes at) breaking land-speed records on his heavily modified 1920 Indian Scout "Burt Munro Special". Although it's about a man and his motorbike, what it's really about is Munro's passion -- the place where car and motorbike enthusiasts alike come together. This is a movie you could actually put on at Thanksgiving and keep the whole family happy -- unless you really want to sit through a never-ending Disney marathon for the fiftieth time.
Stars: Edison Chen, Shawn Yue, Jay Chou, Anne Suzuki
This live-action Hong Kong adaptation of Shigeno Shuichi's long-running manga series, Initial D, is surprisingly good -- especially the scenes involving car drifting races. One of the great things about the anime was that those scenes paid special attention to various angles of the cars as they drifted, to show you exactly what was going on during each maneuver. The live-action movie does the same, and we couldn't get over how cool some of the shots were. Unfortunately, Netflix only streams the dubbed version. If you want subtitles, you'll have to look for the DVD.
Stars: Annabeth Barnes, Josh Hobson, Brandon Warren
To become a professional racing driver, you not only need raw talent -- you need to start racing at an early age. This is true for every racing series. This film follows three seriously good go-kart racers in the World Karting Association's National Pavement Series who have big NASCAR dreams. The racing action you see in this film is absolutely incredible.
Stars: Jason Statham
The 24 Hours of Le Mans is recognized worldwide as the crown jewel of the endurance racing calendar. Truth in 24 II: Every Second Counts chronicles the Audi team's nail-biting eventual triumph at the 2011 race. It's unfortunate that Netflix does not also have Truth in 24 available, which chronicles Audi's 2008 attempt (and which is interesting for different reasons). But you don't need to have seen the first film to appreciate the second. Jason Statham narrates all the action.
Stars: Robby Gordon, Mario Andretti, Jimmy Vasser, James Garner, Steve McQueen, Chad McQueen
The Baja 1000 pits racers and a wide variety of machines against the paint-stripping, suspension-crushing, bone-smashing terrain of Mexico's Baja Peninsula. This documentary shows you that story in a way you'll never experience unless you compete.
4. Ronin (1998)
Stars: Robert DeNiro, Jean Reno, Natascha McElhone, Stellan Skarsgard, Sean Bean
One of the last films that director John Frankenheimer completed, Ronin is a fantastic heist movie with some of the best car chase action you will ever see on film. Great plot, script, acting, cinematography, cars, no lame romantic subplot shoehorned in for absolutely no reason -- this movie has pretty much everything you could want.
Stars: Eric Bana, Jeremy Clarkson, Jay Leno
Eric Bana is far from just another actor. He's a car guy, through and through. In this documentary -- which he also directed -- you get to watch Bana build up his dream Ford XB Falcon Coupe with the goal of competing in the grueling Targa Tasmania. More than just a movie about a single car, this is a movie about car culture -- a gearhead's gearhead movie.
2. Senna (2010)
Stars: Ayrton Senna, Alain Prost, Frank Williams, Ron Dennis
To this day, Ayrton Senna remains the greatest driver ever to race in Formula One. Director Asif Kapadia put together an amazing film that celebrates his racing career and tells the story of this unbelievably talented driver completely through archival footage. There's no lame narrator, and this is no dry documentary. What's even more impressive is that it's a completely compelling film to watch, even if you couldn't care less about F1. We don't care how tough you are; bring tissues. It's also heartbreaking, even if you already know what happens. We saw plenty of grown men crying when we caught this in a theatre.
1. Drive (2011)
Stars: Ryan Gosling, Carey Mulligan, Bryan Cranston, Christina Hendricks
Only a few drivers have simply been called "The Driver" in the end credits throughout film history. When this rarity occurs, it's because they're such badasses that they don't have time for normal conventions like "character names." That's absolutely the case here. If you were on the fence about Ryan Gosling before, director Nicolas Winding Refn's instant classic entry into the car movie pantheon will change your mind. Full stop.