Best racing films and box sets to stream on Netflix, Amazon and iPlayer — updated

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Stuck inside without any racing to watch? We've sifted through the hours of series and box sets to find the best racing films

2015 Le Mans 24 Hours racing shot

DPPI

Millions are stuck inside, there’s no racing on the box, so what is there to watch? We selected some of the best film and box set offerings available to stream now. Have we missed anything? Let us know in the comments below and we’ll keep updating the list.

 

Steve McQueen: The Man and Le Mans

iPlayer

This feature length documentary tells the intriguing story of how Steve McQueen made his motorsport opus, Le Mans.

After being released to a fairly lukewarm reception, the film has since taken on a cult status with race fans.

Angered by the racing inaccuracies of James Garner’s Grand Prix (McQueen urinated in the former’s flower bed to show his displeasure), the Bullitt star set out to create a film with with unparalleled motorsport realism.

By being presented in a more analytical way, viewers are able to appreciate anew just how incredible the film’s shots of Le Sarthe really are.

McQueen insisted on filming the cars at racing speed for maximum realism, and boy does it show. Iconic cars such as the Porsche 917 and Ferrari 512 only add to a film of true racing beauty.

The story of the picture’s difficult birth is compelling, with unplanned car crashes (on and off set), McQueen having to contend with being on Charles Manson’s hit-list and the slight problem of not having a script or story line.

Racing legends such as Derek Bell combine with film stars like Neile Adams to tell the tale, making this a unique and unmissable documentary.

Watch now

 

F1: Drive to Survive Season Two

Netflix

Although the 2020 F1 season may have stalled on the grid, there’s still plenty of fuel in the tank of last year’s racing, as Drive to Survive, the behind-the-scenes Formula 1 documentary, returns on Netflix.

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Whilst anyone with a basic knowledge of grand prix racing will have to endure explanations of how F1 works every five minutes, the level of detail and behind-the-scenes footage still makes it highly viewable.

A unique selling point of this new series is that for the first time ever Mercedes and Ferrari have allowed behind the scenes access, the former for two episodes and the latter for one.

The Mercedes episode is suitably melodramatic, with the team mourning over a disastrous weekend at Hockenheim. If you can survive the team going into buzzword overkill in an attempt to drag themselves out of a motoring-mire of despondency, then it certainly does make for an interesting watch.

You also get to see Haas go into full-on meltdown, the Red Bull young driver pressure-cooker in full swing and Renault bring superstition into its bid for elite-level sporting performance.

Watch now

 

 

Driven: The Billy Monger Story

iPlayer

Heart-warming, uplifting, touching. It’s easy to trot out such cliched adjectives when documenting triumph through adversity, but it really does apply to the incredible Billy Monger. Few have a tale quite like his.

Monger made international news when he suffered a life-changing F4 crash in 2017. The accident resulted in him having to have both his legs amputated.

For most, the prospect of coming to terms with a series disability would be a daunting enough prospect, never mind trying to get a burgeoning racing career back on track.

This film charts him doing both, with his efforts and just rewards being nothing short of inspirational.

Once Monger gets a handle on every day life (which he does remarkably quickly), we see just how determined he is to get back to serious racing.

He has meetings with the FIA, conducts ground-breaking simulator work in a machine adapted to his needs and then secures a contract with a top-level team.

His efforts are justifiably lauded by the racing world, with Lewis Hamilton making several appearances in the documentary in a show of his support.

What’s also incredible is that Monger began making this documentary just three months after his horrifying crash, another tribute to the incredible strength and determination of the young racer.

The singularly inspiring nature of this documentary makes it required watching for any race fan.

Watch now

 

 

Rush

Netflix

Rush official film image

Few reading this will have not seen Rush since it was released in 2013.

But in case your memories are blurred, the film pits playboy racer James Hunt against the exemplary professional Niki Lauda, the backdrop being their 1976 F1 title battle.

From the archive

The story has been overdramatised for effect; it’s fairly well known that Hunt and Lauda were on reasonably good terms as far as F1 adversaries go.

However, Hollywood has never let facts like this get in the way of a good story, and what results is a rather entertaining film.

The picture is both exciting and aesthetically pleasing – the ideal re-watch when any grand prix gets cancelled.

To be fair, Lauda did say Rush was “80 per cent right”, so who’s going to argue with a three-time world champion?

Watch now

 

 

Uppity: The Willy T Ribbs Story

Netflix

Uppity Netflix screen

Uppity tells the story of Willy T Ribbs, the first black driver to qualify for the Indianapolis 500.

Fighting against deeply-ingrained racism in America and particularly the NASCAR scene, Ribbs fought his way up to the highest echelons of motorsport.

Apart from Ribbs being a highly engaging and charismatic racer, the story of this film is about one black man’s fight against the racism ingrained in a whole sporting culture.

Despite death-threats, less-than-welcoming colleagues and his cars even being sabotaged by his own team, Ribbs managed to forge a successful career in the US.

The film is propelled along by contemporary interviews with Ribbs, the San Jose-native leaning in to whisper at key moments and add dramatic effect to what is an already great story.

Other contributions from key figures – such as Bernie Ecclestone, who handed Ribbs a Brabham test opportunity, illustrate what a unique journey Ribbs’ was.

With a compelling narrative and plenty of archive footage, the film strikes a more upbeat tone than many of the more wistful documentaries on similar subjects.

Ribbs was a true trailblazer, making Uppity certainly worth the watch.

Watch now

 

 

The 24 Hour War

Netflix

24 Hour War poster

Motorsport fans were recently treated to a dramatic portrayal of Ford taking on Ferrari at Le Sarthe with Le Mans 66.

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Three years prior to the Hollywood blockbuster came the well-received 24 Hour War documentary on the same subject.

There’s a strong argument for saying 24 Hour War is the ‘real’ story of Le Mans.

Although the weigh-in of (at the time) the world’s biggest car maker taking on a tiny company from Maranello might seem a bit one-sided, it makes for a great tale nonetheless.

The film gives greater detail of the build-up to Le Mans ’66, detailing the GT40’s development and victories at other famous races, in addition to a fascinating history of the two marque’s opposing ideas towards racing. The rivalry’s continuation after the first Ford win is also documented.

The 24 Hour War was well-received by critics and is deserving of its praise, combining thorough research, unseen footage and high-profile interviews. A film that features contributions from Mario Andretti, John Surtees and Dan Gurney is certainly deserving of any petrolhead’s consideration.

Watch now

 

 

Crash and Burn

Amazon – included with Prime

Crash and Burn poster

Tommy Byrne must be the only person bold enough to have stolen Ayrton Senna’s car wheels.

From the archive

His pithy summary of his own career “it hasn’t been a terrible life, I just lost out on about a hundred million dollars” lets you know this is not your average race documentary.

The hair-raising tale of the Northern Irish firebrand rise to the top of motorsport and then his almost equally meteoric fall ultimately makes for a brilliant film.

Talking heads such as Eddie Jordan, Martin Brundle and Gary Anderson assure the viewer that Byrne had all the talent to make it as an elite driver, it was just everything else about him that was the problem.

Bryne’s amusingly sarcastic verdict on Senna “you would have thought he was the second coming of Christ” is a refreshing antidote to the usual deification of the Brazilian, correlating with everything else that is unconventional about this intriguing racing character.

Watch now

 

 

Hunt v Lauda

iPlayer

You’ve seen story of Rush embellished for dramatic effect, but what really happened in F1’s greatest rivalry?

Well, as F1 seasons go, 1976 is fairly hard to beat.

Back then, F1 was an unashamed globe-girdling circus, with inter-team skull-duggery, Carry-On-style racing antics and cigarette-smoking podium finishers being the order of the day.

Playboy James Hunt is elevated to top team McLaren as they look to upset the Niki Lauda – Ferrari axis. The two battle it out fiercely as the championship progresses, before rioting crowds, Lauda being read the Last Rites (twice) and a monsoon-themed season finale all make for an incredible year.

The documentary covers manages to convey the excitement of perhaps the definitive F1 season without ever overdramatising it.

In contrast to Rush, Hunt v Lauda also highlights that though the pair might have been chalk and cheese, they had a strong mutual respect – getting on usually well for F1 adversaries.

The film is worth watching just for the stunning archive footage alone, with the McLaren, Ferrari and Lotus cars all being iconic vehicles in their own right.

A perfect accompaniment to Rush, Hunt v Lauda tells the story of 1976 as it really was.

Watch now

 

 

Le Mans: Racing is Everything

Amazon – included with Prime

Le Mans 2019 sunset

Although the perception of Le Mans as motorsport achievement has changed since 1966, it still holds its own unique allure.

This series, possibly viewed by Netflix as a template for Drive to Survive, shows exactly what it takes to win the 24-hour enduro in the modern day.

The documentary has behind-the-scenes access to Porsche, Audi, Toyota, Nissan and Aston Martin, with plucky privateers Rebellion Racing thrown in for good manner.

We see the drivers preparing for the 2015 race in their respective home environments, illustrating the different cultures and backgrounds that has led them toward one shared goal: winning Le Mans.

Few racing documentaries go into this behind the scenes detail, marking it out from previous offerings.

Porsche continues its culture of winning, but not with the driver line-up you might expect.

Nissan’s back-to-the-future approach of putting the engine in the front doesn’t quite work out, with video-game-champion-turned-real-life-racer Jann Mardenborough feeling the full brunt of the Le Mans reality.

Whilst the Le Mans entry these days might not quite so competitive, this documentary shows how fiercely contested it was just a few years ago.

Watch now

 

 

The Gentleman Driver

Netflix

Gentleman Driver poster

What started out as one of motorsport’s defining features has now shrunk to a sporting niche: the gentleman driver.

A handful of professional categories still rely on amateur drivers to make their operation go round and the World Endurance Championship is one of these.

The series follows four entrepreneurs as they follow their latent dream of achieving a (reasonably) high level of motorsport success, via virtue of providing serious funding to the teams they race for.

As team-mates to professional drivers, the rich business tycoons race haphazardly bomb round at 200mph, possibly whilst considering spreadsheets and budget forecasts.

While no doubt an interesting subject, whether it’s one that is fascinating enough for an 1hr 20min documentary is up for debate.

Watch now

 

ENDURANCE

YouTube

The 2020 Le Mans 24 Hours will not be taking place in June as originally planned but you can go back to relive last year’s event with Porsche’s GT team.

This documentary follows the German outfit’s GT effort in both the Le Mans and 24 Hours of Nurburgring, with the two toughest endurance races on the calendar back-to-back placing unbelievable pressure on the team from top to bottom.

Set as the curtain call on the longest-ever World Endurance Championship season in history, the 2019 Le Mans race brought to a close a championship-winning season for the marque’s GTE drivers while the Nurburgring event was full of emotion.

Twice around the clock at two of motor racing’s toughest circuits ever in events that test the limits of drivers, mechanics and team bosses in the effort to be first across the line 24 hours later.

Watch now

 

 

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