Ranking Rush in the Top 10 Formula 1 Films and Documentaries
To say I’m excited about the UK release of RUSH on September 13 is something of an understatement.
Formula One and movies are two of my favourite things, so having Ron Howard put the them together to celebrate one of the greatest F1 seasons ever known and you get a measure of where I am.
Many of the recent press reviews for RUSH are already extremely favourable but I’m sadly not in a position to comment as yet. So whilst I wait patiently for the next week and a half to pass, here are ten of the best F1 movies and documentaries in my collection that I am qualified to pass comment on.
Honourable Mention: Anything with Clive James!
During the 1980s and 1990s, Clive James was one of the biggest names in documentary and travel television.
He was also a huge Formula One fan and presented the 1982, 1984 and 1986 official F1 season review videos as well as the 1997 Clive James Formula One Show on the eve of the season.
James was also a friend of Bernie Ecclestone and Eddie Jordan, and he tagged along with the latter during the 1993 Monaco Grand Prix weekend.
10. Champions Forever: The Formula One Drivers
Not to be confused with the brilliant boxing documentary of the same name, this F1 offering is equally as enthralling in its coverage of the most dangerous period of F1 racing.
Originally released with the title "One by One" in 1975 and retitled "The Quick and the Dead" in 1978, the documentary features footage and interviews with the drivers of the time and reveals what drives them in this most deadly of pursuits.
9. Driving Ambition – a Season with Eddie Jordan
This fascinating fly-on-the-wall documentary charts the progress of Eddie Jordan’s privateer team during the 1998 Formula One season. It spans from launch day and a difficult preseason testing period to the team’s first ever F1 victory at a rain-soaked Belgian Grand Prix when Damon Hill led home Ralf Schumacher.
8. Ayrton Senna – Racing Is in My Blood
Released after Ayrton Senna won the last of his three world championships in 1991, the documentary ‘Racing is in my Blood’ got the viewer closer to the complex mind of the Brazilian great than any other before the release of the 2010 Universal Studios release of "Senna".
Even if you have seen the latter and have not seen this offering, it is definitely worth a look.
7. Grand Prix – the Killer Years
BBC recently released this gripping and often grisly hour-long documentary exploring the periods in the 1960s and 70s when the sport was at its most dangerous.
Featuring shocking footage of accidents and interviews with drivers of the time such as Sir Jackie Stewart, Emerson Fittipaldi and John Surtees OBE, this documentary is utterly gripping and compelling. Although it's certainly not for the faint hearted.
6. Barry Sheene and James Hunt – When Playboys Ruled the World
ITV’s recently released documentary followed the lives of James Hunt and Barry Sheene, the 1976 world champions in Formula One and motorcycling respectively.
We knew that both liked a drink and a lady, but this fascinating insight lets us know exactly what happened from Hunt taking cocaine in front of Max Mosely to the pair inviting dozens of air hostesses back to their hotel room in Japan.
I just can’t picture Sebastian Vettel and Jorge Lorenzo doing the same today somehow.
5. Jackie Stewart – the Flying Scot
Produced by Sir Jackie’s son Mark and released by the BBC, "The Flying Scot" offers an up-close-and-personal insight into the life of the three-time world champion.
Not only does the documentary capture the glamour and speed of racing during the 1960s and 1970s, it also ventures beyond the world of motorsport. It features family photographs, home movies and scrapbooks kept by wife Helen Stewart as well as interviews with friends and colleagues such as Sean Connery and Emerson Fittipaldi.
4. Hunt V Lauda: F1’s Greatest Racing Rivals
Released by BBC perhaps as a teaser to the forthcoming movie ‘RUSH’, this documentary captures the gripping duel for the 1976 Formula One World Championship.
The story is told through some never before seen footage and exclusive interviews with the key players of the time during one of the most exciting seasons the sports has ever seen.
3. Weekend of a Champion
Roman Polanski produced and directed an intriguing insight of close friend Jackie Stewart during the 1972 Monaco Grand Prix weekend.
By taking advantage of his friendship with Stewart and wife Helen, Polanski is able to get up up-close-and-personal with the then two-time world champion, and he perfectly captures what goes through a driver’s mind during the most glamorous event on the calendar.
The documentary was recently restored for the 2013 Cannes Film Festival with ten minutes of additional footage where the couple sit and discuss the movie and how motor racing has changed since then.
2. Grand Prix
John Frankenheinmer’s classic has gained cult status amongst movie buffs and Formula One fans alike for its accurate portrayal of the sport at the time.
Starring James Garner in the lead role as driver Pete Aron, the movie follows the contrasting fates of four F1 drivers during a fictionalised version of the 1966 season.
The film includes actual racing footage and cameo appearances from drivers including Phil Hill, Graham Hill, Juan Manuel Fangio, Jim Clark, Jochen Rindt and Jack Brabham.
A measure of its success, "Grand Prix" won three Academy Awards for Best Sound Effects, Best Film Editing and Best Sound and was one of the 10 highest grossing films of the year.
Directed by Asif Kapadia and released in 2010, "Senna" is masterpiece of documentary movie making.
The British documentary depicts the life of the legendary three-time world champion from his early days of karting and grand prix debut in Brazil in 1984 through his great rivalry with Alain Prost at McLaren and his death at the 1994 San Marino Grand Prix.
"Senna" won BAFTAS for Outstanding British Film and Best Documentary as well as the World Cinema Audience Award: Documentary at the Sundance Film Festival.
Even the trailer still has me welling up.