We watched them so you don't have to.
There's a long list of great car-based movies out there, ranging from the cult classic Vanishing Point in 1971 to the modern and wickedly sharp box office hit Baby Driver, and the excellent low-budget indie thriller Wheelman that you can find on Netflix. However, like any genre of movie, there's a ton of duds. We know this because we spent a lot of COVID lockdown time watching them. These are the ones we thought were the worst, although that doesn't mean we didn't enjoy some of them for being so bad that they became comedic. We'll kick the list off with one of those.
Redline is a garbage fire of a movie in so many ways, despite plenty of action scenes featuring cars like a Ford GT, Ferrari Enzo, Lamborghini Diablo, Mercedes-Benz SLR McLaren, Porsche Carrera GT, Saleen S7 Twin Turbo, and a Koenigsegg CCX. The movie has a 0% percent approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Check this out for a recipe: The title Redline was "borrowed" from the working title of the first Fast & Furious movie, and it's about a group of street-racing multi-millionaires betting millions of dollars at a time on races. It was written by Daniel Sadek and used his car collection for filming. Sadek also used sub-prime loans issued by his company Quick Loan Funding for financing. The vanity project fueled by excess and hubris that is Redline starred Sadek's girlfriend, a soap opera actress, and cost him $55 million to show her and his car collection off.
Redline returned just $8.3 million and helped speed up the collapse of Sadek's scumbag loan company and his own bankruptcy. Vanity Fair ranked him in its list of the top 100 people who helped cause the 2007-2010 financial crisis.
Here's the brief synopsis someone somehow sold to Tristar Pictures in the mid-1990s: Based on a true story, the Konawaena High School Solar Car Team finished 18th in the 1990 World Solar Challenge and first place among high school entries. It was released in 1996, starring Halle Berry, Casey Affleck, Eliza Dushku, and James Belushi. Think Cool Runnings with solar-powered cars and none of the charm. It's cheesy and predictable, and Race To The Sun has what we think is a generous 22% rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
You can debate amongst yourselves which is the worst Fast & Furious movie, but none of them are, generously speaking, technically great movies. To us, the most entertainingly bad movie of the franchise is Tokyo Drift, starting with the lead character's Alabama accent. Amazingly, it is actor Lucas Black's natural accent, but the acting is so bad it sounds fake. The incredibly cheesy plot involves an American recidivist teen being sent to Japan to live with his father, a US Navy officer stationed in Tokyo, Japan, in order to avoid juvenile detention or jail. Think The Last Samurai but with cars, breathtakingly crude sexual objectification, and a token African American rapper in a sidekick role. It's so bad that the genuinely exciting and technically brilliant drifting scenes can't save it.
There are a couple of movies sharing the title of Driven, and this is by far the worst. It's written and produced by Sylvester Stallone, who, inevitably, took a leading role. The movie tells the story of the struggles facing a young driver in the CART FedEx Championship Series racing championship. Formula 1 would have been easier to say and a lot sexier. However, despite turning up to Formula 1 races and being Sly Stallone, he couldn't get enough in-depth information due to the secrecy teams maintain. Stallone plays Joe "The Hummer" Tanto, while the list of cameos includes Mario Andretti, Jacques Villeneuve, Juan Pablo Montoya, and Mark Blundell - none of whom can save the cheese-fest. It was a commercial failure and has a 14% score on Rotten Tomatoes. If you watch it, we recommend cleansing your palette after with 2013's excellent Rush.
If you grew up watching The Dukes Of Hazzard as a kid, you likely had high hopes for a big-budget Hollywood movie based on the adventures of those two good ol' boys. But, the movie was a stinker as it followed Bo and Luke Duke in a plot we're having trouble remembering as it was so convoluted yet weak. It also features Jessica Simpson as Daisy Duke, Willie Nelson as Uncle Jesse Duke, with Johnny Knoxville and Seann William Scott taking the lead roles. Unfortunately, not even the late, great Burt Reynolds as Boss Hogg and legendary car-chase stunt supervisor Dan Bradley could save it. The Dukes Of Hazzard has a 14% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, and John Schneider, who originally played Bo Duke in the TV series, was less than impressed. He claims that Johnny Knoxville approached him and apologized for how bad the film was when he went to the premiere. There's also a straight-to-video prequel with a mostly different cast. We can't bring ourselves to watch that.
The plot of Gone In 60 Seconds is basic and solid for a car movie - a car thief is forced to steal 50 high-end cars in a short space of time. The 2000 movie stars Nicholas Cage, who commits fully to every role he's served up, and it's the fault of the movie if that energy isn't fully harnessed. Seriously, go watch the original Gone In 60 Seconds from 1974 and its insane 40-minute car chase that totaled 93 cars and left writer, director, star, and stunt driver H. B. Halicki with a permanent back injury so you can understand the missed opportunity here. At least the "unicorn" car, a 1967 Ford Shelby GT500 dubbed Eleanor, is on point in the remake.
There's been a slew of movies trying to cash in over the years on the success of the Fast & Furious franchise, and 200 mph is definitely one of them. This "mockbuster" centers around a brother getting his revenge for his sibling's death by winning the Sepulveda Suicide street race in his Mazda RX-7. Unfortunately, the RX-7 (owned by professional drifter Justin Pawlak) was stolen during production. Still, despite huge setbacks and going straight-to-DVD, 200 mph manages to be a better car movie than 2 Fast 2 Furious. Seriously, if you watch one movie from this list, then embrace the cringe and make it this one.
This list isn't in any particular order, but we've definitely saved the worst until last. Monolith is a little-known movie and the story of a mother, her two-year-old son, and an SUV with artificial intelligence that's billed as the safest car on the planet. Essentially, a self-driving safe-room (it's even bulletproof) on wheels that can think for itself right up until the point the plot requires it not to. While driving through the desert, Lilith, the name given to the Monolith's AI, recommends an off-road route. The car is driving itself, so Sandra passes her phone to Daniel for entertainment, lights a cigarette, and relaxes. However, that sets off the smoke alarm, and to make it stop, she switches the car to manual mode, then promptly hits a deer. She gets out to see what happened and, while she's out of the Monolith, Daniel starts playing with the Monolith app and seals himself in the car with Vault Mode," then drops the phone. That's when Sandra's nightmare begins - and ours too.
Monolith is billed as a horror movie, but it's hard to suspend disbelief at the contrived set of circumstances that led to Sandra's desperate situation, heightened by her asthmatic son becoming unconscious in the car because the AC goes off and the temperature rises to a dangerous level. That's particularly hard to believe as in the opening scene, Sandra is amazed that Lilith knows there's a child in the back seat. Monolith is also clearly a cheaply dressed-up Ford Explorer. To the movie's credit, it is still more convincing than the Tesla Cybertruck.
Weirdly, Monolith is an Italian production shot with American actors that debuted as a horror movie, but it's so bad at being a horror movie that it was renamed Trapped Child and aired on the Lifetime Movie Network in the US. In the UK, it was released as Stranded. No title improves it.
Wait. There is a worse car movie than Monolith, and it's the Disney vehicle (pun intended) for Lindsay Lohan. "We are both very big fans of the old The Love Bug movies," said the writers, "But the old Herbie movies are corny in a way you can't get away with today... We needed to put Herbie in a much more real world. Not some dopey, illogical, kids-movie world, with characters like the crotchety old junk lot owner twirling his mustache and swearing, 'I'm gonna get that little car if it's the last thing I ever do!' Kids hate that kind of [stuff] as much as grown-ups do... We set it in a very realistically portrayed world of San Fernando Valley street racing: a macho world, where an old, beat-up car would get laughed at -- then be totally respected when it won some races."
So, what the writers did was make a corny movie where the main character, Maggie Peyton, goes street racing then wins a NASCAR race in a classic Volkswagen Beetle with a magical mind and personality of its own. Despite the best attempts of Trip Murphy, a NASCAR champion played by Matt Dillon, this film could not be spared from a place on this list.
2 Fast 2 Furious held the crown of "Worst Fast And Furious Franchise Movie" until F9 came along. It's hard to decide which element of the movie is the worst - the convoluted plot or the fact that it had to take a car into space to top the absurdity of the previous movie's final action set piece. Then there's the new character introduced to the franchise. Jakob Torretto is the brother of the Fast & Furious franchise's lead character, former street racer, and small-time thief turned globetrotting super-spy Dominic "Dom" Toretto. Amazingly, Jakob, who is estranged because Dom believed he killed their father, is now a master thief, assassin, and, of course, a high-performance driver that's hell-bent on revenge against Dom. Except, inevitably, they end up reconciling to defeat the real villain because "you don't turn your back on family." Did we mention that F9 features a rocket-propelled Pontiac Fiero going into space?
There was a lot of promise for the 2017 movie Overdrive. It centers around a sibling duo of classic car thieves that steal a rare Bugatti in France after it's sold at an auction. They are caught by the new owner, who turns out to be a Marseille-based crime boss. Instead of killing them, the crime boss gives them a week to steal a 1962 Ferrari 250 GTO from his business rival. However, Overdrive's release schedule showed the movie was expected to flop, and a Hollywood Reporter review described it as a "formulaic adolescent-male button-pusher, which is witless and brainless but not entirely joyless." If that doesn't put you off, it was written and produced by the same people that delivered the script for 2 Fast 2 Furious. That was the worst move in the Fast & Furious franchise until F9 arrived and explains the awful dialogue, tired cliches, and complete lack of suspense in what's supposed to be a "high-octane thriller."
We were excited when we heard about the Need For Speed movie going into production for 2014. We're fans of the video game franchise it's based upon, and it was Aaron Paul's first lead in a movie, having just made himself an incredibly bankable actor playing Jesse Pinkman in Breaking Bad. What we got, though, was a dumpster fire of a movie with a nonsensical plot we're not even going to try and untangle here. The action scenes involving cars were so absurd that even the most willing gearhead moviegoers had trouble suspending their disbelief long enough to sit through the two hours and ten-minute running time.