Ultimate Nascar Movies Guide

Joe Terrell
05/07/20217th May, 2021
Filed under Beginner Guides

With over fifty years of NASCAR movies, deciding the next choice on your watchlist can be challenging. We’re helping you pick the best from the rest.

nascar movies


Introduction

You may be wondering why we’re checking out NASCAR movies here at Drifted.

We’re not just drifting fans, we’re motorsport enthusiasts, with immense respect for every racing discipline, and NASCAR certainly isn’t short of wow-factor.

I mean, c’mon, we’ve even covered Honda’s. (Sorry, VTEC fanboys!)

Given NASCAR’s popularity, it comes as no surprise that it’s featured in many Hollywood movies over the years, with many going on to become some of the most popular motorsport flicks of all time.

With dramatic racing, insane cars, and the drama that unfolds throughout just about every race, it’s easy to see why Hollywood has been keen to showcase this to NASCAR fans and beyond.

 joey logano car wreck crash race racing

Even if you’re not the biggest fan of NASCAR, you don’t have to be a true enthusiast to appreciate the excitement and intensity that comes with the sport. The movies in our list often perfectly capture the essence of the sport both on and off the track.

Whether you’re looking for a serious documentary, a hilarious comedy, or an animation movie for all the family to enjoy, we’ve got something for everyone in this guide.

Since we feel that all these movies are worth a watch, we won’t be ranking them by our personal favorites; we’ll instead go by the fan-base ratings provided by the Internet Movie Database – IMDB.

With more than fifty years of NASCAR movies to choose from, here’s the selection of our favorites. If you feel we’ve missed any that we need to include in this list, please drop us a line!


Best NASCAR Movies

We’ve covered a little bit of everything in this guide, from old-school NASCAR documentaries to modern-day animations and everything in-between. We hope this will provide the ultimate movie selection to fulfill your NASCAR needs.

Dale (2007)

Official description: “Archival race footage, outtakes, home videos and interviews Dale Earnhardt’s friends, family, and competitors are used in this documentary on the racing legend who won seven NASCAR championships before his death in 2001 at the Daytona 500”.

Dale (2007) on IMDB

Although it might not have the most reviews on IMDB, those who have seen the movie have given it an impressive overall rating of 8.7/10 at publishing.

For the Dale Earnhardt fans out there, ‘Dale’ is the ultimate documentary on the life and career of the legendary racer.

Ralph ‘Dale’ Earnhardt Sr won seven NASCAR championships before his tragic death in 2001 during the Daytona 500 in a three-car crash on the race’s final lap at just 49 years old.

Dale Earnhardt is regarded as one of the finest drivers to ever compete in NASCAR, and this documentary perfectly captures his incredible life in an exceptional movie.

‘Dale’ is a must-watch for any die-hard NASCAR or Dale Earnhardt fans.


Blink of an Eye (2019)

Official description: “Blink of an Eye is a 2019 American documentary film that depicts the career of NASCAR driver Michael Waltrip, culminating with his win in the 2001 Daytona 500 which also saw his car owner and friend Dale Earnhardt killed in an accident”.

Blink of an Eye (2019) on IMDB

Dale Earnhardt’s death shocked the NASCAR world, and there’s no surprise that there’s plenty of movies based around the seven-time champion.

“Blink of an Eye” has been regarded as the NASCAR equivalent to the movie “Senna”. Eric Johnson stated, “The pure emotion and remembrance that reverberates through the movie is classic human element stuff, and enough to enthrall anyone, be it a hardcore Cup fan or an outsider with a spare hour and a half on their hands”.

Michael Waltrip was a driver for Dale Earnhardt’s Winston Cup Series Team, and the pair were heading for a one-two finish when Earnhardt had his fatal accident.

This movie covers the emotion and story involved, following on with the success of Earnhardt Sr’s son, Dale Earnhardt Jr, as he helps him clinch a victory later that year.

“Blink of an Eye” Provides an emotional and fascinating perspective on the challenging situation, which helped bring the NASCAR community closer than ever.

If you choose to watch Blink of an Eye, make sure you don’t miss the additional ten minutes of hidden footage that comes after the closing credits.


Cars (2006)

Official description: “A hot-shot race-car named Lightning McQueen gets waylaid in Radiator Springs, where he finds the true meaning of friendship and family”.

Cars (2006) on IMDB

You may well be rolling your eyes and thinking, “there’s no way I’m watching a kids film”, but Cars takes a far more in-depth look at NASCAR’s history than you’re likely to expect, making it the perfect NASCAR flick for the whole family to enjoy.

Created by Pixar animation studio, the movie focuses on a fascinating concept of ‘humanized’ talking vehicles, focusing on the main character, Lightning McQueen’s determination to win the Piston Cup, a fictional version of the coveted Winston Cup.

If you’re looking to inspire your kids to shoot for a NASCAR career eventually, then cars will undoubtedly be a perfect choice.

With a star-studded lineup of NASCAR legends such as Richard Petty, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Darrell Waltrip, alongside Michael Schumacher, and Jeremy Clarkson, Cars certainly provides a unique perspective on the NASCAR scene.

If you enjoy Cars, then there’s also Cars 2 and Cars 3 to fill up some additional family time.


Logan Lucky (2017)

Official description: “Description: “Logan Lucky” details the adventures of an unemployed West Virginia construction worker who, at the end of his financial rope, hatches a scheme to rob the massive Charlotte Motor Speedway during the popular annual Coca-Cola 600 NASCAR race”.

Logan Lucky (2017) on IMDB

Although this isn’t strictly a movie based on NASCAR, the sport plays a significant role as the Logan Family attempt to rob the Charlotte Motor Speedway during the Coca-Cola 600 NASCAR race.

From the Director of Ocean’s Eleven, this comedy with stars such as Channing Tatum and Daniel Craig is another great watch for all of the (slightly older) family to enjoy.

We found this to be a thoroughly enjoyable Hollywood blockbuster, but if you’re looking for something specifically NASCAR-based, then you may want to consider some of the alternatives first.


Racing Dreams (2009)

Official description: “These kids are racing to make their NASCAR dreams a reality”.

Racing Dreams (2009) on IMDB

This lesser-known movie has received a great response, following three younger drivers in their quest to follow their dreams of one day reaching the heights of NASCAR.

Starting their careers in the World Karting Association’s National Pavement Series, the feature documentary follows the talented young drivers as they chase their eventual goal.

“Racing Dreams” is a great watch and fascinating behind-the-scenes insight into the lives and families of talented youngsters chasing their ultimate dreams.

For any parents out there looking for a movie to inspire their kids to achieve their motorsport dreams, this is undoubtedly a top pick.


3: The Dale Earnhardt Story (2004)

Official description: “Barry Pepper portrays legendary race car drive Dale Earnhardt, who died in 2001 during the last lap of the Daytona 500”.

3: The Dale Earnhardt Story (2004) on IMDB

This ESPN special is the best-known docudrama about the life and times of the racing legend and seven-time NASCAR champion Dale Earnhardt.

Earnhardt, who is played by Barry Pepper in the movie after his fatal accident during the Daytona 500 in 2001, had keen fans quickly pointing out inaccuracies in the film, which still gave a fascinating insight into the late driver.

Although our first pick, “Dale”, is the preferred choice among Earnhardt fans, this could provide an excellent opportunity to test your knowledge of the racing legend.

Even if it wasn’t entirely accurate, we thought the movie captured the earlier eras of Earnhardt’s early NASCAR days exceptionally well.

This movie could potentially trigger a few purists at times, but we still feel it’s well worth a watch.


Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby (2006)

Official description: “Number one NASCAR driver Ricky Bobby stays atop the heap thanks to a pact with his best friend and teammate, Cal Naughton, Jr. But when a French Formula One driver, makes his way up the ladder, Ricky Bobby’s talent and devotion are put to the test”.

Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby (2006) on IMDB

This hilarious movie follows NASCAR racing sensation Ricky Bobby, played by Will Ferrell, is arguably the quirkiest NASCAR movie available.

With a tongue-in-cheek approach to the NASCAR scene, Ferrell, combined with the likes of Sacha Baron Cohen (of Ali G/Borat fame), provide non-stop laughter.

We found the storyline surprisingly enjoyable, and the refreshing perspective makes it one of our personal favorite NASCAR movies.

Okay, so it’s not the most realistic pick out there, but if you’re looking for an entertaining movie that still provides a NASCAR fix, then we feel this is a must-watch.


Greased Lightning (1977)

Official description: “The true life story of Wendell Scott, the first black stock car racing driver to win an upper tier NASCAR race”.

Greased Lightning (1977) on IMDB

Based on the true story of Wendell Scott, America’s first-ever African American NASCAR racer, this action movie starring Richard Pryor unsurprisingly manages to mix in some comedy along the way.

After returning home from World War II, Wendell begins a taxicab business before being invited to the local racetrack, where he realizes his true talent behind the wheel.

With the 1950s an incredibly challenging time, this covers the fight for equality as he looks to achieve the American dream, beating rival drivers and racism in the process.

It may be an older movie, but don’t let that put you off. It’s an interestingly unique perspective that’s well worth checking out, even in the present day.


The Last American Hero (1973)

Official description: “A young hellraiser quits his moonshine business to try to become the best NASCAR racer the south has ever seen”.

The Last American Hero (1973) on IMDB

It’s not every day that you hear of someone opting out from their moonshine business to venture into NASCAR!

It may come as a surprise that this is one of the more serious-minded flicks in our list, based on the life of Junior Johnson, played by Jeff Bridges, who was a top-tier driver who also went on to become a NASCAR team owner.

The Last American Hero is one of the most realistic insights into NASCAR out there and often held in high regard by true purists of the sport.

Eager to raise money to bail his moonshining father out of jail, his racing style and attitude get Johnson into various trouble along his career path.

We feel that this is another must-watch NASCAR movie for die-hard NASCAR fans.


43: The Richard Petty Story (1972)

Official description: “The story of how Petty Enterprises started and how Richard Petty became “The King” as told from his father Lee’s point of view”.

43: The Richard Petty Story (1972) on IMDB

Although this is a low-budget, 1970’s movie, it gives a great insight into Lee and Richard Petty’s lives, as well as Petty Enterprise.

Going back to the early days of NASCAR, it’s a great throwback to where it all started, especially for those fond of the North Carolina natives.

It takes minimal effort to find the entire movie on YouTube, so it’ll be perfect for those without access to streaming services.


Days of Thunder (1990)

Official description: “A young hot-shot stock car driver gets his chance to compete at the top level”.

Days of Thunder (1990) on IMDB

For many NASCAR fans, Days of Thunder was their initial introduction to the sport.

With Tom Cruise playing the role of NASCAR rookie Cole Trickle alongside Nicole Kidman, Trickle gets the opportunity to compete in the coveted Winston Cup Series, where an abundance of drama ensues.

There’s plenty of intense wrecks and impressive directing throughout from the director of Top Gun, and Days of Thunder is often known for making NASCAR ‘sexy’ with the Cruise/Kidman combo.

Although it may have received some criticism for being exaggerated and over the top, we can’t help but appreciate how it made NASCAR popular with the masses.

It may not be the most realistic or relatable NASCAR movie out there, but it may be an ideal pick to watch with those with a little less interest in the sport.


Six Pack (1982)

Official description: “A race car driver is driving to a race in a motor home with his race car on a trailer. His car gets stripped of parts. He ends up with 6 orphan kids on his way to the race”.

Six Pack (1982) on IMDB

Kenny Rogers plays the role of NASCAR driver Brewster Baker in this 1982 flick.

While parked at a gas station in Texas, Baker’s stock car gets stripped by thieves, who he goes on to chase before realizing they’re orphaned children rather than criminals.

Baker opts to become a father figure to the kids, who later become his crew members at the race tracks.

Although this entertaining comedy-drama isn’t the most realistic choice, it’s worth checking out as a time-passer.


Speedway (1968)

Official description: “Poor bookkeeping saddles stock car driver Steve Grayson with a huge bill for back taxes which hampers his ability to continue racing competitively”.

Speedway (1968) on IMDB

It’s not every day that you see Elvis Presley starring alongside Nancy Sinatra in a NASCAR flick, but that’s what’s happening here!

If that’s not weird enough, this is also (thankfully) the only musical on our list.

In a mind-bogglingly strange combination, this somewhat entertaining movie is based on a true story,. Steve Grayson, played by Elvis, falls in love with an IRS inspector played by Nancy Sinatra.

After Elvis’ manager submits a false tax return, he’s forced to try and recuperate $145,000 in tax bills through his racing career and features the likes of Charlotte Motor Speedway.

Although Speedway won’t be at the top of everyone’s priority list, there’s no arguing that it’s certainly unique!


Conclusion

Once you’ve worked your way through our NASCAR movie list, fear not – there’s plenty more motorsport entertainment out there for your viewing pleasures!

Make sure you check out our The Fast and The Furious, Initial D, Hyperdrive, All Girls Garage, and our ultimate Netflix car show guides for some inspiration for your next picks.

So, there we have it! We hope that we’ve covered everything you could want to know about the ultimate NASCAR movies in this guide.

If you’re into NASCAR Heat 4, you would want to check out our ultimate setups guide here!

Dreaming to become a NASCAR driver one day? We got you covered!

Thank you for reading our NASCAR movies guide.

If you enjoyed this article, please share it with the buttons at the bottom of your screen. If you’ve found this information useful, then please take a moment to share it with other NASCAR enthusiasts. We appreciate your support.


Photography credits

We thank the following entities for the use of their photography in this article:

author avatar Written by Joe Terrell Drifted.com founder, motoring journalist and all-round car enthusiast. Read more about Joe and the Drifted team on our about us page.

Rate This Article

1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars (2 votes, average: 5.00 out of 5)

You can use this feature to rate this page. Please be generous, giving a higher rating helps us to create more content like this 🙏