Steve McQueen’s pet racing movie is an incoherent love note to the legendary endurance race
Editor’s note: Car guys, and even car girls, can take only so much of those Hallmark holiday movies that fill the airwaves and cable systems this time of year. As an automotive alternative, we’re offering our own suggestions of our favorite car movies for your viewing pleasure. Check out more of our favorite car movies here.
If you’re looking for an engaging film with rich characters and a cohesive narrative, Le Mans is not your movie. But if you need a surefire shot of visceral racing action to get your mid-winter adrenaline flowing, look no further.
This 1971 production fictionalizes the famous 24 Hours of Le Mans endurance race, focusing on a rivalry between American driver Michael Delaney (McQueen) in his Gulf Ford GT and Erich Stahler (Siegfried Rauch) in his Ferrari. Haunted by his involvement in a crash which killed another driver, Delaney largely broods through this 106-minute drama which introduced revolutionary filmmaking techniques on a quest to capture unprecedented realism in racing footage.
Unfortunately, the outsized ego and vision of superstar McQueen made for turmoil on the set, with the exit of numerous directors and writers throughout the shoot. The end result is a beautiful patchwork of racing images that lacks a plot, but is still revered by anyone who ever wanted to turn a wheel in anger.1 comment