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Formula 1

Formula 1 films and documentaries that every fan must watch

Throughout the ages, Formula 1 has been a championship fraught with drama, triumphant moments, and tragedy. Many have attempted to capture the magic of F1 on the silver screen, but only a chosen few have really managed to capture what makes the series so special. Here are those chosen few films that every F1 fan must watch.

It's notoriously difficult to make a good sports film, even more so when covering a past-time as complex and esoteric as F1. However, with series 3 of Drive to Survive arriving on Netflix this Friday, we thought it would be appropriate to look at some other great Formula 1 films and documentaries that are well worth your time.

Rush (2013)

Directed by none other than Ron Howard, Rush tells the remarkable story of the 1976 F1 season, and the subsequent battle between Nicki Lauda and James Hunt for the driver's title.

Its a season made for Hollywood, consisting of a bitter rivalry between the clinical Lauda, and the loutish party boy, Hunt. Add in the Austrians remarkable comeback from a potentially career-ending crash, and you have a plot-line that seems too good to be true. Perfect for a big-budget movie.

Drive to Survive (2018-present)

Ahead of the release of the third season on Friday 19th March, why not go back and find out what all the fuss is about. If you don't yet know why Guenther Steiner is so wonderfully memeable, watching the first series of the Netlfix show will help you find out.

It's divisive, and does stray into overdramatization at times, but the series has managed to attract a whole new generation of fans to the sport thanks to its raw examination of the championship, and the incredible access teams afforded the filming crew.

Senna (2010)

Not many sports documentaries win a BAFTA, but then again, not many sports documentaries are as powerful and emotive as this 2010 feature. Senna is a complete examination of Ayrton the man, and Ayrton the driver.

It tracks his progression from karting, through to his poisonous rivalry with Alain Prost, and finally to his untimely death at Imola in 1994. The film is an absolute must-watch for any new fans who don't yet understand why the Brazilian is still held in such high esteem.

It also perfectly encapsulates the magic of F1 during this time period, which many fans still regarded as a truly golden era.

Williams (2017)

If F1 had a Mount Rushmore equivalent, then Frank Williams would surely have a place reserved. As the architect of the Williams F1 team, he changed the face of the sport forever, leading them to nine constructor world titles in between 1980 and 1997.

Williams is vital viewing for F1 fans, as it charts the team's transformation from perennial championship winners to perennial strugglers. We see how changing economic and political factors within F1 made it impossible for Williams to compete at the sharp end, and how Frank's daughter, Claire Williams, is doing her very best to keep the family name on the grid.

It makes for bitter-sweet viewing, but nonetheless, its an important documentary that helps us understand how the sport has changed in the 45 years since the team was first founded.

Race to Perfection (2020)

The most recent entry to this list is also one of the least well-known, as it was produced by Sky Sports, and therefore isn't yet widely available to a global audience. However, it is still immensely watchable for those of you who can locate it.

Race to Perfection documents the history of Formula 1, and the dangers associated with it through the ages. Including in-depth interviews with world champions like Jackie Stewart and Lewis Hamilton, it explores what makes the championship so special, and what drives those who dedicate their lives to it.

Another beautifully made documentary that is well worth your time.

Crash and Burn (2016)

Where all of the previous entries have analyzed the contributions of those who found great success in F1, Crash and Burn looks at precisely the opposite. It follows the story of Tommy Bryne, a prodigiously talented racing driver, with a maverick streak to match.

Bryne was one of motorsport's hottest properties in the early 1980s, with his name being uttered in the same breathe as Ayrton Senna. However, unlike the Brazilian, he would never become a world champion, or even get close to doing so, as his career was slowly derailed by drinking, partying, and snobbery in the highest echelons of the sport.

Tragic, poignant, and strangely pertinent given the current financial barrier to F1 - it's an enthralling watch.

Grand Prix (1966)

The OG of Formula 1 movies still stands the test of time. Grand Prix is flawed, and flimsy in parts, but much like Casablanca or a Clint Eastwood Spaghetti Western, somehow that only adds to its charm.

Grand Prix is the story of four fictional drivers battling for the F1 world title in the mid-1960s - although they aren't the only stars of this picture. Instead, it largely revolves around the wives and girlfriends of the quartet, who, week after week, have to come to terms with the possibility of their partner dying at a Grand Prix.

It beautifully captures the mood of the 'killer years', where driver deaths were all too commonplace. If you want to get a feel for how the sport used to look like, Grand Prix 66 is a very good place to start.


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