Off-screen racer Steve McQueen finally got to make the race film of his dreams with this 1971 movie, shot during the actual 24 Hours of Le Mans race of 1970. Although the movie uses a typical race plot — rival drivers and the anxious wives and girlfriends who watch helplessly from the sidelines — Le Mans remains one of the purest racing films ever made. It’s almost entirely race footage, with very little dialogue (it’s 36 minutes into the film before McQueen utters a word).
McQueen had hoped to be filmed actually racing in the event with no less than Jackie Stewart as his co-driver, but race officials turned him down. They did, however, allow his car, a Porsche 908/2 that McQueen had driven to a second-place finish in the 12-hour Sebring race, to enter Le Mans as a camera car. (In the film, the racing drama centers on the rivalry between the Porsche team, led by McQueen, and the Ferrari team.) The filmmakers also stage some horrific crashes, one of which actually cost a stunt driver part of his leg. The film flopped with American audiences, but today, it’s considered a classic.