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Running the Race -- In Movies, That Is

| September 8, 2023 | By

What does it mean to race?

In 1 Corinthians 9:24, St. Paul wrote:

Do you not know that the runners in the stadium all run in the race, but only one wins the prize? Run so as to win.

The idea of a race, whatever kind it is, has long been a metaphor for many things, and the heart of many great stories. The movies are no exception. Just look at the current theatrical hit Gran Turismo, a movie about auto racing, featuring young drivers who learned their skills in an auto-racing video game.

That film's a PG-13, so let's check out some more family-suitable films centered on racing.

The Love Bug and Cars (both rated G)

Sometimes, it’s the characters that create a great racing film, especially when the character is a car or a plane.

Herbie (The Love Bug) and Lightning McQueen (Cars) are two famous racing cars that have garnered their own fan bases and even inspired sequels, creating popular film franchises. Lightning McQueen is fun to watch even when he’s not racing. The cuteness factor for these two cars rates a 10.

And when the original The Love Bug movie was released in 1968 everyone was naming their Volkswagen Beetles “Herbie.” People saw a beetle on the street and called out, “Herbie!”

The Love Bug and Cars are on Disney+, and can be rented from Amazon Prime Video and other platforms. 


American Flyers (1985, PG-13 for mild sensuality)

“The Hell of the West.” That’s the bicycle race in the film American Flyers that pits top riders against each other and the Rocky Mountains. Marcus Sommers (Kevin Costner) is a sports doctor in a university training facility.

He brings his younger brother David (David Grant) to stay with him for a while and entices him into racing together in the big bike race.

The photography during the race is phenomenal, and it’s only equaled by the personal stories going on with the brothers. Marcus is hiding the fact that he has a debilitating disease and wants this final time to be with his brother, together, racing against the best in the world.

Can the Sommers team win this intense race before the illness overtakes Marcus? Rae Dawn Chong and Alexandra Paul co-star as the women in the lives of the brothers, as they all join together to make this a memorable race to the finish line over three days of grueling riding up and down the mountains.

American Flyers can be rented on Amazon Prime Video and a variety of other platforms.


The Great Race (1965, PG for mild violence and smoking)

In 1965, Blake Edwards directed Tony Curtis, Natalie Wood, Jack Lemmon, and Peter Falk in the Academy Award-winning (for best sound effects) The Great Race.

The story takes place at the beginning of the 20th century and centers on an automobile race from New York to Paris. The two leaders are The Great Leslie (Curtis) and Professor Fate (Lemmon).

Set in the time before women’s liberation, Maggie DuBois (Wood) decides to enter the race herself, to the chagrin of the men. After her car is disabled she joins Leslie for the remainder of the race. Meanwhile, the evil Fate and his equally evil sidekick Max (Falk) try everything in their power to sabotage Leslie.

Between the dapper Leslie and the bumbling Fate, the antics create quite a story. Watching these jalopies travel around the world is fun, especially for modern viewers. After all, it would take well over ten times as long to complete this race with today’s electric cars. Imagine having to stop every couple hundred miles to charge a battery.

According to, “It’s a perfect family movie, just plain fun from beginning to end; it may also provide an opportunity for a discussion of competition and sportsmanship.”

The Great Race can be rented on Amazon Prime Video and a variety of other platforms.


Turbo (2013, PG for some mild action and thematic elements)

This animated film focuses on a little snail who, through a freak accident, was imbued with super speed. This gives the little guy the impetus to go for his dream of racing in the Indianapolis 500. You read correctly.

This little garden snail, who has acquired the power of speed, imparts the lesson to viewers that anyone can strive to reach their goals. Perhaps they might not make it, but it is important to try, nonetheless. “One snail’s ‘crazy’ is another snail’s ‘awesome.’”

The animated characters in this film are adorable and enjoyable to watch. So the next time you see a snail slowly maneuvering down the walkway, you might think twice before discarding it.

According to, “Parents need to know that Turbo is a funny, animated underdog comedy with strong positive messages.”

Turbo is on Peacock and can be rented on Amazon Prime Video and a variety of other platforms.

Planes (2013 PG for some mild action and rude humor)

Little Dusty Crophopper dreams of a different life. He’s a cute little plane, but he doesn’t want to be a crop-duster. He wants to be a racer.

His mind is made up, and he enlists a veteran fighter to help him qualify for the Wings Across the World flying race. But the little guy runs into one obstacle after another.

With hard work, ingenuity, and a lot of grit and determination, Dusty sets out to win the coveted prize and transform himself from a crop-duster into a world-class champion racer. The sequel film did not focus on racing, however Dusty still gave the viewers a fun ride.

According to, “Ultimately, the message encourages kids to overcome their limitations.”

Planes is on Disney+ and can be rented from Amazon Prime Video and other platforms. 


Racing Stripes (2005, PG for mild crude humor and some language)

Horse racing is a sport beloved by millions of people around the world. The late Queen Elizabeth enjoyed watching the races, especially when one of her horses was in the running.

Racing horses are beautiful animals, but one little guy is a bit different from the rest. Actually, he’s a zebra. Little Stripes was abandoned and taken in by a family. Being raised in the barn, Stripes actually believes he is a racehorse and desires to join his friends on the track.

With the help of some other animals (who talk, of course), as well as a young girl, Stripes begins training and finds himself on the road to the track, where he hopes to compete against the other “thoroughbreds.”

Racing Stripes can be rented on Amazon Prime Video and a variety of other platforms.


Secretariat (2010, PG, for one instance of mild language)

In 1973, for the first time in 25 years, a Thoroughbred (a real one, this time) won racing's Triple Crown, taking the Kentucky Derby, the Preakness and the Belmont -- the last by a nearly unbelievable margin.

But the story of Secretariat begins before the horse was born, with housewife Penny Chenery (Diane Lane), the daughter of a Virginia horse breeder. With the breeding operation failing, along with her father's health, Penny bets the farm -- literally -- on an unborn foal and on an eccentric trainer (John Malkovich).

Directed by Randall Wallace (Braveheart), Secretariat is about Penny's struggles saving her farm while balancing being a wife and mother, and about how one horse lifted her up her spirits and that of millions of others.

Wallace's use of the gospel hymn O Happy Day also makes the ending of the film unforgettable and deeply moving.

Secretariat is on Disney+ and can be rented from Amazon Prime Video and other platforms. 


Image: Adobe Stock

Francine Brokaw is a longtime journalist, covering entertainment, product reviews and travel, and is the host of Beyond the Red Carpet on Village Television and YouTube.

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