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Les 24 Heures
rrichr15 December 2002
Fans of motor racing will appreciate this semi-documentary film based on the legendary 24-hour French road race. The film is set during a period in motor sports just prior to its almost total usurpation by corporate culture, in this case 1970, when there was still a tolerable balance between sponsorship and the particular form of nobility that pervaded racing. As a film, LeMans is remarkable for a sense of restraint that is so unwavering that even the incomparable Steve McQueen seems almost normal inside its cool envelope. No movie on the subject has ever equaled its transparency and authenticity. Motor sports have become so sophisticated and big-time that if you cut the average driver with a knife he might bleed only contact cleaner, or Mello Yello. Modern drivers are still courageous and skilled, but something essential has been lost to the hype and the inevitability of high technology. In LeMans, you can almost smell the 100 octane Supershell and the hot Castrol. People look at one another, not at computer displays. They converse directly over the rasp of tightly-wound 12-cylinder engines, not through headsets and mikes. It's a human thing. Overwrought genre siblings like Days of Thunder are ludicrous and crass compared to LeMans' pure, almost ascetic spirit. Tom Cruise's Cole Trickle could not buy a pit pass into its world.

LeMans is, essentially, about racing. But as a film in the American narrative style, it must have at least some back story and, in this case, that story is romantic. As a safeguard against terminal mushiness, the back story is duplexed into a pair of similar boy/girl situations, thereby keeping each from acquiring excessive density while satisfying the needs of the form. In one, a European driver and his tres charmant, preternaturally understanding wife, work through to a conclusion that it is time for him to walk away while he is still able. The other focuses on the hesitating and mutual attraction between McQueen's American racing star and the widow of an Italian driver who died in the previous year's LeMans race. The night-time accident that claimed her husband also involved McQueen's character; a no-fault event. It was just racing. The lady, who still misses her late husband but is ready to move on, desperately needs someone to talk to, someone who fully understands the nature of her loss and who might possibly, to some discernible degree, justify it. Steve McQueen thrived on characters who required no external validation, from women or men, but who were never arrogant about it. He was the real deal. Few of us have the courage or motivation to be as authentic, or to weather the storms that can result from being so, though I think we should still try. McQueen's racing driver carries this same authenticity and he sutures the widow's aching heart with it during a meal break (LeMans cars were driven around the clock by two-driver teams) while sitting across the table from the lady. She is resisting a strong desire to run and protect herself from her own feelings. But McQueen's character is so self-effacing and contained, yet so completely and unthreateningly there, that she cannot pull away from him. Only part of the dialog is audible. The rest of the scene is viewed from outside the dining area as the camera pulls back through its window. It's a brief scene but excellently acted, adding itself into the film's humanity, a quality that is never lost against the backdrop of hurtling cars and screaming engines.

The racing sequences are beautifully staged. The final seconds before the race starts, drivers in the cars, fidgeting with shifters, one by one switching ignitions on as the countdown closes against a stethoscopic heartbeat sound, puts you right in the cockpits. At-speed scenes were driven by actual racing luminaries of the time, including McQueen himself, and they go as fast camera mounts will allow. A couple of spectacular crashes take place, both filmed in an interwoven stop-action style that lets you watch every rivet pop as the cars unpeel like grapes. Near the end, entirely plausible circumstance pits McQueen and his main rival, a great German driver in a gripping last-lap duel. (the German driver, played by Sigfried Rauch, also played the wily Wehrmacht Sergeant in Sam Fuller's The Big Red One.) These two characters meet briefly during mutual down-time early in the race and establish the obvious respect and fraternal affection they hold for one another. The camaraderie established here underpins the entire film from that point and also transforms their last-lap duel into pure contest. And the cars. open-class LeMans machines of this period still sourced much of the sinuous design style of the preceding decade and they are gorgeous to the appreciative eye, especially McQueen's ride, the Gulf Porsche 917, possibly the most charismatic car ever raced. Interestingly, one of the cars used in the film (a Lola as I recall) was recently discovered languishing in a German barn, sans motor and transmission. Both had been loaned by Porsche for the production.

Fire up LeMans on a system with decent audio capabilities, EQ a bit toward the bass to compensate for accurate but slightly raspy 70's recording technology, and crank it up. You may not feel the burn, but you'll definitely hear it. Only the somewhat too Rat-Pack score detracts from this super little film and that only slightly. Otherwise it's as time-proof as one of those molded spoons you get in Chinese restaurants. Any true fan of the sport, certainly as it was in the film's time-set, should collect it. If you appreciate the compact, character-driven, semi-documentary style, try Downhill Racer. Released the year before LeMans, it's about skiing. Robert Redford's Kiss-My-Ass ski god isn't remotely noble but is entirely believable, as are Gene Hackman and Dabney Coleman as his coaches. It was one of the late John Simon's favorite films, and for good reason.
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The Ultimate Racing Flick
racingmaniac10 November 2001
The reason why most racing movies fail, is because the Hollywood people try to tie in some cheesy plot to the highly professional sports of auto racing. In real life car racing, there is no dramatic love story, no struggle between good and evil, no rebel against the authority. In real life, racing is all about speed, physical strength, and concentration, anything else is just distraction.

Rather than put in a third rate plot to make a crappy story out of it like Driven or any other racing flick has done(including the Grand Prix), Steve McQueen's Le Mans has chosen to walk the different path, to bring the true spirit of car racing on the big screen. Who cares if there is no plot, no conversation, or no love story. If you are looking for those things, you are watching the wrong movie. The sound of the 917 blast down the Mulsanne at full throttle is well worth the time to watch this movie.

Sadly, this is probably the last of the true racing movies. The world today is impossible to make a movie out of real racing car(every single race car in Le Mans is real. The Porsche 917, the Ferrari 512S, The Lola T70). Driven uses mock CART car based on Indy Light, plus a whole lot of crappy CGI car, Grand Prix uses the F2 car that looks like the F1 at the time. A movie like Le Mans probably will never be made again.
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Delaney - the unheroic hero (and all the better for it)
Caius&Gonville24 October 1998
It's always the dispassionate films executed in documentary style that show us what mankind is truly capable of and consequently make us passionate. Kubrick did as much regarding space travel in 2001: A Space Odyssey, as did Wise in his portrayal of scientific method in The Andromeda Strain. When Delaney (McQueen) undramatically explains his motivation for returning to the most demanding of the GT endurance races with the plainly delivered words "When you're racing - it's life. Anything that comes before or after is just waiting" we realise that any emotional content delivered on top of the actions of such men would be superfluous, or would even detract from their achievements.

To the unfamiliar viewer, raised on the formulaic and dependable sports action drama, the tension is in all the wrong places. The start of the race - effectively a 15 minute build up to the 4 o'clock commencement climaxing in Delaney's racing heartbeat and the roar of 50 or so competition engines - has us more wound up than the sequence portraying the final lap (but only just). Similarly, the scene in which Delaney's team manager (Ronald Leigh-Hunt) orders him back on the circuit after a near-fatal accident is without the (surely obligatory nowadays?) show of defiant reluctance - Delaney is hardly the identikit Hollywood hero whom we could expect to confront authority armed to the teeth with the usual cocky dialogue. Quite the opposite. Delaney - the lop-sided figure quite unable even to cope with a confrontation with a fellow racing-driver's widow without feeling awkward - realises that, rather narrowly, he is able only to drive faster than most other professional drivers and that he has no self-affirming existence outside of the demands and constraints of the team.

For all those who believe that the heroes of this world are those who rebelliously reject such impositions on the 'free-spirited' individual - whether they be the social class-based constraints of Titanic or the intellectual ones of Dead Poets Society - the film will no doubt descend into lap upon lap of fast Ferraris and Porsches (as it did for the Time Out film reviewer). Those of us who know that mankind's most towering achievements (winning an event such as the 24 hours of Le Mans being no exception) have been constructed by relatively stunted men and women will sympathise with the character of Michael Delaney. Delaney is no hero, but is all the more heroic for it.
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The finest motor racing film on the planet.
info-64292 November 2005
If you are a petrol head and you have never seen this film you must have been born on another planet and I urge you to see it now. This film can be best described as motor racing porn. Incredible race car footage shot at the 1970 le Mans 24 hours race together with all the tensions and incidents of this famous endurance battle. Cameo appearances of famous race car drivers of the period. Full of staged crashes with cars that would now be worth $ millions. Not much of a story line and that was intentional, but who cares. This is motor racing at its best full of incident and as near to the real Le Mans as you can get. A veritable masterpiece of cinematic history.As fresh today as when it first hit the silver screen in 1971.
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Still the most authentic motor racing movie ever made
davidfrancis7 February 2001
One of my Christmas presents last year was a copy of Michael Keyser's book "A French Kiss With Death" about the making of this movie (I had to drop a BIG hint!). Having just finished the book I watched the movie again with a much greater understanding of how it came to be made and the problems which plagued its production.

It is probably extremely rare for a major feature film to have absolutely no script - not even an outline - and no female lead after two months of shooting, but that was indicative of the sort of movie McQueen was determined to make. The race IS the story, and the story of the race is very well told. McQueen's racing experience, his need to have credibility within the racing world and the large number of real racing drivers and real racing cars involved all add up to an authenticity which exceeded that of Frankenheimer's "Grand Prix" and which is still unequalled. A couple of minor errors in the cars' paint jobs fail to dampen the reality of the on-track action.

It is true that the off-track storyline is a little weak, and some of the performances are a bit hammy, but McQueen absolutely nailed the "feel" of the Le Mans race. For this reason it is many race fans' favourite movie. It's certainly mine .
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Pure Racing Movie
Revlis322 August 2001
This movie is all racing. If you're looking for a big love story, you won't find it here. You'll find tons of racing. It's a breath of fresh air to see a racing movie that isn't tainted with Hollywood. There is very little dialog but lots of car noises. You can tell Steve McQueen loves racing.
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The Best Racing Film Ever
hesaidwhat20 August 2005
I am no great fan of Steve McQueen, but I am a great fan of auto racing. If you are too, this is the best auto racing film you will find (Yes, yes, I know - "Grand Prix". While Frankenheimer is fantastic at capturing the essence of cars in motion - see his "Ronin" in this regard as well - the surrounding movie is soap opera drivel.). If you aren't a hard core racing fan, this film will likely be a giant bore - there is no plot to speak of, and precious little dialog. What there is, is a documentary-like glimpse of sports car racing as it existed in the early 1970s. Watch it for the cars, and the drama inherent in the race, and you won't be disappointed.
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Worth the Drive
clarke-e-waldron28 January 2007
When Le Mans first came out, my buddy and I would drive anywhere in San Luis Obispo county to see it; often it would be at a drive-in. When the movie was over, it was quite an adventure to drive out of the theater as most everyone was jazzed by the spirit of the movie and its amazing cinematography.

As other reviewers may mention, the characters in the movie and even the plot are secondary to the pure action portrayed. From my memory, I recall that some scenes were shot with a moving camera platform alongside the race cars at 150 mph.

In this day of computer-generated crowds, it is to be noted that the crowds in the movie were authentic; that is, it was filmed very shortly after an actual running of the 24 Hours of LeMans and the movie people invited the crowds to return to be in this movie. I am quite sure that no one in the crowd was paid; showing the fans' devotion and love for the sport and the show.

For the time and with the "technology", it is an amazing work.
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The best racing film ever
ferrariman530 September 2005
The best racing film ever! Steve Mcqueen is so believable in this film which is nearly a documentary of the 24 hours of Le mans and the drivers who race in it. He portrays the American Michael Delaney who goes head to head with the champion German driver Erich Stahler in a battle between two race car manufacturers- Porsche and Ferrari. This film Gives great insight of a drivers life and what he goes through before, during, and after the race. And it seems so realistic, but that is because it is- nowadays nearly all of these shots would be computer animated or green screen or CGI- but they really did this, in fact a stuntman was killed in the making of it, and the fact that these are real cars at real speed lends to it's authenticity. If you like cars and haven't seen this movie- go see it.
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One of the most realistic Race Flicks ever!!!
fast_car10 August 2004
This movie is definitely one of the most realistic movies ever! If you liked the car chase in Bullit, you'll want to see this movie! It really gets you to feel the '71 Le Mans atmosphere. If this movie was to be re-done today, it couldn't be done any better. If you are into modern day motorsport, you'll see how everything changed to the worse. Through our modern safety standards, regulations, FSi-Engines, and thoroughly planned race strategies, todays drivers aren't the risk-taking hero's anymore as they were in the 70's but only people who know how to push buttons in the right order....if you see this movie, the 2005 Le Mans Race, NASCAR, F1 and so on will seem really boring
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Definitively the best motoring movie
classicsincamera23 April 2005
I am a motoring photographer and have been 25 times in the previous 27 years at the famous 24H race of Le Mans. So believe me, I know exactly of what I'm talking about regarding Le Mans.

That movies is just excellent from all aspects: good story, action, romance, and motor racing of it's finest.

The brutal battle between Ferrari with their 512M/S's and the Porsche 917s cannot be better and more dramatically shown than in this movie.

I know some of the ORIGINAL race drivers who performed themselves and all of them have great stories to tell, even David Piper who lost a leg.

The Le Mans DVD is a MUST-Have and you cannot miss it in your collection. I can highly recommend it and vote easily with 10 stars !!
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Long regarded as the best motor racing film, it's aged very well for being almost 30 years old.
Falcador1 February 2000
One problem which plagues motorsport films is appalling dialogue. The beautifully shot "Grand Prix" would have been so much better without it's plot, "The Racers" was moderately painful and the less said about "Days of Thunder" the better.

While still being fiction, "Le Mans" has a near documentary feel to it. Dialogue is at an absolute minimum. The biggest speaking part belongs to the circuit PA announcer. The second biggest belongs to Michael Delaneys Porsche 917.

Excellently shot film. The cameras catch all the angles of the picturesque Le Mans circuit, from the tremendous 340+kph, 4km long Mulsanne Straight, the Essess, the sweeps and twists through Arnage, Indianapolis & Maison Blanche. They had to enter their own car in the 1970 Le Mans race, Steve McQueen's own Porsche 908, to get the incredible on track footage. The two major crashes were staged with the assistance of the Porsche and Ferrari teams.

The film itself is a fictional documentary of the battle between the Porsche 917 and Ferrari 312P factory teams as the battle that most grueling of motor races, the Le Mans 24 Hour. The minimalist characterisation works in the film's favour, as it further highlights the confrontation. And in McQueen's character we get a hero that isn't a hero, plagued by a crash the previous year, and a hinted at triangle with the wife of a dead driver and the dead driver's team mate.

But above all the stars are the cars and the circuit.
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A classic "documentary"!
jv-517 July 1999
As the poster says, "Steve McQueen takes you for a ride in the country. The country is France. The drive is at 200MPH!" "Le Mans" is arguably the best film made about the sport of race car driving. What it lacks in story it more than makes up for in exciting race footage. No process shots, no rear screen projection. What you see is absolutely real. And Steve McQueen is, as always, just great. (McQueen drove race cars as a hobby so he knew what he was doing behind the wheel of that Porsche.) If you've never seen "Le Mans", rent it. But don't expect to see a regular movie, instead, expect to see a fine race documentary.
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Discovering racing was never more fun. Speed Thrills!
sailor-2826 June 1999
This film has excellent footage of the Porsche 917's that made some fine racing history in the early 1970's. The car did what cars never did before. This film had the best edited work I have seen. The plot was slow and buried in the flow of the race drama. The slow motion crash scenes of this film were ultra-entertaining. It was sad that Actor Steve McQueen went bankrupt creating this film and had to sell off his interests in this film to climb out of debt. Some scenes from this film have been borrowed for use in other high speed entertainment, such as Hardcastle & McCormik.

The Porsche 917's were tops in their day. Only McLaurens F-1's approach the caliber of the 917 in performance. Here are the 917 car's stats: H-12 turbocharged; 1100 BHP; 0-60 in 2.3 seconds; 0-100 in 4.3 seconds, and a top speed exceeding 238 mph - right out of Guinness Book of world records-1971/2. If you would like to discover racing and see how racing teams are coached, and high speed competition is managed, this film is for you.
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One for the petrolheads.
Muttley_McLad21 June 2018
Le Mans. Still to this day, the greatest race on Earth.

Let's get this out of the way, on the face of it the film is bad. The script is next to none existent. McQueen doesn't even speak until 40 minutes in and even then, it's nothing more than "Hello". The character development is even more threadbare and the plot...well, there is no plot. There is a forced, very much tagged on 'relationship' between McQueen and the obligatory eye candy and the few memorable lines of dialogue that there are carry a very melancholy tone to them. On script alone, it's bloody depressing!

The production was a mess long before cameras were rolling and damn nearly bankrupted McQueen and his own Solar Production company. Studio interference and eventual jurisdiction over the film probably saved it from many more years of development hell in the end, but I can guarantee that the finished product was nothing at all like a McQueen blockbuster that the investors could all but have been assured of with the lead's name headlining it. It bombed and bombed badly.

But Le Mans was never a film aimed at the casual viewer. Le Mans is very much McQueen's own ode to the great race, with the story of the race itself being central to everything...and for anyone who knows anything about the 24 Hours of Le Mans, this was essential. Every year the race is run and every year, the race tells its own story. Stories of glory, heartbreak, bitter rivalries, heroics and unbelievable comebacks run rich through the race's history. It's a living, breathing race, always evolving, but never entirely predicable. Safe bets fall by the wayside, minnows rise to the top. Cruel luck and amazing good fortune all play their roles. If the actual race itself were a film, the twists and turns would rival any Hollywood script. There is an old adage that says you don't beat Le Mans, Le Mans lets you win. A saying that has been proven time and time again throughout the long history of the race.

The film gives a fictional account of the 1971 race, using a great deal of real race footage from the 1970 race. The story of how some of that footage was captured could be a film in itself. A camera was strapped to the front of McQueen's own Porsche 908/02 Spyder and it was entered into the 1970 race as an actual competitor. McQueen was absolutely forbidden to drive in the race itself (much to his chagrin) by the production's insurers, but for years there have been rumours that he switched places with one of the official race drivers of the car. Certainly there is a blink and you'll miss it scene of the 908/02 flying past the pitlane as McQueen's character's car is having a tyre change, with McQueen himself nowhere in shot...or was he? The helmet of the driver of the 908/02 was an open faced, red Bell helmet with a white visor strip...a helmet that McQueen had been pictured wearing when racing his 908/02 when not busy with making movies. Conclusive? No. Suspiciously intriguing though.

There are continuity issues, with the dirt and grime on the cars suddenly being cleaned off well into the race and (you're going to need some proper petrol head inner geek for this one), other cars out of position within the time frame of the film. These can be traced back to the use of real race footage Vs production 'art shot' footage on the closed track. Continuity wise, it's a bloody mess.

But here's the thing. McQueen 'understood' Le Mans. He understood that sound and speed went hand in hand. He knew that it could break heroes just as easily as it made them. He understood that the race was as much of a competition against the other teams as it was a race against time and the circuit itself. He sensibly stayed away from the glitz and glamour that followed him everywhere he went, making his character a secondary player in the story to the race itself. This is Steve McQueen, the biggest name of his era, opting to not only not be the hero, but to not even take centre stage in the film. It confused the hell out of the critics, who wrote him off as washed up and finished after it's release and left the casual viewer wondering what the hell it was all about.

But for the fans of the race, it was perfection. No driver is bigger than the race...McQueen got this. For the fans, the sights and sounds of the cars was captured perfectly. The sound of the Porsche 917K howling, like a tortured banshee, on full throttle upshifts was divine. The brutality of the track was captured in all its make 'em or break 'em glory. The mutual respect of the competitors wasn't turned into an on-track version of Rocky (yeah, I know, it pre-dates Rocky) , but was a very realistic account of how team tactics played out then. McQueen made the race and the cars the stars of the story, with himself just being a bit player in a much larger event. The film didn't end with the obligatory glory that a name with McQueen's star power commanded at all and merely ended, as after 24 hours, the race itself does.

But there are moments in the film that have now become legend in the motor sport world. "Racing is life. Everything before or after is just waiting" is a line that has echoed around race circuits throughout the world ever since. The 2 finger salute in one of the final shots of the film has been copied, blown up or printed and framed countless times. Replica race suits and Gulf liveried 'tribute' cars can be found in pretty much any motor sport memorabilia catalogue these days. The film left its mark back then and to this day, is still one of the finest motor sport films out there.

None motor sport fans, even if a fan of Steve McQueen, will struggle to find anything memorable about this film. But for those who covert the 24 Hours of Le Mans and spend their year 'just waiting', it is essential viewing and a film that has become motor sport folk law. In terms of authenticity and capturing the 'Spirit of Le Mans', McQueen nailed it. Given the size and tone of the event itself, that was no easy feat.

The film was unfairly panned by those who didn't understand what McQueen was trying to do with Le Mans, assuming that it would be like James Garner's 'Grand Prix' and confused to hell when they found something very different. But for those who did 'get it', it is legend. Compared to the other big two in capturing serious racing, Grand Prix still holds up now and Rush was a superb modern attempt, but Le Mans is still the big one.
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More than holds up after all these years
gordofett17 February 2005
Warning: Spoilers
I recently saw Le Mans all the way through for the first time, and I was very impressed. The film has often been called 'documentary-like', for its attention to detail and the feel of the film, but it is much more than that. The film is more about making you feel as if you are actually there - as if you are one of the drivers taking part in this 24 hour endurance race. Compared to an average film, Le Mans has very little dialogue. What there is mostly comes from the Race Track Commentator who gives us some background and takes us through what is happening on the track and in the pits. Some of the cars in the race are similar models, but you never lose track of who is who thanks to his updating. To be honest, the film doesn't need much dialogue - and Steve McQueen's presence does enough talking. In fact, many of the character's exchanges take place with just looks.

However, the on-track action - and there's plenty of it - is the reason to watch this film. You'd think that with the percentage of the film that's made up of racing it would get boring after a while, but director Lee Katzin keeps the footage fresh, playing with speeds, camera techniques and racing conditions to keep our attention. It's a testament to him and the editing and cinematography of the film that we're still as fired up at the end of the race as we are at the beginning. And what a beginning it is. The film brings you in slowly, from the dawning of the morning and the individual drivers arriving, to the crowds settling down, and finally into the build-up to the roaring race start. It's great stuff.

I saw about 15 minutes of this film on TV when I was quite young and remember getting annoyed at some of the filming techniques - particularly the occasional periods of silence through the crashes. However, coming back and watching the film again, I can plainly see why it was done. The crashes are some of the most powerful parts of the film and the way they're filmed blew me away. I would take this kind of thing over similar moments in almost any racing film made since.

(MINIMAL SPOILER) I also liked the fact that the 'romance' between the male/female leads was not rushed at all, almost just hinted at - the race is the star here, not the people. I can see why the time taken between them may be frustrating to some people, but I found it to be fairly realistic. It's not likely that they would just fall into bed - especially given the character's unusual relationship. (END SPOILER)

If you're looking for a racing film, give this one a try. It's a little different, and it is all the better for it.
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What racing is all about...
thethreecar28 January 2009
Warning: Spoilers
***HEAVY SPOILERS*** I am a racing fan for forever. I am a Steve McQueen fan for just as long. So for me, this film can do no wrong. I have read "A French Kiss With Death", written about Steve McQueen and the making of LeMans and know he could be somewhat demanding during filming. /The first director left the set/ But he wanted a racing movie, not a movie with racing in it. It bankrupted him but LeMans to racing purists has to be regarded as a masterpiece. No one in my family gets it though...so I am destined to having to watch it again and again.... alone.

From the start where McQueen pulls over along the road and reminisces about what happened the year prior at that part of the track, to Erich /his nemesis in the Ferrari/ trying to get in his head /"Be careful" he says, to which Delaney replies "Now don't be a pain in the ass, Erich"/ to his warm welcome home to LeMans by the French P.A. announcer when he first strolls out of the paddock before getting in the car to the fantastic build up of 4:00pm, to the burst of sound when the flag drops to the incredible racing scenes to the "just racing" morning in the rain accident that wipes him out while leading to his team manager's orders that he wants Porsche to win LeMans and what Michael Delaney must go out and do to make that happen...IS REAL RACING. Days of Thunder? Driven? Talladega Nights? All Hollywood B.S. that embarrasses me as a racing fan and diminishes our beloved sport.

So McQueen goes back out, after a devastating crash, and nearly kills himself again in the best racing of the movie, ONLY TO BLOCK the Ferrari from passing his Porsche teammate. Not to win the race mind you, for he is not ordered to pass the other Porsche...and he surely could have because he is faster and better than him. Instead he drafts him...That's the heartbreak but reality of racing.

Much of the race scenes were shot during the actual 1970 24 Hours of Lemans race. They are fantastic. /The camera car itself, entered by Solar Productions, finished 9th overall!!!/ What a flick during a golden age of racing. It truly captures a racing experience from spectator to driver.

Go see a race...you will not be the same afterwards.
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A well done documentary - the best racing film ever?
wlb10 August 2007
I would like to add something that hasn't been said yet - when the other great racing movie was made, Grand Prix, Steve McQueen was furious that his friend and neighbor James Garner got the role. It was this rejection that motivated him to make his own race film 5 years later. Both movies could not be made today for several reasons, but Le Mans used actual race cars in their filming intermixed with actual Le Mans footage. Plus McQueen did his own driving, which even nearly 30 years after his death, is one of the reasons he's considered the "coolest of the cool".

This movie has been described as a documentary and for the fact that it isn't "Hollywoodized" with needless romances and feuds makes it all the better. It really shows racing the way it is with the strategies of the managers to the drivers and pit crew. If you are a car nut having this DVD and Grand Prix are must-haves.
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Steve McQueen is out for a drive in the Country, the country is France and the drive is at 200 mph.
disasterfilm8418 December 2006
Le Mans was released in 1971 to the world, but it was a project that Steve McQueen had been developing for over 10 years. He was originally going to make it for Warner Bros in 1968, but with the selling in the studio to Kinney National Services, his contract was terminated.

McQueen has said him self that it was one of his most personal films that he had ever made and was determined to get it made, he convinced famous action director John Sturges to take the wheel and direct it. McQueen was able to work out a deal with Cinema Center Film to finance the picture and have National General Pictures release the film.

When production began it seemed like everyone on the picture had different ideas on how to make the film, and after several weeks of filming John Sturges quit the film and McQueen himself took over the directing chores until Lee H. Katzin. After all this crazyness was sorted out the film was completed and McQueen himself supervised all the editing and since the fim ran over budget and over schedule he gave up par tof his salary to complete the picture.
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Brilliant Racing Film
Dr.X21 January 2000
Le Mans is possibly the best major motion picture about racing ever made. Why? Because the race itself is in many ways the main character. The absurdly melodramatic, soap-opera style character drama that usually dominates racing films is kept to a reasonable level here, and the racing itself is the focus. Some of the camera footage is brilliant, the dialog is appropriate and occasionally spot-on (as in the famous "life is racing, everything before or after is just waiting" quote), and the demands of endurance racing on drivers, machines, spectators, and teams is portrayed quite well. Grand Prix also had some brilliant racing footage, but focused a bit much on sensationalism and on a silly soap-opera plot about the lives and affairs of the drivers and their wives and girlfriends. Other films, such as Days of Thunder, usually are side-splittingly hilarious due to all the inaccuracies about racing forced into the film. Overall, Le Mans is very well done and well worth seeing.
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McQueen's Jewel in the Crown
davekels22 December 2007
This film has always received critical comments. Yes, predominantly racing cars, they are the stars of the show, but what would you expect to see at the Le mans 24 hour race, a gun fight or maybe an alien invasion?

No, this visual masterpiece gives an accurate account of the most famous car race in the world. Many have tried to capture the excitement of motor sport in a film, but only this one truly offers you the full high octane package.

Steve McQueen was not only one of the highest paid actors at the time but also a very talented racing driver,he understood what it would take to make this film the real deal and only he was qualified to do so.

The action sequences of approaching cars are the best you will ever see, indeed McQueen was forced to take control of the camera himself on occasions when the camera crew thought it too dangerous to be so close to cars approaching at 200 mph.

The high speed shunts are nothing short of spectacular and will encourage you to press the rewind button more than once.

The story, although not the most imaginative, doesn't distract from the battle on the circuit between the Porsche and Ferrari teams.

You don't have to be the proverbial "Petrol-head" to enjoy this McQueen jewel in the crown, but if you watch it there's a reasonable chance you'll become one.
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Michael Schumacher, eat your heart out!
gaylestephen13 March 2006
Warning: Spoilers
I've seen this film many a time plus I've had to put it on many more times for my son even though he's only 2 years old! This is because he loves the sound of the cars.

In the film, although I like listening to the cars myself, and how realistic the film is, it could have done with just a little bit more dialogue although I do understand it's very difficult to have a dialogue when you're racing.

The bits I found the funniest were, first of all, when a tyre on the leading Ferarri car went flat. My opinion of this was either the mechanics didn't think to put air in the tyre first, general wear and tear of the tyre, or was the tyre punctured? I would've loved to have found out. The other was Steve McQueen's two-fingered salute right at the end. I was surprised at the German driver's reaction to this. I thought he would be getting ready to punch him.

If I was selected to do a profile of the characters in this film, I would have to praise Steve McQueen's character for his honesty in one scene of the film where he's admitting he's at fault for his own accident although the type of accident he had was very common in any Le Mans race. This scene really stuck out because drivers of this day and age, particularly F1 drivers, seem to blame each other for any accidents they have rather than accept liability themselves.

It's also good to see the characters being friendly with each other rather than behaving like enemies, which is what racing drivers these days tend to do.

All in all, it's a very good film despite the lack of dialogue. I would personally like to visit Le Mans to see the course for real and even drive on it. But I would probably be rather scared to be a passenger in a car with Steve McQueen driving as I read that he drove like a maniac off film sets as well as on them. Ironically, I loved watching him drive in his films, particularly this one.
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Classic cool 70s cinema
garethcrook18 May 2018
In parts this is classic cool 70s cinema. Widescreen jazz infused. In other parts it's down and dirty trackside racing. Never quite a documentary, but close enough to the action for anyone interested in motor racing. Le Mans is a fascinating race and this is every bit the love letter to it. Dialogue is sparse, McQueen is quiet and brooding. The plot is simple, although could've been a bit more engaging. It's about the racing though, pure and simple and with several sequences that are nothing short of staggering cinematic brilliance, it can be forgiven for any inadequacies elsewhere. With watching racing, it's as much about what's happening off the track, the strategy, the politics and it's exactly the same with this film, the production fraught with issues and squabbles, the trivia section on IMDB is riveting!
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"Box Office and Critical Failure," but, the press forgot to add..."A McQueen and racing fan's dream movie!"
gilligan196515 August 2015
Warning: Spoilers
Although a box office and critical failure, if you're a fan of Steve McQueen and of Le Mans racing (or, any car racing)...this is everything you'll ever want in a high-speed racing movie!

I've been a die-hard Steve McQueen fan ever since I saw "The Magnificent Seven" (1960); "The Great Escape" (1963); and, "The Sand Pebbles" (1966), as a child; and, a die-hard racing and car fan ever since my Dad (an Engineman on US Submarines, and, an engine-freak in general) had classic cars and raced 'modified' racing.

This movie brought all of these loves of mine together! I absolutely LOVE this movie!

I expect that Steve McQueen fans wish to see him defying authority; killing the enemy; and, just being himself. In this classic, Steve McQueen is being 'ALL' of himself, and, doing what he loves to do - racing, and, making a movie about it!

To me, this is a great racing movie achievement, a one-of-a-kind, and, I give it nine stars! :)
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" Racing, if done well is Life, everything that happens before or after, is just waiting "
thinker16915 June 2011
In his lifetime, actor Steve McQueen always lived life 'on the edge'. From the moment he discovered acting, he knew he could do it well. So much so, he not only became a successful movie star, he became an icon. Among his many passions, was racing. This movie is about one of those passions. It is Called " Le mans " and it depicts the 24 hour race in France. To say that the cars drive fast is an understatement. This particular race tests not only the mechanical ability of a car to survive the grueling endurance racing course of 13,629 KM. at speeds over two hundred miles and hour, but also the men behind the wheel. The storyline of the movie is fuzzy at best and deals primarily with the rivalry between two men Steve McQueen who plays American driver, Michael Delaney and Siegfried Rauch who plays Erich Stahler his German competitor. Both are fast, skillful and extremely driven to win. Director Lee H. Katzin and writer Harry Kleiner teamed to encapsulate and highlight the race, rather than the people involved. While watching the movie, the actors are left with little dialog, do their best to personify the individual lives of those involved with racing. Although fans of McQueen and racing as a sport should find this film interesting, anyone who wants a deeper story will be disappointed. For me, anything with Steve McQueen in it is interesting. ****
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