I remember greatly enjoying comedy ‘great race’ movies on TV, back in the day, but I only realised the other day that the movie industry doesn’t really seem to make them any more.

Those Magnificent Men in thier Flying Machines Quad

Here’s the handy list of those films that have been made, many of them rather good if judged simply as entertainment. The last one, Safari 3000, is apparently the best so-so representative of the tailing-away of the genre (exemplified by the dire Cannonball Run sequels).


Genevieve – 1953 (London to Brighton, in 1900s cars in the early 1950s. Fore-runner of the genre.)

It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World – 1963 (USA cross-country money chase in the early 1960s.)

The Great Race – 1965 (New York to Paris in the 1900s.)

Those Magnificent Men in their Flying Machines – 1965 (London to Paris in the 1910s.)

Monte Carlo or Bust – 1969 (across Europe in the 1920s.)

[ Wacky Races – (famous TV cartoon series, partly based on ideas from The Great Race) ]

Gumball Rally – 1976 (USA in the mid 1970s.)

The Cannonball Run – 1981 (USA in the late 1970s. The sequels were dire.)

Safari 3000 – 1982 (Across Africa in the early 1980s.)

I guess its very very expensive to make a film today that features: a huge wardrobe of costumes; vintage cars / planes / trains; wrecking many vintage vehicles; and has a huge ensemble cast of big stars in small roles. I guess finding star actors who can also do good slapstick ‘physical’ comedy, at the drop of a hat rather than after months of training, would also be difficult. The movies of the 1960s and 70s had access to actors who had been trained and steeped in that tradition during the 1920s and 30s.

It seems a pity they’ve gone. I’d certainly pay to see an outstanding live-action $200m comedy movie that cheerfully re-invented the Whacky Races cartoon series. Maybe sent back in time a little, to a steampunk-themed 1908. But perhaps that’s just me.

Update: it seems the genre lives on in interactive-fiction gamebooks. Such as 2014’s highly acclaimed and BAFTA-nominated 80 Days.