Movie Review: The Great Race (1965)

by StevenHelmer

A review of the 1965 comedy starring Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon.

Synopsis: Two rival daredevils decide to compete in an early 20th Century across-the-world auto race from New York to Paris and are joined by an ambitious reporter who is determined to prove her gender isn’t a liability. Along the way, they encounter bad weather, a pie fight and a variety of other obstacles that threaten to keep them from crossing the finish line.

Who's in it?


I came across this film on one of my movie channels a couple months ago and, because I had heard of it but had never actually watched it, decided to record it. However, since it is a relatively long movie (about 2 ½ hours), I didn’t get around to watching it right away; partly because I was hoping my family would watch it with me.

Realizing it was way too long to be a family movie (my kids would never sit that long), I finally ended up watching it by myself. And, overall, I have to say this movie was pretty decent.

One thing that really surprised me about this movie was it wasn’t as predictable as I first thought it would be. This is because of the number of twists that are thrown in ranging from a town refusing to provide gas to the racers unless they stayed for a party to foreign rebels using Professor Fate (Lemmon) as a stand-in for the prince they were trying to overthrow, a situation that ultimately leads to a giant pie fight. In addition to keeping the movie from being predictable, this also kept it from becoming boring.

Also helping this movie was Professor Fate himself. Movies like this are only as good as their bad guy and, in this particular case, Lemmon did a fantastic job. The character had plenty of motivation for hating his rival, Leslie Gallant III (Curtis), who I personally thought was kind of a jerk. But, at the same time, he wasn’t very likable, making it fun to watch his cheating schemes fail miserably. And, Peter Falk as his henchman, Max Meen, only made his scenes even funnier.

I also found I liked Natalie Wood’s character, Maggie. While she does soften up a bit by the end of the movie, I like the spunk she shows early on, willing to outsmart the men as needed to make sure she stayed in the race. Probably my only real complaint about her is it would have been nice to see her continue in her own car and be a legitimate contender until the end, something I was disappointed to see wasn’t the case.

Final Opinion

It’s longer than your average comedy but, if you have the time to watch it, it is worth doing so. I had some doubts at first, but loved every minute of this film and would highly recommend it as a result of that.

My Grade: A

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Updated: 03/26/2024, StevenHelmer
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DerdriuMarriner on 03/24/2022

StevenHelmer, Thank you for practical information, pretty pictures and product lines.
The library system here has The Great Race among its Blu-ray and DVD collections. So I intend to check it out. It's a classic.

Was there ever any attempt to reboot or remake The Great Race, with perhaps a shorter running time?

Now how would the auto race be conducted what with the Atlantic pond between America and Europe?

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