With schools closed and no clear, defined end to this pandemic in sight, you may be staring to wonder exactly how you’re meant to entertain your offspring, day in, day out.
Luckily, kids are creative creatures and can find joy in the simplest of things – a cardboard fort, for example, or a game of hide and seek… But, when you’ve exhausted all indoor games, and yourself, then its time to pop them in front of a car-themed film and put your feet up. Or that’s the theory, anyway…
To do that, then, you’ll need a list of child-friendly car films and TV series to stick on the box. To help you, here are our favourite family car films and series…
This is an absolute classic, and luckily there are three, feature-length movies to keep young, car-obsessed children occupied.
The Disney Pixar franchise follows rookie racecar Lightning McQueen’s (voiced by Owen Wilson) journey up through the ranks of world-class racing. Of course, there are good guys, bad guys and plenty of love interests along the way, in this wonderful animated car world, ruled by racecars.
What real racing drivers are in the Cars films? Richard Petty features in Cars, while Lewis Hamilton and Jeff Gordon make cameos in Cars 2. Fernando Alonso, Sebastian Vettel and Vitaly Petrov replace Gordon in the Spanish, German and Russian versions of Cars 2 respectively.
The Cars franchise is recommended for children aged over five, with parental discretion advised.
Herbie – The Love Bug (1968), plus Herbie Rides Again, Herbie Goes to Monte Carlo, Herbie Goes Bananas, Herbie: Fully Loaded
Herbie is a loveable 1963 VW Beetle who starred in a series of Walt Disney films during the latter half of the 20th Century.
With a mind of his own and an impressive racing record, Herbie passes through various owners’ hands and adventures in five films and a TV series, characterised by his red, white and blue racing stripes and number ‘53’.
The Love Bug (1968) is the first in the Herbie franchise, followed by Herbie Rides Again (1974), Herbie Goes to Monte Carlo (1977), Herbie Goes Bananas (1980) and finally Herbie: Fully Loaded (2005). In 1997 the Love Bug TV series debuted.
Okay, so it’s not entirely a car film, but how could you refuse these adorable little creatures? Join Alvin, Simon and Theodore on a cross-country road trip, as they undertake a misguided attempt to prevent their owner from proposing to his girlfriend.
The fourth and final instalment in the Alvin and the Chipmunks series, it’s a funny, feel-good road-trip film for the whole family.
WatchAlvin and the Chipmunks: The Road Chip on Netflix here.
Transformers – 2007
And one for the older children now, Transformers is the first in an action-packed five-film series starring giant alien robots that can disguise themselves as everyday machinery and vehicles.
The 2007 film tells the story of the battle between the heroic Autobots and the villainous Decepticons, and their race to retrieve the AllSpark, the source of their origins. While the Autobots hope to use the AllSpark to end the war and rebuild their home planet Cybertron, the Decepticons are intent on giving life to the machines of Earth and building an army. All the while, a teenager, Sam (Shia LaBeouf), is caught up in the melee.
Based on the 1980s franchise of the same name, four further films in the Transformers series follow, with a spin off film, about the character Bumblebee, launched in 2018, proving more popular than any of the earlier films.
Chitty Chitty Bang Bang may be met with blank stares by the youth of today, but the 1968 musical is a must watch for any budding car enthusiast. The film tells the story of ‘Chitty Chitty Bang Bang’, a former Grand Prix winning race car which was consigned to the junkyard after a career-ending crash. Despite winning every race it took part in between 1907 and 1909, the car is being sold as scrap – that is until a pair of young truants, Jeremy and Jemima Potts, manage to convince their eccentric inventor father Caractacus Potts, an eccentric inventor to buy and rebuild it. Via various calamitous attempts, Caractacus eventually raises enough money to buy the car, and so begins an adventure of epic proportions, complete with a love interest, toymaker and a child catcher.
Along the way, the little family discover that Caractacus has rebuilt Chitty Chitty Bang Bang with both a flotation device and wings and propellers to fly.
The feel good fantasy film was directed by Ken Hughes with a screenplay co-written by Roald Dahl, loosely based on Ian Fleming's 1964 novel Chitty-Chitty-Bang-Bang: The Magical Car. It’s an all-time classic, and well worth your time.
Moving onto the TV series now, this is a throwback for young parents themselves, as Brum was the bread and butter for car-obsessed children back in the ‘90s.
Brum was a small, yellow, vintage car that lived in a motor museum, and would regularly escape out into the ‘Big Town’ (Birmingham) and get up to all sorts of adventures, before returning back to his spot before the owners realised he is gone.
While the actors in the series don’t speak, Brum could express himself mechanically by opening and closing his doors and bonnet, flashing his lights and bobbing his suspension.
A new CGI-animated series, aimed at young pre-school children, was produced in 2016.
Another for the youngest of car fans, Tayo The Little Bus is an informative animated series, designed to teach children about road safety and public transport. Helped by his friends, Tayo learns the city bus system, while discovering new adventures every day.
Originally debuting in 2007 and running for five seasons until 2010, Roary the Racing Car was a stop-motion television series following the adventures of Roary and his racing car friends at the Silver Hatch racetrack.
More mature racing fans may notice the mash up of British racing tracks (Silverstone and Brands Hatch), plus the voiceover courtesy of racing legend Sir Stirling Moss.