Bad Movies We Love: Days of Thunder

Did Nicole Kidman think she was going to simper through award season without the "Bad Movies We Love" treatment? Eyes wide shut, indeed, lambs. Though we're all excited for the million and one laughs of Rabbit Hole (which I keep mistakenly calling The Velveteen Child-Slaying), it can't possibly compare to the fun of Nicole's 1990 quest into NASCAR cinema, Days of Thunder. It stars her nephew Tom Cruise, too.

Remember TBS Superstation? Well, TBS Superstation played Days of Thunder every Saturday in the '90s, so that should prepare you for the glamor at hand. Programmers believed the film blended seamlessly with reruns of Highway to Heaven and weightlifting highlights from the Goodwill Games, and those programmers were truth-tellers.

Look at this movie. While other important 1990 champions like Cary Elwes, Michael Rooker, and Randy Quaid (pre-Hollywood Star Whackers) co-star in roles I don't care to discuss, this movie stars America's favorite and most logical couple: Lestat and Virginia Woolf.


Tom Cruise plays a race car prodigy named Cole Trickle. Stellar. Sometimes when Cole drives his race car, his enemies bump him on the track and force him to careen into walls, curse himself, and visit the hospital. "You're glib!" he yells at nay-saying paramedics. His main doctor (Nicole Kidman) is a professional Australian thang named Claire Lewicki. Cole and Claire start their relationship on an awkward note because Cole believes his crew chief Harry (Bad Movie We Love regular Poor Robert Duvall) hired Claire to be a fake, sexy-stripper doctor. Pretty insulting! Later, she'll get back at Cole by wearing a pantsuit that is taller than he is.


Take that, Trickle. Lo and behold, the two begin a romantic relationship. Cole impresses her by explaining the dynamics of NASCAR using a couple of Sweet-N-Low packets and her trembling calves. This is the kind of romance that impresses Superstation viewers.


Soon, Claire makes the dumb decision (during sex) to ask why Cole loves being a race-car bandit. His response trumps the career of Maya Angelou: "The speed, the control. Knowing that I can control something that's out of control." I know why the caged Cole breeds: Because the control levels are getting hornily mixed up in here.

But heaven ends and Claire and Cole start to fight. Once, when Cole is chasing down a random cab driver for some great reason, Claire pleads with him to stop. She's in the car too, clawing at the passenger's side and hurting for a meaty script like Batman Forever to save her. This is when she unleashes the film's most memorable passage: "Let me out of the car, Cole! Let me out of the car!" she pleads. "Let me out of the car, Cole! Let me out of the car! Let me out of the car!"

Haha. I'd like to delve on Cole and Claire's boring courtship and extemporaneous poetry some more, but the lovable part of Days of Thunder is its incessant NASCAR lingo and slang. One unhelpful member of Team Cole offers the following criticism after a race: "We end up looking like a monkey f*cking a football out there!" That's just the beginning, guys.


Poor Robert Duvall hollers once, "That's one too many roosters in the hen house!" But wait. Cole's arch-nemesis tops him with this zinger during the big climactic race, "That boy don't have the balls to pass me on the outside!" Pretty clever. But best yet, after Cole wins the race and shames his opponents, he has this meaningful dialogue with Poor Robert Duvall (henceforth known as P.R.D.).

Cole: "Are you going to be able to walk, or am I going to have to carry you?"

P.R.D.: "To where?"

Cole: "Victory Lane."

With love trickling from their eyes, the movie ends with that smashing quip. TBS Superstation: Where Movies Talk Like John Mellencamp Songs (And You Better Love It).

What else do you need to know? Days of Thunder is a by-the-book sports film that reiterates the plot and characters of Top Gun, but for a demographic that considers the Daytona 500 a bigger visual feast than fighter piloting. It's trashy, predictable, and titled Days of Thunder. You're in love, and you don't want Cole to let you out of the car. Wave a checkered flag over your convulsing loins.

(Also, there's a moment in the movie when Cole asks Claire, "How tall are you?" Ha! The screenwriters were Team Anti-Cole/Xenu all along. Sigh. Love them. They'd totally watch Highway to Heaven reruns with us.)


  • Bradley Paul Valentine says:

    Jesus. It's a sports film dealing with passions of the competition. How is this a bad movie?? There isn't even an argument in this article. Picking out random actions in random scenes and saying they're dumb doesn't make them dumb. Days of Thunder is a terrific movie. To each his own, I guess, but golly. We need a show of hands around the room, who thinks this movie sucks? And no, I'm not nominating it for Best Picture either. Beautifully shot, wonderful energy, great actors and a VERY decent story.

  • Eric Mansoor says:

    I think this movie sucks.