Story

Need For Speed opens with a spoken prologue from D.J. Monarch (Michael Keaton). Monarch hosts a car racing internet radio show and runs the annual infamous and highly illegal De Leon street race.

The movie’s main character, Toby Marshal (Aaron Paul), lives in the town of Mount Kisco. Toby was a promising race car driver until he quit racing to build high performance cars. Toby’s old rival on the racetrack, Dino Brewster (Dominic Cooper), made it to the big-time, racing Indy cars and owning his own elite car dealership. Unfortunately Toby is facing hard times and the loss of his family garage business. When Dino turns up out of the blue and offers Toby a deal to finish building a Ford Mustang, partially built by the legendary Carroll Shelby before he died, Toby can’t refuse his offer – 25% of whatever Dino sells the Mustang for.

Toby and his friends build the car, which is bought by Julia (Imogen Poots), an English racing car enthusiast. Dino challenges Toby to a race in which the winner gets 100% of the sale price of the Mustang. But tragedy strikes when Dino causes a crash in the race, which kills Toby’s young workmate, Pete (Harrison Gilberson). Toby is falsely blamed for Pete’s death and sentenced to two years imprisonment.

Two year later Toby is released from prison and immediately seeks revenge by planning to race against Dino in the De Leon street race. Toby borrows the Mustang and enlists Julia as his codriver. They take a high-speed, two-day jaunt across the country to San Francisco while being chased by the police and villains.

Eventually Toby makes it to the start line. The race is on between him, Dino and four other competitors.

Themes

Illegal street racing: competitive car racing; false imprisonment; justice; revenge

Violence

Need for Speed has intense sequences of life-endangering and reckless street racing, which causes the destruction of property and the death of a character. There is also some action violence and occasional low-level blood and gore. Here are some examples:

  • During a night race, cars race against each other through city streets causing havoc and mayhem. The speeding cars narrowly miss being hit by a train and hitting pedestrians. They almost collide head on with cars, a mobile home and a street-sweeping truck.
  • One of the speeding cars misses hitting a homeless man by millimetres but collides with the shopping trolley he was pushing, destroying the trolley. The people in the car laugh at the destruction they have caused.
  • One scene shows three men racing high performance cars in an urban area, along a two-lane road. They swerve around cars, drive down the centre of the road and force other vehicles off the road.
  • A car forced off the road clips a second car causing a collision.
  • One of the speeding cars deliberately crashes into the rear end of a second speeding car. This propels the second car up into the air. It flips over before crashing to the ground, rolling several times, crashing through a bridge railing, plummeting to the ground below, landing upside down on rocks and catching on fire. This sequence is shown in slow motion.
  • The burning car explodes in flames and a man is seen silently screaming in anguish before he dies.
  • Several police cars are wrecked when they are forced off the road. One is wrecked as the result of vandalism.
  • Two large army style jeeps and a Hummer chase a speeding car. The men in the jeeps and Hummer fire shotguns and machineguns at the speeding car.
  • One of the jeeps rear-ends the speeding car while the speeding car causes the Hummer to crash into a cliff face, flip over and catch fire.
  • The remaining two jeeps chase the speeding car and try to force it off a cliff. A helicopter arrives in the nick of time and winches the driver to safety as the speeding car flies off the cliff face.
  • A truck deliberately crashes into the side of a car, shattering its windows and flipping the car over several times. The car lands upside down and its two occupants, a man and a woman, hang inside it. They have bloody cuts on their faces and the woman is unconscious.
  • A man slams another man against a wall, punches him in the stomach and grabs him by his shirt front. The two men verbally threaten each other.
  • In the main race a driver is pulled from a burning car by another driver, who then punches the driver of the crashed car in the face.

Content that may disturb children

Under 5

In addition to the violent scenes mentioned above, Need for Speed has some scenes that could scare or disturb children under five years. In particular, younger children might find the race and crash scenes intense and disturbing. 

From 5-8

In addition to the violent scenes and scary visual images mentioned above, Need For Speed has some scenes that could scare or disturb children in this age group. They might also find the race and crash scenes intense and disturbing. 

From 8-13

In addition to the violent scenes mentioned above, Need for Speed has some scenes that could scare or disturb children in this age group. For example, there’s a funeral for the driver who was killed in the accident. The people at the funeral are very upset and crying. 

Over 13

Aside from the violent and disturbing scenes mentioned above, Need for Speed has no other scenes or material that might upset children in this age group. 

Sexual references

Need for Speed has some sexual references. For example:

  • A man says to a woman, ‘We’re mechanics – we’re not afraid of getting our hands dirty, know what I mean?’ The comment has sexual connotations.
  • In a glass elevator a man is standing next to a woman. He has a naked upper chest and shoulders, and it looks like he’s naked. She looks down at the man’s groin and the man says, ‘It’s cold, I hear’.
  • A naked man (seen from behind) chases another man. The second man calls the naked man ‘skinny boy’. The naked man responds, ‘Oh you were checking me out’.
  • A woman talking about men driving big cars says, ‘It makes up for an inferiority complex’, and wiggles her little finger. 

Alcohol, drugs and other substances

Need for Speed shows some use of substances. For example:

  • At a restaurant and at a party, people drink wine, champagne and whiskey. No intoxication is shown.
  • In a garage empty bottles of beer sit on a table. A man drinks from a bottle of beer. No intoxication is shown. 

Nudity and sexual activity

Need for Speed has some nudity and sexual activity. For example:

  • Some scenes show images of women wearing low-cut tops that reveal cleavage, tops that reveal midriff, and short shorts that reveal thighs and buttocks.
  • A man strips off in an office until he is completely naked (seen from behind). When he is half undressed, he grabs a female office worker, kisses her on the mouth and says, ‘I always wanted to do that’.
  • A woman swaps seats with a man driving a car. The woman sits on the man’s lap briefly.
  • A man and woman kiss passionately on the lips. 

Product placement

The following products are displayed or used in Need for Speed:

  • High-performance street cars such as Mercedes SLS, Ford Mustang and Koenigsegg Agera
  • Gucci boots. 

Coarse language

Need for Speed has some medium-level crude and coarse language. 

Ideas to discuss with your children

Need for Speed is based on the video game of the same name. It’s a fast action movie that will have a lot of appeal for younger and older teenage boys. It’s a lot like car stunt movies from the 1970s. All the stunts in this movie are done live rather than with CGI, which gives the stunts and car crashes more impact, realism and appeal for the target audience.

The movie’s lead actor is Aaron Paul from Breaking Bad, which will attract lots of audience attention. But it’s worth keeping in mind the impact of the fast car sequences and stunts on teenagers.

This movie doesn’t have any worthwhile messages. This is because its main themes are to do with revenge and illegal street racing involving property destruction and injury. The movie shows no realistic consequences for these activities.

Values in this movie that you could reinforce with your children include the following:

  • Friendship: the movie promotes friendship as one of the most important values in life. Toby constantly relies on his close friends for support.
  • Teamwork: Toby relies on his friends to work together as a team.

This movie could also give you the chance to talk with your children about real-life issues such as the following:

  • In real life, what would be the physical, legal, emotional and financial consequences of the accidents caused by illegal street car racing?
  • This movie is dominated by male characters. It also sexually objectifies women. What effect might this have on the movie’s target audience?