Days of Thunder

From Academic Kids

Days of Thunder is a 1990 movie produced by Jerry Bruckheimer, directed by Tony Scott and starring Tom Cruise, Nicole Kidman, Robert Duvall, Randy Quaid, Cary Elwes and Michael Rooker. Also features real life racer Rusty Wallace.


Days of Thunder revolved around a talented, hot-shot auto racing rookie, Cole Trickle (Cruise), who seeks to win on the NASCAR circuit. His mechanic mentor, Harry Hogge (Duvall), acts as his crew chief and Dr. Claire Lewicki (Kidman) is a young and beautiful brain surgeon who tries to tame Cole.

The movie received middling reviews from critics who mostly shrugged off the sometimes over-the-top special effects and plot that, in many ways, resembled the earlier Bruckheiemer, Scott and Cruise vehicle, Top Gun. Some NASCAR aficionados also took offense at the overuse and exaggeration of the bump-and-grind action of NASCAR, featuring bumping maneuvers between cars that were overly dangerous and uncommon, even for the period of time in NASCAR history that the movie was filmed. This included a scene where Cole, after having been knocked out of a race at the very end by an opponent, instructed his pit crew to replace his flattened tires, proceeding to run out on the track and smash his car into the victorious rival who knocked him out of the race.

The plot was very loosely based on some real-life NASCAR personalities: Duvall's character was based on crew chief Harry Hyde, Cruise's on Tim Richmond, and Randy Quaid's on a composite of several drivers, one of whom was Dale Earnhardt. Although this was not acknowledged by the film publicly this was obvious to fans from many coincidences between the film and well known events.

Kidman's casting as a brain surgeon was also panned by some critics; as a stunning 23-year-old who looked that age or younger, she looked completely implausible as a doctor, let alone a surgeon (who typically do not begin to practice until their thirties). Her casting probably had a considerable amount to do with Cruise's real-life interest in her - they married soon after.

Cole Trickle is chosen to drive by a crew chief, however Cole's lack of knowledge about cars leads to many bad finishes. Following Coles confession the team gets better and wins a race gaining them a Mellow Yellow sponsor. Then:

  • Cole and his rival get involved in a massive wreck, sending both to the hospital.
  • Cole meets with his brain sergeon and their relationship grows. Cole is replaced by a cocky young driver but not in his car.
  • Cole is able to race again but his rival needs brain surgery therefore can not race anymore.
  • Cole races again but is intimidated by his teammate which reaches a boiling point when the teammate causes Cole to get a flat tire and the wins the race. Cole repairs his tires and rams his teammate during his victory lap. The owner is furious and fires Cole's whole team.
  • Cole's former rival needs to fund his family but his former sponser is unwilling to pay if his car is not in the Daytona 500. Cole agrees.
  • On race day, Cole's crew chief sees the car has a bad engine and asks his former owner to borrow one. During the race Cole engine goes bad but a bump from his former teammate restores it but damages the transmission. They go into the pits fix the transmission but only on a high gear. So the former owner tells his pit crew to help get the car started. Cole drafts the ex-teammate (described earlier in the movie) and wins the race. Cole and his crew chief race to victory lane!

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