If I didn't know any better, I would have sworn that "Need For Speed" was made in the '80s. It takes basically every trope from that classic period of action movies and updates them for a modern audience. Let's face it: those movies were the best.
So how exactly does "Need For Speed" go about creating the '80s feel in a modern day actioner? Here are eight ways it emulates the classics (be warned: some spoilers ahead).
1. Good Guy Falls For Brilliant Woman He Misjudged
Also Seen In: "Top Gun," "Road House"
When "Need For Speed" hero Tobey Marshall (Aaron Paul) meets Julia, he thinks she's just a pretty face. His friend Little Pete (yes, that's his name) does a bunch of mansplainin' about cars to her, and she plays along before dropping some major car knowledge on Pete and Tobey. From that point on, we know Tobey and she will get together by the end.
'80s movies featured strong, smart women with whom our hero gets off to a bad start, only to fall in love anyway. The classic example is Kelly McGillis in "Top Gun," who was many a kid's first crush. Reminder, Hollywood: we like our women smart.
2. Bad Guy Kills Good Guy's Best Friend, Good Guy Swears Vengeance
Also Seen In: "Beverly Hills Cop," "Rocky III," "Rocky IV," "Kickboxer" (paralysis, not death)
Poor Little Pete. He was so innocent, so full of dreams and wonder ... you know within a few minutes he's not long for the world.
'80s action movies were also at their core vengeance movies: Drago kills Apollo Creed in "Rocky IV" ("If he dies, he dies") and Axel Foley's best friend is killed by the bad guy's cronies in "Beverly Hills Cop." These unfortunate characters are basically there only to spur on the main character to fulfill his destiny (in this case, to win an underground street race).
3. Bad Guy Frames Good Guy For Murder
Also Seen In: "The Running Man," "Lock Up," "Tango And Cash"
Technically, this one starts with "The Count Of Monte Cristo," but the '80s loved their wrongfully accused heros, since clearing your name gives you even more impetus to wreak bloody vengeance on your enemies. Tobey Marshall joins that list of heros when, after Little Pete dies, bad guy Dino Brewster (Dominic Cooper) leaves Tobey to take the blame, and Tobey has to serve two years in prison and live with the stigma of having killed his best friend.
4. Epic Guitars
Also Heard In: John Carpenter Movies, "Top Gun," Pretty Much Everything
You don't have to watch an '80s movie to know how 80s it is, you just have to listen. The soundtracks are as distinctive as the movies themselves, featuring soulful guitar ballads and roaring, hard-rock action music. "Need For Speed" has that in spades, as the score by Nathan Furst is bold, heroic, and full of guitars that hearken back to a bygone era.
5. The Rag-Tag Crew
Also Seen In: "Toy Soldiers," "Real Genius," "Predator," "Aliens," "Red Dawn," "Ghostbusters," "The Goonies"
Nothing says '80s movies like camaraderie, especially multi-racial camaraderie. "Need For Speed" delivers on that, too. Tobey's entourage consists of one African-American, two Latinos, and a young white kid, and, like the best crews, they'll do anything for their leader.
6. Ridiculously Dangerous Sports
Also Seen In: "Bloodsport," "Kickboxer," "The Running Man"
The '80s were the height of insane sporting events that more often than not led to serious injury or death. "Need For Speed" substitutes underground racing for some of the 80s competitions, ramps up the fiery destruction, and calls it a day. I wouldn't be caught dead racing cars like that, but it still looks more fun than anything.
7. Female Lead Hurt/Kidnapped Before Final Showdown
Also Seen In: "Rocky II" (1979, but might as well be '80s), "Kickboxer," "Tango and Cash," "Lethal Weapon," "Die Hard," "The Running Man," "Raiders Of The Lost Ark," "Indiana Jones And The Temple Of Doom"
This is one of the big ones. Because our hero's friend's death and clearing his name just isn't enough motivation, '80s movies made damn sure you were all-in rooting for him before the end. Julia meets with similar physical distress late in "Need For Speed," giving Tobey plenty of motivation (and a nice pre-race liplock for his troubles). Movie villains, stop hurting the hero's girl. It's just going to make him angry.
8. Bad Guy Dates Good Guy's Girl/Ex-Girl
Also Seen In: "The Princess Bride," "Labyrinth," "The Karate Kid," Pretty Much Every Bond Movie
Call it the Olive Oyl syndrome. It's never enough that the bad guy's probably killed our hero's friend and otherwise ruined his life: he has to take the hero's girl, too. Dino Brewster in "Need For Speed" is no different, but does his '80s counterparts one better: he goes out with the sister of the kid whose death he caused. Oh, I forgot, the sister used to go out with Tobey. That's cold. That's awesomely '80s.