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Film / Rush (2013)

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Egos clash at 200mph

James Hunt and Niki Lauda, about each other.

Rush is a 2013 biographical sports drama film directed by Ron Howard, starring Chris Hemsworth, Daniel Brühl, Olivia Wilde, and Alexandra Maria Lara.

The film depicts the real-life Formula One rivalry of British playboy James Hunt (Hemsworth) and Austrian precision driver Niki Lauda (Bruhl), culminating in their 1976 duel for the world championship, which is widely regarded as the most dramatic season in motorsports history.

The screenplay was written by Peter Morgan, while Hans Zimmer composed the score. The real-life Niki Lauda acted as a consultant for both Morgan and Brühl.

This movie provides examples of:

  • Actually Pretty Funny:
    • Subverted during the press conference scene. Niki initially chuckles when a reporter suggests that his wife might leave him because of his disfigurement, but when the reporter persists, Niki stops laughing very quickly.
    • Played straight towards the end when James quips that the accident actually made Niki look better. Niki is visibly grinning with amusement even as he flips James off.
  • Age Lift: Lord Hesketh is portrayed as a middle-aged man in the film, but he would actually be 20 years old at the beginning of the film, three years younger than his sponsored driver James Hunt.
  • The Alleged Car: Marlene's car, which she claims to have been given an expensive repair job only for it to stall in the middle of the road.
  • All Girls Want Bad Boys: Suzy Hunt and the rest of groupies who surrounded James Hunt.
  • All Work vs. All Play: Niki Lauda (all work) vs James Hunt (all play).
  • Always Someone Better: James Hunt and, to a certain extent, Niki Lauda, felt that about each other.
  • Animal Motifs: Hunt frequently compares Lauda to a rat. Lauda takes it as a compliment because rats are smart, enduring creatures.
  • Anyone Can Die: With an average of 2 deaths a year, most drivers learned to live with the thought that the current race could be their last. Just to drive the point home we see François Cevert get decapitated (in real life, he was nearly bisected by the guard rail) at the Watkins Glen race, and another driver get his leg hideously fractured at the Nürburgring the day before Lauda himself is almost killed.
  • Artistic License – History:
    • Hunt and Lauda were at worst friendly enemies and in their Formula 3 days actually shared an apartment together. Likewise, Lauda's comments at the end of the film that he last saw Hunt "at the side of the road with a flat tire on his bicycle" neglect to mention that at the time Hunt was trying his hand at professional cycling, which he did fairly well at for a few years. And something excised completely was that Niki was quite the womanizer himself, though nowhere near James's reputation.
    • A more minor example: a driver was beheaded by a crash barrier at Watkins Glen, as depicted in the film, but that was Helmuth Koinigg in 1974. François Cevert, similarly, did die at Watkins Glen in 1973, but at a different corner than that depicted in the film, and he wasn't beheaded (though he was nearly bisected).
    • James never punched any reporters but he did punch a fellow driver in F3 after a crash, and a track marshal in 1977 (after the events of the film) after his team-mate had crashed him off. And both those punches were more out of nerves and reflex than anger, as he was quick to apologize and see if the punchees were okay.
    • Look at the finishing order of the Japanese Grand Prix. The film shows Patrick Depailler, Hunt, Clay Regazzoni, and Jacques Laffite as the drivers finishing from second to fifth respectively. Alan Jones, the actual fourth place finisher, isn't included in the list presumably because he drove for Surtees at the time, which was less known than the likes of McLaren (Hunt), Ferrari (Regazzoni), Tyrrell (Depailler), and Ligier (Laffite). Especially considering that the McLaren and Ferrari are the two protagonists, Tyrrell had the six-wheeler, and Ligier was making their Grand Prix debut that season.
    • James did injure his hand on a broken gear lever but the incident took place in the 1974 BRDC International Trophy race at Silverstone, not in the Japanese Grand Prix.
    • A rather minor change in the grand scheme of things: the real life Niki has blue eyes. Presumably they were changed to brown to further the contrast between him and the also blue eyed James, or to make it easier on the naturally brown-eyed Daniel Brühl, who already had to wear prosthetics to emulate Niki's ratlike face and later his burns; contacts would have likely just been too much.
    • Niki Lauda is wearing coveralls with the STP logo in a scene set in 1973, but he drove for the Marlboro-sponsored BRM team that year. Lauda drove for the March team, sponsored by STP, the previous year.
  • Autobiographical Role: Simon Taylor is the BBC commentator in the film. Taylor actually called F1 races for BBC Radio, beginning in...1976! Taylor also helped with editing the film, and put together dialogue for commentators who were calling the races in other languages.
  • Awesome by Analysis: While riding in Marlene's car, Niki reels off an impressive laundry list of mechanical problems that he claims he sensed using his ass. That's right, ladies and gentlemen, Niki Lauda performed a Sherlock Scan with his butt.
  • Badass Driver: The film basically charts the two biggest drivers of the 1976, characterizing them as titans of their field.
  • Balls of Steel: James Hunt was once asked what he had that made him so quick. His answer: "Big balls". Truth in Television as he really did give that answer much to the reporter's surprise.
  • Big Fancy House: Easton Neston, Lord Hesketh's country house. Also, the Laudas' family home in Vienna, Austria.
  • Bittersweet Ending: The movie ends with Niki watching James walk away, while a voiceover of him discusses James's later life and death at the early age of 45. Interspliced is footage and pictures of the real James and Niki, the final ones being one of James's final pictures and one of present day Niki.
  • Blatant Lies:
    • Lauda claims that he gets no thrill out of racing and would quit the sport the moment a more profitable opportunity presented itself. However, we've already seen him spurn his father's offer to include him in the family's profitable business to pursue racing instead. Lauda just doesn't want to admit that he has an emotional attachment to something.
    • At the Italian Grand Prix, James is visibly shocked by Niki's burn scars, but tries to say it's not that bad when Niki notices this. Niki replies that seeing James's reaction is proof that he'll spend the rest of his life with a face that frightens people.
  • Blood Sport: Niki states that there is a 20% chance of death every race, a bit of an exaggeration, but still a very dangerous sport and we see graphic instances of death and serious injury during the movie. Truth in Television as the 1970’s was a particularly dangerous time due to the addition of wings to cars adding downforce allowing for much faster speeds, especially in turns. Tracks and safety standards did not keep up with the increase in speed and in fact 12 FI drivers were killed during the decade. While safety standards have been increased considerably since the events of the film and deaths are becoming less common, they are certainly not gone, with top drivers across many series like Ayrton Senna, Dale Earnhardt, Dan Wheldon, and Scott Kalitta dying in crashes since standards were raised.
  • Blue Oni, Red Oni: The fundamental difference between Lauda and Hunt. Lauda is the Blue Oni: cold, calculating, methodical, only interested in winning and results, with no patience for pleasure or sentiment. Hunt is the Red Oni: passionate, charismatic, flighty, irresponsible and irreverent, relying more on natural talent than hard work. Their racing overalls were even properly colored in the first part of the movie, until Niki moved to Ferrari.
  • Blunt "Yes": When James tells Niki that he feels responsible for the accident that left the latter's face disfigured, Niki doesn't hesitate to agree.
  • Book Ends: The movie starts and ends with Niki Flipping the Bird to James. At the beginning, Niki is doing it in anger after James calls him a chicken in Formula Three. By the end, it could almost be called affectionate, because by then they're both F1 champions and equals. James had joked that the accident made Niki look better and Niki's grinning as he flips him off. Niki Lauda's narration also open the film (with a discussion of how dangerous F1 in The '70s was) and close it (with a brief biography of Hunt's post-F1 life and death).
  • Brilliant, but Lazy: James Hunt, who, after winning the 1976 Championship, decided that was good enough for him, retiring from the sport only three years later.
  • Break the Badass: Minor example with Hunt after Lauda's crash.
  • Brutal Honesty: Niki will speak his mind, no matter what and no matter who is present. This was Truth in Television too: a favorite story of Daniel Brühl's is when he and Niki decided to meet, Niki told him to just bring hand luggage so 'if they didn't like each other he could piss off right away'. (In case you're wondering, Daniel spent so long in Vienna he ended up buying more clothes.)
  • The Cameo:
    • The real Alastair Caldwell, former Team Manager of McLaren, shows up during the final Press Conference at the Japanese GP. He's the moustached man sitting behind the drivers.
    • Jochen Mass played himself, and can be seen walking past Niki Lauda's and James Hunt's stuntmen during the German GP scene. This led to a funny moment during the filming when the PA asked his real name for the end-of-movie credit roll and didn't believe it was Mass himself.
  • Car Porn: As befitting a racing movie, viewers are treated to numerous closeups of the cars, as well as shots of engine internals and other mechanical bits. Lampshaded by Lord Hesketh.
    Lord Hesketh: Nursie, men love women. But even more than that, men love cars.
  • The Casanova: James Hunt.
  • Cassandra Truth: Niki is fully aware of how dangerous Nürburgring is and tries to convince the rest of the drivers to cancel the race due to bad conditions, but is ignored mostly through his own personality and James's swaying of the room.
  • Casting Gag: This is the second time Natalie Dormer (Nurse Gemma) has had a small but memorable role where she got to make out with an Avengers cast member (the first being with Chris Evans in Captain America: The First Avenger).
  • Character Development: Niki Lauda had the most notable one, going from being an emotionless driver who thought happiness was a weakness to re-evaluating his life after his nearly fatal crash at Nürburgring, becoming a little mellower and friendlier, especially towards James.
  • The Charmer: Hunt.
  • Chick Magnet: James Hunt, who allegedly slept with over 5000 women in his lifetime.
  • Character Tics: James flicks the lid of his zippo lighter and jiggles his foot whenever he's nervy. He's seen doing so on the plane when his wife leaves him; next doing this under the table while he's presenting a cool face in the press conference before Fuji.
  • Cool Car:
    • Everything on the grid, especially the Ferrari, the McLaren and the six-wheeled Tyrrell.
    • Played with in James's choice of car off the track: a Mini Cooper. They might look humble, as befitting a driver with nothing to prove, but anyone whose ever driven one knows how fast and fun to drive they are.
  • Cluster F-Bomb: Alastair Caldwell was a bit irritated when Emerson Fittipaldi leaves the team.
  • Composite Character: The film combines the deaths of Francois Cevert at Watkins Glen in 1973, and Helmuth Koinigg at the same track a year later. It's Cevert who dies and the remains of the car is a blue liveried Tyrrell, but the location and manner of his death are those of Koinigg.
  • Country Matters: "The name is 'Hunt'! It rhymes with 'cunt'! A word that happens to describe you perfectly!"
  • Crazy Jealous Guy:
    • The film begins with James entering a hospital after being hit in the ribs with a crowbar by a jealous husband.
    • There's a definite undercurrent of jealously from James himself when his wife leaves him for Richard Burton. He tries to be calm and remain civil but he can't help but get a jab or two in regarding Burton's own reputation.
  • Darkest Hour:
    • For James, it sure seemed like it when Hesketh folded, leaving him without a drive, and his marriage was beginning to crumble. Then Emerson Fittipaldi leaves McLaren to start his own team and James talks his way into getting the empty seat over Jacky Ickx.
    • For Niki, of course, it was his Nürburgring crash.
  • Defeat Means Friendship / Defeat Means Respect: Post 1976 Niki to James.
  • Defrosting Ice Queen: A genderflipped version. Niki warms up to Marlene and impresses her during their first meeting despite telling James that he doesn't bother with getting people to like him.
  • Determinator:
    • Niki Lauda, who, after having the Last Rites administered and with extensive burns to his face and scalp, not to mention severe lung damage, did everything in his power to get back in his car in time for the Italian GP, finishing it in 4th place, all of that in only 42 days.
    • James as well, during the 1976 season - plagued by persistent mechanical problems that caused him to not finish several races, he kept on plugging away until he was near the top of the standings by the final race of the season.
  • Deliberate Values Dissonance: With regulations and protocols today, James certainly wouldn't have gotten away with drinking champagne or smoking a joint before the race, not even in lesser formulae.
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?: The sex scene between Hunt and the air stewardess cuts right to a piston pumping in an engine.
  • Down to the Last Play: With Lauda withdrawing from the race, James Hunt needs to finish fourth or betternote  in the last F1 race of the season to be world champion. After having a tire problem late in the race and taking a pit stop which dropped him to fifth, he finishes third on the last lap of the race to beat Lauda by a single point and becomes world champion.
  • Drives Like Crazy: Hunt The Shunt. He's a Badass Driver but he also seems to be somewhat lacking in the self-preservation department. By his own admission he was willing to die to beat Lauda.
  • Drowning My Sorrows: One of Hunt's favorite habits.
  • Elopement: Niki and Marlene, in direct contrast to James and Suzy's very public, showy wedding.
  • Embarrassing Nickname: James Hunt used to be called Hunt the Shunt; and Niki Lauda was called The Rat. Niki doesn't really mind being called a rat; sure they're ugly, but they're also intelligent. In real life, Lauda actually had a rat emblem on his helmet because of this. (And later a cartoon rat was the mascot for his airline.)
  • Emotionally Tongue-Tied: Niki is fully aware of his own love-related skills (or lack thereof), which he readily admits to Marlene.
    Marlene: Mein Gott, ein poet.
  • Establishing Character Moment: In James Hunt's first appearance, he's been fighting with a jealous husband, whereas in Niki Lauda's, he seems to have been meticulously inspecting the track since five o'clock in the morning.
  • Expy: The unnamed British F1 commentator we hear throughout the film is quite clearly meant to be Murray Walker, the voice of Formula 1 for about half a century.
  • Eye Cam: A POV shot from Lauda as he looks up from his hospital bed after the accident.
  • Fanservice: Quite a few male and female characters are shown naked or half-naked. If you're searching for skin, you won't be disappointed.
  • Facial Horror: Niki was horribly burned in his crash and they were not afraid to show it. Just compare Brühl's makeup job to Lauda's real burns.
  • Flipping the Bird: Serve as Book Ends for the film.
  • Foregone Conclusion: Anyone who's familiar with F1 will know that James Hunt will finish third during the 1976 Japanese Grand Prix, enough to pip Niki Lauda to the title by a single point, and will retire in 1979, while Lauda will likewise retire later in the season due to his burn injuries (but that he will briefly return to F1 in 1984 and 1985, winning another championship in the former year, by which time Hunt will be a broadcaster).
  • Foreshadowing: The reflection of the fire in the window next to Niki's face while he's considering his mortality to Marlene.
  • Fourth-Date Marriage: Between James and Suzy. Doesn't work out though.
  • Friendly Enemy: Hunt and Lauda hate each other, but their competition spurs them to be the best at their field and they eventually come to respect each other as rivals. This is exaggerated from the truth for dramatic effect, as Hunt and Lauda in real life were always on friendly terms and even lived as roommates at one point.
  • Genius Ditz: James Hunt indulged in Obfuscating Stupidity when, in truth, he was A LOT smarter than most people gave him credit for.
  • Gilligan Cut: Marlene, after Niki gives a Long List of things wrong with her car, indignantly says that the car was just serviced and is in "perfect condition". Cut to the inevitable smoking car by the side of the road.
  • Good-Times Montage: Wine, women, quiz shows, making cheesy adverts, all the glitz and glamour after James Hunt wins the 1976 championship.
  • Grey-and-Grey Morality: The movie goes out of its way to not pit either James or Niki as the 'hero' or the 'villain' in the story. Neither are bad people per se, just two very different people with two different and equally valid lifestyles and driving styles.
  • Handicapped Badass: Niki Lauda, after the infamous Nürburgring accident, returned to race in the Italian GP with his wounds still bleeding.
  • Happily Married: Subverted with James Hunt and Suzy Miller. Played straight with Niki Lauda and Marlene. Just don't read Niki's Wikipedia page regarding that. On a happier note, Niki and Marlene never stopped caring for each other, and despite Niki remarrying, he and Marlene still kept in touch and even got together occasionally for dinner.
  • Heroes Gone Fishing: James is seen early on to keep budgerigars. The trope is also referenced by James at the end when he says to Niki, "Some of life has to be for pleasure. What's the point of having a million cups and medals and planes if you don't have any fun? How is that winning?"
  • Hero of Another Story:
    • We only see glimpses of the famous six-wheeled Tyrell car that was unveiled during the 1976 season. It ultimately came in third behind the two protagonists.
    • There are a number of big names mentioned during the film, some of them motorsports legends in their own right such as Emerson Fittipaldi, Jody Scheckter, and Mario Andretti. Here, they're all supporting cast at best and most of them don't even get speaking parts. Fittipaldi does at least get to make an impact on the plot, his departure from McLaren leaves a seat open for Hunt after Hesketh folds.
    • Speaking of Fittipaldi, he makes two wordless blink-and-you'll-miss appearances in the movie. One during the drivers meeting pre-German Grand Prix, and another while helping Niki Lauda out during the near-fatal crash at the same race. Fittipaldi is never mentioned as a character in the credits, but veteran Formula One fans will easily recognise his Copersucar suit with rainbow coloured stripes and his signature red and blue helmet.
  • Heroic Second Wind: In the Italian Grand Prix, Niki starts poorly with his vision impaired as the commentators wonder if he's a danger on the track. Then there's a crash between the #34 March of Hans-Joachim Stuck and the #5 Lotus of Mario Andretti note in front of him, he somehow evades the wreckage, his vision suddenly clears and he's back to his old skill.
  • Hitchhiker's Leg: Marlene invokes this in order to get a ride after her car breaks down - "This is Italy, after all." Subverted because the two guys who stop turn out to be huge Team Ferrari/Niki Lauda fanboys and ignore her completely!
  • Hospital Hottie: Gemma.
  • How We Got Here: The movie starts with the beginning of the Nürburgring race before going back six years.
  • Hypocrite: The person who accuses Niki of wanting to cancel the Nürburgring race out of fear never owns up to the statement.
  • If My Calculations Are Correct: Niki talks about the "percentage of risk" quite a bit. According to him, there's a 20% chance of death in a race under normal conditions, which is acceptable. At Nürburgring it's over that, which is unacceptable. There's also no point in increasing the percentage by speeding on regular roads if he's not getting paid (or unless Marlene asks him to).
  • Impairment Shot: The camera blurs when Niki is in the hospital, looking at Marlene while a priest gives him last rites, just before he blacks out. It's repeated at the Italian Grand Prix, but as a prelude to his Heroic Second Wind.
  • In Medias Res: The film starts on the grid of the infamous Nürburgring race with Lauda narrating that he'll be remembered for what's about to happen, then the film cuts to 6 years earlier and Hunt and Lauda's first encounter on a track.
  • Instant Seduction: James with Nurse Gemma and later an air stewardess.
  • Insufferable Genius: Niki Lauda is madly talented, knows it and will not hesitate to let everyone else know.
  • Insult Backfire: Lauda takes it as a compliment when Hunt calls him a rat.
  • I Regret Nothing: Niki says he has no regrets after withdrawing from the Japanese Grand Prix because it wasn't safe.
  • Ironic Echo: At the Nürburgring, when Niki calls for the race to be cancelled on account of the treacherous rain, James sways everyone to race anyway by suggesting Niki's only doing it to preserve his chances of retaining the title. Cue Fuji, and worse rain, and James is the one calling for the race to be cancelled, even though doing so automatically gives the title to Niki. Not that it mattered, both races went on. (In real life James actually did try to withdraw. Alastair literally threatened to break James's neck if he got out of the car.)
  • It's All My Fault: James admits to Niki that it's his fault that the Nürburgring incident happened due to him swaying the room. Niki, of course, agrees.
  • Jammed Seatbelts: Niki is seen struggling with the release on his five-point harness as his car is in flames around him. Undoubtedly his difficulty with it is due to the fact that his face is on fire and he's trying not to breathe superheated toxic fumes. The drivers who rescue him manage to pop the release once they are able to get through the flames.
  • Jerkass: The reporter who asks Niki if his marriage could really last after his facial disfigurement. James and Niki also had their moments, though they prefer the term 'asshole'.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold:
    • James Hunt came across as an asshole, but beneath that hedonistic façade there was a genuinely decent guy. Shown especially after Niki Lauda's post-accident press conference.
    • Goes for Niki Lauda as well, though he mostly shows his heart of gold side in the closing narration.
  • Jumped at the Call: James, quite literally, when he gets a call from his brother telling him that there's something going on at McLaren.
  • Kick The Son Of A Bitch: Hunt beating the shit out of the reporter who asks Niki if his marriage will survive after his facial disfigurement.
  • Ladykiller in Love: Averted with James, who marries Suzy after knowing her for a matter of weeks but seemingly couldn't care less when she leaves him. In real life he even befriended the man she left him for.
  • Meet Cute: Niki and Marlene's first meeting starts with Niki picking up all the faults in her car with his butt, and ends in an epic joyride in an Alfa.
  • Mile-High Club: For James (with a Sexy Stewardess), though it's less for fanservice and more for showing his growing restlessness and frustration.
  • Mood Whiplash: Exuberant pre-race festivities quickly turn grim when a racernote  is horrifically decapitated during a lap.
  • My God, What Have I Done?: Hunt feels responsible for Lauda's accident. Lauda tells him bluntly that he blames him too, but that he also credits his fast recovery to Hunt.
  • The Name Is Bond, James Bond: Hunt always introduces himself as "Hunt, James Hunt".
  • Nice Guy: Clay Regazzoni, who went as far as recommending Niki Lauda, who was his team mate in BRM, to Enzo Ferrari himself, getting him a drive in the Scuderia. Not to mention cautioning Lauda against humiliating himself by taking James Hunt's sloppy seconds.
  • No Antagonist: Hunt and Lauda are both Jerk with a Heart of Gold types, but neither is presented as evil. The closest thing the film has to an antagonist is the weather.
  • No Holds Barred Beat Down: James administers one to a reporter who is ill-advised enough to rudely ask Niki if Marlene could possibly go on loving him after his face was disfigured in the Nürburgring crash.
    Hunt (to the badly-beaten reporter): "Now go home to your wife and ask her how you look. Prick."
  • Nobody Calls Me "Chicken"!: The situation arises when one racer accuses Niki of wanting to cancel the Nürburgring race out of fear. Niki's pride kicks in and he agrees to compete.
  • No OSHA Compliance: As has been the state of Formula One racing in the Seventies. At least two drivers were killed in crashes or other such accidents per year, leading racers to more or less accept the fact that their next race could be their last. Niki's horrific accident at Nürburgring's Nordschleife course turned out to be the final straw for its Formula One history, and the full circuit has not hosted an F1 event since then. The GP-Strecke was constructed with safety in mind.note 
  • Not So Above It All: Niki insists that every risk he takes is carefully calculated and he would never ever do anything where the pay-off doesn't outweigh the risk, and yet he allows himself to be goaded into taking risks that he himself considered to be unacceptable twice during the course of the movie. The first is when he's driving with Marlene through the Italian countryside, and the second is at the Nürburgring when he wants to have the race abandoned due to the conditions (see Nobody Calls Me "Chicken"!, above).
  • Off with His Head!: Happens to Francois Cevert at the 1973 US Grand Prix at Watkins Glen. note 
  • Precision F-Strike: Delivered by Lauda to an obnoxious reporter who questions his wife's love for him after his disfigurement.
    Lauda: "Fuck you. Press conference over!" (leaves the room)
  • Prefers Going Barefoot: James Hunt, whom we see barefoot at many times when most other people would be wearing shoes.
  • Rated M for Manly: Racing 800kg 450hp cars at 200+kph during insanely dangerous driving conditions - oh, hell yes! Doubly so during the last race, when James Hunt's gearlever snaps off - and he bloodies his hands shifting.
  • Real Men Wear Pink:
    • Yes, Hesketh Racing really did use teddy bears as their emblem.
    • And James Hunt really did keep budgerigars.
  • Red Shirt: The Francois Cevert/Helmuth Koinigg Composite Character's only appearance the film is sans-head to demonstrate that Anyone Can Die. An unnamed driver is also carted away from the Nürburgring with horrific leg injuries the day before the race.
  • Replacement Scrappy: In-Universe, Niki made it clear from his tone that he was not pleased that Ferrari hired Carlos Reutemann to fill his seat-before he even got to the hospital! To be fair, real-life Niki did have a problem with Reutemann, as Reutemann's recruitment was a big factor in causing Niki to quit Ferrari at the end of the 1977 season.
  • Rich Bitch: Male version. Hunt makes his initial contempt for Lauda clear, seeing him as a rich kid who has to buy his way into racing. Lauda promptly shows him that rich does not equal untalented.
  • Riches to Rags: There's nothing quite like setting up an F1 team without any help from sponsors for wiping out a family fortune, as Lord Hesketh finds out to his dismay.
  • The Rival: James Hunt and Niki Lauda saw each other as that.
  • Rules Lawyer: Niki plays this card with his one of his early Formula 1 races with James by accusing the British racer's car of being of illegal width. The judges examine it and agree, which disqualifies James's win and handicaps him for a number of races with mechanical failures as his crew struggles to modify the car to fit it within regulations even though the ruling was later overturned.
  • Running Gag: Niki's progress has a way of ruining special occasions for James.
    • His winning F3 Driver of the Year is spoiled when he finds out Lauda has just bought his way into Formula 1.
    • His wedding celebrations are soured with the news that Lauda has managed to land a drive at Ferrarinote .
    • His good mood at the 1975 season wrap party is squashed when Niki himself turns up to gloat that he became the world champion.
  • Scenery Porn:
    • There's a shot of the beautiful Italian landscape when Marlene's car breaks down.
    • The expansive forests of the Green Hell also count.
  • Screw This, I'm Outta Here:
    • Niki pulls two of these after his accident. After the rude British journalist offends Niki at the press conference by asking how his marriage can survive as a result of his injuries, Niki insults the journalist and angrily walks out.
    • At the final race in Fuji, Niki pulls another one after only one lap, not wanting to risk his life again because it's not safe in the pouring rain.
  • Second Place Is for Winners: Both of the racers experience this trope. Niki for placing an impressive 4th in a race so soon after being so seriously injured and disfigured after a major car crash and James for placing 3rd at Fuji, which is good enough to win the racing championship. Furthermore, Niki may have lost the title to James, but he's alive to try again, and to him that was more important.
  • The '70s: Including gratuitous '70s Hair, Porn Stache, and huge fur coats.
  • Sherlock Scan: As seen under the Awesome by Analysis example, Niki pulls off one with his backside and is able to rattle off a series of mechnical problems with Marlene's car as he's driving it, such as a loose fan belt, worn rear brakes, and a front right tyre that's too soft, explaining why the car is weaving about. Shortly after, it's broken down.
  • Shower of Love: James and the nurse.
  • Shown Their Work: Barring the historical inaccuracies made for dramatic effect, the film largely got things right which was part of its appeal with audiences. The infamous Nürburgring crash was practically a shot-for-shot recreation of what transpired in real life, and was shot at the same spot where the accident took place.
  • Slo-Mo Big Air: A subversion in that just before Niki's disastrous crash, his car gets a split second of air time; instead of being thrilling, it is instead an ominous sign considering the very point of the wings and fins on Formula 1 cars is to prevent that kind of lofting, meaning the car is obviously not performing correctly.
  • Sound-Effect Bleep: The heavy feedback through the PA system sort of covers up James's Country Matters joke (more so on the DVD version).
  • Start My Own: How Hesketh gets Hunt into Formula 1. He figured that rather than build up to it via Formula 2 he'd frogleap that step and set up as a Formula 1 team because the economics of the two sports aren't so different. It turns out he's dead wrong about the economics of F1 compared to F2 and ends up going bankrupt.
  • The Stoic: Niki Lauda rarely smiles. In fact, he only seems to show emotions when he is around James Hunt and, perhaps, his wife Marlene.
  • Stress Vomit: James throws up before every race. We are treated to shots of several of these.
  • Tactful Translation: An extended version of the scene in which Niki declares his Ferrari "a shitbox" and rattles off numerous faults to a protesting mechanic has the mechanic then report to Enzo Ferrari (in Italian) that Niki has proclaimed the car "a masterpiece" but has suggested "one or two minor refinements."
  • The Team Benefactor: Lord Alexander Hesketh financed James Hunt's first and costly endeavours in Formula One, because it amused him.
  • Technician Versus Performer: Niki (Technician) vs. James (Performer). Interestingly, the film does not favour the one over the other - both men are presented as very talented, each in his own way.
  • That One Level: In-Universe, the Nürburgring (to be specific the Nordschleife circuit where the race was held). Between it being a Marathon Level (the lap record is 7 minutes and technically Niki has gone under that in a test session, hence him saying he has the record) and long stretches where it's difficult to impossible to have marshals nearby or medical cars to get there easily, it was little wonder Niki tried to boycott the race. After Niki's accident the Nürburgring didn't hold a Formula One race for eight years, and when it did it was on the shorter and safer Strecke circuit.
  • Took a Level in Badass: Niki Lauda after his accident. And it happened in real life, too!
  • Trailers Always Spoil: Every trailer includes Niki Lauda's infamous accident, though the details regarding it have been spoilered out here for your convenience.
  • Underwater Kiss: Niki and Marlene get one during their honeymoon.
  • Very Loosely Based on a True Story: Actually, the movie's pretty damn accurate on some things, but the fact that some things have been changed for the sake of narrative (such as the example on Friendly Enemy) and there are a couple of things made from whole cloth (such as the incident with James and the reporter) that keep it from being a Dramatization instead. It certainly helped that the real Lauda vetted the process and on the whole approves of the movie, and wishes Hunt had lived to see it. (He did joke that he had gotten girls too, though.)
  • Victorious Loser: Niki may have lost the title to James, but he's alive to try again, and after the Nürburgring, that was more important to him. Besides, he'd go on to win two more titles, so if anything it's a setback, not a loss.
  • Vitriolic Best Buds: James's and Niki's relationship has evolved into something like this by the end of the film.
  • Worthy Opponent: Niki pretty much declares James as his in his final voiceover.
  • Wham Episode: Formula One fans knew it was coming but for the average moviegoer there are two: Niki's accident and Niki withdrawing from the Japanese Grand Prix. Then again, considering these were Wham Episodes when it happened in Real Life, it evens out for the F1 fans, at least those alive during the 1976 season.
  • Wham Line: Likewise, F1 fans knew it was coming, but non-fans wouldn't, at the Italian Grand Prix:
    Alastair: Jesus, it's Niki!
    James: What about him?
    Alastair: He's here!
    James: What?
    Alastair: He's racing.