Touchstone and Beyond: A History of Disney’s “Need for Speed”

This week a look back at a film from Touchstone Pictures’ last half of life when they were a distributor instead of a producer. It’s time to strap yourselves in for Need for Speed.


Tobey Marshall is a former race car driver who has a problem. His racing days are close to being over, and his father’s garage is about to be foreclosed on. When a race with Dino could solve his financial problems, the world turns upside down, as his friend Little Pete is killed by Dino, and Tobey goes to jail taking the blame for the death of his friend.

Released from the slammer, Tobey sets in motion a plan to avenge the death of Little Pete. With Finn, Benny, and the support of Julia, Tobey is angling to challenge Dino, prove his innocence and win the race. All Tobey must do is get across the country to California in time for the once in a lifetime DeLeon Race.

High Praise

Aaron Paul is perfect as Tobey. His skill is evident as Paul makes Tobey a fully fleshed out likable character. Tobey could easily be a one-dimensional character with little growth or likeability, but Aaron Paul makes us root for Tobey.

The car stunt work is incredible. Need for Speed may suffer because of comparisons to another fast and furious car themed blockbuster, but both franchises are vastly different. The stunt work is one of a kind in Need for Speed.

Only Michael Keaton has the power and grace to make a character like Monarch likable.

What Were They Thinking

The film suffers because everyone sees Need for Speed as The Fast and the Furious lite. I don’t agree with that, but I can see how others may.

The movie is far too long. I believe they could have started the film with Tobey getting released from prison and shown the race with Dino and Little Pete in flashback mode.

Backlot Knowledge

  • The movie was nominated for an MTV Movie Award for Best Action Sequence.
  • The movie was nominated for multiple awards for the stunt sequences.
  • Aaron Paul landed the lead role after executive producer Steven Spielberg binge watched Breaking Bad.
  • The song in the last scene of the film was written and performed by Kid Cudi.
  • The film used many practical effects with the car stunts.
  • Apparently, the budget was cut six weeks prior to shooting, which forced the production to be reduced from 80 days to 67 days.
  • Riley Keough auditioned for the role of Julia.
  • The movie is based on the massively successful video game series Need for Speed.
  • The finale race in the movie is taken right from the 1997 Need for Speed II video game.
  • The film finished in third place on its opening weekend in North America.

Critical Response

{Snub-Skip this Film, Overexposed-Desperate for Something to Watch, Money Shot-A Perfect Film For Any Device, Magic Hour– You Must Watch This Film on a Big Screen, Award Worthy– This Film is Cinema.}

I like Need for Speed. The movie itself is very unpretentious as it allows Tobey to be developed as the film progresses at a nice pace, which the film may have missed out on had someone else besides Aaron Paul had been cast in the lead role.

The chase scenes are exciting, the lead actor is great, the story is mid-level range. Stunts shine in the movie, and while the film may be a little bit long, the ending is quite enjoyable.

Need for Speed gets a Money Shot award. It’s not a movie that needs to be sat through in one showing, and you can certainly enjoy it on any device, much like the game series it is based on.

Call Sheet

  • Aaron Paul as Tobey Marshall
  • Dominic Cooper as Dino Brewster
  • Imogene Poots as Julia Maddon
  • Kid Cudi as Benny
  • Rami Malek as Finn
  • Harrison Gilbertson as Little Pete
  • Dakota Johnson as Anita
  • Michael Keaton as Monarch

Productions Team

Directed by Scott Waugh

Produced by DreamWorks Pictures / Reliance Entertainment / Touchstone Pictures

Written by: George Gatins and John Gatins

Release Date: March 14, 2014

Budget: $66 million

Domestic Box Office Gross: $43,577,636

Worldwide Box Office Gross: $203,277636  

Coming Attractions

“Touchstone and Beyond” returns in three weeks with Bruce Almighty.

Bill Gowsell
Bill Gowsell has loved all things Disney since his first family trip to Walt Disney World in 1984. Since he began writing for Laughing Place in 2014, Bill has specialized in covering the Rick Riordan literary universe, a retrospective of the Touchstone Pictures movie library, and a variety of other Disney related topics. When he is not spending time with his family, Bill can be found at the bottom of a lake . . . scuba diving