Senna (2011)

No deaths in Formula One racing since ’94?  What’s there to watch then?

Though the name “Ayrton Senna” may not be frequently referenced alongside the names of such like “Michael Jordan”, “Babe Ruth”, “Ty Cobb”, etc., some still consider him one of the greatest sports legends of all-time, and amazing at what sport he did. That sport being racing, aka, the love of his life and the only thing he wanted to do with it. For Senna, life in the big-leagues of racing started out relatively promising with him winning more than a few major races, but as soon as he started defeating these more known/prestigious names, Senna ran into the politics of the Formula One racing world that were very, very present in those days. But Senna does not back down from a fight, and instead, enhances the battle even more by winning more races, demanding more stipulations be made to the racetrack to better ensue more safety among drivers, and give love and charity to his beloved country, Brazil. Senna had so much beauty and wonder to give this world, however, it was all cut short by one fateful turn. And I don’t mean a figurative one, I mean a real, actual turn around a racetrack.

Shouldn’t be a no-brainer to anybody, but sometimes the best documentaries, are ones of the most extraordinary subjects. And in this movie’s case, it’s the man himself that they document, who, I for one, have never heard of, let alone, had no interest in even exploring anymore than just this documentary. And even then, I wasn’t too stoked to watch it, but I thought that since I’d already seen Rush, and my ears had yet been blown-out by the revved-up engines and screeches of the tires, why not give it a shot? I mean, I do have Netflix, so I might as well give it a shot, right?

Speed Racer looked cooler. That's all I have to say.
Speed Racer looked cooler. That’s all I have to say.

Right indeed! Just goes to show you what type of stuff is out there in terms of documentaries, and also in terms of what type of stuff Netflix has in the deepest, darkest places of their library. Seriously, I had no idea a movie like 2-Headed Shark Attack even existed! But lord, does it ever. Thanks, Netflix! You truly are a movie geeks one and only best friend.

But anyway, like I was saying with Senna, this really is a great documentary, and for one of the main reasons being that it never really follows a pattern, yet, totally is able to make understand everywhere it’s at, where it’s going to go next, and in some ways, even take you by surprise at other turns as well, but in a good way. There’s no narration, no faces of anybody being interviewed in the present-time, and even stranger, not many of the key people who were so frequent in Senna’s life. May seem weird considering that this is his documentary, about his life, and the people he surrounded himself around, however, that didn’t matter because the movie does all of the talking for them in a way that surprised the hell out of me.

It didn’t surprise me because it was an effective-way of story telling, but because it showed so much footage that made me wonder where they found it all, and most importantly, how the hell they cobbled it all together? But nonetheless, it still works because it gets you right involved with this story, what’s going to happen next to Senna in terms of his life and his races, and just when the plug is going to be pulled on his illustrious racing-career. If there was a little something I knew before seeing this movie was about how Senna dies, and it made me scared watching this whole movie. I didn’t know when it was going to happen, or how, I just knew it was going to go down eventually, and they do show it in a very tasteful way, as you’d expect from a documentary made about his life and career.

Even in his downtime, he loved to cheat death.
Even in his downtime, he loved to cheat death.

And if there’s anything that makes this documentary more and more intriguing as it goes on by is Senna himself. Not only was Ayrton Senna a genius behind-the-wheel, but he was also a very humble one that never let the fame or fortune go to his head. He constantly gave money to people who needed it, cared for his beloved country of Brazil, and was almost never blatantly disrespectful to people who didn’t already deserve it. Case in point, his rivalry with fellow racer Alain Prost, in which they both showed snippets of brilliance together, but soon began to dislike the other and in a way, even go so far as to cheat just so that they would pull it out on top. Now, of course the movie never makes it as abundantly clear whose side it’s obviously on in terms of this rivalry, but it’s well-handled just the like rest of the movie because it shows you just how much people wanted to beat Senna, and would stop at nothing to do so. It also shows us just how political the organization of Formula One racing was, and sometimes, still is to this day.

However, there’s not many bad spirits to be had here in this documentary, and despite all of the sometimes grim material, they never allow for it to go out on a deep, dark, or sad note. Instead, the movie ends on the type of note that shows exactly what Senna raced for: Pride. He wanted to show his pride for his love, his country, and just who he was as a person, so much so that his life had to be taken away for doing so. That in and of itself is very, very sad, yet, the movie shows us that time will go on and Senna’s influence will be felt all throughout the racing world. And maybe even the world itself, eh? Okay, maybe that’s stepping a bit too high, but you get my drift.

Consensus: Though most of you out there may not be racing fans in the slightest bit, Senna is still well worth the watch because it’s a documentary that shows its subject for the person that he was, what he loved to do, and how he would not stop trying to achieve his goal and his dream, even if it meant that his life would be on the line while doing so.

8.5 / 10 = Matinee!!

Eat your hearts out, ladies.
Eat your hearts out, ladies.

Photo’s Credit to:


  1. I watched this man die when I was 7 years old. This movie was as much about F1 as Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy was about spying. I loved it because it was so captivating, thrilling and about the man rather than the man as defined by the sport. He really did transcend F1, and it’s a safer, better sport now, largely down to his death, which, while very sad, is quite a legacy.

  2. I keep telling myself to watch this but somehow until today haven’t done so. After watching and enjoying “Rush” today, I’m fast tracking “Senna” to the front of the line!

  3. A friend of mine overseas raved about this film, I don’t care about F1 racing but gave it a shot. It was very impressive, a very strong documentary.

  4. Yes yes yes mate. Great review, totally spot on! Senna remains to be one of, if not my favourite documentary ever! I saw this when it came out in the cinema in 2011 and I fell in love with it. Before the film came out I had no interest in Formula One and I didn’t know who Ayrton Senna was, however this documentary came along and honestly changed my world. I loved how informative it was but at the same time how unconventional it was too, but the best thing was that it engaged you on a subject matter that most people aren’t really that accustomed to. Funnily enough I see that you checked out Senna after the release of Rush, whereas I did the other way round, Senna’s awesomeness was what sparked my interest in seeing Rush.

  5. GREAT documentary, perhaps one of the best I’ve ever seen. I’m not even a huge fan of car racing but who hasn’t heard of Ayrton Senna! He’s practically a legend.

  6. I was a big fan of F1 racing until my late teens. I was introduced to it by my dad at a very early age. I can confidently say Ayrton Senna was my idol when I was little, and I can only say that about a couple of people. I remember watching the races, and the rivalry between Prost and Senna. In fact, it is one of my first memories as a child. I also watched the San Marino race. I watched the Friday crash and the death of the rookie driver, and I also saw my idol die on TV when I was still too young to really grasp what had just happened.
    I saw this documentary with a friend who’s also a fan of racing and it was a great experience. It felt fresh and new, as if I didn’t already know a lot about Senna. It was surprising and when the tragic turn came, I was so immersed my brain was almost trying to tell me it wouldn’t end the same way. This documentary is one of the best I’ve seen, even though I might be a little biased.
    Senna is probably the most famous driver in the history of F1 racing and deservedly so. He should have won a lot more than he did. But like you said, politics, and a lot of bad luck played a part.
    Nice review.

  7. I just saw this film for the first time a few months ago and absolutely loved it. I think it is both one of the best films to ever come out about racing and one of the best documentaries made in the last twenty years.

  8. Hands down one of my favourite documentaries ever. So cleverly made. It feels like a proper film, with a hero and a villain, hugely emotional. Loved it.

    I used to be a fan of F1 at the time. I was only 10, but remember Ayrton Senna being my “favourite”. As much as he could be to any 10 year old who watched a bit of F1 with their family on Sundays! I remember watching the crash when it happened. So could see the moment coming in the film and braced myself. Could not have braced myself any harder and yet, cried and cried and cried. Such a sad story. Senna was a talented man.

    Film has a GREAT soundtrack too. So few documentaries work hard at that too.

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