The Need for Speed
Director Michael Mann
Producer(s) Michael Mann
Pieter Jan Brugge
Neal H. Moritz
Studio(s) Original Film
Writer(s) George Gatins
John Gatins
Distributor(s) Warner Bros. Pictures
Country of Origin United States
Tom Kenny
Bruce Willis
Pete Dickson
Chad Michael Murray
Jamie Foxx
Aaron Paul
Jeremy Renner
Charity Shea
Theatrical Release Date(s)
May 4, 2003
Age Rating(s)
Original Language English
Budget $42 million
Box Office $217 million (Worldwide)

The Need for Speed is a 2003 American racing film based on the series of video games by Electronic Arts, directed by Michael Mann. The film stars Tom Kenny, Bruce Willis, Pete Dickson, Chad Michael Murray, Bill Fagerbakke, Jamie Foxx, Aaron Paul, Jeremy Renner, Charity Shea, Clancy Brown, Carolyn Lawrence, Roger Bumpass, and Mr. Lawrence and follows the story of SpongeBob SquarePants who teams up with legendary street racer named Luke Maruso (Willis) who comes into the World Racing Grand Prix.

Filming locations include New York and Calgary, Alberta, Canada. The Need for Speed was distributed by Warner Bros. Pictures and released on May 4, 2003 to financial success. The film's budget was an estimated $42 million, grossing $217.7 million worldwide. Critical reaction was mostly mixed, according to review aggregators Rotten Tomatoes and Metacritic, though both Willis and Dickson were praised in their roles and became household names both in the U.S. and internationally, but gained controversy over is similarities to the 2001 film The Fast and the Furious. The film is the first of a franchise.


In Bikini Bottom, SpongeBob and his friends become under attack by Plankton who is once again trying the steal the Krabby Patty formula at the Krusty Krab. However, the formula gets taken during the scuffle by an unknown assaliant.

Luke Maruso is a former race car driver who owns a Mount Kisco, New York garage, where he and his friends tune performance cars. Struggling to make ends meet, he and his crew participate in street races after hours. Dino Brewster, Luke's former rival, arrives at his garage in a Mercedes-Benz SLR McLaren with an offer to complete the build of a rare Ford Mustang worked on by the late Carroll Shelby. Dino wants Luke and his crew to complete the project in exchange for 25% of the car's estimated selling price of $2 million.

The completed Ford Mustang is put up for auction at a party. Luke and Dino meet Julia, an English car broker who agrees to pay $3 million if the car can go over 230 mph, as Maruso claims. Maruso volunteers to drive the car, but Dino objects and orders him not to. The next morning, without Dino's knowledge, Maruso gets the Mustang to reach 234 mph, leading Julia to purchase it for her client, Bill Ingram.

Dino challenges Luke and his partner Little Pete to a race when Little Pete makes a mocking jibe at Dino's inability to match Maruso's racing skills. The three race on the interstate in Dino's uncle's three illegally imported Koenigsegg Agera R. If Luke wins, he gets Dino's 75% of the Mustang deal; if he loses, he gives up his 25%. As Luke is winning the race, Dino tags Little Pete's car, flipping it into a ravine after bursting into flames that ends up killing Little Pete in the process. Dino disappears from the scene, and Luke is sent to jail for involuntary manslaughter, as there is no evidence pointing to Dino's involvement.

Three years later, Luke is released on parole and sets out to avenge Little Pete's death. Jake Gordon, a trouble but caring young lad, moves to Calgary, Alberta with his father Mark. Jake's older brother Dodger, an undercover CPD officer, is assigned to investigate Little Pete's death and uses his cover job at a chop shop to infiltrate the L.A. street racing scene. While visiting Maruso's new Market, a local grocery, he flirts with the shop's owner, Sonya, who is Luke's daughter. Maruso's new crew, consisting of his girlfriend Heddy, Leroy, Price, and Markie, arrive. Price, who has a crush on Sonya, starts a fight with Dodger. Luke scolds Price, and sends Dodger away, warning him never to come back.

One night, during a local racing gathering, Dodger arrives in his 1997 Toyota Supra SZ and Luke arrives in his 1995 Mitsubishi Eclipse GSX. Luke organizes a drag race with a local betting schemer called Anton, and two other drivers. Jake, having snuck out pass bed time, watches the race. During the race, Dodger temporarily gains an advantage by using a nitrous oxide turbocharger "nitrous boost," but loses his lead when Luke uses his own nitrous to catch up to Dodger.

Just as Dodger prepares to give Luke the keys to his car, however, the CPD arrives, forcing everyone to flee. Luke drives his Eclipse into a local garage and parks it there, intending to walk home, but he is spotted by two police cruisers. Jake appears and saves Luke from the cops, earning Luke's trust. The two run into Dodger who berates Jake for sneaking out. Dino suddenly arrives and blows up Dodger's car. Afterwards, Luke tells Dodger that he owes Luke a "ten-second car" (a car that can drive a quarter mile in under 11 seconds, from a standstill). He also tells Jake about his rivalry with Dino and how he killed Little Pete.

Dodger brings in a completely totalled Ford Mustang to Luke's safe house, where he offers his skills as a driver and a mechanic to fix the car. As the crew settles in to repair the car, Dodger begins dating Sonya (much to Price's dismay) and Luke continues to bond with Jake in father-son style relationship. Dodger investigates Warrick and Brewster, convinced that Brewster is responsible for Little Pete's death. After investigating a suspicious purchase from Hector at the parts shop, Dodger is cornered by Price and Luke, who demand an explanation. Dodger lies about checking the cars of his rivals for the upcoming Race Battles, a street racing event in Northern Amberta. Dodger, Luke and Price check out Brewster's garage, and Dodger notices a shipment of electronics in the garage. SpongeBob later discovers that Dino was the assailant who took the formula.

Dodger reports the batch of electronics to his superiors at the CPD and FBI, and they arrest Brewster and Maddon. However, Brewster escapes custody and tracks down Luke at his home and almost kills Jake. Dodger, SpongeBob, and Luke give chase. Dodger wounds Brewster and is recaptured by CPD.

In the aftermath, Luke exposes himself as a cop to Luke and SpongeBob. SpongeBob, Luke and Dodger drag race, though Luke crashes, but survives. Instead of arresting him, Dodger gives him the keys to his car, making good on his earlier wager to deliver a ten-second car; Luke is able to escape the police.

SpongeBob and his friends, having recovered the formula, return home.


  • Tom Kenny as SpongeBob SquarePants
  • Bruce Willis as Luke Maruso
  • Pete Dickson as Jake Gordon
  • Chad Michael Murray as Dodger Gordon
  • Jamie Foxx as Dino Brewster
  • Charity Shea as Sonya
  • Jeremy Renner as Price
  • Michael Keaton as Monarch Maddon, a reclusive and eccentric host of an "underground" supercar race competition, De Leon. He operates from a lighthouse on a small farm where he lives.
  • Mandy Moore as Anita Coleman, Pete's older sister, and Dino's fiancée.


Development and writing

In 1997, Warner Bros. Pictures bought the rights for a film adaptation of the 1994 Need for Speed video game.

Easter eggs


Box office

The Need for Speed opened in 2,889 theaters on May 4, 2003, grossing $16.8 million on it's opening day. The film earned the No. 1 spot with $37.8 million on it's opening weekend. The Need for Speed 's opening weekend gross was ten times higher than Pokémon: The First Movie 's $31 million, but was far behind Lara Croft: Tomb Raider 's $48.2 million. During its run, the film made a domestic total of $135.7 million along with a foreign total of $82 million bringing its worldwide total of $217.7 million on a budget of $42 million, making it a financial success.

It was the second highest film by Original Films in 2003 behind 2 Fast 2 Furious.

Reception and controversy

The film received generally mixed reviews, earning a 49% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes, with 29 out of 155 critics giving it a positive review with an average rating of 3.9/10; the consensus states: "With stock characters and a preposterous plot, this noisily diverting video game adaptation fulfills a Need for Speed and little else." On Metacritic it holds a score of 39 based on 38 reviews, indicating generally unfavorable reviews.

Critics considered The Need for Speed to be heavily derivative of the 2001 film, The Fast and the Furious. USA Today suggested that it was "the most wildly derivative movie in ages", while Variety described it as "ultimately done in by the persistent stench of been-there-seen-that".

Home media

The Need for Speed was released on DVD on January 2, 2004.




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