Tobey Marshall is a former race car driver who owns a garage named Marshall Motors in Mount Kisco, New York where he and his friends tune performance cars. Struggling to make ends meet, he and his crew participate in street races after hours. After a race, Tobey's former rival Dino Brewster arrives at their garage with an offer to complete the build of a rare Ford Shelby Mustang worked on by the late Carroll Shelby. Dino wants Tobey and his crew to complete the project in exchange for 25% of the car's estimated selling price of $2 million.
The completed Shelby Mustang is put up for auction at a party. Tobey and Dino meet Julia, an English car broker whose client will purchase the car if they can go prove it will drive over 230 mph as Tobey claims. Tobey volunteers to drive the car, but Dino objects and orders him not to. The next morning Tobey gets the Mustang to reach 234 mph, leading Julia's client Bill Ingram to purchase it for $2.7 million. After Julia and Ingram leave, an enraged Dino confronts Tobey for driving the car after being ordered not to.
Dino challenges Tobey and Pete to a race after Pete flatly tells Dino that everyone knows Tobey is a better driver than him. Dino offers to relinquish his entire share of the Mustang sale if Tobey wins, Tobey agrees to forfeit his share if Dino wins. The three race on the interstate in three illegally imported Koenigsegg Agera R's. During the race, Dino realizes he will lose and intentionally bumps Pete's car, flipping it into a ravine and killing Pete when it bursts into flames. Dino disappears from the scene, and Tobey is sent to jail for involuntary manslaughter after no one can prove that Dino was there.
Two years later, Tobey is released on parole and sets out to avenge Pete's death. He borrows Ingram's Mustang to enter the De Leon, a winner-takes-all supercar race organized by the mysterious Monarch. As a condition, Ingram requires Julia to accompany Tobey with the Mustang. The pair have to reach San Francisco before the race starts in two days, but first cause an interstate chase with the Michigan State Police and upload the footage, leading Monarch to offer the invitation for the De Leon. Dino offers his rare Lamborghini Sesto Elemento to anyone who can stop Tobey from entering the race.
While Tobey and Julia drive through Utah, they are forced off-road by a couple of trucks vying for Dino's car. Maverick, a member of Tobey's crew, appears in a US Army helicopter he stole from the National Guard. Maverick tows the Mustang mid-air to the Bonneville Salt Flats, where Tobey's crew awaits them, getting himself arrested in the process. Tobey and Julia reach San Francisco in time to register for the race, but the Mustang is destroyed when Dino's henchman smashes into it with a tow truck. The Mustang is flipped over, seriously injuring Julia and leaving Tobey without a car for the race. A desperate Tobey reaches out to Dino's fiancè Anita, his ex-girlfriend and Pete's sister. Anita discovers that Dino covered up his involvement in Pete's death and gives Tobey the location of the Agera R that Dino was driving when he killed Pete. Toby and Joe go to the warehouse for the Agera R. Tobey meets up with Julia, at the hospital, and confesses his feelings for her with a kiss, letting her know that he has a "fast" car, and that this is for Pete.
The next morning, Tobey surprises Dino by showing up in the Koenigsegg and giving him Anita's engagement ring to inform him that she dumped him. The race is gruelling, with racers and police alike getting wrecked one by one. Leaving himself and Toby racing side-by-side along the Pacific Coast Highway, Dino attempts to ram Tobey off the road, but Tobey slams the brakes, causing Dino's car to flip and catch fire. Tobey sees the finish line, but turns around to pull Dino from the flames before completing the race and winning. The California Highway Patrol arrives to arrest them both; the police prove the Agera R belonged to Dino and use that evidence to put Dino in jail. After serving 178 days in jail for illegal street racing, Tobey is released and Julia meets him at the prison gates with a 2015 Ford Mustang. The couple heads to the prison in Utah where Maverick is being released early for good behavior.Aaron Paul as Tobey Marshall, a blue-collar mechanic and skilled former race car driver from Mount Kisco, New York who is framed for a federal crime he didn't commit.
Dominic Cooper as Dino Brewster, a former Indy racer and Tobey's fierce rival.
Imogen Poots as Julia Maddon, a savvy exotic car broker, who becomes Tobey's love interest.
Harrison Gilbertson as Pete Coleman, Anita's younger brother and Tobey's protégé and friend.
Kid Cudi as Sergeant Benny 'Maverick' Jackson, a member of Tobey's crew. He is a pilot, able to fly small airplanes and helicopters, and is often called "Liar One" because the team doesn't believe he can fly a military helicopter, which he later proves. He owns a Cessna plane.
Ramon Rodriguez as Joe Peck, a member of Tobey's crew. He is the team's professional mechanic, and drives a modified 2011 Ford F-450 called "The Beast".
Rami Malek as Finn, a member of Tobey's crew. He serves as the team's computer expert, monitoring cameras to record races.
Michael Keaton as Monarch, 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.
Dakota Johnson as Anita Coleman, Pete's older sister, Tobey's former girlfriend and Dino's fiancée.
In July 2012, DreamWorks Studios was committed to a film based on the Need for Speed series of video games by Electronic Arts, initially with a release date of February 7, 2014, and later March 14, 2014. Brothers George and John Gatins had written a script that was being shopped to studios by April of that year. Taylor Kitsch was offered the lead role in July 2012, though the role eventually went to Aaron Paul that October. Paul had originally auditioned for the role of Dino Brewster, although director Scott Waugh and DreamWorks head Steven Spielberg decided against that and cast him as the lead. The same month, Imogen Poots was cast as the female lead. In January 2013, Dominic Cooper, Kid Cudi, Ramón Rodríguez, Rami Malek and Harrison Gilbertson were cast in the film. Michael Keaton was cast in February 2013.
Principal photography began in Macon, Georgia, in mid-April 2013. Other filming locations include Road Atlanta in Braselton, Georgia, on May 12, 2013, the 13th Street Bridge in Columbus, Georgia and Phenix City, Alabama, and Campus Martius in Detroit, Michigan, beginning on June 1, 2013. Other production locations include sections of California's Highway 1 north of Point Arena, California, the Point Arena Lighthouse, and Highway 253 between Boonville, California and Ukiah, California; and also Highway 128, between the town of Navarro and the Navarro Bridge linking Highway 128 North to Highway 1 South to Point Arena, California.
For the film's chase sequences, the filmmakers decided against the use of computer-generated imagery, instead employing practical effects, which required the cast to receive extensive driving lessons. For the final race sequences and the car crashes the production unit used propped supercars.
On September 25, 2013, a trailer for the film was released on iTunes. Disney and DreamWorks announced the film's post-production conversion to 3D on February 5, 2014. Need for Speed held its world premiere at the TCL Chinese Theatre on March 7, 2014. The film was released by Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures through the Touchstone Pictures banner on March 14, 2014, in selected 3D, IMAX, and conventional 2D theaters. It was also released worldwide by Disney, except for territories in Europe, Africa and Middle East, where the rights are sold by Mister Smith Entertainment to other industries. Reliance Entertainment had released the film in India, while Entertainment One Films released it in the United Kingdom. Rai Cinema had released it in Italy through its movie label 01 Distribution.
Need for Speed was released by Touchstone Home Entertainment on Blu-ray Disc, DVD and Blu-ray 3D on August 5, 2014.
Need for Speed had earned $43,577,636 in North America and $159,700,000 in other countries, as of May 19, 2014, for a worldwide total of $203,277,636. In North America, it topped the box office with $6.7 million on its opening Friday, March 14, 2014. However, the film finished in third place over the three-day weekend (Friday-to-Sunday) with $17.8 million. Outside North America, the film debuted in first place with $45.6 million on the same weekend as its North America release. It remained in first place for a second weekend. Overall, the film's largest territory is China, where both the film's opening weekend ($21.1 million) and its total earnings ($66.2 million) are higher than in North America. Following these two territories in total earnings is Russia and the CIS with $13.8 million.
Need For Speed received generally negative reviews from critics. On Rotten Tomatoes the film has an approval rating of 23% based on 158 reviews with an average rating of 4.3/10. The site's critical consensus reads, "With stock characters and a preposterous plot, this noisily diverting video game adaptation fulfills a Need for Speed and little else." On Metacritic, the film has a score of 39 out of 100 based on 38 critics, indicating "generally unfavorable reviews". Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "B+" on an A+ to F scale.
Michael Phillips of the Chicago Tribune gave the film 2.5 out of 4 stars, remarking that "Paul has talent, though the actor's idea of simmering intensity in the context of Need for Speed comes off more like serial killer in the making. Cooper, by contrast, seems to be having some fun playing a dashing, dastardly, sexy beast." Phillips added, "At its occasional best, the thrills in the film recall the delirious fun of the Fast & Furious franchise." Betsy Sharkey of Los Angeles Times felt similarly, writing "In trying for the vicarious varoom of the street-racing video game that inspired it, and no doubt dreaming of Fast success, Speed clocks in at a long two-plus hours and falls painfully short." Jason Torchinsky of the automotive blog Jalopnik decried the movie for insulting gearheads with its far-reaching suspension of disbelief on many plot points and tropes and stated the film was nothing more than a glorified car commercial for the 2015 Ford Mustang.
A.O. Scott of The New York Times gave a more positive review, praising the film's car chase sequences, while declaring the overall film "an energetic, unpretentious B movie".
The film's soundtrack, composed by Nathan Furst, was released by Varèse Sarabande on March 14, 2014. Interscope Records released a separate EP on April 8, 2014, which featured four songs; "Fortunate Son" and "Back in the Saddle" by Aloe Blacc, "All Along the Watchtower" by Jamie N Commons, and "Hero" by Kid Cudi and Skylar Grey. Linkin Park's song "Roads Untraveled" from their 2012 album Living Things was also featured in the film. Score performed by a 77-piece The Angel City Studio Orchestra: 60-piece string orchestra conducted by Tim Davis and 17 musicians on brass section consists 8 French horns, 3 trumpets, 5 trombones and 1 tuba conducted by Suise Benchasil Seiter.
China Movie Channel, Jiaflix Enterprises and 1905 Pictures are teaming up with EA Games to develop a sequel with the film to be set and shot in China.