KEN Block: a man responsible for burning more rubber than the Springfield Tire Yard, generating many times more YouTube hits than Keyboard Cat and the frantic Googling of the term “gymkhana”. Everyone has a favourite “Hoonigan” gymkhana film but which is the best? We’ve revisited them all following the release of a brand new edition in order to rank the 10 best Ken Block gymkhana films of all time.
For our judging criteria, we looked for a number of key elements, including: dramatic backdrops, dramatic stunts, top production qualities and the usual sense of humour.
10. Ken Block’s Gymkhana 1: Practice
Published November 11, 2008 | Views to date 16.3m
The original may be at the bottom of our list but it’s a hugely impressive video that set the bar for the following gymkhana films. The set pieces are impressive, mainly for the speed and aggression of execution rather than originality, and there aren’t a huge amount of laughs, although this first video does introduce us to what became an amusing mainstay of the series – doughnutting around a Segway rider.
Block’s first car was a 2006 Subaru Impreza WRX STI, the quintessential boy racer-mobile, and it sounds and looks very fierce indeed.
9. Need for Speed and Ken Block present Gymkhana Six: The Ultimate Gymkhana Grid Course
Published November 11, 2013 | Views to date 51.6m
Posted to YouTube exactly five years after the first Gymkhana Practice video, this one sees Block team up with computer game series Need for Speed in an effort to create the ultimate grid course. While still impressive technically, and displaying some originality (blasting through containers only just wide enough for his 650bhp Ford Fiesta ST RX43, for example), the abandoned airfield setting isn’t that inspiring – especially compared with some videos higher up in our list.
What has definitely improved over time is the production quality, with this video featuring bird’s eye views, panning roof-mounted shots, a view from the perspective of the handbrake and a neat reference to the video game tie-in with a shot from just behind and above the rear of the car – a view that will be familiar to gamers. It’s just a shame some of that originality didn’t filter down into the stunts.
8. Ken Block’s Gymkhana Nine: Raw Industrial Playground
Published September 13, 2016 | Views to date 46.8m
The ferocity of this video is off the chain, which matches the rundown backdrops chosen in Buffalo and Eden, New York State – on the opposite side of Lake Erie from similarly dilapidated areas of Detroit. For Block, the disused train station and factories are the perfect settings for gymkhana fun, though. It’s not the most imaginative of gymkhanas but it is notable for a couple of nail-biting set-pieces: one involving getting oh-so-close to going for a swim and the standout stunt involving a drift jump over a railway line in front of a moving train.
7. Ken Block’s Gymkhana Seven: Wild in the Streets of Los Angeles
Published November 17, 2014 | Views to date 54m
The video that introduced us to the Hoonicorn, Block’s classic Mustang-based drift machine, takes us to the City of Angels. Another in the series was called the Ultimate Urban Playground but really, it doesn’t get much urban-er than a ride through LA, particularly with a slammed car pirouetting underneath a bouncing lowrider.
There’s a nod to the films Grease and Terminator 2 as Block blasts through the famous storm drains, and humour when we see a line of cops following a slow-moving white Ford Bronco along the freeway — the letters O and J spring to mind. One of the coolest in the series.
6. Ken Block’s Gymkhana Three, Part 2: The Ultimate Playground
Published September 14, 2010 | Views to date 66.5m
Gymkhana 3 was filmed at l’Autodrome de Linas-Montlhéry, France, a 1.58-mile oval track built in 1924 that features Brooklands-style banking as steep as 51 degrees – more than twice the incline of most Nascar ovals. This provides for some pretty extraordinary and unique stunts, and the introduction of water to the road surface makes for one of the most impressive series of four 360-degree (1,440-degree?) spins you’ll ever see.
Other highlights include impossibly tight manoeuvres within boxes that look only just about wide enough to fit the Ford Fiesta, and the total destruction of the tyres at the end of the film. It’s a furiously executed video that has all the intensity of the original Gymkhana… but with smarter set-pieces. An early one but still one of the best Ken Block gymkhana videos.
5. Ken Block’s Gymkhana Two: The Infomercial
Published June 1, 2009 | Views to date 51.5m
The absolute honesty of this video has to be admired. With sponsor DC Shoes ramping up the production values for Block’s second gymkhana outing, the clothing manufacturer decided to be completely up front about the fact that its goal was to sell merchandise… the amazing car stunts are merely a way to get us mugs to buy its wares.
But that’s not to say this video is lacking in jaw-dropping set-pieces. New, super slow-motion shots capture paint-filled water bombs being knocked out of dummies’ hands, floor-mounted strip lights explode under the weight of Block’s drifting 2009 Subaru WRX STI and there’s a heart-in-mouth moment as the car comes within an inch of dropping into the harbour.
Some stylish invention in the form of a paintballing adversary and a fiery finale all add to the impressive spectacle, and there’s some effortlessly cool humour sprinkled liberally throughout. Stay for the end-credit outtakes.
4. Gymkhana 2020: Travis Pastrana Takeover; Ultimate Hometown Shred
Published December 9, 2020 | Views to date 5.7m
The 11th gymkhana film features Block’s friend and rallying rival Travis Pastrana, as well as the “most batshit crazy Subaru STI ever created”. Subaru insisted on creating the wildest STI specifically for this video, and the team ended up with an 862hp carbon-fibre-clothed monster that snorts fire from exhaust pipes that poke out of the bonnet.
Pastrana takes on his hometown of Annapolis, Maryland in the Subaru and gets off to a spectacular start with a jump across the harbour, before demonstrating precision driving around the town centre. He then heads back to the harbour-side for synchronised doughnuts around poles and drifts under cranes, before heading out of town.
Block always gets whisker-close to walls and drops but at one point in this video, Pastrana puts one wheel actually over the edge of the harbour side, taking out the GoPro camera as he does so. That’s what’s so good about it: he’s not just on the edge, he’s over it.
The speeds are high and the jumps are extreme (we’re sure he wrecked the car in the high-speed leap six minutes in). Pastrana drives like he’s got something to prove, trying to outdo his rival, and you can see just how close he gets to wiping out in his face — the guy looks terrified at times. And perhaps because it’s not Ken Block’s safe pair of hands behind the wheel, we’re on the edge of our seats, too.
3. Ken Block’s Gymkhana Five: Ultimate Urban Playground; San Francisco
Published July 9, 2012 | Views to date 54.7m
Not even Steve McQueen, star of Bullitt, has attacked the streets of San Francisco with this much vigour. Gymkhana Five easily tops this list for location with its unprecedented and frankly jaw-dropping access to the road network of this instantly recognisable city. From the opening shot of Block’s Fiesta powering over the Oakland Bay Bridge, to the huge jumps over the infamously hilly city centre streets, this is one Gymkhana that will make you rub your eyes in disbelief.
A stand-out shot of an airborne drift is a highlight but the nicely judged cameo by world-famous American biker Travis Pastrana, and the inevitable appearance of San Francisco’s street cars, are icing on the cake. There could have been some more humour in there but in terms of scale, this one is pretty untouchable.
2. Ken Block’s Gymkhana Ten: The Ultimate Tire Slaying Tour
Published December 17, 2018 | Views to date 31.7m
The breathtaking scope and ambition of this film puts it right up near the top of our list. It features not one but five fire-breathing Fords, in five locations around the world. It also involves a lot of shredded tyres, as the name accurately attests.
The video starts with the 1,400hp Hoonicorn V2, based on a 1965 Ford Mustang, spinning the wheels in what appears to be a rundown factory. Next to appear is a 2018 Ford Fiesta WRC, which is demonstrated on ice. Then comes our favourite: a 1991 Ford Escort RS Cosworth tuned to produce a whopping 645hp. The fourth car is Block’s 2017 Ford Focus RS RX, which produces 650hp, and finally, the video introduces us to the “Hoonitruck”, a 1977 Ford F-150 pick-up that’s been given the Ken Block treatment. It’s pulling the Hoonicorn V2.
1. Ken Block’s Gymkhana 4: The Hollywood Megamercial
Published August 16, 2011 | Views to date 32.9m
With the full weight of Hollywood behind it, this was destined to be a cracker. Filmed over five days at Universal Studios, California, with director Ben Conrad (of Zombieland fame) and edited with all the explosive power of a Michael Bay movie, Gymkhana Four is a visual feast packed with jokes, computer-enhanced imagery, spectacular slow-mos and, of course, the usual mind-blowing driving from Block.
Featuring Jaws, zombies and a Segway-riding gorilla, along with an hilarious cameo by some guys we’ve never heard of (Epic Meal Time, anyone?), the mix of Hollywood and Gymkhana is a match made in heaven.
Bonus Ken Block videos
Haven’t had enough of the best Ken Block gymkhana videos? Then check out these additional films.
Ken Block’s Climbkhana Two
After 2018’s Gymkhana 10, some feared that would be the end of Ken Block’s gymkhana series. Then he pointed his 914hp Hoonitruck up the Tianmen Mountain to tackle one of the world’s most dangerous roads. It’s barrier-scaping stuff.
Gymkhana 2.1 (featuring Rob Dyrdek)
This is what happens when you marry MTV and Gymkhana. The most hilarious, but also the scariest video Block has produced.
Gymkhana 3 music video (featuring the Cool Kids)
A catchy tune and some music video-quality visuals make this a very watchable bonus feature.
Ken Block goes radio controlled
A brilliant homage to the Gymkhana series, but in miniature.
Sunday Times Driving goes for a ride with Ken Block at Top Gear Live
What happened when we climbed aboard the good ship Block. Sick bags at the ready.