Most Iconic Cars In Film

Most Iconic Cars In Film

Movies allow us to indulge our greatest fantasies — and one such fantasy is driving unique and fancy cars. Of course, if you can’t drive one, you can at least watch it in a movie. The movies have a rich history of featuring flashy autos. In fact, almost as soon as cars and movies were invented, the two were combined — the first car chase scene is believed to be in “Runaway Match,” a silent film from 1903.

Since then, directors have been unable to resist putting their actors behind the wheel of the coolest rides they could get or conceive of. And some of these cars have become almost like another memorable character, like the 1966 Ford Thunderbird from “Thelma & Louise,” the Ferrari that goes crashing through a window at the end of “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off,” or the litany of high-powered vehicles on display throughout the Fast & Furious franchise.

24/7 Wall St. has looked back through decades of cinema history to highlight the most iconic cars in film. 

Cars have served many different purposes in their films. Some have been cutting-edge race cars developed by protagonists, others have served as getaway vehicles for bank robbers, and others have had no purpose other than to add to the cool factor of the driver. 

Some successful movie makers have been able to distill their love of cars into their films, allowing audiences to feel the thrill of the open road from their seats in the theater. In fact, some of the greatest movies of all time are about cars, or at least prominently feature at least one iconic vehicle. These are the 100 best movies of the last 100 years.

Source: Courtesy of United Artists

1. 1963 Aston Martin DB5
> Film: Goldfinger (1964)
> Genre: Action, adventure
> Starring: Sean Connery, Gert Frobe, Honor Blackman

Few cars have captured the movie-going public’s imagination like the Aston Martin DB5 in the James Bond film “Goldfinger.” It was equipped with machine guns, an ejector seat, revolving license plates, and a smokescreen generator. A model of the gold-colored car became a must-have among collectors of the Matchbox cars of the 1960s.

Source: Courtesy of Paramount Pictures

2. Chevrolet Lumina Stock Car
> Film: Days of Thunder (1990)
> Genre: Action
> Starring: Tom Cruise, Nicole Kidman

Tom Cruise drove the Chevrolet Lumina Stock Car in the film “Days of Thunder” and helped propel NASCAR to greater popularity in the 1990s.

Source: Courtesy of Paramount Pictures

3. 1961 Ferrari 250 GT/1985 Modena GT Spyder California
> Film: Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (1986)
> Genre: Comedy
> Starring: Matthew Broderick, Alan Ruck, Mia Sara

The cars that make skipping school worth it in “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” are a Ferrari and a Modena, although the vehicle meets a cringeworthy fate during the movie. Car enthusiasts breathed a sigh of relief when it was noted that the vehicle destroyed was a replica of the 1961 Ferrari 250 GT, which cost $300,000 at the time.

Source: Courtesy of Warner Bros.

4. Wagon Queen Family Truckster station wagon
> Film: National Lampoon’s Vacation (1983)
> Genre: Comedy
> Starring: Beverly D’Angelo and Chevy Chase

The Wagon Queen Family Truckster in “National Lampoon’s Vacation” is a 1979 Ford LTD Country Squire that was modified for the film. The pea-green conveyance that featured in the misadventures of the Griswold family also served as a hearse at one point during the movie, which was shot in 15 locations in four states.

Source: Courtesy of Universal Pictures

5. 1977 Pontiac Trans-Am
> Film: Smokey and The Bandit (1977)
> Genre: Comedy, action
> Starring: Burt Reynolds, Sally Field Jerry Reed, Jackie Gleason

Audiences couldn’t get enough of the sleek driving machine piloted by Burt Reynolds as he evaded a good ole sheriff played by Jackie Gleason in the film. After the movie opened, sales for the Trans Am shot up by about 30,000 cars from 1977 to 1978.

Source: Courtesy of United Artists

6. 1976 Lotus Esprit Series I
> Film: The Spy Who Loved Me (1977)
> Genre: Action
> Starring: Roger Moore, Barbara Bach, Curd Jürgens, Richard Kiel

The futuristic Lotus Esprit Series I that appeared in the James Bond film “The Spy Who Loved Me” left mouths agape when it plunged into the ocean, sprouted fins, and turned into a submarine. Bond then drove back onto the beach and hopped out of it dry as a bone, of course.

Source: Courtesy of Universal Pictures

7. DeLorean DMC-12
> Film: Back to the Future (1985)
> Genre: Comedy, adventure
> Starring: Michael J. Fox, Christopher Lloyd

“Back to the Future” is remembered for the DeLorean DMC-12, a stainless steel attention-grabber designed by iconic car designer Giorgetto Giugiaro that was a disappointment commercially. Through certain modifications by eccentric scientist Doc Brown (Christopher Lloyd), the car had enough juice to transport Marty McFly (Michael J. Fox) back to 1955.

Source: Courtesy of Paramount Pictures

8. 1968 Mini Cooper
> Film: The Italian Job (1969)
> Genre: Crime, action
> Starring: Michael Caine, Noel Coward, Raf Vallone

A gold heist follows three Mini Coopers pursued by the police through traffic in Turin, Italy, a chase that takes them past some of Turin’s famous buildings and landmarks, through sidewalk cafes and down subway tunnels.

Source: Courtesy of Columbia Pictures

9. Converted 1959 Cadillac ambulance
> Film: Ghostbusters (1984)
> Genre: Comedy
> Starring: Bill Murray, Dan Akroyd, Sigourney Weaver, Harold Ramis

If you need to call experts in expelling malevolent spirits from your house, you call the Ghostbusters in their modified 1959 Miller-Meteor Futura ambulance, also known as Ecto-1. Not too many cars have sliding proton pack storage. Sightings of the tricked-out ambulance reportedly caused accidents in New York City during promotion for the film’s initial release.

Source: Courtesy of Buena Vista Pictures

10. 1967 Shelby GT500
> Film: Gone in 60 Seconds (2000)
> Genre: Action, comedy
> Starring: Nicolas Cage, Angelina Jolie, Giovanni Ribisi

Though the 2000 remake of the film utilized a 1967 Shelby GT500 instead of a 1973 Mustang like in the original, it kept the same iconic name for the vehicle — Eleanor. The car’s power originates from a 351 Ford V-8 engine.

Source: Courtesy of Warner Bros./Seven Arts

11. Ford Mustang GT
> Film: Bullitt (1968)
> Genre: Crime, action, thriller
> Starring: Steve McQueen, Don Gordon, Jacqueline Bisset, Robert Vaughn

One of the most famous car chases in movie history involves a growling Ford Mustang GT, driven by the ultracool Steve McQueen. The epic chase through and outside of San Francisco ends in a spectacular crack-up that kills the mob’s assassins in the Dodge Charger. How cool was the Mustang GT? Ford made a limited edition of this version twice.

Source: Courtesy of Twentieth Century Fox

12. Dodge Challenger R/T
> Film: Vanishing Point (1971)
> Genre: Drama
> Starring: Barry Newman, Cleavon Little, Dean Jagger

“Vanishing Point” is about a Medal of Honor winner and former police officer dishonorably discharged from the force who bets he can drive from Denver to San Francisco in less than 15 hours. To do that would mean he would have to average speeds of over 80 miles an hour, and that runs him afoul with the police. Many of the stunts in the film involved the folks who worked on “Bullitt” with Steve McQueen.

Source: Courtesy of Buena Vista Distribution Company

13. VW Beetle
> Film: The Love Bug (1968)
> Genre: Comedy
> Starring: Dean Jones, Michele Lee

No high tech or slick lines with the VW Beetle, known as Herbie, a car with a mind of its own that turns a down-on-his luck race-car driver (Dean Jones) into a winner. Walt Disney Studios constructed 11 cars for the original film, and just three exist today. To give one of the VW’s extra oomph, a Porsche Super 90 engine was installed.

Source: Courtesy of Universal Pictures

14. 1932 Ford Coupe
> Film: American Graffiti (1973)
> Genre: Drama
> Starring: Ron Howard, Harrison Ford, and Richard Dreyfus

George Lucas of “Star Wars” fame made “American Graffiti,” a nostalgic look at California car culture. The souped-up canary yellow 1932 Ford Coupe driven by John Milner (Paul Le Mat) outduels a 1955 Chevy helmed by Bob Falfa (Harrison Ford). Ford, Richard Dreyfus, Cindy Williams, and MacKenzie Phillips would all go on to become film stars.

Source: Courtesy of American International Pictures

15. 1973 XB GT Ford Falcon
> Film: Mad Max (1979)
> Genre: Sci-fi, drama
> Starring: Mel Gibson and Joanne Samuel

The futuristic dystopian classic that launched Mel Gibson into stardom also featured a third-generation Ford Falcon. Already juiced with a V-8 engine, the filmmakers converted the Falcon into an “Interceptor,” affixing a new nose to the front end, adding flares, and attaching a switch-activated supercharger booster on the hood for when Max needs to flee. Of course, that supercharger was not real.

Source: Courtesy of Warner Bros.

16. Batmobile Tumbler
> Film: Batman Begins (2005)
> Genre: Drama, fantasy
> Starring: Christian Bale, Michael Caine, Liam Neeson, Katie Holmes, Gary Oldman

Christopher Nolan’s “Batman Begins” features an almost reptilian-looking tank that is Batman’s car. The caped crusader, played by Christian Bale, tools around in a vehicle packing a Chevy V-8 that boosts it up to 60 mph in about five seconds. The Tumbler is also made of 65 carbon-fiber panels.

Source: Courtesy of Warner Bros.

17. The Gigahorse
> Film: Mad Max: Fury Road (2015)
> Genre: Sci-fi, drama
> Starring: Tom Hardy, Charlize Theron

The reboot of the Mad Max movie franchise had many outrageous cars and trucks, but the Gigahorse topped them all. The vehicle features two 1959 Cadillac bodies pancaked on top of each other atop a truck chassis that is powered by two Chevy large block V-8 engines. The jacked-up tractor tires in the rear gave the Gigahorse a kind of predatory look.

Source: Courtesy of Paramount Pictures

18. 1976 AMC Pacer
> Film: Wayne’s World 1 and 2 (1992-3)
> Genre: Comedy
> Starring: Mike Myers, Dana Carvey

Wayne and Garth are a couple of rock and roll-loving suburban kids seeking to be cool who ride around in an AMC Pacer, one of the uncoolest cars of the 1970s. It may have a cassette player, and the custom flame job sets it apart from other Pacers, but it’s still a Pacer — and that made many kids hurl in the 1970s.

Source: Courtesy of Warner Bros.

19. 1967 Chevy Camaro SS
> Film: Better Off Dead (1985)
> Genre: Comedy
> Starring: John Cusack, Amanda Wyss, Curtis Armstrong

American movies in the 1980s had this fixation about female French exchange students, and “Better Off Dead” continued with the theme. This time, a young man played by date-movie mainstay John Cusack is jilted by a local girl. A French exchange student who has a crush on him helps build his confidence by fixing his smoking hot 1967 Camaro.

Source: Courtesy of Gramercy Pictures

20. 1973 Ford Gran Torino
> Film: The Big Lebowski (1998)
> Genre: Comedy
> Starring: John Goodman, Jeff Bridges, Steve Buscemi

Jeffrey “The Dude” Lebowski is a middle-aged guy in Los Angeles going nowhere. He has a fondness for White Russians, bowling, and his 1973 Ford Gran Torino. During the film, the car is stolen, vandalized, and set on fire. Screenwriters Ethan and Joel Coen wanted the Dude to drive a Chrysler LeBaron, but the car wasn’t big enough to handle co-star John Goodman. There were two Gran Torinos used in the movie — one was destroyed in the film and the other appeared in the television show “The X-Files.”

Source: Courtesy of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

21. 1966 Ford Thunderbird
> Film: Thelma & Louise (1991)
> Genre: Drama
> Starring: Geena Davis and Susan Sarandon

An uncustomized 1966 Ford Thunderbird was chosen for cinema’s most famous female desperados because its openness made it easy to film actors Geena Davis and Susan Sarandon. The vehicle meets its end when the two drive off a cliff into the Grand Canyon rather than be apprehended by police.

Source: Courtesy of Fox Searchlight Pictures

22. 1971 Volkswagen T2 Microbus
> Film: Little Miss Sunshine (2006)
> Genre: Comedy
> Starring: Greg Kinnear, Toni Collette, Abigail Breslin, Steve Carell

The dysfunctional Hoover family unites to get a young girl (Abigail Breslin) to the Little Miss Sunshine Beauty pageant in California. They drive from New Mexico in an equally dysfunctional yellow VW microbus, whose clutch is broken, the horn sticks, and a door comes off. One of the movie’s enduring scenes is the family pushing a disabled microbus while various family members try to put it in gear. The filmmakers used five VW vans for the movie.

Source: Courtesy of Sony Pictures Releasing

23. 2014 Aston Martin DB10
> Film: Spectre (2015)
> Genre: Action
> Starring: Daniel Craig, Christoph Waltz, Léa Seydoux

The Aston Martin returned to the Bond movie franchise in “Spectre” — this time the 2014 Aston Martin DB10. Ten DB10s, outfitted with 4.7-liter V-8 engines, were made for the movie, which starred Daniel Craig as 007. One of the cars was sold at auction at Christie’s in 2016 for $3.5 million. Aston Martins have been featured in 12 of the 24 Bond films.

Source: Courtesy of Universal Pictures

24. 1955 Chevrolet 150
> Film: Two-Lane Blacktop (1971)
> Genre: Drama
> Starring: James Taylor, Warren Oates

“Two-Lane Blacktop” stars singer James Taylor, Beach Boys drummer Dennis Wilson, Warren Oates, and a 1955 Chevrolet 150. Taylor and Wilson are aimless street racers in the Southwest. They say very little during the film while looking for competition to race against. Universal Studios constructed three 1955 Chevys for filming.

Source: Courtesy of Miramax

25. 1997 Chevrolet 2500 Silverado Fleetside
> Film: Kill Bill: Vol. 1 (2003)
> Genre: Drama
> Starring: Uma Thurman, Lucy Liu, Michael Søren Madsen,

Quentin Tarantino’s salute to martial arts and spaghetti Westerns rests heavily on the revenge theme. The avenger is a character called The Bride (Uma Thurman), who rides around in a canary-yellow truck. After filming the movie, Tarantino kept the truck for himself and used it to promote the subsequent Kill Bill movies.

Source: Courtesy of Paramount Pictures

26. 1948 Tucker Sedan
> Film: Tucker: The Man and His Dream (1988)
> Genre: Drama
> Starring: Jeff Bridges, Joan Allen, Martin Landau

Francis Ford Coppola directed this little-heralded story about entrepreneur Preston Tucker, who takes on the big automobile makers with an innovative vehicle called the “Car of Tomorrow.” It had four-speed manual, electronic pre-select transmission, pop-out safety glass windshield, and padded dashboard and doors, among other features. The company was sunk by allegations of fraud, and only 51 cars were ever made. Coppola used 21 of them during the film.

Source: Courtesy of United Artists

27. 1949 Buick Roadmaster Convertible
> Film: Rain Man (1988)
> Genre: Drama
> Starring: Tom Cruise, Dustin Hoffman

The 1949 Buick Roadmaster convertible stars in “Rain Man” along with A-list actors Tom Cruise and Dustin Hoffman, the latter of whom won an Oscar as the austistic savant brother of Cruise.

Source: Courtesy of Universal Pictures

28. 1970 Dodge Charger
> Film: The Fast and the Furious (2001)
> Genre: Action
> Starring: Vin Diesel, Michelle Rodriguez, Paul Walker

This is the car that helped launch one of cinema’s most successful franchises. This beast was so powerful that Vin Diesel’s character Dominic Toretto was intimidated by it. Diesel duels Paul Walker (driving a Supra) in the movie’s climactic race scene. Another Charger appeared in the 1970s cult favorite “Dirty Mary Crazy Larry.”

Source: Courtesy of Universal Pictures

29. 1992 Ford Explorer XLT UN46
> Film: Jurassic Park (1993)
> Genre: Sci-fi, drama
> Starring: Sam Neill, Richard Atttenborough, Jeff Goldblum

The 1992 Ford Explorer XLT UN46 that tooled around Jurassic Park with Richard Atttenborough’s screen grandkids featured panorama glass roofs and high-tech information systems. Six cars were beaten up in the film and filled three dumpsters with parts. The Tyrannosaurus rex came fully loaded, too.

Source: Courtesy of Columbia Pictures

30. 1993 Porsche 911 Turbo 3.6
> Film: Bad Boys (1995)
> Genre: Crime, action
> Starring: Martin Lawrence and Will Smith

Martin Lawrence and Will Smith play two narcotics detectives on the job in Miami. The Porsche 911, lent by director Michael Bay, was used in the opening scene of the film. Fewer than 1,500 1993 Porsche 911 Turbo 3.6’s were ever built.

Source: Courtesy of FilmDistrict

31. 1973 Chevrolet Malibu
> Film: Drive (2011)
> Genre: Crime, drama
> Starring: Ryan Gosling, Carey Mulligan

The slick, stylish, neo-noir film “Drive” is about a movie stunt driver (Ryan Gosling) who moonlights as a getaway driver. He tries to put his life of crime behind him when he falls in love with a woman.

Though there are a number of impressive cars featured in the film, the main vehicle is a 1973 Chevy Malibu. Gosling himself selected the car from a Los Angeles junkyard, according to director Nicholas Winding Refn. The car is understated, but powerful — much like Gosling’s character in the film.

Source: Courtesy of Twentieth Century Fox

32. Ford GT40
> Film: Ford v Ferrari (2019)
> Genre: Biography, drama
> Starring: Matt Damon, Christian Bale

The film “Ford v Ferrari” tells the true story of how legendary car designer Carroll Shelby and driver Ken Miles were tapped by Ford executives to build a superior race car and unseat Ferrari as the dominant car brand at the prestigious 24 Hours of Le Mans endurance race. The car they came up with was the 600 horsepower Ford GT40 Mk II, though replicas were used for the movie.

The film won two Oscars (sound editing and film editing) and received rave reviews — with 92% of critics and 98% of moviegoers giving “Ford v Ferrari” positive marks, according to Rotten Tomatoes.

Source: Courtesy of Sony Pictures Releasing

33. 2006 Subaru WRX
> Film: Baby Driver (2017)
> Genre: Action, crime
> Starring: Ansel Elgort, Jon Bernthal, Jon Hamm

2017 heist flick “Baby Driver” centers on a tinnitus-afflicted getaway driver who uses music to time and choreograph his escapes from bank robberies. In the film, Baby (Ansel Elgort) flees the scene in a flashy, red 2006 Subaru WRX — screeching and spinning the speedy Subaru away from the police with some impressive 180 degree spins.

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