The 25 Most Iconic Film and TV Cars

The 25 Most Iconic Film and TV Cars

Few things have captured the American imagination like the open road and a cool car to drive on it. This love affair with high-performance motor vehicles has often been immortalized on TV or in film. Many of the most beloved and celebrated films of all time feature high-speed car chases, iconic backseat singalongs, or flashy sports cars cruising down the open highway.

24/7 Tempo has compiled a list of the most iconic cars in film and TV, using the online automobile information resource Edmunds and other sources.

Some of the cars on the list are iconic in their own right – sleek spy cars like the Aston Martin DB5 seen in numerous James Bond flicks or the souped-up Pontiac Trans-Am imbued with artificial intelligence as seen on the hit TV show “Knight Rider.” (Here’s how 30 iconic car models got their names.)

Other vehicles became iconic because of the way they were used: Some were important parts of memorable scenes, while others, like Herbie the Love Bug, were essentially stars themselves. Some iconic TV cars, like Walter White’s eyesore of a Pontiac Aztek in “Breaking Bad” or the Peugeot 403 from “Columbo” were important symbols for their characters.

Besides the Bond movies represented on the list, we also included selections from the “Batman,” “Mad Max,” and “Fast and Furious” movie franchises. (Who played the Caped Crusader best? Here are all the “Batman” actors ranked from worst to best.)

Source: Heritage Images / Hulton Archive via Getty Images

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

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: Will & Deni McIntyre / The Chronicle Collection via Getty Images

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

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: Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons

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, Jeffrey Jones

The cars that make skipping school worth it in “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” are a Ferrari and a Modena, although the former 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, as the real one cost $300,000 at the time.

Source: Courtesy of American Movie Classics

4. Pontiac Aztek
> Show: Breaking Bad (2008–2013)
> Genre: Crime, drama
> Starring: Bryan Cranston, Aaron Paul, Anna Gunn, Dean Norris

Before “Breaking Bad,” the Pontiac Aztek was often referred to as one of the ugliest cars ever assembled. But the vehicle was seen in a new light after it was used by Walter White to help found his New Mexico drug empire. The car was symbolic of White’s miserable lot in life – having missed out on a stake in a successful company, reduced to being a poorly-paid teacher with terminal cancer.

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 National Broadcasting Company

6. Custom Pontiac Trans Am
> Show: Knight Rider (1982-1986)
> Genre: Action, crime, drama
> Starring: David Hasselhoff, Edward Mulhare, Richard Basehart, Patricia McPherson

In the 1980s, American audiences were captivated by “Knight Rider” – a show in which David Hasselhoff played a vigilante named Michael Knight. He wasn’t alone in his quest for justice though: He was aided by a special Pontiac Trans-Am that came equipped with artificial intelligence and a few other tricks. The vehicle was known as K.I.T.T., or the Knight Industries Two Thousand. NBC reportedly had around 20 of these custom vehicles produced for the show.

Source: Courtesy of Universal Pictures

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

“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, Noël 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 caffès, 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, Delroy Lindo

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 National Broadcasting Company

12. Ferrari 365 GTS/4 Daytona Spider (C3 Corvette)
> Show: Miami Vice (1984-1989)
> Genre: Action, crime, drama
> Starring: Don Johnson, Philip Michael Thomas, Saundra Santiago, Michael


Few shows were cooler and more emblematic of the 1980s than Miami Vice. Detectives Crockett and Tubbs had everything: action, fashion, and most importantly the cool car – a Ferrari 365 GTS/4 Daytona Spider. However, even though the car was supposed to be a Ferrari, the show initially used C3 Corvettes that were modified to look like Ferraris. Eventually, the Italian automaker filed suit to stop the show from using the imposters. The two sides later reached an agreement, and Ferrari offered the show two Testarossas to use.

Source: Courtesy of Buena Vista Distribution Company

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

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, Richard Dreyfuss, Cindy Williams

The second film directed by George Lucas, later of “Star Wars” fame, was “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, Joanne Samuel, Hugh Keays-Byrne, Steve Bisley

The futuristic dystopian classic that launched Mel Gibson into stardom also featured a third-generation Ford Falcon. Though it was 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: Alexander Laney / Wikimedia Commons

16. Batmobile Tumbler
> Film: Batman Begins (2005)
> Genre: Drama, fantasy
> Starring: Christian Bale, Michael Caine, Liam Neeson, 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 made of 65 carbon-fiber panels.

Source: sshaw75 / Getty Images

17. 1969 Dodge Charger
> Show: Dukes of Hazzard (1979-1985)
> Genre: Action, comedy
> Starring: Tom Wopat, John Schneider, Catherine Bach, Denver Pyle

Few cars have ever seemed cooler than the General Lee – the 1969 Dodge Charger used in the iconic TV show “Dukes of Hazzard.” For years, the Duke boys of Hazzard County used their muscle car to evade Boss Hogg and Sheriff Coltrane – often driving over ramps to clear obstacles that no other car could manage.

Source: Courtesy of Gramercy Pictures

18. 1973 Ford Gran Torino
> Film: The Big Lebowski (1998)
> Genre: Comedy
> Starring: John Goodman, Jeff Bridges, Steve Buscemi, Julianne Moore

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 later appeared in the television show “The X-Files.”

Source: Courtesy of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

19. 1966 Ford Thunderbird
> Film: Thelma & Louise (1991)
> Genre: Drama
> Starring: Geena Davis, Susan Sarandon, Harvey Keitel, Michael Madsen

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 National Broadcasting Company

20. 1983 GMC Vandura
> Show: The A-Team
> Genre: Action, adventure, crime
> Starring: George Peppard, Mr. T, Dwight Schultz, Dirk Benedict

In “The A-Team,” a group of Vietnam vets framed for a crime help those in need while on the run from the authorities. Though there were four members of the team, the unofficial fifth member was their custom-painted van. The roomy GMC Vandura helped plans come together for B.A., Murdock, Hannibal, and Face by serving not only as an arsenal, but as a surveillance outpost, printing press, and more.

Source: Courtesy of Miramax

21. 1997 Chevrolet 2500 Silverado Fleetside
> Film: Kill Bill: Vol. 1 (2003)
> Genre: Drama
> Starring: Uma Thurman, Lucy Liu, Michael Madsen, Daryl Hannah

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 Silverado. After filming the movie, Tarantino kept the truck for himself and used it to promote the subsequent Kill Bill movies.

Source: Courtesy of Universal Pictures

22. 1970 Dodge Charger
> Film: The Fast and the Furious (2001)
> Genre: Action
> Starring: Vin Diesel, Michelle Rodriguez, Paul Walker, Jordana Brewster

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 Fox Searchlight Pictures

23. 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; the 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 National Broadcasting Company

24. 1959 Peugeot 403 Cabriolet
> Show: Columbo (1971-2003)
> Genre: Crime, drama, mystery
> Starring: Peter Falk, Mike Lally, John Finnegan, numerous guest stars

Just because a TV car is iconic, it doesn’t necessarily have to be flashy. This is the case for the 1959 Peugeot 403 Cabriolet seen in the detective classic “Columbo.” The humble Los Angeles homicide detective drove an unassuming sedan that gradually became more raggedly and beat up as the show went on.

Source: Courtesy of Columbia Pictures

25. 1993 Porsche 911 Turbo 3.6
> Film: Bad Boys (1995)
> Genre: Crime, action
> Starring: Martin Lawrence, Will Smith, Téa Leoni, Tchéky Karyo

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.

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