Cars and movies hit it big around the same time. Right as Henry Ford’s Model T was beginning to roll off the assembly line, the motion picture industry was establishing itself with short silent films in Hollywood, California.
With that timing, it’s no surprise that films and cars have always had a special relationship. But there are a few movie-car partnerships that rise above the rest. Whether by starring in one unforgettable scene or by anchoring an entire franchise, these 14 cars are so iconic we can’t imagine the movies without them.
1. 1970 Dodge Charger R/T (The Fast and the Furious)
It might be hard to remember now that the series is full of nuclear submarine hijackings and cars falling out of planes, but The Fast and the Furious used to be about street racers. In the very first installment back in 2001, the 1970 Charger was the only car Vin Diesel’s Dominic Toretto was afraid to drive, since his father was killed behind its wheel.
It takes another tragedy to get Dom into the Charger, but when he finally races it, the results are glorious. That wheelie alone is enough to earn this car the honor of kicking off this list. It feels like another death when the Charger gets wrecked a few minutes later, which makes it all the more cheer-worthy when Dom resurrects it in 2009’s Fast & Furious.
2. 2006 Subaru Impreza WRX (Baby Driver)
2017’s Baby Driver is one of the newest entries in the canon of great car movies, starring Ansel Elgort as a teenage getaway driver who always has the perfect soundtrack for every car chase. Baby only drives the red Subaru Impreza WRX in one scene, but the stunts he pulls — especially a drive down a garbage-filled alley — made enough of an impression that the Impreza used in the movie was auctioned off for almost $70,000.
3. 1977 Pontiac Trans Am (Smokey and the Bandit)
The Trans Am has such a distinct style that you’ll probably recognize it right away, even if you’ve never seen this classic Burt Reynolds chase flick. 1977’s Smokey and the Bandit sees Reynolds tasked with bringing 400 cases of Coors beer from Texas to Atlanta in 28 hours.
While his friend drives the truck full of beer, Reynolds’s Trans Am darts to and fro to keep the law occupied — and with that massive flaming chicken on the hood, it’s not hard for him to draw the eyes of the cops and everyone else.
4. 1959 Cadillac Miller-Meteor Ambulance (Ghostbusters)
When Dr. Ray Stantz (Dan Aykroyd), Dr. Peter Venkman (Bill Murray), and Dr. Egon Spengler (Harold Ramis) first buy an ambulance/hearse combo for their fledgling ghost-hunting business, it’s in as sorry a state as their headquarters. But after “some suspension work and shocks” as the ever-optimistic Ray puts it, the vehicle is reborn as the legendary Ecto-1.
Built specially for the movie out of a Miller-Meteor ambulance on a Cadillac chassis, Ecto-1 is a beloved character in its own right, enough that fans rejoiced when Finn Wolfhard rediscovered it in the trailer for this year’s Ghostbusters Afterlife. If you say it’s one of the great movie rides of all time…we’re ready to believe you.
5. 1964 Aston Martin DB5 (Goldfinger)
James Bond has driven a lot of cars in the 50-year history of his film franchise, but none has made as much of an impact as the Aston Martin DB5 driven by Sean Connery in 1964’s Goldfinger. The third entry in the 007 saga sees Bond pitted against a gold-obsessed madman, whom he triumphs over with the help of a luxury car fitted with an oil slick, ejector seat, and machine guns.
6. 1973 Ford Falcon XB GT Pursuit Special (Mad Max)
“The last of the V8 interceptors” is actually an Australian police car painted black, befitting the origins of Max Rockatansky (Mel Gibson) as a loose cannon cop with a knack for car chases. By the time of the sequel, The Road Warrior, Max is roaming a post-apocalyptic wasteland, and the unique car is a symbol of his humanity in this dangerous new world.
The Pursuit Special was destroyed in the first few minutes of 2015’s Mad Max: Fury Road, but the equally iconic War Rig — a pimped-out truck piloted by Imperator Furiosa (Charlize Theron) — took its place.
7. 1974 Police Package Dodge Monaco (The Blues Brothers)
Speaking of police vehicles, we couldn’t finish this list without mentioning the repurposed cop car that carried Jake and Elwood Blues on their mission from God. In the words of Elwood (Dan Aykroyd): “It’s got a cop motor, a four hundred and forty cubic inch plant. It’s got cop tires, cop suspensions, cop shocks. It’s a model made before catalytic converters, so it’ll run good on regular gas.”
During filming, 13 different cars played the role of the Bluesmobile. Those 13 cars destroyed over 100 cop cars in the movie — a record that wouldn’t be broken until Blues Brothers 2000, 18 years later.
8. 1968 Ford Mustang Fastback (Bullitt)
Bullitt would be just another 60s cop action picture if it weren’t for its cinema-redefining car chase through the streets of San Francisco. None of the car chases mentioned on this list could have happened without Steve McQueen’s Lieutenant Frank Bullitt and his ’68 Mustang.
The movie’s car was played by two identical Mustangs with modified suspensions, one of which disappeared after Bullitt came out and spent decades as a family car. Despite Steve McQueen begging the Kiernan family to sell it to him, it wasn’t auctioned off until January 2020. We understand why Robert Kiernan refused — the looks on the other parents’ faces when he picked up his kids in this car must have been priceless.
9. 1968 Austin Mk I Mini Cooper S (The Italian Job)
1968 was a banner year for cars in film. The Italian Job is so inseparable from its red, white, and blue Mini Cooper getaway cars that some people think Chrysler’s relaunching of the Mini caused the movie to be remade in 2004.
10. Batmobile (The Dark Knight)
OK, so the Batmobile is more of an urban assault vehicle than a “car” per se. But if James Bond’s machine-gun Aston Martin counts, then so does Batman’s ride, which somehow manages to exude cool even in the hero’s dorkiest outings (looking at you, Clooney).
It was hard to choose which version of the Batmobile to include, but we ultimately decided to go with the “tumbler” model, driven by Christian Bale as he battles the Joker (Heath Ledger) in 2008’s The Dark Knight. While Wayne Industries may not be a real automaker, five real versions of this Batmobile exist, featuring a GM engine, custom everything, and 44-inch tires.
11. 1963 Volkswagen Beetle (The Love Bug)
It’s hard to believe now, but in the original script for 1968’s The Love Bug (there’s that year again!), Herbie was not a Volkswagen Beetle. Producer Bill Walsh held an audition to find the right car, parking several prospects outside Disney’s studio commissary and observing how people reacted to them. According to Walsh, the VW Bug was chosen because everyone who walked past wanted to pet it.
Can you blame them? Anybody who claims they’ve never pet or wanted to pet a Volkswagen Beetle is lying. Every car on this list is cool, but Herbie has them all beat when it comes to cute.
12. 1976 Chevy Camaro (Bumblebee)
The whole Transformers series is about giant alien robots who shapeshift into vehicles they find on Earth, so it would be a pretty big oversight if there wasn’t an iconic car or two. The heart and soul of the saga is Bumblebee, an Autobot with a preference for black and yellow Chevy Camaros.
He becomes a 2006 model opposite Shia LaBeouf, but we think the ’76 Camaro that befriends Hailee Steinfeld in the 2018 reboot has more character.
13. DeLorean DMC-12 (Back to the Future)
“The way I see it, if you’re going to build a time machine into a car, why not do it with some style?” With one line, Dr. Emmett Brown (Christopher Lloyd) single-handedly saved the DeLorean Motor Company from obscurity, if not from bankruptcy.
Already out of business by 1982, DeLorean’s car gained new fame when its unconventional design caught the eye of Back to the Future writer-director Robert Zemeckis. Zemeckis chose the DeLorean DMC-12 because he thought its signature gull-winged doors would convince a 1950s farmer he was looking at an alien spacecraft. While you can’t buy a DeLorean today, we can all still appreciate how badass it looks as Marty McFly revs it up to 88 miles per hour.
14. 1961 Ferrari 250 GT SWB California Spyder (Ferris Bueller’s Day Off)
The last iconic movie car on our list is an anomaly, since we’re happy to see it get destroyed. The 250 GT California Spyder is a true classic, but in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, it’s a symbol of the love Ferris’s friend Cameron (Alan Ruck) has never received from his father. When Cameron destroys the car in the climactic scene, it’s not nearly as flashy as the death of Dom Toretto’s Dodge Charger, but it’s just as powerful a moment.
Even back in the 80s, real California Spyders were far too expensive to destroy, so the car was played by a stunt double in most of its scenes. Of course, with Ferris Bueller now a bona fide classic, the replicas are now almost as valuable. That’s the power of film!
Featured Image Credit By: Sicnag, commonswikimedia
- 1. 1970 Dodge Charger R/T (The Fast and the Furious)
- 2. 2006 Subaru Impreza WRX (Baby Driver)
- 3. 1977 Pontiac Trans Am (Smokey and the Bandit)
- 4. 1959 Cadillac Miller-Meteor Ambulance (Ghostbusters)
- 5. 1964 Aston Martin DB5 (Goldfinger)
- 6. 1973 Ford Falcon XB GT Pursuit Special (Mad Max)
- 7. 1974 Police Package Dodge Monaco (The Blues Brothers)
- 8. 1968 Ford Mustang Fastback (Bullitt)
- 9. 1968 Austin Mk I Mini Cooper S (The Italian Job)
- 10. Batmobile (The Dark Knight)
- 11. 1963 Volkswagen Beetle (The Love Bug)
- 12. 1976 Chevy Camaro (Bumblebee)
- 13. DeLorean DMC-12 (Back to the Future)
- 14. 1961 Ferrari 250 GT SWB California Spyder (Ferris Bueller’s Day Off)