One of the greatest aspects about cinema and television is that it brings people together. Memorable movies and characters are embedded and edged into our minds so deep that many of us turn to quoting them in our regular everyday lives. Scenes of grandeur and spectacle immersed us so much that often times we stare off, blankly, and think of traveling through time and space, fighting crime or being the criminal, running from dinosaurs and murderers, and so on and so for forth. Production design and props transport us to these places where the possible can be impossible, a lot of the times in the film’s vehicle of wonder. These vehicles, like Doc Brown’s Time Machine (‘Back to the Future’, 1985) or Michael Knight’s talking Trans Am (‘Knight Rider’, ’82-’86) help set the stage for the amazement, wonder, and overall entertainment that we as the casual moviegoers or even the cinephile alike, can appreciate together.
In recent years, (with the big scale budgets of blockbuster films) there have been unnecessary aspects to movies, such as products being placed in an artist’s shot so that the consumer may think after the movie “hmm, I’d really like to have a Mountain Dew and drive a Camaro.”—I’m looking at you, Michael Bay (though, even the great Christopher Nolan’s Magnum Opus, ‘The Dark Knight’ (2008), features a gratuitous shot of a very expensive Lamborghini). Cars have been an important aspect of cinema and television culture since the 1960’s and the rise of the New Hollywood renaissance in film. Whether you’re a cop on the brink of sanity chasing down the killers of your wife and child, or a couple of mischief-making southern boys running from trouble every week, your favorite characters have always had a sweet ride to get them from Point A to B, even if it was totally unnecessary. Whether you’re a movie-lover or a car enthusiast itching to watch a movie with a prominent souped-up ride as a co-star, here are list of the film and television’s most legendary cars.
The Autobots and Decepticons of the ‘Transformers’ franchise (2007-Until the day you die)
Say what you will about Michael Bay (I do); the lack of any sort of feasible or cohesive story, or the special effects that are so abundant that the word special ceases to define them, but some of the vehicles that the heroic Autobots and despicable Decepticons disguise themselves are as new and mouth-watering as it gets. Take Bumblebee’s introduction in the first installment in the series when the robot pulls up as a 2006 fifth generation Chevy Camaro. Sure, it’s gratuitous, but as a teenage boy, I couldn’t stop staring. If you’re in the market for a film that is basically an auto show without having to worry about character arcs, I’d say you’ve found your movie.
Dom, Brian, and the Gang’s rides from ‘The Fast and the Furious’ franchise (2001-Until the day you die)
From Brian’s flashy Nissan Skyline R34 GT-R in the abysmal yet entertaining ‘2 Fast 2 Furious’ (2003) to one of Dom’s American Muscle classics throughout the series, like the 1970 Chevy Chevelle SS, the FF franchise’s cars have been a part of many a cinematic vehicular chase over the course of eight installments and sixteen years. Though they’ve offered many automotive junkies across the world plenty of what they desire, no one car has been heavily featured or focused on, rather being a celebration of the world of cars, which, while commendable, is why it’s low on this list.
…Now on with the show…
15.) Ecto-1 from the ‘Ghostbusters’ franchise (1984 – present)
While originally a gag, the 1959 Cadillac Professional Chassis (ambulance/hearse) gained a cult following from adults and children alike, because of its sirens and nuclear-powered ghost trap on the roof of the car. Now, that’s a big twinkie.
14.) The Griswold Family Wagon Queen Family Truckster Station Wagon from ‘National Lampoon’s Vacation’ (1980)
Not all legendary cars are flashy, nor are they powerful, nor are they speedy, nor are they ideal, nor are they designed to carry a deceased family member half of a cross-country journey, but the Griswold family defied all odds, making it from Chicago, IL all the way to mega theme park Walley World in Anaheim, CA. Unfortunately, “the park’s closed, folks—the moose out front should have told you.”
13.) The BMC Mini Cooper(s) from ‘The Italian Job’ (1969, original /2003, remake)
“You were just supposed to blow the bloody doors off!” wails Michael Caine, the iconic line from the original British caper where criminals are driving BMC’s pint-sized style-mobiles through sewers. The tiny mini cooper has been a staple of British culture since the 60’s and the remake brings the vehicle into the modern day, albeit with an American swagger to it.
12.) The 1970 Dodge Challenger R/T 440 from ‘Vanishing Point’ (1971)
‘Vanishing Point’ is an action movie in line with the dysfunctional times that it just came out of, featuring social commentary about the Vietnam War and Woodstock culture. But, the real attraction to the film has been that it’s about ninety minutes of car chases, and who doesn’t love that?
11.) Max Rockatansky’s Pursuit Special—“Last of the V8 Interceptors” (Supercharged Ford Falcon XB GT) from ‘Mad Max’ (1979) and ‘The Road Warrior’ (1981).
The man they call Max was working on his magnum opus long before he uses it run down feral, leather-clad bikers in the dystopian wasteland of Australia. The Pursuit Special is notable for its supercharger, weather and battle damage it has taken, and the booby traps.
10.) Starsky & Hutch’s Ford Gran Torino from ‘Starsky & Hutch’ (1975-1979 series, 2004 film).
The 70’s buddy cop action show was notable for its inherent zeitgeist and for the titular character’s sleek red Ford Gran Torino with a long, triangular white stripe on each side. If you’re not one to stomach vintage television, check out the hilarious film adaptation featuring Owen Wilson and Ben Stiller as the duo, Torino and all.
9.) The General Lee from ‘The Dukes of Hazzard’ (1979-1985 series, 2005 film).
Those Duke boys kept pesterin’ ole Boss Hog in this bright orange 1969 Dodge Charger with a confederate flag slapped on the roof, and a racing number (01) on the doors. While the flag is a bit of an eyesore and may not be the most politically correct in this day and age, the car will always be remembered for going off of ramps and Bo & Luke jumping through the window as a means of starting their chase.
TIE for 7.) and 8.): Pontiac Trans Am(s) (1977 Firebird) /KITT (1982 Firebird) from ‘Smokey and the Bandit’ (1977) and ‘Knight Rider’ (1982-1986).
I know this is a bit of a cop out, but because both vehicles are of the same make but different models, I couldn’t decide which one was to be higher on the list. While Bandit’s iconic car pestered the local law, KITT assisted Michael Knight in bringing criminals to justice…because he was a talking car. Now that I think about, KITT may have the edge here.
6.) Detective Bullitt’s 1968 Mustang Gran Torino from ‘Bullitt’ (1968).
There is little I can say about this car without running the experience for yourself, except that it was Steve McQueen’s vehicle in a film that features the greatest car chase scene of all-time with said vehicle. That sentence should prompt you to watch it. Now. Like, Right now. Go watch. I’ll wait.
5.) Herbie the Love Bug from ‘The Love Bug’ series (1968 – present).
The sentient 1963 Volkswagon Beetle with the number “53” and racing stripes on its surface is a symbol of family friendly entertainment and a prominent character from Disney that will start a child’s interest in vehicles at an early age.
4.) Cameron’s Dad’s Prized Ferrari from ‘Ferris Bueller’s Day off’ (1986).
The dream of every teenage guy is to go joyriding in the city while skipping school with their best friend and girlfriend. This dream was incepted the very day and first view of this classic comedy. The iconic red 1961 Ferrari 250 GT California may never leave your dreams.
3.) Dr. Emmet Brown’s Time Machine from the ‘Back to the Future’ series (1985 – 1990).
“You made a time machine…out of a DeLorean?” Precisely. The ill-fated DeLorean DMC-12 found life again once a Flux Capacitor and a little plutonium was added by our favorite mad scientist. Future modifications lead to flight, and the doors has always been a spectacle unto themselves.
2.) Agent 007’s 1963 Aston Martin DB5 from ‘Goldfinger’ (1964) and ‘Thunderball’ (1965).
Sean Connery’s James Bond’s luxury car was filled with gadgets galore, and definitely didn’t hurt him with the ladies. Sleek, silver, and sexy, there may not be a more recognizable car from cinema without any boisterous logos on it than the Aston Martin. The car even makes a cameo in 2012’s Skyfall, this time driven by Daniel Craig.
1.) The Batmobile from DC’s ‘Batman’ multi-media franchise (1939 – present).
I’ve used the word iconic a few times over the course of this piece, and like it or not, you will have to agree that this car is the most recognizable and effective mode of transportation for not only just Bruce Wayne’s alter ego, but for any human being to be lucky enough to get behind the wheels, fictional or not. From a classic luxury car, to a bullet-esque vehicle that looks exactly like a bat, to a military-grade tank, the Batmobile has helped the caped crusader protect Gotham City and the world from the criminals that wish to do harm. Big or small, sleek or bulky, with our without the bat-symbol, Batman’s ride is the most legendary car on the big and small screen.
Agree? Disagree? Have a different list? Let me know what you think below and if you’re curious as to what a car title loan would be on these vehicles, learn how to calculate equity!