From 007’s classically stylish Aston Martin to the beat-up station wagon that starred in “National Lampoon’s Vacation,” sometimes cars are the scene-stealers.
Here are a few of the most famous movie cars.
“Back to the Future” Franchise
One of the most famous movie cars of all time, the DeLorean didn’t just look cool – it also played a critical part in the plot of the “Back to the Future” movies. It was the DeLorean DMC-12 that Doc Brown chose as his time machine. Known for its distinctive gull-wing doors, fiberglass frame and stainless-steel body, the car was the brainchild of automotive engineer John DeLorean, a former General Motors executive who founded the DeLorean Motor Company in 1974. The first DMC-12 was released in January 1981.
The following year, the company filed for bankruptcy. The last car was manufactured in December 1982. Approximately 9,200 cars were built in total.
Ford Mustang GT
In this classic film’s most famous scene, legendary actor – and avid race car driver – Steve McQueen races around the streets of San Francisco in a 1968 Ford Mustang GT. Not only did the Mustang become one of the most iconic movie cars of all time, the scene became the standard by which all other car chases are measured. In 2018, Ford released its third special edition Mustang model to commemorate the 50th anniversary of “Bullitt.”
The Ghostbuster car became nearly as iconic the characters themselves. This spirit-hunting wagon, better known as the Ecto-1, was actually a 1959 Cadillac Miller-Meteor ambulance. Only about 400 of these cars were made, and two found their way to the “Ghostbusters” set. Originally the car was to be painted black. That idea was scrapped because of how often it was going to be shot at night.
Certainly one of the most famous cars in movie history, the Batmobile has undergone myriad transformations over the years. From the Lincoln Futura-based car of the 1960s to the more recent tank-like Tumbler, everyone has their favorite. While you’ll have a difficult time picking one up at the dealership, know that the long, sleek version in “Batman” and “Batman Returns” was built on the chassis of a Chevrolet Impala. So you can start there.
Ford Gran Torino
The Torino was produced by Ford between 1968 and 1976. It was named after the city of Turin, considered to be the “Italian Detroit.” In “Gran Torino,” Clint Eastwood plays cantankerous Korean War vet Walt Kowalski, who has isolated himself from the world. It’s Walt’s prized 1972 Ford Gran Torino that serves as a conduit for a friendship between him and his young neighbor, which would have profound effects on both their lives.
Aston Martin DB5
“James Bond” Franchise
There are few more iconic film characters than James Bond, and few more iconic images of Bond than with him behind the wheel of an Aston Martin. Debuting in 1964’s “Goldfinger,” the Aston Martin DB5 has been featured in 12 films over the course of more than 50 years. The book version of “Goldfinger” had Bond driving a DB Mark III. But Aston Martin had just released the DB5 in 1963, so the decision was made to use the company’s latest car. Needless to say, sales of the DB5 increased when “Goldfinger” hit the silver screen.
We could list all the transformers here, but none underwent such a transformation upon landing on the silver screen (or had its own standalone movie) as Bumblebee. The yellow automobile was originally a Volkswagen Beetle, but took the form of a Chevrolet Camaro in the film franchise.
Wagon Queen Family Truckster
For cross-country road trips, it certainly helps to have the right set of wheels. Unfortunately for the Griswolds, they’re forced to settle for the Wagon Queen Family Truckster. The station wagon was oversized, had a pale avocado and metallic green paint scheme, extensive imitation wood-paneling decals and eight headlights. The famous movie car was created specifically for the film. However, it was based on a 1979 Ford LTD Country Squire.
The eponymous Bug in Disney’s 1968 film “The Love Bug” was a pearl-white 1963 Volkswagen Beetle named Herbie. Of course, the beetle also came to life and had the ability to drive itself. Herbie has had a long and storied career on the silver screen. The car has appeared in six films, most recently 2005’s “Herbie: Fully Loaded.”
250 GT California Spyder
If you’re going to skip school and gallivant around the Windy City, a proper set of wheels is a requisite. Fortunately for Ferris Bueller, his best friend Cameron’s dad just happened to be the owner of a cherry red 250 GT California Spyder. Although Ferris and company – and a pair of lucky parking garage attendants – enjoyed the car, it did, regrettably, meet an untimely end.
For famous cars from the small screen, check out our list of top television cars of all time.
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18 Thoughts on “10 of the Most Famous Movie Cars”
And let’s not forget all the cool cars in “American Graffiti” – especially Suzanne Somers’ white T-Bird and the drag racers!
What about the following: SEAN CONNERY’S MUSTANG MACH 1 in DIAMONDS ARE FOREVER
DON JOHNSON’S C3 CORVETTE to look like a FERRARI in MIAMI VICE
JOHN PHILLIP LAW’S DeTOMASO PANTERA in THE LOVE MACHINE
DUSTIN HOFFMAN’S ALFA ROMEO SPIDER in THE GRADUATE
Where is Chitty Chitty Bang?
How about the Starsky and Hutch mobile
And the “General Lee” in “The Dukes of Hazzard”!
Maybe your car is famous, too! This site is a cool resource to find out if your vehicle has appeared in movies and TV series. My coveted vintage Jeep Wagoneer appears on-screen over 300 times! http://www.imcdb.org/
Lets not forget the stunt-driver/actor Bill Hickman. He drove the black Dodge Charger that Steve McQueen was chasing in “Bullitt” and the car that Roy Scheider was chasing through the streets of New York in “The Seven Ups”. Hickman also choreographed and at times drove the chase car under the New York el train in “The French Connection” with Gene Hackman.
That’s fascinating, John, we’ll have to look into Hickman when we revisit this theme in the future. Stunt people are so under-appreciated! -JA
Another great movie … truck? That terrifying beast from “Duel.” Anyone else remember that one?
Let’s not forget KITT from the TV show Knight Rider. I know this article says Movie cars, but you included the 1966 TV Batmobile, not to mention KITT has made “guest appearances” in many movies. I have built a replica of KITT, but don’t see anywhere I can post it here.
How could we leave KITT out, especially when we let the batmobile in? I have a friend who also owns a replica, oddly enough, a huge fan. Anyhow, now I’m thinking we should do a top TV cars version of this … thanks for the idea!
When you do the TV version, don’t forget the Beverly Hillbillies Truck
and the Munster’s cars
Hi Kenn, check out “The Top Television Cars of All Time.” Both of those are on the list – and a few other favorites. Thanks for reading! 🙂
Can’t forget the race scene in “Bullitt”.
That’s a great one, Vincent, and let’s not forget the Snowman’s 18-wheeler!
77 Trans Am “Smokey and the Bandit”
RE: “DMC-12….. Known for its distinctive gull-wing doors and fiberglass body structure,”
Almost all DeLoreans were paneled in unpainted or clear coated stainless steel. A few were gold plated. Some were painted after they were bought. But the bodies are SS304 stainless steel, not fiberglass (except for some cars intended to train repair techs). The bodies sat on a backbone chassis like similar Lotus cars. If it weren’t for the timeless (at least so far) ditinctive styling by Giorgetto Giugiaro I doubt few would still be talking about it.
Marie, thanks so much for reading, and for such a thoughtful comment. You’re absolutely right, the cars had stainless steel panels, but they also had a fiberglass underbody! I agree about the styling, it’s such a unique design. Six DeLoreans were used during the filming of Back to the Future, and one was actually a fiberglass replica! Thanks for reading.