All the big names, like Chevy, Dodge, Ford, and Porsche have had roles in films, but there is an interesting appearance at the end of this list.
Movies and cars have always made for an entertaining combination. In fact, both the automobile and the motion picture industry have been working in tandem since the early 1900s, with countless movies depicting an unending array of automobiles over the decades and beyond. While most cars found in movies aren’t particularly memorable, a strong portion still manages to stand out among the rest, and occasionally, the car itself can be the main star.
Whether they’re seen throttled to the limit in the midst of some fast-paced car chase or simply assigned to be driven by a given character, these cars helped to define the movies in which they were depicted. For some movies, their success owes almost entirely towards their automotive action and the vehicles utilized within. In one form or another, Hollywood has produced some of the most memorable cars ever built, and their on-screen exploits are exactly why we remember them years later while lesser cars and lackluster movies end up forgotten. In no particular order, here are 10 of the most iconic movie cars of all time.
Ronin is probably the best car chase movie to emerge from the 1990s, and on top of that, the cars selected for filming were top-notch for their roles. This action film follows a group of mercenaries working in France and features several chase scenes that were masterfully shot by John Frankenheimer, who’d previously directed Grand Prix in 1966.
Grand Prix alone has some of the best racing sequences ever filmed, but Ronin took things to an entirely different level. A BMW E34 M5 is one of the more prominent cars of the feature, although Ronin also depicts a lot of chase sequences with a 1976 Mercedes-Benz 450 SEL 6.9, as well as a memorable Audi S8 D2 that serves as a main getaway vehicle.
No Man’s Land is a highly underrated car movie from the 1980s, starring Charlie Sheen as a car thief who specializes in Porsches, as well as D.B. Sweeney as the undercover cop assigned to “work” alongside him. The basic plot is essentially identical to the original Point Break from 1991…which is also nearly identical to the plot from the first The Fast & Furious film. Coincidence?
In addition to some interesting chase sequences, No Man's Land is also host to a massive selection of vintage Porsches, ranging from a classic 356 to several examples of the 911 and 930. If you're a fan of air-cooled Porsches and you still have yet to see No Man's Land, then it's imperative that you watch this film at once.
The Mad Max franchise is the original post-apocalyptic adventure series, following the life of Max Rockatansky as he transforms from a humble cop into a revenge-seeking maniac, until he eventually seems to find his place as an aimless drifter in a destroyed world.
Out of the four Mad Max movies, the 1973 Ford Falcon XB has been his main method of transportation. Known as the “V8 Interceptor” and the “Black on Black”, this car acts as Max’s home, his source of livelihood, and also the only connection he has to the old world.
It’s nearly impossible to create a list of movie cars without including the Bullitt Mustang. Driven by legendary stuntman Bud Ekins, with help from Steve McQueen himself, this 1968 Ford Mustang GT helped revolutionize the way Hollywood depicted car chases.
Bullitt’s lasting effects are evident by virtually any car-chase feature in the following decade, with a strong emphasis on the actions of the cars themselves creating the drama for the scene. It’s important to remember that a strong portion of 1960s car-chase scenes consisted of sped-up film of vehicles moving at a relatively low pace, whereas Bullitt featured nothing but the real deal. This is exactly why Bullitt still stands out in the modern world.
James Bond’s Aston Martin DB5 is likely one of the most recognizable cars in cinema, having first made its appearance in the 1964 movie, Goldfinger, alongside Sean Connery. In the 1995, GoldenEye, the car re-emerged as Pierce Brosnan’s transport of choice, and later on, would become a main star in nearly every of the Daniel Craig films. In actuality, the famed DB5 can trace its roots to another Aston Martin, the DB Mk III, which was driven by James Bond in the literary version of Goldfinger. Bond author Ian Fleming always made a key point to signify that the super spy in question was a car enthusiast throughout the books, and Bond's personal car was actually a supercharged Bentley 4.5L.
Packed with a plethora of gadgets including machine guns and an ejector seat, James Bond’s Aston Martin DB5 has become a mascot of the entire series and has been making a lasting impression for nearly 60 years.
The 2000 remake of Gone in 60 Seconds wasn’t exactly the best movie on this list, but fans can’t deny the staggering presence of Eleanor, a 1967 Shelby GT500 with some rather unique modifications.
Eleanor served as one of the main focal points of the film, climaxing in an extended car chase through Los Angeles. Designed by Steve Stanford and brought to reality by Chip Foose, the Eleanor Mustang is an absolute work of art featuring a barrage of distinct styling touches from Shelby’s past, such as the Cobra-esque wheels and a front bumper that looks straight off of a 1965 GT350R.
The 1974 movie, Dirty Mary, Crazy Larry was basically just a massive car chase from its opening until the unexpected and surprising end. Quantity did not substitute quality, as these scenes portrayed a massive amount of very real danger and death-defying stunt work, some of the absolute best ever featured in film.
The main characters utilize two different cars, one for each half of the movie. First off is a 1966 Chevy Impala sedan, followed by a 1969 Dodge Charger R/T. Both of these cars undergo some highly impressive stunt sequences, although the Charger tends to be the more memorable of the pair. Dirty Mary, Crazy Larry is easily a must-watch for any muscle car enthusiast.
Two-Lane Blacktop is a highly underrated drag-racing flick from 1971 that centers upon a pair of racers, played by musicians James Taylor and Dennis Wilson. Their sole transport is a severely modified 1955 Chevrolet 150 that features a built 454-cid V8, fiberglass body panels, and countless other touches that allowed this car to run 10-second drag times.
A 1970 Pontiac GTO Judge also plays a major role in Two-Lane Blacktop, as well as a vast display of hot rods and classic muscle cars that make this movie a must-see for anyone reading this list.
Vanishing Point is easily one of the best car-chase movies of the 1970s, with a white 1970 Dodge Challenger R/T as the key vehicle, driven by a main character known only as “Kowalski”. Kowalski is a former racer who, after some rough times, finds himself working as a delivery driver for various dealerships. After being assigned to transport the Challenger from Denver to San Francisco, Kowalski then makes a bet with his drug dealer that he can cover the distance in only 15 hours.
What follows is basically an entire feature of automotive mayhem, with Kowalski being chased by a barrage of police cruisers as he barrels at high speeds across the open desert and through four separate states. With veteran stuntman Carey Loftin handling most of the driving duties, Vanishing Point makes for some of the best car films on record.
C’était un rendezvous is a 1978 short film by director Claude Lelouch that became as entertaining as it was controversial. At only eight minutes long, Rendezvous consists of a single shot from a camera that Lelouch had mounted to the front end of his Mercedes-Benz 450 SEL, which depicts an intense, high-speed run through the streets of Paris on an early morning.
What makes Rendezvous truly unique is the fact that the action is all real. Lelouch attained no permits for filming and simply took the car out into real traffic, dodging assorted cars and pedestrians alike through this infamous run. The sounds of the Mercedes’ engine proved to be too mediocre, and so, Lelouch dubbed in the glorious music of his own Ferrari 275GTB for added flair. It all proved to be a bit much, however, as the film itself eventually led to Lelouch being arrested. Regardless, Rendezvous stands out among virtually any other automotive feature because of its blatant realism. Nothing is faked here, everything you see is the real deal.
Sources: IMDB, Hemmings, Hagerty, MGM, Warner Bros
Jon Morris is a former independent road racer, automotive historian, and the founder of Obscure Cars Daily. He has been immersed in automotive culture throughout his entire life and possesses an expansive knowledge of the most obscure and rare cars ever conceived by human hands. Additionally, he acts as a co-organizer of Pittsburgh’s North Side Coffee & Cars, a monthly car meet dedicated to showcasing obscure and unusual automobiles.