1950s American car culture has had a major influence on art, pop culture, and generations of American youth. For the Hollywood directors who came out of this era and for all of us watching their films, cars are not just cast as supporting actors or onscreen transportation, but are often the biggest stars on set! For those of you who enjoy some serious metal eye candy and a good car chase on the screen now and then, here’s our timeline of the sharpest, toughest, and downright wackiest cars ever to roll in front of a camera.
- Bond’s Aston Martin DB5
Model: 1963 Aston Martin DB5
Appears In: Goldfinger (1964 Film)
Superspy James Bond drove many cars, but his favorite Aston Martin DB5’s sleek and timeless design became a lasting symbol of sex, power, and style. Throughout the long-running franchise, Bond’s main rides have been fitted with some pretty wild weaponry: his 1963 DB5 had pop out gun barrels, a bullet shield behind the rear window, and a revolving front license plate. We followed up on the spy car’s adventures and found that the original DB5 used in Goldfinger was recently sold to a collector for $4.6 million- and it actually came with all the functional spy upgrades shown onscreen.
BY: BERNARD SCRAGG NZ. FLICKR.
Model: Customized 1955 Lincoln Futura
Appears In: Batman: The Movie (1966 Film)
Used in the 1966-1968 live action Batman TV show and the 1966 film, this first Batmobile was a one-off 1955 Lincoln Futura prototype built by Ghia in Italy. Renowned American custom car designer George Barris prepared it for the film by adding metalwork, including the instantly recognizable rear rocket thruster and the gloss black and cherry red striped paint job. This most iconic of film vehicles was recently auctioned off to a collector for a cool $4.62 million in 2013. Can you imagine the distraction this thing causes on the road?
BY: JENNIFER GRAYLOCK. WIKIPEDIA.
- Ben’s Alfa Romeo
Model: 1966 Alfa Romeo Spider 1600
Appears In: The Graduate (1967 Film)
In this classic American film, 21-year-old graduate Benjamin Braddock starts an affair with a married woman, only to fall in love with her daughter Elaine. After much family drama, Ben jumps into his red Alfa Romeo Spider and speeds across California to try and stop Elaine’s wedding to another guy. The car gained major popularity in the U.S. and internationally thanks to the film’s gorgeous shots of this red roadster driving all over Cali, and Alfa Romeo eventually released a special edition “Alfa Graduate” model only in the U.S. in the 1980s.
BY: [email protected] WIKIPEDIA.
- Chitty Chitty Bang Bang
Model: Completely original design built in 1967
Appears In: Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (1968 Film)
Writer Ian Fleming first dreamed up the flying car based on aero-engined racing vehicles built in the 1920s, and the screen version of the car was created by the film’s production designer and a cartoonist and sculptor. A road legal version with a Ford 3000 V6 engine was also built for the film and registered in the UK, but it was apparently nearly impossible to drive thanks to its massive turning radius. Most recently, the car was purchased on auction by Lord of the Rings director Peter Jackson and is slated to be put on display in a $90 million movie museum project in New Zealand, says the NZ Herald.
BY: DAVOCANO. FLICKR.
Model: 1963 Volkswagen Beetle
Appears In: The Love Bug (1968 Film)
Who doesn’t know and love Herbie, the fully aware self-driving VW Beetle? In 1968 Herbie won audiences over with his underdog story and 40hp heart of gold, and went on to become the title character in numerous Walt Disney films. It’s reported that the film crew actually used a modified Beetle with a Porsche 356 engine for the race scenes and made other mods for Herbie’s wheelie stunt- but we all know the little Beetle could have pulled it off running on heart alone.
BY: SIMON17964. FLICKR.
- Bullitt’s Mustang
Model: 1968 Ford Mustang GT390 Fastback
Appears In: Bullitt (1968 Film)
A cop movie for the ages, Bullitt also had the first extended car chase scene- and possibly the best one ever- in Hollywood history. Director Peter Yates had the stunt drivers set up a nearly 11-minute long muscle car chase through San Francisco that came complete with first person driving perspective, jumps, burning rubber, real crashes, and actual stunt driving by actor Steve McQueen. With no music and only squealing tires for a soundtrack, this scene shows off Bullitt’s Mustang in all its badass glory.
BY: DAVOCANO. FLICKR.
- Greased Lightning
Model: 1948 Ford De Luxe
Appears In: Grease (1978 Film)
It’s no surprise that this teen movie set in 1950s America had a few cars in it, but the Greased Lightning was a real force in the film. Among other things, this car was modified, used as a dance floor, drag-raced, and then literally flew a pair of lovers off into the sunset. The 1948 De Luxe model was the last old style Ford ever produced, and is a true collector’s item today.
BY: SICNAG. FLICKR.
- The General Lee
Model: 1969 Dodge Charger
Appears In: The Dukes of Hazzard (1979 TV Series)
Bo and Luke Duke’s Confederate flag-painted ride put on a heck of a show, and the car’s spectacular jumps and stunts ensured that very few of the 28 orange Dodge Chargers used to film the series survived. Some were crushed and others were cut open to film the brothers’ adventures from an insider’s point of view, says the Legendary Motor Company. For all these sacrifices, The General Lee is one of the most famous American cars of all time.
BY: BULL-DOZER. WIKIPEDIA.
- Pursuit Special
Model: 1974 Ford XB GT Falcon
Appears In: Mad Max (1979 Film)
This Australian-made Ford was another car that stole the show when Mel Gibson’s Mad Max took it on a deadly revenge tour through the Outback. In real life, this tough as nails car and its cousins were driven by Allan Moffat to win numerous races across Australia between 1974 and 1977. Even with the recent remake of the film, replicas of Max’s original desert racer still frequently crop up at auto shows and Australian pit stops.
BY: TAMSIN SLATER. FLICKR.
Model: 1982 Pontiac Trans Am
Appears In: Knight Rider (1982 TV Series)
KITT, also known as “Knight Industries Two Thousand,” was the original driverless car that set the bar for what artificial intelligence and robotics could look like on the road. KITT’s body wasn’t the best Pontiac Firebird in the makers’ lineup: it managed only 150hp on its best day, and the mechanics were plagued with issues. Still, KITT’s crime fighting antics and arguably decent acting raised the popularity of the Pontiac Firebird to the stuff of screen legend.
BY: COURTNEY "COCO" MAULT. FLICKR.
Model: 1958 Plymouth Fury
Appears In: Christine (1983 Film)
Another example of a classic American car, “Christine” was a ruby red and white custom finished 1958 Plymouth Fury. The indestructible movie car had the ability to self-repair, brainwash its drivers, and went on an unforgettable revenge-fueled killing spree in this film adaptation of Stephen King’s novel. In reality, the newly-styled 1958 Fury captured consumers’ hearts with its classic beige body and gold anodized aluminum trim, distinctive vertical tailfins, and its standard 290hp V8 engine.
BY: MICHEL CURI. FLICKR.
- Doc’s DeLorean
Model: 1981 DeLorean DMC-12
Appears In: Back to the Future (1985 Film)
What came first: the car or the movie? It could be argued that Doc Brown’s Flux capacitor-packing, hover-capable time machine hack in Back to the Future made the DeLorean into the sought-after and rare car it is today. And while we can’t speak to these sports cars’ time-traveling capabilities in the real world, the DeLorean Motor Company recently announced it will release a batch of DMC-12s for sale by early 2017, with pricing set at $100,000 each. #cargoals
BY: KEVIN ABATO. WIKIPEDIA.
- Richard’s Plymouth
Model: 1967 Plymouth GTX
Appears In: Tommy Boy (1995 Film)
This ‘90s comedy featured Chris Farley, David Spade, and a classic blue Plymouth GTX convertible on the last road trip of its life. Off-screen, this “gentleman’s muscle car” became known for its exceptional blend of style and performance, and came standard with a V8 “Super Commando 440” engine capable of 375hp. Sadly, even this car could not outrun Tommy Boy’s bad luck and even worse driving, and came to an extremely fiery end in the film.
BY: COLLECTOR CAR ADS. FLICKR.
- Marcus’s Porsche
Model: Porsche 911/964 Turbo
Appears In: Bad Boys (1995 Film)
In this buddy cop film, Marcus’s ride is no ordinary Porsche: it’s a turbocharged 911 capable of doing 0-60 in 4 seconds and roaring down the strip at a top speed of more than 185mph. In a memorable scene, Martin Lawrence’s character uses this bona fide race car to lay down the law, outrunning a bad guy’s AC Cobra on an airfield. The Porsche 964 Turbo is a real racing machine- so we sympathize with bullet-sweating Will Smith as he hangs on for dear life during this car chase.
BY: VARIN. FLICKR.
- Dom's Charger
Model: 1970 Dodge Charger
Appears In: The Fast and the Furious (2001 Film)
Here’s another famous Charger that had to make the list. In this film, elite street racer Dominic Toretto’s freaky fast car had a 528ci supercharged hemi and four speed transmission. What a racer! After taking the audience on a heart-stopping drag race past an oncoming train, the car was spectacularly thrown and totaled by a truck. It still hurts to watch this supercar’s death scene.
BY: MIC. FLICKR.
- The Shaguar
Model: 2002 Jaguar XK8
Appears In: Austin Powers in Goldmember (2002 Film)
Like James Bond’s various Aston Martins, superspy Austin Powers’ Shaguars were indispensable in the line of duty. His groovy Union Jack painted Jaguar XK8 had a combination of beauty, silent driving performance, and cool that was perfect for picking up ladies and outrunning bad guys. This model’s curvy retro design was based on the 1961 Jaguar E-Type that Enzo Ferrari reportedly called “the most beautiful car ever made.”
BY: JANE NEARING. FLICKR.
- Getaway MINIs
Model: 2003 MINI Cooper S
Appear In: The Italian Job (2003 Film)
The MINI Cooper has a solid loyal following thanks to its versatility, great maneuverability, and surprising power on the road. All these features made the car the perfect choice for Charlie’s getaway vehicles in the 2003 remake of The Italian Job. Watching these little cars zipping around LA outrunning everyone never gets old.
BY: MARTIN DE WITTE. FLICKR.
- The Tumbler Batmobile
Model: 2005 Wayne Industries “Tumbler” Prototype
Appears In: Batman Begins (2005 Film)
This is the newest and craziest batmobile since Batman started driving around Gotham. This tank´s actual specifications say it has a 5.7L GM V8 engine that can put out 500hp and accelerate from 0 to 60mph in 5.6 seconds. This war machine is also fitted with crazy features, including a rocket launcher, dual front autocannons, heavily armored front, an automatic repositioning driver’s seat in “Attack Mode,” and an integrated fire-extinguishing system (essential). If this wasn’t cool enough, Top Gear says that five road legal replicas have been produced and sold, and may be coming to blow the socks off a freeway near you.
BY: NICK TRAVELLER. FLICKR.
Model: 1977 & 2006 Chevrolet Camaro
Appears In: Transformers (2007 Film)
Powerful advanced alien lifeform Bumblebee ditched his beat up 1977 body for a brand spanking new 2006 Camaro concept model after one of his passengers insulted his looks. While this is a far cry from the cartoon Bumblebee’s original yellow VW Beetle form, many agree that the new sporty model used in this movie helped boost Camaro sales and brought the car back to the top of its game on a global level.
BY: KEVIN WARD. WIKIPEDIA.
- Stuntman Mike’s Nova
Model: 1970 Chevrolet Nova
Appears In: Death Proof (2007 Film)
Dodge’s lineup of muscle cars had an undeniable fanclub in Hollywood, and the 1970 Challenger appeared in more than one starring role. Quentin Tarantino’s film took the cake, with main character Mike Kowalsky’s specially rigged “death proof” stunt car killing and maiming numerous people along the way. Whether you love or hate this controversial blood bath of a film, it definitely showcased the Challenger’s brute strength and took the audience on an unforgettable (if violent) ride.
BY: REX GREY. FLICKR.