25 Most Iconic Movie and TV Cars
Sometimes, the most compelling characters in a movie don't utter a line at all — instead, they burn rubber. Most of us can rattle off our favorite cars from movies and TV shows as easily as we can the names of the stars or the places where they were filmed. Here are 25 movie and TV cars that are among the most iconic ever. Did your favorite famous set of wheels make the list?
The Plymouth Fury used in the horror flick "Christine" isn't the same model that landed on our list of the ugliest cars ever made, but it's probably responsible for even more nightmares. More than 20 cars were used in the film adaptation of Stephen King's novel, according to Hagerty, and one sold to a collector for close to $200,000 in 2015.
Great Scott! We're certain the three modified DeLorean DMC-12s that starred as the original "Back to the Future" time machine didn't include keypad controls or the all-important flux capacitor right off the factory line, but those crazy gull-wing doors came standard. Today, you can find one of them on display at Petersen Automotive Museum in Los Angeles.
We admit that we've been hard on the Pontiac Aztek, which definitely qualifies as an acquired taste, but its starring role in the AMC cult classic "Breaking Bad" has almost made it cool again. The Aztek was a spot-on choice for Walter White's car precisely because it's been so maligned, Jalopnik notes: "The car was lambasted as a perfect example of groupthink and managerial bad decisions at General Motors. ... Deep down inside, it represents something ugly."
The shiny red car Ferris Bueller swipes from his friend's dad is supposedly a 1961 Ferrari 250 GT. It turns out the movie's crew actually used three Modena Spyders in the movie's wide shots, then used a real Ferrari when they needed close-ups, according to The Drive. Ferrari wasn't happy when it saw its badges on the fakes, and ultimately sued the makers of the Modenas.
If there's a car that's cuter than the pearl white Volkswagen Beetle that became Herbie, the iconic striped "Love Bug," we've certainly never seen it. Interestingly, Herbie could have been a Toyota or a Volvo, both of which showed up for the film's vehicle casting call, but the movie crew was so enamored with the Beetle that crew members began to pet it. The rest, as they say, is history.
The Aston Martin brand is so tied to James Bond that it dedicates a portion of its homepage to the movie series. The third film, "Goldfinger," was the first to feature an Aston Martin, the DB5. In fact, the company announced earlier this year that it would make 25 recreations of Sean Connery's tricked-out car, complete with revolving number plates and other movie-style gadgets. The cost? A mere $3.5 million each.
In what might be the most famous chase scene in motion-picture history, Steve McQueen's Lieutenant Frank Bullitt chases down a team of hitmen on the streets of San Francisco. His ride? One of the greatest Ford Mustangs of all time. McQueen did much of the driving himself, and while he hoped to keep the car for his personal collection, it went into private hands shortly after the movie wrapped — and the actor's pleas to purchase it fell on deaf ears.
Who ya gonna call? If you're a car enthusiast looking for the original "Ghostbusters" Ecto-1, that would be Cadillac — they're the ones who made the 1959 Miller-Meteor ambulance conversion that served as the base for the distinctive finned vehicle. Weighing in at 3 tons and measuring over 20 feet long, it was hard to miss. The car used during filming even died on the Brooklyn Bridge, jamming traffic and resulting in a police fine for the movie crew.
Female leads are scarce in road movies, but "Thelma and Louise" flipped the script. The 1991 classic starring Susan Sarandon and Geena Davis saw the friends tearing across the desert in their Thunderbird convertible, on the run from authorities. The car wasn't modified at all — rare for a vehicle with such a prominent role — though five were used during filming, including the one that famously plummets off a cliff in the final scene.
We're not sure which was the bigger star of the early '80s action show "Knight Rider": David Hasselhoff, David Hasselhoff's impeccable hair, or the Knight Industries Two Thousand — a talking car better known as K.I.T.T. NBC had to build around 20 customized Trans Ams, complete with the famous red strobe lights, for the series' five-year run, and five survived until present day, according to Road and Track.
Known in the film as the Wagon Queen Family Truckster, Clark Griswold's famously ugly wagon was actually a Ford LTD Country Squire. From the pea-green paint job and the copious wood paneling to the eight — yes, eight – square headlights, it was "heavily modified to be as unattractive as possible," notes Mental Floss. Interestingly, station wagons began to fall out of favor with car buyers shortly after the movie's 1983 release.
Apparently, Porsche didn't want anything to do with "Risky Business" and its risqué coming-of-age plot, but that didn't stop the producers of the 1983 classic from independently gathering at least five 928s during filming. The car that famously plunges into Lake Michigan after Tom Cruise hangs on helplessly to the hood? Just a shell, according to Autoblog.
Dan Aykroyd and John Belushi had a third co-star in this 1980 cult favorite — the Bluesmobile, an old Dodge police car that may have looked a little rough around the edges, but had the power to jump an open drawbridge and elude seemingly every police officer in the city of Chicago. Aykroyd's description of the car ("It's got a cop motor ... cop tires, cop suspension, cop shocks. It's a model made before catalytic converters, so it'll run good on regular gas") remains one of the movie's most-quoted scenes.
Better known as General Lee, the Dodge Charger that famously flew over the hill in the opening credits of "The Dukes of Hazzard" was one of as many as 300 Chargers used — and badly abused — in the series, according to Road and Track. In fact, the production team went through so many Chargers that they could no longer find them. They started using AMC Ambassadors as the show progressed, relying on camera and editing tricks to hide the switcheroo.
About a dozen Pontiac Firebirds were used in the 1977 Burt Reynolds classic, "Smokey and the Bandit." Sadly, none of the iconic black and gold muscle cars are around today, with the exception of a promo car used by Universal Pictures. After striking out on eBay trying to sell it in poor condition, the owner decided to restore it instead — after which it sold at auction for a cool $550,000.
The bright red car with the distinctive white stripe that cruised the streets of Bay City, California, in "Starsky and Hutch" was actually several different models of the same car. And all those chase scenes required souped-up V8 engines, not to mention some tinkering with the gears. Since Ford churned out about 1,300 replicas to cash in on the show's popularity, it's hard for today's would-be collectors to figure out whether they're getting their hands on the real deal, Hemmings notes.
Thanks to Wayne and Garth, it's almost possible to hear Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody" without headbanging. The car where they did it, an AMC Pacer, isn't exactly noted for its beauty — it was compact but wide, and almost universally panned for its odd proportions — but you have to admit the flames and baby-blue paint were pretty sweet. Someone out there agreed, paying more than $37,000 for the car at auction in 2016.
The 2000 remake of "Gone in 60 Seconds" dazzled gearheads with its huge car lineup. The one that stands out the most? It's got be the black-striped 1967 Ford Mustang (code name: "Eleanor"). Of the 11 Mustangs created for the movie, only three weren't shells — and two of those were destroyed, according to Motor Authority. The one that was left, driven by Nicolas Cage as the movie ended, sold at auction for an eye-popping $1 million in 2013.
"She's the last of the V8s. She sucks nitro ... She's meanness set to music." That was how the mechanic in "Mad Max" described the dystopian movie's unforgettable Ford Falcon, as much a character as lead actor Mel Gibson. Instantly recognizable because of its massive supercharger, the Falcon was fitted with huge duel fuel tanks for a sequel, after which it was supposed to be scrapped. Happily, it wasn't, instead eventually joining the collection of a Florida auto museum.
Columbo was as humble as they come, diligently and methodically solving murders in his rumpled raincoat. His car stood out because, in a world of flashy TV and movie cars, it was equally modest. Though rare, the Peugeot 403 that Peter Falk's character drove was anything but sleek. And as CarTalk notes, it became more raggedy as the series went on after getting creamed in several on-screen accidents.
Movie fans would probably agree that "The Italian Job" gives "Bullitt" a run for its money when it comes to memorable chase scenes. Three red, white, and blue Minis elude Italian police in the streets of Turin by racing down marble steps, flying over ramps, and scuttling through drain pipes. Sixteen cars were used to pull off the 1969 film, but were mostly scrapped. Happily, a British collector painstakingly restored the shells that did survive.
Who can forget the moment when James Bond drove his car off a pier in "The Spy Who Loved Me," only to transform it into a submarine? Two Lotus Esprits were used for the film, including a heavily modified car that was dubbed "Wet Nellie" for obvious reasons. Wet Nellie was fully water-tight, with articulated fins and underwater motors, according to Hagerty. It sold at auction in 2013 to none other than Tesla co-founder Elon Musk.
"The Fast and the Furious" movies have become modern classics for car lovers, and the souped-up orange Toyota Supra that Paul Walker's character drives in the series' first film remains one of its biggest head-turners (and not just because it famously smokes a Ferrari in a street race). One of the non-turbo models used during filming was sold at auction in 2015 for $185,000, according to Motor Authority.
The canary yellow Ford Coupe that Paul Le Mat drove in "American Graffiti" was lovingly transformed into a hot rod in a California garage, complete with motorcycle front fenders, chrome plating, and a "loud and ragged-looking" engine rebuild. Universal Studios, convinced the movie would flop, unsuccessfully tried to sell the Ford but had no takers, according to Hot Rod.
A must-watch for any NASCAR fan, "Days of Thunder" featured a race-ready Lumina with a monstrous 650-horsepower V8 engine. Fortunately for down-on-its-luck Chevy, it also helped boost the Lumina's profile with car buyers as the non-racing models were rolled out to the public. Feel the need for speed? The professionally restored car is on sale for just under $70,000.
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