Cars and movies, especially action films, go hand-in-hand. And while there are a lot of great movies with cars in them, there is a much more select group of what we would call great car films. Even fewer still are there cars that stand out as specific highlights of those movies – with the exception of some unfortunate gimmicky plot devices (we’re looking at you, Herbie).
It’s not to say that there are no a lot of iconic movie cars – it’s just that there are thousands of movies, a good portion of which have cars in them, so the ratio is a bit skewed. Still, it takes a special vehicle for us to qualify it as a great movies car. For us, it has to be especially unique, essential to the plot, a major part of the characters’ motivations, and/or it has to practically be a character itself. With that in mind, we put together the following list of the best movie cars.
1994 GMC VANDURA | The A-Team
Vans, typically speaking, get a bad rap in the motor vehicle world. Although, there are those who are staunchly pro-van, if you look hard enough. And while we could take or leave most of them, one stands out head-and-shoulders above the rest: the GMC Vandura from The A-Team. Now, it’s worth noting that the original A-Team van from the TV series was actually a 1983 model Vandura, whereas the film version from 2010 is a model from more than a decade later. Still, there’s so little variation in the line that we’re going to give this one a pass. Just don’t get too attached to this one, as it sees very little screen time in the action comedy flick.
DELOREAN DMC-12 | Back to the Future
Probably no movie car is as iconic as the DeLorean DMC-12 from the Back to the Futureseries. Truly, they are intrinsically tied to one another. Unfortunately, apart from it’s exceedingly unique visage, the DMC-12 wasn’t actually a very good car. It utilized a Peugeot-Renault-Volvo (PRV) 2.85-liter V6 engine that only pumped out 130 horsepower, which is a pretty low figure on its own. But it wasn’t helped by the fact that the car featured an all stainless steel body – which looked quite nice, but was also heavy. In fact, on standard American models, the speedometer maxed out at 85 mph – three shy of the necessary speed to time travel, according to the science-fiction series.
1968 FORD MUSTANG GT 390 FASTBACK | Bullitt
Ever seen Will Ferrell’s, Talladega Nights? Of course you have… then you should probably know that Days of Thunder is the film that it is parodying. In fact, this Tom Cruise stock-car racing movie also features Ferrell’s costar John C. Reilly, Ricky Bobby’s signature slingshot move, and a spectacular NASCAR wreck. In all honesty, this movie is kind of like Top Gun in cars – and that’s certainly not a bad thing.
TUMBLER BATMOBILE | The Dark Knight Trilogy
It’s probably a stretch to call Christopher Nolan’s militarized tank a ‘car,’ per se, but we’d be remiss in our duties if we didn’t put some version of the Batmobile on this list. And while we love both the Adam West original and those from Tim Burton’s reboot, this beefed up gritty version still tops the list as our favorite driven by the cowled comic booksuperhero. What’s most interesting about this particular vehicle is that it didn’t start out as something else. The Tumbler is actually a completely original bespoke car that was constructed by a team of 20 in Britain. And if you’re wondering what, exactly, makes it tick, it’s loaded with a 350 cubic inch 5.7-liter Chevy engine that pumps out 400 bhp.
1969 DODGE CHARGER 'GENERAL LEE' | The Dukes of Hazzard
While we would never suggest to anyone straight-faced to watch the Johnny Knoxville, Seann William Scott, and Jessica Simpson 2005 movie reboot of the popular ’70s television show, The Dukes of Hazzard did get one thing right: the General Lee. From the bright orange paint job, to the racing decals on its non-functional doors, to the iconic I Wish I Was in Dixie horn, director Jay Chandrasekhar of Broken Lizard (known for Beerfest and Super Troopers) did not disappoint with this loving recreation. And that’s especially true when you consider that the filmmakers opted for a legitimate ’69 year model, when it would have been much easier to swap it out for a later one.
1961 FERRAI GT250 SWB CALIFORNIA SPIDER | Ferris Bueller's Day Off
Though this car sees an extremely unfortunate demise, there’s no denying how cool Cameron’s Dad’s Ferrari GT250 from Ferris Bueller’s Day Off is. Or was. Interestingly enough, this wasn’t the original vehicle specified in the script. Turns out, it was actually supposed to be an unspecified Mercedes-AMG. Then, when it came time to create the movie, writer-director John Hughes decided that he would actually be choosing between a Porsche and the Ferrari. When he saw the Ferrari in person, however, he deemed it the perfect fit. But if you’re terrified of watching this car become undone, worry not – it’s actually just a replica.
1967 SHELBY MUSTANG GT500 'ELEANOR' | Gone in 60 Seconds
Gone in 60 Seconds is, perhaps, a fairly polarizing movie. There are some fans that will tell you the original is the better film, whereas a younger crowd might rally for the Nic Cage remake. Whichever side of the fence you stand on, however, you cannot deny the beauty and the majesty that is Eleanor, a 1967 Shelby Mustang GT500 from the 2000 movie version. This gorgeous resto-mod has almost single-handedly inspired a whole generation of new car fanatics. Best part is, if you want your own version of Eleanor, there is actually a firm called the Fusion Motor Company that is building licensed replicas of this car.
1967 AUSTIN MINI COOPER S 1275 | The Italian Job
When it originally came out in 1959, the Mini was a neat, if not very cool compact car perfect for tooling around the narrow (and sometimes ancient) city streets of Europe. But when it was one of the chief plot elements in the Michael Caine heist film, The Italian Job, this car was elevated beyond the realm of novelty and into that of automotive legend. And while we could generally take or leave the car’s modern counterparts (with exception for, say, the sports wagon), the classic originals are still some of the neatest little cars we’ve ever come across.
ASTON MARTIN DB5 | James Bond Series
Sean Connery has played James Bond more than any other actor – clocking in with seven total films as the character. The Aston Martin DB5, similarly, has appeared in seven different James Bond movies – including some starring Sir Connery, Pierce Brosnan, and Daniel Craig. And that’s reason enough to say that this vehicle is the ultimate Bond car. It helps, too, that it happens to be one of the most beautiful motor vehicles ever to have graced this Earth. Whichever way you slice it, this car and the world’s most famous spy go hand in hand.
1970 PORSCHE 917 | LeMans