Many people live vicariously through movies. It always helps when audience members have something to relate to, whether it be a character, situation, or time period. Pretty much anyone can relate to the feeling of being behind the wheel of a car, hearing the engine roar and cruising down a two-lane blacktop. While some folks merely use cars as tools to get around, others consider cars a passion. It’s the same for filmmakers. Many treat the vehicles in their films with the same regard as the actors. In some cases, cars become characters, many of them more well-known than the cast!
Buckle up and hang on tight as we take a look at the greatest and most recognizable cars in cinema. (Spoilers may follow!)
Back to the Future Trilogy: “The Time Machine”
Many people recognize this sleek vehicle from the adventure/comedy films about time-travel. After many different ideas, director Robert Zemeckis decided on this flashy, spaceship-like car model for the time machine. Five real Delorean DMC-12s were used in the filming of the trilogy, along with a full-sized fiberglass model for “hovering” scenes, and a modified off-road version. There was also a “process” model for easy dismantling for interior shots of the car.
Batman Begins/The Dark Knight: “The Batmobile”
Batman’s awesome tank-like transport has gone through many different versions throughout the years. Starting with the 1943 serial film, the car was a 1939 Cadillac Series 61 convertible. Adam West drove around in a customized 1955 Lincoln Futura. Tim Burton’s Batmobile was built on a Chevy Impala chassis. Then, there’s “The Tumbler,” designed and created from scratch for the Dark Knight series. This Frankenstein-esque throwback to Frank Miller’s art was capable of launching 30 feet through the air thanks to some awesome hydraulic enhancement.
The Blues Brothers: “The Bluesmobile”
Described as an old Mount Prospect police car, this 1974 440 Dodge Monaco became the new Bluesmobile after Elwood traded a 1968 Cadillac for a microphone. This car not only runs great, but it’s tough as a tank, can jump, do back-flips, and even fly. The cigarette lighter doesn’t work, though. Speaking of cars, the stunts and crashes in this movie are still some of the biggest and best of all time, with a whopping 103 cars wrecked during the filming. The production hired over 40 stunt drivers, and they kept a 24-hour auto repair shop opened during the filming, for quick fixes. Catch The Blues Brothers for free on Crackle.
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Bullitt: “The Bullitt”
The notable and memorable car chase in this “tough cop” film utilized two 1968 Mustang G.T. 390s and two Dodge Charger 440 V8s for the bad guys. Steve McQueen did all of the close-up driving himself, and veteran stunt driver Bill Hickman drove the Chargers and also played one of the hit-men in the film. Hickman was also a stunt driver on The French Connection and The Seven-Ups, and also had cameos in both films, and all of these films have influential car chase scenes. The story surrounding the disappearance and reemergence of the car is one you have to read.
Directed by John Carpenter and based on a novel by Stephen King, this movie’s title character is a sentient and malevolent vintage Plymouth Fury. Two other Plymouth models, the Belvedere and the Savoy, were re-dressed to look like the Fury for many of the scenes which involved damage to the car. Out of 20 cars made for the film, only two remain today in the hands of collectors. Check out Christine on Amazon.
The Evil Dead Trilogy: “The Classic”
This is the 1973 Delta 88 Oldsmobile driven by Ash in The Evil Dead films, which belonged to writer/director Sam Raimi. It is an essential character in this story and even gets possessed in Ash vs Evil Dead. In fact, this car has appeared in every Evil Dead film, including the remake. Like many of Sam Raimi’s friends and family, this car makes cameos in his other films, like Spiderman, Drag Me to Hell, The Gift, and also cameos in Coen Brothers films like Fargo, The Big Lebowski, and others. Watch The Evil Dead on Amazon.
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Ghostbusters: “The Ecto-1”
This is the flashy vehicle with the distinct siren that carried around the Ghostbusters. This was a 1959 Cadillac Miller-Meteor professional chassis ambulance/hearse combo. Considering how much Ray Stantz pumped into this machine, $4,800 is a steal. The vehicle had enough room for the team and all their equipment, and became an icon for the people of New York. In reality, the car was a one-of-a-kind handmade vehicle that broke down during filming. By Ghostbusters 2, the car was in bad shape. All the stuttering, smoking, and backfiring was all real. Watch Ghostbusters for free on Crackle.
The Mad Max Films: “The Pursuit Special”
This is the instantly recognizable car driven by Max Rockatansky in the post-apocalyptic world of Mad Max. Also known as the “Last of the V8 Interceptors,” this started out as an Australian-built 1973 Ford Falcon XB GT and became an iconic car after art director Jon Dowding designed the futuristic look. The car is first offered to Max as an incentive early in the film. He initially declines but later uses it to help exact his revenge. The car would go on with Max in The Road Warrior and makes a small appearance in Fury Road. Check out Mad Max for free on Crackle.
Smokey and the Bandit: “The Firebird”
This is a fun “high-speed pursuit” movie with good times from start to finish, with a beautiful car driven by Burt Reynold’s character, Bandit. Director Hal Needham made an agreement with Pontiac for four 1977 Pontiac Trans-Am Firebirds, all of which were badly damaged during the production. By the end of filming, the final car was barely running, and the others had become parts donors to keep it going. They even had to use another car to push it into the scene. The worst damage was wrought during the bridge jump when the director drove it himself! The sales of Trans-Ams almost doubled after the success of this movie. Catch Smokey and the Bandit on Amazon.
Vanishing Point: “The Challenger”
This awesome movie about a delivery driver who takes a bet to deliver a car in record time has become a huge cult hit over the years. It was 20th Century Fox studio executive Richard Zanuck who decided to use a 1970 Dodge Challenger in the film, as Chrysler had cut a deal for rentals with the studio. The stunt coordinator loved the car because of its sturdiness and horsepower. Five cars were lent to the production and all five made it through without too much trouble. Few repairs were needed. Max Balchowsky, the person who maintained the cars throughout the production, also handled them on Bullitt.