What makes a great car film? The question seems rather simple to answer, but the actual response is much more profound than one would think. Essentially, many people would venture to think that as long as the film showcases a boatload of cars, the filmmakers have done their job, but alas, many failed car flicks have shown us that a plethora of cars isn’t always the answer.
Films like The Fast and The Furious franchise have risen in popularity over the last two decades and not only have they become hugely successful films, but the franchise is responsible for defining a culture of automotive and racing enthusiasts alike. And before it, there were many great films that showcased great cars from other generations, but the films themselves did pretty badly in the long run, no matter what cars were glorified on screen in the films. An example of this was of course: Gone In 60 Seconds. But the issue we’re addressing in this article is not whether a film was good or bad, but whether the car or cars featured in certain films were good or bad, in terms of style and performance.
There have indeed been some great cars in motion picture history, and we have them here for you all to enjoy. You may even have forgotten some of them. And on the flip side, we’ve got some cars that should never have made the scene in some of Hollywood’s greatest features.
So read on and feast your eyes on 10 of the best cars in Hollywood films and 10 of the worst, plus an extra special entry just for you hard core enthusiasts out there.
22 Best: 1950 Mercury Coupe (Film: Cobra)
Actor, Sylvester Stallone rose to prominence in the 1970s in a starring role in the original Rocky (released in 1976). The film spawned his career and a reputation for making action-packed blockbusters that fans have flocked to cinemas to watch and adore for years and years. He has risen to the status of legend and there is definitely good reason for it.
In 1986 Stallone brought yet another legendary character to the screen in the form of Marion Cobretti—aka, Cobra.
It wasn’t only his biceps that marvelled audiences this time around. The absolutely gorgeous Mercury Coup is rather prominent in many of the film’s scenes and at times was responsible for stealing the show.
21 Didn't Belong On Film: 1989 Mini Cooper (Film: The Bourne Identity)
The now famous Bourne series of films are definitely among some of the best action flicks the world has seen in this new millennium. Matt Damon does a stellar job of bringing the character created by author Robert Ludlum to life in every action-packed scene. The film showcases everything a fan of action and/or spy films could ever want. The martial arts fight scenes broke boundaries and the car chases are indeed quite epic. But the actual vehicles themselves left a lot to be desired. Perhaps that was what brought a sense of realism to the film in the end. The Mini Cooper used in one of the film’s principle car chases was hardly the perfect getaway car.
20 Best: 1970 Dodge Charger (Film: The Fast & The Furious)
As we stated earlier, The Fast and The Furious has broken boundaries for car flicks everywhere, paving the way for other films to follow suit in the years to come. Although what started as a franchise about cars has indeed turned into a film about governmental conspiracy and secret agencies battling it out with cars, no less.
The earlier instalments of the franchise were definitely more about the cars.
The end of the first film in which the character of Dominic Toretto refuses to go back to prison and he and Brian race the quarter-mile drag, shows a lot more heart than any of the other films would ever showcase. The Charger almost has a character of its own in that scene, as it should.
19 Didn't Belong On Film: 1977 Pontiac Firebird (Film: Smokey And The Bandit)
Things come in and out of fashion. It’s the necessary way of life. Anyone who ever used to wear a mullet haircut can tell you that. And don’t forget bellbottom jeans and fanny packs. Well, cars and films can be no different. Actors come and actors go. Some of them are cool one day, and out the next, and the same can go for cars and for whatever reason. Burt Reynolds cannot be called a legend per se, but he definitely acted in some great films over the years and deserves his respect, but there were a few films there that don’t exactly hold up. Anyone up for Smokey And The Bandit? I didn’t think so. And as for the Firebird Trans-Am used in the picture. Let’s just say it pales in comparison to other models they could have used at the time.
18 Best: DeLorean DMC-12 (Film: Back To The Future)
When you’re a kid, films can sometimes take over your life. Sometimes, you can’t eat or sleep without having the reels of your favourite film play on as you snore away on the couch, or eat one of your daily meals. You even memorize the lines and can recite them at will.
For many who lived through the eighties and early nineties, Back To The Future was a film that defined life.
In fact, your whole generation. And if you lived it, you know exactly what I’m talking about. For those of you who understand, you’ll remember that there was a single car that you wanted to drive, and above all others, the Delorean.
17 Didn't Belong On Film: 1948 Ford (Film: Grease)
Hey, I like Danny Zuko and the whole gang as much as the next guy... honestly. But the car featured in the film could have been better than it was. That was the problem with the whole film: the cars featured could have been much better and a lot more impressive than they were except for one, but we’ll get to that one later. The 1948 is a beautiful car, but the model that they used in the film, and let’s be honest, the paint job, could have definitely been a little flashier and dare I say it, cooler.
16 Best: Dodge Ram Charger 1979 (Film: Lone Wolf McQuade)
As far as action stars go, Chuck Norris is a tough as they come. A 7 time Karate champion, he brought his high-kicking techniques to the big screen and the transition paid off big time. He has many great films and TV appearances to his name and a reputation that precedes him. In 1983, he brought the character of Lone Wolf McQuade to the screen. A Texas Ranger who was as tough as his name suggested. There is a scene in the film where the villains decide to bury him alive under quite a bit of dirt. Well, they made one mistake… they buried him in his truck. The scene is incredibly impressive, as he puts his Dodge Ram Charger in gear and lets it rip. Seeing that truck bound out of the earth like that was a climactic scene that is hard to beat.
15 Didn't Belong On Film: 1959 Cadillac (Film: Ghostbusters)
Although Ghostbusters was a cultural phenomenon and a pretty great film from the eighties, I’m sure we can all admit that their car, the so-called Ecto-1, was a pretty horrible vehicle. Alright, I can admit, it was perfect for a laugh, as the film franchise was indeed a comedy.
But as far as vehicles are concerned, they could have purchased any other vehicle and it would have been better.
Besides, didn’t the Ghostbusters need to get to the site of a ghost sighting fast? I would imagine so.
14 Best: 1958 Plymouth Fury (Film: Christine)
It was in 1983 that master storyteller, Stephen King would publish Christine, a story about a car; a Plymouth Fury that was possessed by some evil forces. It wouldn’t take long for the novel to be adapted, as many of King’s novels are. The film has become a legend in cinematic history. Many of the scenes in the film show the car attacking people, moving all on its own. The chilling scenes are made only scarier with close up shots of the car’s front end. As scary as it was, and still is, us car enthusiasts can’t help but admire the car for what it is: a masterpiece.
13 Didn't Belong On Film: 1959 Pink Cadillac (Film: Pink Cadillac)
Clint Eastwood rose to fame playing some of the most iconic characters of all time. The characters are most notable for being very tough, with a take no bull attitude. Anyone who remembers Dirty Harry can definitely attest. This is why it was such a shock when in 1989, he decided to star in the film Pink Cadillac. It wasn’t a terrible film, but it surely wasn’t well received. With a budget of 19 million dollars, it only made back 12 at the box office. Maybe the bad reception was because people just couldn’t stand seeing Clint at the wheel of such a tacky car!
12 Best: 1955 Ford F-100 (Film: The Expendables)
When you’re very prolific as an artist, you end up having a lot of content to look over, and that’s why Sly Stallone makes the list for the second time.
In 2010, he revived the old school action flick in the form of the first instalment of The Expendables franchise.
The film delivered much more than it promised and is well on its way to a fourth and probably final instalment, slated to start filming later this year. In the first film, the character of Barney Ross, played by Sly was seen driving the beast pictured here and in all its wonderful glory.
11 Didn't Belong On Film: 1955 Lincoln Futura (TV Series: Batman)
Well, I won’t say that the original Batman TV series wasn’t entertaining, because it was. It was definitely good for a laugh and well, when you’re a kid, the colourful cast of characters can definitely seem appealing. Yours truly spent countless hours watching the series in reruns, as many others did. And although the batmobile featured in the show was cool when you were a kid, it sure doesn’t hold up to the abusive test of time. Especially after seeing so many other versions of the same car on screen, which brings us to the next entry in our list.
10 Best: The Tumbler (Film: Batman Begins)
Now here was a batmobile car enthusiasts could get on board with, and was worthy of good old Bruce Wayne. In 2005, the character was expertly brought to the screen by cinematic legend and acting guru, Christian Bale. Christopher Nolan directed the film and the duo went on to work together for two more instalments. The film racked in billions in box office earnings and stands alone as one of the most serious hero films of all time. Many cool features and dimensions were added to the character, but the Tumbler, as it’s known was definitely the most impressive. It’s the car that, if it really did exist and was able to be purchased, would be on the wish list of every rich bachelor.
9 Didn't Belong On Film: Volkswagen Gator (Film: DeathRace 2000)
Although it resembles a Hot Wheels miniature car, it actually was featured as a running and fully functional automobile in Death Race 2000, a film starring David Carradine and none other than (you guessed it) Sylvester Stallone himself. The film was released in 1975, and was the original in the Death Race franchise of films.
The newer instalments from this millennium are remakes of the original.
The film has become a sub-cultural legend all its own and can definitely be considered a cult classic, but at the same time, the film has gone under fire numerous times for showcasing some of the weirdest cars imaginable. The film was ahead of its time, yes, but even we have to admit that some of the cars were a little too much, even for us. Read on, believe it or not, one more car from this film made the list.
8 Best: 1936 Ford Coupe (Film: Through The Never)
The heavy metal group Metallica has been churning out classic albums since 1983 and have been together since 1981. The band have worked and worked over the years to bring the best in metal and in rock to the forefront. They deserve their success as they’ve taken for themselves, but not without giving back to the community much more than they’ve taken. It was in 2013 that they were able to release the concert film they’d been trying to make for ages, and filmmaker Nimrod Antal delivered with a bang worthy of the metal titans. In the film, the above car is featured and is actually one of the vehicles in Metallica front man, James Hetfield’s personal collection.
7 Didn't Belong On Film: Manta Custom (Film: DeathRace 2000)
We couldn’t have made the negative side to this list without including at least two cars from the original Death Race film. Stallone played the infamous Machine Gun Joe and before playing Rocky, a year later, Stallone did a fine job of playing the villainous Joe with the best of intentions.
The character wants to win the dubious race and at all costs, willing to forsake anything and everything on the way to the finish line.
Only one man stands in his way: Frankenstein, played by David Carradine. Yes, it sounds cheesy, but is actually a pretty thrilling film once you get passed the weird cars like the one pictured above: Machine Gun Joe’s very own Manta Custom.
6 Best: 1949 Mercury Custom (Film: Grease)
Now here was a car worthy of the great film. Too bad it was the villain in the movie who got to drive it. That’s right, Crater Face, the leader of the rival gang and arch nemesis of Danny Zuko was at the wheel of this bad boy, and all we can say is lucky him. Yes, Danny got the girl in the end, and she was a beautiful girl at that, played expertly by Olivia Newton John, and he got the respect of his classmates by the time the credits rolled. But Crater Face got to drive the coolest car in the movie in the form of the 1949 Mercury Custom.
5 Didn't Belong On Film: 1983 Ford LTD (Film: James Bond)
The Bond films are untouchable. The legend of James Bond is well placed in the annals of time and rightfully so. So many great actors have taken on the role and done it supreme justice, bringing in money and accolades for all involved in bringing the films to the screen. The films are also synonymous with having and showcasing some of the greatest cars in history. Many chase scenes have gone down in history as being the best in the movie business. This is why the car used in this Roger Moore classic is such an astounding surprise. Talk about being out of place.
4 Best: Shelby GT-500 Mustang (Film: I Am Legend)
In 1954 a novel was published that would change the landscape of horror fiction and the American novel as it was known. Richard Matheson published I Am Legend, and with that became a legend in his own right. The novel was adapted a few times over, but it wasn’t until 2007 that the story was done justice with its most successful adaptation yet. Will Smith brought the character of Robert Neville to screen and expertly so.
In the film, the character, who is the last surviving man on earth, goes hunting in the abandoned streets of New York.
He drives a Shelby Mustang, and the sight is awe-inspiring to say the least. Watching the car cruise through the abandoned streets of NYC, the car in all its glory, the true star of the movie for those scenes at least.
3 Didn't Belong On Film: 1948 Studebaker Commander Regal (Film: Grease)
Hate to pick on a classic film once more, but this’ll be the last time, I promise (fingers crossed). Let’s get this out of the way, right away first: the 1948 Studebaker is a marvelous car, and it’s as impressive as it is beautiful, but not when you wash it in pink paint and have it paraded down the street as the vehicle for the most popular girls in school known as “the pink ladies!” If ever there was a car made for that title, it would have been a pink Cadillac (however not appropriate for action heroes of the screen). Had they used that car, you wouldn’t be reading this right now, and the sacred film of your childhood wouldn’t have been insulted as many times as I have in this article.
2 Best: Toyota Supra (Film: The Fast And The Furious)
The young man that made this car a legend in the recreational street racing world is no longer with us, sadly passing away in 2013 at the age of 40. He played the character of Brian O’Connor in the Fast and The Furious franchise expertly and he has gone down and forever will be a cult icon because of it. The Toyota Supra he drove in the first film has become legendary in its own right and is still one of the most favoured cars of street racers everywhere and rightfully so. He and the car he made a legend have a place on this list, and with that we thank him for his portrayal of the iconic character. His presence was sorely missed in the latest instalment of the film.
1 Icon: Eleanor Mustang (Film: Gone In 60 Seconds)
Every can say what they want about Nicolas Cage's more questionable movie roles. Films like the Sorcerer's Apprentice come to mind when critiquing his choice of acting work. But unquestionably, the famous actor struck gold when he signed on for Gone In 60 Seconds, a movie that would bring Icon status to the famous Mustang known as Eleanor shown in the film. Although only appearing briefly, it made an impression on fans and is still revered to this very day.
Sources: IMDB.com, Hemmings.com, AutoBlog.com