The movie business seems to have a love-hate relationship with cars and automakers. Movie scenes feature the best of cars and while it may be good for business in the long run—for both the movie as well as the carmakers—it can prove pretty devastating for the car or cars in question. After all, cars don’t survive the jumps, bumps, and wrecks shown in movies.
In Hollywood, continuity is maintained by using another identical car or using a stunt car for the wreck scenes, while preserving a “hero” car for the normal scenes. Either way, many vehicles—real, replicas, and dummies—do not survive the full length of a movie or even a TV episode.
While some movies are content with destroying just one or two cars, others extend car damage by the tens or even the hundreds. Some 500 or more cars were totaled in just one of the Transformers movies. And hundreds of Dodge Chargers can blame their fates on The Dukes of Hazzard (in both TV and movie form). And yet, the famous Steve McQueen movie, Bullitt, destroyed just one Mustang. It’s all about the budget for movie production studios; the bigger the budget, the higher the vehicular damage cost allowed. So here are 25 famous cars that never made it through iconic movies and fell victim to the rampages shown on screen. Was the sacrifice worth it? Read and find out...
Honestly, you may have liked the movie or hated it; the fact remains that the Transformers franchise is big and over the top. The third film was Transformers: Dark Of The Moon and this was not one of the best movies of the franchise. But it does hold the record for smashing the most number of cars, for any movie for that matter. Director Michael Bay received 530 cars as a donation—by Chevrolet, of course. The cars were flood damaged and destined for scrap, so Bay used them and abused them!
Christopher Nolan's 2008 film The Dark Knight was a huge blockbuster—and not just because of Christian Bale or Heath Ledger. The script, as well as Christopher Nolan’s direction, took Batman's story to new heights. Then there was a fantastic chase sequence involving a Lamborghini Murciélago LP640. And it was fitting because Murciélago means bat in Spanish. Lamborghini donated three Murcielagos for production of the film. One of these cars did not make it but two survived the movie.
No one who was around in the 90s could ever forget that rather iconic, if anatomically incorrect, T-Rex's roar that sent shivers down the viewer’s spines. And that poor, poor 1992 Ford Explorer XLT that was painted in Jurassic Park colors and sent smashing down from tree branch to tree branch when the T-Rex basically threw a hissy fit. While the T-Rex was a robotic fake, the damage to the Ford wasn’t, and many cars did not survive the movie.
John Carpenter’s auto-horror movie Christine was all about a dork’s obsession with his car, and eerily enough, the car’s obsession with him. Arnie Cunningham and his 1958 Plymouth Fury loved each other a little too much, though, enough for the besotted and possessed car to go on rampages. These rampages destroyed the car, which seemed to magically heal itself in the film. In reality, 17 of these beauties were used for filming and only three made it out alive. Not a great movie for the cars!
The Hangover was a funny film. The latter ones, well, not so much. That said; it was definitely not funny for the Mercedes-Benz 220 SE cabriolets that appeared in the movie. According to Motor1, only some 5,000 of these cars were ever made, and the movie uses five of these beauties. Out of these five, only two made it out alive and relatively unscathed, while the others were damaged beyond repair. Three were meant to be saved but unfortunately, one of them got swapped with a stunt car, so that was that.
For a chase sequence that was long considered a classic in the movie industry, Bullitt did not waste too many cars. Produced and starring Steve McQueen as Frank Bullitt—a tough cop trying to take down a mafia boss—the movie was a treat for car lovers and enthusiasts. Only two 1968 Ford Mustang 390 GT Fastbacks were used for the movie, and one of them survived (though rumors say there may have been another). Statista says that the surviving one was sold to a Warner Bros employee and is worth millions today, while the scrapped one emerged in Mexico many years later.
In 2010, at the peak of summer, Iron Man 2 was a big crowd draw. Iron Man is what brought Robert Downey Jr. back from the Hollywood's forgotten world and back into the limelight. And when it’s about success, it’s always better late than never. Downey Jr, as Iron Man and Tony Stark, came with a slew of cars, as well. And being Iron Man, many of the cars never made it to the end. According to Jalopnik, notable losses were the formula-esque 1970s Wolf WR6 and two identical Rolls-Royce Phantoms.
Most carmakers do not mind lending their beauties to a movie, even if it means that the cars are a total write-off. Basically, if the cars can be shown in a good picture onscreen, it means good or great promotion. So, Chrysler decided to lend the 1970 Dodge Challenger when Vanishing Point was being made. Five Dodge Challengers went into making this movie, and all were stock cars doing wild and impossible stunts. According to Auto Focus, the cars were in such a bad state afterward that Chrysler had them all destroyed.
When Ferris Bueller’s Day Off came out, it was as if the 1961 Ferrari 250 GT California Spyder had an off day instead. Two high school friends decided to take a sports car for a joy ride and total it while they ditched class. The so-called Ferrari used in the movie was never a Ferrari, though, it was a replica. And the replica that finally flies off the ledge, in the end, wasn’t even a car, it was a fiberglass shell. So no, not even in 1985 did anyone have the gumption to destroy an $11 million car!
For just four seconds of footage, 2015’s Spectre racked up a car bill of $3.7 million! When it’s a custom Aston Martin DB10 that you are destroying (at about $400,000 a pop), the bill adds up quickly, according to Best Movie Cars. But with a final box office earnings of $880 million, who cares about a few measly millions? The scene was shot in one night and out of the total 10 Aston Martins made for the movie, three survived while seven were total write-offs. And why not, when the name is Bond, James Bond.
Honestly, even for a bad movie, G.I. Joe was exceptionally boring. Not that the number of cars they ravaged to make this movie was any less staggering. For a movie that didn’t do well and has little public recall, they destroyed some 112 cars through production. Honestly, had all this attention to detail gone into actual acting and direction, the movie might have survived public opinion, even if the cars did not. So, perhaps blowing up stuff alone isn’t all that good for box office collections.
Any list that talks about movies and cars in one breath would feel silly if it didn't talk about the Fast and the Furious franchise, right? In the course of 10 movies, the production has managed to destroy some 1,500 cars. Again, in this franchise, the cars being blown up do work. According to Jalopnik, many of these cars have been rare and expensive. But the most expensive car this franchise smashed has to be the Lykan Hypersport, worth $3.4 million!
Talk about cars and Dodge Charger in one breath, and in drives the General Lee. And if it is driven in by the Hazzard brothers, Bo and Luke, it may not be fit enough to drive out. They put their trusty old ride through serious beatings. Except, it wasn’t one car. A total of around 250-300 Dodge Chargers did not survive the series. And in the 2005 movie, some 26 more met their graves. There is no exact number to the Charger carnage, but production went through around two cars for each episode, as per Best Movie Cars.
The 1983 movie Risky Business was what catapulted Tom Cruise to the limelight and made him a bankable star. Some car lovers would remember the movie with exaggerated horror, though, for this was the movie that featured a 1979 Porsche 928. Cruise’s character enjoys a romantic tryst in the car and manages to bump the car into neutral. The car rolls onto a dock, stops at the edge, and before everyone can breathe a sigh of relief, the dock collapses—car and all.
The original Mad Max movies were cool. The new one was definitely cooler, considering it starred Charlize Theron and Tom Hardy alongside a slew of unusual vehicles that the crew designed and built over the course of a year. The vehicles truly turned out wild, but that wasn’t enough to help them survive the shooting of the movie and that hot Namibian sand. Some 88 vehicles were created and at least 60 never made it out of the desert. These vehicles were designed for rough riding and were still destined for scrap.
John McClane is like Father Frost: he never dies, despite coming in a slew of movies that all talk about not surviving. Some 25 years after we first saw McLane enter Nakatomi Plaza, he comes back in the fifth sequel (in a movie that really didn’t need to be made). For this one, 132 vehicles would have survived a fate they didn’t deserve. They would not have been blown up, or crushed, or otherwise decimated. And the production house would not have needed to pay up more than $8.5 million in damage costs.
In 1980, The Blues Brothers was a musical comedy film based on a few characters from Saturday Night Live. The movie does not sound like it should have had a car chase, but it did. In fact, it had a massive car chase sequence featuring some 60 police cars. A total of 103 cars had to be scrapped by the end of production of the movie. And in 2000, when the movie got a sequel, it destroyed 104 more cars! Talk about one-upmanship.
When you watch a Tarantino film, even the violence is filmed more like poetry than prose. In Death Proof, Kurt Russell is a psychotic stuntman out to get young women. He put them in his the passenger seat of his car, but only his seat is accident proof. And then he bashes the car around, thus making the passenger not survive the ordeal. The four Chevrolet Novas used in the movie didn’t all make it either; only one of them did. It was later sold to one of the stuntmen that worked on the movie.
The 1974 movie, Gone in 60 Seconds, had a 40-minute car horror scene, and it caused 93 cars to lose their lives and go to scrap. Then, of course, came the no-less impressive remake with Nicolas Cage. In this one, 11 Eleanor Mustangs were used (though many were non-running doubles). Of the three functioning cars, only one made it to the end and it was sold in 2003 for $1 million. The car was also used in promotional events before the movie’s launch.
Need For Speed was good enough for a video game, so did they have to make a movie about it? Anyhoo, the game junkies, as well as the speed fanatics, sure got kicks out of the movie. Almost every kind of supercar was destroyed in the movie, in multiple wrecks and smashes. But if these cars had been real, the production studio would have run out of budget on the very first day. All the cars used were replicas because destroying a Saleen S7, a McLaren P1, and a Koenigsegg Agera R would have destroyed the production studio, period.
The 2006 movie Talladega Nights was all about a man-child’s desire to go, and go fast. He goes fast, indeed, but sometimes his car does not make it out of that screeching, fender-crumpling halt. Some 29 cars were built for Ricky Bobby’s car and its duplicates for the various racing and Nascar scenes. In fact, many of the cars shown whizzing past had no engines under the hood and were being pulled by another car. Of course, none of these “duplicates” survived the movie, either.
No, no DeLorean DMC-12 was destroyed in the Back To The Future franchise. There were no speedy scenes involving this beautiful car that really could not go fast, even to save its skin. One car that did get totaled in this movie was Biff’s 1946 Ford Super De Luxe. As Marty McFly races around to escape Biff and his goons, Biff ends up driving his vehicle into a manure truck. That smell, if not the crash, certainly totaled the car.
When GM loaned some 300 cars to the production of The Matrix, little did they know the fate that would befall their beloved vehicles! The brains behind The Matrix Reloaded and its high-speed chase ended up destroying all 300 cars in one giant and popular car chase scene. So this is one movie with a good script, good direction, good acting and definitely one of the best if costliest car chase sequences in movie history. Totaling 300 cars does not come cheap, as we are sure the production studio found out.
Remember the very first episode of Supernatural? Dean’s Baby, aka the 1967 Chevrolet Impala, makes a flying, high-speed jump off a hilly road. That very scene destroyed the front end of the car. Of course, the very next scene shows Dean and Sam driving off into the dark, with an unscathed Baby ferrying them around. There were a total of nine such 1967 Chevy Impalas on the set, all in various shades of duress. Many others were destroyed along the way, as well, though the prices of this classic have certainly risen sky-high ever since!
Many people remember Ronin for different reasons, but most would remember it for that excellent chase sequence. According to Jalopnik, the thrilling ride can be attributed to director John Frankenheimer himself, who was a former amateur racing driver. He brought in former Formula 1 driver Jean-Pierre Jarier and some 300 stunt drivers to film the thrilling, edge-of-the-seat car chase through the Parisian streets. That eight-minute sequence is still one of the best, and it caused the destruction of some 80 cars! A steep price, but so worth it.
Sources: Statista, BestMovieCars, AutoFocus, Motor1, and Jalopnik