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Top Movie Cars

Unless you confine all your movie watching to fantasy movies and historical movies set in worlds or times when the motor car didn’t exist, you’ve probably seen a few cars race across the silver screen (OK, you can also see a car in the background of the chariot scene in Ben Hur if you look carefully).  Let’s face it: the car chase scene is pretty much an essential part of any good thriller – even a comedy thriller like the Rowan Atkinson James Bond take-off Johnny English where most of the chase scene involves a tow-truck and a hearse.  Some car companies even pay big dollars to have their cars appear in the movie (it’s called product placement and is a form of advertising) – I remember the way that the Mercedes logo stood out silver on black on a 4×4 during a rather exciting part of Jurassic Park II; Cars has another example, with the audience seeing that Sally, the heroine, is a Porsche Carrera, complete with a pun on Portia (name of the Shakespeare heroine who saves the day with her skills as a lawyer). But, advertising aside, what are the most recognisable silver-screen sets of wheels?

In no particular order, some of the most recognisable movie motoring marques are:

1              VW Beetle: This very popular make had several movies where the car was the star: the Herbie movies. The self-powered VW Beetle with a mind of its own starred both the original 1968 The Love Bug and its many sequels in the next couple of decades, and also in the 2008 Herbie: Fully Loaded. This is one of the few movie cars that also was as popular on the roads as it was on the big screen.

2              Aston Martin (various): The Aston Martin is as recognisable a part of the James Bond movies as 007 himself. Interestingly, in the original books, Bond, James Bond doesn’t drive an Aston Martin but a Bentley.  And the first choice of car for 007 in the movie versions was actually an E-type Jaguar, but Jaguar didn’t know about product placement and declined permission.  Oops. The most impressive of the Bond Aston Martins would have to be the DB5 in Goldfinger, Thunderball, Goldeneye, Tomorrow Never Dies and Casino Royale, ejector seat and all.

3              DeLorean DMC-12: Not many people drive one of these cars. Not many people know much about these. But one thing that everyone knows is that the De Lorean was a time machine in the Back to the Future series.

4              Dodge Charger (1969 model): In bright orange and with the flag of the Confederate States emblazoned on the front, this was the General Lee, the wheels of the Dukes of Hazzard. This film began life as the very popular TV series in the 1970s. This car started a craze for bright orange vehicles and denim cut-off shorts.

5              GM Batmobile: Hmmm, I wonder who drove this vehicle…

6              Mini Cooper: in The Italian Job, this is the car that really steals the scenes. This thriller has plenty of hot cars (a Lamborghini Miura, an Aston Martin DB4 and a pair of E-type Jags) but it’s the Minis and their nippy handling that get the protagonists through the traffic jam, around various iconic locations, into the sewers and out into the Alps. 

7              1976 Ford Gran Torino: The wheels of Starsky & Hutch. Another garishly painted 1970s classic car and another popular car-based TV show that became a movie in the turn of the century.

8              Ford De Luxe Convertible. It’s automatic, systematic, hyyyyyydromatic; it’s GREASED LIGHTNING… Well, you probably know where this one appeared unless you have been living under a rock (and I envy those rock-livers – I can’t stand this movie with its irritatingly catchy songs and the suggestion that the way to be popular and get the guy is to turn into a chain-smoking slut). Few schools haven’t done Grease as a musical. Although an assortment of old junkers get trotted out for high school productions, the movie version starring John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John had the Forde De Luxe Convertible.

9              1977 Pontiac Trans Am: This was The Bandit’s form of transport in Smokey and the Bandit, complete with the “flaming chicken” decals on the front. The movie website describes the rest of the film as “one of the wildest car chases of all time”.  

10           1968 Ford Mustang GT390 Fastback         This was driven by Steve McQueen in the movie Bullitt. You guessed it – the hard-bitten detective hero drives this in an iconic car chase scene.

Other notable movie cars include the 1958 Plymouth Fury (evil car in Christine), the Lamborghini Countach (The Cannonball Run), the Lotus Esprit (goes underwater in The Spy Who Loved Me), the Paragon Panther (Chitty Chitty Bang Bang), the Chevrolet Camaro (Bumblebee in Transformers), the Model T Ford (in The Absent-Minded Professor but not in the disastrous re-make Flubber) and the Plymouth Valiant (takes on a big rig in Duel).   Plus all the cars in Cars.

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