NINE ICONIC CARS IN CINEMA
The star of every film isn’t necessarily a famous actor. Most of the time it is, we know, but from time to time some are more the strong, silent type that stay in the background and don’t utter a single line of dialogue. No, we’re not talking about Michael Myers; we’re talking about cars.
These metal titans of the silver screen might “only” be cars but are still an important part of their respective movies. In several cases, they have even managed to overshadow the performers and become the highlight of the piece. Therefore, here we present—in no particular order—nine of the most iconic cars in cinema.
JAMES BOND’S 1964 ASTON MARTIN DB5
Film Franchise: James Bond
First Appearance: Goldfinger (1964)
Designers: Ken Adams and John Stears
Engine: 4.0 Liter V6
Horsepower: 282 HP
Top speed: 145 MPH (Miles Per Hour)
“Do you expect me to talk?”
“No, Mr Bond! I expect you to die!”
Arguably the most famous car in film history, the Aston Martin DB5 is known all around the world as the vehicle driven by James Bond. First released in 1963 by British luxury sports cars manufacturer Aston Martin, the DB5 made its on screen debut in the 1964 film Goldfinger. James Bond book series author Ian Fleming originally had Bond driving a DB Mark III, but the DB5 was the latest model on the market when the film was made.
The car used in Goldfinger was the original DB5 prototype, but it wasn't used for any stunt scenes. Two other modified vehicles were also built for the publicity tour, in 2006; one of them sold for over $2 million. Initially, Aston Martin was reluctant to have their car featured in the film, but eventually they agreed to the product placement deal.
After a 35-year absence from the series, an Aston Martin DB5 reappeared in 1995's GoldenEye driven by Pierce Brosnan's Bond. The vehicle was featured again in Casino Royale when Daniel Craig's Bond wins an Aston Martin in a game of poker against Alex Dimitrios. The Aston Martin DB5 is a mainstay of the James Bond series and has become synonymous with the character.
DOMINIC TORETTO’S 1970S DODGE CHARGER
Film Franchise: Fast & Furious
First Appearance: The Fast and The Furious (2001)
Designer: Carl Cameron
Engine: 7.2 Liter V8
Horsepower: Standard 1970s Dodge Charger: 425 HP. Supercharged Dodge Charger from the film: 900 HP
Top speed: 137 MPH
"I live my life a quarter mile at a time."
One of the cars that helped kick off the seemingly never-ending Fast & Furious franchise. The 1970s Dodge Charger was barely featured in its debut film—The Fast and The Furious—but its fictional backstory is ominously explained halfway through. Dominic Toretto built the car with his father, who later died while driving it during a stock race accident. After his father's untimely death, Toretto rebuilt it, but found the vehicle so intimidating he couldn't bring himself to drive it, so he left the Charger to collect dust in the garage.
It's not until the film's closing scenes that Toretto finally gets behind the wheel to chase after the people who attacked his family. After dispatching the villains, he goes for one final race. Unfortunately, the car is left in ruins, but still returns for later film installments. The Dodge Charger has become a staple of the billion-dollar franchise and synonymous with the Dominic Toretto character.
The vehicle might have the appearance of a 1970s Dodge Charger, but according to behind-the-scenes information, it is a 1968 Dodge Charger disguised with 1970s parts. Other modifications include Catherine wheels; a stainless steel mesh grille and a roll cage. The supercharged Chrysler 426 Hemi V8 engine featured in the car’s reveal scene was stated to have 900 horsepower, but a far less powerful vehicle was used for the action scenes. The original prop Dodge Charger used in the film was sold to a private owner and is currently believed to be housed somewhere in Europe.
Film Franchise: The Dark Knight Trilogy
First Appearance: Batman Begins (2005)
Designers: Christopher Nolan and Nathan Crowley
Engine: 5.7 Liter GM engine
Horsepower: 500 HP
Top speed:160 MPH
“Does it come in black?”
More tank than car, the Tumbler was first featured in Christopher Nolan's reboot of the Batman film franchise, Batman Begins. When Bruce Wayne returns from his years abroad, he goes back to his father's company, Wayne Enterprises. He meets Lucius Fox, who’s in charge of the company’s Applied Sciences Division. Fox then supplies Wayne with various gadgets and technology he uses to take on the criminals plaguing Gotham. Perfect. The Tumbler, a prototype armored tank designed as a bridging vehicle for the military, was among the many devices gifted to Wayne. While never explicitly stated as the Batmobile, the car serves as Batman's primary mode of transport through the first and second films. Outfitted with twin machine guns on the front, a rocket launcher, a vector-controlled jet engine for quick boosts and a stealth mode, the vehicle was memorable from the moment it roared onto the screen.
The original Tumbler meets its end in part two of the series—The Dark Knight—after taking a direct hit from an RPG (rocket-propelled grenade) wielded by one of the Joker's henchmen. Rendered inoperable by the blast, Batman engaged an escape mechanism, which converted the tank's left and right front tires into the Batpod as the rest of the car self-destructed. Other Tumblers would later appear in the final part of the trilogy—The Dark Knight Rises—after Bane raids the armory of Wayne Enterprises and uses them in his nefarious plans for Gotham City.
GHOSTBUSTERS’ 1959 CADILLAC MILLER-METEOR/ECTOMOBILE
Film Franchise: Ghostbusters
First Appearance: Ghostbusters (1984)
Designers: Dan Aykroyd, Harold Ramis and George Barris
Original Vehicle Designer and Fabricator: Steven Dane
Horsepower: 325 HP
Top speed: 125 MPH
“Everybody can relax, I found the car.”
Who ya gonna call? The Ectomobile, a heavily modified 1959 Cadillac Miller-Meteor, is an iconic symbol of the Ghostbuster franchise. In its film debut, Ghostbusters (1984), the Ecto-1 was only a pile of junk that Dan Aykroyd's character Ray Stantz pays the sum of $4800 for. After extensive repairs and modifications to the old ambulance's gurney in the rear, so it can serve as a rack to hold the Ghostbusters’ proton packs, the car becomes the team's primary mode of transport as they hunt ghosts in New York City. The vehicle has since been featured in nearly all forms of Ghostbuster related media.
The shooting script for the Ghostbusters describes the Ectomobile as being black, with purple and white strobe lights, but cinematographer László Kovács had concerns the black design would make the car hard to film during the night scenes, so it was redesigned. By the time production started on Ghostbusters II, the original Cadillac was in such a poor state, it was spewing smoke and backfiring. The car finally died on the Brooklyn Bridge, blocking traffic, which saw the filmmakers fined by the New York Police Department because of the disruption.
1969 DODGE CHARGER/GENERAL LEE
Film Franchise: The Dukes of Hazzard
First Appearance: The Dukes of Hazzard TV Series (1979)
Designers: Andre and Renaud Veluzat
Engine: 7.2 Liter V8
Horsepower: 375 HP
Top speed: 139 MPH
The most famous orange 1969 Dodge Charger in existence—the General Lee—first drove onto TV screens in the Dukes of Hazzard Series back in 1979. Driven by the Duke boys, Bo and Luke, the car is well-known for its Confederate flag on the roof, lack of functioning doors, heavy-duty suspension parts, custom wheels and the distinctive horn which plays the first 12 notes of the song Dixie.
For the Dukes of Hazzard film reboot in 2005, the General Lee was initially an entirely different car, until an unfortunate series of events led it to be remade with all the original characteristics from the TV series. The on-screen vehicle featured a 375-horsepower 7.2 Liter V8 engine, racing carburetor, heavy-duty suspension parts, custom wheels, and a glass-pack muffler that gave the General its signature roar.
Over the course of the movie and previous TV series, the car is involved in all manner of stunts. During jump scenes, stunt cars were propelled under their own power by drivers. Others had their engines and transmissions removed and were then launched by a diesel-driven catapult. Roughly 24 Chargers were used over the course of filming the movie.
“Buckle up, ladies, this might get exciting.” (Yes, we are talking about a show that first aired in 1979.)
TRANSFORMERS’ 2007 CHEVROLET CAMARO/BUMBLEBEE
Film Franchise: Transformers
First Appearance: Transformers (2007)
Designer: Tom Peters
Engine: 6.2 Liter V8
Horsepower: 426 HP
Top speed: 155 MPH
"Freedom Is The Right Of All Sentient Beings."
The first live-action Transformers film in 2007 introduced the Autobot, Bumblebee. Part of a faction of alien robots who can disguise themselves by transforming into everyday machinery, Bumblebee took on the guise of a 2007 Chevrolet Camaro. He received a slight update for the sequel, Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen and was upgraded to a 2010 Camaro for the third film in the series Transformers: Dark of the Moon.
In 2013, Camaro provided their latest fifth-generation model for another redesign of Bumblebee, with slimmer headlights and a reworked front and rear fascia. Finally, in 2016, they previewed their sixth-generation Camaro in Transformers: The Last Knight. However, appearances can be deceiving. Most of the time, the vehicle in the films was not real. What audiences saw on screen was a fiberglass mold of the Chevrolet Camaro Concept show car, with wheel covers covering plain steel wheels and other clever deceptions.
Regardless, the Chevrolet Camaro has become one of the most famous cars in cinematic history. When the first Transformers movie hit cinemas, and after each subsequent installment, Chevrolet has had an unprecedented number of customers lining up to purchase the Bumblebee Camaro. Eventually, they introduced a special Bumblebee Edition of the car to meet the demand of fans.
DELOREAN DMC-12/TIME MACHINE
Film Franchise: Back to the Future
First Appearance: Back to the Future Trilogy (1985)
Designer: Giorgetto Giugiaro
Engine: 2.85 Liter V6 PRV engine
Horsepower: 130 HP
Top speed: 88 MPH
“Doc… are you telling me you made a time machine… out of a DeLorean?”
Since its initial release in 1985, Back to the Future has gained a cult following that has seen the movie still very much beloved decades after its debut. The DeLorean DMC-12 has become an iconic part of that legacy with the car achieving fame greater than even some of the actors and actresses from the film. In the movie, Emmett 'Doc' Brown has modified the vehicle into a time machine that requires 1.21 gigawatts of power to travel 88 miles per hour to operate.
Real DMC DeLorean’s are a rear-engine two-passenger sports car manufactured and marketed by John DeLorean's DeLorean Motor Company from 1981 until 1983. It would be the company's only car brought to the American market. Unfortunately, DMC filed for bankruptcy after production reached about 9,000 units. Noted for its gullwing doors and brushed stainless-steel outer body panels, DeLorean’s lacked power, despite the V6 engine, which was a major drawback for potential buyers.
Its production was short-lived, but after being featured as the time machine in Back to the Future, the DeLorean continues to have a strong following with an estimated 6,500 still in use. The car has also been featured in various other film franchises over the years due to its connection with Back to the Future and status as an icon of cinema.
CHITTY CHITTY BANG BANG
Film: Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (1968)
Designers: Louis Zborowski & Caractcus Potts
Engine: 18.8 Liter V8
Horsepower: 140 HP
Top speed: 100 MPH
“You'll find a slight squeeze on the hooter an excellent safety precaution, Miss Scrumptious.”
A strange creation, but an icon of cinema nonetheless, the vehicle known as Chitty Chitty Bang Bang came from the novels of James Bond author Ian Fleming. Inspired by a series of four real-life race cars named Chitty, Fleming told stories about a flying car to his son. After suffering a heart attack in 1961, Fleming decided to write up the stories as a novel, Chitty-Chitty-Bang-Bang: The Magical Car.
Published in 1964 after Ian Fleming's death, it became one of the best-selling children's books of the year. Later, the car featured heavily in the film based on the book. In the movie, the old race car was purchased from a junkyard and restored with the ability to fly, float and drive on the road. The original Chitty Chitty Bang Bang car was sold at auction in 2011 by a California-based auction house. It was eventually purchased by New Zealand film director Sir Peter Jackson for the kingly sum of $805,000.
BO ‘THE BANDIT’ DARVILLE’S 1977 PONTIAC TRANS AM
Film Franchise: Smokey and the Bandit
First Appearance: Smokey and the Bandit (1977)
Designer: John Schinella
Engine: 6.6 Liter V8
Horsepower: 370 HP
Top speed: 134 MPH
“What we’re dealing with here is a complete lack of respect for the law.”
When Smokey and the Bandit launched on the big screen in 1977 it starred Burt Reynolds as Bo 'The Bandit' Darville and Jackie Gleason as Sheriff Buford T. Justice 'Smokey Bear'. However, the true breakout star of the film was the sleek black Pontiac Trans Am driven by The Bandit as he evaded the Sheriff.
The Trans Am GTA was a high-performance options package available on the Firebird Trans Am. After Smokey and the Bandit opened, sales for the Trans Am shot up by about 30,000 cars from 1977 to 1978 and ensured the vehicle became incredibly popular and an icon of cinema from that moment onward.
There are many cars which could’ve made it on the list, but these are our favorites. Which cars make your list?