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Cars Made These Movies So Unforgettable You’ll Drop Your Popcorn

Cameron Eittreim December 14, 2023

Cars and cinema have always had a thrilling relationship. The special vehicles in movies often transcend their roles as mere vehicles. In many ways, they become characters themselves. Today, we’ll remember unforgettable movies where cars didn’t just support the action. They drove it, becoming nearly as memorable as the actors and the storylines themselves. From the gritty streets of dystopian futures to the polished roads of high-octane heists, cars in these movies offer more than just transportation. They provided escapism, excitement, and undeniable cool.

Whether it’s the time-traveling DeLorean in “Back to the Future” or the rebellious Thunderbird in “Thelma & Louise,” these cars etched their names into cinematic history. These films spanned genres and decades, proving that the allure of a well-placed automobile transcends time. They also inspired generations of car enthusiasts and filmmakers, becoming cultural icons. Look back at some of the most interesting movie cars of all time here. The films were equally unforgettable cinema experiences. Buckle up and enjoy this nostalgic ride below.

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Bullitt (1968)

This film is a cornerstone of car chase cinema. ‘Bullitt’ starred Steve McQueen. The movie had a legendary chase through the streets of San Francisco. The star of this scene is a 1968 Ford Mustang GT driven by Lieutenant Frank Bullitt. The Mustang, with its dark green paint and roaring engine, was a symbol of coolness and bravado as a result. The chase scene in “Bullitt” is often hailed as one of the greatest in film history for the way it was shot (via IMDB).

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The groundbreaking cinematography, without the use of CGI, captures the raw speed and danger. It made the audience feel every turn and jump. The camera angles and the sounds of the engines contribute to an immersive experience that has influenced countless cinema car chases ever since. Although there were a lot of unique Mustang models that came out during the 1960s, the Bullitt changed the game.

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The Italian Job (1969 & 2003)

This movie turned the Mini Cooper into an emblem of style. Known for its iconic car chase, the Italian Job showcases Minis weaving through the bustling streets and narrow alleys of Turin, Italy. They were later seen weaving through Los Angeles in the remake. These scenes highlight the cars’ compact size and agility, making them perfect for thrilling heists and escapes. The Mini Cooper was a compact car in its original form and modern variations (via IMDB).

Photo Credit: IMDB

In the 1969 classic, the Mini Coopers zip through the city. They even raced downstairs and through buildings, adding a playful yet suspenseful element. The remake continues this legacy, featuring updated Mini models that navigate through tight spots and busy cityscapes, demonstrating their speed and versatility. Although the Mini Cooper doesn’t look like the most exciting car on the road, it was one of them.

Photo Credit: IMDB

Mad Max (1979)

This groundbreaking film set in a dystopian future is renowned for its visceral portrayal of a world in chaos. The cars in the movie are not only vehicles but also lifelines. At the heart of this chaotic world is the Ford Falcon XB GT Coupe known as the “Interceptor”. This car, driven by the movie’s protagonist Max Rockatansky, is a perfect blend of power and despair (via Mad Max Cars).

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The Interceptor was a survival tool in the lawless wasteland Max navigates. Its formidable appearance and dark, rugged exterior sets the tone for the film’s gritty aesthetic. The scenes featuring the Interceptor are charged with adrenaline, from high-speed chases to battles on the road, encapsulating the movie’s theme of survival against all odds.

Photo Credit: IMDB

Back to the Future (1985)

This beloved sci-fi classic turned the DeLorean DMC-12 into one one the most iconic cars in film history. The Delorean was more than just a vehicle. It’s central to the film’s plot as the time machine invented by the eccentric Doc Brown. With its gull-wing doors, stainless steel body, and futuristic design, the DeLorean perfectly embodied the 1980s’ vision of a high-tech future. Before the movie came out the DMC-12 was a relatively unknown sports car designed by the legendary John DeLorean (via Autozine).

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The film ingeniously integrated the car into its time-travel narrative. When the DeLorean reaches 88 miles per hour, it transports the characters through time. This led to a series of adventures across different eras as a result. This clever use of the car as a time-travel device captured audiences’ imaginations. There’s no denying that the film wouldn’t have been as popular without the DMC-12. Not to mention the fact that the DMC-12 was an actual production car that people could buy.

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Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (1986)

In the classic coming-of-age comedy Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, a Ferrari 250 GT California Spyder played a pivotal role. The car symbolizes freedom, adventure, and the recklessness of youth. The car was borrowed without permission by the film’s charismatic protagonist. Ferris Bueller had a day filled with close calls in the car. There weren’t a lot of movies that utilized a vehicle quite this unique back then (via Commonsense Media).

Photo Credit: Forbes

This vintage Ferrari, with its sleek design and shiny red exterior, was a gorgeous example of automotive design. The car is a character that represents the ultimate day off. The scenes featuring the Ferrari are filled with a sense of exhilaration and freedom, perfectly capturing the spirit of teenage adventure. There were a lot of movies back then that encapsulated teenage youth. But this film and its Ferrari took that even further.

Photo Credit: IMDB

Batman (1989)

In this seminal superhero film directed by Tim Burton, the Batmobile is an extension of Batman’s persona. It embodies the dark, mysterious, and powerful Caped Crusader. This version of the Batmobile, with its sleek, jet-black design and distinctive bat-like features, became an instant icon in the franchise. The 1980s were a classic time for the movie industry. The Batmobile from this era is one of the most recognizable movie cars (via Petersen).

Photo Credit: IMDB

The Batmobile in “Batman” (1989) isn’t just a means of transportation. It’s a formidable weapon in Batman’s arsenal. Michael Keaton’s Batmobile was equipped with gadgets, armor, and advanced technology befitting of Gotham City’s protector. Its screen appearance is always impactful. Because of that, it became an icon speeding through the dark streets of Gotham and engaging in combat with the film’s villains.

Photo Credit: IMDB

Thelma & Louise (1991)

In this groundbreaking film, a 1966 Ford Thunderbird convertible is not just a vehicle. It was also a symbol of freedom and rebellion. The car plays a central role in the journey of Thelma and Louise. In the film, two friends embark on a road trip that turns into a flight from the law. As they drive across the American Southwest, the Thunderbird becomes a part of their transformation and awakening. The movie ended up being one of the most successful car movies ever produced (via Radio 105).

Photo Credit: IMDB

The iconic scenes of the Thunderbird cruising through vast, open landscapes were unique. Its bright blue color and classic design contrast with the arid backdrop of the desert. The Thunderbird was one of the most popular two-door coupes on the road. Although the car wasn’t the high-powered muscle car that you’d expect in a getaway film, it did the job quite well.

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Pulp Fiction (1994)

Quentin Tarantino’s iconic film Pulp Fiction features a 1964 Chevrolet Chevelle Malibu. The car adds a layer of cool style to the movie’s unique narrative. The car, owned by the director himself, plays a subtle yet significant role in connecting the film’s characters. The Malibu was a notable performance car because of its stellar looks and significant performance. This made it the perfect ride for this movie (via Wired).

Photo Credit: Rotten Tomatoes

In Pulp Fiction, the Chevelle isn’t just a mode of transportation. It’s a backdrop for crucial character interactions and dialogues that drive the plot. The scenes inside the car include memorable conversations and unexpected twists. Overall, they’re quintessential Tarantino as a result. The movie ended up being a piece of pop culture for the rest of the decade. And with the ’90s coming back, people still reference it.

Photo Credit: Universal

The Fast and the Furious (2001)

The 1995 Mitsubishi Eclipse driven by protagonist Brian O’Conner in The Fast and the Furious is a bright green, nitrous-boosted legend. It became a symbol of his entry into the world of street racing. The Eclipse’s sleek design and vibrant color make it instantly memorable. This movie car truly embodies the energy and excitement of the film. The bright green Eclipse was the quintessential symbol for the street racing era that was the early 2000s. Everything about the car was souped up the extreme (via Fandom).

Photo Credit: Edmunds

The car didn’t have a very long run in the film. Sadly, it was set ablaze in one of the earliest scenes. However, there are plenty of these Eclipse clones in real life. They truly became a synonymous part of the street racing culture because of this film. Everything about the car was unique and cool. This Eclipse is one of the reasons that the movie proved to be such a popular franchise. Although the Eclipse was not the sales success of other sports cars, it is an iconic movie car nonetheless.

Gone in 60 Seconds (2000)

This high-adrenaline heist film is a love letter to car enthusiasts. There was a special spotlight on “Eleanor,” a 1967 Shelby Mustang GT500. The movie revolves around a group of car thieves who must steal 50 cars in one night. But it’s Eleanor who steals the show. Although there were quite a few expensive cars in the movie, this one left a mark. Nicolas Cage loved this car. His passion poured through into the film as a result (via Way).

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Eleanor is the ultimate prize and the main character’s greatest challenge. The Shelby Mustang had sleek lines, a stunning silver body, and black racing stripes. It was portrayed as far more than a vehicle as a result. The scenes featuring Eleanor are charged with a mix of reverence and excitement. They showcased the car’s true beauty and power.

Photo Credit: Rotten Tomatoes

The Transporter (2002)

In this action-packed film, the car is as much a star as the lead actor. The Transporter featured an Audi A8 W12. These cars are not mere accessories, though. They’re integral to the film’s high-octane identity. Protagonist Frank Martin is a professional transporter who relies on his vehicles to deliver packages without questions. The blacked-out Audi A8 was the perfect car for the film. It was sleek and under the radar (via Rotten Tomatoes).

Photo Credit: Rotten Tomatoes

The BMW 735i E38, with its elegant yet powerful demeanor, perfectly reflects Frank’s personality. He was cool, precise, and sophisticated. The film features several intense driving scenes that highlight the BMW’s performance and durability. The scenes perfectly demonstrate its capabilities in high-speed chases and combat situations.

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Smokey and the Bandit (1977)

This classic action-comedy film is synonymous with one of the most iconic cars in movie history. And that car is none other than the Pontiac Trans Am. The movie, starring Burt Reynolds, is a high-speed romp. This movie turned the Trans Am into a cultural symbol of cool rebellion. The Trans Am is definitely more popular today because of the film. It helped propel the Pontiac brand into the spotlight (via IMDB).

Photo Credit: IMDB

In “Smokey and the Bandit,” the black Trans Am with its distinctive gold trim and firebird on the hood is more than just a car. It was truly a co-star. The vehicle’s sleek design, powerful engine and V8 roar wwereemblematic of the film’s spirit of freedom and adventure. The Trans Am’s high-speed pursuits and daring escapes are not just thrilling. They’re an integral part of the movie’s charm.

Photo Credit: IMDB

Drive (2011)

This modern noir film is known for its unique blend of minimalistic storytelling and stylized violence. A 1973 Chevrolet Malibu plays a significant role in the narrative. The car, driven by the movie’s enigmatic protagonist known simply as “Driver,” reflects the film’s tone. These types of movies showcase the importance of having the right car for the right role (via IMDB).

Photo Credit: IMDB

In “Drive,” the Chevrolet Malibu is more than a vehicle. It’s an extension of the Driver’s personality. The car’s unassuming appearance contrasts sharply with the high-speed chases and intense action scenes, highlighting the Driver’s skilled and calculated approach. Its plain look and classic style blend into the urban landscape, mirroring the character’s desire to remain unnoticed and enigmatic.

Photo Credit: Slant

Rush (2013)

This biographical sports drama directed by Ron Howard dives into the world of Formula One racing. The movie focused on the fierce rivalry between two of the sport’s greatest competitors: James Hunt and Niki Lauda. While not a traditional car movie, “Rush” places the high-speed, high-risk world of Formula One racing front and center. It showcased the incredible machines that these drivers command. In addition to the Formula One history, it was also a great film with a great message (via Slant).

Photo Credit: Slant

In “Rush,” race cars are more than just vehicles. They’re extensions of the drivers themselves, representing their personalities, driving styles, and approaches to life. James Hunt’s charismatic, risk-taking nature contrasts sharply with Niki Lauda. The two worked together to create one of the most exhilarating racing movies of all time. This movie gives away those real “Days of Thunder” vibes.

Photo Credit: Ars Technica

Baby Driver (2017)

This film stands out for its innovative integration of music and action. With car chases that are meticulously choreographed to the soundtrack, making it a unique film. The standout vehicle in this high-octane symphony is a bright red Subaru WRX. Although you might equate the WRX with the rally racing scene, in this movie it’s a getaway car. Besides the great car being featured in the film, it also had a great plot line (via Arstechnica).

Photo Credit: Ars Technica

The Subaru WRX is a getaway car, something it hasn’t traditionally been used as. Baby is a talented young getaway driver who relies on his personal soundtrack to be the best in the game. The car’s agility and power are matched only by Baby’s driving skills. Together the driver and the car create some of the most memorable and rhythmically precise chase scenes in recent cinema. Equally important was the fact that the film highlighted a new generation of getaway drivers.

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