Cars on Film: Legendary Superstars and Iconic Moments

By Alex Perdikis

America’s love affair with cars isn’t limited to road trips and car shows. It’s also part of its culture. Cars not only play pivotal roles in film and television, sometimes a car is the main character.

Here are some of the most famous cars on film, as well as a few scenes where automobiles played an essential role.

The Batmobile

The Batmobile first appeared in comic book form in 1939, but the 1960s TV series, “Batman” brought the futuristic ride into the homes of families everywhere. Adam West starred as Batman in the campy series which is fun to watch even now.

Adam West’s Batmobile was a 1955 Lincoln Futura concept car. Models, feature and the overall look changed as high-budget Batman films became popular. In fact, in the “Dark Night” films, the vehicle is more of a cross between a tank and Lamborghini. Never called “Batmobile” in these later films, there’s no question that’s exactly what it is.

Don’t Ever Make a 1958 Plymouth Fury Mad!

If you are a film aficionado, you can’t help but feel a little bit of fear when you picture a blood red 1958 Plymouth Fury. It was the 1980s when the film “Christine,” based on a Stephen King novel was released.

Bullied teen Arnie finds a wrecked ’58 Fury, names it “Christine” and restores it to its former glory. Unbeknownst to Arnie, Christine has a mind of her own. And when Arnie seems to be falling for a classmate, Christine shows no mercy.

Will Ferrell, NASCAR & a 1969 Chevelle

“Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby” stars Will Ferrell as No. 1 NASCAR driver Ricky Bobby. Of course, Ricky’s struggle to stay on top after a challenge from French Formula One driver Jean Girard is the comedic story here. But the ’69 Chevrolet Chevelle Malibu steals the show.

Back to the Future and Back Again

Yes, Michael J. Fox and Christopher Lloyd are the human stars of the “Back to the Future” films. But, a DeLorean shares the limelight. The DeLorean DMC-12 boasted an automatic transmission, those cool wing doors and to top it off, it was also a time machine.

“The DeLorean was a hit in the film but not so much with the public. It’s motor didn’t fit the promise of the flashy exterior and it was more expensive than sports cars of the time.” — Alex Perdikis

Those challenges along with a sluggish economy spelled doom for the DeLorean as a car for the masses.

The DeLorean is making a modest comeback mostly due to a small but active cult following. A relatively new company, the DeLorean Motor Company specializes in repairs and restorations.

James Bond and Cool Rides

James Bond always has a cool ride, but two stand out from the rest. Sean Connery drove the 1964 Aston Martin DB5 in both “Goldfinger” and “Thunderball. To add to the Aston Martin’s already impressive features, the special effects team added machine guns, an injector seat, ram bumper, oil slick applicator and smoke screen.

Roger Moore’s ride in “The Spy Who Loved Me” was a ’76 Lotus Esprit Series I. What made this one a classic? It could be that moment when Moore’s Bond drives straight into the water and the car sprouts fins and props. After Bond arrives on the beach, the car turns back into, well, a car again.

Car Chases and Harrowing Moments on Film

Sometimes film magic isn’t just about a great looking car with bells and whistles you can only dream about, but how it impacts a scene. Remember these remarkable car chases and dramatic moments on film?

  • Steve McQueen’s “Bullitt” car chase is a classic that, even though it’s been surpassed several times over, deserves its place in history. It’s Mustang versus Charger on the streets of San Francisco.
  • Picture this  — Gene Hackman, an escaping hit man on an elevated train and a 1971 Pontiac LeMans. The chase scene in “The French Connection” is unforgettable.
  • The fast and furious Dodge Charger became an icon on the small screen in “The Dukes of Hazzard,” but it was “The Fast and Furious” film franchise that made the car legendary. The race at the end of the first film pitting the racing machine Charger and driver Vin Diesel against Paul Walker in a Supra is spectacular
  • Two women and a car drive into infamy. What starts out as a road trip for two best friends and a 1966 Ford Thunderbird turns into a tale of murder, a run from the law and self-discovery. The Thunderbird is almost as important as the two main characters and at the end of the film, shares its fate with them as well.
  • What could be more destructive than a Hummer on the streets of San Francisco? Sean Connery finds out in “The Rock,” co-starring Nicholas Cage. For what it’s worth, Cage driving a Ferrari wreaks nearly as much havoc as the Hummer.

There are also cars designed for the stars or stories they represent, such as the Monkeemobile, Munster Koach  and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. One thing’s sure: Cars have an important place in our culture and that won’t likely change.

Alex Perdikis, Koons of Silver Spring general manager and owner, lives in Chevy Chase with his wife and daughters.