The 10 coolest movie and TV cars of all-time
We look back at Doc Brown’s DeLorean and the Mad Max Interceptor, which take pride of place alongside a host of less celebrated motors immortalised on screen
After watching Walmart’s smart new advert, starring an array of the most famous movie and TV cars, we thought the time was ripe to compile a definitive list of such vehicles.
Featured first on our run-down are five indisputable biggies that we can all agree on, chosen by Motoring editor Adam Workman, followed by five of the most unfairly unheralded stars of big and small screens, a group selected by Faisal Salah, one of our social-media experts and lover of all things movie and TV-shaped.
Aston Martin DB10 ('Spectre')
Nobody is disputing that the Aston Martin DB5 made famous by the early James Bond movies, starring Sean Connery as 007, is a more memorable motoring movie megastar than its latter-day cousin.
However, the build quality of the British brand back in the day would probably lead to you spending more time by the side of the road waiting for a recovery truck than spying on bad guys for the British government.
Far swisher was the DB10 in Spectre that Daniel “best Bond since Connery” Craig charged around in, in what was originally meant to be the design for the current Aston Martin Vantage.
The lines were futuristic and the weapons and tech equally forward-thinking.
That being said, we will be willing to reconsider things at the end of this year when Aston’s DB5 “continuation” model is launched, which will be a special edition of 25 cars that will cost £2.75 million (Dh12.9m) each.
Some quick back-of-napkin maths suggests that my salary at The National might just about stretch to buying one if I keep working here until I’m 84. And sleep on the streets. And don’t eat, drink or buy anything else, ever. Now where’s my chequebook?
DeLorean DMC-12 ('Back to the Future')
This could be the most obvious vehicle on our list, but that doesn’t diminish its standing.
It is no exaggeration to say that when director Robert Zemeckis chose the DeLorean DMC-12 for Back to the Future in 1985, it basically catapulted him to the Hollywood A-list, such was its pivotal part in his breakout blockbuster.
The gull-wing doors. The brushed stainless-steel body panels. The bizarre facts that it was a highly-niche sports car built in unfashionable Northern Ireland by John DeLorean, an egotistical innovator who had previously become mixed up in cocaine trafficking.
So who was the real star of the movie? Michael J Fox as Marty McFly, the hippest high-school kid played by a 24-year-old in cinematic history? Christopher Lloyd as bug-eyed mad scientist Doc Brown? We’re sticking with the DMC-12.
Legend has it that Ford tried to offer the film’s makers $75,000 (Dh275,500) to use a Mustang instead of the DeLorean. Their response is unprintable. The rest is history. Or is that past?
General Lee ('The Dukes of Hazzard')
When you’re six years old, in the pre-internet era, and a bright-orange 1969 Dodge Charger is filling your TV screen on the original Dukes of Hazzard, it is basically impossible not to simply go: “OH WOW THIS IS AMAAAAAAZING!”
Especially when its doors are welded shut, necessitating its regular inhabitants to clamber in and out via the windows.
Only years later, when the history of the Confederate Flag is explained to you will you realise that one of your childhood motoring favourites had a racist roof.
But in the innocence of youth, the General Lee founded this writer’s love of American muscle cars and led, many years later when I moved to the UAE, to the purchase of, err, a Ford Mustang – close enough.
Let’s not talk about the movie re-up of The Dukes of Hazzard, though, starring Stiffler from American Pie and the best-looking one from Jackass. It sucked so hard that, only five minutes in, you almost wished an anti-Confederacy lynch mob would form and set fire to the (admittedly blameless) General Lee.
GMC Vandura van ('The A-Team')
If it weren’t for B A Baracus, played by the heroically mohawked Mr T, having a pathological fear of flying that today would probably be diagnosed as PTSD, globetrotting lunatic guns for hire The A-Team would have racked up more air miles than the majority of pilots.
But for the most part, B A, Hannibal and co instead travelled on terra firma in a black 1983 GMC Vandura.
The red racing stripe somehow made the prospect of owning a van better suited to the US Postal Service rather than gun-slinging heroics seem like more or less the finest idea anybody could ever conceive.
There’s a joke about pitying the foo’ who doesn’t hold up said van as one of the best movie and TV vehicles ever, but, hey, we’re not your dad – make up your own cliched humdinger.
Kitt ('Knight Rider')
Why did a Pontiac Trans-Am, about as American as cars come, regularly admonish its driver with a camp British accent? We can’t help but ask that question, particularly as the voice of Kitt was the work of an American actor.
But what we do know is that every child of the 1980s who held even a passing interest in motoring wanted a talking black car with a scrolling red light on its bonnet. Did we mention that it had a turbo-boost function that helped it spring 15 feet in the air over obstacles? Or that David Hasselhoff still holds the Guinness World Record for tightest jeans of all-time from his time as Kitt’s pilot, Michael Knight?
The second Kitt, in the modern-day Knight Rider, was a Shelby Mustang, which should have been ultra-awesome, but somehow felt sledgehammer stupid against the comparatively lithe subtlety of the original.
Oh, and Kitt Mark II was voiced by Val “second-worst Batman ever” Kilmer. Say what?
Lincoln Continental Mark III ('The Car')
Perhaps the most obscure film and car choice on the list. The Car is a cult classic from 1977 about a car that terrorises and murders people for unknown reasons.
The car in question is a modified 1971 Lincoln Continental Mark III, customised to look menacing. Not that the normal production line version isn’t scary-looking.
Famously, the Lincoln Continental was the car that American president John F Kennedy was in when he was shot.
What makes the car from The Car special?
For one, look at it – wouldn’t you be freaked out if that monster drove up behind you and tried to run you over?
Side note: Oscar-winning director Guillermo del Toro loved the car from The Car so much, he commissioned the building of a complete replica. It joined his vast collection of horror-movie memorabilia.
Plymouth Fury ('Christine')
Christine is an absolutely underrated horror classic. Directed by genre legend John Carpenter, who is probably more well-known for Halloween and The Thing, Christine is a film about a killer car, but done a lot better than a subsequent entry (skip to No 9 to find out which one).
It’s the story of a special relationship between vehicle and owner. The 1958 Plymouth Fury would for ever after be known as Christine and, depending who you ask, is probably much cooler than mainstream character cars such as Eleanor from Gone in 60 Seconds and Herbie from The Love Bug.
The Plymouth starts the film looking a bit worn and neglected, but with every aesthetic upgrade, looks more menacing and angry.
Chevy Nova ('Death Proof')
There’s a running theme here, isn’t there? You have to admit that scary cars do look a lot cooler than others. Quentin Tarantino-directed, Kurt Russell-starring action thriller Death Proof was released as part of a Grindhouse double bill alongside zombie movie Planet Terror, which was directed by Robert Rodriguez.
The films didn’t do as well at the box office as Tarantino’s work usually does, but they have become cult favourites over the years. Death Proof, in particular, stood out, mostly because of the excellent car chase and crash scenes.
Three cars feature prominently in the film, but the one that left the biggest impression was the Chevy Nova from the first half of the film.
The car had a duck as a hood ornament and was fitted for movie stunts. You will have to watch the movie to find out why that’s important.
Ford Falcon XB GT coupe ('Mad Max')
Famous in Australia, the Ford Falcon is more widely known for being in the Mad Max films, a car fit for the apocalypse, with black all around and heavy armour to shield you from any bullet spray.
Named the Interceptor in the films, the 1973 Falcon becomes part and parcel of Max’s character and appearance.
The presence of the car faded by the third film, but it comes back for the beginning of Mad Max: Fury Road. To fully enjoy the Interceptor, I recommend you pick up the Mad Max videogame that came out in 2015 on most consoles.
In that game, you can drive the famous car and transport yourself into its beaten and bruised seats.
Ford Mustang ('Bullitt')
Undoubtedly, one of our favourites. The Mustang has been a permanent fixture of cinema since the car’s inception, featuring in films such as Diamonds Are Forever,
Gone in 60 Seconds and, more recently,
John Wick. But the most memorable incarnation of all is the green 1968 GT390 Fastback driven by Steve McQueen in classic 1960s cop thriller Bullitt.
The film’s iconic scene of a chase between the Mustang and a Dodge Charger accompanied by Lalo Schifrin’s soundtrack should be seared into your memory already.
Eleanor from Gone in 60 Seconds gets all the praise when it comes to movie Mustangs, but Bullitt is the far more sophisticated choice – last year, Ford brought out a special-edition Bullitt road car to celebrate 50 years since the movie's release.
Honourable mentions: Herbie the Love Bug, the Batmobile from Batman The Animated Series, Walter White’s Pontiac Aztek from Breaking Bad (or Walter White’s blacked-out Chrysler 300 SRT8) and the truck from Duel.
Updated: January 18, 2019 12:35 PM