The best lead cars in film
With Fast & Furious out in the cinema this weekend and the rest of the series playing out on television at the moment, repeated who knows how many times, I began thinking about cars and films. Now I've already written a feature on The best car crashes in films, but what about the best cars? Not just any cars either, but cars that are the stars of the film.
Now by that I mean a car that immediately stands out as the centre of the film, or as one of the lead characters, or perhaps when you look back on the film the car is one of the main things you remember of the film.
I've pulled together a list that I would deem as the stars of their films, and using the films I know of and the IMCDB, the Internet Car Movie Database, to get the exact car details, I've come up with my rather large list of the best films where the car is the star.
In order of date of manufacture, the cars that are the stars are:
Chitty Chitty Bang Bang
While there are many different thoughts behind what car Chitty Chitty Bang Bang actually was, it seems that it wasn't an actual make of car at all and was built by Alan Mann who was making racing cars at the time. The magical car that could do anything, even fly, definitely was the star of the film, although it played a close second to a dodgy English accent! Okay, we've got the daft one out of the way, let's look at a car that's not so daft, one that has a mind of its own and kills people.
1958 Plymouth Fury - Christine
Stephen King's story came to life on the big screen in quite a cool way. I liked this film, and with the concept of a car that has a soul and kills people you'd think it would be total rubbish, not so, and the car looked a beauty. It really did match the feel of a possessed car with its red paint job and the huge fins and detailing, it looked the part. However in the film it wasn't a Plymouth Fury, it was a 1958 Plymouth Belvedere apparently. Still, this is a menacing car indeed.
1961 Ferrari 250 GT Spyder California SWB - Ferris Bueller's Day Off
What a superb film, but can you really say that the car was the star? Not at all, without a doubt we were focussed on Ferris Bueller and his friends, however the scene with the car park and the Ferrari and then with the kick in the garage both stick in my head as some of the best moments in the film, and whenever we see clips of the film on television, that Ferrari moment is one of the oft used ones. I'm not a fan of modern Ferrari's, so the older the better, and this one is gorgeous.
1963 Volkswagen Sun-Roof Sedan Type 1 - The Love Bug
Who doesn't love Herbie? Well actually I don't really like the films myself, they were good when I was a kid, but these days they are very dated and not that enjoyable. However one thing remained true through all of the films, even the Lindsay Lohan tight shirted one, they used the same 1963 Volkswagen Sun-Roof Sedan Type 1, yes it's a hell of along title, but that's apparently the car they used throughout. Now if anything is going to survive through all those films it's a VW Beetle.
1967 Shelby Mustang GT 500 aka Eleanor - Gone in Sixty Seconds
I really did dislike the film although it had plenty of potential and a ton of gorgeous cars, but with Angelina Jolie hiding behind her hairdo, Nicolas Cage leading, and the real actors stuck in second rate roles, this film was all about the cars, and the mythical car at pinnacle of the story was the Shelby Mustang GT500, gorgeous it is too and sounds like a wild animal. What Cage was doing sitting behind the wheel with his usual bemused look on his face I do not know. The car outshone the stars, that's for sure, in fact most of the cars did.
1968 Ford Mustang GT390 Fastback - Bullitt
There's no doubting the star of this film was Steve McQueen, but he made sure that the Ford Mustang took a hell of a lot of glory as he sped it around the streets of San Francisco. This is undoubtedly the iconic car of film and if I was ranking them it would be in first place...well in my list it might fight with the Firebird which you'll hear more of later. McQueen drove this car amazingly well through the huge car chase sequences, and it screamed away looking anything like a muscle car as it seemed to handle wonderfully. This is a case where the car and the star couldn't have made it without each other.
1969 Dodge Charger - The Dukes of Hazzard
I hate to mention this film, not just because it's bad but also because it rips off a television series from my youth, but The General Lee is such a recognisable car I couldn't not mention that superb paint job, which probably had a lot of people looking at it with lust more than Jessica Simpson. Perhaps the car had less work done? Actually considering the stunts it did in the film that's definitely not true. Forget the horn though, the engine sound is fantastic, I love that muscle car growl.
1970 Dodge Charger - Fast and the Furious / Fast & Furious
Vin Diesel played Dom, the racer with the wonderful sounding 1970 Dodge Charger, man the sound of that on screen rumbled my speakers and made me smile. Although it's not the best looking muscle car it's pretty beefy, but it fights strong competition from all the other cars in the film and I really think it might be hard to pick it out as the lead of the two films. Personally I really wanted to mention the Honda S2000, but I can't really justify it against the Dodge Charger of Dom's which does beat them all to the finish line. It even returns in the latest instalment of the franchise, but will it remain the leading car?
1970 Dodge Challenger R/T - Vanishing Point
An admission is that I have Vanishing Point sitting to be watched and I haven't managed to get to it yet, I have watched some of the opening though and seen the 1970 Dodge Challenger, built the year I was born, and it looks rather unassuming. However I know that it is one of the best cars in film and it does play a major part in the film. Is there anything you can add?
1971 Plymouth Valiant - Duel
Now the real star of the film is the truck chasing the Plymouth Valiant, but then I have called this feature "The best lead cars in film", so I can't really claim the truck as one, although it certainly should be there. Second best is the car outrunning it manned by Dennis Weaver. Steven Spielberg's film is a classic and one that I recently watched again. Is there anything you'd rather have than the Valiant to survive that truck? Okay, daft question, just about any other car here!
1972 Ford Gran Torino - Gran Torino (Filmstalker review)
Clint Eastwood was the star of the film but playing a close second was the blisteringly immaculate looking 1972 Ford Gran Torino. We never really saw enough of the car, but we did get a few good looks at it and it looked gorgeous. It's just a shame we never really heard it getting a real drive.
1972 Ford Falcon XA / 1973 Ford Falcon XB (Black) / 1974 Ford Falcon Sedan XB - Mad Max
There were a number of Pursuit vehicles in Mad Max, and that's something I struggle to remember as it's been so long since I've seen the film. However according to IMCDB there was the 1972 Ford Falcon XA the 1974 Sedan XB, both of which were the multi-coloured Pursuit cars, and the 1973 XB, which was Max's own all black Interceptor. It's hard to remember, but I do remember some of the scenes with that black Pursuit car and Mel Gibson as Mad Max sitting behind that wheel driving with a heavy foot and a heart full of revenge. Superb.
1976 Ford Torino - Starsky & Hutch
I know it's a film remake, or rather complete mickey take, of a television show that we all loved from our childhood and should never have been remade, or poked fun at, from the beginning. However that car is something special, and if there had been a film version of The Professionals I'd have been throwing that Capri up here too. The Starsky & Hutch car was a beauty, and if you happen to be in Las Vegas you can see it in all it's glory with that white stripe running down the side. However nothing about the film version of the car sticks in my head, all my memories are from the television show, so I don't think this one really counts.
1976 Lotus Esprit Type 79/Series 1 - The Spy Who Loved Me
Okay, there had to be one more Bond car in here, and it was of course that gorgeous Lotus Esprit that somehow managed to go underwater. Like the DB5, I had a toy version of this one too which fired missiles and also popped out the underwater side fins too, fantastic. If I remember rightly this car was the first off the production line for the film, or was this a prototype? Something along those lines, but it was iconic as the DBS and has become one of the best known and recognised Bond cars to date.
1977 Pontiac Firebird Trans Am - Smokey and the Bandit
It's perfectly true to say that I fell in love with this car and I've had a fetish for Pontiac Firebird's ever since. When I owned an MR2 GT I loved the T-Bar and always remembered the Trans Am of Smokey, played by Burt Reynolds, with Sally Field hanging hanging her legs and arms changing out of a wedding dress. It's a great sounding car, as well as great looking all in black with the gold wings on the front, and I there are so many times it slides and spins off from a start growling as it goes. I would honestly love to own one to this day.
1977/2009 Chevrolet Camaro - Transformers (Filmstalker review)
The Transformers character of Bumblebee was played by both a 1977 and a 2009 Chevrolet Camaro, and I was torn between the gorgeous old beefy version and the new sleek and powerful version. They both look great, and they sounded wonderful on screen. You have to give Michael Bay credit for capturing those vehicles so well, but out of all the Transformers I have to say that the Camaro of Bumblebee was the best, although would you have the yellow one?
1980 Lamborghini Countach LP 400S - The Cannonball Run
There are quite a few cars in The Cannonball Run that catch the eye, but none have really captured my heart as much as the Lamborghini Countach LP 400S. I can honestly say that, along with the Pontiac Firebird Trans Am from Smokey and the Bandit, this is a car that has stayed with me since I first saw it and one that I would still happily own today. Oh, and it really has nothing to do with the two gorgeous ladies who were driving it, really, it was all about that sleek, black, wedge shaped car.
1981 De Lorean DMC-12 - Back to the Future
Here's another iconic car of cinema and although it's firmly a co-star it's not the central character and is just, if you'll pardon the use of the word, a vehicle to move the story forward, and to make the story happen in the first place. It's a wonderful looking car which actually had a terribly troubled reputation, unreliable even off the production line and was nowhere near as fast as the shape and style might expect. Then there's those iconic doors lifting upwards rather than outwards, but the most famous part of the car is a part that isn't even real, the flux capacitor. It's one of those much loved cars that perhaps you wouldn't really want to own!
1995 BMW 735i - Transporter
Jason Statham's Transporter character has seen a number of cars, but his business is done in that perfectly set-up and polished BMW. We always see him conducting his day to day business in the BMW before the world goes to hell about him and he has to start fighting his way out using any means necessary and driving anything that comes to hand, even a bicycle. Yet mention Transporter and the BMW comes to mind. The first film showed his skills off perfectly, and his attention to every piece of detail as he transported the bank robbers to their destination with utter precision and calmness, the personification of that car I would think BMW would want me to say! However this and the Audi are my least favourite in the list, on the roads of reality I find them the most eager to knock me off my bike.
2003 Mini Cooper S / Rover Mini Cooper Mk VII - The Italian Job (2003)
1968 Austin Mini Cooper S Mk I - The Italian Job (1969)
It's not really worth splitting these two films up, or splitting these Mini Cooper S' either. Different models, same...oh no that's a different film, but the sentiment is there. For both The Italian Jobs, no matter what the other cars were the Mini's stole the show with their respective displays. What surprised me about the second film is that it managed to keep the Mini sequencing low key enough not to overshadow the original, filling it with huge Hollywood stunts and going too far. Still it doesn't beat the original, and for me those 1968 Mini Cooper S' are the best.
Aston Martin DB5, Vanquish, and the DBS - James Bond
In all the Bond films, despite some trials with other cars, one thing remains true, the Aston Martin. From the DB5 to the DBS via the gorgeous Vanquish, Bond has always had the best of the Aston Martin production line. With or without Bond the Aston Martin is a beautiful vehicle, but there's no doubt that both were married beautifully in film with their class and style. Gorgeous, sleek looks aside, the Aston Martin has a stunning sound that is as recognisable as its shape. The question is which Aston Martin do you love the most? The original DB5 driven by Sean Connery was a car I certainly worshipped and had the little toy at home with the ejector seat and the rear pop-up bullet proof panel, and since I have loved the smaller two seater sports car. However then there's the bigger, beefier Vanquish that Pierce Brosnan drove. His really does try and own the road with looks and the newer, recognisable sound, now outdated by the latest DBS that Daniel Craig raced in Casino Royale (Filmstalker review). I think, although I love the original style of the DB5, the DBS is one incredibly sexy looking, sounding and feeling car.
The Batmobile - Batman
Now I'm going to automatically exclude the Lincoln Futura which was used to make the Batmobile for the Batman television series, not just because it's the television series, but because it now pales into insignificance against the new Batmobiles. Look at the version from Tim Burton's Batman, the one built by GM, that still looks fantastic and the whining sound of the engine was cool even before the flames kicked in! Of course now we have the Tumbler from Christopher Nolan's Batman Begins (Filmstalker review) and that has to be called spectacular. Who wouldn't want to drive that? It looks so incredible and unique, although it fights the superb cast for the audience's attention, it got mine. Which Batmobile is it for you?
Oh my, I can hardly believe that's how much I wrote. That's what happens when you mix two subjects that you are hugely passionate about, you write a lot, or rather I do! Plus there's not even a hint of an S2000, let me fix that and slap it in the main image.
Out of that huge list I have to listen to my heart and say that the 1980 Lamborghini Countach LP 400S from The Cannonball Run and the 1977 Pontiac Firebird Trans Am from Smokey and the Bandit are still leading film cars that are close to my heart and I would own either in an instant. However if the chance availed itself then the Aston Martin DBS would be in my garage, as would any of the Mustangs mentioned above.
The reason these cars are the stars is that they have a huge personality and a superb on screen presence, just like top actors who fight with them for the lead of the films. They growl, they speed by the screen, and they even look great standing still.
What leading cars are your favourites?