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20 of the Most Popular Movie & TV Cars of all Time
Movies and cars have a long-standing relationship, with iconic cars playing starring roles in some of the biggest blockbusters. From the fast and furious (no pun intended) to the sleek and stylish, to the absolutely absurd, these cars often capture the hearts and imaginations of audiences worldwide. In this blog post, we'll be discussing some of the most popular cars from movie & TV, as well as diving into some interesting statistics around the most expensive car chase scenes, the most cars crashed in a movie, and movies that were created solely to showcase the cars themselves.
Most Expensive Car Chase Scenes
One of the most exciting parts of any action movie is the car chase scene. These scenes often involve high-speed pursuits, dangerous stunts, and expensive vehicles. Whilst modern movies rely heavily on CGI - this was not always the case, and some modern directors still refuse to rely on CGI claiming that it takes away from the excitement of crashing cars using good ol’ fashioned special effects and stunt drivers.
But what are the most expensive (non-CGI) car chase scenes from movies? Let’s find out who made the top 3…
The most expensive car chase scene in movie history is from the 2012 film "The Dark Knight Rises." In the scene, the Batmobile is pursued by police through the streets of Gotham City. The scene cost a whopping $11 million to produce and featured a custom-built Tumbler, which was designed specifically for the movie.
Vanishing Point (1971) - although listed as the most expensive car chase scene on a lot of top 10 lists, this is actually the second most expensive car chase scene, although one could argue that it’s less a ‘scene’ and more - the entire movie, since the movie is effectively one giant car chase. Costing an astonishing US$1,464,454 (adjusted for inflation) the car chase scenes main character, the iconic 1970 Dodge Challenger R/T was actually eight different cars that Chrysler loaned for filming. Despite speculation that the white Challenger was chosen to symbolically represent a ‘clean slate’, the colour white was actually chosen simply so it would stand out against the background.
Fast Five (2011) from the Fast & Furious Franchise (say that Five times Fast…pun totally intended) comes in at number 3 on the most expensive car chase scenes in cinematic history, with 5 Dodge Charger Pursuits featured in the popular scene, 2 of which were driven by the main stars as they dragged a giant bank vault through the streets of Rio. Costing around US$255,000, a lot of viewers thought this was predominantly CGI but in fact it was all real, with the only change being that they drove through the streets of Puerto Rico and not Rio, simply because of location costs.
Did you know?
A trick that is often employed by film directors is the use of close-up shots and changing the perspective multiple times throughout a car chase scene. By showing a close up of the driver and the steering wheel, then a wide shot of the car driving, then maybe a new angle of the chase vehicles, then switching again to an interior shot, going wide again with multiple angles gives viewers the impression that the pace of the chase is much faster than it is in reality. A good example of this is in the first Jason Bourne movie, Bourne Identity where Jason is driving a crappy old mini through the streets of Paris. The average speed of that chase was probably close to 50km/h, but the use of multiple camera angles and varying perspectives of the chase gave the viewer the impression that the average speed was much (much) higher than that.
Most Cars Crashed in a Movie – Top 10
Car crashes are a common occurrence in action movies, but some movies take destruction to a whole new level.
Back in the late 80’s the Blues Brothers (1980) held the record of 103 cars destroyed in a hilarious scenes where police cars continuously piled on top of each other in a very comical fashion. (They then destroyed exactly one more in the remake in 2000) That was until the 1985 film "The Junkman." The movie features a total of 150 cars destroyed in various stunts and crashes, putting the crash per view rate at around 1 car for every 90 seconds of running time. This all changed as the millennium dawned and movie makers kept upping the ante to almost ridiculous levels.
Let’s take a look at the 10 films that have crashed the most cars in a movie, making the Blue Brothers movie pale in comparison.
- Transformers 3 - 532 Cars Destroyed
- Matrix Reloaded - 300 Cars Destroyed
- Fast Five (Fast & Furious 5) - 260 Cars Destroyed
- The Junkman - 150 Cars Destroyed
- A Good Day to Die Hard (Die Hard 5) - 132 Cars Destroyed
- G.I.Joe - 112 Cars Destroyed
- Blues Brothers 2000 - 104 Cars Destroyed
- Blue Brothers (1980) - 103 Cars Destroyed
- Gone in 60 Seconds - 93 Cars Destroyed
- Bullitt - 80+ Cars Destroyed
You might also be interested in this list of the most expensive cars crashed in movies. This list of the 20 most expensive cars crashed is certainly epic!
Of course, not all movies featuring cars are about chases and destruction. Some movies celebrate the beauty and craftsmanship of classic cars, or explore the lives of the people who love them. Some of course are just cool movies with a car as the main character, and these cars themselves become more memorable than the actors who drove them.
What are the most popular movies about cars? And what cars are instantly recognised as a result of the movies they were featured in? Let us celebrate the merging of the film and automotive industries with this list of the 20 most popular and/or famous cars from film and TV.What are the most popular movies about cars? And what cars are instantly recognised as a result of the movies they were featured in? Let us celebrate the merging of the film and automotive industries with this list of the 20 most popular and/or famous cars from film and TV.
20 of the Most Popular Movie & TV Cars
If we were to attempt to list all the most popular TV and movie cars that have become cultural icons over the years, I think this article would end up taking longer to get through than all the movies in this list combined. Cars have always held a fascination with people, from the moment they were invented, and as such it is no surprise that movie and TV show directors have included them as either the main characters, or extras in their films.
Sometimes the cars are cast as the hero or villain in a movie (literally in the case of ‘Christine’ but sometimes they are merely there as props but end up being more memorable than the actors who drove them.
Here are 20 of our favourite TV and movie cars, in no particular order. (we have mixed the TV cars with the Movie cars - see if you can pick which is which).
*Whilst this list is not in order of preference, it is the opinion of the editor that the Delorean Time Machine from the Back to the Future Trilogy is the greatest and most instantly recognised movie car of all time.
1. 1981 DeLorean DMC-12 Time Machine - Back to the Future
The DeLorean Time Machine is one of the most recognizable movie cars of all time. It was featured in the "Back to the Future" trilogy and is a modified DeLorean DMC-12 sports car. The time machine features a flux capacitor that allows it to travel through time when it reaches 88 miles per hour, assuming you are able to generate the 1.21 Gigawatts of power necessary to power the flux capacitor.
1.21 Gigawatts?!?! Great Scott!
2. 1959 Cadillac Miller-Meteor. Ecto-1 - Ghostbusters
The Ecto-1 is the iconic car featured in the "Ghostbusters" movies. It's a 1959 Cadillac Miller-Meteor ambulance that's been converted into a paranormal investigation and elimination vehicle. The Ecto-1 has become a symbol of the Ghostbusters franchise and has appeared in various other media, including video games and comic books.
3. Batmobile - Batman…all of them (inc. Tumbler)
The Batmobile is the iconic car used by Batman in the DC Comics universe. It's appeared in various movies and TV shows over the years, with each iteration featuring its own unique design. The most popular version of the Batmobile is from the 1966 "Batman" TV show, which featured a sleek and stylish design that's become a fan favourite.
The Tumbler is also a popular batmobile design, with its creation and subsequent scenes in the movie topping the list at the most expensive car chase scene in cinema history.
4. Herbie - The Love Bug
Herbie is a 1963 Volkswagen Beetle featured in the "Love Bug" series of movies. Herbie is a sentient car that has a mind of its own and often gets into various misadventures with its driver, Jim Douglas. The Love Bug movies have become a classic of the family-friendly movie genre, and Herbie has become a beloved character.
5. Knight Rider
In the original Knight Rider series, the character of KITT (Knight Industries Two Thousand) was physically embodied as a modified 1982 Pontiac Trans Am. KITT was designed by customizer Michael Scheffe. The convertible and super-pursuit KITTs were designed and built by George Barris.
A Redditor recently asked ‘What TV show had the greatest car?’ and the resounding response was Knight Rider, KITT (See screenshot below)
6. 1969 Dodge Charger ‘General Lee’ - The Dukes of Hazzard
Reportedly, two dozen 1968–70 Chargers were used for the film, though most of them didn’t survive the stunt-packed scenes. Again, separating itself from the show, the movie cars used aftermarket graphics kits, but overall, they vary little from the original General Lees. One of the TV cars did make an appearance in the film as a close-up car. It was used for a few scenes and then sent back to Warner Bros.
In the aftermath of the 2015 Charleston, South Carolina shooting deaths and the reignited resistance to the Confederate flag, Warner Bros. announced it would stop production of the General Lee toy cars, or at least produced them without the confederate flag on the roof.
7. Mystery Machine - Scooby Doo Wagon
Ruh Roh - you can’t include cartoon cars in this list. But since we’re here we’ll add one more… do we dare add another cartoon car. Yes, we Yabba Dabba Do
8. The Footmobile/Flintmobile - The Flintstones
Way before cycling to work was a thing, you could prehistorically pedal to the office. The Flintstones' car lacked many amenities that we’ve come to enjoy like power steering, air conditioning, and a floor— but they were the modern Stone Age family, so it must have been top of the line for the time, right? It took the family everywhere they needed in Bedrock, all while providing a killer workout.
Check out this life-sized replica  gifted to a Malaysian Sultan.
9. 1964 Aston Martin DB5 - James Bond (Goldfinger)
James Bond’s legacy of famous cars and far-out gadgets can be traced back from one vehicle: the 1964 Aston Martin DB5 that 007 drove in Goldfinger and Thunderball. Without any Bond spy modifications, the Aston Martin DB5 is a work of art. But it’s the special effects that have made this car quite possibly the most beloved movie car of all time.
10. 1977 Pontiac Trans Am - Smokey and the Bandit
When Smokey and the Bandit director Hal Needham chose a 1977 Pontiac Trans Am to star in his movie alongside Burt Reynolds and Sally Field, he couldn’t have predicted the impact that car would have on America.
11. 1968 Mustang GT390 - Bullitt
One of the most popular movies about cars is the 1968 film "Bullitt," which features a high-speed chase through the streets of San Francisco. The movie is famous for its iconic car, a 1968 Ford Mustang GT, which has become a symbol of cool and style in the world of classic cars.
The Bullitt Mustang first became popular after the legendary high-speed chase in Steve McQueen's 1968 film Bullitt. Since then, Ford has released special-edition Bullitt Mustangs in 2001, 2008, and 2019. (pictured)
12. 1973 Ford Falcon XB GT - Mad Max
When it comes to cars, Australians are historically just as power-hungry as Americans. So in the 1960s and 1970s, the Australian arms of American car company Ford created some fairly brutal muscle machines—cars we never saw in Singapore, or anywhere else around the world for that matter. One of them was the Ford Falcon.
13. 1958 Plymouth Fury - Christine
How could we leave a horror movie centred around a 1958 Plymouth Fury off the list? Stephen King was so popular at the time and had enough clout that the film went into production before the book was even published. Anywhere between 23 and 28 cars were used in the film (sources vary), and not all of them were Furys. Columbia Pictures placed ads across the country looking to buy Belvederes and Savoys, too. The majority of the cars were used on screen and the rest were used for spare parts.
14. 1967 Shelby GT500 (Eleanor) - Gone in 60 Seconds
Named Eleanor after the 1974 original movie, this Dupont Pepper Grey 1967 Ford Mustang fastback is depicted as a Shelby GT500. Eleven of the fictional Mustangs were created for the movie, with only three of them being working cars and two were ultimately destroyed during filming.
15. 1961 Ferrari 250 GT Spyder - Ferris Bueller's Day Off
The shiny red car Ferris Bueller swipes from his friend's dad is supposedly a 1961 Ferrari 250 GT. It turns out the movie's crew actually used three Modena Spyders in the movie's wide shots, then used a real Ferrari when they needed close-ups. Ferrari wasn't happy when it saw its badges on the fakes, and ultimately sued the makers of the Modenas. 
16. 1967 Austin Mini Cooper S 1275, The Italian Job
Although the Minis in the 2003 remake are gorgeous, they don’t even come close to the models from the ’69 film. The British Motor Corporation, the maker of the car, refused to donate any cars to the film, selling the production crew six Minis at trade price (leading 30 more to be purchased at retail). As uncooperative as BMC was, screenwriter Troy Kennedy Martin refused to trade out the vehicles for one of the world’s most-famous chase scenes.
17. Chevrolet Camaro (1977 & 2007) aka BumbleBee, Transformers
In the first film of the Transformers series, we’re introduced to Bumblebee as an old 1977 second-generation Chevy Camaro. He eventually converts into a fifth-generation, but remember this is 2007 and it’s two whole years before the car would go into production. A replica would need to be made, slick enough to fool viewers and do the toy line justice. The car needed to be able to survive the rigours of filming a Michael Bay movie, so body panels made from the same moulds as the 2006 Camaro Concept were used.
18. 1983 GMC Vandura, The A-Team
A pop-culture icon in contest with Mr. T himself—who never actually said “I pity the fool”—the van sported a red stripe, rooftop spoiler, and black-and-red turbine mag wheels. The back of the van featured different equipment depending on the episode: a miniature printing press, an audio-surveillance recording device, Hannibal’s disguises, and a gun storage locker.
19. Ferrari 308 GTS Quattrovalvole - Magnum P.I.
The Magnum PI Ferrari is possibly one of the coolest Ferrari models ever made. It’s not the most expensive. It’s not the fastest. But it was driven by one of the coolest characters to ever star in a T.V. series.
For nearly eight years, Tom Selleck, as the private investigator Thomas Magnum, sped through Hawaii driving the Ferrari 308 GTS Quattrovalvole.
20. Fast & Furious Movie Franchise
With 9 movies and over 120 cars it is almost impossible to name them all, so they made this top 20 list as a collective, a fast and furious collective. Some notable mentions include the 1996 Toyota Supra (pictured), Dominic Toretto’s Dodge Charger, and Bryan’s Nissan Skyline GTR34 aka “Godzilla”.
Movie and TV cars have played a significant role in popular culture and have become an important part of our collective imagination. From the sleek and stylish to the powerful and destructive, these cars have captured our hearts and imaginations for decades. Whether it's a high-speed chase through city streets, with destruction and chaos ensuing, hitting 88mp/h and going back in time, or a celebration of classic cars driven by movie legends, these movies and TV shows inspire us to dream big and embrace our love for all things automotive. As we've seen in this blog post, some of the most popular TV and movie cars have become cultural icons, inspiring generations of fans and car enthusiasts alike.
Which one is your favourite?