The most famous cars out there are the ones that make an immediate impression and stick with us––the cars that become iconic for what they are and what they represent. Classic cars from movies, like the Trans Am from Smokey and the Bandit, the Aston Martin DB5 from Goldfinger, and the Mustang GT 390 from Bullitt are certainly among the most famous cars. Of course, there are plenty of other famous cars that are a bit less grounded in reality, like the Batmobile and the Mystery Machine. And we can’t forget about those that blur the lines of reality and fantasy, like Doc Brown’s DeLorean or the ECTO-1.
Let’s take a better look at some of these famous, classic cars from the films we love, to see what made them so legendary and memorable.
1977 Pontiac Trans Am – Smokey and the Bandit
Let’s kick this off with a personal favorite, the Pontiac Trans Am from Smokey and the Bandit. There are few “road movies” quite as iconic and memorable as this one, with incredible performances across the board from Burt Reynolds, Sally Field, and Jackie Gleason. Despite these performances, however, the Trans Am is really the start of the show and drives off with the movie.
1964 Aston Martin DB5 – Goldfinger
I could probably make an entire list of just vehicles from James Bond movies, but I’ll stick to my personal favorite with this one. Not only is Goldfinger the best Bond flick, but the Aston Martin DB5 that Sean Connery drives in it is the best Bond car. It’s a gorgeous vehicle, to begin with, but once you start having machine guns pop out and ejector seats going off, you’re simply on another level entirely. There are a lot of Aston Martins out there heavily sought after by car lovers, but the 1964 DB5 holds a special place in the hearts of many, largely because of Goldfinger.
1968 Mustang GT 390 – Bullitt
I could just say “Steve McQueen” and move on to the next one, but I’ll take a moment to actually talk about this. McQueen was already a legend before this movie, but Bullitt elevated him to a level that few other actors can reach. The car chases are, of course, among the most memorable in any film ever made, and the Mustang GT 390 that McQueen’s character drives in the movie is front and center.
1973 XB GT Ford Falcon – Mad Max
You can’t talk about car movies and not mention Mad Max – I’m looking at the original here from 1973, not The Road Warrior or even Fury Road (though there are amazing vehicles in those too). The original Mad Max ride was a heavily customized Ford Falcon, referred to as the Pursuit Special or V8 Interceptor in the films. The movie helped launch Mel Gibson to stardom, and this car is among the most beloved by movie fans for the role it plays in the film and the sequels that followed.
1974 Dodge Monaco – The Blues Brothers
This is one of my earliest movie-car memories since The Blues Brothers was a staple of my childhood and one of my favorite movies growing up. On their “mission from God,” Jake and Elroy (played by John Belushi and Dan Akroyd) take to the road to put their band back together and raise some money for an orphanage. During their adventure, they drive a decommissioned police car nicknamed the “Bluesmobile,” which is an old Dodge Monaco, through some of the most insane and destructive car chases ever captured on film.
1958 Plymouth Fury – Christine
Some cars are driven by heroes, others by villains, and some cars are the villains––well, at least one is. Christine is a film (based on the book by Stephen King) about a young man and his car. The car in question, which is the titular character of the movie, is portrayed by numerous vehicles throughout the flick, though it’s primarily an old Plymouth Fury. It’s a gorgeous car that gets a bad reputation because of its lust for murder––just Christine, not all Plymouths.
1970 Dodge Challenger – Vanishing Point and Death Proof
This car’s so amazing it has two credits, though to be fair, one of them is a direct homage to the other. The 1971 film Vanishing Point is about as “high octane” a road movie as you’re going to find, and has become a cult classic since its release. So much so, that Quentin Tarantino referenced it in his 2007 movie Death Proof, where the main protagonists find a 1970 Dodge Challenger and take it for a ride due to their love for Vanishing Point. No matter which movie you’re into (honestly, they’re both great), this is a gorgeous muscle car and worthy of renown.
1959 Cadillac Miller-Meteor – Ghostbusters
Although far from sexy like a Dodge Challenger or Aston Martin, the old Cadillac Miller-Meteor is instantly recognizable today as the basis for the Ectomobile or ECTO-1, the car driven by the Ghostbusters. It was modified a bit in the movie, but the basic shape is very clear and has become iconic due to its use in the film. Fans of the movie have been known to track one of these models down and recreate the ECTO-1 for their own enjoyment.
1981 DeLorean DMC-12 – Back to the Future
Despite the fact that the DeLorean DMC-12 is generally regarded as a failure that didn’t particularly sell well or impress most people, this is absolutely one of the most famous cars in existence. All of that fame, however, is due to its use as the time machine in the Back to the Future movies. With a few aftermarket modifications (apparently a flux capacitor didn’t come standard), the DeLorean DMC-12 raced across the screen, leaving fire in its tracks, and became iconic for every kid that grew up in the ’80s and ’90s.
The Batmobile – Batman
Here we have one of two purely fictional vehicles, one that isn’t based on a particular model or vehicle that was ever sold. The Batmobile is, nevertheless, among the most famous cars in existence due to its use in Batman comic books, TV shows, cartoons, and movies over the last 80+ years. During this time, it has taken many different shapes, from an open-cockpit coupe, to a sleek roadster, to a battle-ready tank, but it has remained an iconic symbol of Batman’s nightly battle against crime.
One of the best things about the Batmobile is that it has taken so many different shapes. Fans of particular movies, shows, or comic book incarnations have been known to build their own replica Batmobiles to drive around town or take to conventions. These cars are instantly recognizable, and showcase which particular version that person most identifies with.
The Mystery Machine – Scooby Doo
Finally, we have the Mystery Machine, the legendary van driven by the Scooby Gang on the show Scooby Doo. Though it first debuted as a cartoon, there have been live-action versions of the series that have featured the Mystery Machine in real-world glory. It has also been parodied and used in numerous other shows and movies as a way to reference Scooby Doo and iconic characters like Shaggy, Scooby, and Velma.
While there is no particular model of van that the Mystery Machine is specifically based on, its overall design is clearly a reference to panel vans from the 1960s. It’s typically depicted as medium blue with green stripes and orange flowers adorning it, with the words “The Mystery Machine” painted on it, hence its name. A lot of fans that want to recreate the Mystery Machine choose a Ford Taunus Transit Van from the 1960s, as its overall appearance is a great choice to match the design of the Scooby Doo classic.
Did I leave off your favorite famous car? Let me know, and maybe I’ll have to do another article about the most famous cars I forgot!