If you’re a cinema buff or just someone who enjoys casual movie nights time to time, you’re naturally going to recognize certain legendary movie cars. Whether we’re talking about Back to the Future’s time-traveling Delorean or the Ghostbusters’ Ecto-1, you don’t have to know cars to visualize these famous vehicles the moment they’re mentioned. Some have designs so unique and inspired that they’re impossible to forget, and others are given narrative focus in a way that ties that model car to your memory alongside the movie itself. I could spend all day listing the countless memorable vehicles from movies or TV shows, but these cars have earned more than that; they’ve earned the same respect a passionate fan gives their collectibles. They shouldn’t sit jumbled in some list on Wikipedia, they should be categorized and displayed thoughtfully like the contents of my Star Trek shelf. With that in mind, I’ve put together my metaphorical shelf of favorite Fords from fiction and film.
1992 Ford Explorer XLT – Jurassic Park
Even if you aren’t a big enough fan to have already seen Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, you probably still have a clear picture in your mind of the original movie’s famous tour vehicles. No, I’m not talking about the Jeep Wranglers used by the park staff, I’m of course referencing the heavily modified ‘92 Ford Explorer XLTs that circled the island on an electric track. InGen spared no expense in the production of their driverless tour cars, which is why you’ll notice they’re equipped with advanced technologies like touchscreen displays and other devices not common in similar vehicles at the time. When it comes to design, the tour cars have a distinct green and yellow paint job with a deep red dinosaur-themed pattern overlaying it. Utilizing such bright and vivid colors resulted in a striking and memorable image that fans have continued to painstakingly recreate for decades after their movie debut.
1987 Ford LTD Crown Victoria – Men in Black
Mistakenly referred to as a “Ford POS” by Agent J, the 1987 Crown Victorias used by the Men in Black are anything but. Using advanced (and likely alien) technology, the MIB significantly enhanced the capabilities of the vehicle, the full scope of which is never fully revealed. With the information available, we know that the MIB Crown Vic has at least two possible modes of operation: standard mode and auxiliary mode. While in its standard setting, the car appears as any other mundane Earth vehicle, allowing the MIB to patrol the streets undetected by the general public. Its auxiliary mode, however, is a bit more conspicuous. The press of a little red button near the handbrake activates the function, and immediately the body of the car shifts like a Transformer, making room for two massive thrusters that propel the car at incredible speeds— enough even to drive on walls or upside-down.
1972 Ford Gran Torino – Gran Torino
While the car doesn’t get much actual use throughout the bulk of the movie, Clint Eastwood’s 1972 Gran Torino from (you guessed it) Gran Torino is still central to the overarching themes as well as the movie’s entire narrative. Gran Torino is a rare example of when a film shines a spotlight on a character’s vehicle in a way that doesn’t feel superficial or utilitarian. The car isn’t used as a flashy ride, it doesn’t take part in any wild chase scenes, and it isn’t full of incredibly convenient gadgets. It sits in the main character’s driveway for almost the entire movie, instead functioning as the catalyst that brings the characters, and therefore the entire plot, together. Gran Torino is by no means a feel-good movie, but it makes a point to remind us the value of the people around us, and how profoundly and permanently affected we can be by the connections we choose to foster. By the time the credits start to roll, that car has been established as a symbol not only for the family but the parts of our loved ones that we carry with us long after they’re gone.
1973 Ford Gran Torino – The Big Lebowski
Jeff Bridges’ character in “The Big Lebowski,” The Dude, also drives a Gran Torino, albeit with much less symbolic significance than the one previously mentioned on this list. The contrast between how Bridges and Eastwood’s characters treat their similar vehicles is like the difference between the 2001 Tim Burton Planet of the Apes movie and the recent Planet of the Apes trilogy, in that one is treated with respect and care, and the other is driven into a dumpster because the driver is smoking something.
There’s some minor confusion as to the year of the model used during production, the reason for this being vehicle’s overall state of neglect throughout the movie, but it is confirmed to be a 1973 Gran Torino as opposed to 1972 as some people often think. Initially, they had planned to use a Chrysler LeBaron for the movie, but since co-star John Goodman couldn’t fit in the vehicle, the decision was made to use the Gran Torino instead. They used two identical cars for the production; one was destroyed during filming, and the other survived three years to eventually be destroyed in an episode of “The X-Files” in 2001.
1973 Ford Falcon – Mad Max
Of course, I saved the best for last: Mad Max’s “Pursuit Special” V8 Interceptor, which is actually a heavily modified 1973 Australian Ford Falcon XB GT coupe. Regardless whether you’re a longtime fan of the Mad Max franchise or you’ve only seen the most recent installment (Fury Road), you’ll recognize Max Rockatansky’s signature ride the minute you see it. Depending on which of the movies you’ve seen most recently, you might be picturing one of a few variants. Thanks to the modification, destruction, and restoration that the vehicle undergoes throughout the events of the series, we’ve been treated to at least five different versions of its design (as long as we’re not counting the comics or recent video game). After being redesigned and rebuilt at the beginning of Fury Road, the car spends the vast majority of its screen time being driven by (forgive me for making you read this name) Slit, one of the many car-worshipping crazies sent careening through the movie at breakneck speeds. In Beyond Thunderdome, Max is even seen using the undercarriage and inner frame of the Pursuit Special as a camel-drawn cart, and it’s almost touching to see the lengths he goes to in order continue driving the car that helped him claim his revenge all those years ago.
People gravitate to these iconic cars, some even spending years replicating them for their own use. Maybe it’s due to some vestigial instinct for taming and nurturing a steed, or maybe it’s the result of an even more primal drive, buried within the genetic code of every human: the deep subconscious yearning we all feel to own the Batmobile. No matter what the cause, the relationship between a character and their mode of transportation has been a popular theme in fiction for a long time, from Don Quixote and his horse Rocinante to Han Solo and the Millenium Falcon. This being the case, it only makes sense that some of these vehicles have become equally, if not more popular than the characters who drive them.