25 Most Iconic Cars From TV & Movies

Published 3 years ago by , Updated March 7th, 2014 at 10:51 am,

the black beauty green horn 25 Most Iconic Cars From TV & Movies

The American car: few things define an individual better than the car they drive and nothing better defines a movie or TV series than the car the lead character drives. For years people from all walks of life were known by their cars and that recognition spilled over into TV shows and movies in a big way.

Throughout the 60s, 70s and 80s cars played a big part in just about every TV series and film – to the point that audiences would see the car and immediately associate it with a particular (entertainment) brand. Sometimes the car was just an iconic mode of transportation meant to show the societal class of the person driving it – like Fred Sanford’s beat up 1951 Ford truck in Sanford & Son, Colt Seavers’ early 1980s model GMC pickup truck in the Fall Guy, or Sonny Crockett’s 1986 white Ferrari Testarossa in Miami Vice.

Other times, the automobile overshadowed its lead actor, becoming a focal point of attention well after the show or movie it appeared in had stopped being popular – cars like K.I.T.T. in Knight Rider, the General Lee in the Dukes of Hazzard, or Herbie in The Love Bug.

Still there were other times where a TV show’s car was meant only as a cool form of transport reflecting the “hipness” or “swagger” of its driver – in other words, it was secondary, and purely there for looks. Examples of these cars are the Batmobile in Batman and Robin, the 1978 Pontiac Firebird Trans Am from Smokey and the Bandit, or the Ferrari 308 GTS from Magnum P.I.

Regardless of their use, each of these cars had one thing in common : They became iconic.

In this article we’ll discuss what makes a car iconic, as well as list some of our favorite examples from various decades. Also, we’ll dig into why the use of iconic cars might have been permanently garaged by Hollywood.

-

Criteria

In order to understand what makes a car iconic we should start with the definition of the word “iconic” – courtesy of Dictionary.com:

“Relating to, resembling, or having the character and sign or
representation that stands for its object.”

For the sake of this discussion, an “iconic” car will be one that reminds the viewer of the TV series or movie it represents – simply by seeing it. We’re going to add a couple other qualifications to the list as well:

  • The vehicle should have a unique look, paint job, or function.
  • The vehicle must be a car or truck – no planes, trains, boats or helicopters for this list (sorry Airwolf fans).
  • The vehicle must be driven by a person and must always be in its original, “iconic” form (sorry Optimus Prime fans).

-

The 60s

Hollywood was just starting to dip its collective toe into the car pool (pun intended) during the 60s, and the further into the decade they got, the more elaborate, fancy, and often fantastical the cars became. Some of the most popular and iconic cars recognized today came from this decade. Here are just a few of our favorites:

Scooby-Doo, Where are You! - 1963 Ford Econoline Custom Van (as used in the cartoon)

scooby doo 25 Most Iconic Cars From TV & Movies

-

Goldfinger – 1963 Aston Martin DB5

james bond 25 Most Iconic Cars From TV & Movies

-

The Love Bug – 1962 Volkswagon Beetle

the love bug 25 Most Iconic Cars From TV & Movies

-

The Green Hornet - 1966 Chrysler Imperial

the green hornet 25 Most Iconic Cars From TV & Movies

-

Batman – 1955 Ford Lincoln Futura Concept Car

batman and robin1 25 Most Iconic Cars From TV & Movies

-

 

The 70s

With a couple of notable exceptions, the 70s helped usher the way for the gas-guzzling, horsepower-heavy, loud, masculine muscle car. Engines were big, gas was cheap and car companies were enjoying a surge in orders for their factory muscle car models – thanks in part to the large advertising push from popular TV shows and movies. These are just a few examples of cars and trucks we like from the 70s:

The Rockford Files – 1977 Pontiac Firebird Esprit

the rockford files 25 Most Iconic Cars From TV & Movies

-

Starsky and Hutch – 1975 Ford Gran Torino

starsky and hutch 25 Most Iconic Cars From TV & Movies

-

Sanford and Son – 1951 Ford F1 4×2

sanford and son 25 Most Iconic Cars From TV & Movies

-

Mad Max – 1974 Customized Ford Falcon XB Interceptor

mad max1 25 Most Iconic Cars From TV & Movies

-

Smokey and the Bandit – 1977 Pontiac (Firebird) Trans Am

smokey and the bandit 25 Most Iconic Cars From TV & Movies

-

 

The 80s

The 80s can best be described as the “age of me” and one doesn’t have to look any further than Hollywood’s choice of cars for a lot of popular TV shows and movies. High-priced, highly-modified, and typically not available to the common viewer due to cost, cars from 80s TV shows and movies epitomized the craving we all felt – we wanted one of these vehicles but either couldn’t afford one or imagine actually driving one (since they were so impractical). There are several dozen choices to choose from in this decade but these are some of our favorites:

Christine – 1957 Plymouth Belvedere

christine 25 Most Iconic Cars From TV & Movies

-

Hardcastle and McCormick – 1971 Volkswagen Coyote X

hardcastle and mccormick 25 Most Iconic Cars From TV & Movies

-

Miami Vice – 1972 Ferrari Daytona Spider / 1986 Ferrari Testarossa

miami vice 25 Most Iconic Cars From TV & Movies

-

Magnum P.I. – 1977 Ferrari 308 GTS

magnum pi 25 Most Iconic Cars From TV & Movies

-

Knight Rider – 1982 Customized Pontiac Trans Am

knight rider1 25 Most Iconic Cars From TV & Movies

-

Dukes of Hazzard – 1969 Dodge Charger

dukes of hazzard 25 Most Iconic Cars From TV & Movies

-

The A-Team – 1983 GMC G-15

the a team 25 Most Iconic Cars From TV & Movies

-

Batman (Tim Burton) – Customized Body on a Chevy Impala Chassis

batmobile tim burton 25 Most Iconic Cars From TV & Movies

-

Back to the Future – 1982 DeLorean DMC-12

back to the future 25 Most Iconic Cars From TV & Movies

-

Ghostbusters – 1959 Cadillac Miller-Meteor Hearse

ghostbusters2 25 Most Iconic Cars From TV & Movies

-

The 90s – Present Day

Starting from 1990 and moving into present day, there are very few choices of vehicles that meet our definition of “iconic.” In that 21 year span there were only five cars that we could find that, just by looking at them, immediately reminded us of their associated movie. We specify movies because starting in the 90s Hollywood began removing iconic cars from TV shows.  If you can think of one, please let us know – because the past five or six years have been taken over by generic, black, Chevy Suburbans driven by law enforcement as well as the environmentally friendly Toyota Prius.

Here are the only five cars that stand out to us for the past 21 years:

Jurassic Park – 1993 Ford Explorer XLT

jurassic park1 25 Most Iconic Cars From TV & Movies

-

Wayne’s World – 1976 AMC Pacer

waynes world 25 Most Iconic Cars From TV & Movies

-

Dumb and Dumber – 1984 Customized Ford Econoline

dumb and dumber 25 Most Iconic Cars From TV & Movies

-

The Dark Knight – 2005 Customized “Lamborghini Tank

the dark knight2 25 Most Iconic Cars From TV & Movies

-

Lost – 1968 Volkswagen T2a

lost dharma van 25 Most Iconic Cars From TV & Movies

-

Hollywood needs to get back to giving their lead actors cool, unique, and identifiable cars to drive. No one remembers what kind of car Jack Bauer drove on 24 or what kind of car was used to chase down a fleeing criminal on Bones. The closest Hollywood has gotten in recent years is the Nissan Versa on Heroes or the blue Toyota Yaris from Psych – both of which are paid-for advertisements and completely lame on-screen vehicles. Whether it was intentional or not Lost gave the iconic car a slight boost by incorporating a classic VW van into the show.

Tell us what your favorite vehicles are from the past 40 years and whether you would like to see more iconic vehicles introduced by Hollywood in the future.

Follow us on Twitter for TV and Movie News @Walwus and @ScreenRant

Get our free email alerts on the topics and author of this article:
TAGS: 24, back to the future, batman, bones, ghostbusters, green hornet, heroes, james bond, jurassic park, knight rider, lost, mad max, miami vice, psych, the a-team, the dark knight

162 Comments

Post a Comment

GravatarWant to change your avatar?
Go to Gravatar.com and upload your own (we'll wait)!

 Rules: No profanity or personal attacks.
 Use a valid email address or risk being banned from commenting.


If your comment doesn't show up immediately, it may have been flagged for moderation. Please try refreshing the page first, then drop us a note and we'll retrieve it.

  1. Where’s the Shaguar?!?! Haha

    • Yes indeed!

  2. Here’s another (’70s job): Barry Newman’s white Dodge Challenger from Vanishing Point, as acknowledged by Tarantino in Death Proof.

  3. I just thought of two more in one movie, Speilberg’s ‘Duel’.

  4. Seriously, the Metallicar is every bit as iconic and arguably more so than the Lost van. Especially if you compare the car to the 60s and 70s examples. It’s an obvious throwback to them, while still retaining it’s own uniqueness. Dean’s 67 Impala is arguably the 3rd main character of the show. It’s in every episode, at least half of the boy’s conversations take place in it or next to it, and it’s just a sleek and sexy beast. The Lost Dharma van is just a van Hurley found in the jungle that was later used an excuse to make traveling from one station to the next faster on-screen.

    And a definitely, definitely have to agree with the Mustang from Bullitt securing a place on this list. I’ve never once looked at a Chrysler Imperial and thought, awesome, it’s the Green Hornet car, but I can’t look at a Mustang (any Mustang. Not just the one used in the movie) without thinking of Bullitt. It’s arguably one of the best car chases put to screen.

    And you simply can’t include cartoon cars like The Mystery Machine without mentioning the Mach 5.

    I’d also replace the Sanford and Son car with either the 1970 Dodge Challenger from Vanishing Point or “Eleanor” from the 1974 Gone in 60 Seconds.

  5. Well reastically, a list like this should be totally comprised of vehicles that you recognize on site and immediately identify with the show that it came from. Admittedly, if I saw an Astin-Martin driving down the street, I might say “wow, what a cool looking car,” but unless I saw the Astin Martin emblem on the back and had recently seen one of the movies, I wouldn’t make the connection. But the Batmobile or K.I.T.T. or the Mach 5 or the Partridge Family bus…all would have IMMEDIATE recognition. And while the General Lee would likely be clear to most people, where the cars from Rockford Files, Miami Vice ot Bullitt really unique enough to qualify?

  6. You forgot:
    The Chargers from Dirty Mary/Crazy Larry, the Fast and the Furious and Bullet
    The 1968 Mustang from Bullet
    The White Dodge Challenger from Vanishing Point
    The Eleanors from Gone in Sixty Seconds……the orginal and the remake with Nicholas Cage……

  7. How ’bout Grease LIGHTNING?!?!?!?

  8. I believe you got the ‘Christine’ car wrong. I’m reading the back of the DVD case and it’s a 1958 Plymouth Fury.

    I didn’t read all the comments so I’ll bet someone has already pointed it out to you.

  9. The car from the Supernatural series…that fits big time!

    • YES, where the hell is dean’s chevy impala?!

  10. Is this article meant to promote Green Hornet? If not why the Green Hornet car as the main photo for this article?

    So be it. GREEN HORNET IS HORRIBLE. SAVE YOUR MONEY. DO NOT SEE IT.

    • Dexter,

      Did you read my review of Green Hornet? Not glowing, I can assure you. However the movie is popular right now and the Black Beauty is a gorgeous car, so there it is.

      Vic

  11. supernatural’s 1967 chevy IMPALA.hello?!

  12. Anyone that has mentioned the Metallicar are spot on and just as further evidence i was on holiday with my girlfriend in Cuba and saw an Impala and got very childishly excited!!!!!

  13. My two cents:
    Iconic huh?
    that means it stands on it’s own correct? Half of the cars on here I didn’t remember or recongize, nor did they strike a familiar chord of nostalgia.
    the “Lost” van? really? when you think of lost.. that van pops up huh?
    you wouldn’t have the movie “Bullet” without the Mustang. You most def wouldn’t have “Speed Racer” without the Mach 5 (where are they on the list by the way?)
    2 cars everyone is forgotting is the one from “The Beverly Hillbillies” and “The Munsters”
    I’d even venture to say the “flintstone mobile” is more memorable than 4/5 vehicles on the last page.

    • Nate,

      After the fact, it always seems like some choices are obvious, yeah. But you wouldn’t believe how much time we spent behind the scenes compiling the list… such is life. :)

      Of course I’m not sure how the truck from Sanford and Son snuck through – I most definitely don’t consider that iconic…

      Vic

      • LOL@ S&S truck! Now, if we’re talking iconic theme music, then yah. I’ll toss in Sanford and Son.
        Oh well. You guys keep on trucking and we’ll keep on complaining. LOL.

        Thanks Vic!

        • @Nate – Are you saying that if you see a faded red 51 Ford driving down the street you don’t automatically think of Sanford & Son?

          There’s a couple of reasons why we don’t list every single option available: 1 – Too many to list; 2 – What would you guys have to talk about in the comments? :)

          If I list 25 different vehicle over 40+ years of film and people only complain about 1 or 2 I’d say I was pretty spot on.

          • @ Paul. That’s exactly what i’m saying. Truth be told, my dad had one like that. I barely remember it though.
            heck, i’d put Speed Buggy above that. LOL Rooma zoom zooom!!!!

            • Oh, to reply to my reply…
              and this is just my “2 Cents.” I think of Iconic as not being able to separate the item from whatever it’s associated with.
              Like Bruce Lee’s Yellow track suit or 70′s and Afros.
              So to me, you don’t need to list all of them, just the ones that make us go “oh yah!
              by the way.. are you old enough to remember the Banana Splits mobile? ROFL

  14. What about Matt Houston’s Excalibur? I will forever remember that car.

  15. Christine is actually a 58′ Plymouth Fury, which is a performance model of the Belvedere, that had a dual four barrrel carburated V8 instead of the standard inline six engine. :P

  16. Ok Heres iconic vehicle # 2 I am mentioning. Oscar Mayer Weiner Mobile. Easily recognized by any kid from my generation. Opps did I just give my age away

    • Anthony,

      You’re not the only older guy here. :-P

      Vic

      • LOL! Now THAT is an iconic car! Here’s one that i don’t think anyone even knows about, but has stuck with me every since my mom took me and my sister to the theater.

        The 1977 Horror flick called “The Car” The 1971 Lincoln Continental Mark III. LOL.
        Seeing a car jump through a house to kill a woman sure did burn itself into my (then) 9 year old memory.
        So, for me it’s the Batmobile, Mach 5, The Car, Mustang from Bullit and Herby the Love Bug.
        Nuff Said!

        • Yeah, “The Car” was a great flick. Looking out of the car through the (demonic) red tinted glass did it for me.
          I’m surprised that no one has mentioned “Duel” yet, with Dennis Weaver from 1971. The tanker truck in the movie is just as evil as Christine and that Lincoln from “The Car”.

          • I remember seeing The Car on a triple bill with The Gumball Rally and Carquake (David Carradine in a Trans Am). Duel? Go back a page!

  17. 1967 Impala from the television show Supernatural.

  18. What about Nash Bridges ’71 Cuda?

  19. No mention of the ’73 Charger from Burn Notice?

    One of the (many) things I love about that show, was they seem intent on bringing back the idea of our hero’s iconic car.

  20. Ok the Ferrari from Ferris Bueller’s Day Off HAS to be on this list …

  21. They forgot the Pink Panther’s car.

    • :-D

  22. Mr been car not add you . this not fair .

  23. great list
    my addition would be Dodge M4S from the Wraith
    not iconic now, but as a kid i thought it was AWESOME!!

  24. Okay I don’t think anyone mentioned the following icons:

    American Graffitti 1973: Yellow 1932 Ford, Black 1955 Chevy, White 1957 Ford Thunderbird;

    The California Kidd (w/Martin Sheen 1974): Black 1934 Ford with red flames;

    Damnation Alley 1977: All terrain stainless steel vehicle with 12 tires and pivots in middle;

    Live and Let Die 1972: White Cadillac with dart in passenger side mirror;

    Stingray (TV): Black 1963 Chevy Corvette Stingray;

    Escape from New York: Brown Cadillac with chandeliers on front corners;

    The Big Buss 1975: The nuclear powered double decker double length bus;

  25. The General Lee 01 should be the number 1 in the list, the most iconic car in the whole world.

  26. Would you consider the silver H2 Hummer on CSI Miami? Also, it is hard to see a yellow Camero with black stripes, old or new, and not think of Bumblebee.

    And if I really want to date myself, I can recall the silver Rolls Royce from “Burke’s Law”.

  27. No Elanor from Gone in 60 Seconds? You sir, FAIL.

  28. What about the Road Queen Family Truckster?! Y’think y’hate it now… but wait ’til y’ drive it.

  29. What about STEVE McQUEEN’S 1967 Mustang Fastback from BULLIT? My Dad saw that movie and went out and bought one! He eventually became a dragracer and won several amateur competitions. That was one sweet ride…

<-- Taboola Alt -->