25 Most Iconic Cars From TV & Movies

Published 4 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.


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.

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  1. Walker texas ranger dodge ram

  2. What about the ’65 Stingray from the mid 80’s series ‘Stingray’? Or the Dodge Viper from the short lived (thankfully so) series Viper? Or (and I’m very very very amazed I didn’t see this one on the list) the late 1960’s Dodge Charger from the series ‘The Dukes of Hazard’?? Or what about the Monkee’s GTO (granted it was a highly modified GTO but still a GTO underneath it all)? Maybe the list should have been more like “The 100 Most Iconic Cars from TV & Movies”? As I’m sure there are many many many more than even just the ones other people have mentioned in the comments here. Heck even the old Jeep from the series ‘Roswell’ comes to mind now that I think about it some more, lol

  3. There are a lot of cars missing form this list. How about Dan Tanna’s T-bird on Vegas, or Spencer’s ’63 Mustang from Spencer For Hire? The Munster’s hot rod? Or the maxed out Lincoln in the movie The Car? How about the time machine in the Back to the Future movies, a rebuilt DeLorean? Or the 58 Plymouth Fury in Christine? If you’re including vans, how about The A Team? Or The Fall Guy’s pickup.

  4. I am not sure where you are getting your information, but
    great topic. I needs to spend some time learning much more or understanding more.
    Thanks for wonderful info I was looking for this information for
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  5. Supernatural – 1967 Chevrolet Impala.
    This car is a much part of the show, as the lead characters. I would say it needs to be in the list.

  6. I just wanted to mention the Winchester Brother’s 1969 Chevy Impala sedan from Supernatural. I see that car at a show and I think of Supernatural.


    • sorry it is a ’67 impala that the boys driva, and a ’69 Chevelle that Bobby drives in season two.

  7. trying to find a movie from late 70’s to early 80’s, a highway patrolman that chases drug runners across the desert in high end cars. I remember a white chevy pick-up chopped & souped up, and the patrolman supercharges his cruiser but crashes it, and buys, I think a lambo to catch the runners. If anyone could help with title please do, I’ve been trying to find it for 10 years.

    Thanks, Ron

    • Ok, so it took me awhile and I found out what movie this is.

      Banzai Runner staring Dean Stockwell. I was trying to figure out this movie forever and finally tracked down the truck. HOpe this helps.

  8. Jack Bauer on 24 drove a Yukon XL to start with, after that he switched to an Expidition. After that idk, I quit watching it after the 2nd season.

  9. What about the customized corvette from corvette summer with mark hamill and annie potts. And the shelby cobra from the best car chase movie ever the gumball rally,

  10. Hi there, yeah this piece of writing is truly nice and I
    have learned lot of things from it about blogging. thanks.

  11. Great article. I am going through a few of
    these issues as well..

  12. No General Lee? I think that’s right up there for me with the Green Hornet’s Imperial.

  13. Whoops…just realized there are different pages for the decades and The General Lee is represented in the 80s. I’m dumb.

  14. Awesome list! One addition that comes to mind would be the “Eleanor” Ford Mustang from the “Gone in 60 Seconds” movies.

  15. Revisiting this page, still gettin comments on cars years after the fact. I like the Doge Challenger From Nash Bridges , even though I think it was called a 70 but it was a 71 . A furure iconic car might be newer Knight Rider the mustang, had sme good cars in that show, cant wait to see what they come up with in Mad Max 4 in filming, and wanted to mention the cars of fast lane & the cover car on the dvd MotorWay The newer Dogde Challenger which I also have , but it’s an R/T, not a SRT-8

  16. The Firebird in Rockford Files is a 1974 not a 1977

  17. I can offer a vehicle I don’t see. Columbo’s heap of junk Peugeot 403!!

  18. i feel optimus prime’s truck from the michael bay films should be there and aston martin db9

  19. The Ferraris from Miami Vice & Magnum P.I. & the Pontiac from Rockford Files do not have distinctive paint jobs. So, why did they make the list…?

  20. i like The Green Hornet – 1966 Chrysler Imperial

  21. Christine was a 58 plymouth fury,
    And Rockford got a new car every season from 74-78

  22. yes there were a few left out, but this site is highly appreciated.but if you can find the 1988 z28 Camaro Carrillo used in the TV series, Alien Nation.that would make my day I’ve been looking for that car sense the production day. think they’re only 600 built.

  23. and yes email it to me please….!

  24. sorry! my email address is meatmaster16@gmail.com

  25. hey Ron and Mike, there’s another movie with the super car chase starring: Dolph Lundgren driving 80’s model Ferrari f40 chased by 80’s model Lamborghini Countach. name of movie is army of one.

  26. What about the 70 Dodge Charger in the Fast series?

  27. How about the old ford truck that Fred G Sanford drove on ” Sanford&Son”