25 Most Iconic Cars From TV & Movies

The Black Beauty from The Green Hornet is an iconic car

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

“Relating to, resembling, or having the character and sign orrepresentation 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)

The Mystery Machine from Scooby-Doo, Where are You!


Goldfinger - 1963 Aston Martin DB5

James Bond's Aston Martin DB5 from Goldfinger


The Love Bug - 1962 Volkswagon Beetle

Herbie from The Love Bug


The Green Hornet - 1966 Chrysler Imperial

The Black Beauty from the Green Hornet


Batman - 1955 Ford Lincoln Futura Concept Car

The 1966 Batmobile from Batman and Robin



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

James Rockford's Trans Am from The Rockford File


Starsky and Hutch - 1975 Ford Gran Torino

The Gran Torino from Starsky and Hutch


Sanford and Son - 1951 Ford F1 4x2

1951 Ford Truck from Sanford and Son


Mad Max - 1974 Customized Ford Falcon XB Interceptor

V8 Interceptor from Mad Max


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

Smokey and the Bandit Car



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

1957 Ford Thunderbird from Christine


Hardcastle and McCormick - 1971 Volkswagen Coyote X

The Coyote from Hardcastle and McCormick


Miami Vice - 1972 Ferrari Daytona Spider / 1986 Ferrari Testarossa

Ferrari Testarossa from Miami Vice


Magnum P.I. - 1977 Ferrari 308 GTS

The Ferrari 308 GTS from Magnum P.I.


Knight Rider - 1982 Customized Pontiac Trans Am

K.I.T.T. from Knight Rider


Dukes of Hazzard - 1969 Dodge Charger

The General Lee from the Dukes of Hazzard


The A-Team - 1983 GMC G-15

GMC Van from The A-Team


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

The Batmobile from Tim Burton's 1988 Batman


Back to the Future - 1982 DeLorean DMC-12

The DeLoren from Back to the Future


Ghostbusters - 1959 Cadillac Miller-Meteor Hearse

Ecto-1 from the Ghostbusters


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

Ford Explorer from Jurassic Park


Wayne’s World - 1976 AMC Pacer

The AMC Pacer from Wayne's World


Dumb and Dumber - 1984 Customized Ford Econoline

The Shaggin' Wagon from Dumb and Dumber


The Dark Knight - 2005 Customized "Lamborghini Tank"

The Tumbler Batmobile from Christopher Nolan's The Dark Knight


Lost - 1968 Volkswagen T2a

The VW Dharma Van from ABC's show Lost


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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