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15 Of The Most Memorable TV and Movie Cars

Actual and Imaginary Cars From Movies and TV Shows We’d All Love to Own

Black Beauty from "Green Hornet" is one of the most badass TV and movie cars

Cars have always been special to men. The old adage “Clothes make the man” would sound perfect in today’s world provided we rewrote it as “Forget the clothes – cars make the man.“ Cars show the world the type of person you are. The car, as such, can be many things at once. Apart from a vehicle that transports you from one place to another, it is also a status symbol. The way you manage a car gives others an insight of your personality. It is true when you say that cars bring men closer.

The kind of car one drives gives a great impression of the person itself. In fact, some nice looking cars or those with more engine power are always looked upon as status symbols. It is definitely hard to ignore the impression that a car could give to a man or woman!

Over the years, automobiles have influenced every aspect of society, including social and family interaction, employment, distribution of goods, and entertainment. In the history of entertainment and art, cars have always played an important role in shaping the power of the main character. In movies or TV series, cars are oftentimes made more unique to give more importance to the lead role. Sometimes, however, they’re almost ridiculous in order to add to the tragedy of the already tragic protagonist. It’s gone so far that there are a handful of automobile-centered movies and TV shows that have permeated our culture so much so that they have become an integral thread in the fabric of American cinema and pop culture.

There’s another, altogether different approach, however. Some entirely fictional cars are unique and they can do so many things that you would only dream of a car to do. We love to lose ourselves in the world of cinema because it allows us to escape from reality and just have fun playing make believe. Such cars are here for that very purpose and that’s exactly what makes these cars closer to one’s heart. Every man would definitely want to own one of these if there was an option!

Whether real or fictional, below you’ll find some of the most iconic and best-remembered TV show and movie cars. Note that we’ve decided to exclude all James Bond cars because we’ve already covered them in a separate article. This goes even for 007’s iconic Aston Martin DB5 from the 1964 “Goldfinger,” as well as the amphibious Lotus Esprit from the 1977 “The Spy Who Loved Me” – sorry. Oh, and none of the “The Fast and the Furious” cars either because there were way too many to keep track of.

15. Ford Mustang – Bullitt and Gone in 60 Seconds

With Steve McQueen in starring role as police Lt. Frank Bullitt, this movie is often touted as one of Hollywood’s best car chase sequences of all time. Driving a 1968 Mustang fastback, Bullitt pursues a couple of assassins in a black 1968 Dodge Charger through the winding streets of San Francisco.

Even by today’s standards, the chase scene in “Bullitt” is exhilarating to watch. So much in fact, that Ford decided to honor the name by producing three separate special-edition Bullitt Mustangs in the 21st century – one of which is currently available. The original Highland Green 1968 Mustang GT 390, however, is one of a kind.

1968 Ford Mustang Bullitt
1968 Ford Mustang “Bullitt”

The “Bullitt” might have started the trend of the Mustang’s cameo appearances in numerous movies over the decades, but we mustn’t forget about “Eleanor” either. She first appeared in the original 1974 “Gone in 60 Seconds”, portrayed by a 1971 Mustang Sportsroof (restyled to resemble the 1973 model).

Most people, however, will associate the name with the 1967 Mustang Fastback depicted as a Shelby GT500 from the 2000 remake starring Nicholas Cage and Angelina Jolie. Unlike the first one, which was yellow, the Mustang starring in the remake sports a badass Dupont Pepper Grey paint job.

1967 Ford Mustang "Eleanor"
1967 Ford Mustang “Eleanor”

14. Pontiac Trans Am – Smokey and the Bandit

The original 1977 “Smokey And The Bandit” advertises two of arguably most important products to men. One is Coors beer, then-unavailable for sale anywhere east of Oklahoma, while the other one is, of course, a muscle car. And not just any muscle car but a 1977 Pontiac Firebird Trans Am (actually a 1976 car with 1977 model’s front end).

Thing is, however, Burt Reynold’s role in the film actually helped the Trans Am en route to becoming a legend it is today. The special T-top, black and gold Firebird would be known as an icon ever since. It would also appear in 1980 and 1983 sequels, but as a contemporary model for its period.

1977 Pontiac Firebird Trans Am from Smokey and the Bandit

13. DMC DeLorean – Back to the Future

Known as one of the most famous and recognized vehicles of all-time, the car used in the Back to the Future” trilogy still looks good by today’s standards. A futuristic-looking car designed and built by John DeLorean from 1981 to 1983 was way ahead of its time. There were over 8,500 DMC-12’s produced but we have to wonder how many are still in action today.

The car still draws a crowd when it shows up at cruise-in or car show… even attracting the younger kids who are always fascinated with the gull-wing doors. Its movie role is arguably even more fascinating. Doc Brown has skillfully created it with a built-in time machine – allowing it to transport the movie’s protagonists back into past and setting the stage for their wacky escapades.

DMC DeLorean time machine from "Back to the Future"

12. Cadillac Custom “Ecto-1” – Ghostbusters

Who wouldn’t want to be part of The Ghostbusters? Ecto-1, as the car was known, was originally purchased in poor shape for $4,800 but needed many upgrades during the build including suspension and brake mods. The modified gurney in the back was for carrying the proton packs. Many of the cool-looking gadgets mounted on the roof and outside of the car were for looks only and never used in the movie.

The car still makes celebrity appearances from time to time. Later, another Ecto-1 (or USO) replica was built to cruise around the Universal Studios Park to entertain guests but, eventually, was parked on a back lot. However, that car sold in 2010 for a reported $80,000 at a collector car auction. Underneath all those Ghostbusters gadgets was actually a 1959 Cadillac ambulance/hearse combo built by the Miller-Meteor company.

Ecto-1 is one of the most memorable movie cars of all time

11. Volkswagen Beetle “Herbie” – The Love Bug

With more than 21.5 million units sold during the awe-worthy production cycle which spanned 65 years between 1938 and 2003, the Volkswagen Beetle stands out as one of the most iconic cars of all time. It’s no wonder then that it’s appeared in many movies and TV shows over the years, but that’s far from everything it’s done on the big screen. Starting with the 1968 “Herbie – The Love Bug,” the Beetle embarked on a ride that would spawn five additional movies collectively grossing more than $200 million (almost $750 million inflation-adjusted).

The Herbie itself is a 1963 VW Beetle (at least in the original film) that’s got mind of its own and involves its owners in all kinds of crazy escapades. In truth, over 100 different Beetles were used to portray Herbie over the years, but that doesn’t undermine the fact the Bug’s still a quintessential movie car.

Herbie is arguably the most beloved movie car of all time

10. Pontiac Firebird Trans Am “K.I.T.T.” – Knight Rider

Some people might not admit it in the public but there are many who talk to their cars as if they were human. They might even share their personal secrets to their car whilst they drive alone. Every car might have a distinct character and personality too. Why not name it? The idea is appealing to many, but we may seem quite incompetent when it comes to creativity. The Knight Industries have created the K.I.T.T. (Knight Industries Two Thousand), which is the epitome of a sentient car (although Herbie predates it).

Although the heavily modified 1982 black Pontiac Firebird Trans Am looks otherworldly by itself (at least it did at the time), it’s the K.I.T.T.’s over-the-top digital interior that stands out as the biggest “wow” factor here (and still does). For the record, we do think that the William Daniel’s model is the coolest of the clan!

K.I.T.T. - the best-known TV show car of all time

09. Ferrari 250 GT California Spyder – Ferris Bueller’s Day Off

This is one of the most expensive cars on the list considering how Concours d’Elegance units easily warrant price tags in the region between $10 and $20 million. Although the film crew did use the original 1961 250 GT California convertible for some shots, the Ferrari from “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” was actually a replicar. They built three 1985 Modena GT Spyder California replicars modeled to resemble the iconic classic Ferrari.

One was, of course, destroyed during filming, while two remaining units managed to find new homes through Mecum auctions – one selling for $235,000 in 2013 and the other going for $407,000 in 2018.

Ferrari Modena GT Spyder California from "Ferris Bueller's Day Off"

08. Austin Mini Cooper S – The Italian Job

“The Italian Job” is yet another movie that stars a car and has lived to see a remake. The original 1969 British film used no fewer than 36 Minis and majority of them have actually been paid for with production money due to the British Motor Corporation’s unwillingness to cooperate. It’s interesting that then-Fiat boss Gianni Agnelli offered to give them as many Fiat 500’s as they needed, plus three Ferrari Dinos for the Mafia and unlimited access to corporate facilities for the film’s shooting.

In spite of that generous offer, we all know which choice the film crew ultimately made. The American remake from 2003 features contemporary Minis which, although heavily modified in a good way, aren’t as cool as the original cars in my modest opinion.

Austin Mini Coopers from "The Italian Job"

07. Lincoln Futura – It Started With a Kiss and Batman

The Lincoln Futura was one costly Ford-designed and Ghia-built prototype which never directly influenced a successor. So, what is this – once bought by George Barris for $1 – convertible so memorable for? Why, for being the Batmobile, of course! Before becoming the sixties series’ and 1966 spinoff film’s starring Adam West Batmobile, the Futura also appeared in the 1959 It Started with a Kiss” – a film directed by George Marshall, and starred by Glenn Ford and Debbie Reynolds.

Although not having a direct successor, the Futura did influence Lincoln’s future generation of cars by giving them the flashy headlight design. Moreover, it also had a large impact on the second generation Ford Thunderbird. The silver screen veteran ended up being sold at the 2013 Barrett-Jackson Scottsdale auction for $4,620,000, making it one of the most expensive movie cars ever sold.

Lincoln Futura converted into the Batmobile

06. Ford Falcon GT (XB) “Pursuit Special” – Mad Max

The magical world of the movies can transform ordinary cars into historical movie icons and that was certainly the case for the filmmakers as they designed the Mad Max” Pursuit Special vehicle to be driven by lead Mel Gibson. They started with a third-generation (XB) 1973 Ford Falcon GT and built it to be a radical car that a cop from the future would flex his muscles in.

Plenty of ponies under the hood and special gadgets (including a non-functional supercharger) where needed… that’s what every lawman needs, right? I’d also mention the “War Rig” and “Gigahorse,” but I’m afraid you’d have trouble sleeping after laying your eyes upon them again.

Ford Falcon GT a.k.a. Pursuit Special from the "Mad Max" universe

05. Dodge Challenger R/T – Vanishing Point

The 1971 “Vanishing Point” is one of those movies based around a car since most of the action takes place in one. The car in question is, of course, the Dodge Challenger R/T of which five examples were used. Four had the mighty 440 cu in V8 mill paired with a 4-speed stick, while the fifth car sported a 383 cu in V8 with an automatic.

The producers decided to use Chrysler products in order to repay the company for longtime support of the 20th Century Fox by allowing them to rent cars for $1 a day. In the process, they also sucker punched GM by actually using a 1967 Chevrolet Camaro in the final scene – you know, the one where the protagonist’s Barry Newman’s car smashes into a bulldozer in a spectacular fireball.

1970 Dodge Challenger R/T from the "Vanishing Point"

04. Ford Deuce Coupe – American Graffiti

Not only does it star then-future Hollywood superstars like Harrison Ford, Ron Howard, and Richard Dreyfuss, the 1973 George Lucas movie also stars quite a selection of American cars. None caught the public’s attention in a way the 1932 Ford Deuce Coupe hot rod did, however.

Powered by a 327 cu in V8 Chevy engine and treated in accordance to the car culture in California in the 1960s, the hot rod shines brighter even than its Canary yellow paint job would reveal. Near the end of the movie John Milner’s (Paul Le Mat) Ford beats Bob Falfa’s (Harrison Ford) 1955 Chevy in an climatic drag race which captures the entire 1960s muscle car era in a single scene.

1932 Ford Deuce Coupe from "American Graffiti"

03. Plymouth Fury – Christine

Sixteen of these shiny red cars were used during filming and seven of those were used only for parts. They painted them red and white, and the gold trim was painted silver. Although they’re identified as 1958 Plymouth Fury’s, they were actually 1957 Belvedere’s and Savoy’s due to Fury’s high cost and low production numbers.

A little known fact from the movie was that they did not use remote control on any of the scenes; when the car would turn “evil”, the windows turned black except for one small area that was tinted. The stunt driv sight, and cables were used for other parts of the action.

Plymouth Fury from the 1983 "Christine" is certainly the most evil of movie cars

02. Dodge Charger “General Lee” – Dukes OF Hazzard

The second-generation 1968 to 1970 Dodge Chargers are some of the most famous cars of the era – with or without the “Dukes of Hazzard” 1980s TV show and 2005 movie. The “General Lee” – complete with the Confederate battle flag painted on its roof pretty much captures the fictional Hazzard County, Georgia in one picture.

307 total cars were reportedly used throughout seven seasons of the show and fewer than 20 have survived to this day. Moreover, around two dozen additional cars were commissioned for movie’s purposes with most of them being long gone from this world as well. All the crazy stunts we’ve been able to enjoy in both the movie and TV series were worth it, however.

Is General Lee the most famous TV and movie car in the U.S.

01. Chrysler Imperial Crown “Black Beauty” – The Green Hornet

The two original “Black Beauties” as they were known, were built by George Barris for the late 1960s TV show Green Hornet.” They now now reside in the Petersen Museum in Los Angeles and in a private collection in South Carolina with latter being relatively recently completely restored. Superheroes of the 1960s had to have an edge, either a super cool suit (with a cape of course) or futuristic weapons to take out the bad guys.

But if you were to be near the top of the coolest Super’s you had a wicked looking vehicle. I mean, after all, Batman had the weapons, suits, and the Batmobile! Green Hornet (Van Williams) and his sidekick Kato (played by the late Bruce Lee) had one of the best looking cars on the planet and it was loaded with high-tech weapons and crime fighting tools, including front and rear mounted machine guns. By the way, yes, it had the 440 cu in V8 pumping out over 350 horsepower, for all of those high-speed getaways.

Black Beauty from "Green Hornet" is one of the most badass TV and movie cars

Chris Riley
About Chris Riley

I have been wrecking cars for as long as I've been driving them, but I keep coming back for more. Two wheels or four, I'm all in. I founded GearHeads.org and then built and ran AutoWise.com until selling it to Lola Digital Media in 2020. I look forward to watching AutoWise grow as part of the AllGear group.