James Bond’s Aston Martin DB5 may have played a starring role in the 1964 British spy film Goldfinger, but a fresh-faced American kid did its best to crash the party.
The appearance of an early production 1965 Ford Mustang convertible—driven by Bond siren Tilly Masterson—marked the big-screen debut of the now-iconic pony car. And although the white Mustang ragtop was no match for Aston’s tire shredder (or suave Sean Connery) in the third installment of the Bond series, it has more than made up for it in the years since.
Ford says the Mustang has over 500 movie credits over the last five-plus decades. But which ones are the most memorable? With apologies to the Mustang II, which played significant roles in 1984’s Starman and the more recent Zookeeper, and the SN95, which appeared in movies like Hollywood Homicide and 2 Fast 2 Furious, neither make it to the top of our list. And so far, the sixth-generation Mustang seems to be pretty camera shy. Here are our 10 Best Movie Mustangs of all time:
1991 Ford Mustang GT Convertible, Basic Instinct
The automotive action in this sexy thriller is best remembered for the Lotus Esprit Turbos, but Detective Nick Curran, played by Michael Douglas, is behind the wheel of a 1991 Mustang GT 5.0 automatic convertible in a chase scene that is definitely worth watching. The Mustang drives up a flight of stairs and is jumped like the General Lee in The Dukes of Hazzard. And those 5.0 sounds are authentic.
1966 Shelby GT350H, Grand Prix
Filmed throughout Europe with real F1 cars on real race tracks, including Monaco and the high banks of Monza, Grand Prix remains the prototypical racing movie. American F1 driver Pete Aron, played by car enthusiast and real-life racer James Garner, drives a black and gold 1966 Shelby GT350H Mustang hard when not on the track. A similar car—a clone—appears in the Tom Cruise remake of The War of the Words from 2005.
1968 Shelby GT500, Thomas Crown Affair
In this remake of the Steve McQueen classic, billionaire Thomas Crown, played by Pierce Brosnan, drives a one-off, off-road prepped 1968 Shelby Mustang GT500 convertible complete with roll bar, raised suspension, and knobby tires. It isn’t in the movie long, but it’s unforgettable. Today a faithful replica owned by reality TV star Richard Rawlings is often seen on his hit show Fast n’ Loud.
1967 Ford Mustang Fastback, Fast and Furious 3 Tokyo Drift
In the third installment of the Fast and the Furious franchise, an American goes to Japan and gets caught up in the drifting culture. There he puts together a 1967 Mustang Fastback, painted Highland Green as tribute to McQueen’s Mustang in Bullitt. The twist is, he installs a Nissan RB26DETT engine from an R34 Skyline.
1971 Ford Mustang Mach 1, Diamonds Are Forever
Sean Connery’s final stint as Bond (not couning Never Say Never Again) in the seventh film of the has 007 blasting around Las Vegas in a red 351 Cleveland-powered 1971 Mustang Mach 1. It’s his escape hatch as the bad guys are closing in. There’s a quality car chase that includes Bond performing a reverse slide, and he and the Mustang make it down a narrow alley on two wheels. It’s also famous movie gaffe, since he goes in on the right-side tires and exits on the left-side tires. Oops.
2007 Shelby GT500, I Am Legend
If you were the last surviving human on earth, naturally you’d take a blown Shelby GT500 from the local Ford dealer lot and blast though deserted New York City, supercharger whining, with your dog riding shotgun. Right? Well, that’s exactly what Will Smith does in I Am Legend, a 2007 adaptation of the so-named 1954 novel. Coincidentally, there’s a 1970 Mustang convertible in the ’71 vampire classic Omega Man, which is also an adaptation of the book.
1971 Ford Mustang Sportsroof, Gone in 60 Seconds (1974)
H.B. Halicki, a wealthy car-loving junkyard owner from Long Beach, Calif., wrote, financed, produced, and directed the original Gone in 60 Seconds. He also did all his own stunt driving and used many of his own cars in the film. He purchased a pair of identical yellow 1971 Mustang Sportsroof models to portrait the iconic Eleanor. Whether or not they were Mach 1s is still up for debate. One car was left stock while the other was heavily modified for stunt duty. The latter one survives, bruised and battered, to this day.
1969 Ford Mustang Fastback, John Wick
Keanu Reeves must have a thing for 1969 Mustang fastbacks. He drives one in both Point Break and the more recent assassin thriller John Wick and its sequel. In Wick, the car is a grey 1969 Mustang automatic complete with hood pins, Magnum 500s, and Firestone Wide Oval tires. Although it’s dressed as a Mach 1 with spoilers and hood scoop, it wears no Mach 1 graphics. And its theft, along with the killing of his dog, sets this revenge flick into action.
1968 Ford Mustang GT, Bullitt
It was the first movie to put cameras in the cars to give the audience the feeling of riding along with their heros, and many still consider it to be the best car chase ever put on film. Steve McQueen’s Highland Green Mustang, a 390-powered Fastback with a 4-speed and a steering wheel from a 1967 Shelby GT500, has become an icon as has the bad guy’s black 1968 Dodge Charger.
1967 Shelby GT500, Gone in Sixty Seconds (2000)
In this big-budget Nicolas Cage remake of Haliki’s 1974 classic, Eleanor is now a restomod 1967 Shelby Mustang GT500. The car made such an impression that it triggered a cottage industry of six-figure replicas that continues 17 years after the film hit theatres. The Shelby Eleanor is also credited for igniting the restomod and Pro Touring trends that have exploded since the movie. Even Carroll Shelby himself got involved, producing the Shelby GT500 E (E for Eleanor), an official Shelby approved version of the movie car. Designed by artist Steve Stanford, a dozen cars were built for the film, and many survive today. The “hero” car sold for $1,000,000 at auction in 2013.