Elvis beat Steve McQueen to the Ferrari punch. Twice. In 1958, a 250 GT tdf appeared in Viva Las Vegas, followed by a 1960 250 GT Cabriolet in Presley’s 1966 flick Spinout.
Although McQueen bought his first Ferrari in 1963, he didn’t share the screen with one until The Thomas Crown Affair in 1968. That film’s red 1968 275 GTS/4 NART Spider wasn’t the first Ferrari to excite movie goers, but it’s one of the most famous and certainly the most valuable, with the movie car selling for more than $27 million at auction in 2013. It is one of just 10 built.
After The King of Cool knighted the Nart, Ferraris quickly became the automotive love interest of movie makers and audiences. In 1971, Walter Matthau drove a 275 GTB in A New Leaf and a Daytona Spyder showed up in Robert Altman’s 1973 thriller The Long Goodbye.
In all these films, however, the Ferrari is driven slowly or not at all. Real high-speed movie action starring Enzo’s machines didn’t really begin until the late 1970s, and it came on strong through the 1980s, fueled in part by television and the weekly popularity of Magnum’s red 308 and the white Testarossa on Miami Vice.
When choosing our favorite movie Ferraris, we had just one rule: no kit cars. So you won’t find the Vanilla Sky 250 GTO on this list, or Ferris Bueller’s California Spyder, or the 250 Lusso in The Heist. All fakes. We also rewarded good action with minimal CGI.
So here are our picks for nine momentous movie Ferraris. Did we miss any? Let us know in the comments.
The Rock (1996)
Both Nicolas Cage and director Michael Bay are Ferrari enthusiasts and owners, and both began putting the Italian sports cars in their films starting in 1996 with this action flick. Cage steals a yellow F355 Spider to chase down the Humvee H1 driven by anti-hero Sean Connery through San Francisco. Yes, it’s a fiberglass kit car that jumps through the window and eventually gets smashed by the runaway cable car, but there’s plenty of real Ferrari action in the five-minute chase. Particularly noteworthy are the sweet powerslides and moments where Cage manipulates the F355’s gated shifter. Four years later Cage drives a 550 Maranello in Family Man.
Bad Boys II (2003)
Bay was back on the Ferrari bandwagon in this sequel starring Will Smith. In the first Bad Boys, which was released in 1995, Smith drives Bay’s personal 1994 Porsche 911 3.6 Turbo, but upgrades to a 550 Maranello in the second installment. In some shots the 550 morphs into a later 575M, which is a disappointing goof, but the Ferrari is in a lot of the first-third of the movie, and there are a few action sequences with Smith powersliding and spinning the V-12 coupe multiple times. The freeway chase scene, which runs for nearly five minutes, has some great driving, and Bay gets the engine sounds right, just as he did in The Rock. Yes, there’s some CGI as the Maranello dodges the cars falling off the semi, but it works.
Scent of a Woman (1992)
For a while there in the late 1980s and early ’90s, Ferrari Mondial convertibles, Maranello’s unloved mid-engine four-seater, appeared in a slew of films including Weird Science, Only You, Father of the Bride Part II, and Dirty Rotten Scoundrels. But the best one for Ferrari action is this Al Pacino film about a blind man and his preppy young sidekick. At some point the two end up in a red Mondial drop top with Pacino’s sightless character behind the wheel powersliding the sports car around a dilapidated Brooklyn waterfront. The role won Pacino a Best Actor Oscar.
This was the first Bond movie with Pierce Brosnan as 007, and it opens with the spy blasting down a twisty European road in his silver DB5. Eventually a stunning and mysterious woman appears in his mirrors driving a red Ferrari F355 GTS. And the race is on. In reality, of course, the old Aston would not have stood a chance against the new Ferrari, but with a little movie magic the two are racing wheel to wheel for a good three minutes as Brosnan exchanges glances with his sexy adversary and witticisms with the straight laced beauty he has riding shotgun. Good stuff.
Le Mans (1971)
We tried to stay away from race cars, leaving the Ferrari 312T from Rush and others on the cutting room floor, but the 1970 Ferrari 512S and the action in Le Mans are just too good not to include. Although Le Mans is often considered a Porsche-flick, the Ferrari is just as prominent. Steve McQueen and company used the real cars, and the action is as authentic as it gets. It’s basically a documentary of the red 512S in a 24-hour battle with the Gulf-colored Porsche 917. Although Porsche supplied the 917s, Enzo refused to send race cars to France for the production since Porsche was scripted to ultimately win the race. Privately owned cars were used instead.
You never actually see the Ferrari in this epic eight-minute French film by director Claude Lelouch. The filmmaker actually mounted the camera to the front bumper of a Mercedes 450 SEL 6.9 and dubbed in the V-12 soundtrack from his personal 275 GTB in post-production. Don’t let that stop you from watching this high-speed POV run through Paris at dawn. The sound is perfect, and the speed and near misses are real. It’s shot in real time and without a single street closure as the unnamed driver blasts through the French capital to see his girl. (And we admit, we kind of violated our own “no fakes allowed” rule. Our only defense is that the sound is real.)
The Hidden (1987)
Open-top 308s probably appear in more movies than any other Ferrari, with roles in Vacation, Cannonball Run, and Superman III. Most of the sports car’s big screen appearances are forgettable, but not all. Among the more obscure movies that feature solid Ferrari 308 action is The Hidden starring Kyle MacLachlan. The sci-fi flick is about an alien that takes over men’s bodies, turning them psychotic and, oddly, into Ferrari lovers. The film opens with the first victim robbing a bank, jumping into an early black 308 GTS, and running from the cops in an action-packed five-minute chase sequence. The 308 is jumped, slid, riddled with bullets, and eventually smashed into a police roadblock. Later in the film the alien takes a Mondial Spyder for a less intense ride.
Against All Odds (1984)
A few years before The Hidden, another black Ferrari 308 appeared in one of the greatest car chases ever filmed. Racing a red 911 SC Cabriolet at speed on L.A.’s Sunset Boulevard through Bel Air, the 308 is driven by 68-year-old Carey Loftin, one of the paramount and prolific stunt drivers of all time. Loftin was a stunt driver in Bullitt and The French Connection and the stunt coordinator and driver in Vanishing Point. His driving can be seen in films and TV shows from the 1950s right up through Knight Rider and The Dukes of Hazzard and into the late ’90s. There isn’t a single frame of movie trickery or special effects in Against All Odds. Like Bullitt, it’s the true speed of the cars, the use of mounted cameras, and the close-knit action of the machines that make it so spectacular.
The Gumball Rally (1976)
Fashioned after the real life Cannonball race created in 1971 by Car and Driver editor Brock Yates, The Gumball Rally tells the tale of a cross-country race from New York to Los Angeles, and its release beat The Cannonball Run to theaters by five years. The Gumball Rally is silly, but the main characters drive a real 1972 Ferrari 365 GTS/4 and a real 1966 427 Shelby Cobra, and the action is spectacular. It includes high-speed early morning runs through NYC, the cars’ screaming engines echoing off the buildings, and a 3000-mile battle between the Daytona and the Cobra, sometimes wheel to wheel. The cars are real, the speed is real, the engine sounds are spot-on, and the director did a masterful job of cutting in shots of the speedometers at well over 100 mph, the tachometers at redline, and the actors grabbing another gear. The Ferrari Daytona and the Cobra are seen throughout the film, and both cars survive today. The Daytona, chassis number 14829, one of only 121 Spiders produced, now rides on Borrani wire wheels instead of the Campagnolo alloys it wore in the movie and belongs to the Petersen Automotive Museum in Los Angeles. And the Cobra (CSX3243), which had a hood scoop and side pipes in the film but no roll bar, has been restored since. It is now in a private collection.