7 of our staff’s most beloved car movies
Sad as we are for Collector Car Appreciation Week to be ending, what better way to spend Friday than at the movies? We’ve already shared with you our personal cars, our all-time dream vehicles, the machines we’ll never sell, and our latest DIY projects. The final collection below is a summary of a few Hagerty Media staff members’ most beloved car movies (or at the very least ones with memorable cars). There’s nothing quite like the thrill of a car chase, and famous film cars have become indelible icons of our collective culture—not to mention multi-million-dollar collectibles, like the Bullitt Mustang. Really, can anyone look at a Citroën 2CV and not smile at the thought of it repeatedly rolling tail-over-teakettle in For Your Eyes Only?
Got a favorite car movie or film-famous ride? Tell us about it in the Hagerty Community comments!
My all-time favorite car movie is more about a driver, I suppose, than any one car. It’s Drive, the 2011 Los Angeles-set neo-noir crime thriller starring Ryan Gosling as an edgy Hollywood stunt driver JUST TRYING TO DO THE RIGHT THING. The plot is … acceptable, at least for a movie like this that rides more on its vibe than story. (The chemistry between Gosling and Carey Mulligan is good, despite him mostly just staring at her for extended beats.) The real highlights are the driving scenes, including a fantastic opening sequence involving a nondescript mid-2000s Impala. The movie’s most famous chase pits a stolen V-8 S197 Mustang against a mesh-grilled Chrysler 300, driven by the Bad Guys, and it’s a juicy one! This is a gritty, violent, intense movie filled with cars, blood, and haunting, dreamy music. The soundtrack is worth a listen, too; it makes for electric, eerie late-night driving tunes. — Eric Weiner
The Blues Brothers
My pick for favorite car movie has got to be The Blues Brothers, which is basically a two-hour car chase interspersed with music by Aretha Franklin, Ray Charles, and Cab Calloway. The Bluesmobile, a decommissioned 1974 Dodge Monaco police car, is almost as much of a star of the movie as Dan Aykroyd and John Belushi. The Bluesmobile is jumped, slid, and crashed through all sorts of improbable terrain and leads police through a comically destructive chase through a shopping mall while Aykroyd, as Elwood Blues, gives deadpan narration. Cars are able to operate with cartoon-like physics at some points of the film and are gratuitously destroyed as hapless law enforcement officers regularly plow into one another. The Bluesmobile’s final sight gag near the movie’s climax highlights how ridiculous its antics have been. If you’ve somehow never seen this classic, we won’t spoil more of it for you. — Brandan Gillogly
Tucker: The Man and his Dream
My favorite car movie depends on what kind of mood I’m in. If I’m looking for some on-track action, give me Ford v Ferrari. When it comes to street-racing drama, I’ll take The Fast and the Furious (the early movies, please). Comedy? A Christmas Story. No, it isn’t exactly a car movie, but the Old Man’s 1937 Oldsmobile Six—and Ralphie’s tire-changing oops that caused him to blurt “the ‘F-dash-dash-dash’ word!”—is classic. With that said, my all-time fave is Tucker: The Man and his Dream. Prior the film’s release in 1988, I’d never heard of a Tucker, but the car immediately became one of my favorites. An underdog story is always compelling, especially when it’s true, and the movie’s star-studded cast—particularly Jeff Bridges as Preston Tucker—was brilliant. — Jeff Peek
When Gran Torino came out, I was just a teen and incapable of appreciating nuance. Growing up (and several Clint Eastwood marathons) solved that. The legendary filmmaker absolutely delivers here in what I’d consider one of his top three films. His portrayal of Walt Kowalski, a retired auto worker who spends his days erasing PBRs and bitterly watching the world change around him, is stellar. Walt’s budding relationship with his Hmong neighbors will put you in stitches and end you in tears. The ’72 Gran Torino Sport he owns plays a starring role throughout the film, as a familiar companion to Walt and the one thing he holds most dear. At the end of the film, we bear witness to the reading of his will, in which he leaves the Gran Torino to his neighbor and unlikely friend. Walt’s final words, true to his character, amount to an offensive and slur-filled tirade nonetheless laced with deep, honest affection. That nuance, I can now appreciate, is sheer mastery. — Bryan Gerould
While I love the usual suspects in this genre, my favorite car movie was one in which I wasn’t even expecting a car to have an impressive role. I am talking about 8mm, a painfully dark thriller that discussed things we never want to discuss in vivid reality. On the plus side, said vivid reality also applied to an escape scene where the main character runs for his life. The choreographers took the time to film the escape vehicle (a 1998 or 1999 Ford Crown Victoria) at speed, showing massive suspension undulations and perfect four-wheel drifts that can’t be reproduced with speeding up film or sneaky computer tweaks. They even recorded the correct 4.6-liter Modular V-8 engine, with its angry, coarse intake baritone being the perfect escape partner from some of the worst things we can imagine. This movie is clearly not for everyone, but if you can get into it, you will love how they filmed the bullet-ridden car to be the ultimate co-star. — Sajeev Mehta
The year 1971 gave us two of my favorite car movies, both from the disaffected lost-boy era: Vanishing Point, starring Barry Newman (alive) as a disillusioned ex-cop racing across the country in a Dodge Challenger, and Two Lane Blacktop, which is the movie I’m picking. The period-so-sensitive movie starred a monosyllabic James Taylor (alive) as The Driver; Beach Boy Dennis Wilson (dead) as The Mechanic; Laurie Bird (dead, a Valium overdose in the apartment of boyfriend Art Garfunkel at 26) as The Girl, and Harry Dean Stanton (dead) as The Hitchhiker. Taylor drove and Wilson fixed a high-strung 1955 Chevrolet painted charcoal primer—they match-raced across the country for pink slips. They encounter Warren Oates (dead) as GTO, who drives a new Pontiac GTO aimlessly, making up tall, heroic stories to tell hitchhikers. GTO and The Driver and The Mechanic plan to race across the country for pinks, but the plot and the plan sort of fray around Memphis or so. Still, for $850,000, this is the sort of movie you got in 1971 from director Monte Hellman, but if you love cars, it’s kind of compelling. Keep an eye out for a cameo by a Jaguar E-Type (dead). — Steven Cole Smith
Mad Max: Fury Road
I never get tired of watching Mad Max: Fury Road (2015). And even though I have a soft spot for the post-apocalyptic genre in general, the vehicles in this movie are captivating. The range of builds showcases human (or, okay, sort of human) ingenuity and creativity, with different rides tailored to different war-mongering tasks—recon, offense, defense, heavy- and lightweight varieties of each. Most fascinating of all, the “War Rig” commandeered by Charlize Theron’s Furiosa shows how, even in this endlessly violent world, which is so different than ours, a vehicle is honored as something more than a tool: it’s a statement of rebellion, a sanctuary, a birthplace, a life-sustaining resource, and, at the end, a vehicle of self-sacrifice. In it, multiple characters discover and redefine their individual identities. Can’t we all relate to that, even if our stories don’t include fire-spewing electric guitars and disfigured desert tyrants?