5 movie-famous Camaros from the ’80s to the aughts
With the Camaro nameplate retiring soon, we’re honoring the beloved two-door with a series of love letters, fun lists, and memories. Many performance cars, especially nowadays, aim for an anodyne version of perfection that only a few can afford. The Camaro is for the rest of us—and it’s always ready to party. Still, we can’t pretend the car we’re about to celebrate over the next week or so is perfect. That in mind, let down your hair and come with us for a deep dive into what, exactly, makes the Camaro so bitchin’.
The Camaro lived a fruitful life on our city streets and open highways, but its role on the silver screen was just as noteworthy. Whether or not they entered the theater as car buffs, moviegoers from around the world were introduced to Chevrolet’s take on the classic pony car, and its muscular roles in many movies often stole the show. So let’s dig into five such movies where the Camaro took center stage.
Better Off Dead (1985)
Is there a better car for the dark humor present in this unconventional “coming of age” story of a teenage boy in the American suburbs? Very few cars embody the youthful energy and aspirational performance of a Camaro, especially in the 1980s when the first-generation models were both plentiful and affordable for a middle-class teenager.
Picking a black 1967 Camaro RS/SS for Better Off Dead was casting perfection: Motoring out of the garage for the first time to a classic Muddy Waters song was the perfect analogy for a teenage boy coming out of his shell. It was a moment of swagger and success for Lane Myer (played by John Cusack) and the moment altered his trajectory in the movie. Though I wish the Camaro’s headlight doors opened as it left the house, this remains a scene that few of us will forget.
2 Fast 2 Furious (2003)
Here, we have the polar opposite of a darkly subtle comedy. The high-velocity action of 2 Fast 2 Furious wouldn’t be the same without a ’69 Camaro wearing racing stripes. Because the cars are truly the stars in this franchise, the film’s creators wisely crafted a first-gen Camaro with Yenko graphics inside and out for Brian O’Conner (Paul Walker). While the Yenko was demolished in an elaborate stunt, plenty of ’69 Camaros have met a similarly disastrous fate without exciting a single moviegoer. That’s gonna count for something, because there’s even a book chronicling how much effort went into preparing the cars in The Fast and The Furious movies.
Fast Times at Ridgemont High (1982)
Do Camaros and coming-of-age movies go hand in hand? Unfortunately, the 1981 Camaro Z-28 in Fast Times at Ridgemont High didn’t save the day like the Camaro in Better Off Dead. Instead, the ’81 was destroyed by careless Jeff Spicoli (Sean Penn) who clearly was a better surfer than he was a motorist. (Or not.) But the Camaro as a quintessential character-actor for movies about high school cannot be understated. It’s a pairing that endures, much like the popularity of the second-generation F-body in the darkest times of automotive performance.
Runaway Bride (1999)
I have a feeling that a romantic comedy like Runaway Bride is low on many of our movie lists, especially one with a 46 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes. But the fiercely independent personality of Maggie Carpenter (Julia Roberts) only has one peer in the automotive world: a 1999 Camaro Z28 convertible in Light Pewter Metallic with an LS1 soundtrack. Perhaps a Firebird would suffice for the altar-jumping bride, but this Camaro is more of a sweet charmer, with that toothy smile above a set of chrome wheels. While it’s true that General Motors sold this car back in 2009 for an impressive $28,850, some problems—like GM’s bankruptcy ordeal—are too big for one Camaro to solve. It only makes sense this Camaro would flee before it got ensnared in a messy divorce.
And who could forget the new, hard-core Bumblebee from the Transformers movie franchise? Originally a VW Beetle back in the 1980s, Bumblebee’s 2007 theatrical debut required him to be assertive enough to fit into the Michael Bay film formula. Clearly, a New Beetle would not cut it, even if it was a spicy RSi-like model in a bright yellow color. Morphing into the new Camaro (still a prototype at the time) was a great idea, especially since it really looks like General Motors paid to play in this blockbuster. The timing couldn’t be more perfect: a new, fifth-generation Camaro was just around the corner, and a new generation of Transformers fans would associate the next Camaro with this iconic character.
If only that iconic movie role were enough to keep the assembly line cranking out new Camaros for all to enjoy—but hey, at least we have the memories. Thanks for that, Chevrolet.