Lights, camera, action: The 9 best movie Camaros
The Chevrolet Camaro has appeared in thousands of movies since 1967, from blockbusters to small independent films. Although there hasn’t been a movie Camaro that has reached the iconic status of the Ford Mustang that Steve McQueen drove in Bullitt or the Pontiac Trans Am in Smokey and the Bandit, there are plenty of movie Camaros that have seeped into the car guy culture.
Our research revealed Hollywood’s preference for the first and second generation of Chevy’s pony car, but the Camaro’s third generation is also represented on this list. Here are our picks for the nine best movie Camaros of all time.
Charlie’s Angels (2000)
In this comedic big-screen version of the 1970s TV drama, cars played as much a role as the film’s beautiful stars—Drew Barrymore, Cameron Diaz, and Lucy Liu. Barrymore’s character drives a rare 1969 Camaro convertible Indy Pace Car Edition, one of just 3,675 built with RPO Z11 the package. All were Dover White with Hugger Orange stripes and an orange houndstooth interior. The movie car is an automatic with the standard 350 and it’s correct down to its 15-inch rally wheels and ZL2 Cowl Induction hood. There aren’t any real stunts performed in the car, but Barrymore does rip two good long smoky burnouts.
Gumball Rally (1976)
Gumball Rally is a cross-country race movie modeled after the real-life Cannonball Baker Sea-to-Shining-Sea Memorial Trophy Dash, invented by Brock Yates in 1971. The real stars of this film are the real Ferrari Daytona Spyder and 427 Shelby Cobra that race wheel-to-wheel from New York City to Long Beach, California. This yellow 1972 Camaro is also one of the coolest cars in the film. Driven by actors Gary Busey and John Durren, the Camaro wears Z/28 badges, front and rear spoilers, and a sizable hood scoop. It’s a four-speed car with a missing front bumper. Cragar S/S mags, a roll bar, and a couple of Cibie rally lights mounted to its nose give the car a proper street-machine look. Unfortunately it’s a DNF, eventually sliding across an L.A. freeway on its roof.
Black Dog (1998)
Someone on the production of this 1998 trucker flick starring Patrick Swayze was into ‘80s muscle cars. The movie’s action sequence stars a Monte Carlo SS and a 1987 IROC Camaro with T-tops and optional 220-horsepower 5.7-liter V-8. The vast majority of IROCs were 305 powered. We need to thank director Kevin Hooks for including a quick shot of the blue Camaro’s left rear bumper so we could make out the 5.7 Tuned Port Injection badge. The car appears stock, with the exception of a fairly elaborate roll cage. The action is strong, including a sizable jump, although the IROC switches several times between its correct wheels and 1988 IROC wheels, which are slightly different. Unfortunately, by the end of the chase it’s all but destroyed.
Fast Times at Ridgemont High (1982)
Remember when surfer Spicoli, played by Sean Penn, wrecks the 1979 Camaro Z/28 owned by his high school’s football star? It’s one of the classic scenes in the history of teen comedies. “Relax,” he tells his passenger. “My old man is a television repair man. He’s got this ultimate set of tools. I can fix it.” More Camaros were built in 1979 than any other year, more than 282,500 in total. However, only about 30,000 were silver like the Fast Times movie car, which also had the optional T-tops. Since it was a Z/28, the car would have been powered by a standard 350 small block with a four-barrel carburetor. Trivia: Since the movie took place in California, the engine would have been good for 170 hp; every other state received the 175-hp version.
Chevrolet wrote a big check and what would become the 2010 Camaro (actually rebodied Pontiac GTOs) played Bumblebee, the main Autobot warrior in this sci-fi action blockbuster. But the coolest Camaro in 2007’s Transformers is Bumblebee’s original alternate mode, a jacked-up, big-bumper 1976 model. With primer spots, questionable modifications, and a mismatched set of staggered slots from Eric Vaughn Real Wheels and Cragar S/S mags, it was perfect, and it dutifully represented beaten but beloved Camaros all over America. Three Camaros were used in the film, all were powered by 330-hp GM Performance 350-cubic-inch V-8 crate engines, with Edelbrock electronic fuel injection and three-speed automatic transmissions.
2 Fast 2 Furious (2003)
In 2003, for the second installment of the endless Fast and Furious franchise, the production team dialed up the American muscle with a Hemi-powered 1970 Dodge Challenger and this 1969 Yenko Camaro. Several Le Mans Blue Camaros were used for production, all were, of course, Yenko clones and replicas, and most were small-block powered with automatic transmissions. However, there was one built with an authentic and visually correct 425-hp L-72 427, a Muncie M-21 four-speed transmission, and a 12-bolt positraction rear end. The car had the optional custom interior, but no console. They all wore polished five-spoke mags, which were incorrect for a Yenko but looked period and BFGoodrich Radial T/As.
Eat my Dust (1976)
Now he’s one of Hollywood’s biggest directors, but in 1976 Ron Howard was a teenage TV star making his movie debut in Eat My Dust. Howard’s character, Hoover, steals the hottest Camaro in his one-horse town to take the local beauty queen for a joyride. The car is a 1968 circle track racer owned by local racing hero Big Bubba Jones. Mods include a beefy roll cage, no lights, welded doors, tubular bumpers, flared wheel wells, and aftermarket turbine-style wheels (which are so 1976). The Orange Camaro is also a four-speed, and it’s lettered up just as any race car should be, with eight balls on its doors and FOLLOW ME painted on its rear spoiler.
Aloha, Bobby and Rose (1975)
Paul Le Mat is famous for playing John Milner in 1973’s American Graffiti, but two years later he appeared in Aloha, Bobby and Rose, driving a very cool period-correct 1968 Camaro. Mods include black side pipes, flares, polished slot mags, a black cowl induction hood, and missing front bumper. Under the hood is a small-block 327 backed by a four-speed. There’s a cage inside, as well as high-back bucket seats from an early 1970s Camaro. The movie is forgettable except for the car stuff, which includes cruising many of the iconic L.A. car-nut spots of the time, like Bob’s Big Boy and Van Nuys Boulevard, where he does donuts and drag races a Shelby Mustang. He even makes a pass at one of L.A.’s now defunct dragstrips.
Better off Dead (1985)
In this teen romance, John Cusack is Lane Meyer, a teenager who needs a break. Something to boost his confidence. That something turns out to be a derelict 1967 Camaro RS/SS, which has been rotting in his parents driveway. Lane and his pretty French neighbor transform his Camaro from driveway junk to dynamite and dramatically reveal it to the bluesy beats of Muddy Waters’ “Mannish Boy.” Black with a red interior and an automatic transmission, the small block Camaro rides on factory rally wheels and is stock except for the rake dialed into its suspension. In the end, Lane gets the car and the girl. After changing hands a few times and falling into disrepair, the Better Off Dead Camaro was purchased in 2002 by a passionate fan of the star car who restored it back to its movie appearance.