33 cars from 33 years of movies and TV
1985 was a memorable year. For movies and cars in movies, the year gave us one of the most iconic of both fields: the DeLorean DMC-12 from “Back to the Future.”
The gullwing-door sports car, designed by Giorgetto Giugiaro and skinned in stainless steel, became a central character, along with Michael J. Fox’s Marty McFly and Christopher Lloyd’s Doc Brown.
The car and the eponymous company was a financial failure, but the car lives on, thanks to the Robert Zemeckis-directed, Steven Spielberg-produced film.
In the film, the DeLorean would eventually fly and drive on railroad tracks, but its central feature is its ability to leap forward and backward through time, something the car has, in a way, really achieved.
Marty asks incredulously, “You built a time machine … out of a DeLorean?” Indeed they did.
Nothing says 1980s quite like Miami Vice, and the Michael Mann-helmed TV show had its share of flashy cars.
The most memorable is the one seen in the title credits and on thousands of kids’ bedrooms at the time: the white Ferrari Testarossa.
It was a real Ferrari, a replacement for the rebodied Corvette posing as a Ferrari Daytona, blown up by the bad guys.
The popular Knight Rider series gave us KITT, the black Pontiac Firebird Trans-am, armored, self-driving, and capable of bantering with David Hasselhoff.
The A-Team of Hannibal, Faceman, Howling Mad Murdoch, and Mr. T. accomplished their missions in a customized GMC van.
A grim, gritty James Bond was already around in the 1980s in the persona of Timothy Dalton in “The Living Daylights.”
His car of choice then was, of course, an Aston Martin, the still handsome V8 Volante.
Tim Burton’s weird, art deco-themed Gotham City deserved a weird Batman, and Michael Keaton drove a phallic, rocket-powered Batmobile.
Meanwhile, a kinder, gentler Arnold Schwarzenegger had shotgun, did travel, in a Harley Davidson Fat Boy in “Terminator 2: Judgment Day.”
The groundbreaking effects of T2 gave rise to realistic on-screen dinosaurs in “Jurassic Park,” where Sam Neill and Jeff Goldblum nearly got eaten by a T Rex after their Ford Explorers were demolished by the giant beast.
It isn’t a Michael Bay movie without a car chase, and in “Bad Boys,” the finale was a wild runway battle between a Shelby Cobra (driven by Tchéky Karyo as the bad guy) and Will Smith’s Porsche 911 Turbo (driven by Martin Lawrence). Guess which wins?
Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones had the diametrical opposite of a 911 in “Men in Black,” a suitably anonymous Ford LTD Crown Victoria (which Agent J had a colorful name for). But it did have special equipment unleashed by pressing a red button on the gearshift.
The Explorers in “Jurassic Park” were easily dispatched, but the Mercedes M-Class in “The Lost World” put up a good fight, dragging a heavy trailer up muddy terrain, all while being attacked by a T. Rex.
James Bond’s gadgety car was back in full swing in “Tomorrow Never Dies,” with a remote-controlled, rocket-armed BMW 750iL.
The more interesting vehicle sequence is the one on the BMW R 1200C motorcycle, used in a frantic chase, with Michelle Yeoh as co-rider.
That Bond movie could be considered a mere appetizer to the automotive feast that was Ronin.
John Frankenheimer filmed what was essentially one long car chase, pitting a BMW M5 against Paris traffic, and featuring another super sedan, the Mercedes 450 SEL 6.9.
Another movie-long car chase, “Gone in 60 Seconds,” sees Nicolas Cage, Angelina Jolie, and crew steal 50 cars in one night, including the Ford Mustang fastback nicknamed Eleanor.
In 2001 came the first film of an unlikely billion-dollar global movie franchise, “The Fast and The Furious.”
The dueling cars, Vin Diesel’s Dodge Charger and Paul Walker’s Toyota Supra, set the stage for dozens of memorable cars across the series.
The other movie series built around cars, “Transformers,” made a worldwide star of the Chevrolet Camaro and its yellow robot counterpart, Bumblebee.
A series of short films helmed by world-class directors was BMW’s “The Hire.” Starring Clive Owen as a hotshot for dangerous jobs, he raced a BMW Z4 against the clock and against the devil, an M5 against Madonna’s foul mouth, and an X5 against the goons of an oppressive government.
A new action franchise and aesthetic was Bourne in 2002, with “The Bourne Identity.”
Matt Damon drove a battered MINI Cooper against half the French police force across Paris.
Meanwhile the modern MINI Cooper—three of them, in fact—got their star turn on the silver screen at the hands of Mark Wahlberg and Charlize Theron in “The Italian Job.”
Kurt Russell took various unlucky guests in his tricked-up Dodge Charger in Quentin Tarantino’s homage to grindhouse cinema, “Deathproof.”
It dueled a Dodge Challenger in the movie’s climactic chase scene.
The superhero movie reached its peak, arguably, in 2008, when both “The Dark Knight” and “Iron Man” first screened.
“The Dark Knight” gave rise to a different kind of Batmobile, more of an assault vehicle than the cheerful roadster from the Adam West days.
“Iron Man” had Tony Stark racing off in an Audi R8, from his garage full of gleaming cars, including a Tesla Roadster.
Not all of the iconic cars are sporty and glamorous. As an instant indicator of the character’s status in life, Bryan Cranston drove a Pontiac Aztek in the first season of “Breaking Bad.”
“Star Trek” (2009) brought a new version of Kirk, Spock, and the Enterprise crew. There was a brief but memorable car chase in the opening minutes, where a Chevrolet Corvette from the same period as the original “Star Trek” was, perhaps symbolically, dumped over a cliff.
In the “Mission Impossible” series, Tom Cruise’s appetite for stunts grew even greater when he did most of the stunt driving in the sequels, featuring a BMW M3 in “Rogue Nation,” and a circa 1985 5 Series, as well as a BMW R nineT Scrambler in “Fallout.”
“The Counselor” had a memorable scene between Cameron Diaz and a Ferrari California. John Wick’s story centered around revenge for Baba Yaga’s Mustang … and his late dog.
“Skyfall” featured the essential Bond car, the Aston Martin DB5, in the finale.
The scene of the DB5 driving across Scotland is “Spectre” brought back the fully-outfitted Aston Martin, in the one-off DB10 Concept car.
As for electric and hybrid vehicles, they were few and far between in movies.
The Black Widow rode an electric Harley Davidson LiveWire in “Avengers: Age of Ultron.”
“Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol” saw the debut of the plug-in hybrid BMW i8 on the streets of India.
“The Incredibles 2” featured a self-driving, voice-controlled Incredible, which is probably not electric, while the Elasticyle is a highly capable electric bike.
The cars we drive every day will one day be similar in capabilities and performance to some of these cars of the movies.
One thing that we won’t be able to achieve any time soon is time travel. But with electric drones soon taking off, where we’re going, we won’t need roads.