The Most Famous Cars of All Time From TV and Movies

Thelma and Louise Famous cars

Everyone has their own opinion on which is the most famous car of all to tear up the silver screen. There are countless contenders in the Automobile ‘Hall of Fame.' Some will argue the Delorean DMC-12 deserves the title of the most iconic, while others say the Aston Martin DB5.

Every movie-loving car enthusiast has his own favorite. Find here a list of the top 25 famous cars in entertainment, and see if your favorite made the cut!

1. 1969 Dodge Charger – Dukes of Hazzard

The Dukes of Hazzard Dodge Charger
Image Credit: Schmendrick – CC BY-SA 3.0/Wiki Commons.

The General Lee still ranks as one of television's most iconic cars. This orange 1969 Dodge Charger featured prominently in The Dukes of Hazzard with Bo and Luke Duke sliding into their seats through the windows as they made their escape from Sheriff Rosco P. Coltrane. The General Lee features a Confederate Flag painted on the roof (which often gets blurred or otherwise censored in new broadcasts), the number “01” in black on the doors, and a horn that plays a portion of the song “Dixie.”

The car did a lot of long jumps over obstacles and rivers, which is why the production team destroyed around 300 vehicles during the show's run. It's still an entertainment icon; it's too bad the flag and its ugly history distracts from an otherwise awesome car.

2. 1963 Aston Martin DB5 – Goldfinger

Goldfinger Sean Connery
Image Credit:United Artists.

Ian Fleming originally had his spy driving an Aston Martin DB Mark III in the Goldfinger novel. However, by the time the book went into film production, the manufacturer had produced the DB5.

James Bond's third film producer convinced Aston Martin to place the DB5 in the movie, and the rest was history. Aston Martin notoriously loaded the DB5 with gadgets, but the car initially only had a smokescreen. The film crew started coming up with ideas for the car's defenses, and the producers listened.

This collaboration transformed the Aston Martin DB5 into a spy vehicle unlike any seen before. The car was so popular that the same model appeared in 1965's Thunderball. Some argue Goldfinger and Thunderball are two of the best James Bond movies because of the car.

Fans often think the car in the movie was a 1964 Aston Martin, but it was a 1963 model. The film debuted in 1964, and that year's Aston Martin model was not for sale.

3. 1976 Pontiac Trans Am – Smokey and the Bandit

Pontiac Trans Am - Smokey and the Bandit
Image Credit: Steve Lagreca / Shutterstock.

The 1976 Pontiac Trans Am and actor Burt Reynolds rank among the most iconic car/actor duos in cinematic history, even though the film claimed the car was a 1977 Pontiac Firebird.

Smokey and the Bandit film featured a top-of-the-line Pontiac Trans Am with a phoenix decal and air intake on and through the hood. Fans now recognize it from its hood emblem alone. Even though the Bandit made good use of the sports car, it didn't have a powerful engine. The 6.6-liter V-8 only generated 200 horsepower, but it did produce a lot of torque at 320 ft-lbs.

The film catapulted the Trans Am into a must-have sports car and made Pontiac keep the body style in production until 1983.

4. 1981 Delorean DMC-12 – Back to the Future

Delorean DMC 12
Image Credit: Grzegorz Czapski / Shutterstock.

The Delorean Motor Company produced the DMC-12 as an American-made exotic supercar. A market failure when released in 1981, it made a perfect prop for the movie Back to the Future. One could argue that the DeLorean in the film foreshadowed modern hybrid cars, with its power train operating on something other than gasoline.

Nowadays, Delorean has announced it will re-launch the nameplate as a hybrid sports car. Whether or not it travels through time at 88 miles per hour remains unclear.

5. 1984 Ford Econoline Van – Dumb and Dumber

Dumb and Dumber
Image Credit: New Line Cinema.

The Mutt Cutts vehicle carried Lloyd Christmas and Harry Dunne on a cross-country trip in the movie Dumb and Dumber. Through the judicious use of tan carpet on the exterior and interior, the film producers were able to transform the 1984 Ford Econoline van into a cartoonish dog.

The van featured a smiling dog's face on the front, floppy ears on the side, a tail in the rear, and a rear side leg you lifted to access the gas tank neck. The Mutt Cutts Wagon became an instant hit, and fans of the movie quickly started building their versions of the Mutt Cutts Wagon.

6. 1959 Cadillac Miller-Meteor – Ghostbusters

Ghostbusters Columbia Pictures
Image Credit: Sony/Columbia Pictures.

Fans might hear the sound of the wee-wah siren when they think of the Cadillac Miller-Meteor (named Ecto-1″) from the Ghostbusters movie.

The actual vehicle is a Cadillac Miller-Meteor Futura Duplex end loader. Miller-Meteor built around 400 of these vehicles used both as ambulances and hearses. Miller-Meteor modified specially produced Cadillacs from the manufacturer to accommodate passengers living and non-living. It made a most fitting choice of car for this movie.

7. 1973 XB GT Ford Falcon – Mad Max

Mad Max
Image Credit: Roadshow Film Distributors.

The main character of Mad Max drives a 1973 Ford Falcon XB GT coupe every bit as mean and mad as him.

The Ford Falcon, known as the Interceptor Pursuit Special in the movie, was built by Ford Australia and underwent heavy modifications for its role.

The 1973 XB GT model was the last Falcon produced by Ford Australia until the nameplate's return in 1992.

8. 1968 Mustang GT 390 – Bullitt

Image Credit: Warner Bros.-Seven Arts.

In the movie Bullitt, Steve McQueen chased the bad guys through the streets of San Francisco in a 1968 Ford Mustang GT 390. Many critics rank it as the most famous car chase scene of all time.

The chase scene used camera angles to film the actors and capture shots of the Mustang taking air across the intersections around the city. Playing Lt. Frank Bullitt, McQueen pursued a 1968 Dodge Charger driven by one of the assassins. The Mustang GT 390 became synonymous with McQueen, increasing the car's value. It eventually sold for $3.4 million in 2020 in its original condition, confirming its status as one of the most famous movie cars of all time.

9. 1970 Dodge Charger – Fast and the Furious

Fast and the Furious
Image Credit: Universal Pictures.

The first Fast and the Furious movie centers around a 1970 Dodge Charger with a supercharged engine that produces 900 horsepower, driven by Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel).

The 1969 Dodge Charger used in the movie received parts from a 1970 Charger R/T to make it look like a typical street-drag racing car of the 70s. The movie used a genuine Charger engine as a prop, too. The filming of the driving scenes used the 1969 model with a standard Mopar 440 big block engine, while the prop engine was returned to its owner.

10. 1976 AMC Pacer – Wayne's World

Wayne's World
Image Credit: Paramount Pictures.

The 1976 AMC Pacer used in Wayne's World embodies the loser status of the main characters.

The AMC Pacer was a bottom-of-the-barrel used car by the time the movie went into production in the 90s. This made the Mirthmobile the perfect choice for driving around Aurora and singing Bohemian Rhapsody. Initially designed as an economy car, the AMC Pacer sold well during its first year. However, sales quickly fell in the following years. The overall weight, lack of horsepower, and fuel economy made it unpopular with drivers.

11. 1961 Ferrari 250 GT California Spyder – Ferris Bueller's Day Off

Ferris Bueller's Day Off
Image Credit: Paramount Pictures.

In Ferris Bueller's Day Off, the character of Cameron Frye claims that his father owns a 1961 Ferrari 250 GT California Spyder–one of the rarest cars in the world. However, the movie didn't use a real a Ferrari. It substituted a Modena GT Spyder California built in 1985 and powered by a Chevrolet 7.0-liter V-8 engine.

The car's interior and exterior design resembled touring cars of the 1960s and bore a close resemblance to the Ferrari GT California from certain angles. Extra movie trivia: since Modena Design put the Ferrari badges on the car without permission, Ferrari sued for trademark infringement.

12. 1979 Ford LTD Country Squire – National Lampoon's Vacation

National Lampoon's Vacation
Image Credit: Warner Bros.

The 1979 Ford LTD Country Squire got rebranded as the Wagon Queen Family Truckster (affectionately known as the Truckster).

Initially, Clark Griswold would have driven an “Antarctic Blue Super Sports Wagon with the Rally Fun Pack,” but ended up with the Wagon Queen. The producers modified the station wagon to make it a miserable ride. The kind that makes long family trips across the country to visit long-forgotten relatives unbearable. Over the course of the film, the Griswolds used the Truckster as a battering ram, makeshift hearse, cargo carrier, and family hauler. As a result, they went through several station wagons while making the movie.

13. 1966 Ford Thunderbird – Thelma & Louise

Thelma and Louise
Image Credit: MGM-Pathé Communications.

When the movie Thelma & Louise came out, the 1966 Ford Thunderbird convertible had passed its prime. The movie used multiple Thunderbirds and even threw one of them off the cliff in the famous final scene.

The filmmakers used two thunderbirds as the hero's car for the main driving scenes and two others for stunts. The movie revived interest in the Thunderbird and helped it become an icon among collectors. In 2002, Ford released a new version of the Thunderbird, but it flopped, and Ford discontinued it just four years later.

14. 1948 Ford DeLuxe Convertible – Grease

Grease John Travolta, Olivia Newton-John
Image Credit: Paramount Pictures.

Part of the movie Grease centers around rebuilding a 1948 Ford DeLuxe convertible that had seen better days. The car undergoes a magical transformation from a white rust bucket into a candy apple red hotrod with white lightning bolts and exaggerated fins. The engine also gets upgraded to produce more horsepower. Still, the original engine in the Ford DeLuxe consisted of a flathead V-8 that produced 100 horsepower and reached a top speed of 80 miles an hour.

The body design was known as the lifeguard because it had safety features, something Danny Zuko probably appreciated.

15. 1963 Volkswagen Beetle – Herbie

Image Credit: Buena Vista Pictures Distribution.

Herbie, the Love Bug, a 1963 Volkswagen Beetle, featured as the main character in Disney films. Herbie has a mind of his own and takes over the driving when he feels he's not used to his full potential. He could also talk to the driver and passengers. Walt Disney himself came up with the system to create the illusion of Herbie driving himself.

The system consisted of sprockets and pulleys connected to a secondary steering column that ran under the front seat and was handled by a driver in the rear seat, showing that someone could drive from the back seat.

Over the years, the VW Beetle proved popular with car buyers, making it one of the best-selling cars of all time.

16. 1976 Lotus Esprit S1 – The Spy Who Loved Me

The Spy Who Loved Me
Image Credit: United Artists.

The second Bond car on the list is arguably one of the most iconic movie cars, the Lotus Esprit S1.

The ultimate gadget mobile, the 1976 S1 supercar pushed the limits of credibility when it debuted in the James Bond movie The Spy Who Loved Me.

Equipped with the usual offensive weapons and defenses, this James Bond vehicle had one more trick under its hood. It doubled as a submarine. Filmmakers placed a Lotus Esprit S1 body on a mini-sub, with the wheel wells converted into fins. The submarine version of the Lotus was nicknamed “Wet Nellie” and was sold for $100 in an abandoned storage locker auction.

17. 1955 Ford Lincoln Futura – Batman

Image Credit: Fox/Warner Bros.

The original Batmobile created for the TV show is based on a 1955 Ford Lincoln Futura concept car. In less than three weeks, George Barris did the car's styling, design, and construction for $15,000, quite a hefty fee in the 1960s. The car's arsenal of artillery and defenses made it so heavy that its tires would often blow out as it took off from the Bat Cave. Barris kept the car after production of the Batman series ceased, finally selling it in 2013 for $4,620,000.

18. 1923 Good Maxwell Tourer – Jack Benny

Jack Benny
Image Credit: CBS.

Jack Benny's 1923 Good Maxwell Tourer vehicle showed just how cheap he was. The car often made sputtering and wheezing sounds (supplied by Mel Blanc) as Benny made his way around town. His passengers complained about the poor state of the vehicle.

Jack Benny donated his Maxwell for scrap during WWII, and the Maxwell cars eventually turned into the Chrysler Group.

19. 1976 Ford Gran Torino – Starsky and Hutch

Strasky and Hutch
Image Credit: Columbia Pictures Television.

In Starsky and Hutch, two LA detectives drive around in a Ford Gran Torino. The series used Gran Torino's from 1974 to 1976 with slight variations made to the iconic red paint job with white vector stripes down the side.

Not very subtle for a pair of undercover cops, but since when has that stopped Hollywood? The show made the car popular and helped boost sales until the arrival of its replacement, the Ford LTD II.

20. 1967 Austin Mini Cooper S 1275 – The Italian Job

The Italian Job
Image Credit: Paramount Pictures.

The Italian Job starred Michael Caine, Noel Coward, and pre-Yakkety Sax Benny Hill. The film pulled off wild car chases with three Mini Coopers produced by British Motor Cars (BMC). 1275 refers to the engine size of 1275 CC, or 77.8 cu-in, to create a 1.3-liter 73-horsepower engine paired with a 4-speed transmission.

The engine had sufficient power for lightweight Mini Cooper, but one car had to get beefed up with more torque to power its stunts. This Mini Cooper shouldn't be confused with Mr. Bean's 1969 Morris Mini 1000, similar to the Austin Mini Cooper S 1275 but not quite the same.

21. 1958 Plymouth Fury – Christine

Image Credit: Columbia Pictures.

Based on the Stephen King novel, the movie Christine centers around a murderous 1958 Plymouth Fury bought by an unsuspecting teenager in 1978.

The film brought the anthropomorphic vehicle turned serial killer to life. The production used over 20 Plymouth models, including Belvederes, Savoys, and Furys, all painted the same red color. King took some liberties with the Plymouth Fury, as the original model came in just one color, beige. During the filming, stunt drivers could only see out the windshield through small viewing windows cut into the black tint. The production destroyed one car in the final scene, and a total of three vehicles used in the film still exist today.

22. 1932 Ford Coupe – American Graffiti

American Graffiti
Image Credit: Universal Pictures.

Before Star Wars, American Graffiti was George Lucas' first movie success. The film centers on Lucas' experience with California teenage car culture during the 1950s. The film features a 1932 Ford Coupe with a chop top and exposed engine, the actual car being a Chevrolet small-block V-8. The use of the Chevy engine invalidates its status as a Little Deuce Coupe since it needs a Ford side-valve flathead V-8 to fit the bill.

The production bought the Ford at a used car lot for $1,300 in an unfinished state. The car got a yellow lacquer paint job to make it look racing-ready and equipped with small fenders to get around California's laws outlawing hot rod vehicles.

23. The Gigahorse – Mad Max Fury Road

Mad Max Fury Road
Image Credit: Warner Bros. Pictures.

The Gigahorse represents pure Hollywood fabrication at its finest. A pastiche of several cars, it was designed just for the movie.

The production made this warhorse out of two 1959 Cadillac Coupe De Ville shells sitting above a drivetrain powered by two Chevrolet 502 big block V-8s. A custom gearbox brought the Gigahorse to life, but the transmission, a Turbo 400, couldn't handle the engines' output.

The transmission required a daily rebuild, so the production team switched to an Allison truck transmission. The Gigahorse had two dummy engines powered by a single engine. However, the production designer decided to go all out and put up the money for a vehicle that created 1,200 horsepower when fully operational.

24. 1982 Pontiac Firebird Trans Am – Knight Rider

Knight Rider
Image Credit: Universal Television.

Knight Rider‘s crime-fighting duo consisted of a sentient 1982 Pontiac Firebird Trans Am and David Hasselhoff's Michael Knight.

The show didn't alter the exterior apart from a red light bar with a back-and-forth pattern to hint that the designer had equipped it with more than your average Firebird. KITT featured a computer voice that spoke sarcastically and made snide comments to Knight.

25. 1949 Buick Roadmaster – Rain Man

Rain Man
Image Credit: MGM/UA Communications Co.

The 1949 Buick Roadmaster in the movie Rain Man became a famous movie car due in part to the constant reciting of the car's specs by the character Raymond Babbitt. All of the specs that the character spouted off, are accurate, something car fans appreciated.

GM produced only 8,095 Roadmasters, and the engine was a straight-8 instead of a V-8. The DynaFlow automatic transmission was a new invention when the car came out on the market and a point of pride for GM. Actor Dustin Hoffman and director Barry Levinson took home one of the two Buick Roadmasters used in the production. Hoffman recently sold his car at auction for $335,000.

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Jon is the founder of MoneySmartGuides, which helps people dig out of debt and start building wealth so they can achieve their dreams. He has over 15 years of experience in the financial services industry and 20 years of investing in the stock market. He has both his undergraduate and graduate degrees in Finance and is FINRA Series 65 licensed, and has a Certificate in Financial Planning.