By: Brett Shainfeld
It’s no secret that a good product placement can increase the popularity of a certain brand or item. If it appears in a well-loved movie or TV show, it’s likely to get some serious attention — like Eggo waffles in Stranger Things. But it’s not just the foods eaten, electronics used, and music listened to that stick in our heads long after the credits roll. The cars that are driven, from the souped up to the scary, also have a way of being indoctrinated into popular culture.
Whether you loved the General Lee and its bright orange paint scheme or hated it, you still remembered it. Some of the cars made famous by movies and TV shows became collector’s items — the exact cars get sold at auction for many times their worth, and entire companies are dedicated to creating replicas of the real thing if you want something a little more affordable.
We rounded up a few of the most recognized cars that have received a lot of screen time over the years, from the 1930s to the early 2000s. Would you recognize any of your favorites if they pulled up at a red light beside you?
1932 Ford Coupe: The Canary Yellow Racer in American Graffiti
George Lucas is a known hot rod enthusiast, and it definitely showed in American Graffiti. While there are a few classic cars featured in the film, the bright yellow racer, driven by John Milner, was easily the shining star.
1948 Ford De Luxe: Greased Lightning in Grease
Two versions of the car appear in the well-loved musical: the white one the T-Birds race, and the red version everyone dances on. Which can also fly, apparently.
1959 Plymouth Fury: The Possessed Car in Christine
The red paint and interior colors were custom orders for the now-iconic Plymouth Fury. Because what other color would you paint an evil car? White seems too bland.
1961 Ferrari 250 GT: Mr. Frye’s Prized Possession in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off
Cameron’s father loves the car more than life itself, and we can’t say that we blame him. Any of us would have killed to cruise around in this little red beauty in high school.
1963 Aston Martin DB5: James Bond’s Ultimate Spy Car
A slew of Bonds over the years have sat behind the wheel of an Aston Martin. We wouldn’t mind taking one home ourselves — especially if it had all of Bond’s special features.
1963 Model 117 Volkswagen Beetle: Herbie the Love Bug
Everyone knows who this little Beetle is. This little race car with a mind of its own sent the Volkswagen Bug craze skyrocketing.
1966 Alfa Romeo 1600 Spider Duetto: Ben’s Car in The Graduate
Because of the success of the movie and the following demand for the car, Alfa Romeo would eventually release a “Graduate Edition” of the 1600 Spider.
1969 Dodge Charger: The General Lee from The Dukes of Hazzard
The bright orange General Lee is one of the most iconic TV cars in history. So iconic, in fact, that the producers had to use a different car with some intense angle work in the final seasons because there was a shortage of ‘69 Chargers on the market.
1970 Dodge Charger: Dom Toretto’s Ride in The Fast and the Furious
1969 was a good year for the Dodge Charger because even though Dom’s favorite car was dressed like a 1970 version, it actually sported a 1969 body.
1973 Ford Mustang Mach 1: Gone in 60 Seconds’ Eleanor (The Original)
The original Gone in 60 Seconds might not have had much in the way of a cast (or script), but that ending chase scene was the shining gem of the film.
1973 Ford Gran Torino: The Dude’s Ride in The Big Lebowski
They say cars match their owners, and this is certainly true of the Dude’s ride in The Big Lebowski. The car went through some unfortunate mishaps during the movie, but as always, the Dude abides.
1975 Lotus Esprit: James Bond’s Submersible in The Spy Who Loved Me
The Aston Martin may be the most well-known Bond car, but the Lotus was entirely memorable because it had the ability to turn into a submarine.
1976 Ford Gran Torino: Starsky’s Red and White Wheels in Starsky & Hutch
The Gran Torino is another car you’ll see on this list multiple times. To capitalize on the original show’s popularity, Ford created and sold 1,300 replicas of the Starsky and Hutch cruiser through their dealerships.
1981 DeLorean DMC-12: Doc’s Time Machine in Back to the Future
Possibly the most famous car on our list, Doc’s DeLorean won the hearts of millions, even if the actual car needed an engine upgrade so that Marty could hit 88mph.
1982 Pontiac Firebird Trans Am: The Self-Aware KITT in Knight Rider
The supercar Knight Industries Two Thousand helped David Hasselhoff through a lot of rough spots in Knight Rider.
1984 Ferrari 308 GTSi QV: Driven by Tom Selleck in Magnum P.I.
All the Ferraris that Tom Selleck drove around Hawaii during the show’s run had to be modified to fit his 6’4” frame, and they were all sold at auction after the show ended in 1988.
Unfortunately, these cars aren’t likely to be seen on the road. But they’re iconic enough that if they were, you can bet they’d cause a few accidents.
The Batmobile Tumbler in Batman Begins and The Dark Knight
All the Batmobile cars through the years have earned a place in fans’ hearts, but the tumbler Christopher Nolan introduced was seriously impressive. Who hasn’t wished they had one on their commute home?
The Batmobile in Batman and Batman Returns
Talk about iconic. When you think of the Batmobile, chances are, you think of Tim Burton’s 1989 version. It had a certain wow factor that helped set the scene for this new iteration of Batman.
The Gigahorse in Mad Max: Fury Road
Mad Max franchise fans were introduced to a number of seriously cool cars in the latest installment (who can forget the flame-throwing guitar backed by a wall of speakers on the Doof Wagon). But the Gigahorse, with its two Cadillac bodies powered by twin Chevy 502 engines, was a work of art.
The Shaggin’ Wagon in Dumb and Dumber
The 1984 Ford Econoline is barely recognizable when covered in an exterior fur lining. The Mutt Cutts company car would certainly attract attention if it went cruising down the street today — especially if Jim Carrey were behind the wheel.
The Ecto-1, The 1959 Cadillac Miller-Meteor Ambulance Conversion in Ghostbusters
Speaking of accidents, the Ecto-1 did cause a few when it was driven around NYC shortly after the movie’s release. The car was such a cult favorite that fans banded together to purchase and restore it after Universal Studios left it to rest in a studio backlot somewhere.
The Mystery Machine in Scooby Doo
Though the blue, green, and orange van got its start as a cartoon car in the 60s, the Mystery Inc. kids were riding around in one of the most iconic cars in TV history.