Coolest Movie Cars With The Coolest Drivers
What makes a car cool?
Cool Movie Cars
Lethal Option Package
The Most Famous Car in the World
Bond is the Epitome of Cool
Steve McQueen as a policeman drives a Ford Mustang GT390 Fastback. The King of Cool himself, Steve McQueen was an avid car fan and a superbly fearless driver who did a lot of racing. In Bullitt he drives a Highland green Mustang, and the look of that car is so classic, so perfect, in a clean, compact, powerful package, that it achieves the pinnacle of cool. With the side vents, it brings to mind a sleek shark with gills, and just as voracious. Hearing that engine rumble is the call of a beast of prey.
Car as Character
The Chase Scene
The scene was filmed not on a movie set but on actual streets, at real speed, and the inside cameras and slick angles give you a visceral feel for the heart-stopping chase, as the cars catch air over the hilly streets and smash down on impact, squeal around corners, revving with powerful ferocious throbs of the car engines. It has been voted the best car chase in film history.
Steve McQueen, Cool Driver Extraordinaire
Remaking Cool 2008
Vanishing Point (1971)
Kowalski (Barry Newman) drives a 1970 Dodge Challenger R/T. In parts 1 and 2, we've discussed supercool movie drivers who portrayed law enforcement agents. But the 60's were a time of turmoil, and counterculture heroes began to arise. One of the most popular figures was the lone hero, struggling against an oppressive society, an "Establishment."
Kowalski is not alone in his rebellion. He encounters other outcasts and loners, those who are apart from society. They recognize in him a kindred spirit, and most give him aid to help him on his journey. He even receives guidance over the airwaves from a mystical blind DJ, Super Soul.
Smokey and The Bandit - (1977)
Bo “Bandit” Darville (Burt Reynolds) drives a black Pontiac Trans Am. In Parts 1, 2, and 3, the cool cars and the cool drivers in the films were all in grim earnest. The mission was life-or-death critical. But in Smokey and the Bandit, it's all in fun.
Unlike the other car and driver films in these articles to date, which are "serious" and where Death in invoked, Smokey and the Bandit is all pure fun, a simple yee-haw kind of good time. In fact, I can't recall anyone in films who looked like they were having more fun than Burt Reynolds as Bandit in this movie. With that cowboy hat and attitude to match, and cocky grin, he wheeled that black Trans Am around like an extension of himself, which in this movie, it really was.
Here's another film where the driving of the car is not just a part of the plot but is the whole story. Bandit and his buddy Cledus “Snowman” Snow (played by Jerry Reed, who also sang the bouncy soundtrack theme) are hired to get a tractor trailer full of beer over state lines in a race against time. Hilarity ensues as various bumbling local and county cops give chase. Yeah, it's not exactly saving the world. The biggest question is whether they'll get the cargo there on time, and if the “good guys” can stay out of jail.
Love and Friendship
Bandit even gets a love interest, as Sally Field, who gets nicknamed “Frog” (!), hitches a ride with him. Opposites at first, she is slowly won over by his charms. She is honored by being given the passenger seat next to Bandit while he roars through the roads and byways, attracting the attention of the highway patrol away from his buddy and the truckload of beer. They're all part of the team.
As in Vanishing Point, the speeding outlaw is helped along the way by a ragtag group of anti-establishment characters, here shown as good-ole boys and gals, in contrast to the uptight law enforcers.
The dated point of the plot is the whim of some rich guys who want a load of Coors beer, which wasn't available in the Eastern US at the time, but is now. The movie makes much of the use of CB (Citizens Band) radio, which was big at the time, and was the way for drivers to connect to each other while on the road, a common man's counterpoint to the radios of the police. The driving team and their allies use the CB communication to foil the police, who are the “Smokey” of the title.
In an episode of the television series “My Name is Earl”, it's revealed that Earl and his brother love playing Smokey and the Bandit while driving their car.
The film director, Hal Needham, was a stuntman, and he had a lot of cars wrecked in the film. Yet the fantasy is such that no one is seriously injured, despite high-speed crashes. The Trans Am is the flash car that attracts all the notice of the police, so that Snowman is free to speed with his bootleg truckload of beer. The police of course cannot match the skill and daring driving of the Bandit, and so he gets away with the car, the girl, and maybe a big chunk of money.
Note that in the two films where driving is the story, the driver is an outlaw. So if a car and driver become too close, it's got to be against the law.
More of the Same
Since the movie made a lot of money (only Star Wars beat it that year), there were sequels, but they were not the same, and are best forgotten. More trucking/speeding/avoiding police movies also followed. For instance, there was “Convoy” (which came from a popular Country-and-Western song, in which a group of truckers band together to defy the police. Eventually the theme ran its course.
See it Again
It's probably been years since you've seen this film. Get some friends, some popcorn and beer, and sit down for a rollicking fun time. Burt was cool and in his prime as a film star, and Jackie Gleason is a hoot as a vengeful sheriff.
It just might make you want to get behind the wheel of a black Pontiac Trans Am, if you hadn't already...
The Blues Brothers- (1980)
The Blues Brothers (Jake and Elwood) drive the “Bluesmobile.” a 1974 Dodge Monaco sedan.
When Part 1 of this series first came out, a guy named Nunzy said, “Cool cars and drivers? Where's the Blues Brothers movie? What's cooler than that?” I had to agree, and so we come to number 5 on our list, bumping off the original #5. If you haven't yet seen this movie, see it now! It's become a cultural icon.
The film is a musical/comedy/action/fantasy, created from a Saturday Night Live skit. It features Jake (John Belushi) and Elwood (Dan Aykroyd), as the former front men of a blues band that disbanded after Jake was arrested several years before. Upon his release, Jake finds out his boyhood orphanage home is about to be shut down for non-payment of property taxes. Jake and his brother track down the old band members for a charity benefit to save the orphanage. To do this, they embark in the Bluesmobile.
Check out the webpage “A Bluesmobile Tribute” for lots of info about the movie and the car that is the Bluesmobile. The car was painted black-and-white to resemble a recycled former police car, since many 1970's police forces used similar cars.
In the movie, Elwood says the car is a used Mount Prospect, Illinois police car. In describing it to his brother, Elwood says, "It's got a cop motor, a 440-cubic-inch plant. It's got cop tires, cop suspensions, cop shocks. It's a model made before catalytic converters so it'll run good on regular gas."
The Bluesmobile gets smashed around and does crazy, impossible stunts, such as jumping over an open drawbridge, flipping backwards in midair, and even "flying" for very brief periods of time. Supposedly a cut scene shows the car getting an energy boost at a power plant, the rationale for the supercharged activity.
The Rough Filming
The film used a number of different cars to depict the Bluesmobile, all of which were former police cars purchased from the California Highway Patrol, and were mocked up to look like ex-Mount Prospect, Illinois patrol cars. Some were formatted for speed, and others in jumps or high-performance maneuvers, depending on the scene. One was made to simply fall apart upon its arrival at the Daley Center, which it did in spectacular fashion.
The production kept a 24-hour body shop open for repairing the multiple cars used in the film. There is mayhem and chase scenes galore. When the movie came out, it took the world record for the most cars destroyed in one film. Later, it was surpassed by its own sequel.
Like “Smokey and the Bandit” (Part 4), this is a car-and-driver movie that is all in fun, the screeching tires and crashing stunts just for show. The car itself is not just a character, it's a legend. It carries the Blues Brothers through their quest, “on a mission from God”, and once the mission is complete, the car self-destructs.
Jake had been expecting a Cadillac, their former car, but his brother had traded it for a microphone. Good thing, because a Caddy never would have made it, and the orphanage would never have been saved. If you're going on a special movie mission, you have to have the special vehicle. And this one endures.
Mad Max- (International Release 1980)
Mel Gibson, as Max Rockatansky, drives a a customized 1973 Ford Falcon XB GT coupe (well, he drove another one as well...)
The Extra List Item
Yeah, this series on movie cars and drivers was only going to be 5 parts, but if you're talking cool movie cars and drivers, you can't leave out the leather-jacketed Mad Max, roaring along endless stretches of empty, post-apocalyptic Australian road, in pursuit of wrongdoers. This was even the number one choice of my friend Dan.
When Mel did this film, he wasn't a star. You could see star power in him, though, and knew he was destined for better things. At least before he went crazy...
He played a cop, enforcing the law. But things turned bloody in the film, as a foul group of bikers goes after his family. So he goes after them, to their distress. The driver was cool, if murderous and more than slightly insane in his vengeance, but he sure could push that car to its limits. In the film he was supposed to be the star driver of his police force, and proved it in some great chases.
The power police car was the means to keep order, capable of traversing those endless stretches of mostly empty road. According to Wikipedia Max's yellow Interceptor was a 1974 Ford Falcon XB sedan (previously, a Melbourne police car) with a 351ci Cleveland V8 engine and many other modifications.
The other car, Max's black Pursuit Special - called "The Last of the V8 Interceptors" in Mad Max 2 – (The Road Warrior) was a limited GT351 version of a 1973 Ford XB Falcon Hardtop. The April 2009 edition of Motor Magazine celebrates the 30th Anniversary of Mad Max with a feature story on the Interceptor.
George Miller, the director of the film, was apparently a worker in a hospital emergency room, which explains the amount of gore in the movie. He felt the violence would be acceptable if the setting was a bleak, dystopian future. He went on to do the sequels, which really took off.
It did great for an inexpensive independent film. It didn't make a lot of money in the United States, but worldwide made a bundle, the highest return ratio to film cost ever, until The Blair Witch Project. Make sure you see the original Aussie lingo version, not the U.S.-dubbed, which has horrific dialogue. The movie lives on, with hardcore fans as evidenced by the following sites: MadMaxOnline and MadMaxMovies.
The sequels to the film, The Road Warrior and Beyond Thunderdome have become cultural icons in our filmography. They helped launch Mel as a big-budget action star, but it all began with a power car roaring down a long stretch of road.
So that's the top six picks of the Coolest Movie Cars with the Coolest Drivers. Cars and drivers that enforce the law, or break it. Spies, cops, and crooks, all those listed were supercool as they piloted their power cars on their separate missions. Whether Bond, Bullitt, or Bandit, each captured our imagination and made us want to drive a similar car.
Got any other picks? Any votes for the Batmobile? Kurt Russell's killer Stuntman Mike in Death Proof? Others?
© 2009-2016 Dale T. Phillips