The Most Iconic Cars Ever Put On Screen

The most iconic cars include the Ecto-1, Herbie, and the Aston Martin DB5.

By Jonathan Klotz | Updated

Cars have been a mainstay on screens since the dawn of cinema, but few have made lasting impressions beyond getting the characters from point A to point B. In an era with The Fast and The Furious sending cars to outer space, it’s harder than ever to stand out, but the ones on this list have withstood the test of time and become icons. Most of them aren’t even used in dangerous stunts, but all of them are legendary.

10. Shelby GT500 – Gone In 60 Seconds (1974 and 2000)

Gone in 60 Seconds features the most cars and one of the best movie cars of all time, in Eleanor, the Shelby GT500. The final car on the list to be stolen by the gang of thieves, led by either H.B. Halicki or Nicolas Cage, depending on which version you’re watching, it’s the remake that puts a spotlight on the classic Ford Mustang. The original features four separate “Eleanors,” while the remake only has one, and the director knew how special the car was as it’s usually accompanied by the thumping movie theme whenever it appears on the screen.

First produced in 1967, only 2,048 Shelby GT500’s rolled off the assembly line in its first year, making the classic design a collector’s item despite the following year’s model featuring a custom-built engine, the “Cobra Jet.” The modified Ford Mustang V8 dubbed “Eleanor” was restricted by copyright owned by Halicki’s estate until just last year, finally allowing car enthusiasts to build their own replicas of one of Hollywood’s greatest cars.

9. The Mach 5 – Speed Racer (2008)

Derided at the time but now hailed as a cult classic, the Wachowski sibling’s wild live-action Speed Racer brought one of the cartoon’s most significant cars to life for the first time. With Speed Racer (Emile Hirsch) behind the wheel, the Mach 5 is designed for combat racing, tricked out with special features ranging from rotary blades to a homing robot and bullet-proof shielding. The sleek white design was immediately iconic back in 1967, and even the mid-aughts redesign didn’t mess with the original, proving how timeless the Mach-5 has remained for nearly 60 years.

Real-life versions of the Mach 5 were planned to be made in 2000, built off of the Chevrolet Corvette, with an early prototype complete with deployable rotating saws enshrined in the Peterson Automobile Museum in Los Angeles. Some other cars that resemble the design without the included gadgets include the Toyota 7 racing car, Lamborghini Mirua, and the Porsche 917.

8. The Jeep – Jurassic Park (1993)

Unlike the earlier entries, the iconic Jeep from the original Jurassic Park isn’t built for speed, even if it “must go faster.” Designed as an all-terrain vehicle for navigating the rough terrain of Isla Nublar, the jeep is a Hollywood icon not because of what it can do but mainly because of how it looks. The striking green and yellow paint scheme with red stripes is easily transferred to everyday cars as a tribute to Steven Spielberg’s classic film.

Somehow, Jeep is missing a clear marketing opportunity by never releasing an official Jurassic Park Jeep Wrangler when it’s just a re-colored YJ Sahara model.

7. The Bluesmobile – The Blues Brothers (1980)

A decommissioned police car purchased by Elwood Blues (Dan Akroyd) from an auction, the Bluesmobile is as iconic as the lead character’s hat and sunglasses look. Elwood describes it to Jake (John Belushi) as having “a cop motor, cop tires, cop suspension, cop shocks” in addition to “running on good old gas.” The Blues Brothers is an absurd comedy that not only features one of Hollywood’s greatest cars, but it might hold the record for the largest car crash ever filmed.

The Bluesmobile features heavily during a police chase involving 60 real cop cars bought for $400 a piece, and by the end of the sequence, almost all of them have been destroyed. When the Bluesmobile is careening through a crowded mall, that’s an actual mall, the Dixie Square Mall in Harvey, Illinois, which was slated for demolition, so yes, the damage done to the set was very real.

6. Herbie – The Love Bug (1968)

Bumblebee is not the most iconic Volkswagon Beetle in movie history; years earlier, Herbie claimed that title in a series of hit Disney films , starting with the best of the bunch, The Love Bug. In a moment of glaring oversight nearly as disastrous as Mars not licensing M&M’s for E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, Volkswagon didn’t grant Disney the rights to the company name, which is there’s no “VW” branding on one of Hollywood’s most iconic cars, and the brand name isn’t mentioned in the hit film.

The only one of the cars on this list that’s sentient, Herbie displays an attitude during the film, from refusing to get on the highway to a surprisingly dark sequence along the Golden Gate Bridge. The 2005 follow-up, featuring Lindsay Lohan, didn’t alter the original design of the classic Beetle, though it did introduce a love interest for Herbie. Yes, it’s weird, but it’s also rather endearing, though the original film is the one worth watching today.

5. General Lee – The Dukes of Hazzard (1979-1985)

As much of a star on The Dukes of Hazzard as the Duke family themselves, General Lee has the most screentime of any of the cars on this list. 309 1969 Dodge Chargers were used during the filming of the series, which aired for 147 episodes, and amazingly, most of them involved the car going airborne at some point. The doors were welded shut since it was originally intended to be a race car, forcing the Dukes to jump in through the open windows.

After enough cars were wrecked doing jumps, the 1968 Dodge Chargers were used by the production crew, with added parts from the later model to make them consistent.

4. Ecto-1 – Ghostbuster (1984)

When you finally figure out who you’re going to call, they’ll roll up in a heavily customized 1959 Cadillac that’s a combination ambulance and hearse, which is perfect for the Ghostbusters. The Ecto-1 first appeared in the original 1984 comedy Ghostbusters and was immediately one of the most popular cars ever seen on the big screen. A constant throughout the franchise, it’s become the face of Ghostbusters to the point that just the silhouette of the Cadillac was enough to sell audiences on Ghostbusters: Afterlife.

In-universe, Ecto-1 was built by Ray Stantz (Dan Akroyd) after purchasing the beat-up body for only $4,8000. While it’s stood the test of time, like most movie cars, Ecto-1 received a glow-up in its last appearance, now including a gunner turret and a special hatch for deploying a remote-control drone.

3. Aston Martin DB5 – James Bond Franchise

As much a part of the franchise as martinis that are shaken, not stirred, James Bond’s Aston Martin has been a constant through nearly 60 years of the secret agent. The iconic Aston Martin DB5 first debuted in Goldfinger and was a major part of why Sean Connery’s version was the epitome of suave sophistication for generations. Bond has had a few different cars throughout the franchise, bit with appearances in eight separate films, the DB5 will always be his signature set of wheels.

Out of all the cars the British spy could use, the Aston Martin was chosen for the films because of Bond’s creator, Ian Fleming, who wrote the Aston Martin into his novels as the preferred choice over a Jaguar.

2. Batmobile – Batman Franchise

Whenever a new Batman film is announced, one of the first things fans ask is, “What will the Batmobile look like this time?” The foremost of Batman’s wonderful toys, the Batmobile has seen many interpretations over the years, from the comic-books style of Michael Beaton’s Batman to the rough and tumble military-grade vehicle ground in Christian Bale’s Dark Knight trilogy. No matter the appearance, the Batmobile remains one of the most iconic cars and a major part of every Batman movie.

If we had to choose, Tim Burton’s exaggerated design from Batman and Batman Returns is the best live-action interpretation of comics’ greatest vehicle. Other heroes have had their own cars, from Punisher’s van to Spider-Man’s Spidermobile, but none have endured like the Batmobile.

1. DeLorean – Back To The Future (1985)

In real life, the DeLorean was a disaster of a car, inspiring Homer Simpson’s “Homer” in The Simpsons, but on the big screen, it’s the most iconic car in movie history. Back to the Future even lampshades the use of the DeLorean with Michael Keaton’s exclamation, “Are you telling me, you built a time machine out of a DeLorean?” Among all of the cars in cinematic history, none are as beloved or represent not only an entire franchise but an entire genre of film the way that the DeLorean does time travel.

Central to the plot of the film, the DeLorean is also the most important of all the cars on this list, serving as the central part of the comedy classic’s best scenes. Besides, everyone thinks of the DeLorean when they approach 88 mph on the highway.