By on March 24, 2013


‘American Graffiti’ exploded onto the movie screen in the early 70s, a little over 10 years after it happened 1962, according to the movie plot.

“Where were you in ’62?” became the question of the day in the movie trailer. Back when, most of us wished that we had been old enough to cruise around in the cool ’62-era iron shown in ‘American Graffiti’.  Today, we wish we would have been born after that.

The movie was essentially a coming-of-age movie that followed the lives of several people over the course of a long night’s journey into a drag race at dawn. Most of the actors were unknowns at the time, but some went on to major fame later in their careers, while others never really went beyond their 15 minutes of fame in ‘American Graffiti’.

The cars in the movie will always be the biggest stars for most car guys. There were plenty of classic rides in the movie. 1962 was a time when teenagers jumped behind the wheel of a car packed with their buddies and hit the main streets in every town in North America.

The radio blasted out rock and roll to set the mood and a then-current crop of teenagers set their hormones on high and went looking for love in all the right places for 60s romance: in cars. It was a mating ritual that was repeated every weekend of every hot summer night in every town in 1962.

You were what you drove in ’62 because the car did indeed make the man – or at least the teenaged male facsimile behind the wheel of the car. The car show in ‘American Graffiti’ portrayed that era almost flawlessly with the exception of a time-warp Mustang and 1967 Chevy fleetingly caught in some of the shots.

The two major car stars of ‘American Graffiti’ were the 1932 Ford Deuce Coupe and the 1955 Chevy. Best supporting car awards go to the 1958 Chevy Impala and the 1956 Ford Thunderbird. The list of extras in terms of cars featured in the movie was too long to itemize, but George Lucas made sure that his movie had plenty of classic cars in it.

The movie centered on the antics of a group of friends that ranged from very cool (Milner) to very nerdy (Toad) who had inexplicably become friends prior to the start of the movie. The plotline was pretty funny, but every car guy on the planet wanted to see the final showdown between the Deuce and the ’55.

Milner’s Deuce had dominated the streets before the arrival of a stranger with a ’55 Chevy 2 door post who had been spotted around town and duly noted as a threat to Milner’s title as the baddest ride on the street. A traffic light warm-up race had proven that the Deuce was about to be seriously challenged because neither car was a clear winner.

Even the song on the radio was perfect. Bobby Freeman’s classic ‘Do You Wanna Dance’ was blasting out a musical street challenge during the warm-up race between the Deuce and the Chevy. Dancing in the streets in ’62 usually meant tire smoke and horsepower domination, so the song was right for the movie moment.

The ultimate showdown occurred after Milner set his exhausts on full header and met the Chevy to settle the score in a highway race at dawn. The results were once again unclear because the ’55 was destroyed in a rollover, but Milner felt that he had been beaten prior to the crash.

Car guys love this movie because it is a 2 hour car show that ends in a race. Sure Milner’s Deuce may have been beaten by the ’55 in the final race, but every car guy knows that somebody a little faster is always just around the corner in every town. You can hold the crown-just not forever-and then you have to start all over again to beat the new champ.

And what is your perfect car movie?

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102 Comments on “What’s The Best Car Movie? My Take: American Graffiti...”

  • avatar

    Wow ~

    Too many Car Movies come to mind to choose one favorite .


    • 0 avatar

      Maybe there’s too many car movies to choose from, but for me it’s easy. The one car movie I HATE with a passion is American Graffiti. Not because of the movie itself, but because of what it did to car collecting.

      I got into the antique car hobby in 1968, at the age of 18. Showed a 1937 Buick Special, helped a guy in the club restore a 1930 Packard rumble seat coupe. Back then, if you were restoring an antique car, you restored it. To original. Which meant, original drivetrain, wheels, original interior, original everything.

      If you started changing things over, you now had a hot rod – and you definitely weren’t welcome on the field at that weekend’s car show. The hot rod crowd had their own shows, and the original antiques stayed away from them.

      Then along come American Graffiti. Within a couple of years, I started noticing that very few cars are showing up with the stock wheels anymore. Or there’s striping that certainly had nothing to do with the factory. And all sorts of other changes, coupled with the inevitable cassette player blasting 50’s rock and roll.

      Antique car shows started disappearing, replaced by Friday or Saturday cruise nights at a local drive in, convenience store, restaurant, etc. And nobody had a stock, low end car for show anymore. Quick, when was that last time you saw a slant six, last generation Plymouth Barracuda. They’re all 340 six packs, at least. “Tribute cars”. Screw that, call ’em what they are . . . . fakes.

      Finally, the hot rod shows and the antique shows combined – to the point that you have to look awful damned hard to find a restored to original condition antique car anymore.

      Thank you American Graffiti. Thanks for nothing.

      • 0 avatar

        Nice post! Amen. Every time a non-car-guy tells me about a local car show, I know right away it will be a “cruiser night” with fifty modified American cars, all loaded with catalog accessories.

        The one interesting, unmodified car is usually at the tail end and gone long before closing time.

        Seriously, just ordering a part and bolting it on doesn’t make a car special. There should be no fifty-thousand-dollar hot rods.

      • 0 avatar

        Our local parking lot show every Friday night is not at all what you describe. While it started as an “American Hot Rod” event, you would not believe what you find there. A local model T regularly shows up. I cant remember a slant six, but how about a straight six Ranchero? I bring either the stock Karmann Ghia or Thing. The number of ‘Vettes, Mustangs and Camaros is surprisingly small.

  • avatar

    “Corvette Summer”, “To Live and Die in LA” and “Basic Instinct”.

  • avatar

    It’s hard to pick one movie, but there is no doubt that the best car television show is Archer on FX.

    The best non-automotive car commercial is the one for Doritos with the El Camino on a 4X4 chassis.

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    Best car chase scene is Bullitt with Steve McQueen.

    • 0 avatar

      >Bullitt with Steve McQueen

      Lots of people say that, but was it really? Even when compared with Ronin, Gone in 60 Seconds (the original), Dirty Mary, Crazy Larry, and the Blues Brothers? I always thought that Bullitt, while a good movie, was just a basic car chase movie that got way too much attention just because everyone, including non-car people were aware of it.

      • 0 avatar

        That’s true, but you have to also acknowledge that it’s not the content so much as the way it was done. Before Bullitt, car “chases” were shot at tame speeds and then sped up, so it came out looking like those goofy comedies where people walking looks like an awkward run. What Bullitt had done was make it real-time speeds, and did so without prior knowledge from the city of San Francisco. After that, it set a new bar.

        I’ll admit, as a non-car movie, “It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World” had plenty of great antics in 1963– including some jumps, an old 4×4 losing a wheel in a tunnel then flipping, and of course a driverless tow-truck rolling down hill with that awful mother-in-law squawking all the way to the bottom, ending in a J-turn.

        When it comes to chases, Bullitt simply put a new standard on the map. Having an iconically unique Mustang (at the time) also helped, just as how the new Gone in 60 Seconds had a more iconic (unique) GT500 than the original OE Mach 1 that didn’t even have mag wheels.

        • 0 avatar

          It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World is also my favorite car movie.

          A scene from original Gone in 60 Seconds was filmed in my neighborhood. We were watching on 190th st (the steep hill) The studio ended up buying more new Cadillacs than it intended, as the stunt driver took out a few extra cars in the crash scene at the dealership.

          • 0 avatar

            I remember that from the DVD special features. I wonder how the Caddy dealer reacted at first :p

            Haliki probably just saw it as “Hey, more cars for next time… if there is a next time.” I need to see some of his other works, still. Shame how he went out.

          • 0 avatar

            Bullitt was helped by San Francisco, which is made for car chases. One of my guilty pleasures is the car chase from The Dead Pool where Dirty Harry gets chased around San Francisco by a little RC car with a bomb in it.

      • 0 avatar

        Don’t sleep on that classic chase scene under the “L” in “The French Connection”.

      • 0 avatar

        I think that sells it short. Regarding the car chase – it’s visceral and brutal in a way few are . even the seat belt buckling scene is the cap on the tense lead up to the chase – these are serious men who mean serious business. Then all hell breaks loose.

        But Bullitt is underrated as a precursor to the golden era of 70s american films. The way it dealt with death, the way it was filmed was a foreshadowing of films like The French Connection, Bonnie and Clyde, China Town, and The Conversation. It might not have been as well realized as some of those films but it paved the path.

  • avatar

    I am partial to Eric Bana’s documentary Love the Beast. It’s a great story of one guy’s (sometimes troubled) love affair with his Australian Ford Falcon.

  • avatar

    I watched The Junkman a couple of weeks ago. It was online for free. I had forgotten about it.
    H. B. Halicki who made the first Gone in 60 Seconds put in his heart in soul. There are so many cars destroyed. Some painful to see; some of the malaise were good riddance. Very enjoyable.

  • avatar

    Car movies? My favorite car show was a TV series that was actually shown in 1962: The Untouchables. Late ’20s to early ’30s Chevys, Fords, Buicks, Dodges, Pontiacs, and Oldsmobiles careening around corners with gangsters firing machine guns out the windows! They all looked alike to me, but my dad could identify the cars in every scene. He noticed most of the “everyday” cars shown as street traffic were actually top end models of their day. I guess those were the ones that survived 30 years, not the economy models.

  • avatar

    Check out “Hot Cars” sometime. It’s an old 1956 B-movie about a stolen car ring, but it has tons of great shots of mid 50’s California and lots of old cars, some of them pretty unique.

    It’s on Netflix Instant right now.

  • avatar

    I don’t have a clear favorite but two suggestions, oddly, both French:
    – Ascenseur pour l’échafaud, for the Mercedes 300 SL
    – Le Salaire de la peur

  • avatar

    American Graffiti
    Two-lane Blacktop
    Vanishing Point

  • avatar

    American Graffiti because it’s the only place I’ve ever seen a ’58 Impala get some love. Magnificent car.

  • avatar

    Where was I in ’62?

    In high school in Southern California.

    Cruisin’ every weekend.

    Thank you Lord.

  • avatar

    Repo Man. Each car seemed to fit the character’s personality as they searched for the mystical 64 Malibu. Great soundtrack too.

  • avatar

    There are really so many to choose from, my favorites would be Bullitt and the Blues Brothers.

    Bullitt is obvious for me, Steve McQueen and the ’68 fastack GT in Highland Green sitting on Torquethrusts; and Bill Hickan’s imposing ’68 Charger R/T 440 triple black…. yes please.

    The Blues Brothers has to take the cake though. Not only is the movie genuinely funny and has great musical talent, but the car chases really put it over the top and the car is a very unlikely hero. A beat to Hell ’74 Dodge Monaco doesn’t sound like much, until we figure out it’s a police spec model with a 440 Magnum with “cop shocks and cop tires”.

    Then we have the chases, just gleeful in execution…. there’s the highly amusing scene where the Blues Brothers just absolutely destroy Dixie Square Mall while being chased by the Illinois State Police, the scene where the Brothers humiliate the Illinois Nazi’s on the bridge (I smile whenever I see Henry Gibson’s “Oh Crap!” face when he hears the 440 rev up!) or the final scene with half of Illinois’ police car fleet getting demolished… though the highlight is when they are driving on the bridge and they let the 440 be heard with no music, that made it…. then when they show you Elwood’s ‘Certified’ speedometer pointing at 120 MPH to prove that they really did it.

  • avatar

    Yes, American Graffiti is the best car movie, primarily because it’s a good movie with a good script, acting, and directing. The cars (and music) really are an integral part of the movie. And it’s not just the main ’55 Chevy, ’32 Deuce, ’56 T-bird, and ’58 Impala. While every car seen in the movie is cool (including Richard Dreyfuss’ Citroen 2CV and the Pharoahs’ ’51 Mercury lowrider), it’s the actors’ performances which make the cars memorable.

    As proof, consider the exceptionally bad copy, Hollywood Knights. There are a lot of cool cars in that one, too, but the movie otherwise sucks (the low point being Robert Wuhl farting ‘Volaré’ into a microphone)

    But it’s not the worst cool car movie. That (dis)honor would have to go to the really bad 1997 tv-movie remake of Vanishing Point. Yeah, it had a ’70 Challenger like the original (and even a black ’68 Charger R/T clone from Bullitt) but it’s so bad as to be unwatchable.

    After Graffiti, the second best car movie would have to be Two-Lane Blacktop which, ironically, was the debut of the same ’55 Chevy that would be used later in Graffiti.

  • avatar


    I think an argument could be made for the Bond Series. They’ve spent a great deal of time promoting vehicles, whether it was Bond’s DB5 or Aki’s Toyota 2000GT. Not many movie series have entire Wiki articles dedicated to all of the desirable vehicles featured on the silver screen.

  • avatar

    H. B. Halicki who made the first Gone in 60 Seconds, was AWESOME, it was a “B” movie that so damn good it caused an over budget, over acted remake. When I left the movie that night, some guy in a yellow Mustange like the one in the movie, did a smoking burn-out in front of the theater!Truely, while the acting was good, the cars were the stars.

  • avatar

    The 1979 movie called Hot Rod ( just Google Hot Rod Munn’s root beer) one of my favs, and while the culture and acceptance of the automobile might have been better back then, these days seem to be the golden age of the gasoline powered performance cars.

  • avatar

    I vote for the original Gone in 60 seconds. My buddy and I left the theater and I had the only Mustang in the parking lot. I tried to burn rubber in the lot but unfortunately I also happened to have the slowest Mustang in the world!

  • avatar

    I’m partial to the over the top performances and the great cars in The Gumball Rally. Raul Julia was superb as “Franco” the Italian race car driver, and who can forget the melodious sound of a V-12 Ferrari Daytona Spyder resonating off the buildings in NYC in the wee hours of the morning.

  • avatar
    B Buckner

    Vanishing Point, not even close.

  • avatar

    Grand Prix
    Vanishing Point
    Two Lane Blacktop
    Le Mans
    Gumball Rally
    Dirty Mary Crazy Larry

  • avatar

    I’ll go with the obvious for numbers 2 and 3.
    2) Ronin
    3) Bullitt
    But the one that did for me was “The Gods Must be Crazy”. I bought (and still have) a 1961 Series II Land Rover because of the movie.

  • avatar

    Cannon Ball Run – Why? Pure insanity, that’s why. Where else could you see an primate driving a Cadillac and an early 80s Chrysler limo on the same screen? :P

  • avatar

    I don’t know about “American Graffiti” being a car movie, but for me, it was the story of my life from the time I got my license in 1967 until it all ended with the oil crisis in 1973.

    I saw “American Graffiti” as a sneak preview at the Century 21 theater in Sacramento on Friday, August 10, 1973 – my final weekend in the service – I got out Monday, August 13!

    At the local Steak ‘n’ Shake in Jennings, MO, cops still had to direct traffic because of all the cruising and the resulting traffic jam! This was in the summer of 1972! I experienced that when home on leave that July. Same in other suburban STL areas.

    This was also the rule in Yuba City, CA when I was in the air force. I had the right car, too – my beloved yellow 1964 Impala SS convertible! Same goes for the Sacramento area.

    All the endless cruising ended in March, 1973, with the first oil shock. Few can imagine how, overnight – literally – gas prices in my NoCal area shot up 6 cents to 31.9 from an average of 25.9 per gallon.

    The price never did come down from there, and that ended the cruising every kid back then took for granted. Life sure changed for me from that time on.

    As to the cars, we took all those cars for granted – that they would always be there, and we Boomers who LOVED cars received the shock of our lives when the 1973 models debuted in September, 1972!

    My goodness, what a privileged generation we were and the wonderful times we enjoyed! Yes – they WERE good times for many of us, and that’s not looking back through rose-colored glasses, either – at least in my case.

    • 0 avatar

      So true! It was the story of my life too up to June 1965 when I joined the Air Force to evade getting drafted into the Army.

      But in my case, I ended up marrying the Suzanne Sommers character of my movie version. Still married 47 years later to the same woman although now there is much silver among the gold.

      • 0 avatar

        Highdesertcat, congratulations on 47 years! I’m 62, so you have a few years on me.

        My “Suzanne Somers” dream girl was in Yuba City, driving a 1965 white w/black vinyl top and red interior Ford Galaxie 500 coupe!

        Trouble was, I was w-a-a-a-a-y too immature for a relationship besides my car at the time! Probably fortunate in retrospect…

        My next “SS” girl was to be my wife! When I met her, she drove a 1970 Mustang convertible. What’s really funny about this is that when I was out in CA, (she in Missouri) we both owned YELLOW 1964 Impalas – only hers wasn’t an SS and had a white top, whereas mine had a black top! We met in 1975 and married in 1977.

        Life has been good. I hope yours has, too.

        • 0 avatar

          @ Zackman and HDC..Wow I feel like a kid. In 1962 I was in grade 3. I met the girl of my dreams in 1972 while she was a waitress. I had a 62 Strato Chief. She worked at a gas station/restaurant. I could afford either gas or food,not both. I bought 2 dollars worth of gas,and she bought me a burger with her tip money.
          Oh yeah anybody remember” Hot Rods To Hell ” We watched it on her Dads Black and white TV with “Rabbit ears|”
          Two weeks later I landed a job on the line at GM. So I took my big pay check and treated her to a fancy place.

          4o years married, next week.
          Agreed it was the best times to grow up in. I’ll be 60 in December,and these days I have no regrets.

          • 0 avatar

            mikey, I know the feeling. When I met my wife in 1965 I was driving a ’57 Pontiac, making $119 every two weeks in AF pay.

            I was perpetually broke and she worked on the Base as Civil Service making a lot more money than a two-striper.

            As the son of a legal-immigrant I had to make do with hand-me-downs from father to son.

            I drove my dad’s ’60 Mercury for awhile until I could find me a car I wanted, and the ’57 Pontiac Hardtop got my attention. The ’60 Merc went to my younger brother, next in line.

            In 1965 my dad didn’t have the money to send me to college, so the US Air Force was my destination.

            I born in and grew up in Huntington Beach, CA, so there was no auto industry employer of any size there and at the time the Army was looking for draftees and found them among the people not headed for college, just like in the movie.

            It is experiences like ours that set us apart from the youngsters of the current era. Life was different back then. And if you didn’t work, you didn’t eat. There were no freebies, bailouts and handouts.

            Besides, my dad had my bags packed and on the sidewalk the day I graduated from HS. His attitude toward me having to make it on my own has stayed with me and I expected the same from my kids.

            In any case, it’s good to know that some of us share core life-experiences and can appreciate our youth, and our cars.

            But the times have changed and our grand kids start off with two strikes against them right off the bat, UNLESS WE, as parents and grand parents, can smooth the way for them to give them an unfair edge over their competition.

            I give my grandkids cars, a college education, anything and everything to give them the upper hand when it comes time to compete for a job these days.

        • 0 avatar
          Firestorm 500

          My first car was a ’65 Galaxie 500 2 door hardtop. White with red interior. 289 automatic, power steering and A/C. MANUAL DRUM brakes.

        • 0 avatar

          Zack, I’ll be 67 in a few months.

          Out of basic and after Tech School at Sheppard I was assigned to the AF Missile Development Center at Holloman at Civil Engineering in Roads and Grounds, and my to-be-wife’s dad worked at the Test Track as a civilian engineer for missiles.

          I cut the desert shrubbery before each run so his hi-speed cameras could film all the action on the track. I even got to watch the rockets speed down the track.

          Her dad took a liking to me, invited me up to his Boy Scout Retreat in the mountains as a staff member on weekends. Hey, the rest is history. I was smitten, she was smitten, and her old man loves me like kin, to this very day.

          When I met my wife, she was driving a ’62 Falcon, the daddy of all Mustangs.

          My life’s been great and I hope to make my grandkids’ lives even better than mine has been.

          Times are tough these days. Not like when you and I were in our late teens and early twenties. That’s why that movie rings a bell with me.

          • 0 avatar

            HDC, as I said above, I was in the air force from 1969-1973. We were a working-poor family, and I couldn’t get a real job after H.S. due to being draft-bait, and no money for college.

            I wound up at Beale AFB in the SR-71 program right out of basic – a direct-duty assignment as an Illustrator – the pinnacle of the AF! Stayed there in mission planning for my whole hitch.

            AF pay? Yup. $129/month in ’69.

            My life was very, very good for those four years, and being in NoCal with the most iconic car I would ever own helped!

            Fantastic times, in spite of the stuff going on back then. I’m thankful I came away unscathed by the war, drugs and alcohol.

            I thank my upbringing – and that car I owned – I poured everything into that ’64 and it kept me out of trouble! It was well worth it.

            Cars, cruising and music…just like the movie! “American Graffiti” WAS the story of our lives for our generation!

            I actually was able to listen to Wolfman Jack sometimes at night while cruising around in the foothills and the valley, all the way from XPRS’ transmitter in Mexico! When I heard him in the movie – well, that really tied things together!

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    Another neat movie with cars was Thunder Road with Robert Mitchum as a bootleg runner with a souped up 49 or 50 Ford and then a souped up 57 Ford Fairlane. The hidden compartments for the moonshine in the cars was neat. The movie was filmed about 1958.

  • avatar

    Some of the cruise photos in the story were taken from a major car show last summer in my town. The energy from this Friday night cruise was off the charts in our town. I have to add another personal favorite to the list: It’s a Mad Mad Mad Mad World.

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    @Zachman–Maybe but the 73 and 74 cars even though they were not as sharp styling were still decent except the Mustang II. 1975 to me was the beginning of the true malaise era of cars with catalytic converters and unexcitable performance. My 73 Chevelle, though not a real looker had lots of power and the 350 was one of the best running engines I have had.

    • 0 avatar

      Quite true, but my bubble had burst with the slow disappearance of the pillarless hardtop and the introduction of the Colonnades.

      That signalled the end to me.

      That being said, it was hard to beat the 1973 Pontiac Grand Am…a very sharp-looking car, Colonnade or not!

  • avatar

    Fast and Furious.
    All of them.

    *Runs for cover*

    TBH, regardless of that series’ flaws, at least it did usher in a level of interest in cars in the younger generations that viewed it.
    Whether or not this interest is positive, is entirely open for discussion.

    • 0 avatar

      You’re absolutely right.

      The first one was actually pretty good. A big deal when it came out since the import scene really started taking off back then; on to becoming as mainstream as it is now. Yeah, it’s goofy in spots and there are some pretty big mistakes made in it, but I did like it, but then again I was 18 or so when it came out. Hell, even Ebert liked the movie! The cars were pretty cool, aside from the over the top graphics put on them, but I did like the orange Supra and the blue Stillen supercharged Maxima. My only real disapointment with the film is the yellow R33 Skyline GT-R, they did nothing with it, but that was one of the first mainstream appearances the Skyline made in North America at the time.

      The 2nd one was pretty bad though, what a stupid story they made for it! The start of it was good, with Paul Walker and his R34 GT-R and his RB26DETT wailing away, but way downhill from there…..

      • 0 avatar

        I dunno, i’m kinda mixed on the first FATF. Its one of those movies where it is so outlandishly bad that its GOOD, ya know?

        FATF seriously rivals some Ed Wood movies for laughably bad dialogue, but at least it never gets dull.

  • avatar
    CA Guy

    Sometimes you watch movies just for the cars or the driving; once in a while the movie also is pretty good(*):

    Portrait in Black (late 50’s Mopar love +a 190SL)
    *Elevator to the Gallows (1958 Louis Malle film, 300SL love)
    *The French Connection (Lincoln porn, great chase)
    No Man’s Land (the 1987 Peter Werner film featuring Porsches and Charlie Sheen)
    *Drive (crazy but fun)

  • avatar

    Not sure why no one has said Smokey and the Bandit yet. It is a wonderfully funny movie with a great cast and kick-ass music.

    As a kid I loved the car chases and the shallowness of Burt Reynolds character. As an adult, I love how profane Jackie Gleason is, especially when he is insulting his son.

    That movie is too much fun.

    • 0 avatar

      “Yew Sum’bitch!”

    • 0 avatar

      “As an adult, I love how profane Jackie Gleason is, especially when he is insulting his son.”

      The only one that comes close is Charles Durning’s character Pappy O’Daniel from Oh Brother Where Art Thou.

      • 0 avatar

        O’ Brother Where Art Thou is a helluva good movie, Also yeah Jackie Gleason in Smokey and the Bandit movie, my favorite scene involved Gleason’s character and the state cop who pulled him over and used some profanity.

        so many good lines.

    • 0 avatar
      Carlson Fan

      Sally Field gets into the TA for the first time after her get away car leaves her on the side of the road.

      Sally field: Does thing move?

      Burt Reynolds: Oh yaaaa!

      Watch for the nice second gear scratch as he takes off. That TA definitely had a great posi.

  • avatar

    I can’t believe no one has mentioned C’etait un Rendezvous yet.

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    @Zachman-You do have a point 72 was the last year for the hardtop. The GM colonnades and the opera windows spelled the end of the hardtops, but safety standards would have eventually done hardtops in anyway. Some of the cars they didn’t look too bad with the colonnade and opera windows. I myself miss the vent windows on the front sides of the cars. The73 Pontiac Grand Am and the Chevelle Laguna were both nice and I liked the 73 Grand Prix and Monte Carlo but I really like the 63 Grand Prix and the 62 thru 67 Chevy Impala Super Sports and mid to late 60s GM 2 door hardtop Cutlasses(442s),Lemans(especially GTOs,Malibus(SS),and Skylarks. One of the worst era of cars were early to late 80s Fords, GMs, and Chryslers which used their smaller car front wheel drive platforms for their larger cars. The Fairmont based Thunderbird and Cougar and the K car Cordobas and New Yorkers were really terrible for any true car lover. There are some nice cars currently but the pre 73 cars of our youth are gone, but at least we got to enjoy them.

    Today’s cars are more reliable, but most look very much alike and are about as exciting as a refrigerator or washing machine. Hyundai has some nice styling but Toyotas are very stodgy looking. Maybe that is one reason why today’s youth is not that interested in cars besides cars being so expensive and many of the youth are underemployed.

  • avatar
    Carlson Fan

    Dazed and Confused has some nice cars in it although I would not call it the best. More Like honorable mention.

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    @Firestorm 500–Yes that is true and the Mustangs from 1979 on were much better than the Pinto based Mustang IIs of 1974 thru 1978. The Mercury Cougars from 1980 and on were not so great as were the LTD II and the midsize Marquis.

  • avatar

    The Wagon Queen Family Truckster…..You think you hate it now, wait till you drive it.

  • avatar

    It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World.

    Next question?

  • avatar

    I’ve got to agree with the author of the article… American Graffiti. But then live in Modesto, Ca where the movie was set (and George Lucas grew up)>

  • avatar

    Flame on, but I grew up in the 80’s and there was nothing cooler to me than the time traveling flying Delorean from Back to the Future with honorable mention going to anything James Bond drove. I was a kid and wouldn’t realize until many years later that Bond flicks of my day were cheesy crap, but a Lotus Esprit that can turn into a submarine and drive up a beach was good with my 8 year old mind.

  • avatar

    A greatly underrated car movie was (don`t laugh) the Elvis movie Spinout.
    Cobras, a Cheetah, Ferrari, Mclaren, Corvettes, Trimuph, some unidentified fiberglass cars and even a Duesenberg.

  • avatar

    I’ll take Mad Max as my #1. I love that movie!

  • avatar
    healthy skeptic

    Okay, late to the game, but I gotta chime in:

    Blues Brothers – this is actually a pretty amazing movie, in retrospect. It’s a great comedy, AND a great movie, AND has some of the baddest chase scenes put to film. A true classic, and its value gets better with age because most of the music legends (and one of the comedy legends) are no longer with us.

    French Connection – Yup. Look out for that baby carriage.

    Bullitt. – Yup. (Especially the way Steve McQueen magically teleports through the streets of San Francisco. I didn’t know you could make a turn in Bernal Heights and be in North Beach.)

    Ronin – Funny to say for an over-the-top action movie, but while the chase scenes were technically amazing, they went on for so long, and there were so many of them, that I burned out, and it strained the movie’s credibility. I mean, how long can you really drive the wrong way down a freeway where the oncoming cars are in a formation that allows you to weave perfectly through them?

    Raiders of the Lost Ark – A chase scene where the principle vehicle is a cargo truck. Original and awesome.

    I feel like I’m forgetting a bunch…

  • avatar


  • avatar

    I have two more suggestions, both involving trucks:
    – Duell by Steven Spielberg
    – Convoy

    • 0 avatar

      And another one:
      – Death Proof (shown in the US as part of Grindhouse double-feature)

      • 0 avatar

        The shoddy looking addition window frames into that Challenger ruined the accuracy of that movie. As soon as I saw them I was angred over the obviously crappy job. Wasn’t their any other car that they could have used?

    • 0 avatar

      “- Duell by Steven Spielberg”

      I just couldn’t believe how good that movie was.
      Spielberg really cranked up the suspense and desperation in what should have been a laughably absurd plot.

  • avatar

    The Fast And The Furious, first movie. THE car movie of my generation. Ofcourse lot of technical aspects of the movie were silly and not logical, but that’s besides the point. The movie had a great vibe to it, great cast (good chemistry between them) and impressive camerawork. Who wouldn’t want to part of Dom’s crew/family?:) And it had the most important ingredient of a true car movie – the love for cars. For example Ronin is a very good movie, but I think it’s not a car movie, like FF or American Graffiti, or Two Lane Blacktop.

    FF made cars cool again to mainstream public/young generation, and it was cool to own a fast/special car, it was cool to talk about cars etc. Fifteen years later that is basically gone – the current cool is social media, celebrity gossip, latest phones/pads, bycicles even? I think “car movie” for the current young generation is a movie called Premium Rush. Kids on bycicles, male lead is not masculine, but more towards sensitive etc.

    I’m 34 and I get my rush from my 400hp S14, not from riding a bycicle :) I feel like I’m getting old :)

  • avatar
    DC Bruce

    Late to the party, but an offbeat choice is “Un Homme et une Femme” (“A Man and a Woman”) which revolves around romance, car racing and some of the most ear-worm worthy soundtrack you’ll ever hear . . . as well as being beautifully photographed.

    This is not a movie about cars — viz. “American Graffiti” — it is about the romance of cars: the danger and excitement of car racing, the romance of a car interior as a small, intimate space where a relationship between a man and a woman can unfold as the world outside passes by.

    It doesn’t hurt that the two leads are excellent, and handsome, actors. (Can one say of a woman that she is handsome? I think so.)

    I’m sure you can rent it on netflix or something.

  • avatar

    ” C’etait un Rendezvous ” ~ I’m amazed that apparently only two of us know this flick ? seems odd .

    Also the original 1967 ” The Italian Job ” , I found it not long ago and showed it to my son who’s a modern Japanese Racer , he liked it and thought it to be a very good ‘ car movie ‘ .

    Thanx for all the various other suggestions , I thought I was alone in thinking ” It’s A Mad , Mad , Mad World ” was a car movie ~ I saw it in the theatre when new and have always loved it , no one mentioned Phil Silver’s battered old Ford Convertible going downriver….

    Keep it coming ! .


  • avatar

    The Blues Brothers. Okay technically not a car movie, but the Bluesmobile has a starring role and there are even “tribute” Bluesmobiles running around these days. Cab Calloway also drives a Caddymino which is only seen for a few seconds. Carrie Fisher’s collonade Pontiac and the Neo-nazi’s Pinto/ Bobcat wagon and hundreds of Royal Monacos and Grand Furys!

  • avatar

    Let me put my fire suit on here.


    *The Fast and the Furious*

    • 0 avatar

      I enjoyed the movie for the car scenes, but I disliked the way they mixed up car culture and “urban” culture. I’ve been around the block a couple of times now and have never seen anything like what was portrayed in the F&F.

      Hundreds of people appearing in desolate sections of the city in cars with fart cans, obscene wings and neon and having a giant party? Yeah right. The police would be all over that before it could even get started. Kind of hard to miss one of them going by, never mind a 100 of them puring into a bad neighborhood…

      But I suppose four greasy guys with clapped out Fox Mustangs sitting around a parking lot with no hot girls anywhere in sight (and no hopes of them ever showing up either) is less compelling. Oh well, it’s call fiction for a reason.

      • 0 avatar


        I loved F&F when it came out….and I was in 4th grade. I’ve seen it hundreds of times and naturally being young I thought that this was really what street racing was all about…

        I still get a laugh out of it when it’s on…

  • avatar

    Did anybody mention The Wraith? Thats my favorite. It had a young Charlie Sheen, who basically comes back from the dead as an alien in a cheesy yet indestructable Chrysler concept car and systematically eliminates the gang who killed him through various races in said concept car. The opening scene has a Turbo Dodge Daytona handing it to a 70’s Vette. Great flick.

  • avatar

    Mad Max 2 (Best Australian Car movie)
    Blues Brothers
    It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World.
    Original Italian Job

  • avatar

    An overlooked film is “Two Lane Blacktop”. The lead characters are named “The driver” and “the Mechanic”. They tool around in a heavily modified 55 Chevy 150 looking for street races. If you want to see pretty cars this isn’t the film – if you want to see what it might have been like on the streets in the 70s this is your film.

    It stars James Taylor , Dennis Wilson, Warren Oates and Laurie Bird. There’s a great scene where Taylor is sitting on a fence in the golden summer sun staring dreamily. Beautiful Laurie Bird comes up and asks what he’s thinking. Taylor pauses , looks at her and says something like:” If we changed the jetting and retarded the spark I think we could get a tenth of a second.”

    A wonderful film.

    Also Bullitt, Vanishing Point, and the car chase in the second Bourne Identity – wow.

    • 0 avatar

      Yep, it’s a keeper.

      Awesome: Some years ago I bought a collector’s edition of TLB, which came in a cool metal box with memorabilia.

      Not awesome: It’s VHS, not DVD.

  • avatar
    CA Guy

    An Education – for that magnificent maroon Bristol 405.

  • avatar

    Grand Prix

    I have not seen American Graffiti. I’ll have to check it out.

    My favorite, mostly for nostalgic reasons, is Speed Zone, the 3rd Cannonball Run movie. I haven’t seen it since I was a kid but it had a big impact on me then. I assume it’s actually a pretty bad movie (3.9 on imdb) but as a kid, any movie starring (in my mind anyway) 2 Lamborghini Countaches (and other cool cars I didn’t recognize at the time) was automatically awesome. This movie was a big part of why I like cars today.

  • avatar

    I can’t believe no one has mentioned Chitty chitty bang bang.

    Just kidding!

    More seriously, I liked Duel. I always liked that red Dodge Dart that Dennis Weaver drove.

  • avatar

    Dazed and Confused gets my vote, essentially a ’70s American Grafitti. For me D&C is a time capsule of my high school days and it’s like driving through the high school lot all over again. Gotta love Wooderson’s ’70 Chevelle with the 454.

    • 0 avatar

      Good work, man! I love Dazed and Confused.
      I’ve been watching this thread growing and can’t believe it took this long for someone to mention it.

      When I was little, my Dad made me stay up way later than I should have done to watch American Graffiti. I reciprocated by giving him Dazed and Confused on DVD.

  • avatar

    “Used Cars” with Kurt Russell, Jack Warden, Deborah Harmon, and Gerrit Graham. Only because the first part of the movie makes me laugh out loud. Russell pushes a sand bag under one of the rear tires of a station wagon some hapless family is testing. When they drive over it Russell yells that they’ve just run over his dog that he’s had since it was a puppy. Another sale!

  • avatar

    “Mad Max”. I was 12 when it came out and the notion that there could be another country on the planet that had a car culture similar to (if not more maniacally devoted than) the United States was an eye-opening experience. The Ford Falcon XB Coupe is one of my favorite designs of all time…so I was pretty stoked when Eric Bana’s “Love The Beast” documentary made its way to the States, as well.

    And yeah, “The Fast & The Furious”…for a guy who grew up when performance cars were either exotic sports cars or hot-rodded US muscle/pony cars, the import scene was something new and interesting, so much so that these days my dream car has become the Evo X.

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