Over the course of cinema, vehicles have always played a leading role. From The Lumiere Brothers’ “Train Arriving At A Station” – which had early cinema goers running from the theatre in fear – to all the shiny, Nitros-fuelled chaos of The Fast & The Furious films.
But while we all know about 007’s Aston Martin, The Batmobile and Marty McFly’s time-travelling DeLorean, sometimes it’s the lesser known cars that play a big part. Can’t think of them off the top of your head? Here are six of the greatest unsung car heroes of cinema.
1) Mini – The Bourne Identity
Okay, so The Mini had played an iconic role in the Italian Job, it has always been iconic, but Jason Bourne actually used the car to its full potential. Using the little motor to outwit, outsmart and outdrive the Parisian Police force. It’s the endlessly inventive use of the car paired with the high-pitched, lawnmower-esque sound of it’s small engine that makes this particular car star so gripping.
2) Citroen 2CV – For Your Eyes Only
Oh James! Bond has always had an eye for the coolest cars around, from his Aston Martins, his BMW’s to his submersible Lotus. It is a great surprise, however, when he’s forced to escape a horde of villians in a banged-up little Citroen 2CV. Driving down a Spanish hillside, Bond even quips, “I’m afraid we’re being out horse powered”. Nonetheless, the little 2CV, driven with a wry smile by Roger Moore, manages to outfox the villains in their intimidating black Peugeots.
3) 1963 Volkswagen Beetle – Herbie The Love Bug
The VW Beetle doesn’t exactly scream FILM STAR. But that’s exactly what it became thanks to the Herbie franchise. Perfectly capturing everything great about this little car, Herbie is the plucky underdog with a big heart. The fact it manages to out-perform it’s bigger engined rivals race after race is testament to the reliability that is synonymous with all things VW.
4) BMW X5 – Locke
While being gripped by Tom Hardy’s near-solo performance it’s easy to overlook the single location of the entire film: his BMW X5. Rarely has a car played such a crucial part in a film while remaining quietly unassuming. Within the context of the film the X5 is Locke’s entire world, his refuge from the chaos unfolding before him, his chariot taking him to his end-goal, it’s speaker system his contact with the outside world. In any other film it would become a BMW commercial, here it is to the car’s testament it takes a polite backseat and lets the drama unfurl within.
5) 1971 Plymouth Valiant DeLuxe – Duel
Before he scared the crap out of the entire world with Jaws, Steven Spielberg was terrifying us with big trucks? It sounds like a high-concept piece of cinematic nonsense but in reality is an exercise in perfectly crafted tension. Watching mild mannered salesman Dennis Weaver come up against a hulking, diesel- spewing truck is never short of breathless. The star of the show might well be the truck itself but let’s give a bit of credit to Weaver’s dependable Plymouth that, arguably, goes through more of an ordeal than weaver himself. This generic little car is always there when the big truck looms large.
6) 1973 Chevrolet Chevelle Malibu – Drive
A film this effortlessly cool needed a car as iconic as Steve McQueen’s Mustang in Bullitt. But it doesn’t get one, which makes it all the cooler. Instead Ryan Gosling’s near silent driver chooses a banged up old Chevy. Like him it’s below the radar slick, intentionally a little rough around the edges yet oozing a sense of charm. And in one of the film’s most gorgeous scenes acts as the perfect romantic getaway.