Cars have long been quite the American pastime. From building to collecting cars, from racing to driving them from searching for pieces at an auto parts warehouse on weekend afternoons, there can be no doubt that automobiles have earned their place in the greater spectrum of American culture. The American fascination with cars has made them the subject of the silver screen for decades. During this time and leading to the present day, countless American car movies have been made. While you may have your own tastes and opinions regarding what American car movies truly rank as the “best,” we will examine what are five of the most beloved and well-regarded ones of the past several decades.
You might be surprised that our countdown kicks off with an animated film, but, indeed, the 2006 American movie “Cars,” produced by Pixar, has earned its rightful place there. The cast includes an all-star car line up, including a Porsche Carrera, a Hudson Hornet, a Volkswagen Microbus and a Ford Model T, among others. Children will enjoy these colorful characters, while gearheads will appreciate the painstaking attention to detail and design, as well as a few insider cameos. Director John Lasseter worked to weave a few details into the story that were inspired by real Route 66 places and people. Keep your eyes and ears peeled for these references; you won’t be disappointed.
“Gone in 60 Seconds” (1974, 2000)
Most recently a millennial action film, “Gone in 60 Seconds” was a remake of the original, which debuted way back in 1974. The original film is famous in its own right, most well-known for having destroyed 93 cars in a 34-minute car chase scene. The plot centers on an operation to boost up to 50 cars in just three days’ time. The more recent version stars Nicholas Cage, a character originally played by H.P. “Toby” Halicki, who is pulled out of retirement and back into the dangerous and fast-paced world of car theft. While the writing in both films may be somewhat less than stellar, the showcase of vehicles throughout either is enough to keep true car enthusiasts interested.
“Smokey and the Bandit” (1977)
The release of the 1977 action comedy film, “Smokey and the Bandit” made it an instant American car movie classic. The movie, which stars Burt Reynolds as “Bandit,” Sally Field as “Frog” and Jackie Gleason as “Smokey Bear” was the fourth highest-grossing movie of 1977.The film follows Bandit and his sidekicks as they haul a tractor trailer of Coors beer across county lines, all the time fending off a sheriff who’s hot on their trail.
As they sometimes say, “No guts, no glory.” In this American dramatic thriller, Steve McQueen stars as “Bullitt,” a San Francisco police lieutenant who’s on a mission to find the kingpin who assassinated a witness under his protection. The film was a hit success at the box office and among critics at the time, and continues to be so among audiences today. The film is regarded as having one of the most influential car chase scenes in movie history. In 2007, its fate as a legendary movie was sealed, as it was selected by the Library of Congress for preservation in the United States National Film Registry.
“American Graffiti” (1973)
The 1973 coming-of-age story “American Graffiti” lands at number one our list. The film tells the story of a group of friends, played by Ron Howard, Richard Dreyfuss and Harrison Ford, cruising around Modesto, California in 1962. Among the cars featured in the film are a 1932 Ford Coupe, 1955 Chevy, 1958 Chevy Impala, 1951 Mercury Coupe and a 1956 Ford Thunderbird. The film was produced on a limited budget of just $775,000. It was, and continues to be, so well-received by critics and audiences, it has become one of the most profitable films in cinematic history.
About the Author: Bobby Dresden is a blogger who has always been fascinated by American car history and pop culture. He has a small car collection and for it, he often buys discount auto parts online.