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Alfa Romeo, the sporty Italian car brand owned by Fiat, made news recently with a report from The Wall Street Journal that Fiat CEO Sergio Marchionne was planning a re-launch of the brand in the United States. According to the report, Fiat’s plan includes assembly, testing and distribution in the U.S. with the release of a two-seater sports car and an upscale sedan, the Giulia, in 2014. The Alfa Romeo brand has not been sold in the United States since 1995.
Indeed, while Alfa Romeo cars are sold in 59 countries and territories, the brand has no presence in the three major North American economies (U.S., Canada, Mexico), according to the company. A move into North America, therefore, represents a big potential expansion opportunity.
First released in the U.S. in the 1950’s, part of Alfa Romeo’s historical popularity was spurred from its role in film, helping it to become an iconic brand in the country for several decades. The following are examples of films that have included Alfa Romeo cars, bolstering the allure of the century-old Italian car.
By Paul Toscano
Posted 24 September 2012
Perhaps the most famous use of an Alfa Romeo in film is 1967's The Graduate, starring Dustin Hoffman. The Graduate is easily the most popular film to feature an Alfa Romeo, ranking 21st all-time in box office gross when adjusted for inflation. In the film, Dustin Hoffman drives through California in a series 1 “Duetto” Spider, which was in production between 1966-67.
In the 1983 film Octopussy, James Bond (played by Roger Moore) steals an Alfa Romeo GTV6 as he heads towards Octopussy’s circus troupe on a U.S. air force base in West Germany. In the scene, Bond is pursued by two police BMWs and a motorcycle through German highways and side streets, roaring the iconic Alfa Romeo engine throughout the scene.
Another James Bond film to feature Alfa Romeo models was the 2008 Quantum of Solace, starring Daniel Craig. In the first scene of the film, Bond, driving a gray Aston Martin in the area around Lake Garda, Italy, is chased by two black Alfa Romeo 159 Ti cars, both of which are ultimately destroyed. During the filming of the scene, Aris Comninos, a stunt man driving one of the 159’s was seriously injured when the car crashed into a truck. Fortunately, he was airlifted to an Italian trauma center and as of 2011 was on the path to recovery.
The Marseille Contract, which was eventually renamed The Destructors, is a film about a U.S. intelligence agent who, when he was unable to bring a drug baron to justice through conventional means, hires a contract killer to finish the job. In the film, John Deray, played by Michael Caine, drives an Alfa Romeo Montreal alongside a yellow Porsche 911, in a choreographed “race” through the mountains of France. The Montreal, which was discontinued in 1977, used a 2.6L V8 and could reach top speeds of 137 mph.
In Francis Ford Coppola’s masterpiece The Godfather, Alfa Romeo makes a cameo appearance, although the notable scene does not end favorably for the car. After completing a mob hit, Michael Corleone (played by Al Pacino), takes refuge in Sicily while the five families engage in open warfare in New York. In the Alfa Romeo scene, Michael has just wed Apollonia and learned that his brother Santino had been killed. Preparing to leave his hideaway, Apollonia is killed by a car bomb meant for Michael that was planted in the couple’s Alfa Romeo 6C.
Another early-1970’s movie that featured an Alfa Romeo was The Day of The Jackal, in which an British assassin known as “The Jackal” is hired to assassinate French President Charles de Gaulle. In the film, The Jackal (played by Edward Fox), crosses into France driving a white Giulietta Spider. To evade police, who are on his trail with a description of the car and his code name, he repaints the vehicle blue before crashing it and stealing a Peugeot 404.
The car brand had a comedic side as well. The 1958 Alfa Romeo 2000 Berlina and the 1960 Alfa Romeo Guilietta both made appearances in the first of the classic movie series featuring the bumbling Inspector Clouseau (Peter Sellers) on the trail of a diamond thief.
In the 2002 science fiction film S1M0NE, movie director Viktor Taransky (played by Al Pacino) creates a computer-generated celebrity, fooling the world into believing she is a real person. Taranksy is eventually charged with her murder when he erases the program. In the movie, Taransky's daughter, who helps him “revive” Simone digitally to have the charges against her father dropped, receives a black Alfa Romeo 2600 Spider as a birthday gift.
In the 2002 film Ripley’s Game, Tom Ripley (played by John Malkovich), is a wealthy man living in France. He is approached to commit murder for hire, but eventually gets a terminally ill man, Jonathan Trevanny (Dougray Scott), to carry out two killings. After the murders, Ripley and Trevanny drive a red Alfa Romeo 156 Sport wagon, which stands idly by as Ripley destroys a Mercedes containing the body of a recently murdered mob boss.
It make sense that a movie about a bored young princess (Audrey Hepburn) finding romance with an American newspaperman (Gregory Peck) in Rome would feature the signature Italian car, as well as a variety of Fiats. (Of course, there was a Vespa motor scooter too).
In the 1982 action film The Soldier, a Cold War-era nuclear confrontation is avoided when terrorists plot to detonate a warhead in Saudi Arabia, threatening the world’s oil supply. The plot, which is backed by the Russian KGB, is eventually thwarted by an American threat to aim a warhead of its own at Moscow after they learned of Russia’s involvement. At one point in the film, an Alfa Romeo Alfetta sedan is used as a getaway car when terrorists steal plutonium following a fiery car wreck.