Movies may fade from memory, but a cool car is forever. The 2003 remake of "The Italian Job" is a case in point. It did so-so box office and got fair-to-middling reviews, but everyone who saw it remembers the stylish Mini Coopers used in the film.
The 2005 film version of "The Dukes of Hazzard" is another example. It was eaten alive by hostile critics, but the movie posters featured a "General Lee" Dodge Charger like the one on the beloved original television show. Its presence on the poster likely sold a few tickets through pure nostalgia alone.
The following list features 10 iconic cars from Hollywood. Some appeared in classic films, while others were featured in movies of lesser esteem. All of them made strong impressions on filmgoers—and even on those who never saw the movie the car was featured in.
Read ahead to see CNBC.com's list of 10 cars from the silver screen whose memories have hung around long after the credits rolled.
By Daniel Bukszpan
Posted 5 March 2013
The 1968 action movie "Bullitt" starred Steve McQueen as a San Francisco cop. Its most famous sequence was a 10-minute car chase jam-packed with shots of his 1968 Ford Mustang GT 390 negotiating the city's treacherous hills at high speed, becoming airborne several times.
One of the things best remembered about the chase is the car itself. It has remained so enduring that the Ford Motor Company produced a limited edition GT with the "Bullitt" nameplate in 2001, and again in 2008.
The blockbuster 1985 comedy "Back to the Future" stars Michael J. Fox as teen-ager Marty McFly, who travels 30 years into the past and meets the teen-age versions of his parents. He uses a 1981 DeLorean DMC-12, modified for time travel.
In the real world, the gull-winged DeLorean was an expensive flop, and production stopped after one year. But its cinematic counterpart became one of the most distinctive cars in movie history, so much so that in 2011, the car collector publication Hemmings Motor News reported that one of the three used in the movie had sold at a Beverly Hills auction for $541,200.
Four years before George Lucas made "Star Wars," his low-budget "American Graffiti" depicted the cars and cruising culture of California teenagers. The 1973 film features such classic cars as a 1956 Ford Thunderbird and a 1958 Chevy Impala, but the most memorable is a yellow 1932 Ford Model B Deuce Coupe.
According to the fan site AmericanGraffiti.net, the filmmakers originally tried to sell the car after production wrapped but couldn't find a buyer willing to pay the asking price of $1,500. Today it's owned by car collector Rick Figari, a San Francisco resident.
The 1971 stage musical "Grease" got a big-screen adaptation in 1978, starring John Travolta, Olivia Newton-John and the late Jeff Conaway as Kenickie. The story of lovers at a 1950s high school was a monster hit, thanks in part to songs like "Summer Nights" and "Greased Lightnin'."
The "Greased Lightnin'" sequence featured Travolta and Conaway dancing on a dilapidated 1948 Ford Deluxe that turns into an "automatic, systematic, hydromatic" dream machine by the song's end. According to Karl Brauer of TotalCarScore.com, this car ranges in price from $10,000 to $50,000, depending on its condition.
The 1983 horror film "Christine" is about a possessed 1958 Plymouth Fury that goes on a killing spree. According to BoxOfficeMojo.com, the movie debuted at No. 4, just behind "Terms of Endearment," and took in a total domestic gross of only $21 million.
Despite the tepid box office performance, the story and the car are still memorable. Considering that this car was manufactured in a limited run of just over 5,000 units, that's an impressive achievement.
The 1980 film "The Blues Brothers" tells the story of Jake and Ellwood Blues, musicians who put their old band back together to make money to keep the orphanage where they grew up open. The vehicle they use is a 1974 Dodge Monaco that was once a police cruiser, and it attracts the ire of state troopers, a country and western band, Illinois Nazis and the entire Chicago Police Department.
It's in no sense a classic car, and unless one were customized to look like a disused police cruiser, it is unlikely that anyone would notice the car if they saw it on the street. However, in its incarnation as The Bluesmobile, it is one of the most iconic cars in cinema history.
The 1977 movie "Smokey and the Bandit" tells the story of a man illegally hauling beer across state lines. The truck is led by a 1977 Pontiac Trans Am driven by Bo "Bandit" Darville, portrayed by Burt Reynolds. He drives in a spirited fashion designed to distract the authorities from the truck, sort of like an automotive rodeo clown.
The car used in the movie is a second-generation Firebird Trans Am, which appeared in the 1980 sequel "Smokey and the Bandit II" and in 1978's "Hooper," also starring Reynolds. Fans who want one for themselves can find a red and white model in mint condition for $25,500 through Hemmings Motor News.
British Secret Service Agent James Bond is identified with no car as much as the 1963 Aston Martin DB5 driven by Sean Connery in "Goldfinger" and "Thunderball." It exudes the same mixture of sophistication and menace as 007, and fits the character's personality perfectly.
In 2010, the car was sold at RM Auctions Automobiles in London. The buyer was a collector from Ohio named Harry Yeaggy, who brought the car home for $4,600,000, according to The New York Times.
The 1969 Walt Disney film "The Love Bug" tells the story of a demolition derby driver who uses an anthropomorphic 1963 Model 117 Volkswagen Type 1 "Beetle" in his races. The film was hugely popular and spawned four sequels, including "Herbie: Fully Loaded" in 2005, starring Lindsay Lohan.
The Beetle, in production since 1938, was enjoying a surge of popularity when the 1969 movie came out.
"Risky Business" is the 1983 teen comedy that made Tom Cruise a star. He plays a suburban Chicago teenager left home alone by his parents for the weekend, with explicit instructions to keep his hands off of the stereo and off of his father's 1981 Porsche 928. Neither instruction is heeded, and the fun begins.
Six Porsches were used in filming, and in 2007 a fan of the movie, Lewis Johnson, told the Porsche enthusiast publication Excellence the story of his decade-long quest to acquire one. After much legwork, he was able to track down a 1979 model used in some wide shots, which he donated to the Forney Museum of Transportation. "I realized that what I was really chasing was an illusion," he told the magazine. "And you can't drive one of those home and park it in your garage."
Jeff Allen and Perry Barndt are gamblers—their game, classic and exotic cars. They travel the country looking to buy and sell cars. Whether it's a rare Shelby Mustang or a vintage hot rod, the key is buy low and sell high, something that doesn't always happen. Selling cars is a dangerous business, but perhaps there's no greater danger than negotiating with your own dad. Tom Souter, Jeff's dad, runs a classic car dealership around the corner from Jeff's shop in Lubbock, Texas. They are not just regular trading partners; they are trading partners hell-bent on one-upmanship. Tom says doing a deal with his son is like being locked in a closet with a porcupine, "it's gonna hurt, but you know it won't kill you."