The 9 Greatest Car Movies of the 20th Century

What constitutes a great car movie?  Great cars, speed and action of course!  If you like to drive or have a need for speed, binging on great car movies might be the ticket.

Here is my list of favorite car movies from the 20th Century. If I missed one of your favorites, feel free to leave a comment below.

#1 Smokey and the Bandit (1977)

Who could forget Burt Reynolds behind the wheel of that black Pontiac Firebird, fishtailing down the highway trying to get away from the Jackie Gleason who was the Smokey? It’s not only a great car movie, it’s a great sports car movie.

#2 Mad Max (1979)

The 2015 reboot of this movie was pretty cool, but nothing beats the original version of this post-apocalyptic adventure starring Mel Gibson and an awesome modified Ford Falcon. No one crosses Max and gets away with it. It’s perfect training for driving in New York City.

#3 Gone in 60 Seconds (2000)

A retired car thief must get back in the game and steal 50 cars in one night to save the life of his brother. That’s the plot of this movie, but it’d be equally good to say it was: cars, cars, cars, and a sprinkling of “acting” by Nicholas Cage.

#4 Dumb and Dumber (1994)

From the incredibly epic to the incredibly stupid. The car in this movie definitely wins an honorable mention for… uniqueness. What car owner wouldn’t want to get behind the wheel of a truck remodeled to look like a giant, shaggy dog? From singing in the Shaggin’ Wagon to riding a tiny moped through the Rockies covered in snot, it’s hard not to watch the hijinks of Harry Dunne and Lloyd Christmas without busting a gut laughing.

#5 Thelma and Louise (1991)

Since it came out in 1991, few things exemplified the freedom of the open road quite like the iconic 1966 blue Thunderbird in Thelma and Louise. You remember the scene: Sitting behind the wheel of a dusty blue 1966 Ford Thunderbird on a desert road, the cops are right on their tail. The two women link hands and put the pedal to the metal. For those with a heart that yearns for the open road, this is truly a movie not to be missed.

#6 National Lampoon’s Vacation (1983)

The Griswolds, a typical American family, set out on a road trip in their station wagon to visit a popular amusement park called Wally World. Along the way they suffer through the antics of crazy cousin Eddie, their cranky old Aunt Edna, and a ton of other hilarious indignities. This is mandatory viewing for anyone who’s taken family road trips or hates station wagons.

#7 Back to the Future (1985)

This is just an all around great movie that fits into a ton of different categories. Marty McFly’s adventure through time in a plutonium-fueled oh-so-1980s Delorean is funny, exciting and heartwarming all at once. It’s one of the few movies you can watch in any mood and walk away smiling.

#8 The Fast and the Furious (2001)

It may have come technically late for this list with a release in 2001, but it’s still an important turn-of-the-century car movie that deserves a place here. Any car lover or fan of breathtaking stunts and high-octane fun will love watching Paul Walker and his crew tear up the streets. A must for those who feel the need for speed.

#9 The Blues Brothers (1980)

Jake springs his brother Elwood out of jail and the two go on a road trip of historic proportions in the Bluesmobile, a beat up old 1974 Dodge Monaco. This movie also features a car crash with the destruction of 103 police cars in just over five minutes. It is absolutely a must-see for those who enjoy the gleeful destruction of government property. And, with an amazing blues soundtrack to go along with it, how could you not? 

What Have We Missed?

Of course, we can’t mention every great car movie of the 20th century in one list. If we missed one of your favorites, feel free to leave a comment below.

Earl Baldwin is a long time car enthusiast with a fledgling collection of classics. He also has a passion for writing about exotic cars, aftermarket modifications, and car movies. Currently, he’s working as an editor at Cinema Vehicles. When he’s not writing, he’s checking out classics at automotive events or cruising around town in one of his own.

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3 Responses to “The 9 Greatest Car Movies of the 20th Century”

  1. Tim says:

    You must be really young. Never heard of ‘Bullitt’? Best car movie ever.

  2. Douglas Pruitt says:

    Don’t forget “The Gumball Rally”. It is the best “Cannonball” Movie. I, also, agree with Tim that “Bullitt” should be on the list.

  3. Luke Ball says:

    Like what the other two said. How about Ronin, French Connection, and since you were going for the comedic angle, how you could leave off the EM-50 from Stripes, but include the dog van from D&D?