If you were outraged by our neglect of your very favorite films in the 12 Greatest Car Movies post, get ready to blow your remaining head gasket! It's time for Murilee's Maddening Movie Machines!
You might notice that there's no Vanishing Point Challenger, no Two Lane Blacktop '55 Chevy or GTO, no Road Warrior Falcon, no French Connection Pontiac LeMans, and so on; you can go anywhere to find those admittedly deserving machines in a Top Movie Cars list… but you're in for something a little different when your Rambler clanks into my drive-in!
Fee Waybill's 1968 Plymouth Sport Satellite
Ladies And Gentlemen, The Fabulous Stains, 1981. Just look at this evil '68 Satellite, driven by the character played by Tubes mastermind Fee Waybill in the nearly-forgotten punk classic starring Diane Lane.
Stacey Keach's 1972 AMC Matador
Up In Smoke, 1978. Some folks might try to tell you that Cheech's '64 Impala is the automotive star of this all-time Malaise Era classic, but those same guys will sell you a bag of "Acapulco Gold" that turns out to be oregano. Sergeant Stedenko's unmarked Kenosha sedan, take a bow!
Isaac Hayes' Cadillac Fleetwood
Escape From New York, 1981. An apocalyptic Caddy with chandeliers on the fenders, in jail, being driven across a mine-studded bridge by Isaac Hayes? Why the hell didn't Cadillac issue a chandelier-equipped Escape From New York Edition Cadillac?
Barbara Stanwyck's 1937 LaSalle
Double Indemnity, 1944. It's taking all my willpower to avoid stacking this list with nothing but film noir cars- for example, the cop '49 Ford stalking Sterling Hayden in the opening sequence of Asphalt Jungle- but there's no way we can neglect this LaSalle, which features in the greatest post-murder-victim-body-dump 'car won't start' sequence in cinema history.
Robert Mitchum's 1950 Ford
Thunder Road, 1958. That ol' dope-smoking Bob Mitchum won't let the '57 Chevy-drivin' revenoors catch his triple-carbed Ford, no way! You'll get some nice closeup shots of the triple-carbed overhead-valve Ford V8 in this excellent car movie.
All 250 Vehicles In The Final Sequence Of Used Cars
Used Cars, 1980. The greatest Malaise Era movie of all time! You'll see everything from an early Bronco to a Fiat 128 burning rubber in the final ten minutes of this Kurt Russell classic.
Mel Gibson's 1994 Chevrolet Caprice
Conspiracy Theory, 1997. A movie in which Crazy Mel delivers the line "It's time someone lifted the festering scab that is the Vatican" is already starting off on the right foot, but his awesomely evil Caprice cab sets a new standard for scary movie taxis.
Harvey Keitel's 1972 Imperial LeBaron
Mean Streets, 1973. What do low-level mob associates drive in Early Malaise New York City? Exactly. Spoiler: this car doesn't get a happy ending.
Reese Witherspoon's 1967 Dodge Coronet Wagon
Freeway, 1996. This movie features cynicism galore, a nightmarish Danny Elfman soundtrack, Brooke Shields sticking a gun in her mouth and pulling the trigger… and this beautifully wretched Coronet wagon, the crapping out of which starts Witherspoon's character on her Red Riding Hood-esque adventures. Murilee says check it out!
Bette Davis' 1947 Lincoln
What Ever Happened To Baby Jane, 1962. Yeah, so I like my movies dark and cynical- you got a problem with that? Davis' character, Baby Jane Hudson, uses this reminder-of-past-glory luxury machine to haul her crippled sister to her death on the Santa Monica beach.
Ronald Reagan's 1959 Ford
The Killers, 1964. Man, imagine having an actor become governor of California! Watching The Great Communicator- in this case, playing a criminal mastermind plotting a mail-truck heist- hoon this gigantic boxy Ford down a dirt road while wearing the same exact suit he wore as President… well, I'm shopping for '59 Fords now!
Dick Rude's 1976 Toyota Corolla
Repo Man, 1984. I'm going to go on record stating that Repo Man is the Greatest Car Movie Of All Time, and that choosing one car to honor in this list was quite difficult. I've read the screenplay many times, and it's telling that Alex Cox specified the exact year, make, and model of every car to be used in the film (and, in most cases, those are the cars that were used during the production). The red Eldorado? The Government Agents' Matador? The Malibu? I'm going to give the honor to the "get sushi and not pay" gang's very punk Toyota… and that reminds me that I've committed a grievous mistake by omitting the Torino from Suburbia in this list. Well, next one!
John Lurie's 1965 Dodge Coronet 440
Stranger Than Paradise, 1984. What's the best possible car for a pair of small-time gamblers to drive from New York to Cleveland to Florida during the winter in 1984? Jim Jarmusch knows!
Rodney Dangerfield's 1966 Mulliner Park Ward Rolls-Royce Silver Cloud III
Caddyshack, 1980. What car best epitomizes bad taste and conspicuous consumption, Middle Malaise Era style? Sure, a Zimmer might have worked just as well, but a Mulliner Park Ward Silver Cloud is just as horrifying and ten times as expensive!
Matt Dillon's 1965 Cadillac Fleetwood
Drugstore Cowboy, 1990. When you're ripping off drugstores for that good pharmaceutical-grade junk during the Nixon Era in the Pacific Northwest, there's no better ride.
Billy Bob Thornton's 1940 Dodge Coupe
The Man Who Wasn't There, 2001. Of all the Coen Brothers' films- which show excellent taste in vehicular selection- I settled on this one as my favorite. Tough choice, and I almost went with the '85 Cutlass Ciera in Fargo, or the detective's Beetle in Blood Simple.
Roger Sloman's Morris Minor 1000 Convertible
Nuts In May, 1976. This annoying little car is so perfectly suited to Sloman's fingernails-on-chalkboard character that it's impossible to imagine him driving anything else.
Gloria Swanson's Isotta-Fraschini
Sunset Boulevard, 1950. Wicker bodywork. Leopard skin upholstery. 800 feet total length. Best of all, a golden telephone to speak to the driver!
Burt Reynolds' 1972 Citroën SM
The Longest Yard, 1974. A drunk-driven SM being chased by Malaise Era Mopars, with Burt Reynolds at the wheel and Lynyrd Skynyrd on the radio. Enough said!
Ömer Simsek's Opel Manta
Manta, Manta, 1991. As any longtime Jalopnik reader knows, we have a sick love for the Opel Manta, otherwise known as "the German Camaro." Here's one of the many, many gorgeous Mantas from the German film Manta, Manta.
Image source: Automobilsport