Movie magic can make a car that’s actually terrible look awesome.
Whether you're an enthusiast or not, cars are a huge part of many of our favorite movies. There are many scenes where a car can help save the day, or be a huge part of the story. There's also the hallowed car chase sequence, something which many movies seem to try and outdo each other in.
But, don't be fooled. Movie magic can make a car that's actually terrible look awesome. It can actually be so convincing sometimes that people love the cars based on their movie appearances alone!
There aren't many movie cars that are more famous than the DeLorean DMC-12. This odd, northern Irish-built sports car is a household name thanks to its starring role in the franchise. In fact, it's possible that the DeLorean might have been almost completely forgotten without it being in those movies!
Unfortunately, it's far from a perfect car in real life. Beneath those movie star looks is an asthmatic V6 engine that was strangled by US emissions regulations of the time. That made the DMC-12 a painfully slow sports car. It also isn't the most reliable car in the world, and parts can be difficult to get hold of if things break.
The Renault 20 may have only had a short appearance in A View To A Kill, but that appearance is one of the most famous James Bond moments involving a car! That image of Roger Moore driving the sliced-off front half of the Renault through the chaotic streets of Paris is truly iconic!
The Renault 20, however, was not a brilliant car in real life. It was plagued with reliability problems and could never hold up to its peers from the big British and German manufacturers. Still, it can hold a special place in pop culture history for its escapades in a Bond movie!
When Ford resurrected the glamourous Thunderbird for the 2000s, it had to have at least one movie appearance somehow. That's what it got with its role in the Bond film Die Another Day, where it was driven by Halle Berry. The Thunderbird's starring role alongside the Aston Martin Vanquish and the Jaguar XJR definitely gave it a place in pop culture. It's probably a big reason why this generation of Thunderbird is becoming sought after now!
Unfortunately, the '00s Thunderbird is not a brilliant car. It's not that fun to drive, the 3.9-liter Jaguar V8 wasn't the most powerful or characterful, and it felt more like a retro-futuristic flight of fancy rather than a car that could actually compete with its peers.
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If you know about the Plymouth Valiant at all, it's probably because of its appearance in Duel. This American sedan was involved in one of the movie's big moments, which was a chase between it and a huge Peterbilt semi-truck. It's a great-looking car, with all the classic American car features you could want. Big chrome bumpers, very square styling, and a strip speedometer, it's got it all!
While the Valiant may have looked awesome in the movie, it certainly wasn't in real life. It had all the typical American car foibles of the era such as poor handling and a relative lack of power. Furthermore, the Valiant's inclusion was partly due to director Steven Spielberg not really caring what car was used in the scene. He only specified that it should be red, so it would stand out better in the Californian desert. That's definitely not a ringing endorsement for the Valiant!
The Citroen 2CV6 from For Your Eyes Only may not be a fancy supercar, but it's one of the most well-remembered cars that's been in an installment of the James Bond franchise! The little yellow car had a pivotal role in one of the movie's car chases. It was also a good contrast from the previous Bond film Moonraker, which had a very high-tech setting. Here, 007 had to rely on his abilities alone.
While the 2CV is a beloved car that has a firm following, it's not actually a brilliant car to own in real life. It's so slow that, when they filmed the car chase with it in the movie, the production team had to have the engine swapped to make it fast enough to do a chase scene with! It's also quite flimsy in some ways, compared to modern standards.
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The world of Bollywood is one that, quite surprisingly in some cases, is full of things involving cars. You can find all sorts of vehicles in Bollywood movies, from ordinary Indian market city cars to expensive supercars. 3 Idiots takes a slightly left-field approach with its star car, as it's a Volvo XC90 R-Design! The family hauler beloved by Jeremy Clarkson is so prominently featured in the movie that Volvo even made a big deal out of it themselves!
While the XC90 does have a glowing reputation (again, thanks to people like Jeremy Clarkson), it's actually not a brilliant car. If anything it's very boring, both to drive and to look at. These first generation XC90s also didn't have any fun engine options. If you want an SUV with some spice and character, there are much better choices out there.
In the Twilight books, Edward Cullen was described as owning a silver Volvo. What kind of Volvo he had was never actually specified. This meant that when the series was adapted for the screen, the directors had to fill that gap in. What the directors chose for the first movie was not the best choice they could have made! The teen vampire's car of choice was the Volvo C30. Whilst the C30 was based on the Ford Focus of the same era, Volvo somehow sucked all the fun characteristics out when they were given the platform to work with. The result was a dull, boring car that a lot of people just didn't like.
In the later movies, Edward Cullen swapped his C30 out for an XC60. Whilst that's still a fairly boring and ordinary car, it's a much better one than the C30 was!
With her thoroughly nasty, spoiled and snooty attitude, you'd expect Mean Girls' main antagonist Regina George to drive a fancy BMW or Mercedes. What she actually drives in the movie is a Lexus SC430! In some ways, it is actually quite an appropriate choice for Regina George. It's a blatant symbol of wealth (it was a very expensive car back in the '00s) and, let's face it, what snooty American high school girl of that era wouldn't want to have a convertible?
The Lexus SC430 has been panned in the years since its release for being a boring car that really doesn't look great. Those criticisms are definitely justified! It really doesn't hold up to its European and American peers. Compared to a car like the Mercedes SL, it seems like a frumpy and lumpy mess. But, age has been kinder to it, and some people tout it as a great used buy now!
There's nothing that screams Britain more than a Vauxhall Astra police car. Simon Pegg and Nick Frost used that association to its fullest extent, making a humble early '00s Astra the hero car of their police-themed comedy Hot Fuzz. It fits in brilliantly with the (seemingly) ordinary English village life of the movie and plays a key part in some of the best on-screen moments.
The Astra of this vintage is, sadly, not a very good car at all. It's bland and boring and looks pretty weak in many respects next to its peers from Ford, Audi and Volkswagen. Whilst it may have a starring role in the movie, it's incredibly anonymous in real life. If you bought one, you'd likely wish you'd bought a Focus or a Golf instead!
There's no denying that the original Land Rover Defender is an iconic car. It's one of the cars that kept the world moving and expanded the horizons of where a car could go. It embodies the spirit of adventure more than almost any other car. It makes a lot of sense then that it would appear in the big-screen adaptation of one of the most iconic video game adventures of all time.
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Even the Defender's most ardent fans will admit to you that it's not actually a very good car. In fact, a good few of them will say that it's quite a terrible one! It drives awfully, it's slow, it's really cramped inside, and it can be woefully unreliable. Yet, people still love it, because it's got a charm all of its own.
Robert is a writer, journalist, musician and professional driver based in Swansea, UK. Originally from Croydon, he moved to Swansea as a teenager and has been there ever since. He’s been writing professionally since 2018 and has had an HGV licence since 2022. Robert got his start writing about cars through DriveTribe, writing for the original website as a content creator from late 2019 until it shut down in early 2022. Outside of writing about cars, Robert enjoys creating his own music, watching motorsports and watching pro wrestling.