Movie hero cars are a funny old business. As for every Bullitt Mustang and Ronin Audi S8, there is a host of reasonably humdrum four-wheeled forgotten heroes of the silver screen. Some of them are cars that us ordinary people would drive daily – you know, the ones that you don’t notice as they blend into the background. All are relatively standard cars that achieved on-screen hero status playing a pivotal role in their respective films.
For the most part, Hollywood hero cars are usually restricted to high-end exotics, muscle cars, or vehicles that just don’t exist yet. But when a film uses what we’d call a ‘normal’ car – it adds a bit more appeal as usually the car being crashed and thrashed on-screen is one that any of us could aspire to own.
As after all automotive heroes do come in all shapes and sizes, with most not costing the earth or being modified to a million horsepower.
Here are our picks for the greatest normal movie hero cars.
BMW 7 Series (E32) – Safe House
In 2012 chase thriller, Safe House, Ryan Reynolds is seen ferrying super-spy Denzil Washington in the boot of a recently commandeered maroon BMW 735i (E32).
Despite the deathly intentions of the following hit squads, and Washington’s character Tobin Frost, the 735i manages to jump, ram and crash its way through Cape Town with hero Matt Weston (Reynolds) at the wheel. All in the face of pretty much every panel getting dented or suffering bullet holes in one of the best cinematic car chases ever shot
Ford C-Max – The Hitman’s Bodyguard
Usually seen transporting children on the school run, the exceptionally dull Ford C-Max somehow becomes a hero car in the 2017 action flick The Hitman’s Bodyguard.
In the process of dispatching all of the gun-toting bad guys, the C-Max is jumped and rammed nearly to death losing most of its bodywork. Leaving us looking at this humble Ford MPV in a different light – but only as long Samuel L. Jackson is driving.
Peugeot 406 – Ronin
When the Peugeot 406 first hit the roads of the UK in the mid-1990s, it was usually found being deployed as a taxi in places like Birmingham. Add Robert De Niro behind the wheel, and change the location to Paris and you get the unlikely star of John Frankenheimer’s 1998 espionage thriller Ronin.
In a film packed full of stunning car chases, the 406 saloon manages to make a hero of itself giving chase to a BMW M5 E34 ferrying the film’s protagonists – all through the busy streets of Paris at high-speed – which of course is still slightly slower than the average British mini-cab driver.
Peugeot 407 – T4xi
T4xi (Taxi 4) is the fourth instalment of the French car/police comedy series. Unlike the previous three films, anti-hero taxi driver Daniel Morales (played by Sami Naceri) is seen at the wheel of his highly modified Peugeot 407 saloon, a replacement for the previous 406 saloon seen in the first three instalments.
Featuring a steering wheel that can be swapped while driving, and an array of speed-related modifications including adjustable aero bodywork. This 407 taxi is the fast hero car that helps to save the day, while also counting French footballer Djibril Cissé among its paying passengers.
Gaz-3110 Volga – The Bourne Supremacy
Another taxi, but this time the toughest one of them of all – the Gaz-3110 Volga. With super forgetful spy Jason Bourne at the wheel, the Volga manages to face-off against a Russian hitman in a stolen Mercedes G-Wagon – scorching their way across the streets of Moscow in a highly explosive German/Russian interpretation of a demolition derby.
Pontiac Grand Am – Lethal Weapon 4
In the fourth instalment of the Lethal Weapon series, heroes Murtaugh and Riggs started off with a very new-looking 1999 Pontiac Grand Am.
Enter a bunch of triads, a series of jumps and being rammed by various bad guys, and the Grand Am literally jumped its way out of an office building into true hero car status before landing on a very conveniently placed freeway – which would totally happen in the real world.
Mercedes-Benz 450 SEL 6.9 – C’Etait un Rendez-Vous / Ronin
OK, so the massive 450 SEL saloon gets two credits on this list. The first being the most legendary car short film ever made. With Rendez-Vous mostly being eight-straight minutes of French film director Claude Lelouch driving his own personal Mercedes-Benz 450SEL around the streets of Paris at breakneck speeds.
The second and perhaps most famous hero turn for the 450 SEL was in 1998 spy thriller Ronin. With Robert De Niro firing a rocket launcher out of the sunroof to destroy a Peugeot 607 during a pursuit in the mountains of Southern France.
Jeep Wrangler – Jurassic Park
Of all the cars on this list, no other has taken on a T-Rex (or any other dinosaur) and won. The Jeep Wrangler made its most famous appearance in the first Jurassic Park movie outrunning a very hungry T-Rex while suffering a few dents (via the T-Rex) and the loss of its windscreen (via a tree).
Most memorable was Jeff Goldblum muttering “Must Go Faster” as the T-Rex gets too close for comfort with the Wrangler outrunning the ancient predator on its way to hero car status.
Toyota Prius – The Other Guys
Starring Will Ferrell and Mark Wahlberg, the 2010 comedy flick The Other Guys managed to do the unthinkable – by making a hero of the eco-warrior poster car the Toyota Prius.
Despite being a running gag in the film, the Prius is subjected to several challenges including running over a dead body, getting covered in cocaine while being on the receiving end of a large number of bullets and golf balls. Even after all of this torture and losing a door, the Prius manages to stay one step ahead of the heavily armed enemies in every car chase. Not bad for an eco-warrior.
Mercedes 560 SEL - Die Hard with a vengeance
In Die Hard with a vengeance, the Mercedes 560 SEL proves to be perfect transportation for the continually unlucky John McClane (Bruce Willis) and his new sidekick Zeus (Samuel L. Jackson). While being pursued by Uzi-toting goons, the big Benz takes a battering losing most of its once pristine bodywork.
The Mercedes though ends victorious, despite suffering a roll-over while bringing down the chasing bad guys. During which eagle-eyed viewers will spot the 177,243 miles on the clock pointing to the excellent build quality of the 560 SEL.
Ford Falcon XB GT Coupe – Max Max 1 & 2, Mad Max Fury Road
The Ford Falcon XB GT Coupe achieved its hero car status being the signature ride you need to survive the post-apocalyptic Australian Outback.
Driven by ‘Mad’ Max Rockatansky, the special ‘V8 Interceptor’ manages to see off the rampaging wasteland hoards with ease in Mad Max 1 before meeting a crashy demise in the second film. The car was later resurrected for the fourth ‘Fury Road’ instalment, before again meeting its maker early on.
Subaru Impreza WRX – Baby Driver
The star of the car chase/action/musical Baby Driver has to be a bright red 2006 Subaru Impreza WRX. At the very start of the film, the anti-hero getaway driver is seen piloting ultra-rare coloured WRX (very few were made in this shade) outwitting every Police spec Ford Crown Victoria that even tries to get close.
To achieve all of the sliding and precision driving in the film, the WRXs were actually converted to rear-wheel drive with no use of CGI at all. Of the cars used in the movie, one sold for some $69,100 at auction with another being given to the actor Ansel Elgort following his portrayal of the lead character ‘Baby.’
BMW 7 Series (E38) – The Transporter
The original Transporter film managed to make a hero of the E38 BMW 7 Series. Though, this was no mere standard 7 Series, as the 735i in the movie features a manual gearbox which wasn’t available in the real world.
Finished in black on black paint and interior the big 7 Series saloon is methodically maintained by Jason Statham’s character Frank Martin. In what was a great advert showing BMW’s luxury saloon is more than capable of outwitting and outpacing both the Police and the bad guys without breaking a sweat.
Audi S8 V10 - Taken
Yes, the Audi S8 V10 is barely an average car. But, in a world full of high-performance movie cars, its understated looks and performance surely make it a hero.
In the final act of action thriller Taken, the big S8 is commandeered by Liam Neeson as he rages through the tight streets of Paris at high speed with small matters such as pavements and oncoming traffic proving not to be an issue. All while accompanied by the mega V10 soundtrack.
Chevrolet Impala - Drive
The Chevrolet Impala is quite possibly the most forgettable American saloon car ever built. In noir film Drive though, it gains hero status in the opening act by introducing Ryan Goslings barely speaking ‘Driver’ character, while proving to be a formidable adversary for the LAPD Police cruisers.
So much so, that you could say that it blends in perfectly in what is one of the greatest, and most realistic car chases ever committed to film.
Dodge Ram 2500 - Twister
Surviving a tornado is no mean feat, but in 1996 action film Twister, that is precisely what the Dodge Ram 2500 did. It also manages to transport the films hero, Bill “The Extreme” Harding (played by the late Bill Paxton) through a soon to be demolished house, and a fireball from an exploding tanker truck – all before sacrificing itself in the name of science.
All of which offers a valuable life lesson – if you want to outrun a tornado make sure you’re driving an 8.0-litre V10 powered pickup truck.