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The Definitive Ranking of Cars in Pop Culture

With Michael Mann’s ‘Ferrari’ about to race into theaters, we couldn’t help but wonder: What are the greatest automobiles in film and television? Two vehicular experts lay out their case.

Ringer illustration

Christmas is nearly upon us, and the dads of the world will be treated to the greatest holiday gift of all: a new Michael Mann movie. The legendary filmmaker behind Heat, The Last of the Mohicans, and Collateral has long been established as Dad Cinema royalty, and his latest project fits right into that wheelhouse. Folks, fasten your seat belts for Ferrari.

Set during the summer of 1957, Ferrari recounts a turbulent period in the life of Enzo Ferrari (Adam Driver), who enters Ferrari into Italy’s Mille Miglia—a cross-country race pitting the automaker against archrival Maserati—with the company’s very future at stake. If that wasn’t enough, Enzo is also dealing with serious drama away from the track: a broken marriage catalyzed by grief and a longtime mistress who wants their son to be officially recognized as part of the Ferrari family. Of course, Ferrari’s biggest selling point is right there in the title: Ferrari is one of the most iconic brands in the world, and its cultural footprint extends far beyond motor racing. (Can I interest you in the Ferrari fashion line?) And with Ferrari coming to theaters, Megan “The Meg” Schuster and I couldn’t help but wonder: What are the greatest cars in pop culture?

As is tradition on The Ringer, Megan and I have decided to get to the bottom of this conundrum with an arbitrary ranking. We established a few ground rules for this exercise: We are only featuring cars that have appeared in television or film; only one vehicle is allowed per franchise (apologies to Mad Max and Fast & Furious); and for the sake of our own sanity, the list is capped at 30 entries. With that out of the way, Megan, let’s start our blogging engines. —Miles Surrey

30. The “Flintmobile,” The Flintstones

Megan Schuster: Most of the time Miles and I do these rankings, it’s pretty easy to bash the entry that finishes last. From monsters (“a vampire bat on HGH”) to bears (“demented daycare dictator”) to sharks (“FUUUUUUUCK THIS NOISE”), we’ve always had critical things to say about the cellar dweller. In this case, though, I feel a bit like I’m disparaging a legend.

The Flintstones’ car is a signature piece of engineering. From its cylindrical boulder wheels to its overhead canopy and state-of-the-art foot-powered locomotion, the Flintmobile is recognizable even to people who have never seen a full episode of the show. However, as my esteemed coauthor reminded me as we debated this car’s placement, “That shit don’t even got an engine.” So here it is at no. 30.

Surrey: I stand by what I said. Forget horsepower: If you want to get to work on time in the Flintmobile, you better pray that Fred hasn’t been skipping leg day.

29. The Bluth Stair Car, Arrested Development

Schuster: Look at this shit. Look at this early-2000s absolute piece of crap.

Fox

This is a car whose sole purpose in life, you could argue, is not even to drive around, but to be stairs. The indignity! The only reason the Bluths even used it is because they had no other options after the U.S. government froze their assets and George Sr. went into hiding. Michael describes the car’s limitations best when he’s teaching George Michael how to drive it: “In order to get this thing up to a minimum speed, you’ve got to jam on the gas pedal for about a minute, OK? But in order to slow this thing down, you’ve got to get almost immediately back on the brake pedal, ’cause you’ve got about 2 tons of stairs behind you.” Oh, and don’t forget to watch out for hop-ons.

28. The Volkswagen Microbus, Little Miss Sunshine

Schuster: Volkswagen Microbuses have long held an interesting place in our culture. Decades ago they became known as “hippie vans” thanks to their spaciousness, seating capacity, and unique, groovy look. They’re still a symbol of the peace-and-love movement today, and their image holds a lot of significance in pop culture.

But this junker in Little Miss Sunshine doesn’t inspire a whole lot of fuzzy feelings in terms of drivability. First of all, the bus has to be physically rolled to turn on the engine. Secondly, the horn is jammed in place. Then there’s the fact that the door likes to fall off at random times—especially after the bus hops a curb. This particular Volkswagen is meant to be a symbol of the dysfunctional family that owns it—and it’s an apt one at that. And even purely as a vehicle, you couldn’t pay me to take this thing on.

27. The Dodge Monaco, The Blues Brothers

Schuster: Most recognizable for the giant loudspeaker attached to its roof, the Blues Brothers’ “Bluesmobile” is a decommissioned cop car that is, at times, almost supernatural. Brothers Elwood and Jake first test out its mettle by jumping it over Chicago’s 95th Street Bridge (shout-out to former Chicago mayor Richard J. Daley—father of corrupt former Chicago mayor Richard M. Daley—whose name is proudly displayed on the bridge’s placard in the movie). Later, during a chase with local authorities, the car somehow manages to do a backflip and even appears to be flying—though it doesn’t fly fly like one of the vehicles we’ll be talking about later on.

The Bluesmobile is certainly a handy tool for our titular bros, but most of its notoriety comes from some messy stunts and its attached PA system. That’s only good enough for no. 27 on this list.

26. The Pussy Wagon, Kill Bill

Surrey: This eccentric Chevy Silverado pickup plays a small but memorable role in Kill Bill: Vol. 1, when Beatrix Kiddo (Uma Thurman) wakes up from her yearslong coma. The pickup originally belonged to Buck (Michael Bowen), a nurse who was selling Beatrix’s body while she was comatose. (She smashes Buck’s head in; it’s very satisfying.) Nothing about Buck’s pickup, dubbed the Pussy Wagon, is subtle: the bright-yellow paint job, the red upholstery, the fact that the wagon is literally emblazoned with the words “Pussy Wagon.” But the Pussy Wagon’s cultural footprint goes beyond Quentin Tarantino’s film: It also made an appearance in the music video for Lady Gaga and Beyoncé’s “Telephone.”

If you’re wondering what became of the Pussy Wagon, Tarantino still owns the car, but he doesn’t drive it too often on account of all the attention it receives. “I wouldn’t run errands in it,” Tarantino told Deadline. Gee, I wonder why?

Schuster: Quentin, take it grocery shopping one time and see what happens. I dare you.

25. Baby, Supernatural

Surrey: Everyone had a show that was a staple of their adolescence; mine just so happened to last for 15 (!) seasons. The longest-running sci-fi series in the history of American broadcast television, Supernatural followed brothers Sam and Dean Winchester, who were devoted to saving people and hunting things that went bump in the night. For the Winchesters, allies and adversaries came and went throughout the show’s run, but the one constant in their lives was Baby: the family’s trusty 1967 Chevy Impala.

Baby was such an important fixture that Supernatural made a whole episode dedicated to it that was filmed entirely from the perspective of the Impala. Best of all, when Dean ascends to heaven in the series finale, guess who’s waiting for him in the afterlife?

CW

I know what you’re thinking: that a muscle car would go to heaven is the silliest thing in the world. But I’d be lying if I said I didn’t shed a tear when it happened. Love you, Baby. Thanks for giving us one hell of a ride.

24. The Subaru WRX, Baby Driver

Schuster: Did “Bellbottoms” by the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion just start playing in your head? If so, you’re not alone.

This car is most notable for the man who drives it: the titular Baby (yep, another one), played by Ansel Elgort. Fun trivia tidbit: There wasn’t just one version of the car used in filming. There were many, including one that wielded 320 horsepower and a performance clutch, two other automatics that were used for the shots of the actors in the car, and a rear-wheel drive modified version that is shown in the 180-degree-turn sequence. With that many models welded together in the final film product, it’s clear the car itself isn’t the real star here. But if anything should be, it’s the tires—those things had to be bald by the time Baby and Co. abandoned the Subaru in an Atlanta parking garage.

Surrey: My dad used to have a Subaru WRX, and let me just say I am thrilled he sold it before Baby Driver came out; otherwise, he would’ve definitely tried—key word tried—pulling off some of these moves.

23. Flying Ford Anglia, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

Schuster: Since we’re here to rank cars, it would have felt like cheating to place one that’s enchanted with magic too much higher on this list. But if the playing field were level, there would be few vehicles more impressive than Arthur Weasley’s ride.

Much to Molly Weasley’s dismay, Arthur did a lot of work to soup up this otherwise unimpressive Ford Anglia. Arthur gave it the ability to fly, to become invisible, and also to somehow fit 10 people, their luggage, and multiple animals without becoming a full-on clown car. Now, where you might be able to knock Arthur’s effort is on the mechanics front. When Ron steals the car to transport himself and Harry to Hogwarts, it breaks down over the school’s airspace and crashes into the Whomping Willow.

Fortunately, Ron and Harry survive the excursion, and the car later drives off into the Forbidden Forest. But Arthur is eventually fined 50 galleons by the Ministry of Magic for his illegal modifications to the Ford. Way to keep a good inventor down.

22. Greased Lightning, Grease

Schuster: I know we’re here to talk about cars, but I’d like to use this space to talk about facial expressions. Specifically, the facial expressions we see during Grease’s “Greased Lightnin’” scene. I have 25 screenshots sitting on my desktop right now that I’ll happily email to whoever wants them, but for now, here are the three selections I find most compelling:

Paramount Pictures
Paramount Pictures
Paramount Pictures

Greased Lightning, the car, is pretty much a hunk of junk some dudes decided to slap a fresh bumper on in shop class and street race. But the song about it will go down in the annals of history thanks to its not-at-all-subtle sexual innuendos, the accompanying dance, and the faces John Travolta and Jeff Conaway made while singing it.

21. Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang

Surrey: A children’s musical starring Dick Van Dyke and a flying car sounds about as wholesome as cinema can get, but Chitty Chitty Bang Bang has a surprisingly messed-up history. The film was loosely based on a children’s novel from Ian Fleming—yes, the same dude responsible for the James Bond series—who conceived of the idea after his son lamented that his father loved James Bond more than him. The screenplay was cowritten by renowned children’s author Roald Dahl, but Chitty Chitty Bang Bang producer Albert Broccoli called the script a “piece of shit.” (Dahl wasn’t too hung up about the whole thing: He basically admitted he wrote it for the check.) All in all, there are some real bad vibes surrounding Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, but none of that is apparent from the finished product. Even after all these years, listening to the film’s cheery title song about that cheery little car is like being Stargated straight back to my childhood.

20. The Trans Am, Smokey and the Bandit

Surrey: For anyone unfamiliar with the premise of Smokey and the Bandit, a wealthy Texan offers local race car driver Bo “The Bandit” Darville (Burt Reynolds) 80 grand if he can illegally transport 400 cases of Coors from Texarkana to Atlanta in under 28 hours. The Bandit’s pal, Cledus “Snowman” Snow (Jerry Reed), is the one hauling the beer across state lines in a truck; the Bandit acts as a flashy decoy for the cops, whom he repeatedly evades in his Pontiac Trans Am. As directed by longtime stuntman Hal Needham, there’s a slapstick quality to Smokey and the Bandit’s chase sequences, which unfold like a live-action Wacky Racers.

Smokey and the Bandit led to a surge in demand for the Trans Am after its release, a testament to the appeal of a classic muscle car, as well as how cool Reynolds looked while driving it. But what I really can’t wrap my head around is the fact that Smokey and the Bandit was the second-highest-grossing movie of 1977, behind a little sci-fi project called Star Wars. Imagine living in a time when a feature-length beer run made over $125 million and spawned a franchise. We used to be a proper country, Megan.

Schuster: Please refer to me as Megan “The Snowman” Schuster from now on, Miles.

19. The General Lee, The Dukes of Hazzard

Surrey: On the one hand, I’m not sure how I feel about having a Dodge Charger named after Robert E. Lee with a Confederate flag painted on its roof in our ranking. On the other hand …

Long live the General.

18. Lightning McQueen, Cars

Schuster: In this lifetime, I will never be hubristic enough to believe I can say anything better than Stephen A. Smith. That may seem like a weird opening salvo to a Cars blurb if you haven’t been on the internet much lately, but in late November, Smith was asked where Lightning McQueen ranks among the GOAT athletes and, well, I’ll just leave his weirdly detailed analysis here:

My man has stats about the history of the Piston Cup, a fictional auto racing championship that exists in a Pixar animated universe! Truly, we are not worthy.

Smith aside, though, McQueen is one of the all-time greats of the Piston Cup series, along with Dale Earnhardt (apparently?) and Strip Weathers. McQueen has seven championships to his name, tied for the most ever, and he also showed great character at the end of the original Cars when he chose to push the King over the finish line rather than claiming victory for himself. He’s not higher on this list because, let’s face it, he’s not even one of the top five most entertaining characters in his own film franchise. But if he manages to get that star power up, maybe Stephen A. will be more willing to crown him next time around.

Surrey: To channel my inner Stephen A. for a moment: In the larger Pixar canon, this car was a bona fide scrub! No disrespect whatsoever, but I don’t care how many Piston Cups he’s won: Lightning McQueen isn’t in the same league as Woody, Mike Wazowski, or Wall-E, and he’s lucky to have snuck into our top 20. Anyone who disagrees IS ON CRACK.

17. Ecto-1, Ghostbusters

Surrey: Ghostbusters is filled with memorable iconography—the company logo, the proton packs, the exterminator-like costumes—but few things capture the franchise’s irreverent tone better than Ecto-1. This 1959 Cadillac Miller-Meteor becomes the Ghostbusters’ company vehicle in the original film; its unique design makes the car look like a Yassified hearse. And while Ghostbusters: Afterlife leaned on nostalgia too much for its own good, I don’t think anyone had any complaints about Ecto-1 being taken out for another spin.

16. Harry’s Dog Van, Dumb and Dumber

Schuster: This one feels pretty self-explanatory: It’s a van used by a dog groomer that’s shaped like a dog and is even coated in … fur? Hair? Whatever you wanna call it. In typical Dumb and Dumber fashion, Harry used his life’s savings to convert the van into what it is—tongue, tail, and all. Points for this unique … species of automobile.


15. Dom’s Charger, the Fast & Furious Franchise

Surrey: Our one-car-per-franchise rule was a major handicap for the Fast & Furious, but the vehicle we ended up choosing was never really up for debate. If Dominic Toretto is essentially a superhero with a tank top, then the 1970 Dodge Charger R/T is his equivalent of the Batmobile. This muscle car has been a Toretto famiglia staple since the first film, and it suits Dom perfectly: a brash, brawny extension of our protagonist’s sensibilities.

Most importantly, though, the Charger is about as indestructible as Dom himself. This car has more lives than a cat: it’s been wrecked by Dom in a street race, blown up in a collapsing tunnel, rammed into by Luke Hobbs, and driven off the top floor of a parking garage (in the direction of a helicopter) and an exploding dam. Suffice to say, the regenerative (miraculous?) abilities of the Charger are as powerful as Dom’s love for family. The last we see of Dom’s Charger in Fast X, it’s sunk into the bottom of a river after that fateful dam jump. For most cars, that would be a death sentence; for this Charger, it’s just another Tuesday. At this point, don’t be surprised if it starts drifting on water in the sequel.

Schuster: At this point I have an almost Pavlovian response whenever I see a Dodge Charger; I get an instant craving for Corona and family. That’s healthy, right?

Surrey:

14. Ferrari 250 GT California Spyder, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off

Schuster: There’s very little in a movie that’s better—or more stressful to me, personally—than when a kid steals a parent’s car to do something underhanded. In this case, it’s Ferris Bueller and his sidekicks Cameron and Sloane stealing Cameron’s dad’s Ferrari to blow off school and take a jaunt into Chicago. The tension escalates further when the trio realizes that the parking attendants they left the car with took it on a joyride, racking up the odometer to a level Cameron’s anal dad is sure to notice. But when Cameron ends up destroying the car in a fit of anger, it becomes a symbol of his rebellion against his domineering dad and Cameron’s growing independence.

Ferris Bueller’s Day Off is a touching story about youth and the courage it takes to stand up for ourselves, but here’s a lesson to you parents out there: If you have a car that’s worth hundreds of thousands of dollars, maybe don’t leave the keys lying around where any teenager can find them.

Surrey: Do not, under any circumstances, let Enzo Ferrari find out what happened to this Ferrari. If you get into one of his cars, you get in to win—taking a Ferrari for a symbolic joyride is about as insulting as serving an Italian a bowl of overcooked pasta. (But also: Who among us wouldn’t snatch those keys?)


13. Christine, Christine

Surrey: Only Stephen King could write a scary book about a car, and only John Carpenter could turn that story into an equally scary movie. Christine follows Arnie Cunningham, a bullied teen who buys a beat-up ’50s Plymouth Fury—dubbed Christine by its former owner—and restores the car to its former glory. But there’s more to Christine than meets the eye. This supernatural vehicle not only has the ability to repair itself, but it transforms Arnie from a shy nerd into a violent greaser, and it’s capable of holding a grudge like peak Michael Jordan. If you thought being engulfed in flames would stop Christine, think again: all it does is make her look more badass before killing you.

Obviously, Christine is bad news, but I don’t even blame Arnie for falling under her spell. You don’t have to be a gearhead to understand the appeal of owning a muscle car that could’ve been plucked from the set of American Graffiti—plus, think of how much you can save on insurance from Christine’s self-restoring powers! Megan, I guess what I’m trying to say is: If an evil spirit possessed a red-and-white Plymouth Barracuda, I’m already a goner.

Schuster: Can we share her? Maybe come up with a schedule to alternate weekends? I’m willing to do whatever it takes to get Christine into my life.

12. The Thunderbird, Thelma & Louise

Surrey: If we were doing a separate ranking for Best Movie Endings Predicated on Characters Doing Something Drastic in a Car, Thelma & Louise would be the undisputed front-runner. (Conversely, the winner for Best Opening Sequence Where a Car Plays an Integral Role would go to Titane, which went to some [clears throat] interesting places with its Cadillac.) Thelma & Louise’s ending will always be remembered as an all-timer, but the film’s 1966 Ford Thunderbird is plenty iconic in its own right. The breezy convertible is the perfect car to embody how Thelma Dickinson and Louise Sawyer feel liberated from the mundanity of their lives—right down to being driven off of the Grand Canyon.

I don’t know what’s sexier: the Thunderbird, or shirtless Brad Pitt in a cowboy hat. (OK, it’s definitely Brad, but still: this is an awesome car.)

11. MINI Cooper, The Italian Job

Schuster: One of the best and funniest car chases in film history occurs in 1969’s The Italian Job. The premise is this: a bunch of English blokes go to Italy to fight the mafia, avenge a friend’s death, and heist some gold in the process. To get out with the loot, though, they must rely on one of the silliest cars ever invented—the MINI Cooper—to get the job done. Trunks loaded up with gold, they drive these MINI Coopers down staircases, through a shopping mall, way-too-closely past pedestrians, and even off the tops of buildings. It’s wonderful nonsense, and the scenes lead to lines like, “Try putting your foot down, Tony, they’re really getting rather close” said in hilariously proper British accents. The moral of the story is: more heists should involve teeny little cars, and also, helmets with driving goggles.

10. Mach 5, Speed Racer

Surrey: Speed Racer started out as a manga and became a popular anime, but I want to single out the feature-film adaptation from the Wachowskis, because it’s an absolute trip. The Wachowskis’s Speed Racer deployed a visual style unlike anything before it—the best way I can describe it is the cinematic equivalent of a sugar rush. The artificiality and candy-colored aesthetic is so overwhelming that you honestly need to build up a tolerance for it, but once you get on Speed Racer’s wacky wavelength, it’s wonderfully immersive: Imagine the plastic sheen of Barbie Land, but for glorified Hot Wheels.

As for the Mach 5, Speed Racer’s vehicle of choice, it’s the true star of the show: a sleek, stylish rocket ship on four wheels. Putting the Mach 5 in the hands of the Wachowskis is like handing Da Vinci a paint brush, which brings us to Speed Racer’s climactic Grand Prix, where Speed Racer lets go of his inhibitions and leaves it all on the track. I must confess, Megan: I rewatched Speed Racer after taking an edible last year, and when this happened, I thought I was being transported to another dimension.

Schuster: Did you think you were seeing Rainbow Road come to life? Because I certainly would have.

9. KITT, Knight Rider

Schuster: It feels like a miracle in 2023 that we got this far into a piece before mentioning AI. But here you go, boys and girls—it’s time we talked about KITT. KITT, which stands for Knight Industries Two Thousand, is an “artificially intelligent electronic computer module” that just happens to be located inside of a pretty bitchin’ 1982 Pontiac Firebird Trans Am. KITT talks, learns, thinks, and even has a personality—which likely felt futuristic in the ’80s but seems frighteningly prescient now. To mollify audiences, KITT was portrayed as a pretty chill electronic computer module, largely content to be used as the U.S. government and Knight Industries saw fit. But I have a feeling if we were producing Knight Rider in current times, there might be a different outcome.

Surrey: On the bright side, if Tesla’s autopilot feature is so bad that nearly all of its cars have to be recalled, I don’t think we’ll have to worry about KITT for at least another decade.

8. The Magic School Bus, The Magic School Bus

Schuster: Yeah, yeah, maybe it’s hypocritical that Arthur Weasley’s car got knocked for its magic while the Magic School Bus is in the top 10. Sue me! I’m nostalgic, and Harry Potter doesn’t feature Lily Tomlin as the main character!

What couldn’t the Magic School Bus do? It blasts into outer space, dives into the depths of the ocean, rides soundwaves, and most memorably for me, shrinks down to microscopic levels to enter the body of a sick kid named Ralphie and locate the bacteria that’s causing his illness (I probably didn’t need to see the blood cells in that much cartoony detail).

Ms. Frizzle is a certified eccentric, and I for one am with the class worrywart, Arnold, who constantly seems distressed by the inexplicable field trips the teacher drags the class on. But in the end, this is a very memorable kids show, and an even more memorable vehicle. So I guess Ms. Frizzle was doing something right.

7. The Mystery Machine, Scooby-Doo

Surrey: You know how some people own cars that are a perfect extension of their personality? (The less said about anyone who bought the Cybertruck, the better.) Well, that’s exactly how I feel about the Mystery Machine. The Scooby Gang’s psychedelic van completely embodies the laid-back, flower-power vibes these amateur sleuths give off. I can’t see the Scooby Gang driving anything else, which is probably for the best: considering how many times the Mystery Machine has definitely been hotboxed, I doubt it’s got much resale value. Somebody puff, puff, pass the Scooby Snacks.

6. The V8 Interceptor, Mad Max

Surrey: There were so many cool cars introduced in Mad Max: Fury Road—the War Rig, Immortan Joe’s Bigfoot, whatever the hell you want to call the vehicle that housed the Doof Warrior and his flaming guitar—but I still hold a soft spot for the franchise’s original muscle car: the V8 Interceptor. Dubbed the “last of the V8 Interceptors” in the original Mad Max, this Ford Falcon XB—a model only available in the Australian market—is given to Mel Gibson’s Max Rockatansky as an incentive to stay on the police force as the world descends into chaos. (Being bribed with a kickass car … honestly, that’s the most I’ve ever related to a fictional character.)

What makes the V8 Interceptor so synonymous with the franchise is how well it personifies Max’s rage after his family is killed: the powerful, roaring engine doubles as a battle cry. But while fans have a soft spot for the V8 Interceptor, George Miller isn’t afraid to kill his darlings: the car is destroyed in The Road Warrior, and Tom Hardy’s Max loses his own Interceptor within the opening moments of Fury Road. No matter: if the apocalypse is ever upon us, there’s only one car worth riding into the gates of Valhalla, shiny and chrome.

5. The Ford Mustang, Bullitt

Surrey: Steve McQueen behind the wheel of a Ford Mustang sells itself, but what cements Bullitt’s Hall of Fame status is how the car contributes to the godfather of all chase scenes. Once McQueen’s Lieutenant Frank Bullitt realizes he’s being tailed by hitmen driving a Dodge Charger through the streets of San Francisco, a cat-and-mouse game ensues. Bullitt loses the Charger and flips the script on his pursuers; the prey becomes the predator. From there, the action explodes into life as both drivers put their foot on the gas. To anyone who’s never watched Bullitt, spare 10 minutes of your day and check out this sequence; you won’t regret a second of it.

What I love about Bullitt’s car chase are the little imperfections: at one point, it’s clear that the Charger accidentally crashed in a minor editing gaffe; hubcaps go flying off tires on multiple occasions. These moments give the sequence a sense of weight that so many modern blockbusters lack: everything you see is real, and rad as hell. If the Mustang wasn’t already hailed as America’s most iconic muscle car, then Bullitt made sure it would never be up for debate.

4. Herbie, The Love Bug (and Lesser Sequels)

Surrey: Longtime followers of The Ringer’s Surrey-Schuster Collaborations—sidenote: can we get this trademarked?—will know this isn’t the first time Herbie has appeared in one of our rankings. (By our extremely correct metrics, Herbie is the third-greatest pop culture bug of all time.) And how could we not run it back with Herbie? This sentient Volkswagen Beetle is a sassy legend: when he isn’t purposefully leaking oil on his adversaries like a puppy who hasn’t been potty-trained, he wins races by finishing in first … and third place!

If I could own one pop culture car on this list, I’m going with Herbie—and not just because the VW Beetle has been tragically discontinued. For any kid who grew up interested in cars, it’s only a matter of time before you catch the Love Bug.

Schuster: Just talking about Herbie warms my jaded heart. And yes to the trademark.

3. The DeLorean, Back to the Future

Schuster: As far as I know, the DeLorean is the only vehicle on this list that’s ever been added to the Library of Congress’ National Vehicle Register, which should tell you a lot about its impact. This time machine—used to transport Marty McFly back to 1955, where he threatens his own existence by attracting the romantic attention of his mother—is a massive piece of American iconography. Back to the Future was the highest-grossing movie of 1985 (amassing over $220 million at the worldwide box office) and the DeLorean remains the primary image of that film (rivaled only by Michael J. Fox’s vest and Christopher Lloyd’s mad-scientist hair). It’s not the most complicated movie time machine ever dreamed up: to get it to work, you just add plutonium and rev the car up to 88 mph. But the story lines it facilitated—plot holes and all—seemed limitless.

Surrey: It’s a good thing the DeLorean is such an icon, because it famously failed in the “being a functional car” department—to say nothing of its creator, John DeLorean, who went on trial for cocaine trafficking. The ’80s … what a ride.


2. Aston Martin DB5, the James Bond Franchise

Surrey: The Aston Martin DB5 is a sports car that manages to be both flashy and elegant: a balancing act that makes it the ideal companion for 007. James Bond’s been treated to countless accessories—spiffy suits, an explosive pen, a jetpack, and so on—but nothing has endured quite like the DB5, which first appeared in 1964’s Goldfinger and has played a part in eight films across the franchise. Bond’s DB5 comes with plenty of gadgets fit for a spy, including machine guns behind the front indicators, but even that feels insignificant compared to the vibe it gives off. The DB5 is class personified—the kind of car that turns you into someone who wants a martini shaken, not stirred. For Bond and audiences alike, it was love at first Q briefing.

We’re no closer to finding out who the next Bond will be—fingers crossed on Damson Idris—but there’s one surefire way to ingratiate the new 007 to fans: put him behind the wheel of a DB5.

1. The Batmobile

Schuster: What else could top this list? Not only is the Batmobile an incredible feat of creativity, engineering, and general badassery—but it’s also continued to improve on itself over the years. From the original version in the comics, which was red and wasn’t actually called the “Batmobile,” to the sleek sports car in the 1989 Batman film, to the cartoonish style of 1997’s Batman & Robin, to the downright tank-like structure of the Dark Knight movie trilogy, the car is constantly evolving. As is its purpose.

Early editions rivaled James Bond’s Aston Martin in terms of class and precision. Later editions are almost militaristic, giving Batman an edge on more advanced weaponry. All versions are fast; all are lethal; and all are fitting for one of the world’s premier superheroes. Much like the crimefighter it protects, the Batmobile is almost unrecognizable today from where it started 80 years ago. But that’s what makes it cool—it will never become outdated. It will never stop being useful. It will always be the baddest car on the road. That’s what we’re looking for in fictional vehicles, and that’s what makes this one no. 1.