5 Famous Movie Mopars: The Best of the Pentastar on the Big Screen
"Gone in 60 Seconds" might have had its iconic "Eleanor" Ford Mustang, but the movies have been kind to Chryslers, Dodges, and Plymouths as well, doling out a number of important parts in films that have—in most cases—stood the test of time for gearheads who also happen to be cinemaniacs.
We decided to pick our favorite movie Mopars and explain what makes them so special to the popcorn crowd. Along with the cast of usual muscle car suspects, there are a couple of curveballs in here too that you might not remember from the annals of film history.
How many of these have you seen—and how many of these cars stuck with you long after the credits had rolled?
1. 1970 Dodge Challenger R/T 440 From "Vanishing Point"
"Vanishing Point" remains a vital artifact of early-'70s cinema. At its core, the film is an exploration of personal freedom versus the expectations and demands of society, the effects of war on the individual and the lure of the open road. The fact that the primary narrative device it employs is a white supercharged Dodge Challenger R/T 440 screaming from Denver to San Francisco on a bet has also helped the movie find a wider audience—in other words, those who just want to watch what is essentially a 1,200 mile car chase.
There's a great soundtrack, a race against a Jaguar E-Type and plenty of police pursuit action. The ending is either a downer, or liberating, depending on your perspective, and if you're hungry for more, there's a TV movie remake from the late '90s that focuses more on the car than existential ennui. The more recent take also offers a great Dodge Charger versus Challenger chase, and the immortal line, "it takes a Mopar to catch a Mopar."
Why a Challenger in the original? 20th Century Fox wanted to thank Chrysler for its policy of renting them car after car for the symbolic price of a buck a day, and figured a star turn by their newest coupe would give them a significant publicity boost.
2. 1974 Dodge Monaco From "The Blues Brothers"
The Bluesmobile from "The Blues Brothers" proves that you don't need flash to become a pop culture fixture. Driven by Jake and Elwood Blues throughout the film, and introduced in memorable fashion while picking up Jake from prison ("It's got a cop motor, a 440-cubic inch plant. It's got cop tires, cop suspension, cop shocks. It's a model made before catalytic converters so it'll run good on regular gas," extols Elwood), this once-humble police car gains a giant speaker on the roof, crashes through a mall and jumps whatever necessary on its way to immortality.
In total, it took 13 Monacos to make it to the end of production, and they destroyed more cars on-screen in The Blues Brothers than any other movie—until they filmed the sequel, Blues Brothers 2000, a few decades later.
3. 1958 Plymouth Fury From "Christine"
Stephen King's tale of vehicular horror was translated to the big screen in 1983, and in the process it made a star out of the shining chrome grin and lethal tail fins of the titular 1958 Plymouth Fury. Director John Carpenter bought 24 Furies for use during production, ultimately cannibalizing seven examples to create a fleet of 17 runners. In total, 15 percent of production costs can be linked to the Plymouths alone, far more than was paid to the actors who actually had to learn their lines and work long into the night on the film.
The murderous car was always piloted by a stunt driver, even when it was on fire, but Carpenter used hydraulics to simulate the "regeneration" process used by "Christine" after each rampage. Funny enough, for reasons known only to the production staff, all of the engine noises you hear in the movie are dubbed in from a '70 Cobra Jet Mustang. Only two remaining Christines survive today.
4. Dodge M4S From "The Wraith"
Never seen "The Wraith?" You're not alone.
The plot deals with a murdered high school student who comes back to life as a street-racing, futuristic car—or something—but what's really interesting is the decision to use a Dodge M4S as the hero vehicle for the film. Although the movie was shot in 1986, the M4S had been built back in '81 as a "technology demonstrator," and it featured a turbocharged 2.2L four-cylinder engine placed between rear axle and the passenger compartment that gave it a near-200 mph top speed.
Why haven't you ever heard of the M4S? Aside from pacing the Indy Car series in 1985, this supercar never advanced beyond prototype status, although turbo 2.2Ls would find their way into many front-wheel drive models sold by Chrysler throughout the decade. Once it had finished its tour of the auto show scene, it largely disappeared from the public eye.
5. 1970 Dodge Charger From "The Fast and the Furious"
It was hard to pick between this incarnation of the second-gen Dodge Charger and the '68 that was used to film the most exciting car chase of all time in "Bullitt," but in the end the car from "The Fast and the Furious" got the nod because it's had such a strong presence in the multi-film franchise. Originally a nine-second dragster in the first installment, the Charger was eventually modified to be dropped out of an airplane, driven off-road and even tackle the frozen wastelands of Russia using jet power. Not many other muscle machines—Mopar or otherwise—can make that claim.