(One of the ways the Internet Movie Car Database ranks cars is based on their importance in a film: one star is a background vehicle, three stars is for a car in a chase, and five stars is for a car with a central role. We used the database to find which models earned five-star central movie roles most often.)
Ever wondered which vehicles land the most starring roles and wind up with the most on-screen time in movies, TV shows and music videos? We used the Internet Movie Car Database (IMCDB) to find out, by tallying up common models in their five-star category.
Ford Crown Victoria: three major movie roles and one TV series
Chevrolet Impala: three major movie roles and one TV series
Chevrolet Corvette: three major movie roles and two TV series
Ford hot rod: four major movie roles
Pontiac Firebird: five major movie roles and two TV series
Lincoln Continental: seven major movie roles
Volkswagen Beetle: seven major movie roles and one TV series
Ford Mustang: seven major movie roles and three TV series
Chevrolet Camaro: eight major movie roles
Dodge Charger: eight major movie roles and one (very popular) TV series
3791 non-background roles
The Crown Vic is almost solely on this list because of its numerous appearances in police uniform on shows like NYPD Blue, Law and Order and, to a lesser extent, movies like Super Troopers. To be fair, it was also the star of 2004’s indisputable smash hit Taxi with Queen Latifah. If you threw Lincoln Town Car limos in this category, too, you’d get half of all the vehicles on modern television crime-dramas.
2478 non-background roles
There’ve been famous Impalas here and there – the ’67 from TV show Supernatural is a good recent example – but this car earns a lot of its star power from its multiplicity of roles as police cars or taxis (and as hydraulic-equipped lowriders in rap videos).
1029 non-background roles
As popular as the Corvette is in pop car culture, it hasn’t had a whole lotta movies or series revolve around it. Perhaps the best example of a silver-screen star ‘Vette is Corvette Summer, with Mark Hamill; and of a small-screen screamer, Route 66. But to its credit, the new Stingray was already in a Transformers film when the car hadn’t even come out.
459 non-background roles (‘30 to ’34 Fords)
The impact the ’32 Ford has had on car culture is immeasurable, but its movie appearances aren’t according to IMCDB. The Deuce, along with its older and younger brothers, has shown up in several hot rod flicks – namely American Graffiti – but never captured Hollywood’s heart like muscle cars did.
697 non-background roles
The Firebird seems to have found a lot more favour on the small screen than the big one, especially in its role as David Hasselhoff’s self-driving KITT on Knight Rider, and James Garner’s J-turning special on the Rockford Files. We can’t discount the sales boost it earned Pontiac as Burt Reynolds’ Bandit, though.
1226 non-background roles
If you count the Lincoln Mark IIs, IIIs and etc. as part of the Continental line, then the barge has seen plenty of screen time. A gorgeous triple-brown Mark III starred in The French Connection, and a dressed-up version of that same car was, uh, The Car. Appearances of the mid-‘60s suicide-door convertible include Entourage‘s opening credits and the definitely-not-terrible Inspector Gadget movie.
4463 non-background roles (classic Type 1)
Like some other cars, the Beetle earned most of its star power via one franchise – as the titular Herbie the Love Bug – plus thousands of almost-background roles. How many famous Beetles can you name off the top of your head besides the animated Transformers’ Bumblebee or the new Austin Powers time machine?
2422 non-background roles
The Ford Mustang is just a hot car generally, so it makes sense it’s earned so many lead roles (I’m thinking mainly of its work in Bullitt; both Gone in 60 Secondses; the new War of the Worlds; and Diamonds are Forever). It doesn’t hurt that Ford stuck the most recent generation Mustang everywhere it could, from Death Race to I Am Legend to Drive to Knight Rider to Need for Speed.
1068 non-background roles
IMCDB can name eight movies the Camaro’s starred in, but to be honest most of ‘em were directed by Michael Bay. (Hint: yeah, it’s the Transformers franchise.) Generally, you’ll tend see the Camaro in more supporting roles than leading ones—when it’s not being used as a Challenger stunt double.
510 non-background roles
The Dodge Charger is Hollywood’s go-to hero – and villian – car. It’s best known for its high-flying jumps as the General Lee on the Dukes of Hazzard, a TV series that allegedly claimed the lives of close to 400 of the cars, but it’ll also go down in history as the many-hubcapped baddie car from Bullitt. Other starring roles include Blade; Dirty Mary, Crazy Larry; Death Proof; The Fast and The Furious; Drive Angry; and, if you include its winged Daytona brother, Joe Dirt.