The most popular movie cars of all time – Axon's Automotive Anorak

17th July 2020
Gary Axon

Recently Goodwood successfully staged the first of its regular series of Secret Cinema drive-in movies, all of which can be enjoyed from the comfort, convenience and safety of the viewers own vehicles, whilst not needing to exit their machines to help respect all UK social distancing regulations.


As part of Goodwood’s new Drive-In initiative, presented by Haagen-Dazs, the historic West Sussex Motor Circuit venue screened (and will be screening) an exceptional selection of popular movies this summer, with films scheduled to include motor sport favourites, such as Le Mans ’66 (Ford vs. Ferrari) and Rush, as well as popular family block busters like Star Wars, Avengers and Frozen for the younger film fans.

News of this exciting new Goodwood Drive-In movie initiative at the Motor Circuit coincides with the results of some comprehensive research recently undertaken by, with the help of the extensive Internet Movie Cars Database (IMCDb) website. This research looked into which vehicles have most commonly been featured in English-language films and television programmes over the years, with something of a North American biased, judging by some of the survey findings.

 – Find out more about The Drive-In from Secret Cinema and Goodwood here


Cars have long played a significant role in some of the most popular movies and TV shows, with these machines often taking centre stage and becoming one of the most memorable aspects for the viewing audience. After all, where would James Bond be without his iconic, gadget-laden Aston Martin DB5? And it’s difficult to try and imagine Back to the Future without the gullwing DeLorean DMC-12 ‘time machine’, Herbie without the white Volkswagen Beetle (number 53) or The Italian Job without the trio of sassy red, white and blue Mini Coopers! 

Everyone has their own favourite iconic movie cars, but which are the vehicle marques that appear on our cinema and TV screens the most often? These, are often seemingly unnoticed in a supporting bit-part role, such as a TV detective’s wheels (e.g. Inspector Morse’s Jaguar Mark 2, Bergerac’s Triumph Roadster or Columbo’s Peugeot 403 Cabriolet), or a movie star’s distinctive car of choice, such as Dustin Hoffman’s Alfa Romeo Spider Duetto in The Graduate or the fake Ferrari 250 GT California Spyder (actually a Ford V8-engined kit car replica, made by Modena Design) used in the amusing mid-1980s Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.

The results of the extensive study that has just been announced reveals a few surprises, with exotic brands such as Ferrari, Porsche and Aston Martin not featuring as highly in the Top 50 vehicle marques as you might expect, these dream car brands making way for the more regular everyday marques.

Overall, Ford dominates the list of most common movie car brands, with a strong 61,683 appearances in total. It’s not surprising that the global Ford brand took pole position out of the Top 50 car makes, with iconic vehicles such as Bullitt’s 1968 Mustang GT, the Granadas and Capris used in The Sweeney and The Professionals, the 1966 Thunderbird driven in Thelma & Louise, the red with white stripe 1975 Grand Torino coupe in Starskey and Hutch, plus the Greased Lightning hot rod from Grease, which was based around a customised 1948 Ford De Luxe Convertible. It’s the numerous bland Ford Crown Victoria sedans driven by American detectives and yellow cab drivers that tops the on-screen appearance charts, by some margin, way ahead of the second-placed car (also a Ford), the Mustang.

The research finds that Mercedes-Benz is placed second in having vehicles appear in no less than 34,675 films and TV shows, including the 450SEL 6.9, which is used as a major plot device in David Lynch’s Lost Highway, as well as the ‘Red Baron’ 600 limousine which is used by Poison Ivy in Batman and Robin.


Third-placed Chevrolet with 34,178 appearances is an iconic American brand that has seen its vehicles used in numerous US movies such as The Fast and the FuriousAmerican Graffiti and Days of Thunder, with the Detroit vehicle maker even appearing as the Batmobile in Tim Burton’s Batman movies, as well as in the Transformers series, where a Chevrolet Camaro serves as the alter ego of Bumblebee.

The overall rankings for the Top 50 vehicle brand appearances in English-speaking films and TV programmes is as follows, with a few surprises, such as Renault and Fiat featuring in the Top 10, plus the lowly positions of Rolls-Royce (31st, just ahead of Hyundai), Ferrari (48th) and Maserati, which doesn’t even scrape into the Top 50 on-screen appearances!

Rank, marque and on-screen appearances 

  1. Ford – 61,683
  2. Mercedes-Benz – 34,675
  3. Chevrolet – 34,178
  4. Volkswagen – 19,399
  5. Toyota – 17,678
  6. BMW – 15,267
  7. Dodge – 13,598
  8. Renault – 12,260
  9. Fiat – 11,999
  10. Cadillac – 11,365
  11. Volvo – 9,814
  12. Peugeot – 9,280
  13. Honda – 8,752
  14. Citroën – 8,719
  15. Nissan/Datsun – 8,718
  16. Lincoln – 7,314
  17. Opel – 6,574
  18. Jeep – 6,328
  19. Audi – 6,210
  20. Land Rover – 6,201
  21. GAZ Volga – 5,926
  22. Chrysler – 5,551
  23. GMC – 5,535
  24. Plymouth – 5,492
  25. Jaguar – 5,138
  26. Buick 4,786
  27. Mitsubishi – 4,713
  28. Porsche – 4,634
  29. Pontiac – 4,442
  30. Alfa Romeo – 4,097
  31. Rolls-Royce – 3,621
  32. Hyundai – 3,589
  33. Mazda – 3,461
  34. Oldsmobile – 3,396
  35. Harley-Davidson – 3,269
  36. Mercury – 3,123
  37. AutoVAZ/Lada – 3,099
  38. Yamaha – 2,929
  39. Skoda – 2,895
  40. Austin – 2,835
  41. Suzuki – 2,795
  42. Saab – 2,277
  43. Vauxhall – 2,228
  44. Holden – 2,208
  45. Willys – 2,195
  46. Triumph – 2,162
  47. Piaggio – 2,145
  48. Ferrari – 1,905
  49. International Harvester – 1,899
  50. Rover – 1,894

Rover’s placing just inside the Top 50 ranking is quite a surprise, and must be down to all of the P6 and SD1 police car appearances on-screen over the years, as well as the starring role of a Rover 200 as the main transport of Richard and Hyacinth Bucket (‘pronounced Bouquet’) in the popular 1990s BBC sitcom, Keeping Up Appearances!

If you were fortunate enough to come along to Goodwood last weekend to attend the first of its ‘Secret Cinema’ drive-in movie events, or are planning to attend one of the upcoming future film viewings, be sure to keep an eye out for the vehicles that appear in the films, though don’t look too hard during Frozen as no cars appear in this movie! Happy viewing, and enjoy your car spotting.

Mini image by Harry Elliott.

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