HomeCar CultureCommentaryThe envelope please: Automobile Oscar winners

The envelope please: Automobile Oscar winners


The vehicles in films transport the audience to another time, perhaps even back to the future. Without speaking in words (unless the movie is Cars), they sometimes fill a leading role and can even inspire a new generation of car enthusiasts.

As we drive toward the 90th Academy Awards ceremony on Sunday night, we’d like to give credit to the cars that appeared in these Oscar-winning films.

Darkest Hour – 1936 Humber Pullman

Let’s begin with one of this year’s nominees for Best Picture. In a period-piece, classic vehicles are to be expected. Winston Churchill (Gary Oldman) is chauffeured throughout the film in a beautifully maintained 1936 Humber Pullman.

La La Land – 1982 Buick Riviera

This nostalgic film took home six Oscars in 2017. The film was a throwback to the classic musicals of Old Hollywood, so the fact that Ryan Gosling doesn’t drive a true classic in the film was an interesting choice.

Crash – 1984 Jeep Cherokee

Winner of both Best Picture and Best Original Screenplay in 2006, this drama depicts a diverse cast “crashing” culturally, emotionally and—in the final scene—physically. While the focus of the movie is on the characters, their stories unfold while driving.

Titanic – 1912 Renault 35CV

Who could forget this steamy scene from the most Oscar-winning film of all time?

It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World – various mid-century classics

It’s a toss up on whether there are more actor or vehicle cameos in this Oscar-winning film. A Willys Jeep station wagon, Mercury Montclair, Plymouth Belvedere, Ford Super Deluxe, Ford Fairlane Sunliner and a Dodge Dart are just a few of the vehicles seen racing to recover the mysterious treasure waiting at the end of the road.

Bullitt – 1968 Ford Mustang

Bullitt won the Oscar for Best Film Editing, and it shows during the climactic car chase. For a film deemed culturally and historically significant enough to be stored in the Library of Congress, should the newly discovered Mustangs from the film be secured in Fort Knox?

Goldfinger – 1964 Aston Martin DB5

This was the first film to feature Bond behind the wheel of his iconic Aston Martin. Now it’s hard to imagine a better pairing than super spies and super cars. Goldfinger won the award for Best Sound Effects and Sean Connery won us all over with that iconic accent.

Driving Miss Daisy – 1949 Hudson Commodore

Winner of four Oscars for Best Picture, Best Actress in a Lead Role, Best Writing and Best Makeup; this film may not be a favorite with muscle car fans. But luxury vehicle lovers might enjoy riding along with Miss Daisy in her Hudson Commodore and her collection of Cadillacs that are featured throughout the film.

The French Connection – 1971 Pontiac LeMans

The French Connection won an impressive five Oscars in 1972: Best Picture, Best Actor in a Leading Role, Best Director, Best Writing and Best Film Editing. The Best Picture award could be attributed to the film’s realism, especially during the final car chase, as the sequence was filmed without permits on the public streets of  New York City.

The Graduate – 1966 Alfa Romeo 1600 Spider Duetto

The Graduate made stars out of first-time actor Dustin Hoffman, up-and-coming folk duo Simon & Garfunkel and the fashionable Alfa Romeo 1600 Spider Duetto. Alfa Romeo can thank (or blame) Oscar-winning director Mike Nichols for influencing the label of “the poor man’s Ferrari.”

Back to the Future – 1978 DeLorean DMC-12

This list wouldn’t be complete with the star of the classic time-travel film Back to the Future. The film won an Oscar for Best Sound Editing in 1986 and established the stainless steel DeLorean as a hot collectible for car and film fanatics.

Little Miss Sunshine – 1973 Volkswagen Transporter Type 2

The Volkswagen “minibus” seems to represent the varied dynamics of the Hoover family in this Best Original Screenplay-winning film: barely functional, claustrophobic and running on fumes.

Rain Man – 1949 Buick Roadmaster

Winner of Best Picture, Best Actor, Best Director and Best Writing, this “road-trip” movie features brothers (Dustin Hoffman and Tom Cruise) bonding in their late father’s 1949 Buick Roadmaster.

Thelma and Louise – 1966 Ford Thunderbird

A 1966 Thunderbird convertible is the star of the film’s finale as Thelma and Louise drive it full speed off a cliff out in a commitment to living (and ending) life on their own terms. The ending helped win the film an Oscar for Best Writing in 1992. 

What’s your favorite movie car or car movie?



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