The Epic Rides Behind Some of the Silver Screen’s Most Stylish Moments


Thelma & Louise
Thelma & Louise

Last year was the closest a car has ever come to winning an Oscar. Jenny Beavan took home the Best Costume Design award, her second, for Mad Max: Fury Road. It also won for production design.

There is a case to be made for the automobile as ultimate accessory, irrefutable signifier of good taste and character. More than any other object, a car shows the world how you imagine yourself. You cannot take a $57 million dollar Basquiat with you and your risqué Rodin is likewise confined to the living room. Neither one will ferry you and your date to the theatre, or along the Costa Smeralda. Besides, a 1967 Lancia Flaminia Zagato has a way of making an Hermès tote seem… a little obvious.

Thelma and Louise wouldn’t have been the same without their turquoise ’66 Ford Thunderbird. The car begins as an upright citizen, an object of affection, a bystander sucked into a situation. By the time it flies off the cliff (spoilers), it’s a dirty anarchist. You’d never imagine an innocent thing could be so bad. The car was perfectly cast. You couldn’t have put a Lincoln in that role.

John Hughes had a good eye for casting cars, and not just the red Ferrari from Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. That thing was escapism incarnate. (Note: no Ferrari was harmed in the making of this film. It was a fake.)

Molly Ringwald’s ride from Pretty in Pink was a little on-the-nose but it worked: a pink Karmann Ghia. It had a fancy name and a nice silhouette, but up close it was battered and dented. The Karmann Ghia is nothing more than a tarted-up Volkswagen. In the ’80s it would’ve been dirt cheap, the ideal car for a working-class girl trying to bridge the class divide and date one of the rich kids.

To Catch a Thief
To Catch a Thief

In some cases, a well-cast car is the best thing about a film. The 1967 Citroen DS was more fun to watch than Jolie and Pitt in By the Sea. Gossip sites report the couple loved the car so much, they rented it for a real holiday once filming was done.

Who drove it best? As usual when it comes to style, the answer is Grace Kelly, but the question is which one? Kelly in To Catch a Thief or Nicole Kidman playing Kelly in Grace of Monaco?

Kidman playing Kelly drives a pale blue late ‘50s Porsche 356. In the Hitchcock film, Kelly speeds along the French Riviera in a sapphire blue 1953 Sunbeam Alpine with Cary Grant in the passenger seat. She drove in pink heels and a matching dress, scarf flying in the wind, left arm resting on the door with a single white glove on the steering wheel.

Good accessories make the outfit. And sometimes, a stellar ride can drive the film.