We live in a world constrained by rules — rules of the road, rules of the workplace, rules of government, and rules of etiquette. While many of these guidelines are meant to keep us alive, it’s fun to imagine what life would be like without them. That’s why we love science fiction; it doesn’t have to play by our rules.
As a genre, sci-fi is responsible for some of the coolest vehicles ever imagined, ranging from Han Solo’s iconic Millennium Falcon all the way to Marty McFly’s colorful hoverboard. But since we’re (slightly) more grounded in reality here, we’d like to count down the best futuristic cars from science fiction movies.
By cars, we mean land-based vehicles in the relatively traditional sense. This is a realm of fiction after all, so hovering and lower-atmospheric vehicles are ok, but spacecraft and walker-type vehicles are out (sorry, AT-AT). So without further adieu, strap yourselves in, check your mirrors, and prepare to accelerate to attack speed. In no particular order, these are our favorite sci-fi cars of all time.
“Wait a minute, Doc. Are you telling me that you built a time machine… out of a DeLorean?”
Without the Back to the Future saga, the DeLorean DMC-12 would likely be remembered as a stainless steel oddball with gull-wing doors and a cult following. With the time-traveling trilogy, however, the DeLorean is revered as a cultural icon, and its quirky appeal is unmatched even to this day.
The DMC-12 was the first and only vehicle made by DeLorean Motor Company, first touching down as a prototype in 1976. The automaker is long gone now — the company went bankrupt in ’82 after founder John DeLorean was arrested for drug trafficking — but the car’s legend lives on in film and television.
If you’re a fan, make sure to check out Rich Weissensel’s collection of modified DMC-12s, which includes a monster truck, limo, and yes, a hovercraft. I guess Doc Brown was right about not needing roads after all.
Blade Runner doesn’t exactly paint a pretty picture of the future. With an oppressively dark tone, the film depicts a dirty, run-down version of 2019 Los Angeles, one where genetically engineered replicants are hunted down and ”retired” for fleeing menial work positions on off-world colonies. But hey, the cop cars are pretty sweet.
Dubbed “Spinners,” the hovering police vehicles boast vertical take-off capability, which is especially helpful in crowded dystopian cities. Their commanding shapes were crafted by Syd Mead, an industrial designer with credits in films such as Aliens and Tron. Tributes to the car were reportedly hidden in the Star Wars prequel trilogy and Back to the Future Part II.
One of the best scenes in Minority Report comes about a third of the way in, where John Anderton — portrayed by a perpetually running Tom Cruise — attempts to evade capture in an automated vehicle factory. After dispatching several baddies with sick sticks and sonic guns, Anderton fights Department of Justice agent Danny Witwer (Colin Farrell) on an assembly line as the Lexus 2054 is assembled around them.
Witwer escapes to safety as the vehicle’s body is welded, riveted, and stamped together — trapping Anderton inside — but of course it takes much more than that to kill Tom Cruise. As for the car itself, the Lexus features a verbal interface, can drive itself, and can chose music to match the moods of the occupants. A blue version also made an appearance in the 2005 action film, The Island.
Despite being set in 2035, the vehicles in I, Robot appear to have similar capabilities to current semi-autonomous cars. They can pilot themselves with little driver input and understand voice commands, but can also transfer control back to the occupant with a fairly standard wheel-and-pedal setup.
Unfortunately for Will Smith’s Del Spooner, his version lacked features like automatic emergency braking and pedestrian detection, and it was thoroughly trashed by a faction of homicidal robots about halfway through the movie.
We could have an entire list just for Mad Max cars (Ed. Note: We should probably do that), but for the sake of variety, we’re limiting this index to one entrant per franchise… maybe. Mad Max may not be science fiction in the traditional sense, but the barren landscapes featured in all four films boast the classic elements of the genre: bizarre cultures, post-apocalyptic technology, a menacing villain, and undeniable style.
Each of these components are present in the Gigahorse, an antagonistic vehicle driven by the Fury Road character Immortan Joe. In a world where resources are extremely scarce, Joe displays his might by driving a car comprised of two Cadillac Coupe de Villes, molded together in the ultimate display of confidence and gas-burning might.
The Gigahorse sources power from a pair of big block Chevy V8s, each of which equips a supercharger and is connected by a planetary gear. There’s also a four-bladed cow catcher, harpoon gun, and a flamethrower on board, so if you happen to find yourself in a futuristic desert wasteland, you’ll probably want to stay the hell out of its way.
Our sixth member comes from a picture George Lucas originally wrote long long ago, back when he was still in film school. Starring Robert Duvall and Donald Pleasence, THX 1138 depicts yet another dystopian future, one where emotions and desires are suppressed through mandatory medication. That being said, the car of the future was the gorgeous Lola T70 Mk.III, so that makes up for at least some of the trouble.
The T70 was built in the mid-1960s specifically for racing, and the swooping coupe was notably featured in endurance races like the 24 Hours of Le Mans and the 24 Hours of Daytona. Back in the day, Lola generally fitted the vehicles with booming Chevrolet V8s, but replicas are available today with a variety of powertrains and space-age tubular chassis.
If you’re hunting for exoskeletal aliens with secondary jaws and acid for blood, you’re going to need some heavy firepower. Thats why when Ellen Ripley and the Colonial Marines ventured to planet LV-426 in search of missing terraformers, they did so in this weaponized beast.
The M577 Armored Personnel Carrier (APC) is equally tough and well-armed, and despite its rigid design, it’s relatively mobile over rough terrain. Top speed is pegged at approximately 93 mph, but it’s more than capable of standing its ground.
The chassis is made from bonded titanium while the hull is comprised of welded light alloys, reinforced with boron carbide ceramic tiles. The APC equips a variety of bug-hunting weapons as well, and depending on the configuration, it’ll pack twin 20-millimeter Gatling guns, phased plasma cannons, and a 32-round automatic mortar. It’s essentially the ultimate mechanized badass, but considering what we’ve seen from the Xenomorphs thus far, you’re probably better off nuking the site from orbit.
“Bada boom. Bada big boom.”
It’s not every day a Supreme Being of the Universe falls through the roof of your cab, but that was just the start of a very long day for Korben Dallas. All of a sudden, the New York City taxi driver and former special forces officer found himself in the possession of the Fifth Element in corporeal form, and the authorities wanted her back.
Like many cabbies, Dallas possessed an eye for shortcuts, so he swung his uniquely modified rig around the futuristic Big Apple, slyly maneuvering through the city’s underbelly. Luckily, his ride was fitted with attack detection systems, scanner jamming technology, an automatic driving mode, and surprising resistance to police gunfire.
Take a walk around NYC today and it won’t be too long before you see a Korben Dallas Taxi Service t-shirt.
If you loved the Light Cycle from the first Tron movie, you’ll likely appreciate the Light Runner from Tron: Legacy as well. Featuring twice the wheels and twice the seats of the motorcycle version, the Light Runner belongs to Quorra (Olivia Wilde), and has more than a few tricks up its shiny sleeves.
It’s a small, fast vehicle, but perhaps its most unique talent is the ability to drive off the Grid under its own power. That, and the surprising complement of weapons on board, including a powerful Light Ribbon, two missile launchers, and a mine dropper. It’s a formidable thing then, a sleek and sexy speedster with the ability to punch through city walls with little effort. If the only way to win is to survive, having the keys to this thing can’t hurt.
Yup, I lied. You just can’t have a list like this without the epic V8 Intercepter from the Mad Max saga. Driven by the man himself, the car — also called the Ford Falcon XB GT and the Pursuit Special — was only featured briefly in 2015’s Mad Max: Fury Road, and was absent from the third film altogether. Still, the gritty muscle car is synonymous with the franchise, and for good reason.
The callous coupe is a distillation of pure badassery, evidenced by its rat rod style, bulging supercharger, side pipes, and rumbling exhaust note. Fuel is worth its weight in gold in this universe, so the Interceptor’s 5.8-liter V8 probably isn’t the most frugal choice. But hey, the film isn’t called Logical Max.
If someone tells you not to push the red button, what do you immediately feel like doing? That’s right; you want to push the red button.
Thats exactly what Will Smith’s Agent Jay eventually did in Men in Black, which turned a relatively normal 1987 Ford Crown Victoria into a high-tech speed machine with twin rear-exhaust thrusters and upside down driving capability. What a difference one button makes.
One of the few land vehicles in the Star Trek franchise, this buggy is a unique all-terrain transporter highlighted in the movie Star Trek: Nemesis.
Fitted to the Federation shuttlecraft Argo, the ATV helped Picard, Worf, and Data escape from a band of desert planet marauders by accelerating to what Data called “unsafe velocities.” Speaking of unsafe, the buggy is outfitted with an extremely powerful rear-mounted phaser cannon, one that Worf uses to send several baddies to the afterlife.
Long before Michael Bay got his hands on the Transformers franchise, the bright yellow Bumblebee was actually the ultimate hippie mobile — the Volkswagen Beetle. The compact car isn’t exactly a symbol of intimidation, but therein lies the appeal of a shape-shifting robots. In a matter of seconds, the smart aleck Bumblebee morphed into a capable fighter and spy, using his more petite frame to infiltrate enemy strongholds.
Starting in 2007, Bumblebee was reincarnated as a Chevrolet Camaro, and due to a battle injury, he was rendered the strong, silent type. He’s a tad bit leaky, though.
The Eagle 5 isn’t your typical Winnebago, but Lone Starr and Barf aren’t your typical road-trippers. The practical, yet undeniably sexy Eagle 5 is capable of both space flight and ground travel, but even better are its “secret hyper jets” and “hyperactive” mode.
It may not be the sleekest ride on our list, but it’s probably the most practical, and maybe the most fun. May the Schwartz be with you.
Never has a name fit the design of a car so well. The Mach 5 first appeared in the 1960s Speed Racer cartoon, and its design appears to be influenced from race cars of that period. Even today it looks awesomely futuristic and definitely capable of busting through the sound barrier. Plus, it’s got handy gadgets like cutting blades and jacks that allow it jump over other cars. You won’t find stuff like that in Formula One.
A real-life version of the Mach 5 was built for the 2008 Speed Racer live-action movie, but all of the driving scenes were done using CGI. At least one street-legal Mach 5 replica exists. It was built using a C4-generation Chevrolet Corvette as its foundation. But the Mach 5 is really a cartoon car, built for a world where the laws of physics (not to mention stuffy racing sanctioning bodies) don’t apply.
Updated: We added Speed Racer’s Mach 5 to round out this list.
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