Whether they were notable for their superior performance, or for the superior performers who drove them, RideLust’s list of the 50 Most Famous Cars pays homage to all the truly iconic automobiles of our time [and a few that slipped in under "editorial bias"...] So without further ado, and in no particular order:
1. 1967 Ford Mustang Shelby GT500 fastback
Where It’s From: Gone in 60 Seconds  film
Claim to Fame:Stuck behind a traffic jam and desperate to outrun the rapidly advancing 5-0, Memphis [Nicolas Cage] throws “Eleanor” and her 428 cubic-inch, 360-hp engine in drive and using a lowered towtruck flat bed as a ramp, launches her 30 feet up in the air. Completely airborne, Memphis flies Eleanor over 15 feet of damaged cars and rescue workers – landing intact on the other side, cocked, locked, and ready to rock
2. 1981 DeLorean DMC 12
Where It’s From: Back To The Future  film
Claim to Fame:Off-screen an extremely ill-fated Irish sports car, in Back To The Future, the DeLorean DMC 12 was capable of breaking the laws of quantum physics. Modified with a flux capacitor and a strategically placed nuclear generator, when traveling at precisely 88 mph, the DMC 12 was capable of time-travel.
3. 1963 Volkswagen Beetle
Where It’s From: The Herbie series [1969, 1974, 1977, 1980, 2005] film
Claim to Fame: Born in Germany in 1963, Herbie is/was a white Volkswagen Classic Beetle famously distinguished by two red and blue racing stripes and the number 53 painted on the hood, doors, and trunk. Capable of driving itself as well as feeling human emotions, Herbie was a zippy little Beetle with a Porsche 356 engine who gave the big boys a run for their money.
4. 1969 Dodge Charger
Where It’s From:The Dukes Of Hazzard [1979-1985] television series
Claim to Fame: With a confederate flag painted on the roof and doors that were welded shut, the General Lee was the Duke boys’ modified Charger R/T who saw as much air time as United. To keep the Charger from going ass-over-teakettle during flight, the Charger’s trunk was routinely packed with about 1,000 pounds of sandbags and concrete [we'll spare you the "junk in the trunk" jokes].
5. 1982 Pontiac Firebird Trans Am
Where It’s From: Knight Rider [1982-1986] television series
Claim to Fame:Hyper-intelligent crime fighting-mobile, the modified Trans Am known as KITT [voiced by William Daniels] always sounded mildly pissed with his human counter-part, Michael Knight [David Hassellhoff]. In addition to the ability to see, hear, and smell, KITT also came equipped with a frequently-referenced “Alpha Circuit” - a feature that was never completely explained but apparently controlled KITT’s artificial intelligence.
6. 1962 Volvo P1800
Where It’s From: The Saint [1962-1969] television series
Claim to Fame: Famous British lone wolf espionage agent Simon Templar’s [Roger Moore] 4-cylinder Swedish ride – the “Swedish” part really kind of ticking the British motor industry off [apparently, Jaguar was initially approached to provide a car for the series, but declined because they saw little hope in "The Saint" ever really taking off...good one, guys.]
7. 1955 Chevrolet 6700-series bus
Where It’s From: The Partridge Family [1970 – 1974] television series
Claim to Fame: The giant, psychedelic-hued tour bus used by the close-knit family of exceptionally talented musicians. This iconic bus represents the good old days when an 8-person family could share unnaturally close quarters for abnormally long periods of time and not have the Division of Family Services called on them.
8. 1972 Ferrari 365 GTS/4
Where It’s From: Miami Vice [1984 – 1989] television series
Claim to Fame:The first Ferrari model used during the series, the Ferrari 365 GTS/4 was actually a McBurnie-built Ferrari replica sitting on a Corvette chassis. Once the show [and the cars] gained popularity, the 365 GTS/4 was replaced by the Ferrai Testarossas - donated by Enzo Ferrari himself.
9. 1970 Chevrolet Chevelle SS
Where It’s From: Dazed and Confused  film
Claim to Fame:David Wooderson’s [Matthew McConaughey] jailbait-magnet of a muscle car. In Wooderson’s own immortal words, “Let me tell you what Melba Toast is packin’ right here, all right. We got 4:11 Positrac outback, 750 double pumper, Edelbrock intake, bored over 30, 11 to 1 pop-up pistons, turbo-jet 390 horsepower. We’re talkin’ some f[*]in’ muscle.”
10. 1959 Cadillac Miller-Meteor Ambulance
Where It’s From:Ghostbusters  film
Claim to Fame:Nicknamed “Ecto-1”, the white endloading modified ambulance/hearse [an efficient albeit morbid combination] ferried around the four ghost-exterminators, Egon [Harold Ramis], Ray [Dan Aykroyd], Peter [Bill Murray], and Winston [Ernie Hudson] who were apparently either saving New York from paranormal warfare, or battling a pretty epic war on hallucinogens.
11. 1977 AMC Pacer
Where It’s From: Wayne’s World  film
Claim to Fame: Despite boasting a pretty impressive drag coefficient of 0.32, the Pacer from Wayne’s World was notoriously ugly and cool only by association. Perhaps its only redeeming value, the Pacer’s interior provided the ideal acoustics for impromptu Queen cover concerts.
12. 1974 Ford Gran Torino
Where It’s From:Starsky and Hutch [1975 – 1979] television series
Claim to Fame:Referred to as the “Striped Tomato”, the Gran Torino was the monster badass muscle car with the 351 Cleveland and 4 barrel Holley carburetor used by the two hard-nosed California detectives, David Starsky [Paul Michael Glaser] and Kenneth Hutchinson [David Soul].
13. 1979 Ford Country Squire LTD
Where It’s From: National Lampoon’s Vacation  film
Claim to Fame: The huge wood-imitation, fiberglass-paneled, 9-passenger wagon carted the Griswold’s around on the vacation from hell and provided a benchmark for which all middle-class families to aspire.
14. 1974 Dodge Monaco
Where It’s From: The Blues Brothers  film
Claim to Fame:Undeniably sweet, the beat-up black-and-white Bluesmobile was a famous as the Blues themselves. Trying to sell a skeptical Jake Blues [John Belushi] on the virtues of his new ride, Elwood Blues [Dan Aykroyd] explains to his brother, “It’s got a cop motor, a 440 cubic inch plant, it’s got cop tires, cop suspensions, cop shocks. It’s a model made before catalytic converters so it’ll run good on regular gas. What do you say, is it the new Bluesmobile or what?” We say - hell yeah.
15. 1961 Ferrari 250 GT Spyder California
Where It’s From:Ferris Bueller’s Day Off  film
Claim to Fame: One of Cameron Frye’s [Alan Ruck] father’s prized possessions and the bane of Cameron’s existence, sports car enthusiasts everywhere cringed when the Ferrari made its slow flight through a plate glass window and into the topmost branches of a tree.
16. 1973 [heavily modified] Ford Falcon XB GT
Where It’s From: Mad Max  film
Claim to Fame:Hell hath no fury like a police cruiser with a 351 ci Cleveland V8 engine and a man with an axe to grind.
17. 1948 Ford Deluxe
Where It’s From: Grease  film
Claim to Fame:Danny Zuko’s [John Travolta] undeniably lust-able ride, and one of the many incredibly sexy hot rods that made sitting through the show-tune numbers worth it.
18. 1979 Porsche 928
Where It’s From: Risky Business 
Claim to Fame:Joel Goodson’s [Tom Cruise] father’s car that he raced, despite explicit instructions to the contrary. But hey, with a huge front-mounted, water-cooled 4.5L V8 219-hp engine, wouldn’t you?
19. 1964 Buick Skylark
Where It’s From: My Cousin Vinny  film
Claim to Fame:Billy Gambini’s [Ralph Macchio] vintage ride with the famously absent positraction and independent rear suspension. Its original confusion with a 1963 Pontiac Tempest was responsible for bringing the wrath of Vinny Gambini [Joe Pesci] down on rural Alabama.
20. 1986 Mercedes-Benz 560 SEC C126
Where It’s From: Road House  film
Claim to Fame:Jamming the accelerator to the floor and sending the Merc crashing through the fence, flying over the hedges, to land in a blazing fireball on the front steps - Dalton [Patrick Swayze]
Uses the Merc to let Brad Wesley [Ben Gazzara] know he has called down the thunder. Thou Shalt Not Anger The Swayze.