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Road Rage On Route 666: Killer Cars & MORE!
(A CineManiac's Hit & Run Guide To Our Top Fear: Killing Machines.)
By: Mickael
The earliest example of an automobile coming alive is in the Twilight Zone episode "You Drive" from 1964. Oh sure, Gordon Buford wrote "Car, Boy, Girl" in 1961 (the inspiration for Herbie The Love Bug) however, no one has read it. That story was sold exclusively to Disney and nobody has a published version of it, as far as I can tell. "You Drive" was the tale of a hit-and-run driver who is reminded of his crime by his suddenly sentient vehicle. A year later, TV audiences were treated to a light-hearted series about a man who purchases a used car which is posessed by his deceased mother's spirit. "My Mother The Car" was not a hit with audiences, lasting only one season before cancellation, but it's conceit was sound: a sentient vehicle that can communicate with it's driver.
By December of 1968, audiences were fully fascinated with cars that could come alive. Two iconic car films came out that month: in the UK, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang starred Dick Van Dyke in a Roald Dahl-penned screenplay based on a book by James Bond creator Ian Fleming. With that all-star pedigree, this flick had all the makings of a hit. Weirdly, it was released within a week of The Love Bug, starring the indomitable spirit of the 60's in the form of a Volkswagen Beetle named Herbie. Both Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and The Love Bug are considered to be Top 10 films of that year, depending on the innacuracy of the internet listicle you happen to be reading at the moment.
I've long had a fearful respect of cars. As a teenager, when most kids were excited about getting a driver's license, I was petrified. I refused to get my license. I didn't want to learn to drive. I told my mother that I was positive I would die in a car crash. It took 8 years before I finally got my first driving license, at the age of 23. Even then it was only to meet the requirements of my job, having been offered a promotion under the condition that I could travel to meetings. With very little practice and an extreme fear of imminent death, I received my license (barely), and began taking my PT Cruiser to work. It would be 3 years before I could work up the nerve to drive on the highway. I know I'm not alone in my phobia. So let's make a list of all the films that feature cars as antagonists.
From family-friendly adventures to Sci Fi to horror, anthropomorphic automobiles have long been used to inject audiences with a sense of endless wonderment. As usual, I'll avoid the TV shows (Knight Rider) and kids' stuff (Herbie) to focus on the darker themes of automobiles-as-villains. This list is not designated for great car films like Gone In 60 Seconds, Fast & Furious, or Need For Speed. Nor is it intended to be filled with deadly vehicular games like you’d find in Death Race 2000 or Mad Max. This list is about cars with character: films that dared to showcase vehicles with their own personalities and motivations. Automobiles that are deserving of top billing in the credits. Cars that should get a letter from Ralph Nader.
Finally, a subgenre of cult film that is dominated by the good ol' US-of-A! We've been accused of being oil-mongers who will drop 10 megatons of freedom onto any country that coincidentally sits atop fossil fuels, but what would you have us do? Stop making Fast & Furious sequels? If Paul Walker's death didn't stop that, then neither will the civil liberties of a few million Middle Easterners. From beaters to Big Rigs; haunted hoopties to possessed Pintos; we have enough killer cars to gridlock Route 666. You won't want to ride shotgun in these shit-boxes, they'll run you down until you either have skidmarks on your back or skidmarks in your pants! So I need all of you ghoulish grease monkeys, petrified petrol-heads, and mad motorphiliacs to start your engines and put the pedal to the metal as we ride down the highway to Hell (where there are no rest stops) with these high octane automobullies!
PosterTitleYearDirectorMore InfoCountry

Duel
(aka Duel Of Death)

It's Jaws with a big rig truck!
1971Steven SpielbergIMDb


Buy @ Amazon
USA

The Horror At 37,000 Feet

A demon escapes an ancient altar and tries to crash the plane it's being shipped on.
1973David Lowell Rich


USA

Killdozer

A murderous bulldozer!
1974Jerry LondonIMDb


Buy @ Amazon

USA

Crash!
(aka Death Ride, Full Crash, Devil Car, Akaza: The God Of Vengeance)
1977Charles BandIMDb


Buy @ Amazon
USA

The Car
(aka Wheels)
1977Elliot SilversteinIMDb


Buy @ Amazon
USA

Death Car On The Freeway
(aka Death Car, Wheels Of Death)

Starring Frank Gorshin, Peter Graves, Dinah Shore, and Abe Vigoda!
1979Hal NeedhamIMDb

Buy @ Amazon
USA

The Hearse1980George BowersIMDb


Buy @ Amazon
USA

Ferat Vampire
(aka Upir Z Feratu)
1982Juraj HerzIMDb


Buy @ Amazon
Czechoslovakia

The Cars That Ate People
(aka The Cars That Ate Paris, Cars, Killing Cars)
1974Peter WeirIMDb

Buy @ Amazon
Australia

Christine

Based on the story by Stephen King
1983John Carpenter
USA

Nightmares

An anthology film with one particular segment (The Benediction) featuring a demon spirit personified as a 4x4. Starring Lance Henriksen! We discussed it once.
1983Joseph Sargent

USA

Maximum Overdrive

Stephen King's tale of machines coming to life to kill mankind, starring Emilio Estevez and featuring music by AC/DC! Hell yes.
1986Stephen King

USA

Mr. Wrong
(aka Dark Of The Night, Jag)
1986Gaylene Preston

New Zealand

The Wraith
(aka Interceptor, Phantom)

Starring Charlie Sheen. An absolutely fantastic B-movie!
1986Mike Marvin

USA
Canada

Blades

A killer lawnmower from the good people at Troma!
1989Thomas R. Rondinella

USA

I Bought A Vampire Motorcycle
(aka Iron Thunder)

Another great film, as we discussed HERE.
1990Dirk CampbellIMDb


Buy @ Amazon
UK

Trucks

A made-for-TV remake of Maximum Overdrive.
1997Chris Thomson

Canada

Jeepers Creepers
(aka Here Comes The Boogeyman)

Not exclusively a killer car movie, but the first act is basically "Duel" or "Joy Ride".
2001
Victor Salva

Germany
USA

Joy Ride
(aka Roadkill, Road Killer, Never Play With Strangers, Squelch, Highway Horror, Candy Cane, Radio Killer)
2001John Dahl

USA

Below
(aka Proteus)

Two words: Haunted Submarine.
2002David Twohy

USA

Ghost Ship
(aka Chimera)

Two more words: Haunted Boat.
2002Steve Beck

USA
Australia

Black Cadillac2003John MurlowskiIMDb


Buy @ Amazon
USA

Highwaymen2004Robert Harmon

USA
Canada

Blood Car2007Alex Orr

USA

Death Proof
(aka Grindhouse: Death Proof, Thunder Bolt)

Another cheat: Not a haunted or possessed car, but a deadly machine nonetheless.
2007Quentin Tarantino

USA

Transformers

Ahem... yes, Transformers counts. Instead of the cars being "haunted" or "supernatural" they're merely robotic aliens disguising themselves as earth objects until such time as it's appropriate to BLOW UP EVERYTHING.
2007Michael Bay

USA

Joy Ride 2: Dead Ahead
(aka Joy Ride: End Of The Road, Roadkill 2, Road Killer: Mad Chase, Road Killer 2: Fine Della Corsa)
2008Louis Morneau

USA
Canada

Black Lightning
(aka Chernaya Molniya)

Basically, a dark Russian crime/superhero version of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. Definitely worth watching.
2009Dmitriy Kiselev, Aleksandr Voytinskiy
Russia

Phantom Racer
(aka Death Speed)
2009Terry Ingram

Canada
USA

Transformers: Revenge Of The Fallen
(aka Transformers 2)
2009Michael BayIMDb


Buy @ Amazon
USA

Road Kill
(aka Road Train, Unstoppable Highway)
2010Dean Francis

Australia

Rubber

A killer car... tire?
2010Quentin Dupieux

France
Angola

Super Hybrid
(aka Hunter, Hybrid)
2010Eric Valette

USA
Germany

Transformers: Dark Of The Moon
(aka Transformers 3)
2011Michael BayIMDb


Buy @ Amazon
USA

407: Dark Flight 3D
(aka Dark Flight)

Get these motherfucking ghosts off this motherfucking plane!
2012Isara Nadee

Thailand

Joy Ride 3
(aka Joy Ride 3: Road Kill, Radio Killer 3: La Corsa Continua)
2014Declan O'Brien

USA

Transformers: Age Of Extinction
(aka Transformers 4)
2014Michael Bay

USA
China

7500
(aka Flight 7500)

Supernatural force vs. airplane!
2014Takashi Shimizu
Japan
USA

Wrecker

Another psycho trucker.
2015Micheal Bafaro
Canada
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