Cars As Movie Characters


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Movie Cars Are Driving Sales 

When thinking about your favorite movies, there's always a specific character or scene that first pops into your head. However, what would you say if some peoples' favorite characters aren't people, at all? 

In some films (more often than not, action films), characters cars have inadvertently become characters in films in and of themselves. While this might not have been the intention for directors, it's something that has helped car sales tenfold. In this blog, Hollywood Branded explores the notion of cars as movie characters and how it has helped boost car sales. 

cars as movie characters

The Italian Job X 2003 Mini Cooper S

The reboot of the 1969 caper film brought in the new generation of Mini Coopers - and now it's almost impossible not to conflate the cars with the iconic action film! 

The car, itself, is a huge part of the film - without it, the gang of thieves wouldn't have a way to get around Italy! While not everyone will be swerving around the streets of Italy as they plan a massive heist in the compact car, but the inclusion of the BMW-made car in the film helped drive massive sales. 

Take my dad, for example. He wasn't on the market for a new car before The Italian Job came out, but as soon as he left the theater, he knew he had to get a Mini Cooper. He loved how quickly the car sped around the streets and how sleek it looked while making dangerous turns. A few weeks after the movie came out, my dad found himself at the BMW dealership buying a red Mini Cooper - similar to the one that Charlize Theron drove. If it wasn't for the movie, Minis likely never would have even crossed my dad's radar as a potential car. But now, he's a lifetime fan of the car and is counting down the days until he can get a new one! 

Mini Cooper The Italian Job

Transformers x Chevrolet Camaro 

Perhaps one of the most easily recognizable cars in modern film, the yellow Chevrolet Camaro featured in the Transformers series brought massive success to Chevy. While the brand was by no means struggling before the franchise started gaining traction, fans of the films wanted to emulate Sam Witwicky in his bright yellow car-turned-robot. Fun fact: the car was actually introduced to the world - early - in the movie! Director Michael Bay had a close relationship with GM and managed to convince the company to introduce the fifth-generation of Camaros to audiences in the movie, despite the fact that the car wouldn't be sold in dealerships until two years later. 

Although Chevy didn't promise that every Camaro purchased would turn out to be an autobot, the film brought some much-needed sales to the car brand. In 2009, after the movie was first released, Chevy reported a 10% increase in yellow Chevy Camaro cars (when the car typically only brought in 5% of all sales prior to the movie's release). The brand sold 80,000 Camaros in 2010, and many of the sales can be directly attributed to the franchise's massive success. 

Transformers Chevy Camaro

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Baby Driver x 2017 Subaru Impreza WRX

I think it's safe to say that many car aficionados do not think of Subarus when thinking of cars heavily featured in action films. However, that all changed with the release of Baby Driver in 2017. 

In the action film, the getaway driver (aptly named Miles) expertly drives a 2017 Subaru Impreza. While the car is really only in the short opening scene, it somehow became the poster car for the film. The car even got an amazing mini-commercial in the movie, all while feeling incredibly organic within the scene. As the title character expertly maneuvers his way around downtown Atlanta, the car's specs are perfectly showcased. 

It's no surprise that as soon as the movie premiered, sales for WRXs skyrocketed (the red WRX models like the one seen in the film sold out in record time). The actual car used in the movie - complete with a conversion to rear-wheel drive to make it easier to do stunts with - was sold on eBay just last year for $69,100 - almost $40,000 more than the retail price!


Thelma & Louise x 1966 Thunderbird

The iconic 1966 Thunderbird, featured in Thelma and Louise, as well as The Outsiders and Wild at Heart, brought back to life the genre of road movies. The car, while not explicitly mentioned in the film, was integral to the cult classic's plot. Without the convertible, the playful (yet dangerous and tense) film wouldn't be nearly as aesthetically pleasing. The use of the convertible was likely simply to make it easier for filming the driving scenes, but the car is now immediately recognizable as the one that ultimately led to Thelma and Louise's demise. 

The T-Bird was always a beloved collectible car, but sales were steadily declining in the early '60s. The car was created to give a sense of luxury to those who wanted an upscale sports car. Production for the T-Bird actually stopped in 1966, but the car became heavily sought-after after its inclusion in the cult classic. 

Thelma & Louise Thunderbird

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Little Miss Sunshine x 1971 Volkswagen T2 Microbus

While the Volkswagen T2 Microbus is iconic in and of itself due to its relationship with the Summer of Love and the hippie movement, it is quite possibly one of the most-beloved cars by a cast. It's rare that a car is recognized as an essential character by cast and crew members involved in a film, and it's practically unheard of to have a car thanked in an Oscar's acceptance speech! However, that is exactly what happened when Greg Kinnear accepted the SAG Award for Best Cast, thanking "the engineers at Volkswagen for making a beautiful vehicle back in 1969 that was comfortable and so safe." 

The film didn't shy away from the fact that the bus was old and therefore imperfect, having the car break down quite a few times throughout the family's road trip from New Mexico to Southern California. However, this only added to the car's endearing quality, helping cast members and viewers, alike, fall in love with the vintage bus. 

Little Miss Sunshine Volkswagen

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While cars aren't the only thing to utilize brand integration with, they're always a solid choice for both the production and the car brand. Not only can the inclusion drive sales for the brand, it can also provide much needed transportation within the production, which can help the production save money on props. 

While product placement isn't the only aspect of entertainment marketing, it is a tried and true practice that helps both brands and productions. It consistently drives sales and brand recognition - all for a fairly cheap price point! Be sure to download our E-Book below to learn all there is to know about product placement! 

Product Placement & Co-Promotions 101 Guide