From Crash to Trafic, TIFF director and CEO Piers Handling shares his favourite car movies of all-time.
From The Fast and Furious films to Need For Speed to Pixar’s Cars, auto manufacturers are out to score screen time and increase sales.
Filmmakers have always used vehicles to underscore character: what would James Bond be without his Aston Martin DB5? Or Borat without his too-tiny ice cream truck? Norma Desmond sans regal Isotta Fraschini?
According to TIFF director and CEO Piers Handling, such branding in film is accelerating — the pioneer and epitome for autos being Aston Martin’s association with James Bond, which began in the 1960s.
“As soon as a company like Aston Martin kind of found a Bond franchise . . . other car manufacturers began to kind of take this a little more seriously. Obviously the iconic brands were around, but I guess they weren’t placed in film so consciously.”
What else do cars on screen say about our culture? Handling says American, European and Canadian films all explore different themes where cars are concerned.
“In North America, of course, the car is such an iconic symbol of freedom. I mean, when you’re a young man you get a car — it’s a sign of adulthood, a sign of freedom, hitting the road, moving away from your parents.
“I never got the same sense in European film . . . they’re a different kind of symbol in a way.” Jacques Tati’s comedy Trafic, which lampoons car culture and much else about modern life, is on his top 10 list.
Canadians seem to have a darker take on cars in film, says Handling. David Cronenberg’s Crash is a good example.
“It’s a very cool distant look at car culture and mania, and fascination with cars and the strange subcult of sex and violence that goes along with it.
“(Cronenberg’s) got the darker Canadian vision — that cars can be glamourous. But there is the flip side, which is that they can be very dangerous machines. And David races so he knows how dangerous they can be.”
To celebrate cars in films, we asked Handling to give us his list of top car movies. All prominently feature one or more automobiles; for the top 10 pictures we’ve made note of makes that make an appearance.
Rolling movie stars
Two Lane Blacktop (Monte Hellman, 1971)
Three 1955 Chevrolet One-Fifties were needed
Crash (David Cronenberg, 1996)
1988 Chrysler Dynasty, 1962 Lincoln Continental, 1990 Mazda MX-5 Miata
Duel (Steven Spielberg, 1971)
1971 Plymouth Valiant sedan, 1955 Peterbilt 281 tanker truck.
Weekend (Jean-Luc Godard, 1967)
Facel-Vega convertible. Facel was a high-end make produced in France from 1954 to 1964.
1998 Lincoln Town Car (a stretched limo), 1988 Peugeot 205.
Ariel (Aki Kaurismaki, 1988)
1962 Cadillac Series 62 convertible, 1976 Dodge Aspen.
Kings of the Road (Wim Wenders, 1976)
Man 635 van, 1950 BMW R 25 motorcycle.
Trafic (Jacques Tati, 1971)
1969 Autobianchi Bianchina Cabriolet, Citroën U23-50, 1969 Renault 4 Camping-car, 1967 Siata Spring 850, 1965 Simca 1500 Break
Grand Prix (John Frankenheimer, 1966)
1966 Ferrari 330 P3, 1962 Citroen ID 19, 1934 Bugatti Type 57, 1960 Fiat 600, 1962 Austin Cambridge, and many more.
Features very high end makes from the 1980s and 1990s including Benettons, Lotuses, and McLarens.
With honourable mention to: