Let’s face it; try as they might, the rest of the American Big Three have never quite been able to build a car that brings instant credibility to a movie car chase like the Mustang. Sure, sure – vehicles like the Dodge Challenger and Chevrolet Corvette have come close, but you can count the notable chases those have been involved in on one hand. The Mustang, however, has stood the test of time in the genre, and it’s unlikely it will ever be replaced in that regard. Read on to see what we mean.
1968 GT390 in Bullitt
Some would say this is the granddaddy of all car chases – what with star (and racing driver) Steve McQueen doing the driving himself and all – so you’d have to think that makes it the granddaddy of all Mustang-starring chases, too. It must’ve have been pretty good to have spawned three separate Ford-sanctioned special-edition Mustangs.
1971 Mach 1 in Gone in 60 Seconds (1974)
It’s long and it’s beautiful – and no, we’re not talking about the hood of the Mach I known as “Eleanor”, herself an example of the new big-body Mustang style. We’re talking about the chase itself, which runs for about 40 minutes and sees star HB Halicki change cars numerous times mid-chase. Funny how many identical yellow Mach Is were driving around the greater Los Angeles area that day. For true buffs, one of the cars used in the chase can be seen at the Petersen Automotive Museum.
1967 Shelby GT500 in Gone in Sixty Seconds (2000)
While some may call this a bastardized version of the original chase, we tend to disagree. Just like McQueen, star Nic Cage (playing Memphis Raines) did his own driving, which adds some cojones to the proceedings. Secondly, some of the chase’s moments are awe-inspiring, ranging from Raines waving while driving backward through traffic, to jumping over a multi-car pileup after some of the slickest bang-bang-bang upshifting ever caught on camera. Nicely done.
1966 Shelby GT350-H in American Gangster
While there’s no actual car chase here to speak of, the GT350-H driven by one of the film’s crooked cops (and purchased, ostensibly, with dirty money), gives titular character Frank Lucas the perfect opportunity for some delicious revenge. Car people will be sad, but movie people will love it. Plus, the GT350-H deserves a spot on this thanks solely to its legendary status.
1967 GT350 in The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift
Car people may also be sad about this one, but for a different reason. After all, what kind of red-blooded American would take his war hero father’s Mustang, strip the proper V8, and swap in a twin-turbo six from a Japanese rice rocket? Well, the Skyline GT-R – from which comes the RB26DETT engine placed in the movie’s Mustang – is no rice rocket, and it helps the protagonist Sean Boswell win a race that essentially frees him from being indebted to the mob. Plus, for its part, the race in which the ’Stang’s involved actually displays some of the best actual driving in the entire FnF franchise.
1969 Mach 1 (claimed to be a Boss 429) in the John Wick Series
“You didn’t just steal a car,” says one of the film’s mobsters. “You stole John Wick’s car.” Some would say that Wick losing his beloved Boss 429/Mach 1 to a gang of Russian thugs is the catalyst that basically sent Mr. Wick on a revenge rampage that’s lasted two movies – so far. Plus, the way he gets the car back in the second chapter involves some of the most creative – and brutal – car chase choreography ever seen.
2011 GT in Drive
Of all the ’Stangs on this list, this one’s probably the least flashy, with its standard black paint and rims. What Driver (played by good Canadian kid Ryan Gosling) does behind the wheel, however, is far from standard, including one final “death blow” move that you still won’t understand even after watching it 10 or more times. The engine sounds, the camera work – even the way Driver flips the passenger seat forward just as things are about to set off – all lead to a sense of occasion that’s very hard to replicate.
2006 GT in Death Race (2008)
From least flashy we move to most ridiculously overwrought – this is a Death Race, after all, and a standard car just won’t do, especially when facing off against a minigun-equipped 18-wheeler called the “Dreadnaught”. So what does Jason Statham as Jensen Adams/Frankenstein do? He rolls up his sleeves and gets to work, equipping his standard five-litre ’Stang with suicide doors (talk about cojones, eh?) a pair of miniguns of its own, more armour plating than a Panzer, and a flamethrower. Good thing he kept the stripes, or you may never recognize it as a Mustang at all.
1968 GT in The Thomas Crown Affair (1999)
Like American Gangster’s GT350-H, you only get a fleeting glimpse of this baby, but it’s enough to see that it’s had a roll bar fitted, as well as a set of off-road spotlights and flared fenders. Makes the original TCA’s buggy look a mite tame.
2014 GT in Need For Speed
The hero car of this movie – a GT500 lookalike with chrome rims, a widebody kit and super-slim wing mirrors – is one thing, but perhaps more notable is the fact that the current-gen Mustang made its silver-screen debut here, too.
1971 Mach 1 in Diamonds Are Forever
While Bullitt’s chase has its fair share of continuity errors, the one seen here trumps all of those. Watch as the ’71 Mach 1 – a red one – leaves one shot on two wheels, and enters the next shot on the opposite two. Big props here to said red Mach 1 – takes a lot to pry Mr. Bond out of his Astons and Lotuses.
1976 Cobra II in Charlie’s Angels (1976 TV Series)
The Mustang II may not have had quite the impact on the nation’s teenaged boys as did the rockin’ ’Stangs of the pre-OPEC ’70s, but I’ll tell you what did: Farrah Fawcett as Jill Munroe. Now, combine that character with a be-striped Cobra II, and you’ve got yourself a whole new ballgame.
2007 GT500 in I Am Legend
While there may have been some slightly more exotic cars available after the zombies took over the earth, there’s just something about the way the Shelby blends sports car performance with big-V8 muscle that just makes it the right choice for the scenario.