10 Most Memorable Movie Scenes That Took Place in a Car

American culture is car culture, so it makes sense that so many of our movies rely in some ways on cars to tell their stories. What's interesting, though, is that this isn't just about car chases. There have been so many other great car-related moments in movie history that have almost nothing to do with chases and everything to do with the daily lives of the characters as they drive from place to place. Some car scenes are just economical — people have to get where they're going, so the scene might as well be in the car — but the best are the ones that relate to what's happening in the story at that moment. It's those scenes that we're paying tribute to today.

  1. Marvin gets shot in Pulp Fiction

    Quentin Tarantino's second movie is always going to be his most influential, thanks in large part to the perfect balance of horrific violence and absurd comic moments. Those two extremes come together brilliantly in the film's vignette "The Bonnie Situation," aka "the one where Marvin gets shot in the face." Jules and Vincent are in the middle of another round of their endless banter when Jules, who should really pay more attention to the safety on his gun, accidentally blows poor Marvin's head clean off while they're driving down the freeway. This causes no small amount of hassle for the hitmen, who are forced to call in the services of Mr. Wolf to help them clean up the car and dispose of the evidence. It just goes to show you: if you're gonna kidnap someone, safety comes first.

  2. The final moments of Thelma & Louise

    Ridley Scott's 1991 road movie is famous for a number of reasons — if nothing else, it introduced a grateful nation to a shirtless Brad Pitt — but none more than the final scene. After a getaway weekend devolves into rape, murder, kidnapping, theft, and extortion, Thelma and Louise are at the end of their respective ropes. They've got nowhere to go, and their attempts to make it to Mexico have been thwarted by law enforcement, leaving them surrounded and trapped at the Grand Canyon. That's when they make a decision to end it all, gunning their 1966 T-bird over the edge of the cliff. The film freezes and fades out with them soaring away, saving us the gruesome sight of their sad end and leaving us instead with an image of the two women finally, however briefly, free.

  3. The opening scene of Goodfellas

    Goodfellas is one of Martin Scorsese's best movies — arguably the best, though that's a whole other debate — and it opens with a bang. The three main characters are cruising along when they hear a banging noise as if they've hit something, but when they pull over investigate, they realize it's coming from the trunk: The guy they'd killed and tossed back there wasn't totally dead. Tommy stabs him repeatedly to finish the job, Jimmy looks on with a smile, and Henry slams the trunk shut before we hear his voice-over: "As far back as I can remember, I always wanted to be a gangster." A fantastic start to a phenomenal movie.

  4. The flying car chase in The Fifth Element

    Luc Besson's dazzling sci-fi adventure from 1997 bucks convention as often as possible, but one of its most memorable scenes is a simple reinvention of a Hollywood staple: the car chase. Bruce Willis' Korben Dallas is a burned-out cab driver with nothing left to lose when he stumbles onto an alien (Milla Jovovich) that could save the universe from destruction. His first run-in with her happens as he's evading police, and the flying cars bring a fantastic sense of scope and geography to the chase scene. (Trying to run someone down across three dimensions is tough.) It's a fun moment that perfectly highlights the film's mix of action and humor.

  5. Marty dates his mom in Back to the Future

    It's hard, if not impossible, to pick just one classic scene from a movie that's all about a very special car. Do you go with Marty's nail-biting escape back to 1985? The chase with the Libyans that sent him back in time in the first place? Too close to call. So let's go with a change-up: Marty's infamous date with his mom. Really, how many mainstream Hollywood blockbusters have a plot that hinges on an Oedipus complex? Marty takes one for the team in a number of ways by letting his mom put the moves on him just so he can get beat up by Biff and then ultimately watch George save the day. Good thing Biff showed up when he did. Things would've gotten really weird.

  6. John Milner meets Carol Morrison in American Graffiti

    George Lucas' second film is still the one that feels closest to his heart: It's a bittersweet tale of awkward young boys doing their best to prepare themselves for an uncertain future. The movie revolves around car culture and the nights spent cruising the drag in the 1960s, with John Milner's story line happening almost entirely within his yellow deuce coupe. The scene in which he winds up picking up Carol, a young girl nursing a crush on him, is priceless for the way he's flummoxed at her appearance and she's determined to act older than her years.

  7. The interrogation of John Doe in Seven

    David Fincher's terrifying, masterful thriller is one of those movies you can't help watching even though you might not want to. Everyone's on their game, but none more so than Kevin Spacey as John Doe, a serial killer obsessed with purging evil from the world by any means necessary. (True story: Spacey's name was held out of the opening credits to make his character reveal more surprising.) At the end of the film, our detectives are driving with John Doe to what he claims is the location of his final victim, and along the way they have a heated talk about the nature of good and evil. It's the only moment in the film Doe gets truly rattled, too.

  8. Travis Bickle cruises the streets in Taxi Driver

    Martin Scorsese's Taxi Driver is a masterpiece of emotional decay, with Paul Schrader's script charting one man's descent into vigilantism and madness. Many of the film's scenes feature Travis Bickle just cruising along, passing judgment on a city he views as indistinguishable from hell itself. In some of these he's got passengers, too, and they prove to be every bit as unnerving as Travis expects residents of his tarnished city to be. The absolute creepiest is when a businessman (played by Scorese) talks about the violent things he'd like to do to his adulterous wife. Travis' rage seems almost understandable.

  9. The lawn jockey pep talk in Swingers

    Swingers has great things to say about male friendship, from the appeal of chicken and waffles to the brutal competitions that arise over video game hockey, but one of the movie's best moments comes at the end of a road trip from Los Angeles to Las Vegas and back. After a night that went bust at the casino and with their dates, Mike and Trent are on the way home when Mike whines again about his ex. Trent stops the car and gives him an honest and direct pep talk about how the only way to get better is to just move on with his life. It's a theme that comes back over and over again in the movie, and it's played out in a vintage convertible that represents the film's vibe of classy, old-school living.

  10. Lloyd Dobler gets dumped and tries to move on in Say Anything

    "The rain on my car is a baptism, the new me, Ice Man, Power Lloyd, my assault on the world begins now." Lloyd Dobler's car was a totally underappreciated character in Say Anything, especially because it was such a defining part of Lloyd as a person. It was old and kind of beat up, but totally functional and dependable. Some of the biggest moments in the movie (boomboxes notwithstanding) happen in Lloyd's car, including his initial break-up with Diane and his subsequent sad-sack journey through the city looking for ways to rebound. These scenes are a great reminder that so much of being a teen is about being limited, and that sometimes the only way to feel free, if only for a while, is behind the wheel.

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