TBT: The Most Popular Movie Mustangs

Apr 18, 2024

As long as Mustang has been in production, it’s carried a reputation as a cool, stylish car, so it should come as no surprise that cars from the Mustang line have appeared in more than 3,000 movies and television shows in its 60-year history. In fact, Mustang has had a role in Hollywood since its very beginning. 

Mustang’s styling and the car’s brand make it a natural fit for filmmakers and TV producers looking to convey cool, clever, and tough when introducing a new character. Its distinctive styling has helped make Mustang one of the most recognized vehicles in TV and film history. 

“It’s all-American. It’s a sports car. It’s fun. It’s fast. Mustang makes that kind of statement, and it has been ingrained into the American psyche since 1964,” an executive from Ford Global Brand Entertainment said in a 2009 press release. 

Mustang: Licensed to Thrill

Mustang’s on-screen career began with the James Bond franchise, and it has made multiple appearances therein. It debuted in 1964’s “Goldfinger” with a Wimbledon White 1964-½ Mustang convertible driven by an assassin on a brief chase through the Swiss Alps. A 1965 Mustang convertible was featured in “Thunderball,” and Mustang would return to the franchise in 1971’s “Diamonds Are Forever,” in which actor Sean Connery used a red 1971 Mustang Mach 1 fastback to evade police, famously tilting the car up on the passenger side wheels to squeeze through a narrow alley in downtown Las Vegas. In 1965, Ford even created the 007 Mustang concept, complete with a gold paint job to match the one used in “Goldfinger.” 

Another milestone for Mustang on film was sandwiched between its appearances in the Bond films. In “Bullitt,” Steve McQueen drove a 1968 Mustang Fastback to fame in a nearly 10-minute chase scene through the hills and valleys of San Francisco. In another example of a real-life Ford model replicating the on-screen version, the Mustang from “Bullitt” would later jump off the screen and into the showroom with the 2001 introduction of the Mustang Bullitt. Heirs of actor Steve McQueen, the film’s star, collaborated with Ford on the limited production vehicle’s design. The Bullitt model has been revived with subsequent generations of Mustang production and has a strong following among Mustang enthusiasts.  

An orange 1971 Mustang sportsroof served as the getaway vehicle in the original “Gone in 60 Seconds” in 1974, while a black 1967 Mustang Shelby GT500, styled by car builder Chip Foose and nicknamed “Eleanor,” was the ultimate prize in the 2000 remake.

A Modern Movie Classic

While those classic cars were the stars of some of Mustang’s most iconic cinematic appearances, the label has remained popular with modern filmmakers. Will Smith ripped around a post-apocalyptic New York City in a red-and-white 2007 Mustang Shelby GT500 in that year’s “I Am Legend,” while attempting to find a cure after a plague wipes out most of humanity and transforms the rest into monsters. Then, around the time of Mustang’s 50th anniversary in 2014, the car earned the starring role in the film “Need for Speed,” an adaptation of the video game franchise. Ford created a unique Mustang “hero” car for the movie, and the director chose to use car-to-car footage for chase scenes rather than computer-generated images. Seven modified 2014 Ford Mustangs were built for filming and promotion in addition to an early prototype 2015 Mustang fastback.

“The best movie cars combine tons of power, rear-wheel drive, great handling, and the ability to be easily flung around corners,” said director Scott Waugh. “As we’ve seen hundreds of times over the years – from ‘Bullitt’ to ‘Gone in Sixty Seconds’ – Mustang fits the bill perfectly, and it’s really a car that represents American culture at its best.”

An honor that came months later helped cement Mustang’s legacy in film: It was named the ultimate stunt car by Hollywood stunt driver, race car driver, and former “Stig” on the BBC’s “Top Gear,” Ben Collins.

Small Screen, Big Power

In television, Mustang may be best remembered as Farrah Fawcett’s car — the actor drove a white Mustang Cobra II on the series “Charlie’s Angels.” Mustang has even gotten the nod to play roles made famous by other automakers’ vehicles, as in the case of a Shelby Mustang GT500KR, that “played” KITT, the computerized, talking supercar in the “Knight Rider” reboot in the 2000s. 

As long as there’s been a Mustang, there have been Mustangs on our screens. With the car’s famous styling and cool essence carrying through to the new seventh-generation Mustang, that list of credits will surely continue to grow.

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