Classic Science Fiction is as much about plot as it is setting and vehicle concepts. From Batman to Blade Runner, production geniuses have created some of the most memorable modes of transportation for characters to drive (or hover, or fly) around in, literally moving the story along. Besides, who says future cars will have to stay grounded? Have a look at the our favorite sci-fi vehicles, and chime in if you think we’ve left any out (or included something that makes you gag!)
1. Blade Runner
Let’s face it – Philip K. Dick’s Blade Runner (from his 1968 book entitled Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep?) is one science fiction story referenced time and time again. The film’s design by artist Syd Mead has been mimicked since their introduction to celluloid in 1982. Rick Deckard (BR’s main character played by Harrison Ford) is chauffeured around by Gaff (Edwards James Olmos) in a police “Spinner” – part ground car, part flying-police interceptor. The Spinner, well, spins as it ascends past the rooftops of 2019 Los Angeles. According to a recent behind the scenes documentary, underneath the futuristic Spinner bodies were the chaises of Volkswagens.
The Batmobile has taken many forms – from a Lincoln concept car to the now famous Tumbler. The ride of Bruce Wayne’s alter ego has been barreling down Gotham streets for decades, and into the hearts of every kid’s imagination. Our 21st century anti-crime lab on wheels is complete with various gun and missile cannons, sensor units (both audio and visual) and a detachable motorcycle.
Batman: The Animated Series from the 1990’s was celebrated by cartoon fans for its striking art-deco designs. Personally, we at Automopedia find this animated Batmobile on this version of the caped crusader’s car a personal favorite.
3. Star Wars
We searched high and low…and yes, there is a car in Star Wars…sort of. Cloud City’s “Twin-pod cloud car” patrols the skies in a galaxy far, far away. Two identical armored vehicles are connected by a thruster engine, along with matching laser blasters coming out of the front end, reminiscent of P-51 Mustang fighter planes from WWII. We want to know if each pod is independent of the other, or its connecting engine.
4. Minority Report
Also based on a story by Sci-Fi author Philip K. Dick (famous for the aforementioned Blade Runner) Minority is set in 2054 Washington DC, where pre-crime police capture criminals based on foreknowledge, provided by three psychic pre-cognitives. The vehicles provided by Lexus/Toyota were futuristic concepts, which came complete with a future press-release:
In the year 2054, some cars will be self-cleaning, some will drive in an accident free system, and some will change colors on command…In the film’s design…a mass transportation system uses electrical/magnetic energy – much like that which sends a bullet train speeding along – with horizontal and vertical surfaces covered with “roadways” made of magnetic discs that support and propel various vehicles.
5. Mad Max
Mad Max is a classic post-apocalyptic revenge story. Australian cop Max is out to get back at a violent motorcycle gang after they killed one of his wife, their son and a fellow officer. Along for the ride is Max’s sawed-off shotgun and his 1973 Ford XB Falcon. dozens of other custom 70’s muscle cars and super-charged bikes are roaming the outback wasteland, hunting for food (sometimes in the form of people) and precious oil, which has become a commodity more precious than life.
6. The Road Warrior
Mad Max 2, as it is also named, continues with the oil subplot, as a group of hardened civilians try to escape their heavily fortified compound with a tanker truck full of gasoline. The only thing standing in their way is a leather-chap clad gang of homicidal maniacs. Luckily, Mel Gibson is back in the lead roll, and he is still pretty pissed off.
Between the Mad Max films and Convoy you have a wide variety of armored Mack Trucks – including a fuel hauler with gun torrents and arrow launchers.
7. Back to the Future
Great Scott! If not for Back To The Future the DeLorean DMC-12 would have been just an obscure automotive legend. Instead, the gull-winged sports car is engraved in the psyches of movie buffs the worldwide. This DeLorean wasn’t much for surpassing 88-mph – not without traveling to 1885 or 2015. Doc Brown’s car consisted of a radioactive flux-capacitor, advanced time-travel system and a flying mode. A near perfect DeLorean was recently spotted at this Sacramento used car dealership.
Speaking of flying cars…
8. The Fifth Element
Ok, so Fifth Element may not be considered “classic science fiction” – but we love the New York Checkered Cabs of 2263 Manhattan. Bruce Willis spends his days catching fares and nights returning a mystical female oracle (played by the gorgeous Milla Jovoich) to the other four elements in an attempt to save the world. Why is it always the job of Willis to save the rest of us? Poor guy. Other flying vehicles include everyday pedestrian cars, police cruisers and a floating Chinese food stand.
In the year 10,191 one would think humans (or whatever evolves from us) will have little to no use for a car. When you’re trapped on the dunes of Arrakis with a sand worm hot on your tale, the only thing that can save you is a well-armored tank (or Sting in a leather jumpsuit). Dune’s Harvesters not only keep its two-dozen or so occupants safe from worms, it allows them to meticulously pick the land clean of the addictive “spice melange” – which sells to the highest bidder. The Harvester is big and tough, but slow as a snail, and needs a huge spacecraft to do desert pick-ups and drop-offs.
Soon to be a live-action motion picture, Akira is a beautiful piece of Japanese animation, which helped Manga become popular on this continent. Akira is the name of a child who was given almost “god-like powers” while undergoing military experiments for ESP in 2019 Neo-Tokyo.During the story, Akira grows out of control, threatening to destroy the entire city. Who will safe this futuristic faux-Tokyo? A bunch of delinquent 16 year olds in a motorcycle gang of course! Yes, bikes are not cars, but they are still sleek looking vehicles. We hope the live-action versions don’t look too plastic, or worse yet, CGI like a certain recent Speed Racer flick.
11. Death Race 2000
Yet another dystopia future? It may be looking bad for us humans, but the car industry (and, seemingly, weapons industries) will surely flourish! As the Aussies brought us Mad Max America brought us Death Race 2000. Set in (guess what year!) the thin yet entertaining plot revolves around outlaw racers who challenge one another, along with any pedestrian who crosses their path. Points are scored not only by how fast you reach a check point, but also by the number, gender and age of those you murder along the way. Talk about road rage! (wakka wakka) – Some of the cartoonishly-violent vehicles featured include a Fiat Spider, custom Chevy Nova and a custom Cimbria Super Sport (pictured above). Doesn’t this sound like the perfect mix of movie violence, cheese and entertainment? Hollywood sure thought so, because they are remaking the film this summer…
12. Death Race (2008 Remake)
…with an army of updated cars, trucks and SUV’s equipped with Vulcan cannons, flame throws and lots of heavy-looking metal plating. The big draw is Ford’s new Mustang as Death Race’s star. There’s also a late 60’s Buick Riviera featured, presumably blown up at one point in the film, which makes us all at Automopedia in Vermont cry just a tiny bit.
13. Escape from New York
Another great taxi for “Snake Plissken” (Kurt Russell) to help rescue the President after his plane is shot down over a Manhattan Island turned maximum security prison. The Checker Marathon cabs were made specifically for the livery services throughout their years of service, until the early 80’s when Ford and Chevrolet cars became your normal yellow cabs in New York. The cabbie (who is fittingly named “Cabbie” and played by Airwolf’s Ernest Borgnine) who assists snake in finding the Chief of Staff stocks his taxi with Molotov cocktails. Those probably came in pretty handy behind the scenes, shooting at night in downtown NYC during the early-1980’s.
14. Ghost in the Shell
Another anime, though this time we really have cars to feature! Ghost in the Shell is another world-famous manga revolving around the officers of Section 9, whose job it is to fight the most violent of cyber and technological crimes. A new animated series spin-off of the 1995 film includes a couple of animated Nissan concept vehicles – there’s Nissan’s Sport pictures above – which may come to life in the not-to-distant future.
Syd Mead is back with more visually stunning vehicles for the sci-fi lover to gawk over. Aliens’ APC (armored personal carrier) was based on the trucks used to tow civilian and military airplanes to/from hangers. Mead again pushes the boundaries of imagination (while staying within budget) and brings us functional, realistic designs of cars we may all be driving…one day. Hopefully, we can figure out better ways to fuel these various modes of transit, so we won’t be shouting…
…”Game Over Man!”