It’s hard to maintain control of a ton or two of metal while cruising down the highway. Now imagine that hefty beast with a steering wheel taking on a life all its own. Sounds even more terrifying, right? Well, it is terrifying, and we’ve got a look at 10 films that will more than prove that to you. From old to new, here are the greatest killer car flicks in existence!
A tale of a possessed car that transforms one nerdy, introverted chap into a hatred fueled bag of bones, Christine was nothing short masterful. Some, in fact, may argue that this is John Carpenter’s final truly great film. While I do enjoy the bulk of Carpenter’s work, Christine is indeed a top three film (behind only The Thing and Halloween, with The Fog trailing not too far behind.
Duel can be classified as a thriller and no one will complain. But the idea of road rage gone epically far is a disturbing thing to contemplate. It’s also scary. This lengthy game of cat and mouse gradually escalates into very dark territory, and between Steven Spielberg’s tremendous direction and the award worthy performance from the perfectly cast Dennis Weaver, it’s hard to find anything but taut brilliance within the picture. Duel isn’t just a great pic, it’s one of the greatest made-for-television pieces history has produced.
03. The Hitcher
Again, cars aren’t necessarily the primary focus of this terrifyingly morbid character study. The story sees two youngsters on a long distance journey. They encounter a hitchhiker, but he’s not exactly a nice guy. In fact, he’s basically the reason this movie falls on this particular list, as he uses automobiles as one staggeringly brutal means of torture and murder. If you’ve skipped this classic, look into it – it’s a suprb film with a jaw-dropping performance from the amazing Rutger Hauer.
04. Maximum Overdrive
Stephen King never directed a second film after his directorial debut, Maximum Overdrive, and that might have been a mistake. We all know King has a dense hatred for this film, but the truth is Maximum Overdrive succeeds in one of the most important realms: it’s a blast of a film. It may feel a little rough around the edges, but it is thoroughly entertaining, and it does warrant a view from anyone who a) loves killer car flicks and b) loves the work of Stephen King.
05. Jeepers Creepers
Okay, so this is a little bit of a cheat. Jeepers Creepers isn’t about a killer car. Rather, it’s about an ancient monster who feeds on human beings every 23 years. But the kicker is, he spends most of his time tracking his prey while riding in that mammoth tank so well fortified it could probably withstand a trek into a heated warzone. Yes, the Creepers truck is extremely important to the film, as Victor Salva turned that imposing vehicle into a character all its own.
06. Death Proof
Many will tell you that Death Proof isn’t a horror film. Don’t be afraid to tell them to fuck off, because this is definitely a horror film. Sure, it’s got a deep drama-driven narrative, but once Stuntman Mike decides carnage is on the menu the film shifts gears and powers toward something bleak, bloody and revenge soaked. There are some amazing moments in the film, and they aren’t all centered on Mike’s gorgeous ’70 Nova – or later his ’69 Charger – some of those moments are birthed by incredibly chilling character decisions. Did I mention that this one features the greatest car chase scene since Vanishing Point.
07. Joy Ride
Technically more of a psychopath flick than anything else, the primary tool used to generate damage in John Dahl’s awesome Joy Ride is a creepy big rig… driven by an even creepier truck driver. The story drops viewers on the road in a perilous situation after antagonizing a faceless trucker via CB radio. The tension builds quickly, and as that tension builds the truck truly does begin to take on a life all its own. Although Joy Ride has plenty of fans, it can still easily be considered an underrated picture.
08. The Hearse
Call me old school. Call me generous in praise. Just don’t call me dead, or this hearse may end up aligning its sights on me, and I’m just not ready to go quite yet. In all honesty, The Hearse is a little light on action, but what it lacks in that department it more than makes up for in dread-filled atmosphere. If you’re going to spot a killer car flick that essentially morphs into – or at least juggles concepts – an effective ghost story, you simply cannot bypass George Bowers’ 1980 offering, The Hearse.
09. Road Kill
Road Kill isn’t the most refined film on this list, but it does make a valiant attempt at breaking the mold. A small handful of friends on a road trip (sounds familiar so far!) run into trouble when a rig does everything in its power to run these youngsters off the road. But once they resolve that on-road crisis, they quickly find themselves facing entirely new challenges, like that truck for example… that truck that sure seems to have a mind all its own.
10. The Car
James Brolin fronts this sometimes creepy, sometimes hokey story of a car that just can’t get enough of human hunting. Although the film hasn’t aged all too well there is a noticeable charm to appreciate, and the night shots, which often feel a bit too dark, add an atypical eeriness to the production. The Car is from what I’d deem a masterpiece, but alone at night, no lights on – there’s a chill that creeps from the screen, and we desensitized viewers should find a little reward in that.