Any Mustang guy will tell you that Bullitt is the greatest Mustang movie of all time. Dodge guys love Vanishing Point. Street-rodders all know American Graffiti backwards and forwards. There isn't a Porsche guy on earth who hasn't sat through Steve McQueen's Le Mans without imagining himself behind the wheel of 917. Heck, AMC Pacer fans flock to Wayne's World. But there's never really been a great Corvette movie.
Oh, there have been Corvettes in movies, but counting cars parked in the background is a cheat. There's even been one movie that was actually about a Corvette and had the word "Corvette" in its title, but calling 1978's Corvette Summer a great movie is an irrational stretch. Corvettes have been used as hero cars, as the cars of villains, as props for mayhem, and as objects of desire and envy in movies, but there has never been that one film that fixes in the public's collective mind the essence of the Corvette's personality.
Why is this so? While there's some real heft behind a couple of conspiracy theories, the truth is that cars are cast in films in about the same way that actors are: They get into the movie only if they fill the role correctly. It's hard to root for a hero who has all the advantages, and if a hero has a Corvette ... well, it's pretty obvious that things have already been going his way in life. That's why-though on occasion heroes drive a Corvette-it's more common for the heavy (who the hero will eventually overcome and vanquish) to own the sleek two-seater. Plus there's the simple fact that often a story requires three people to ride in a car (and this is a bigger factor than it might at first seem).
So in the name of our enlightened readers, herewith we dole out 10 carefully considered (and nowhere near comprehensive) awards for various appearances by Corvettes in film (television not included). No burnouts on the red carpet, please.
Dorian Gray Award for Best Reflection of Decrepitude
Boogie Nights (1997)
When porn star Dirk Diggler buys his orange '77 C3, it's new and it's pristine. But as time goes by and he becomes more debauched and more desperate, the car spirals downward with him. By the end of the film, he's a wreck and so is the car.
Pamela Anderson Award for Startling Over-Inflation
Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me (1999)
According to Josh Hancock, automotive consultant on all of the Austin Powers movies, the red, white, and blue '65 roadster driven by "Felicity Shagwell" wasn't anything special. "It was just a nonmatching small-block car that wasn't in particularly good shape," he recalls. "It couldn't have been worth much more than, oh, at most 15 grand." Except, of course, that it had been in a movie.
But dang if someone didn't think that being in a movie mattered. In an online auction run by New Line Cinema, the studio that released the film the summer of 1999, the car was sold for an unfathomable $121,000. Did actress Heather Graham leave a particularly adorable dent in the seat? For that kind of money, her butt should still have been in it.
Best Tiny Corvette In A Chase Scene
The Dead Pool (1988)
As the fifth movie in Clint Eastwood's Dirty Harry series, The Dead Pool came out when most of the good ideas had already been played out and the weariness was obvious. But there was one amazing exception in the form of a chase through the streets of San Francisco between Harry and his partner in an Oldsmobile sedan (remember when they made those?) and a radio-controlled, scale-model mid-year Stingray carrying an explosive charge.
The scene plays as a sly parody of the classic chase in Bullitt, but also works on its own at being both suspenseful and unique. Too bad the rest of the movie is such a disappointment.
Con Air (1997)
In what's probably the single most improbable series of events ever depicted in a Jerry Bruckheimer-produced film (and his films are nothing but improbable series of events), DEA Agent Duncan Malloy (Colm Meaney) watches his '67 Elkhart Blue roadster being dragged into the sky behind a C-123 cargo plane. It's not a perfect sequence (a lot of the computer-graphics work looks like, well, computer graphics), but for sheer audacity combined with over-the-top ludicrousness, it may be one of the most memorable scenes in Corvette filmic history.
Bonus points if you notice the early C4 that gets smushed in the finale by the same C-123. Don't cheat on the scoring! The only person you hurt is yourself.
Best Corvette Unrecognizable As A Corvette
Live And Let Die (1973)
The first James Bond movie featuring Roger Moore is filled with Chevrolets, and much of the stunt driving was actually done by the Chevy-sponsored Joie Chitwood thrill-show team. At first glance, the most memorable car in the film, however, appears to be a white Cadillac Eldorado dripping in such excessive ornamentation that it should just sink though the Manhattan Island. But it's not really an Eldorado at all.
In fact, the white pimpmobile, with its deadly dart-shooting sideview mirror, is a "Corvorado" which is a C3 under a crust of fiberglass molded to look like an Eldorado's fenders. The Corvorado was (and presumably still is) the product of Dunham Coach of Boonton, New Jersey. The Corvette origins of the car are most obvious in interior shots.
Most Dangerous Stunt
2 Fast 2 Furious (2003)
In films, some stunts look easy and risk-free, and are in fact horribly tough and dangerous. And some stunts look horribly tough and dangerous and are, in fact, amazingly safe and simple. But in this past summer's 2 Fast 2 Furious, one C5 roadster was sacrificed in a stunt that was truly tough and dangerous.
After a Saleen Mustang was crushed under a semi's trailer, it was always intended that stunt man Sam Maloof would plow the C5 into the wreckage along a Florida highway. "What's the worst thing that could happen?" Stunt Coordinator Artie Malesci says the production team asked themselves. "The worst thing that could happen was the car would roll over." And in fact that's what happened as the C5, which wasn't equipped with a rollcage, hit the Mustang and rolled over.
Fortunately, because the stunt team had prepared for the worst, there was a grab strap across the passenger seat of the car. "He pulled himself down under the dashboard, which is the strongest part of the car. It was a scary moment, but he's a tough guy too."
So Maloof wasn't injured; but since the stunt hadn't gone as planned, another C5 was prepared to redo it the next day. Fortunately, when the filmmakers saw the footage, they decided it was so spectacular that Maloof's near-catastrophe remained in the film.
Most Spectacular Stunt
The 2,428-foot-long Auburn-Foresthill Bridge near Sacramento, California, rises 730 feet over the American River's north fork and is reportedly the third highest in the United States. Throwing a Corvette off it seemed to be a good idea to the makers of XXX, especially if legendary BASE jumper Tim Rigby was "surfing" it down.
Doubling for star Vin Diesel, Rigby rode the hollowed-out C5 down as 18 cameras caught the action. Fortunately (they think of everything!) Rigby had a parachute and floated down to the riverbed. What happened to the Corvette can't be called a "float."
After Diesel's character is arrested for that bridge stunt, what does he say after being hit with a government tranquilizer dart? "It was only a Corvette."
Movie With "Corvette" In The Title No One Has Ever Seen
High Rolling In A Hot Corvette (1977)
"It was about an expatriate living in Australia who conceives a plan to rob a bus," remembers High Rolling In A Hot Corvette star Joseph Bottoms from his Santa Barbara, California, home. "I don't think it was ever released here, but I'm sure it was made for this market. The Corvette didn't play that much of a role in it. And the characters probably ripped it off."
An Australian movie, set in Australia, made by Australians in Australia but featuring a Corvette? Go figure. However, it was, according to Bottoms, the first film for famed Australian actress Judy Davis who has gone on to be nominated for Academy Awards twice and win an Emmy and a Golden Globe for portraying Judy Garland in a TV miniseries.
If anyone has a copy of this film on tape (Joseph Bottoms doesn't), we'd like to see it.
Best Astronaut Movie
Apollo 13 (1995)
During the '60s and '70s Chevrolet issued Corvettes to U.S. astronauts as if they popped out of a Pez dispenser. So whenever there's a movie about astronauts, there's often a Corvette in it some place-or at least talked about. "You know, it's funny," astronaut Gordon Cooper (Dennis Quaid) says in 1983's the otherwise Corvette-free The Right Stuff. "Here I am, I got me $25 grand a year for a magazine contract, got a free house with all the furnishings, got me a Corvette, got a free lunch from one end of America to the other, and I ain't even been up there yet."
In a nip-and-tuck race with 1983's Terms of Endearment where broken down astronaut Jack Nicholson steers his '78 Silver Anniversary coupe into the ocean with his feet, the best astronaut and Corvette movie is Apollo 13. Mostly because, in addition to the red '70 driven by Jim Lovell (Tom Hanks)-whose stalling forebodes ill for the spacecraft-Ken Mattingly (Gary Sinise) parks a War Bonnet Yellow '71 just as the Apollo 13 rocket lifts off. That's two Corvettes, and no other astronaut movie we know of has more than one.
Orson Welles Award For Sheer Quantity
Mr. Deeds (2002)
When local boy Longfellow Deeds (Adam Sandler) inherits billions, he buys red Corvettes for virtually everyone in the town of Mandrake Falls, New Hampshire. For the most part, this misbegotten remake of the Gary Cooper 1936 classic, Mr. Deeds Goes To Town, isn't worth the cost of a rental-except for that one scene of Mandrake Falls (actually New Milford, Connecticut) almost submerged under a sea of Magnetic Red and Torch Red C5s.
There were actually about 30 Corvettes used in the scene with many recruited from local clubs, including the Candlewood Valley Corvette Club, Long Island Corvette Club, and the Monroe Corvette Club. The production company, however, owned the one Torch Red convertible wrecked by Steve Buscemi's character.