“Some men are Baptist, others Catholic. My father was an Oldsmobile man.”
— from A Christmas Story
It’s that time of year again, when everyone goes on epic gift-shopping sprees, wraps presents, puts up holiday decorations, sends out Christmas cards, and generally gives themselves over to an abundance of seasonal cheer. AND…we watch, for the upteenth time, our favorite holiday movies.
Aside from enjoying the heartwarming messages and implausible plots of such films, half the fun is noticing some of the interesting filmic elements we may have missed the first (or second, or third, or hundredth) time watching them. For aficionados of car culture, that fun takes the form of spotting the cars that make cameo appearances in many of these flicks.
Hollywood certainly does love its cars. Herewith are a few of our favorite holiday films (with selected scene clips) in which automobiles play memorable supporting roles.
It’s a Wonderful Life (1946)
“I saw your car plowed into that tree down there….”
The car that George Bailey drives—and later crashes into a tree in the throes of his existential anguish—is a 1919 Dodge Brothers 4-door touring convertible. The original car used in the film was later restored and and was put on display in a a museum for years before passing into private ownership.
National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation (1989)
“I’m in complete control!”
Who can forget that moment when Chevy Chase’s Clark Griswold manages to swerve his wood-paneled 1988 Ford Taurus Wagon under a truck on the way to cutting the family Christmas tree—and then literally launches it into the annals of classic movie scenes? (We’re pretty sure the car’s frame will need to be un-bent after that.)
Bad Santa (2003)
And most definitely nicer than the beat-up 1969 Chevy Impala Sport Sedan that Billy Bob Thornton drives in this hiliarious (though NSFW) film. One wonders: is this the same hunk of junk that Steve McQueen drove in the 1972 movie The Getaway? Whatever the case, both are in dire need of some serious body work. Not that it matters much—because Thornton’s utterly degenerate (though ultimately good-hearted) department store Santa character later manages to sleaze his way into a gleaming BMW 740iL.
The Holiday (2006)
“I can do this. I can drive on the wrong side of the road.”
How hard can it be to drive a Mini Cooper? As Cameron Diaz’s character discovers, it turns out to be real hard—not to mention terrifying—if you are an American driving on British roads. In the winter. Did we mention the roads are snow-slicked? Driving in the U.K. under those conditions seems like an accident just waiting to happen!
Four Christmases (2008)
Vince Vaughan and Reese Witherspoon, driving in their Range Rover, decide on a safe word to make their escape from a dreaded family Christmas at his dad’s house. One can almost imagine them wishing for a breakdown or fender-bender to rescue them.