Killer car movies as a subgenre of horror is an often less explored theme, and probably for a good reason. It’s hard to make the idea of a murderous car scary or even interesting, but there are a handful of diamonds in the rough out there that you might enjoy. Here are 9 of the best killer car movies you should watch the next time you’re looking to push a bloody pedal to the bloody metal
For a film that opens with a mini monologue about how life is full of “no reason” and how there are moments in cinema that happen for no reason, Rubber definitely takes that sentiment to a place above and beyond what you’d expect. Not technically about a car, Rubber is about a sentient tire that has psychokinetic powers and goes around blowing things up, mainly people.
That sentence either hooks people in with the absurdity of it or pushes people away immediately. The director and writer, Quentin Dupiex, is known for his surrealist and absurd films that also feature meta-narratives — and Rubber is no exception. If you’re looking for a movie about killer cars that you can also laugh at, check this one out. You’ll know pretty quickly if it’s a movie for you or not.
Maximum Overdrive (1986)
A classic 80’s B-horror movie, Maximum Overdrive is Stephen King’s first and last directorial endeavor. We’ll be upfront in saying that upon release, it was met with negative reviews and even was nominated for some Golden Raspberry Awards, but if you go into this movie expecting a hilariously outrageous comedy about how all machines on Earth become sentient and bloodthirsty, you’ll enjoy it.
It’s campy, it’s got black humor, and it’s even got a hard-rock soundtrack entirely composed by AC/DC. The science behind a comet causing inanimate machines to come to life is pretty wild, but once you look past it and try to enjoy all 98 glorious minutes, you’ll have a hell of a better time.
The Wraith (1986)
A young Charlie Sheen stars in this 1986 independent film about a car that wants to kill every last member of a local street racing gang. It’s a movie about revenge with a dash of romance and the supernatural. It’s not the most thought-provoking film, but let’s be honest, you’re looking for a movie about killer cars — do you really care?
Death Proof (2007)
One of Quentin Tarantino’s masterpieces, Death Proof, was originally released as part of a double feature called Grindhouse alongside Robert Rodriguez’s Planet Terror. Grindhouse didn’t do too hot in theaters, so Death Proof was released on its own later and was met with decent reviews from critics. The film is also an homage to grindhouse films of old and intentionally features effects and techniques that were signatures of those old grindhouse theater films.
The film stars Kurt Russell as a stuntman, Mike, who modifies cars to be death-proof and then kills young women with them. Death-proof, in this sense, means that occupants in the vehicle cannot be killed by any sort of crash or accident. That said, Mike only makes it so that the driver is safe. Death Proof sees Mike tormenting two different groups of women over the course of the movie, and is, all-in-all, a decent movie about killer cars.
Directed by the famous John Carpenter, Christine is based on Stephen King’s novel of the same name and is a good example of why King should stick to writing and let other people direct his masterpieces. The film is generally hailed as a cult classic and is arguably one of the best killer car films out there. It’s also a true killer car film where the supernatural and unknown are the reason behind the car’s malice rather than an unseen driver.
The story of Christine begins with a 1958 Plymouth Fury on the production line. A worker injures their hand when the hood slams shut, and an employee who sits in the driver’s seat is later found dead. After a nerdy high schooler named Arnie buys the car twenty years later and becomes increasingly obsessed with it, strange things start happening, and people begin getting murdered. Is it Arnie, or is something larger at play here?
The plot for Duel is straightforward but entertaining enough to keep you engrossed until the very end. Directed by the famous Steven Spielberg, Duel is about a business commuter heading through California to meet a client. After cutting off a big rig that keeps harassing him, he suddenly finds himself in a fight for his life against a mostly unseen character sitting behind thousands of pounds of metal.
Steven Spielberg doesn’t disappoint in this movie, which was surprisingly only made on a budget of $450,000. Dennis Weaver plays David Mann, the commuter in distress, and does a good job of it. Originally intended as a TV special, the film eventually got a theatrical release with additional footage to boost it to 90 minutes. We suggest watching the theatrical version to get every last killer car movie drop.
Joy Ride (2001)
Directed by John Dahl (no relation to Roald Dahl), Joy Ride has a similar premise to Duel. In fact, similar might not be the right word since it’s about two brothers driving across America that piss off a trucker who wants to kill them. It stars Paul Walker along with Steve Zahn and Leelee Sobieski. Fun fact, this is also the same year that The Fast and The Furious would be released, which is what he would be best known for.
Joy Ride features much more violence than Duel, and the stakes definitely feel higher. If you like the first one, it did spawn two sequels of varying quality: Joy Ride 2: Dead Ahead and Joy Ride 3: Roadkill. They don’t feature Paul Walker and lack the big budget of the first one, but if you’re looking for more movies about killer cars, they’re there.
The weirdest part about this movie is that it is completely unrelated to the real-life events of the 2004 “Killdozer” rampage Marvin John Heemeyer unleashed in Granby, Colorado. The 1974 film from 30 years prior features elements of the supernatural and alien activity. The film itself is an adaptation of a 1944 novella of the same name, also 30 years prior. Weird coincidences, huh?
Anyways, Killdozer! Is about a meteorite that crash lands on an island and contains a supernatural, alien force. The rock is eventually uncovered years later by a construction company building an airstrip. As it gets uncovered, its force latches onto a nearby bulldozer which begins killing every worker on site. Bulldozers don’t exactly move too fast, so it has to come up with creative ways to wreak havoc on the workers and cause their demise.
The Car (1977)
Another 70s horror film about a killer car, The Car, stars James Brolin (Josh Brolin’s father) as Chief Deputy Wade Parent, who finds himself in charge after a murderous car kills the Sheriff. As the car goes around terrorizing the town and claiming victims, Wade races to find out who the driver is — or isn’t.
If you were interested in finding more movies about killer cars, hopefully, you found one on this list. The killer car subgenre is a tough one, but a number of films have done it well over the years. While the subgenre was absolutely booming in the 70s and 80s, it’s definitely slowed down in the last two decades. If we missed a killer car movie you love, let us know in the comments, and we will see if we can squeeze it into our list.