Dodge Charger – The Car’s The Star

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By Chris Pollitt

The Dodge Charger, specifically the ‘68 to ‘70 models, could really do with an agent. These cars carry with them significant presence, and as such, they earn a place on screen that is often just as important as the protagonists (or antagonists) themselves. Certainly in the case of films like the Fast and Furious franchise the Dodge Charger isn’t just Dom’s car, it’s a character in its own right. 

Of course, the Charger has been in more than just the Furious films. It’s been on the silver screen more times than some A-listers. We’ve rounded up five of our favourite on-screen appearances here, but appearances in which the Charger has been a main player, the star, the lead. It’s been a supporting star many times, like in 1983’s Christine for example. But these are the ‘hero’ films – Chargers front and centre. No Dukes of Hazzard though because A) the film was terrible and B) that’s just too obvious! 

1) Death Proof

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Quentin Tarantino’s 2007 ‘grindhouse’ flick, Death Proof was… well, it was weird. But it’s Tarantino, so that’s to be expected. The premise is based around a slightly psychotic chap by the name of Stuntman Mike, played by Kurt Russel. He likes to kill people with his car. Standard stuff. Um, right? 

 

Ol’ Mike finds a group of girls who he thinks will be suitable victims for his diabolical, murderous, vehicular scheme. Sadly for Mike, he’s underestimated these girls. Two of them are stunt women, and one of them, Rasario Dawson, is simply a hard-ass. As such, his plan of ramming them off the road falls flat when the girls fight back in a Dodge Challenger (nice nod to Vanishing Point, there). Chase goes on for an impressive ten minutes or so, and being Tarantino, every angle is expertly shot. 

 

2) The Fast and the Furious

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As mentioned above, The Fast and the Furious has been a home for the Dodge Charger, a 1970 model, since 2001. And that’s what we’re looking at here, genesis for the franchise, when it was all stealing DVDs and street racing. Not nuclear submarines and rockets (no, really). In the original film, the Charger is what a Charger should be – a muscle car. Running slicks out back and a 900bhp supercharged big-block up front, it is everything the ‘import’ racers aren’t. Pure, unabashed brawn and noise. 

 

We don’t see the Charger perform until the final act, in which Dom is forced behind the wheel (the car, he admits, “scares the s**t” out of him) in the name of vengeance. He takes to the L.A streets before ending up in one final race. Sadly though, the Charger hits a truck and is sent flying into the air. Silly, but a great bit of stunt work. Also, here’s some trivia for you: The stunt car was the same battered machine Lindsay Lohan thinks about buying in Herbie, Fully Loaded. 

 

3) Blade

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Yes, there was a ‘68 Charger in 2004’s Blade. Though, you might have missed it due to the film being shot entirely in the dark, and due to said Charger being satin black. But, it was there, and it was suitably badass. Centreline drag wheels, a mean rake, a Hemi hood scoop, it had it all. And Blade being Blade, he used it to hunt vampires. Because you would, wouldn’t you? You can’t go hunting creatures of the night in a Nissan Primera. 

 

We’re introduced to the ‘68 when it jumps out of the back of an articulated truck, like some sort of angry Knight Rider. After that point, it’s all wheel-spinning, engine-revving action as Blade hunts down some vampires on motorbikes. The car takes a moderate battering, but Dodges are built tough, so it lives to fight more vampires another day. 

 

4) Bullitt

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It wouldn’t be a list of cinema Dodge Chargers without a mention of 1968’s Bullitt. This is, for many, the defining car chase. No music, no over the top direction, effects or angles. Just two perfectly matched muscle cars battling it out around the automotive playground that is San Francisco. Yes, the Charger loses an impressive five hubcaps, and it passes the same VW Beetle three times and in the final crash, you can see it drive past the petrol station that explodes (the car had nobody in it, so it missed). But do we care? No. 

 

This is one of the greatest chases ever committed to film. You could just listen to it – the engine noises are on point. Open your eyes, and you’ll be gripped as the ‘looks like a normal ‘60s dad’ bad guy driving the Charger jostles for position alongside Steve McQueen’s ‘68 Mustang. You’ll wince as these then brand new cars take a battering, and you’ll marvel at the commitment on display by the stuntmen. They really went for it!

 

5) Dirty Mary, Crazy Larry

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If you want to advance your motorsport career, the way to do it is through savvy marketing and sponsorship. What you shouldn’t do is rob a supermarket, then use the proceeds to buy a lime green ‘69 Dodge Charger. If you do this, the police will chase you, and you will (probably) crash into a train and die in a fiery explosion. How do we know this? Because it’s exactly what happened to Larry (Peter Fonda) and Deke (Adam Roarke) in 1974’s Dirty Mary, Crazy Larry. 

 

Things are exacerbated by the addition of Larry’s slightly bonkers one-night-stand, Mary (played by Susan George) tags along, egging Larry on to push the patience of the law at every given opportunity. He obliges, Deke complains, the Charger shines as it’s driven hard around, over and into things before it all goes wrong thanks to a train. It turns out that in a fight between a locomotive and a Charger, the former will win. Some consumer advice, there. 

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