You may have missed your chance to buy a brand new VW Beetle when the iconic cars were pulled from production a few years ago. But that doesn’t mean you can’t own a used one or enjoy this classic vehicle or some of the most iconic Volkswagen models in a host of films and television shows from bygone eras.
Many Volkswagen Beetles have appeared on the silver screen. In fact, the so-called VW bug and its close relative the microbus play an important part in both the history of automobiles and the history of American film.
So without further adieu, let’s take a look at some of the most iconic Volkswagen models in movie history:
Herbie: The Love Bug
When many people think of movie VWs they automatically envision Herbie: The Love Bug.
Disney released the film in 1968 and kids and adults soon fell in love en masse with the VW Beetle.
In fact, it was among the top three highest grossing movies of that year – and it then went on to inspire three very popular follow-up films, a television sequel, and even a miniseries.
Taken together, it makes Herbie one of the most famous VW Beetle – if not the most famous Volkswagen – of all time.
The original movie, starring Dean Jones and Buddy Hackett, is about a VW bug with an independent personality and lots of passion for becoming a race car. You know him as the all-American red, white, and blue pinstriped Beetle named Herbie.
Thanks to Herbie, the Beetle will live on in the hearts and minds of movie lovers worldwide for generations to come and has become one of the most iconic Volkswagen models in movie history.
That particular Beetle was actually selected by Disney for the role of Herbie because it was one of the larger cars that casting directors were looking at (think Toyotas).
More VW history: They Call it “Golf Plaid” and it’s Part of Volkswagen History.
Little Miss Sunshine
If a non-human car can be a star of the show, the VW bus in Little Miss Sunshine might have accomplished just that. In fact, many consider the yellow van among the main characters due to the amount of screen time it gets in the 2006 film.
Little Miss Sunshine is about a quirky young girl named Olive who dreams of winning the Little Miss Sunshine pageant.
To that end, Olive takes a very long road trip with her equally quirky family in a bright yellow and quite broken-down VW bus. The mechanically challenged bus goes on to create several different plot twists.
During the production, the movie-making team used five identical VW Transporters – all of them with the same make and year and custom design.
The film involves an 800-mile road trip across the United States, which meant there were many different locations – thus the five identical vehicles.
Where Is The Volkswagen Transporter From Little Miss Sunshine Now?
Since filming, the five identical Transporters used in Little Miss Sunshine have been used for various other sets, in museums, and sold to collectors. After filming the team donated a few to the Petersen Automotive Museum in Los Angeles.
Pretty in Pink
In this 1986 classic, Molly Ringwald stars as an unpopular girl who is asked out by one of the rich, popular boys in her high school class.
Ringwald’s character, Andie, drives a 1958 VW Karmann Ghia Coupe throughout the film.
Oh, and it’s pink. The John Hughes-directed film also stars Andrew McCarthy as Andie’s love interest and James Spader as the bad guy – plus Annie Potts, and Harry Dean Stanton.
But the automotive star is that pink Karmann Ghia that Andie drives. Nobody seems to know where it ended up.
One of the most iconic Volkswagen models, the Volkswagen Karmann Ghia first appeared in showrooms starting in 1955 – a mere five years after the introduction of the Type 1 Beetle.
The Karmann Ghia was never seen as a true sports car, but it was a successful 2+2 coupe and also grew into a successful 2+2 cabriolet when that later body style was introduced.
This classic VW model’s production run lasted until 1974 with only minor updates over its 19-year lifetime.
A VW comeback?: The Volkswagen International Scout
When a plane goes down on a “deserted” tropical island and a 1968 VW Van appears out of nowhere it’s just one of the many weird things that happen on this wildly popular television show. When we first see the microbus it serves to bring a sense of hope to the weary crash survivors.
In fact, one of the main characters believes his personal curse is broken when he manages to jump-start the bus.
This iconic-looking van is actually a 1950 Type 1 van known as a Beetle – not to be mistaken with the Type 2 (1968-1972 VW van) that also appears on Lost. That one features a single front window and a wrap-around front bumper and old-fashioned wheel covers.
Honorable mentions for the most iconic Volkswagen models in movie history
- Happy Gilmore (1996). The transformation of a hockey player into a pro golfer takes many unexpected twists and turns, including an attack with a white 1972 Volkswagen Super Beetle.
- Footloose. In this ’80s dance movie, a teenager gets pulled over for listening to rock-n-roll in his yellow 1972 Volkswagen Beetle, he realizes his small town is overdue for some change. Horrible Bosses.
- 50 First Dates.In this 2006 flick, an art teacher experiencing short-term memory loss drives a yellow 1973 Volkswagen “Thing” as she goes on dates around Hawaii.
- Once Up a Time in Hollywood (2019). Brad Pitt stars as an older stunt double who drives a baby blue 1964 Volkswagen Karmann Ghia as he looks for meaningful work in the final years of what director Quentin Tarantino considers to be Hollywood’s Golden Age.
Don’t worry if you can’t get your hands on one of the most iconic Volkswagen models in movie history.
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