The Ford Mustang is one of the most celebrated American automobiles, and despite a dark decade or two right around the time of the Energy Crisis, it’s shone as a paragon of performance and style to generations of gearheads.
It’s only natural, then, that the Mustang would see more than its fair share of screen time over the years, either in a starring role or as a supporting player. We’ve rounded up a few of the pony car’s appearances that the casual movie fan might have missed. Most of the performances were crucial to the plot, but a few were simply intriguing window dressing that made us sit up and say, “Hey, wait a minute. What exactly are they driving?”
1. 1965 Ford Mustang in “Lock Up”
Sylvester Stallone ruled the multiplex in the 1980s, and he wasn’t just spitting out action blockbusters. On occasion, he made smaller, but equally intense films like “Lock Up,” in which he plays a mechanic forced to ride out the end of his sentence in a maximum security prison to satisfy the whims of a vengeful and sadistic warden. Stallone’s sole joy in this particular hell-hole is a 1965 Ford Mustang (dubbed Maybelline), which he restores in the prison shop with another prisoner improbably named First-Base.
There are plenty of scenes of Sly & co. wrenching on the red stallion, but the set piece of the film comes when First-Base fires up the car and goes on a joyride through the prison yard, ultimately leading to the car being violently destroyed in front of Stallone’s eyes by the warden’s inmate cronies. The movie has become a staple of late-night cable channels, and features a score by Bill Conti, who also wrote the iconic music for the film “Rocky.”
2. 2007 Ford Shelby GT500 in “I Am Legend”
In the 2000s, Ford adopted a very aggressive product placement strategy when it came to pushing its vehicles into movies where, well, they sometimes felt out of place (witness the dry-as-toast Ford Mondeo driven by Daniel Craig’s James Bond). The post-apocalypse flick “I Am Legend” straddled the border between plausible and over-the-top as main character Will Smith, perhaps the only human left alive, goes on a tear through New York City in a bright red Shelby GT500 (complete with double racing stripes).
Fun fact: The car was involved in a number of stunts that weren’t all that gentle on its mechanicals, forcing the production crew to scramble for standard Mustang parts that they could stuff into the GT500—specifically, a radiator and rad support—in order to keep filming.
3. 1968 Shelby GT500 Off-Roader in “The Thomas Crowne Affair”
This is more of a cameo than a speaking part, but the late-’90s remake of Steve McQueen’s “The Thomas Crown Affair” sees the titular art thief (played by Pierce Brosnan) driving through an island paradise behind the wheel of a ’68 Shelby GT500 convertible that’s been given some intriguing upgrades. In particular, the vehicle sports a raised suspension, flared fenders, off-road lights mounted both in front of the grille and on its roll-bar, and a spare tire strapped to the top of the trunk lid. Oh, and the doors are welded shut.
It’s a unique take on a classic, and although it only got a brief turn in front of the camera it has inspired enough of a cult following to lead to replicas being built (including one owned by Richard Rawlings of TV’s “Fast and Loud”). Not surprisingly, these clones typically offer a fair amount of off-road prowess that the original Mustang never dreamed of.
4. 2002 Saleen S281 Mustang in “Hollywood Homicide”
What were we saying earlier about Ford pushing its cars into theaters? “Hollywood Homicide” made the unusual choice of pairing Harrison Ford and Josh Hartnett as two detectives investigating a murder in, you guessed it, Tinseltown. Halfway through the movie, this particular S281 makes its grand appearance and is subsequently tapped to pull chase duty when the bad guys get a little too close for comfort.
The “New Edge” Mustang was rarely celebrated in celluloid form, so this Saleen’s starring role serves as a fitting tribute to a popular car. Purchased by the Barris Motor Car Collection, it later sold for a mere $20,000 at a Bonham’s auction—a pittance to own leather seats once graced by the twin butts of Ford and Hartnett.
5. “2015” Ford Mustang in “Back To The Future Part II”
Blink and you’ll miss it, but by far the weirdest movie Mustang to have ever hit the silver screen appears in “Back To The Future Part II.” Outfitted with perhaps the worst body kit ever devised, from its enormous whale-wing to its hideous full-wheel covers, this Fox body convertible gets meta in front of a movie theater showing “Jaws 19” in the year 2015.
It’s hard to say whether the filmmakers thought that the Fox platform would survive well into the next millennium, or whether the car represented a classic that had been “modernized” for future use. We’re betting that after spending all that money on a flying Delorean, there wasn’t much left in the budget to build a truly radical hover-Stang, so they deputized whatever was sitting in the production lot, slapped some plastic on it and called it a day.