If you’re looking for some new movies to love, and you’re tired of the dated trope of men being in the driver’s seat in films focusing on cars, you’re in luck. The recent success of Nomadland (2020) has renewed the focus on the role of women in movies about the companions that get us from A to B, our vehicles. Nomadland follows Fern, a strong, independent woman and modern-day nomad. Fern travels and lives in her beloved van. This touching film based on a nonfiction book by the same name has gripped the world, and not only for it’s history-making win for Best Director at the Academy Awards. This movie is also making us examine the roles of cars in movies that center women. If you loved Nomadland and are ravenous for more films about women behind the wheel, here are three of the overall top picks.
1. Thelma and Louise (1991)
A classic for a reason, Thelma and Louise chronicles the story of two female best friends who take a weekend road trip together to escape their humdrum lives. At one stop on their journey, a man attempts to sexually assault Thelma, prompting Louise to step in and stand up for her friend. After the man insults Louise, she shoots him in the chest and kills him instantly. From there, road trip movie turns into crime thriller, as Thelma and Louise are now on the lam. The film follows the two women’s various potential run-ins with the police and their lawlessness along the way. Central to the movie is Louise’s 1966 Ford Thunderbird, which serves as a safe haven for the two friends. Thelma and Louise takes a good look at male behavior in the context of women and explores the importance of female friendship and, further, the importance of cars in female autonomy. The film ends with the iconic scene of the two women, finally cornered by authorities who want them for murder, decide to drive off the edge of a cliff in the Grand Canyon, ending their lives on their own terms. The image of the Ford Thunderbird careening off that cliff has become a cultural symbol, repeated in art and movies for years afterward. The film not only won an Academy Award at the time of its release, it was also selected for preservation in the National Film Registry in 2016 due to its cultural and aesthetic significance.
2. Max Max: Fury Road (2015)
Mad Max: Fury Road is another iteration of films in the Mad Max franchise, a series of films and books that take place in a post-apocalyptic world. The film takes place in an arid desert devoid of natural resources like water and oil. The main character, Max, joins forces with Furiosa, a fiercely strong female war captain who has rebelled against a misogynist cult leader with five wives, Immortan Joe. Together, the two flee from the cult leader and free his harem of wives, and much of the film focuses on an action-packed road battle in the desert, where Furiosa takes an obvious lead. Furiosa’s clear connection to her vehicle is apparent throughout the film as she never appears weak, nervous, or anything less than confident behind the wheel. In the end, her relationship with her car makes her victorious in the road battle and in the revolution against Immortan Joe.
3. Herbie: Fully Loaded (2005)
Far less serious but still a great examination of female-car companionship, Herbie: Fully Loaded must make this list. A “gender bend” of previous films in the Herbie the Lovebug franchise, Fully Loaded focuses on a young woman and potential racecar driver named Maggie Peyton, who purchases the iconic Volkswagen Beetle at a junkyard. She is unaware that that Beetle is Herbie, a completely sentient anthropomorphic lovebug. Herbie carries Maggie through numerous racing wins, stunning both other racers and observers. Herbie and Maggie grow closer and closer as the film progresses, with her becoming a better racer at the same time. In the close of the film, Herbie helps Maggie win a high-stakes race. Fully Loaded truly treats the vehicle as a character because he has a mind of his own. While corny, you can’t deny this family-friendly film celebrates the important and symbiotic relationship between a woman and her car.
The next movie night or girls’ night in you host, consider looking to these films, which illustrate the unique and integral companionship that exists between female characters and their vehicles. Skip the played out male-focused car movies, and opt for one of the above for a night to remember.