America, as a whole, hates station wagons. It’s hard to understand exactly why; we blame our flawed memories of station wagon vacation roadtrips. Instead of hating the wood paneling, the center-of-gravity elevating roof loads and the smell of cheap vinyl seats, we should be clinging to every bit of wagon-dom that we can — who knows how much longer they’ll be around? Fortunately for history’s sake, they’ve made their mark in a handful of great movies and TV shows, not just as family haulers but as quick and capable chase vehicles and hero (and antihero) steeds of choice.
We’ve scoured the interwebs for cinematic and television wagon gems that, in our estimation, don’t get the credit they deserve. What the world needs now is a fifth installment in the Bourne series that only features chase scenes with potent station wagons. For now, we’ll settle for reminiscing over these ten great silver-screen-stealing wagons.
1986 Volvo 240 DL Wagon, The 40-Year-Old Virgin, 2005
The Volvo grey 240 DL in the movie isn’t the most virile of vehicles, but it is the appropriate car for Steve Carrell’s Andy to graduate to from his tandem recumbent bike. Reliable, comfortable and a bit on the unadventurous side, it’s best appreciated by virtue of its longevity and good bones. But seriously, it’s one of our favorite cars of all time. We’re sure the fold down rear seats got plenty of use after the “Age of Aquarius” montage. Way to keep the pedestal empty, Andy.
2012 Cadillac CTS-V Sport Wagon, Hit and Run, 2012
Though the movie starring Dax Shepard and his button-cute wife is fun in a shallow kind of way, we’re more impressed by their use of the wickedly fast Caddy CTS-V Wagon as a chase vehicle. Far less predictable than the C6 ‘Vette, it’s just a surprisingly refreshing use of a power-mad car in the form of a family wagon. What’s not to like about a flaming red five-door with a 6.2-liter, 556 hp V8 engine?
2005 Dodge Magnum, The Island, 2005
There’s no question that movies stars make bad choices, even Ewan McGregor and Scarlett Johansson in this mindless Michael Bay film (is there any other kind?). But whoever cast blunt force beauty in the form of a team of mean, gray Dodge Magnums in deserves some credit for choosing one of the last great American station wagons. Okay, so they’re bereft of any proper badging, the cross-bar grille has been replaced by a generic one and most of them get destroyed by stray train wheels, but we love it when powerful wagons show up, even in not-so-powerful blockbusters.
1970 Buick Electra Estate, The Way Way Back, 2013
What is with Steve Carrell and station wagons? In this coming of age film, the real star is the utterly pristine Electra Estate helmed by Carrell. Despite his horrendous personality, he sure knows how to pick a family wagon. It’s far from unnoticeable with its pea green paint, wood paneling and a rear door the size of a surfboard, all of which is oddly complimented by a set of sweet mag wheels. We were especially impressed when a good number of moviegoers uttered peals of pleasure when the beauty of a wagon showed up on the big screen.
2004 Mercedes-Benz C Class Wagon, Mr. & Mrs. Smith, 2005
Though we lament that no potent AMG Estate was used as Angelina Jolie’s personal vehicle, we’re pretty thrilled that a Teutonic wagon made its way into the film. Mrs. Smith drives it in the appropriate aggressive manner (if only to kill her husband), proving that wagons truly can be bad in a cool way, just like the killer couple.
1971 Plymouth Satellite Regent, The Brady Bunch, 1969-1974
Though it gets little attention in the classic series, the Plymouth is nevertheless an icon of television history. It was about the size of an aircraft carrier and the color of dog shit. Along with other large wagons of its era, the Brady clan’s white-wall tired beast symbolized the American family like no other vehicle. Even though it probably had a big V8 under the hood, we would’ve hoped for the top-end, limited production Regent with Magnum 500 wheels, a 4-speed manual transmission with wicked pistol grip shifter, sporty bucket seats, and a raucous dual exhaust. Then there probably could’ve been an episode where Greg took it drag racing, and you wouldn’t blame him.
1975 Toyota Corona Wagon, When Harry Met Sally, 1989
So what if Meg Ryan and Billy Crystal are driving the wrong way on Lake Shore Drive to get to New York from Chicago? What matters is the friends-with-benefits discussion that ensues in the pasty yellow Corona Wagon, along with the fact that the boring stock wheels are ditched for faux mags and the benefit of rear-wheel drive. Imagine the hippies that would clamor for this small wagon today. Heck, even we want it, minus the steamer trunk on the roof.
2003 Audi RS6 Avant C5, Layer Cake, 2004
Though the opening scene with Daniel Craig driving a throaty gray RS6 Avant to Stoke Park isn’t nearly as good as when Mr. Craig as Mr. Bond helms the Aston Martin DBS in Quantum of Solace, we’re glad he chose a truly great driver’s estate. The boisterous wagon could yank 60 in under 4.5 seconds due to its quattro all-wheel-drive and a monster biturbo 4.2-liter V8 good for well over four hundred horses. With wagons like this, who needs a sedan?
1964 Citroën DS 19 Safari, The Avengers, 1961-1969
As much as we love the quirky DS sedan, it’s the super-obscure Safari wagon that makes us think the French dreamt up an earlier version of the Ghostbusters Ecto 1. The black and white DS 19 Safari shows up in an episode titled “The Curious Case of the Countless Clues”, and it’s as odd of a duck as a British spy with a pinstriped suit and a bowler hat.
1959 Cadillac Miller-Meteor, Ghostbusters, 1985
Seeing the Ecto 1 take a turn is a sight to see. It had all the handling capabilities of a mobile waterbed, but this classic movie car will remain burned in our brains for all time. Built on a Caddy chassic, the Miller-Meteor company created it as a combination ambulance/hearse vehicle (if the first attempt fails, try to make the most of it?). It had fins that would rival Michael Keaton’s Batmobile, a safari-worthy roof rack and enough room for the whole team’s proton packs. Murray, Ramis, Akroyd and Hudson sure could’ve picked a faster car to transport them, but would it have been nearly as memorable?