All the talk lately about Cars 2 made me wonder how many other cars, planes, and trains — and all other types of vehicles — there have been in TV and film that could be considered alive. Anthropomorphic characters are common in modern entertainment (how many kids’ shows feature talking animals?), but how many anthropomorphized vehicles can you think of?
Here are ten memorable vehicles that were as alive as the people who rode them. (The list doesn’t include predominantly “kids entertainment” focused characters such as Thomas the Tank Engine or the construction equipment on Bob the Builder. I also left out the characters in the Cars movies, since finding their peers is what inspired the list.)
From the Stephen King novel and the John Carpenter film of the same name, Christine was a 1958 Plymouth Fury with a possessive streak. As with all supernatural creatures in Stephen King’s twisted mind, Christine was pure evil, though it was never properly explained how she became alive — though it was hinted that she was possessed by a demon.
Good: Any car that can repair itself has to have great insurance.
Bad: I don’t care if it is a classic car, a homicidal maniac is not a friend.
In the Star Trek: The Next Generation season 3 episode “Tin Man,” Gomtuu was a new life form discovered by the Federation and the Romulans. A powerful telepath was sent to make contact with this spaceship-sized being, and after a power struggle between the Enterprise and a Romulan Warbird, this gifted but troubled telepath went to live as Gomtuu’s new crew of one.
Good: Wicked powerful, ancient, and wise.
Bad: Gomtuu downloaded its entire history into the mind of its telepathic friend. Worst. Migraine. Ever.
It’s a bit of a stretch, since HAL was technically the main computer onboard the Discovery One in 2001: A Space Odyssey, but since HAL had full control of the ship’s systems, he might as well have been the ship itself.
Good: Demonstrated an impressive bass singing voice during his death scene.
Bad: As one of science fiction’s first A.I.-gone-wrong, his eerie voice remained unnervingly calm while he descended into madness and dispatched most of the Discovery One‘s crew.
Herbie may seem silly now, but he’s starred in no less than seven films, and there was a time when his popularity was on par with other Disney properties like Mary Poppins. The little white Volkswagen Beetle was an unlikely racing champion who was made alive by the man who built him. Herbie was more than a car with a brain — he had a personality. He had feelings. And he was rather mischievous — a quality that other anthropomorphized cars (like Bumblebee) owe to him.
Good: He was just like me and you, capable of hatching his own plans and making mistakes. Had a great sense of humor.
Bad: His last movie was a “comeback” executed with Lindsay Lohan’s help. Talk about typecasting.
Despite the kitschy quality of the David Hasselhoff TV series, there remains something inherently cool about what’s essentially a car with superpowers — which probably explains why Universal keeps trying to reboot it. (Next up: a big-screen movie.) A high-tech machine with a built-in, sophisticated A.I., the Knight Industries Two Thousand was the epitome of cool… 25 years ago.
Good: Turbo-boost. Gadgets. William Daniels’ voice.
Bad: Do I even need to say it? The guy behind the wheel and his cuh-razy manperm.
Disney excels at giving personalities to inanimate objects, but Aladdin‘s magic carpet may have been the first that other characters could ride on. The magic carpet had the temperament of a lovable pet — and was just as loyal.
Good: Cheated death twice. Has his own ride at Disney World. Had prominent placement in a hit pop song (“A Whole New World”). Even had his own racing video game.
Bad: Did you miss the part about his own racing game, and his own ride at Disney World? There’s no bad here!
The chrome, seed-shaped space ship from Flight of the Navigator was sleek and fast. Over the course of the film, it grew its own personality, and was voiced by a then-popular Pee-Wee Herman.
Good: Fast, sleek, and powerful, Max was crazy cool-looking, and featured a nifty control scheme by which the pilot used dual sticks to steer and accelerate.
Bad: Was lame enough to have all his star charts erased by crashing into a power line, necessitating a navigator. Experimented on a young boy, filling his mind with data, and then returned him home eight years too late for supper. Oops.
A living ship inhabited by the cast of Farscape, Moya came from an ancient, bio-engineered species called Leviathans. She was completely sentient, and a true living organism. She was even a “she,” making her one of the few anthropomorphic vehicles with a gender.
Good: Can travel faster than light, and repairs herself over time.
Bad: Required a symbiotic Pilot to function. Had no weaponry, a fact that frequently got her into trouble.
I like Bumblebee too, but Optimus Prime is and always will be the greatest of the Transformers. (Interesting fact: the Transformers debuted right about the same time as the similar-but-much-simpler Gobots. Decades later, Gobots are barely remembered while Transformers are still popular, thanks to better characters and a more compelling mythology.)
Good: He’s cheated death twice. Once in that godawful 80s-rock animated movie, and again in the live action Revenge of the Fallen. A big honkin’ tractor trailer with a voice better than even KITT’s.
Bad: The fight that kills him is the only good part of the second Michael Bay movie. In short: he’s most compelling when he’s dead or dying.
Primarily known as a time machine, Doctor Who‘s TARDIS is also capable of traveling through space, which makes it something of a spaceship. It’s a quirky, oddly-shaped spaceship to be sure, but the show has demonstrated on multiple occasions that it maintains a deep connection with the Doctor himself, and he considers it to be both intelligent and alive. Its powers are almost god-like in proportion.
Good: It’s hardwired into every part of time and space, so it can intuitively send the Doctor wherever, whenever he’s needed.
Bad: As the Season 5 finale demonstrated, if the TARDIS is destroyed, it takes all of creation down with it.