Planes seem to be the hot trend in superhero movies right now. In this year’s blockbuster Black Panther, T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman) zips between the United States and Wakanda in his Vibranium craft, the Avengers will take on Thanos from the sky, and we may even see some form of the invisible jet in Wonder Woman 2. Yes, it’s all about planes in the new superhero films.
But once upon a time, the battles were fought on the ground and superheroes relied on some pretty badass cars to help them get the job done. Iconic vehicles like the Batmobile and Black Beauty were and still are as iconic as the heroes who commanded them. So as movies shift away from four-wheeled transportation and toward aerial assault, let’s take a look back at some of the best cars and bikes in superhero movie history.
1. The Tumbler – Batman
The Batmobile is the most iconic vehicle in comic books; there’s no doubt about it. But, with several different iterations in cinema, every fan has their favorite. Tim Burton’s Batmobile was dark and demented with giant flames shooting out of the back as Batman took down the Joker and Penguin.
Meanwhile, Joel Schumaker’s Batmobile added a more cartoonish design to match his movies’ tone while amping up its tricks. But it’s Christopher Nolan’s Batmobile (also called the Tumbler) that departs the most from tradition. Indeed, the Tumbler is more like a tank than a car. Its huge, utilitarian frame allowed Batman to rely on its layers of armor to protect him from the Joker’s bazooka.
What always struck me about the Tumbler was the enormous tires that make it look more like an off-roading machine and less like a car. It’s crazy to think about, but those wheels must be twice the size of any Jeep out there. But here’s the funny thing: The on-set Tumbler wasn’t CGI — it was a real, working vehicle.
2. Black Beauty – Green Hornet
Released in 2011, there isn’t much worth remembering cinematically about Green Hornet. However, the Black Beauty remains one of the more interesting cars in comic book lore. While the Batmobile is a concept made entirely from scratch, the Green Hornet uses a real classical beauty — a 1965 Chrysler Imperial — which steals the show from Hornet and his sidekick, Kato.
What’s fun about the Black Beauty is that it’s the Green Hornet’s superpower. Loaded with guns, weapons and all sorts of electrifying gadgets, Hornet and Kato rely on this tricked-out Chrysler to fight villains more than any superpower found in other comics.
3. Battle Shell – TMNT
The Battle Shell is essentially the kid-friendly version of the bus from Dawn of the Dead. Indeed, this slime-powered, pizza-slinging, armored tank is home to the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (and sometimes April and Casey Jones, too) on their adventures. While a version of this automobile appears in the movies, the cartoon Battle Shell reigns supreme as the colorful fan favorite.
4. Hell Cycle – Ghost Rider
Ghost Rider is another superhero that didn’t get his due on the big screen. Nicholas Cage is more caricature than actor in this 2007 blockbuster — and his rendition of Ghost Rider on film was, well, very Nick Cage-esque. But the Hell Cycle absolutely got the showing it deserved, featuring bones for steel and leaving a trail of flames in the bike’s wake. Next to Arnold’s chopper in Terminator 2: Judgment Day, the Hell Cycle might be one of the most iconic bikes in movie history.
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