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Farewell to the Beetle: Our Favourite TV and Film Appearances the Car Made

As production on this iconic car winds down, we look at the mark it has made on pop culture.

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BeetleJan Walter/imageBROKER/Shutterstock

The End of an Era

The beloved Volkswagen Beetle eclipsed its mid-20th century origins within the Nazi regime and became a Baby Boomer fave, evolving into a cornerstone of pop culture. It was originally conceived in the halls of Mercedes-Benz, and with final engineering handled by Ferdinand Porsche. In total, more than 20 million VW Beetles rolled off assembly lines from 1938 on, making it easily the longest-running production model ever made.

We’ve assembled a collection of notable appearances in movies and television by the Beetle to mark Volkswagen’s recent announcement that production of the car has finally run its course.

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Herbie VW bugMoviestore Collection/Shutterstock

Herbie: The Love Bug (1968)

It has to start here: Disney released Herbie: The Love Bug in 1968 and America quickly fell for the quirky Volkswagen Beetle, making it the third-highest-grossing film of the year. Its popularity spawned three motion picture sequels, a made-for-TV sequel and a TV mini-series, establishing Herbie as one of the most recognizable cars in Hollywood.

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carChartsTable789/Shutterstock

It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World (1963)

Herbie wasn’t co-star Buddy Hackett’s first go-round in a VW Beetle, however. The 1963 comedy It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World found Hackett in a red Beetle, racing cross-country to recover the missing loot from a robbery. In the opening scenes, the recently released thief dies in a car accident on the way to recover his spoils. Four drivers stop to aid the injured thief, who gives them the location of his treasure with his last breath. Rather than share the money, they all try to get to the money first.

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VW bug Footloose Kevin BaconParamount/Kobal/Shutterstock

Footloose (1984)

In this classic story of teenage rebellion, Ren McCormack (Kevin Bacon) battles a repressive rural minister over local ordinances banning rock music and dance. As a bonus, he drives a Volkswagen Beetle, which leads to a moment of levity: On his way to the prom, he escorts his date to the car and finds the passenger door locked as he tries to open it for her.

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Cuba Gooding Jr blue VW bug from Boyz N the HoodMoviestore Collection/Shutterstock

Boyz N the Hood (1991)

Boyz N the Hood marked the feature-film debut of Ice Cube and Morris Chestnut, in an iconic work of social commentary by John Singleton. The film netted Singleton Academy Award nominations for Best Director and Best Writing. Although Ice Cube’s (Doughboy) choice in the film is a gold Impala convertible, Cuba Gooding Jr. (Tre) drives a dark-blue 1971 convertible VW Beetle.

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Happy Gilmore movie stillMoviestore Collection/Shutterstock

Happy Gilmore (1996)

Happy Gilmore, the hockey player wannabe, frequently manages to bring out the worst in people. In a memorable scene, the Beetle we spied in this movie breaks through a crowd onto a fairway, where a rampaging driver runs Happy down.

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Fight Club movie poster20th Century Fox/Kobal/Shutterstock

Fight Club (1999)

The script in this film called for characters played by Brad Pitt and Edward Norton to vandalize a row of cars with baseball bats. Rumours say Pitt insisted that one of the cars be the modern Beetle re-release. Why? He wanted to make a statement about Baby Boomers’ habit of cannibalizing the symbols of their rebellious, idealistic youth to profit from the younger generations.

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Bart and Lisa Simpson as suitsAlex Berliner/BEI/Shutterstock

The Simpsons

It seems that the creators of The Simpsons have a long-standing love for the Beetle. Maybe it’s just easier to draw? Either way, Beetles appear frequently in the series. One favourite scene depicts Bart and Lisa on a school bus, where they see a red Beetle pass. Bart yells, “Punch buggy, red!” And slugs her shoulder. Just as they finish explaining the game to the other kids and a not-so-impressed teacher, the bus passes a lot filled with new Beetles.

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Jack Nicholson from The Shinning ExhibitionNils Jorgensen/Shutterstock

The Shining (1980)

A yellow Beetle plays a key role in the opening credits of Stanley Kubrick’s horror masterpiece. The sequence is shown in widescreen, a yellow dot moving endlessly through a towering, isolated landscape, while the underlying music becomes more and more sinister. By the end of the opening credits, there’s no question that something horrific is about to unfold.

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VW Beetle with spikes from the movie The Cars that Ate ParisSaltpaan/Afdc/Royce Smeal/Kobal/Shutterstock

The Cars That Ate Paris (1974)

As an earlier entry into the horror genre, The Cars That Ate Paris features a particularly grizzly looking Beetle, bristling with razor-sharp blades. The mere sight of this macabre machination gave us goosebumps!

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Elvis with guitar standing between two adoring womenSnap/Shutterstock

Double Trouble (1967)

Elvis Presley in an all-Beetle car chase through narrow German streets? ‘Nuff said!

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Jeff Bridges as The Dude from The Big LebowskiPolygram/Working Title/Kobal/Shutterstock

Bonus: The Big Lebowski (1998)

OK, this is actually 11, but how could you leave out The Big Lebowski? A long-running Volkswagen campaign in the ’90s promoted the joy of driving, or “Fahrvergnügen.” No scene better captures this sentiment than watching The Dude rock out to Credence while pounding on the headliner and sipping something cold—that is, until he realizes he is being tailed by someone in a Beetle.

Read on to find out which classic cars are still in production.

Originally Published on The Family Handyman