Question of the Week: What Japanese car was the biggest movie star?

Not counting the Fast and Furious franchise, cars of Japanese origin don’t usually feature too prominently in Hollywood productions. But that makes their rare appearances all the more special, which brings us to this week’s question:

What Japanese car was the biggest movie star?

Winston Wolf’s Acura NSX was an unexpected treat in Pulp Fiction. When Harvey Keitel’s mob cleaner was called upon to resolve a, uh, mind blowing accident, he promised to arrive on the scene in less than 10 minutes. He got there in nine and 37 seconds. Quentin Tarrantino’s script, heavily laden with details about the exact make, model and color of each car that appeared, originally called for a silver Porsche 911. But it had been written before Honda‘s magnum opus was unleashed on an unsuspecting public and became the most badass import on the block. In contrast, Bruce Willis’ totaling of a white 1980 Honda Civic in another scene is played for laughs. That only 10 years separates the two cars is truly mind blowing. What say you, dear reader? (Let’s keep it non-anime. That’ll be a future QotW.)

As always, the most entertaining, well-written, or inspiring comment by next Monday will receive a random JDM toy of some kind. Click through to see the winner of last week’s question, “Which nostalgic had the best nickname?

Vote-wise, it would appear the S60/S70 kujira, or “whale” Crown had the best nickname. However, we at JNC were most tickled (and perplexed) Mister Totem, who declared:

The Daruma Celica

Because it reminds dearly beloved first gen Celica owners (like myself) of a pissed off, middle aged, decrepit perturbed Indian man wrapped in a red blanky that got graffitied all over it in his long walks in Asia barefooted, so you pick a fight with him at the beginning of the year push him over and poke his fuggin eye out to remind you of a goal you have then push him over.. if he bobs up from his drunken stupor you are reminded to try hard and not give on your goals because the damn daruma knows drunken style… sounds exactly how you should approach a classic Celica build if you ask me… poke a damn eye out, learn dance steps from Sam Seed, walk around bare footed wrapped in a blanket in Asia talking shet about other builds on JNC and swap in an 18RG.

Omedetou, sir! Your prize from the JNC gashapon is an art puzzle by the renowed Japanese BOW.




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74 Responses to Question of the Week: What Japanese car was the biggest movie star?

  1. Tj says:

    My suggestion isn’t the biggest movie appearance for a japanese car but one of the most surprising.

    The Big Steal, an Australian film from 1990 is a movie about a young bloke that gets given his parents car only to trade it for a Jaguar XJ6 *vomit* so he can knock boots with a young Claudia Karvan before she became a real actor.

    And what was the much loved car that his parents handed down to him? An absolutely pristine 1963 Nissan Cedric.
    In Baby Blue.

    And then like the muppet he is, he trades it, much to his fathers dismay (I recall something about him screaming at a passing train in his undies) to buy an XJ6 but the dealer pulls a swift one on him and swaps the motor for a busted one and hilarity ensues, yadda yadda yadda….

    Who in their right mind trades a beautiful Cedric for a rusty, ugly, Lucas laden heap of crap like a Jaguar XJ6?

  2. Daniel says:

    Hachiroku (Initial D) or the Z ( Wangan Midnight).

    I know, both are Animes, but they brought so much attention to japanese cars.



    PS: I also have to mention that a huge following was created by the Game Series “Gran Turismo”. It gave a complete different view of Japanese Cars. In my opinion this gave Japanese cars the “soul” they deserved for such a long time.

  3. James says:

    The Toyota Hilux with ‘yo’ on the tailgate in Toy story.

    It’s what sparked my love with Toyota’s.

  4. RicQ says:

    Z32 300zx in KillBill 1, Time cop, and TinCup

    • bert says:

      You forgot If Looks Could Kill, the 1990 james bond spoof, that competely tanked with the only bright spot being the blond chick in the then new 300zx trying to chase down Richard Greico who was doing a very bad job of driving a Lotus Espirit poorly, while “accidently” shooting off missiles, tire shredders, and big gobs of goo.

    • Ben says:

      I had totally forgotten about that! I wanted to see that movie specifically to see the 300ZX in action but never did. I gotta go see if there’s a clip on youtube now.

  5. MainstreaM says:

    Undoubtedly it would be the Starion featured in Cannonball Run II. It was so JDM it came with Jackie Chan, who played a Mitsubishi engineer. The car was an 83 flatbody filled with gadgetry to help win the race. Alot of the technology that was in the car for the movie came to be in modern times and fits in a handheld device most of you have on the dash of your own car.


    One of the film cars is still in existance and is owned by a Starquestclub member.


  6. Rafael says:

    The Toyota 2000GT in You Only Live Twice (bond film) shot in Japan.

  7. Rafael says:

    Or the Honda S800 in Karate Kid 2

  8. Nigel says:

    All those Mitsubishi cars in all those Jackie Chan movies.
    (Lancers). Jackie Chan seemed like a Mitsu works driver at one point.

  9. Aaron says:

    You Only Live Twice

    White 2000GT – 007 Edition, (convertible and bond gadgets)

  10. Nick says:

    HK film fans would recall the AW11 in “young and dangerous” and 33 GTR which features prominently in “infernal affairs”.

    Not film but in TV recently I enjoy the beater corolla wagon Jesse Pinkman drives on “Breaking Bad” despite having so much money.

  11. tmkreutzer says:

    I think Jackie Chan had a promotional deal with Mitsubishi – maybe he still does. I know the MItsubishi FTO appeared in several films. I also seem to recall him appearing in several Pajero commercials on Japanese TV.

    To the question at hand, I think Aaron has the right answer. The 2000GT in You Only Live Twice was the first lustworthy Japanese car to appear in a western film.

  12. drifthero says:

    The Lancer Evo in Jackie Chan’s Who Am I. that made the strongest influence on me as a kid.

    @Nigel: Jackie Chan is sponsored by Mitsubishi and they have a very long history with one another.

  13. Daniel B says:

    Watching the movie Gung Ho as a kid starring Michael Keaton first introduced me to Japanese cars and the auto companies commitment and extreme dedication to quality cars.

    The one that sticks out in my mind the most though, is Armed and Dangerous with Eugene Levy and John Candy riding around in that Honda Civic Wagon.

    • Kev says:

      It was a burgundy 3dr hatch 🙂 I remember this, because I had a 3dr AT Civic at the time 😀

    • AKADriver says:

      The fictional Japanese cars in Gung Ho were all thinly-disguised Argentine Fiats, though. I suppose that’s the only way they could get Japanese cars of the ’80s to fall apart on cue…

    • xs10shl says:

      I Ike you. You make me laugh.

  14. Maxime says:

    I know it’s not a movie car(more of a tv star car) but my choice goes to the corolla from
    That 70’s Show. During the 70’s everyone in north america drove their big sedans,station wagons that were american made, and when the wife or kids needed a cheap,small,economy car that was reliable…the corolla. And that was exactly the cue for an appearance from the Corolla in That 70’s show. It looked cheap and no fun to bring your friends to a TAD Nuggent
    concert in it but buoy!!! did we have some great laughs out of this car!

    • Daniel B says:

      That’s right! I knew I had seen a Corolla in a TV show and couldn’t for the life of me remember where. It’s what inspired me to snatch up my 1979 Rolla!

    • nlpnt says:

      I agree – the Corolla was perfectly cast, as was every car in that show individually. The only glaring issue with the cars in That 70s Show was that they were right next to Kenosha and nobody drove an AMC…

  15. jivecom says:

    Glad you didn’t ask this a few years ago – the answer would have been an orange Supra with bizarre jousting decals, or a green Eclipse that was apparently made to look like the toy RC car in Toy Story. I know it’s easy to make fun of the early FnFs now,, since that stuff was actually sort of popular and not at all a joke, but still. Those jousting decals were ridiculous and you know it

    • jivecom says:

      Oh, but for the actual answer, I can’t answer the question because I haven’t seen enough big movies with j-steel. I’d wager right now that the weird Acura hybrid in the Avengers movie is plenty popular this week, but for all time, I just don’t have enough information to make a reasonable estimate. I loved those Jacky Chan movies though

  16. Ben says:

    I know it’s not a very popular movie (or car for that matter) But the ’83 Celica in Butterfly Effect. I have a soft spot for this car as I own an ’84 RA64 myself.

  17. Dutch 1960 says:

    Not Hollywood, but the 5 minute Bloodmasters YouTube is a Nissan fueled party!

  18. Danny says:

    Just as a sidenote, after the Pulp Fiction NSX rockets away in all its 6 cylinder glory, the camera turns to Travolta and Jackson. If your J-tin eyes are well-trained, you’ll see a GSL-SE model RX-7 on a car carrier in the background. Perhaps Tarantino has a bit of love for rotaries too?

  19. Nigel says:

    Oh yeah, there was also the FairladyZ in Kill Bill !!

  20. Dutch 1960 says:

    The documentary Against All Odds, not really Hollywood either, it follows the BRE Datsun 510 Trans Am glory years.

  21. Dutch 1960 says:

    The original Gone in 60 Seconds has many glimpses of J-tin. My favorite moment is the shot from the Mazda showroom, with the early RX coupes on the sales floor.

  22. Brend0n says:

    Mitsubishi sigma in wolf creek
    Sigma turbo vs falcon cop car in the Blue murder

  23. chris says:

    sort of off-topic, but did anybody catch the new NSX concept driven by Tony Stark in the Avengers? surely some of you JNC’ers did!

  24. Kevin T says:

    I’d say the S2000 that the hot ass bomb shell Jennifer Love Hewitt was driving around in Heartbreakers (2001) the movie. Most of you macho dudes probably never seen this movie. Heck I’d just watch that movie to see her in it. Lolz. While I’m typing this, shit, need to open up the ‘tube and search for Heartbreakers the movie just to see a scene of her in it. Damn I love this chick! What am I talking about? I actually have the DVD damn it. Now gots to play it to see the S2K…errr…J-Love really…

  25. Kevin T says:

    One more: The Yellow 5 and dime in Transformers 3: Dark Side Of The Moon Movie

    • Brian says:

      Can’t forget the Fairlady roadster in the first Transformers, troll dad drives it to the porsche dealership just to get his son excited, lol.

      It’s pretty hard to come up with a movie that really featured a japanese car that may be relevant. But a perfect example of a car that left an influence was a red FD3S. It came out in a movie where the main character shows flaws in banks by robbing them, can’t remember the name off the top of my head, but I clearly remember the car, and how it jukes a few hummers, even throws in a 180 turn just to taunt them and goes blazing by.

  26. Charlie says:

    How about the yellow Datsun in “Into the Wild” Maybe not a star, but as a guy i loved seeing it.

  27. bert says:

    Theres been a lot of J-tin in Hollywood, even if it was small roles, like the movie Twins, when the Governator goes to find one of his “Fathers” he pulls up in a driveway with a brand new Corvette and Toyota Supra in it. Or The Whole Nine Yards, Matheww Perry drives an early 90’s Corolla that gets fried in the end. Theres the 300ZX in If Looks Could Kill, I could probably think of more if I wasn’t so lazy and really cared about proving my point.

  28. Old (version 1) Honda Insight in “Be cool” 😀

  29. Patrick says:

    Deborah Kara Unger’s NA Miata in David Cronenberg’s “Crash.” Sooo very right.

  30. bryan says:

    back to the future 1,2,3 Toyota pickup anyone?

  31. 47hako says:

    Duh! Biggest Japanese Movie Star Car? Hands down….

    The Mach 5 by Pops Racer!!!

  32. 47hako says:

    Oooppss! I din’t see the Non-Anime comment on the end…I just dived in there…I guess it would have to be the one of a kind Toyota 2000GT Convertible driven by Sean Connery as James Bond. I’ve seen it in person at the Toyota Mega Web in Odaiba, Japan…

  33. 47hako says:

    Of course they did make a Speed Racer movie in 2008 (?)

  34. Tj says:

    Actually now that I think of it, probably the biggest movie I can recall that has a Japanese car feature reasonably prominently is Marty McFly’s Black Hilux 4X4 in the Back to the Future trillogy. It’s a pretty tough looking truck. I know it was in the first two movies but I can’t remember if it was in the third.

  35. Fernandoae86 says:

    The toyota efi and pick up truck on back to the future I don’t get why the used the deloreon instead of the hachi roku I would be nice to see it as a time drift machine

  36. John B. says:

    I’d say the 280Z 2+2 that Jim Carrey drove in Bruce Almighty. He wrecked a classic! =P

    • bert says:

      They didn’t do that car justice! They portrayed the Z as a dumpy cheap peice of Jap crap! The collective J-tin loving community is trying to block that movie from our memories.

    • Harrison says:

      Bah! It was just a bit o’ body damage! Surely it can’t be worst than the dreaded ’70-80s tinworm. XD

  37. dorikins13 says:

    What about the Batmobile from the first 2 Tim Burton directed Batman movies? Not sure 100% if this is correct, but I always heard that underneath all the fibreglass it is was an FD RX-7. Surely this would have to be one of the highest exposure Japanese cars on film. Personally though, I’m not sure taking one of Japan’s most beautiful cars ever & tarting it up “Gotham city protector” style was the best idea……….
    Are we limiting posts to only English speaking/Hollywood movies? If not, what about the Initial D live action movie cars. FC, R32 GTR, Lan Evo, S13 Silvia etc & of course Takumi’s panda hachi roku.
    Or what about the cars of the Shuto Kōsoku Toraiaru movie series? More commonly know in English as the Freeway Speedway: Megalopolis Express Way Trial movie series. They contain heaps & heaps of awesome Japanese metal. In the first few movies you find R31, 280ZX, A70 Supra, AE86, S13, FC, Starion, Crown cop car, etc. Later installments contain R32, R33, FD, A80 Supra, NSX, & the rest of the great ’90’s performance explosion. The acting maybe cheeeeesy (with many a sappy love story about how guys should give up racing & settle down with their squeeze), but the cars are brilliant! The Japanese J-pop soundtrack is tops too (I love how Japan is so modern/forward in many ways, but can not seem to let go of ’80’s synth pop), plus Keiichi Tsuchiya (THE Drift King) also makes numerous appearances from #2 & serves as producer/creative director. This series is a must see!!!

    • dorikins13 says:

      Correction! My all-Batman loving, comic book geek mate has just informed me that the Tim Burton Batmobile was a Chevy Impala underneath. My mistake. Sorry! 🙂

  38. Minh says:

    Hands down winner is the 280zx in “30 Minutes Or Less.” Right when they said Datsun I got excited.

  39. Kylejones89 says:

    The Mac-1 miata in macgruber. Probably the most epic unveiling of a miata ever..

  40. TomG says:

    Definitely the first-gen Rio Red AE532 Honda CR-X Jamie Lee Curtis drives in “True Lies”. Almost admitting that your average middle class housewife prefers build quality and drivability over the heavy, gas-guzzling Ford LTD station wagon she might have been driving. Or maybe that is just what I think….

  41. TomG says:

    Or the tuned Subaru DL driven by Jackie Chan and Micheal Hui with the rocket powered engine.

  42. Khadz says:

    Evo x in Haywire

  43. Ando says:

    The MKII Supra in “The Firm”, yeah it was kind of the “before we had money car”, but it had the last laugh at the end of the film!!!

  44. Harrison says:

    They had a ton of JDM metal in the (original) Karate Kid sequel; there’s a Honda S800 cabrio in that film.

  45. sunny310 says:

    datsun b210 in Licensed to drive.

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