Iconic Cars of Pop Culture: ‘The Italian Job’

Sam White
Presented by

Three Mini Coopers: one red, one white and one blue. Can you think of a more iconic lineup of movie stars? We’ll wait…

The Italian Job’s trio of nippy little getaway rides epitomises the comedy crime caper, the bank heist movie and British acting royalty (the legendary Michael Caine) all at the same time. It’s no wonder the union-jacked-up motors have become an iconic staple in cinema, perhaps more memorable than anything else in the movie besides Charlie Croker’s infamous line, “You were only supposed to blow the bloody doors off!”

Having three Mini Coopers racing through the winding city streets and ornate buildings of Turin must’ve been absurdly costly and a big studio risk back when the movie was made in 1969, and yet it pays off in unforgettable fashion. As a result of Croker’s audacious Italian robbery, the Mini Cooper S shot to immense popularity. The tricolour of Coopers now ranks alongside Bond’s lineup of Aston Martins and the Delorean from Back to the Future in the halls of iconic movie car fame. And the Minis do all of that without the luxurious allure of the former or the time-travelling whizz-coolery of the latter. All it takes is a little wink to camera and the lovable charm of the British bank robber, and you have one of the most watchable chase sequences of all time.

It’s so cute, too, looking back. While modern day movies bombard the cinema screen with explosions and near-death misses, The Italian Job relies on simpler tricks to deliver thrills. Having the Minis plough through various parts of Turin to get away from the cops is enjoyable enough, but the moment that the song “Self Preservation Society” kicks in is pitch perfect filmmaking that remains just as strong almost 50 years later.

Countries and cities come into fashion all the time because of the impact of TV and cinema. Just look at what HBO’s Game of Thrones series has done for the Mediterranean city of Dubrovnik, or what Peter Jackson’s epic Lord of the Rings trilogy did for the picturesque mountain ranges of New Zealand. They fall out of fashion pretty regularly, too: Turin may not be the coolest go-to destination in 2017.

But the timeless Mini Cooper S has had much better luck. It’s still a collector’s dream, still any kit car enthusiast’s must-have garage toy and still one of the cars you dream about having when you get your first motor. It’s also obviously the best thing about the 2003 remake of The Italian Job. (The less said about that the better.)

Whether in Turin, Prague, Brazil or the Alps, there’s no movie car in cinema history that better epitomises a speedy getaway or the cheeky slink through a narrow side street that the cops simply can’t fit through. Long after Turin fell off Hollywood’s map, the Cooper reigns supreme.

Want to take a Mini Cooper S for a spin yourself? You can drive a 1965 model in the upcoming Forza Motorsport 7, available October 3 on Xbox One and Windows 10 PC. Just make sure you’ve got “Self Preservation Society” ready on the in-car cassette player to blast while you do it.

Sam is a columnist for GQ and a writer elsewhere.
Become a
Pop culture fans! Write what you love and have your work seen by millions.