"I... am speed."The first film for the Cars film series (2006) centers around Lightning McQueen, an arrogant up-and-coming hotshot stock car racer whose only driving concern is winning. The film opens with McQueen vying for the Piston Cup, a coveted prize which assures the winner of a lucrative sponsorship. Despite a valiant effort, McQueen ends up in a three-way tie with retiring racing veteran Strip "The King" Weathers and perennial runner-up Chick Hicks. A tie-breaking race is scheduled a week later in California, and McQueen urges his driver Mack to get them there immediately.Along the way, McQueen gets lost, ending up in Radiator Springs, a quiet rural town in a forgotten segment of Route 66. After accidentally tearing up the town's main road, McQueen is sentenced to repairing it as community service. As he toils to finish his service and get to California, McQueen makes friends with the locals, including Tow Mater and former big-city hotshot Sally Carrera, and learns that there's a lot more to life than just racing to the finish line.Holds the distinction of being the last Disney film—and indeed, the last major Hollywood production—released on VHS, as part of an extremely rare release◊ from the Disney Movie Club. Said tape is perhaps one of the most highly sought-after in existence.Has three video game adaptions; the first, Cars: The Video Game, was released on June 6, 2006, roughly three days before the movie's release. The second, Cars: Mater-National Championship, was released on October 29, 2007. The third, Cars: Race-O-Rama, was released on October 12, 2009.
— Lightning McQueen
Cars ShortsPixar has also produced a number of Cars-related shorts, such as "Mater and the Ghostlight" (included with the Cars DVD release) and "Mater's Tall Tales" and "Tales from Radiator Springs" for the Carstoons series. More information about these can be found on the Pixar Shorts page.DisneyToon Studios also released a Spin-Off of the franchise, called Planes. Visit the page for more information.The Character Sheet can be found here.
Cars features the following tropes
- Accidental Misnaming:Lightning: Adios, Chuck!
Lightning's crew: AND MY NAME IS NOT CHUCK!
Lightning: Oh, whatever.
- Thanks to the gratuitous amount of merchandising generated by the film, we even get a toy of the forklift...who is named "My Name is not Chuck" on the packaging!
- The character was also listed in the cast credits as "Not Chuck".
- Acting Unnatural: Lightning McQueen wants to surprise Sally with his new look.Mater: Here she comes!
McQueen: Okay, places, everybody! Hurry! Act natural.
[McQueen hides and everybody else gets in a perfectly straight line as Sally approaches]
Mater, Ramone, Flo, Luigi, Sarge, Fillmore: Hi, Sally!
Sally Carrera: All right, what's going on?
- Affectionate Nickname: Sally calls Lightning "Stickers".
- Almost Kiss: Sally and Lightning in the final scene. They're interrupted by Mater, and Lightning lampshades it: "Great timing, Mater!".
- Amusing Injuries: Lightning's first attempt at turning right to go left results in two of these. He ends up crashing into another cactus patch after falling off a drop, then a tall cactus plant falls on top of him, resulting in a hilarious scream of pain.
- Analogy Backfire: "Oh, like you? You've been here for how long, and your friends don't even know who you are? Who's caring about only himself?!"Sally: You called them?
Doc: It's best for everyone, Sally.
Sally: Best for everyone... or best for you?
- And the Adventure Continues: Radiator Springs is restored thanks to Lightning setting up his racing headquarters there.
- Armor-Piercing Question: Doc Hudson to McQueen:Doc Hudson: When was the last time you cared about something except yourself, hot rod? You name me one time, and I will take it all back.
- Artistic License – Sports: The racing here is obviously based on NASCAR, and full of artistic license.
- The plot is kicked off by a three-way tie which results in a tiebreaker race scheduled for a week later. In NASCAR, prior to 2014, if two drivers tied for the points lead at the final race, such a tiebreaker would be broken by number of total race wins then total number of top-5 and top-10 finishes.Example
- Most notable is the fact that rather severe wrecks happen and the races just keep going, when a real organization would immediately throw a caution flag.
- The field is shown being filled with stock cars from various different eras (for example, Lightning is modeled on a 2006 Ford Scorpio, The King is Richard Petty's 1970 Plymouth Superbird, Chick Hicks is a 1980s stock GM model, etc.). Such a thing would never happen in real lifenote since all cars are required to be equal.
- The fact that in this universe the cars are the athletes is a fairly decent Tire Wave for why the rules wouldn't be exactly the same, but whether the rules make more or less sense because of such a setting is best not thought about too hard.
- Lightning McQueen is being identified as the first rookie to ever win the Piston Cup, however, when Doc Hudson's trophies were discovered they are engraved "1951, 1952, 1953". Doc's license plate identifies him as a 1951. That would have made him a rookie when he won his 1951 Piston Cup. Note
- On the last lap during the first race, one of Lightning's tires blows; in NASCAR, if there's an accident on the last lap, the race is declared immediately over. Therefore, Lightning would've won the race anyway since he was in the lead.
- Assumed Win: After the race in the beginning, McQueen assumes he won the Piston Cup, and proceeds to make a big entrance... only to find out it was a tie.
- Badass Driver: Taken literally with Lightning, as he actually is the car, and has mad skills. Doc Hudson turns out to be this as well.
- Bait the Dog: Chick has this to say to Lightning after the first race:Chick: Hey, Lightning! Yo, McQueen! Seriously, that was some pretty darn nice racing out there... by me!
- Bang, Bang, BANG: When Lightning is being chased by Sheriff, his rusty engine backfires, causing Lightning to panic, thinking he's being shot at.
- Batman Gambit: Doc wins a race against McQueen by taking advantage of the fact that McQueen has no experience racing on dirt.
- Beta Couple: Ramone and Flo, who are Happily Married.
- Bishie Sparkle:
- Lightning does this every time he poses and says his catchphrase "Ka-chow", causing one of his lightning bolt stickers to glow. His paintwork also gives off a brief glow often when speeding by from a wide-enough distance.
- Chick also does this when he steals Lightning's "Ka-chow" bit in favor of one of his own.
- Bizarrchitecture: The Cozy Cone motel, which is based on a real motel modeled after Indian Teepees.
- Blue Is Heroic: Both The King and Doc are blue. The King is definitely a good guy, and Doc is a Jerk with a Heart of Gold, but he is given a hero's welcome at the Piston Cup when, decked out in his old racing colors, the crowd recognises him. Bob Cutlass even describes him as "a racing legend".
- Bookends: The film starts and ends with a race for the Piston Cup.
- Borrowed Catchphrase: Other characters would often use Lightning's catchphrase "Ka-chow!" certain times, especially when Chick steals it as his own, "Ka-Chicka!".
- When aired on Disney Cinemagic in the UK, Mater's line "He did what in his cup?!" when Lightning McQueen mentions the Piston Cup was cut.
- On Freeform, Lightning McQueen's line about being in "hillbilly Hell" is edited.
- Broken Pedestal: The Hudson Hornet, a.k.a. Doc for McQueen.
- Calling the Old Man Out: Sally does a very short one after she finds out that Doc called the press about where Lightning was to get him out of Radiator Springs. Turns out to be an Ironic Echo when she asks if it was the benefit of everyone else in the town, or just for him, as Lightning did.
- The Cameo: No prizes for guessing who Michael Schumacher Ferrari and Jay Limo are voiced by...
- Tom and Ray have a cameo as well.
- And some obscure politician guy from California.note
- As does frequent NBC Sports host Bob Costas. And fellow announcer Darrell Waltrip.
- Dale Earnhardt, Jr. makes a brief appearance voicing the #8 Chevrolet Monte Carlo he drove for his father's race team from 1999 to 2007 in the Winston / Nextel / Sprint / Monster Energy Cup Series (prior to his 2008 departure to Hendrick Motorsports), sans Budweiser stickers (to avoid advertising alcohol). Appropriately, Earnhardt, Jr.'s car name is... "Junior", which is pretty much what everyone in the NASCAR community refer to him as.
- Camera Abuse: At the end of The Stinger with Minny and Van, one of the VW "bugs" flies into the camera lens, leaving a smudge from its hood.
- Captain Obvious:Mater: I'm startin' ta think he knowed you was gonna crash!
Lightning: Thank you, Mater. Thank you.
- Cassandra Truth: No one believes McQueen at first about Doc being a former race car star.
- Central Theme: There's a lot more to racing than just winning. It's important to slow down and enjoy life every once in a while.
- Champions on the Inside: Even though McQueen loses to help the King finish his race, he is still considered a winner in the audience's eyes. Doesn't help that the King was injured by the winner himself, costing him the Dinoco sponsorship.
- Character Tics:
- Lightning often sticks his tongue out when thinking of something.
- During his stay in Radiator Springs, Lightning has a tendency to show disgust toward the townsfolk at first. He would either scowl or roll his eyes at whatever they do for him, especially Mater and Doc. He drops it by the finale.
- Chekhov's Gag: While chasing Lightning near the beginning, Sheriff muses that he might bust a gasket at the speed he's going. When Lightning busts into Doc's office later in the film, Sheriff is in there, probably for said busted gasket.
- Chekhov's Skill: Driving backwards, and turning one way to go another. Both are shown to Lightning when he is in Radiator Springs by Mater and Doc respectively. Both are put into play by Lightning in the final race.
- Chromatic Arrangement: Subverted. When the three main racecars are introduced at the start, it starts with The King (blue), then Chick (green), and finally Lightning (red).
- Classic Villain: Chick Hicks is the Envy and Pride version of this combined with Arrogant Kung-Fu Guy. In the beginning of Cars, he's simply a slightly darker copy of McQueen's own flaws. By the end of the movie, however, McQueen's Character Development makes them complete opposites, highlighting how much McQueen has matured. Hicks demonstrates what McQueen could have been if he hadn't ended up in Radiator Springs.
- Color Motif: Lightning is red, which shows he's the hero, but his racing coat he wears for most of the film is a shocking red shade, representing his arrogance and vanity. When he gets a new paint job from Ramone to surprise Sally, he becomes a darker red with a sparkly coating, which shows his new attitude is literally "sparking". Then, at the end of the film, he combines this paint job with portions of his racing getup, showing his Heel–Face Turn is complete and finally knows what's more important in life than just winning.
- Community-Threatening Construction: Radiator Springs was bypassed by Interstate 40, leading to its decline. Like many real towns, the opening of I-40 caused a decline in traffic on US 66 and turned it into a ghost town. Unlike most examples, though, the residents did nothing to stop it because they mistakenly thought more interstate travelers would mean more visitors.
- Composite Character: Of a sort — most of the characters are a fusion of the vehicle itself and the type of person who would be likely to drive that vehicle.
- Continuity Cameo: The birds from Pixar short For the Birds can be seen very briefly on their power line as cars zip by.
- Cool Old Guy: Doc Hudson, a former Piston Cup champion who becomes a mentor of sorts for Lightning.
- Credits Montage
- Didn't Think This Through:
Sheriff: Boy, we're not as dumb as you think we are.
- In the opening race, Lightning refuses to change his tires so he can maintain his big lead. Predictably, this nearly costs him the race when two of his tires burst in the final lap.
- When Lightning was about to be hooked up to Bessie for community service, Mater took off the clamp without hooking him up to Bessie first, not realizing that Lightning could simply zoom off once the clamp is removed, and he does. Mater lampshades this seconds later by saying he thinks he should have hooked Lightning up to Bessie first before removing the clamp.
Lightning: B-B-But-But...H-H-H-How-How did...?
Sally: We siphoned your gas while you were passed out. Kachow.
- Different World, Different Movies: The automotive versions of earlier Pixar movies appear in the end credits, including Monster Trucks, Inc., Toy Car Story, and A Bug's Life.
- Directionless Driver: Minny and Van, the lost tourists who wander through Radiator Springs. Van, the husband, sternly refuses to ask for directions; after the credits, they're still lost in the desert, exhausted and delirious. The sequel shows that they found their way out.
- Dirty Old Woman: Lizzie, who slaps bumper stickers on strangers and ogles McQueen.
- Does This Remind You of Anything?: After the race in the film's beginning, Mia and Tia, two fans of Lightning come up and "flash" their "headlights" at him, much the way groupies lift up their shirts to flash people.
- The scene where Mack struggles to stay awake on the highway may seem familiar to any trucker or driver who has driven long distances in the dark on unlit country roads.
- The King's crash is supposed to be a recreation of the violent wreck Richard Petty took at the 1988 Daytona 500 (apart from the fact that Petty had a different car model, and that wreck involved an additional five cars). Chick being booed off the stage at victory lane was supposed to echo the backlash Rusty Wallace received when he spun out Darrell Waltrip to win the 1989 All-Star race at Charlotte.
- Don't Explain the Joke: Lightning's description of the Cozy Cone.
- Drill Sergeant Nasty: Sarge does this during the end credits montage when running a boot camp for pampered SUVs."A-TEN-SHUN! Kiss the pavement goodbye, gentlemen! When I'm finished with you, you'll have mud in places you didn't know you had!""Yo, I never been off road!"
- Driving into a Truck: At the beginning of the film, this is where Lightning lives. Unsurprisingly, this is the way real NASCAR teams transport their cars.
- Dude, Where's My Reward?: Subverted when Chick Hicks wins the race and the Piston Cup trophy without the crowd's favor; justified when the crowd voices their disapproval of Hicks' shoving Strip Weathers off the track by throwing his merchandise back at him due to his poor sportsmanship in contrast to Lightning Mcqueen, who helped push Weathers across the finish line in the final lap.
- Dying Town: Radiator Springs, until the ending.
- Earn Your Happy Ending: Lightning goes through a lot over the course of the movie to discover what's more important in life. By the end after giving up the Piston Cup to help The King finish the race, he politely turns down the Dinoco sponsorship, moves to Radiator Springs and sets up his racing headquarters there, which puts it back on the map.
- Embarrassing Tattoo: Sally has one.
- Emerging from the Shadows: The movie starts with Lightning driving out of his dark trailer onto the racetrack.
- Epic Fail: Lightning's first attempt at turning right to go left, which results in him going over the edge of a drop and into another cactus patch. And then to add insult to injury, a cactus, dislodged by the impact, falls on top of him.
- Evil Counterpart: Chick is this to Lightning, especially at the start of the film. Chick basically shows what Lightning could have become if he hadn't undergone Character Development.
- Expospeak Gag: Occurs when Lightning talks to Mater after being forced to fix the road:Lightning: I shouldn't have to put up with this. I'm a precision instrument of speed and aerodynamics.Mater: You hurt your what?Lightning: I'm a very famous race car!!!
- Feet-First Introduction: As Doc Hudson drives into the courtroom and takes the podium, the camera is focused on his tires.
- Fictional Province: There's Carberator County, a fictional county.
- Fish out of Water: McQueen, as he has to get accustomed to the very small town of Radiator Springs.
- Five-Second Foreshadowing: If you look behind Lightning when he backs up and blows a kiss to the paparazzi just after the security takes Mia and Tia away, the top three positions on the scoring pylon are not lit yet. This foreshadows the news of the three-way tie minutes later.
- Flashback Cut: Lightning experiences one the moment he sees The King lying unconscious on the infield after crashing, causing him to remember what happened to Doc and inspires him to give up the Piston Cup in favor of helping him.
- Flipping the Table: One of Lightning's pit crew members flip a stack of tires over when Lightning's tire blows out.
- Fly-at-the-Camera Ending: The Dinoco helicopter flies past the screen before the end credits start.
- Doc challenging Lightning to a race around Willy's Butte and giving him advice afterwards foreshadows Doc's racing past as The Hudson Hornet, which Lightning himself finds out the following day.
- After Mater's demonstration of driving backwards, Lightning sarcastically remarks that he may use it in his big race. He does, after Chick rams him and he ends up facing backwards. He simply reverses past him. He also uses it in the final lap, as he reverses out of the way of Chick trying to ram him again, and Chick hits the wall instead.
- At the race around Willy's Butte, Luigi tells Lightning that Guido's dream is to give a racecar a pit stop. At the final race in California, Guido fulfills that dream in the best way possible, changing all four of Lightning's tires, by himself, in about four seconds. This even makes the moustaches of a professional pit crew (Chick's) drop off in amazement.
- There are a few unnoticeable hints at Lightning's Heel–Face Turn throughout the film:
- When Harv calls him while on the way to California, he is reminded if he has any friends he can give the extra tickets to but can't think of any; when Harv hangs up, he slumps forward in sadness.
- He is immediately lovestruck the moment Sally first appears, not through manipulation like he tried to do with Mater at the impound, but through true, genuine feelings.
- Sally says to Lightning that she and Sheriff "siphoned his gas" while he was in the impound, foreshadowing the film's aesop that it's nice to slow down and enjoy life, which he says word per word after their drive together.
- While trying to fix the road, Bessie spits some tar on his right lightning bolt sticker which he has for most of his stay. This symbolizes that his ego has become slightly "darkened".
- When Lightning flirtatiously teases Sally about her pinstriping tattoo on her back, he is serious and actually being nice to her.
- Just before his departure, he is shown shedding tears as he talks with Sally. When he first arrived he wanted to go immediately, but now he's so sad he doesn't want to leave his new friends.
- For Want of a Nail: The film basically happens because of Lightning's refusal to change his tires in the opening race.
- Friend or Idol Decision: Lightning McQueen gives up first place in the Piston Cup race to help The King cross the finish line after Chick Hicks causes him to wreck out. Hicks still wins the cup, but everyone knows that Lightning would have won, and Hicks' dishonorable tactics lose him any regard the win would have brought. In a mild Double Subversion and An Aesop, McQueen gains the adulation he had desired but discovers that he doesn't really need it anymore — the events of the movie have taught him that there are more important things than fame.
- Funny Background Event: When McQueen gets shoved up on stage, someone in the back yells "Freebird!" at him.
- Furry Confusion: Bessie.
- Gentle Giant: Red, the huge fire truck who is very quiet and is seen taking care of his flowers most of the time.
- Getting Crap Past the Radar:Lightning McQueen: He's got three Piston Cups!
Mater: [Spit Take] He did what in his cup?!
Lightning: Well, you see, race cars don't need headlights, because the race track is always lit.
- Let's not forget Sally's Tramp Stamp.
- Or Mia and Tia's "flashing headlights".
- This little exchange:
Rust-Eze Spokesman: So's my brother, but he still needs headlights!
Sheriff: Gettin' a good peek, city boy?
- One of the cars at the sponsor's tent describes the race in the beginning of the movie as "a real pisser."
- Mater would give his two left lugnuts to work with Bessie.
- Mater joking that "she just wants me for my body" is even in the trailer.
- One of the race fans is holding a sign that says "Honk If Your Horn Works".
- Guido's version of flipping the birdie to the forklifts of Hicks' pit crew is to lift up one of his fork lifts.
- "Is it true he's going to pose for Cargirl?"
- When Sarge and Fillmore are watching the traffic light blinking outside Flo's, Sarge says to Fillmore, "The Sixties weren't very good to you, eh son?".
- "Oh, for the love of Chrysler...can we PLEASE ask someone for directions?!"
- When McQueen bursts into Doc's office, he finds Sheriff in a compromising position on the hydraulic lift, as Doc examines his underbelly.
- McQueen at one point calls Radiator Springs "Hillbilly Hell". Which, for good measure, is repeated by Sally not long after.
- Get Out: Doc says this to Lightning twice, following him witnessing his real driving leading him to reveal his dark past, making Lightning realizing what he should truly be.
- Gilligan Cut: While they're heading for California, Lightning McQueen promises to Mack that he'll keep him awake all night long by talking to him so he can keep driving. Cuts to McQueen sleeping soundly in the trailer and Mack starting to doze off.
- Goshdang It To Heck: Mater's "Holy shoot!"
- Hanging Judge: Doc Hudson if his opening speech is anything to go by.
- Hero Antagonist: Averted with The King. Though he was one of Lightning's opponents, The King treats him fairly and respectfully.
- Hey, That's My Line!: Lightning says it when he sees Chick steal his catchphrase on TV.Press: Show us the thunder!Chick: You want thunder? You want THUNDER?!?! Ka-chicka! Ka-chicka! Ka-chicka!Lightning: Hey! That's MY bit!
- Hood Hornament: The owner of Dinoco is a limo with a horn hood ornament functioning as a moustache.
- Hot Paint Job:
- Ramone sports loads of these in each scene he appears in.
- Lightning receives one in particular from Ramone to surprise Sally when he undergoes his Heel–Face Turn.
- I Am the Trope: Lightning's Catchphrase - "I am speed."
- Impact Silhouette: Lightning leaves a himself-shaped hole in the smoke when he leaps over the wreckage during the first race.
- I Never Told You My Name: Fred. Everyone knows who he is because his license plate holder and license plate say "Hello, my name is" and "FRED", respectively. As a result, when McQueen says his name, he shouts, "He knows my name! He knows my name" and gets so excited that his front bumper (which happens to be his lower jaw) falls off.
- In-Joke: When Lightning mistakes a trailer he's been following as Mack, said trailer declares he's a Peterbilt.
- Ink-Suit Actor:
- Despite the fact this world is full of anthropomorphic automobiles, a lot of them seem to closely resemble their voice actors. Lightning for instance has the same sky blue eyes and smooth smile as Owen Wilson, whilst Doc still looks like Paul Newman dead-on.
- Several of the celebrity cast members from the racing community appear, voicing real cars that they've driven during their driving career:
- Strip "The King" Weathers is the #43 Plymouth Superbird that Richard Petty drove in 1970.
- Dale Earnhardt, Jr. voices the #8 Budweiser Chevrolet Monte Carlo that he drove for DEI from 1999 to 2007note .
- Mario Andretti appears as his 1967 Daytona 500-winning Ford Fairlane.
- Inspirational Insult: Doc tells Lightning after Lightning falls into the cactuses that his driving is as lousy as his ability to fix roads, giving Lightning more motivation to do a proper job in fixing the road he damaged. Lightning even says "I'll show him."
Chick: You want thunder? You want thunder?!! Ka-Chicka!
- Also McQueen calls Chick "Thunder" since thunder always comes after Lightning, much to Chick's annoyance. However, Chick later shows off with this new nickname after Lightning disappears in Radiator Springs, wooing his fans and stealing Lightning's.
- Instant Costume Change: When found, Lightning is still in his fancy getup when enters his trailer prior to leaving, but once he gets to the race he's back to his racing getup.
- Intimate Marks: Parodied. Although vehicles obviously don't have naughty bits, Sally has a "pinstriping tattoo" over her bumper, and she's very embarrassed when Lightning notices.
- Ironic Echo: "There's a lot more to racing than just winning."
- It's All About Me:
- McQueen starts off with this attitude but has dropped it by the end of the film.
- Doc too, when he contacts the press to tell them of McQueen's location and get him out of the town. Sally calls him out on it.
- Chick Hicks is evidently 10 times worse than Lightning is, even before the rookie ended up in Radiator Springs.
- It's Raining Salesmen: Because Radiator Springs is virtually a ghost town due to I-40 bypassing it, the locals refer to anyone they notice about to pass through town as "a customer" to whom everyone tries to sell their products and services.
- Lightning McQueen starts out as a jerk to everyone else, but becomes likable by the end of the movie.
- Chick Hicks embodies this trope, not only being cruel towards McQueen, but also causing pileups in races.
- Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Doc to Lightning. He hates Lightning because he sees his old self in him, implying he himself was like that in his past. He manipulates him into doing a good job of repairing the road by challenging him to a race he knows Lightning won't win, and reveals Lightning's location to the media to get rid of him, thinking (and saying) it would be better for everyone else, but really doing it for himself. He's still friendly with the rest of the Radiator Springs populace and warms up to Lightning when he sees just how much Lightning meant to the others, even becoming his crew chief and guiding him through the final race.
- Karmic Death: Done figuratively. In the end, Chick Hicks wins the Piston Cup, but in doing so his Pride, Wrath, and Ambition have revealed him to be a poor sport to the rest of the world. His career dies a metaphoric — yet very karmic — death as a result.
- The Kiddie Ride: Lightning McQueen, from EMT. Also from Merkur we have their version of McQueen along with himself in his Dinoco paint job and Mater. There are a few ripoff McQueen and Mater rides in many countries. There are two rides, based on it's sequel.
- Laser-Guided Karma:
- Chick Hicks in the final race rams The King off the road and causes a crippling crash that takes him out of the race. Although he wins the Piston Cup, the confetti canyon hits him way too hard and he's mercilessly booed offstage while the angry crowd throws things at him, and he's denied the Dinoco sponsorship. It's also implied his career will suffer a Karmic Death.
- Also in the final race, when Lightning sees The King's crash, he gives up the Piston Cup (even if it means Chick will win), just so he can make sure The King can finish his final race and retire with dignity. The whole crowd cheers Lightning on for his sportsmanship and recognizes him as the true winner of the race, leading to the above example with Chick, and he is even offered the Dinoco sponsorship, which he has always wanted. He politely turns it down, but he keeps his promise to Mater by getting him a ride in the Dinoco helicopter.
- Leno Device: Jay Limo does a Tonight Show monologue about McQueen.Jay Limo: I don't know what's harder to find: Lightning McQueen, or a pit crew who'll work with him!
- Lonely at the Top: Lightning; it's shown early on when he's talking to his agent and can't name a single friend to send race tickets to. He has also fired three crew chiefs in a row because he wants to work alone although it's shown he refuses to listen to their advice so they may have quit.
- Maniac Tongue: Lightning jumps clear of the wreckage with his tongue hanging out the side of his mouth. He also sticks his tongue out at the end of the first race which causes a three-way tie.
- Meaningful Echo: "It's just an empty cup."
- A Million Is a Statistic: In the teaser trailer, Mater mourns over the death of a bumble bee after it was squashed on his windshield. Lightning then tells him to get over it. At which point, an entire swarm of bumble bees splatters all over the former's face. Mater laughs it off as Lightning tries to cough out the insects.
- Mistaken from Behind: Lightning McQueen gets separated from his truck Mac and looks for him. He thinks he sees him getting off the interstate, but after he catches up to him, it turns out to be someone else.Strange truck: I ain't no Mack, I'm a Peterbilt, for dang sake!
- The Mockbuster: "Little Cars", by the infamous Video Brinquedo.
- My God, What Have I Done?: Doc, after calling the press to take Lightning away from Radiator Springs; and everyone turns their back on him as he is left at the broken traffic light.
- Never Got to Say Goodbye: Mater never gets a chance to say goodbye to Lightning - until later at the race, anyway.Doc Hudson: Well, I didn't have a choice. Mater didn't get to say goodbye.
Mater: GOODBYE!!! Okay, I'm good.
- Newspaper Backstory: McQueen discovers that Doc Hudson used to be famous racer the Hudson Hornet when he finds Doc's garage full of newspaper clippings, including one for the big crash that led to his retirement.
- No Celebrities Were Harmed:
- "The King" Strip Weathers is Richard Petty's 1970 Plymouth Superbird.
- Weathers' wife is voiced by Richard Petty's late wife Linda, and her vehicle is modeled off of the actual stationwagon the Petty family used to drive from race to race.
- Michael Schumacher Ferrari. Three guesses on who is the voice actor, but the last two won't count.
- NASCAR on FOX analyst Darrell Waltrip and NBC sports commentator Bob Costas lend their voices to Piston Cup announcers Darrell Cartrip and Bob Cutlass. Waltrip even gets to say "Boogity-boogity-boogity!", the phrase he says at the drop of the green flag of every NASCAR on Fox race.
- Dale Earnhardt, Jr. and Mario Andretti voice cars that they previously have driven: Earnhardt, Jr. as his #8 Chevrolet Monte Carlo from DEI, and Andretti as his 1967 Daytona 500 winning Ford Fairlane.
- Jeremy Clarkson as Harv, although only in the UK version. Jeremy Piven voices Harv in the US version.
- Not Now, We're Too Busy Crying over You: Lightning McQueen has finished the road and there is no sign of him, the others assuming that he just left without saying goodbye. Red starts crying, at which point McQueen appears and asks what's the matter with Red. Mater then explains to McQueen about McQueen leaving, and stands staring at him a long while before realizing whom he was addressing.
- Not So Different: McQueen and Doc.
- Ooh, Me Accent's Slipping: Owen Wilson's minimal southern accent appears in some parts of the film (like the way he says "now" and leaving out the "G" in "ing" words) but fades in and out most of the time.
- One-Word Title: Cars.
- Our Founder: Stanley Steamer, founder of Radiator Springs.
- If you know your car history, the "Stanley Steamer" was the first steam-powered car in the world. Cars made by the Stanley Motor Carriage Company tended to be known as "Stanley Steamers."
- Over Drive: A rare subversion of the "more speed always works" aspect of this trope appears in the beginning of Cars. McQueen gains a whole lap on Chick Hicks and The King by staying out on several pit stops — only to have both of his rear tires blow out in the final laps.
- Painting the Medium: You can see Mater mouthing along to John Mayer's "Route 66" over the end credits.
- Porn Stache: Chick Hicks' grill. The forklifts of his pit crew are just the same.
- Precision Swear Strike: "I'm in hillbilly hell" arguably counts; granted, the point a comparison to the place, but it's still unusually heavy language for a G-rated animated movie.
- Pyrrhic Villainy: Chick Hicks' wins the last race through a combination of cheating and Lightning's heartwarming last minute Honor Before Reason decision to help crippled The King finish the race. He is rewarded by being abandoned by his sponsor and jeered off the winner's podium complete with tomato-flinging.
- Racing the Train: Lightning McQueen does it while trying to catch up to what he thinks is Mack.
- Rapid-Fire "No!": Lightning says a few of these throughout the movie.
- Really 700 Years Old:
- The Radiator Springs gang have the same appearances 40 years in between when the town was a success and when it became a ghost town, and don't show any signs of aging at all (Though Mater goes from a baby blue back then to rusty brown in the present, but is still the same size).
- Taken Up to Eleven with Doc — he looks the same as he did back then when he was a racer, fifty years apart.
- Recycled In Space: Cars is Doc Hollywood WITH CARS! In-Universe during a credits scene, Toy Story, Monsters, Inc., and A Bug's Life are also recycled AS CARS!
- Red Is Heroic: Lightning is red and is the main character, but due to being a Jerkass at the start of the film, it's played straighter after he becomes a better person.
- Repeated Cue, Tardy Response: Lightning McQueen says, "Is it getting dark out?" at which point Lizzie was supposed to activate the neon lights, but she didn't hear him. Lightning tries again, she actually forgot what she was supposed to do and Red decides to do her job for her.
- Reveille: Sarge wakes up every morning with Reveille. This prompts Fillmore to counter with the Jimi Hendrix rendition of "The Star-Spangled Banner".Sarge: Will you turn that disrespectful junk off?!Fillmore: Respect the classics, man! It's Hendrix!
- Riding into the Sunset: The movie ends with Lightning and Sally racing each other back to Radiator Springs.
- Second Place Is for Winners: Even though Lightning didn't win the race, he is lauded for his heroic rescue of "The King" and Chick Hicks is booed off the stage for being a jerkass.
- Self-Deprecation: In the credits sketches we see Mack (played by John Ratzenberger) criticizing the fact that John Ratzenberger is always in Pixar movies."What kind of cut-rate production is this?!"
- Shipper on Deck: Mater for McQueen and Sally."McQueen and Sally, parked beneath a tree, K-I-S-somethin'-somethin'-somethin'-T"
- Smoking Barrel Blowout: Guido does this after he changes all of Lightning's tires in seconds.
- Spell My Name with a "The": Strip Weathers, AKA The King.The King: (to McQueen after the first race) Hey, buddy. You're one gutsy racer.
McQueen: Oh, hey, Mr. The King.
- Spit Shine: Mater offers to clean off a spot of tar on Lighting McQueen's hood, and he starts hocking before McQueen hastily declines.
- Stealth Pun: That little blue flying insect shaped like a car is a Volkswagen Beetle.
- Sally, a lawyer, is a Porsche. "Portia" used to be a slang term for a female lawyer(after Portia, who disguised herself as a lawyer to defend Antonio in The Merchant of Venice).
- Sticky Situation: Bessie the road pavement machine has a tendency to spit tar on the car that is pulling her. Lightning eventually gets some on one of his lightning bolt stickers the moment he starts fixing the road, which remains there throughout the majority of his stay.
- Stock Scream: During Lightning's first dream sequence, the car that gets dissolved gets a Wilhelm scream out.
- Stock Sound Effect: Some of Lightning's freak-outs are recycled throughout the movie note
- His scream when he is about to crash into a Cozy Cone is used again when the Stanley statue lands in front of him, and a third time when he sees Frank.
- His "Ow, ow, ow, ow, ow!" when he is knocking over a row of cones is used later when he is going off course into the cactus during his race with Doc at Willy's Butte.
- His "Wow!" when he sees the Wheel Well is used again when he approaches Doc after witnessing his real driving.
- Subverted Rhyme Every Occasion/Curse Cut Short: The Rust-Eze rhyme.Winter is a grand old time.
Of this, there are no ifs or buts.
But remember, all that salt and grime...
Can rust your bolts and freeze your— Hey, look! There he is!
- Sympathy Bankrupt Banker: Alluded to. Chick Hicks is sponsored by htB, Hostile Takeover Bank, which fits perfectly with his dirty driving methods.
- Tears of Joy: By Sally as Lightning helps The King cross the finish line and is praised by everyone.
- Tears of Remorse: Lightning and Sally shed these after she wishes him good luck, shortly before his departure. Notably the very first time Lightning actually broke down.
- Tempting Fate: During the first race when Lightning is far in the lead on the final lap:Lightning: Checkered flag, here I come!
(Cue one of his tires exploding)
- Toilet Humour: From the first movie:Sally: Flo! What do you have at your store?
Flo: I have gas! Lots of gas!
[Mater and Ramone snicker]
- Transformation Sequence: Lightning has a brief one occur when Ramone is giving him a new paint job to surprise Sally.
- Tripod Terror: Lightning's action dream sequence in the beginning. Gets a frightening reprise when he imagines trying to outrun Frank on the track.
- Unnecessary Roughness: Done repeatedly in Cars by Chick Hicks, who won't hesitate to slam other racers and cause a Big One to happen just to stop McQueen. He even does the PIT maneuver to turn drivers backwards - a move that NASCAR and other organizations deem illegal. We are left to wonder why the NASCAR-expy organization has never parked Hicks for his tactics, even after causing a near-fatal crash for the retiring champion and winning the coveted Piston Cup championship. For comparison For another comparison
- Unsportsmanlike Gloating: Chick again.
- Villain: Exit, Stage Left!: After Chick is booed at for causing The King to crash on purpose, denying his victory, he runs offstage and isn't seen again.
- Visual Pun: A double case after the first race. Mia and Tia struggle to meet Lightning and turn on their headlights to him, and everyone acts shocked. They're flashing him with their headlights.
- The Voice: Harv, Lightning's agent. He's heard over the phones (there are two of them, it's a different phone the second time) in Lightning's trailer twice, first when he's on his way to California, and second when his location is revealed to the press by Doc.
- "Where Are They Now?" Epilogue: The end credits show Radiator Springs is restored and everyone is enjoying their new lives together.
- Yank the Dog's Chain: Radiator Springs is rejuvenated by Lightning and everyone is happy, and it looks like the icing on the cake is the customers that seem to be approaching. Except they aren't customers. They're the press, who've been alerted to Lightning's presence by Doc, and Lightning is promptly whisked away for the final race.
- You Fool!: "Not Chuck" shouts this after Lightning's tire blows out.
- You Have Got to Be Kidding Me!: Lightning says this after he learns Doc has sentenced him to community service and he has to mend the road before he can leave Radiator Springs.