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Sinister Car

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Wanna go for a killer ride?

Body by Plymouth. Soul by Satan.

Some people tend to see automobiles as menacing, largely due to their tendency to cause road accidents and deaths, so it's not surprising that they are a recurring motif in horror stories.

The trope comes in two varieties, which may overlap: either the car in question is sentient and malevolent itself without a human driver, or it belongs to some villain who uses it as a weapon to scare and terrorize others. Such a vehicle would often have nefarious-looking design elements, such as a monster-shaped hood figure or a toy skull and bones on the windshield. The vehicle may also be a van or truck.

Compare Creepy Stalker Van, Van in Black, Bad Humor Truck, Not My Driver, Harmful to Hitchhikers, and Murder by Remote Control Vehicle. Also compare and contrast The Alleged Car, when the only scary thing about the vehicle is its technical condition. Not to be confused with My Car Hates Me.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • In Speed Racer there exists, not a sinister car, but a sinister engine, the GRX, which is so powerful that anyone who drives a car using it inevitably crashes.
  • In Speed Racer X, the Gargoyle is said to be possess by an evil spirit, as everyone who drives it becomes violent and wrecks other cars, before dying themselves. At one point the car even seems to be driving itself.
  • JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: Stardust Crusaders: The Wheel of Fortune is a Stand of one of the villains, ZZ. It can transform cars that ZZ rides into monsters, complete with spiky wheels and a large, chomping mouth, as well as shoot droplets of gasoline with enough force to leave wounds.
  • Played for Laughs by the Yukari-mobile in Azumanga Daioh. In this case it's not so much that the car itself is very frightening (it's an extremely banged-up Toyota), but rather who's driving it. After her first trip in it, the mere mention of the Yukari-mobile causes Chiyo Color Failure and flashbacks to the trip, and its appearance in the summer trip is associated with a dramatic music sting.

    Comic Books 
  • In Rivers of London: Body Work, Peter's latest case involves a perfectly innocent car that is on a homicidal killing spree—without a driver. Needless to say, the Most Haunted Car in England is pretty damn sinister.

    Films — Animated 
  • While most motor vehicles in Disney's Oliver & Company are routine traffic, and while Fagan's scooter-cum-shopping cart is laughable, Sykes' matte black sedan is portrayed as ominous, like a V-8 version of Darth Vader. When Sykes pursues his fleeing quarry into the subway tunnels with this car, it heightens this effect.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • The Car tells the story of a mysterious car which goes on a murderous rampage, terrorizing the residents of a small town.
  • The Car: Road to Revenge features an unscrupulous District Attorney who is savagely murdered and tossed out of a building onto his brand new car. Mysteriously, the attorney and his car come back to life as a single being with a thirst for vengeance.
  • Death Car On The Freeway 1979 made for tv movie involving a serial killer who's choice of weapon is his van.
  • In Death Proof, Stuntman Mike's car is a souped-up monstrosity that tears through other cars while leaving its psychotic driver unharmed. Anyone unlucky enough to ride in its passenger seat also gets pulped by Mike's crazy driving, as the passenger seat has all of its safety features removed.
  • Duel is about a mysterious truck that attempts to kill the main character. The identity of the driver is deliberately left ambiguous, and the truck is treated as a nefarious sentient entity.
  • The Jeepers Creepers series has a very large and rusted 1941 Chevrolet, which is a trademark of the titular villain.
  • Joy Ride and it's sequels. Trucker Rusty Nail chases and tries to kill with his big rig anyone who is rude to him.
  • Maximum Overdrive, adapted from Stephen King's short story "Trucks" (see below), shares its main premise of intelligent trucks holding a gas station hostage for fuel. Interestingly, only large vehicles like trucks seem to gain intelligence — smaller cars are unaffected.
  • Phantom Racer2009 flim about yet another possessed car out for revenge.
  • Road Train is about a driverless road train that seemingly runs on the flesh and blood of the people that it stalks and kills in the Australian Outback.
  • Speed Demon 2003 The car of a literal speed worshiping cult goes on a revenge spree after they are kill by rivals.
  • Taarzan The Wonder Car 2004 Bollywood flim. Possessed car out for revenge on those who killed him.
  • The Wraith A driver and car challenges those who killed him to races, where he kills them.



  • Stephen King is really fond of the trope:
    • Christine is about a sentient 1958 Plymouth Fury that falls in love with its owner and starts murdering other people out of jealousy. Later adapted into a movie by John Carpenter.
    • From a Buick 8 has the titular Buick, an otherworldly car that acts as a portal between two worlds.
    • In Low Men In Yellow Coats, the titular Low Men drive garish cars that are implied to be sentient and malevolent.
    • In "Mile 81", a shapeshifting entity disguises itself as a disabled car pulled over at the titular rest stop to lure in prey, in the form of passersby thinking someone is in need of help.
    • In "Trucks", a gas station is besieged by intelligent trucks who demand (using their horns to "talk" in Morse code) that the humans fuel them, and kill anyone who doesn't obey. It was later adapted by King himself into Maximum Overdrive.
    • In "Uncle Otto's Truck'', an elderly man is convinced that a broken-down truck is stalking him with homicidal intent. At the end of the story, there's evidence he wasn't wrong about that.
  • R. L. Stine also made use of the trope several times:
    • In The Haunted Car, the titular car is haunted by the ghost of a girl who took it on a joyride and died. The said ghost attempts to kill the main character several times.
    • The Cataluna Chronicles series are about a sleek white car which is possessed by an ancient evil.

Individual works

  • Bruce Coville's Book of... Monsters II features a sinister and implied-to-be-sentient bus in one of its short stories ("The First Excuse").
  • Ghost Roads: Bobby Cross has a "car that never rolled off any assembly line", given to him by the Crossroads after he made a Deal with the Devil with them for immortality. As long as he has the car, he's immortal and doesn't age. It runs on the souls of people killed on the road, usually by him.
  • In The Grey Automobile by Alexander Grin, the protagonist Ebenezer Sidney has a phobia of cars, and believes that he's being stalked by the titular grey vehicle. However, the story pretty heavily implies that he's going off his rails, so it remains ambiguous whether it's true or not.
  • De Griezelbus:
    • The Griezelbus itself is a converted schoolbus used by Onnoval to tell his stories and lure in groups of victims. The artwork usually depicts it in a very ominous manner, with a skull and cross bones above the front window.
    • In one of the stories, a brother and sister are on holiday with their family when they are menaced by a pitch black Rolls Royce in a parking lot. Apparently, the car itself is malevolent and was involved in so many vehicular deaths that it was put in permanent storage. The souls of the children it killed, still trapped in the car, are lonely and want new people to join them.
  • Nightside: The titular Dark World has car-shaped predatory organisms hunting the streets. People looking for cabs are advised to check that the wheels rotate realistically and the driver isn't a human-shaped pseudopod before they get anywhere near.
  • Nos4a2 is about a Rolls Royce that feeds on human souls. It was written by Joe Hill, Stephen King's son.
  • The first book of the Young Wizards series features an alternate Manhattan created by the Lone Power and inhabited by an ecosystem of vicious sentient machines, including cars. The cars themselves aren't inherently evil, just accustomed to a ruthless car-eat-car world; one of the protagonists manages to tame one and "heal" its damaged wheel.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.: Ghost Rider's Hell Charger. The Rider's power lets the car heal itself and shoot flames. Eventually subverted, as it turns out Robbie isn't really a villain at all.
  • Monty Python's Flying Circus has an animated segment about "killer cars" that ambush, attack and kill human beings. They're scared away by a monster cat the size of a Kaiju that was created through "the miracle of atomic mutation".
  • Two non-sequential episodes of Knight Rider featured the evil counterpart of KITT, known as KARR. There was also Goliath the evil truck.
  • Supernatural:
    • In the season 1 episode "Route 666", the ghost of racist Cyrus Dorian takes the shape of his old pickup truck for the sake of murdering the three black men who took part in his murder as well as the mayor who kept his murder covered up.
    • Also gets invoked when Sam and Winchester's own Chevy Impala gets possessed by a ghost in both the pilot episode and the season 6 episode "Mannequin 3: The Reckoning".
  • The Twilight Zone (1959):
    • In the climax of "A Thing About Machines", the technophobic Bartlett Finchley runs out of his house after being chased and harassed by various appliances. When he shuts the door behind him, he breathes a sigh of relief, only for his car's headlights to turn on. Cue the Chase Scene, where the frightened-out-of-his-mind Finchley races around his mansion trying not to get run over.
    • "You Drive" features a hit-and-run driver whose car comes to life, turning on its own radio, and moving on its own accord. Eventually it chases the man down the road, nearly hitting him, forcing the man to turn himself in to the police.

    Tabletop Games 
  • d20 Modern: One of the monsters introduced in the setting book "Urban Arcana" is the "Demonic Auto", a car possessed by a malevolent spirit that roams around by itself and runs over anybody unlucky enough to get in the way. The sample art is a generic 1950s roadster splattered in blood.

    Trading Cards 
  • The 1980s Topps Weird Wheels series is a whole collection of cards dedicated to this trope. The cards include Hearse of Horror, Vampire Van, Putrid Porsche, Doom Buggy, Psycho Cycle, etc.

    Web Original 
  • SCP Foundation:
    • SCP-3470 and SCP-2086 are variations of this trope, as they are predatory organisms that take the form of man-made vehicles, with barely visible drivers inside, to either lure in or catch their preferred prey (humans) off guard; 3470 has taken the form of a Ford Anglia 105E, while instances of 2086 will take on the forms of public transportation, usually buses.
    • SCP-973 is a police cruiser that attacks anyone driving over a certain speed limit. However, said limit can vary anywhere from 35 mph - 70 mph, and the Foundation has yet to find a predictable pattern between the ever-changing speed limits.
  • Bedtime Stories (YouTube Channel):
    • The infamous "Little Bastard" owned by James Dean is covered, where, even after being totalled, was said to be responsible for dozens more deaths through other people acquiring parts salvaged from the original wreck.
    • A later episode featured the lesser-known "Golden Eagle", responsible for dozens of deaths, both human and animal. It was said to be the inspiration for Stephen King's Christine mentioned above.
  • CJ DaChamp discusses this in his video on Truck-kun, enough that the truck was added to the Round Table of Black Air Force Activity. CJ determines that trucks have killed so many anime characters that it must be a result of active malice on the part of the truck itself instead of a string of accidents by human drivers. CJ lampshades that it's strange to add a truck to the Round Table, but he also admits that he doesn't care.

    Western Animation 
  • In Futurama episode "The Honking", Bender transforms into a sinister werecar, modeled after (and parodying) the titular entity in The Car.
  • Regular Show has the episode "Ello Guv'nor" where Rigby gets scared by a sentient, murderous British taxi ever since watching a movie of the same name.

  • In some former Eastern Bloc countries, as well as Greece, there was an urban legend in the 1960s and 1970s of "the Black Volga" (Volga being a popular car in the region). The black car was sinister for vague reasons — most versions of the story alleged that government agents drove the car (somewhat similar to the black helicopters in the US), but the mysterious Black Volga was also associated, among other things, with child abductions, sexual predators, Human Traffickers, organ thieves, The Mafiya, priests, Jews, vampires, and even the Devil himself. In more modern versions, a black BMW or Mercedes takes the place of the Volga.
  • The development of Automated Automobiles has raised ethical questions about what might happen if such a car is put into a situation where it must choose between the life of its passengers or pedestrians (for instance, if a child runs out in front of the car and it has no time to stop, but it can swerve and potentially crash into a wall at fifty miles per hour). The issue naturally raises the idea that a self-driving car must be programmed with the ability to kill in order to protect those it deems more worthy of saving, as cars can cause fatal injury in a crash.