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.
The movie was released on June 9, 2006, accompanied by the Pixar short One Man Band.
Holds the distinction of being the last Disney film 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.
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.
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?
- Actor Allusion:
- During the Credits Montage, Mack (voiced by John Ratzenberger) is watching Cars-universe versions of Pixar movies (including Toy Car Story, Monster Trucks, Inc., and A Bug's Life), and initially praises the voice actor for Hamm Truck and the Abominable Snowplow (John Ratzenberger) ... but by the time A Bug's Life rolls around, he realizes they're just reusing the same voice actor and criticizes them for it.
- The King is voiced by Richard Petty, and is also modelled and painted after Petty's 1970 Plymouth Superbird. He is described as having won seven Piston Cups - which is also the number of Winston Cup Championships that Petty won in his racing career (he is also the only seven time winner of the Daytona 500). And his wreck at the end of the film appears to be nod back to Petty's wreck in the 1988 Daytona 500.
- In the US version, Jeremy Piven is the voice of McQueen's agent Harv. Piven is known for his role as Hollywood superagent Ari Gold on the HBO series Entourage. Meanwhile, the UK version uses Jeremy Clarkson, known for his part in the BBC series Top Gear.
- Mater's "I don't care who you are, that's funny right there", and "Git-r-done!", both of which are Larry the Cable Guy's Catchphrases. It's so much that Mater's Voice is actually credited as "Larry the Cable Guy", not "Daniel Whitney".
- A variant of this: Chick Hicks goes to victory lane after he intentionally crashes the King on the last lap of the final race (which would lead to him being black-flagged in real life) and is pelted with old tires and booed off stage. It's similar to backlash that was made against Rusty Wallace after he spun out Darrell Waltrip on the last lap of the May 21, 1989 NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race at Charlotte Motor Speedway and sent Waltrip into the grass. As Wallace claimed the victory and the $200,000 prize, fans booed, gestured rudely and pelted the track with beer cans, while a dispute on pit road quickly escalated into a twenty-five person fistfight, to which Waltrip said, "I hope he chokes on the $200,000, that's all I can tell him. He knocked the hell out of me. I guess I made a big mistake by letting him get up there too close to me in the first place." Two of the people associated with that All-Star Race are in this film: Darrell Waltrip (as Darrell Cartrip), and the speedway's operator, Humpy Wheeler (who voices Tex, Dinoco's owner).
- Fillmore is basically George Carlin doing his character, "Al Sleet, the Hippie-Dippie Weather Man" as a car.
- This wasnt the first film in which Owen Wilson portrayed a rookie who starts out snobbish at first, but softens up eventually.
- 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?
- An Aesop: There's a lot more to racing than just winning. It's important to slow down and enjoy life every once in a while.
- And the Adventure Continues: Radiator Springs is restored thanks to Lightning setting up his racing headquarters there.
- Armor-Piercing Question: Doc Hudson to McQueen, which doubles as a Wham Line and initiates the latter's Jerkass Realization:Doc Hudson: When is 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, The King is Richard Petty's 1970 Plymouth Superbird, Chick Hicks is a 1979 Pontiac Ventura stock car, etc.). Such a thing would never happen in real lifenote since all cars are required to be equal.
- Interestingly, Lightning McQueen is both an exception and the embodiment of this - being one of the few (if not only) characters not modeled after a real car. His design influence comes from NASCAR stock cars, more curvaceous Le Mans endurance racers, and a bit of Lola and Ford (GT 40) influence. However, considering these cars are from 3-4 different distinct racing competitions, such a car would never be suitable for any of these leagues.
- 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 where other cars might be at risk, the race is declared immediately over. Therefore, Lightning would've won the race anyway since he was in the lead. Also during the final lap of the tiebreaker race, Chick purposefully makes The King crash on the infield, therefore, if the caution had been thrown right away, Lightning technically won the Piston Cup anyway since he was in the lead even before willingly letting Chick cross the finish line. The field would be frozen at the instant of caution, but his efforts to get The King back to the finish line would be unchanged.
- Aside Glance: While Mater is trying to get Lightnings parking boot off, Lightning glares at the camera for a brief moment.
- 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.
- Big "NO!": Lightning screams this during his humorous nightmare where Frank appears out of nowhere and wins the Piston Cup, and again when he wakes up from it.
- Big "YES!": By Lightning as he makes a big entrance on the press stage assuming he won, just before the announcement that its a three-way tie.
- 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.
- Bitch in Sheep's Clothing: Lightning acts nice and determined when racing, but off-track, he's obnoxious and self-centered, causing his own team to quit on him and even pushes Mack through the night. Finally averts this in the finale, when he becomes a good-natured racer when and when not racing.
- 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.
- But Now I Must Go: Lightning has to leave Radiator Springs for the tiebreaker race, but not before saying goodbye to Sally.
- 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' to 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: Understanding that winning isn't the best part of racing and learning what's more important in life.
- 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 to avoid crashing when Chick tries to wreck him.
- Luigi tells Lightning that Guido has dreamed of getting to do a real pitstop for a racecar early on. At the tiebreaker race, Guido gets his chance and speed-changes all four of Lightning's tires in five seconds.
- 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 HeelFace 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: After the "Where Are They Now?" Epilogue, the credits continue over a series of slow-motion stills throughout the movie.
- 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.
- The Ditz: Mater.
- 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.
- Radiator Springs is surrounded by rocky desert and flashes neon at night, just like Las Vegas.
- 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!!!
- Falling-in-Love Montage: Lightning and Sally have one during their drive up to the Wheel Well.
- 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 Carburetor 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.
- Five Stages of Grief: Lightning hits all five beats throughout his stay in Radiator Springs: He immediately wanted to leave upon getting lost there (denial); repeatedly showed disdain to the residents at first and was upset at having to fix the road (anger); faces Doc in a race at Willy's Butte to see if he can leave (bargaining); feels bad for himself after learning about Doc's past and cries for the first time prior to his departure for California (depression); and gives up the Piston Cup and declines Dinoco, finally learning the true meaning of friendship in return (acceptance).
- 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 HeelFace 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. In addition, the reason he gets lost is because of DJ, Boost, Wingo and Snot Rod messing with Mack on the highway by luring him onto the side of the road which is dangerously bumpy, and it causes one of Lightning's bobbleheads to fall off a shelf and hit the switch which opens the trailer.
- Freeze-Frame Bonus: In the close-ups of Lightning when he's stuck in the cactus after falling into such, car-shaped cacti can be seen on the cacti on either side of him.
- 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.
- From New York to Nowhere: Non-protagonist example. Sally Carrera recounts her story to Lightning McQueen that she used to be a fast-track lawyer in the big city, but grew disillusioned with the phoniness and the guile. She withdrew to bucolic Radiator Springs, and became its sole public defender, and has been content with that ever since. Sally recounts this as part of her stop-and-smell-the-roses Aesop.
- 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 won three Piston Cups!
- At the beginning of the movie, Mia and Tia flash McQueen with their headlights, which shocks the other cars and makes Mc Queen remark on how much he likes his job. There's also a Funny Background Event where some of the journalists take appreciative pictures of Mia and Tia's rear ends.
- Mater overhearing Lightning's gushing over Doc Hudson:
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.
- 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.
- When Mater invites Lightning to come with him later that night, he says, You know who youre talking to? This is Lightning McQueen, I can handle anything. Cut to the two standing in a field later that night, and he proclaims, "Mater, I'm not doing this!"
- Goshdang It To Heck: Mater's "Holy shoot!"
- Hanging Judge: Doc Hudson if his opening speech is anything to go by.
- HeelFace Turn: Used and hinted at with Lightning throughout the film, in spite of his "designated hero" status. Examples:
- Lightning actually likes Mater's offer to show him around Radiator Springs at first; however, his ambitions remain clear: Get out of town and get to California before his rival, Chick. But by the time he does leave, he has made friends with the townsfolk and even taken their services and helped fix their lights. He leaves in depression when, thanks to Doc, the media finds him.
- Near the end of the climactic race, when The King is pushed off the track as Lightning is about to cross the finish line and win the cup, Lightning is reminded of Doc Hudson's own career-ending wreck and slows to a stop short of the finish line, allowing Chick to claim the cup. He then goes back to push The King over the line, declaring, "I think The King should finish his last race."
- 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 HeelFace Turn.
- I Am the Trope: Lightning's Catchphrase - "I am speed."
- I Choose to Stay: At the end of the film, Lightning decides to keep his current sponsor Rust-eze, and also decides to stay in Radiator Springs permanently, and opens his Racing Headquarters there which puts the town back on the map and restores it to its former beauty.
- 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.
- Many prominent members of the racing community make cameos, 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.
- Darrell Cartrip is essentially Darrell Waltrip voicing the 1977 Chevrolet Monte Carlo that Waltrip drove to a runner up finish in the 1979 points standings.
- 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."
- Ironic Echo Cut: One occurs during the moment that Mack parked Lightning's trailer at the Rust-eze tent to make his personal appearance, and he's not happy about it.Lightning: No...No! NO NO NO NO!!
(Cuts to him in a Rust-eze commercial)
Lightning: Yes yes yes!
- It's All About Me:
- McQueen starts off with this attitude but has changed ways 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.
- Jaw Drop:
- The Rust-eze fan Fred promptly has his jaw literally drop to the ground when he is surprised when Lightning knows his name.
- The members of Chick's crew have their mustache grilles fall off after Guido pulls off a rather rapid fire pit stop.
- 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.
- Jerkass Realization: Lightning has this in Doc's garage after he reveals his tragic backstory. Later one by Doc himself after the townsfolk call him out for phoning the press to where Lightning is so he can attend the tiebreaker race.
- 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.
- K-I-S-S-I-N-G in a Tree: Twice done by Mater when he teases about Lightning and Sally's suspected relationship; first when saying goodnight to Lightning after their Tractor Tipping game, and again near the end when he interrupts a romantic moment between the two at the Wheel Well.
- 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.
- 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:
- 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. He decides to re-don his old racing paint job and go to California to be Lightning's crew chief.
- An earlier one done by Lightning when he finally realizes how awful he's acted over the course of the movie, with thanks to Doc giving him his Wham Line.
- 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.
- Nice Mean And Inbetween: The King is the nicest of the three leaders, being wise and openly caring to his team. Chick is mean and rotten, not liking to lose and threatening to cheat in any way. Lightning is in-between, due to starting out spoiled and narcissistic, but softens over the course of the movie.
- 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.
- Oh, Crap!:
- McQueen when he gets lost on the road and is pursued by the Sheriff.
- McQueen and Mater when they realize their Tractor Tipping game worked a little too well.
- Everyone at the tiebreaker race when Chick rams the King, seriously injuring the latter.
- 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.
- Only Friend: Mater was the only one who immediately befriended Lightning after he got lost in Radiator Springs.
- 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.
- P.O.V. Cam: While Lightning is waking up in the impound, we get a shot through his eyes as he is opening them while the blurry view resolves into Mater standing before him. A few more of these can be seen while Lightning is racing, with the front end of his hood being positioned into the bottom edge of the screen.
- 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.
- "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Doc gives one to Lightning after explaining his tragic backstory, which causes the latter to have a Jerkass Realization and finally discover what an awful brat he's become—which makes Lighting rebound the speech back to Doc, stating that Doc is also selfish, not opening about his past to his friends. Instead of countering, Doc angrily tells him to finish the road and leave town.Lightning: Hey, look, Doc, I'm not them.
Doc: Oh, yeah?
Lightning: No, I'm not!
Doc: When is the last time you cared about something except yourself, hot rod? You name me one time, and I will take it all back.
Doc: Uh-huh...didn't think so. These are good folk around here, who care about one another. I don't want 'em depending on someone they can't count on.
Lightning Oh, like you? You've been here how long and your friends don't even know who you are?! Who's caring about only himself?!
Doc: Just finish that road and get outta here!
- 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.
- Screw This, I'm Outta Here!: Played straight when Lightnings pit crew quits on him and takes off after he shows his one-man show attitude once too often; subverted when Lightning tries to escape from Radiator Springs only to run out of gas in the middle of nowhere and have Sheriff take him back.
- Also defied by the Radiator Springs gang from the moment Lightning is impounded to the moment he leaves town (but not really) after finishing his community service.
- 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).
- The twins Mia and Tia are Miatas.
- 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 Audio Clip: Some of Lightning's freak-outs are recycled throughout the movie note
- His scream when he wakes up after getting lost is used again when he is about to crash into a Cozy Cone, a third time when the Stanley statue lands in front of him, and a fourth 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.
- Stock Scream: During Lightning's first dream sequence, the car that gets dissolved gets a Wilhelm scream out.
- 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]
- Tractor-tipping: startling a tractor into falling over so it points straight up into the air, causing it to backfire in a manner that sounds like flatulence.
- 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.
- Wham Line:
Doc Hudson: When is the last time you cared about something except yourself, hot rod? You name me one time, and I will take it all back.
- In the tiebreaker race, Lightning says, "I think The King should finish his last race." This is a sign that his Character Development is finally complete and that he doesn't care about just winning anymore.
- In Doc's garage:
- After Lightning leaves for the race:
- Wham Shot: Lightning stopping just inches before the finish line to let Chick win, before proceeding to help The King cross the line, showing his change of heart has fully taken effect.
- "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.