topper rock father carsWhen you become a parent, there’s a lot of things that you’re not prepared for. For most, what immediately comes to mind are the lifestyle changes, the costs involved, and the overall weight of being responsible for a tiny human being.

In my experience, the ramp-up to becoming a father for the very first time did little to prepare me for the actual reality of the situation. For my wife and I, one of the most unexpected and rewarding parts of being a parent has been sharing our love of pop culture with our daughters.

One offshoot of that has been the marriage of a few big interests: movies, TV, and cars. We’ve got kids who’ve become well-versed in associating classic stories with the vehicles driven by the characters within. Today I’m sharing some favorites that you might want to track down and share with your little ones!

HW Screentime Collection by Hot Wheels (Mattel) 3+

2018 will mark the 50th anniversary of Mattel‘s iconic Hot Wheels brand, which has been delighting kids since 1968. At the heart of the brand is the basic, “mainline” vehicles, which sell at most major retailers for about $1. A staple in most households with kids, Mattel has sold billions of these tiny cars. If you’ve bought one (or many, like we have) in recent years, you may have noticed that each year brings a refreshed assortment that is broken into various sub-lines. Each is denoted on the right side of the package. HW Screentime is an an extension of a line of Hot Wheels cars that used to be based on iconic vehicles from TV and movies, but now, video games are in the mix.

Over the years, there have been a ton of vehicles released, including classics like The Batmobile, The Flintstones’ Flintmobile, Herbie “The Love Bug,” Snoopy’s house, a pair of Angry Birds, and the USS Enterprise from Star Trek.


For 2017, The Beatles’ Yellow Submarine makes its way into the mix, alongside the UNSC Warthog from Microsoft’s HALO video games, and a Minecraft Mine Cart. There are also some returning favorites like Scooby-Doo’s Mystery Machine, The Jetson’s Capsule Car, The Simpson’s Family Car, and my personal pick: K.I.T.T. from Knight Rider. Rumor has it that The Milano spacecraft from Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 might make an appearance later this year.

Greenlight Hollywood Series (Greenlight Collectibles) 8+

The folks at Greenlight go pretty deep with this one, and for me the real home runs are straight out of the ’80s. The Blues Brothers are in heavy rotation with different variations on both The Bluesmobile and their Chicago Police and Illinois State Trooper adversaries.


On the movie front, Greenlight also makes replicas of great-looking, yet often overlooked vehicles from films, including Field of Dreams, Clueless, The Godfather, Joe Dirt, Kill Bill, and The Big Lebowski. One of my personal favorites is the Wagon Queen Family Truckster from National Lampoon’s Vacation.


For fans of both modern and classic TV series, they’ve got a growing assortment of rides from small-screen franchises as well. You can find ones available from ABC’s Once and Lost, The CW’s Supernatural, AMC’s The Walking Dead and Breaking Bad, and more.

Hot Wheels Retro Entertainment Series (Mattel) 14+

The recommended age on these runs higher than the basic assortment since they’re more detailed, have small parts, and carry a higher price (around $5). Despite the additional flashy details, kids can still enjoy playing with these (my girls do). This is hands-down my favorite Hot Wheels line as Mattel has essentially captured my childhood with these.


For fans of Hal Needham, Burt Reynolds, and Jerry Reed, there’s both Smokey & The Bandit and Stroker Ace. The Ghostbusters’ Ecto-1 has been done in several variations. The DeLorean Time Machine from Back to the Future has been released in versions for each film in the trilogy. Including Marty McFly’s Toyota pickup and Biff’s 1950s Ford (complete with plastic manure!).


There is also the infamous white-striped red Ford Torino from Starsky & Hutch, the GMC van from The A-Team, and The Muppets’ Electric Mayhem Tour Bus. Take a look at several cars from the James Bond series. Even the rides from The Brady Bunch, Top Gun, and Simon & Simon have gotten their due.

Additionally, various mainline Hot Wheels reappear in this line in upgraded form, with better paint, real rubber tires, and a ton of added details.

Fast & Furious + Jurassic World (Jada Toys; Mattel; Greenlight; Funko)

For these recently reinvigorated franchises, there’s an interesting crossover, with multiple licensees making products in the same category for the Jurassic World and Fast & Furious franchises.


Mattel’s Matchbox brand rolled out a collection of inexpensive vehicles based on Jurassic World, while Jada handled more detailed models.

Mattel has released vehicles based on the Fast & Furious franchise across multiple Hot Wheels lines. This year, the toy giant steps into the role of master licensee for the high-energy brand, rolling out a new collection of slightly larger cars that are branded simply with the film title. Perfectly-timed for the spring release of Universal Pictures’ The Fate of The Furious. Moving behind diecast, they’re also releasing action figures and vehicles.

Jada Toys’ Fast & Furious items are out there as well, but those models are skewing toward the larger, more collector-oriented variety, along with radio-controlled options. Similarly, Greenlight has tackled F&F, styled like their Hollywood line. Bonus: even Funko got in on the action!


While most of these rides are replicas of screen-driven vehicles, there’s a whole expanded universe out there for toy cars that are “inspired-by” the various corners of pop culture. These are rides that take design creativity to new heights as they borrow elements of characters and locations. It allows toy designers to let their imaginations run wild in crafting new creations to delight children, parents, and collectors alike.

We’ll explore a few of those down the road. For now you can find many of these pop culture rides waiting for you in the diecast aisle of your favorite retailer.

About the author

James Zahn

James Zahn

James Zahn, AKA The Rock Father, is Editor-in-Chief of The Toy Book, a Senior Editor at The Toy Insider and The Pop Insider, and Editor of The Toy Report, The Toy Book‘s weekly industry newsletter. As a pop culture and toy industry expert, Zahn has appeared as a panelist and guest at events including Comic-Con International: San Diego (SDCC) Wizard World Chicago, and the ASTRA Marketplace & Academy. Zahn has more than 30 years of experience in the entertainment, retail, and publishing industries, and is frequently called upon to offer expert commentary for publications such as Forbes, Marketwatch, the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, USA Today, Reuters, the Washington Post, and more. James has appeared on History Channel’s Modern Marvels, was interviewed by Larry King and Anderson Cooper, and has been seen on Yahoo! Finance, CNN, CNBC, FOX Business, NBC, ABC, CBS, WGN, The CW, and more. Zahn joined the Adventure Media & Events family in 2016, initially serving as a member of the Parent Advisory Board after penning articles for the Netflix Stream Team, Fandango Family, PBS KIDS, Sprout Parents (now Universal Kids), PopSugar, and Chicago Parent. He eventually joined the company full time as a Senior Editor and moved up the ranks to Deputy Editor and Editor-in-Chief.