Script consultant UK looks back on Used Cars (1980)

I’m 46 years old next week, one of the reasons I’ve been a UK script consultant and script writer for hire for the last twenty six years is Betamax video.

I must have seen the film Used Cars in the early 80s, most likely on Betamax, around the same time as I saw ‘The Blues Brothers’, ‘The Long Good Friday’, ‘Hooper’ and ‘Close Encounters of the Third Kind’.

I loved the film as a six or seven year old. It’s funny, filled with stunts and has some of the same totally anarchic humour that exists in John Landis’ ‘Animal House’ and ‘The Blues Brothers’. Watching the film (for the first time since I was a kid) I’m struck by a couple of things – the nudity and the mad stunts.  No wonder I loved the film as a kid!  Russ Meyer would have enjoyed it too!

Used Cars was written and directed by Robert Zemeckis (with Bob Gale as co-writer). Zemeckis would go onto have great success with ‘Back to The Future’ and ‘Forrest Gump’, but neither of those films are half as good, or as much fun as Used Cars. Its a madcap romp, feels almost Preston Sturges like, and it doesn’t stop, and will bring a smile to your face.

I think, and it’s just a guess, that the Coen Brothers may also have been a fan of this film – at times, I felt reminded of Raising Arizona (high praise indeed).

The plot is about two used car lots, on opposite sides of the same freeway, pitted against each other to survive.  A young Kurt Russell takes centre stage, fighting against Jack Warden (who is hilarious in a double role).

Look out for the amazing (jaw dropping at times) stunt work (especially in the final third).  The guy doing the car wrecks and car jumps was Terry Leonard (who I think was also the guy under the truck in ‘Raiders of the Lost Ark’) and Terry, is still working today in 2020.  

Used Cars is out on Blu-Ray now – it looks fab, you have to be over 18 to watch it – a long way since the days of Betamax.

Matthew Cooper has been a script writer for hire, UK Script editor  and script doctor for over 20 years. He’s written for most of the UK soaps, including writing award winning episodes of Emmerdale, EastEnders, Hollyoaks and Family Affairs and has been BAFTA shortlisted and Royal Television Society nominated as a script writer. He’s also a leading UK script consultant and freelance script writer for hire and online screenwriting expert. You can find some of his broadcast credits on the IMDb. You can get in touch with Matthew on or hire him on Peopleperhour

His directorial debut, the rubber reality horror thriller Markham will be released in 2020.