With such an iconic everlasting brand as Nissan, it’s no great surprise when you see their vehicles turning up in pop culture, whether in films, television, or collaborating with artists and starlets worldwide. As recently as 2018, Nissan combined forces with Disney for promotion of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, creating a limited edition Nissan Rogue One. The match brought the sleek, friendly SUV to the attention of fans across the globe. So it only makes sense that with the introduction of the new 2022 Nissan Rogue, the makers would continue to go outside the box, raise the bar, and disregard the rules of what a small size SUV should be, could be. So in the spirit of going rogue, we look at Nissan’s that have just that – gone outside the norm, broken the rules, graced the silver screen, and created an automotive name synonymous not only with reliability and value, but with pop culture itself.
Rogues and Rebels of Film
Spotted several times in Quentin Tarantino’s box office hit Kill Bill: Vol. 1 was the sleek cobalt blue 1991 Fairlady Z. The car is fast, modern, with an understated elegance. In this case, the car first shows up on a Tokyo street driven by O-Ren Ishii’s lawyer one Sofia Fatale (Julie Dreyfus). Later near the end of the film, an injured Sofia is placed in the trunk by The Bride’s (Uma Thurman) before finally be dropped outside of a hospital. The Fairlady was last seen speeding off into the dark night. This particular Japanese model, which can hit speeds of up to 155MPH, is unfortunately not street legal in the United States and therefore unavailable on the market. However, for those wishing for their own little piece of Tarantino-esque speed at home, the very similar Nissan 300ZX, can be had for the right price.
So while you may not be able to acquire that Fairlady Z, there is another option for those who want both speed and a piece of TV fame in their garage. Look no further than the street racing 1999 Nissan Skyline GT-R R34 featured in Hollywood’s popular car franchise Fast and the Furious. With one of the most notable appearances being in 2003’s 2 Fast 2 Furious. Driven by Paul Walker’s character, the undercover agent Brian O’Conner, the platinum blue, and silver Nissan is set to race against speedster Dominic ‘Dom’ Toretto (Vin Diesel). Spoiler: while the car does go down in flames on screen, thanks to the magic of Hollywood the original cars live on! Occasionally coming up for auction here and there, much to the delight of car enthusiasts and memorabilia collectors nationwide.
It would also be worth noting the brief cameo of the understated but elegant 2010 Nissan Sentra featured as a rental car for the anxiety ridden Lydia on AMCs grounding-breaking show Breaking Bad. As the character Lydia (played by Laura Fraser) waits to have her car cleaned at Walter White’s car wash, she approaches him under the guise of a customer, trying to convince Walter to help improve the quality of methamphetamines that has declined rapidly in his absence.
But even with just a walk-on (drive-on) role, the Nissan still stands out. Several glimpses of various Nissan models show up in the post-apocalyptic zombie world of The Walking Dead. Including a silver Altima sedan that can be seen driven by the villain The Governor (David Morrissey), and later members of a savage group, The Saviors. Along with an oddly placed vintage 1985 Nissan 720 RV, it’s safe to say Nissan would be handy in avoiding Walkers, criminals, and would-be assassins, among other things.
Speaking of the apocalyptic worlds, what about a 140-year-old Nissan GT-R? That’s right, the classic model that’s becoming a well-known favorite among filmmakers made an appearance once again in the 2013 film Elysium. The modified car is decked out with armored plates and centuries of dust and grime, but nonetheless, the model shines through, making a notable cameo alongside actor Matt Damon, creating an unforgettable scene in the minds of fans.
Switching gears from dystopian worlds and road warriors, speedsters, and assassins to the smiling sunshine of modern day. A 2009 Nissan Cube stands out in vibrant corn yellow despite the chattering and antics of 2015’s Alvin and the Chipmunks: Road Chip, making it just as memorable as the characters themselves. While Nissan discontinued the model in 2015 and then in Japan in 2019, it still maintains a recognizable silhouette both on the silver screen and on the road with its contemporary boxy styling and youthful color palette.
While Nissan is great at showing off its effortless street style and Hollywood flare, it also continues to cultivate a family-friendly image with its line of small SUVs and sedans. So it’s no wonder that in 2019 Nissan teamed up with Disney once again (previous partnerships included the popular Rogue One: A Star Wars Story limited edition Rogue SUV and a cameo appearance of a 2018 Nissan Leaf in the film adaption of Madeleine L’Engle classic A Wrinkle in Time). Along with a filmmaker contest, the winner receiving 100k and the 2018 Nissan Leaf featured in the ad campaign) to collaborate with the movie maker in promoting its newest incarnation of the ever-popular magical nanny Mary Poppins. The pair created two short movie clips released on Nissan’s Youtube channel in 2019 for the promotion of the “fantastical” nanny and the new 2019 Altima.
In a continual effort to remain new and fresh in the minds of buyers and potential future buys of all ages, Nissan has teamed up with artists in both the music and film industry to bring sleek, catchy commercials to fresh eyes. Many often have a semi-story line and feel more like a film clip than an ad for a car. Recent popular ones have featured a Bonnie and Clyde couple with their “accomplice,” a hip Nissan Micra. And with a new marketing campaign that got underway in 2021, the Japanese company put Ms. Marvel herself, American actress Brie Larson, behind the wheel as their new brand ambassador. The actress has been featured in commercials for the Rogue SUV crossover as well as the friendly and affordable 2020 Nissan Altima. Larson, who portrays the powerful comic book character of Ms. Marvel, seemed an ideal choice for such a strong, stand-out brand that still manages to remain friendly and affordable, all without compromising luxury and value.
This, however, isn’t the first time Nissan has rubbed elbows, or eh, tires, with celebrities. They had worked with musicians from the likes of country music star Blake Shelton, bringing together the American music giant with its Titan truck series, a natural match if ever there was one. But never one to be boxed in, Nissan continues expanding working with artists of all genres and backgrounds from country music, to grammy nominated hip-hop producers Just Blaze and Willie Green. All the while, becoming even more eclectic within the past few years by collaborating with Filipino musicians Barbie Almalbis and Zsaris. The project was based upon a songwriter’s challenge to create music involving sounds from a Nissan vehicle, such as clicking locks or swishing of windshield wipers.
Nissan’s presence in pop culture is ever-present not just with filmmakers, celebrities, and music makers, but with toymakers as well. The automotive maker indulged in nostalgia by shrinking down its vintage 1969 Nissan Skyline Van in collaboration with both Hot Wheels and Marvel Comics. The vibrant cherry red matchbox size van features comic book heroes from the Marvel X-Men franchise. Faces on the collectible car include the ever recognizable Wolverine and supervillain Magneto. But this is just one part of the expansion the automaker has begun dabbling in. Reaching not only car enthusiasts but pop culture fans in some of the largest markets out there, from Marvel to Disney to Star Wars. Whether film, television, music, and merchandise Nissan continues to go rogue, remain unpredictable, and follow its own path, both on the road and off.