What are a few of your favorite trucking films that you have seen? Despite the fact that they contain trucks and show truckers and the trucking industry, many of them may not reflect the professionalism trucking firms strive for and expect from drivers and owner operators these days. Truck drivers are often portrayed as modern-day cowboys or mavericks in popular culture. Movies, in general, are either fictional dramas or comedies aimed at making us laugh, with the exception of a few significant exceptions. Basically, they’re a form of amusement.
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The public’s impression of trucking has been profoundly influenced by some of these quips, which represent the vocabulary, history, and culture of trucking. Some of the most popular or memorable movies involving trucks, truckers, and the trucking industry can be found below, along with a few interesting tidbits. It would be practically difficult to rate them without getting into a fight, thus they are listed alphabetically.
We’d love to hear your thoughts on the films on this list, whether you agree or disagree with our selections.
1. Big Rig – 2007
We mentioned a few notable outliers before; this picture is one of them. This 2007 documentary, filmed by Doug Pray, offers a glimpse inside the modern-day trucking industry from the perspective of long-haul truck drivers. Four separate road trips of two weeks each were used to film the show. They approached truckers at a truck stop in an RV with the director, cameraman, producer, and production assistant in tow. For a day if the driver agreed, Pray rode with the driver while the producer stayed in the RV and listened to the driver’s stories. AFI Fest 2007 and the Seattle International Film Festival selected Big Rig as an official selection in 2007.
2. Big Trouble in Little China – 1986
“Big Trouble in Little China” was defined by director John Carpenter as a “action adventure comedy kung fu ghost tale monstermovie.” Top trucking movies also include 1986’s Kurt Russell, Dennis Dun, Kim Cattrall and James Hong film. Russell’s character, Jack Burton, is an all-American trucker who becomes caught up in a centuries-old supernatural conflict in San Francisco’s Chinatown. Now that we’ve heard it named the International District, we can officially call it that. However, the phrase “Big Trouble in Little International District” just doesn’t seem right.
Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson wants to remake the film with director John Carpenter at the helm, but Carpenter is on the fence about it. Is The Rock playing Jack Burton, a truck driver from the blue-collar suburbs? It’s just not there for us to see.
3. Convoy – 1978
Before long, Kris Kristofferson made his big screen debut as Martin “Rubber Duck” Penwald alongside Ernest Borgnine as Sheriff Lyle “Cottonmouth” Wallace in Smokey and the Bandit II. The song “Convoy” by C.W. McCall, released three years prior, served as the inspiration for Sam Peckinpah’s film. For the soundtrack of the film, a new version of the song was created with more explicit lyrics. This song’s artist and co-writer, Bill Fries, is identified as C.W. McCall, but he actually wrote it under a pseudonym. The film’s box office performance was disastrous due to the fact that the CB radio hoopla had worn off by the time it was released. Even among truckers and trucking enthusiasts, it remains a beloved classic.
4. Duel – 1971
Duel frightened many non-commercial vehicle drivers to death as one of the most intense flicks ever made. However, despite the fact that the humor is extremely dark, it may be amusing at times. Dennis Weaver portrays a businessman named David Mann who is rushing to make it to an important meeting on time. This picky urbanite who is a touch out of his element in receiving aid after being harassed on the road by an unseen insane truck driver is set up by Stephen Spielberg in his full-length feature filmmaking debut.
It’s almost comical to imagine that Deputy Marshal Sam McCloud would have any difficulty taking down the truck driver in the first ten minutes of the movie, given the other television character he played at the time this film initially aired. However, Weaver’s portrayal of a more mute Mann is utterly convincing. In the course of the film, Mann’s panic grows as he tries to flee from the driver, who grows increasingly violent and menacing. As Spielberg intended, the truck itself performs admirably in its role as the film’s true antagonist because no one knows who is driving it at any one time. Duel was originally a low-budget, short-lived TV movie, but it became evident to many that the filmmaker would go on to make some very great films in the not-too-distant future.
As fascinating as the movie was, it also had the terrible effect of making many motorists nervous when driving near semi-trucks.
5. Every Which Way But Loose – 1978
Clint Eastwood stars in this James Fargo comedy as Philo Beddoe, a laid-back trucker who has an odd team member along for the ride: Manis plays an orangutan named Clyde. Two years later, with the release of “Any Which Way You Can,” the sequel, speculation arose as to what had become of Manis. In the sequel, Manis may have been too big for Clyde’s role because he had grown physically since the first film. Shortly after filming wrapped in 1980, the orangutan who played Clyde in the sequel was found dead from a brain hemorrhage that was purportedly caused by maltreatment. However, 28 years later, in a story about animal mistreatment in the film industry, the Los Angeles Times referred to the orangutan who played Clyde as one and the same animal.
6. BJ and the Bear – 1978 to 1981
“B.J. and the Bear” was born out of the success of “Every Which Way But Loose,” which aired on NBC for three seasons. Evigan played Billie Joe “B.J.” McKay, an independent trucker who drove a red and white Kenworth K100 cabover with his chimpanzee buddy “Bear,” who was named after the legendary University of Alabama football coach Bear Bryan. A regular guest star in the first season was Claude Akins, who had previously been in another well-liked trucking show, “Movin’ On”.
7. Flatbed Annie and Sweetiepie: Lady Truckers – 1979
Repossessor professor C.W. Douglas (Harry Dean Stanton) has Sweetiepie (Kim Darby) come up with a means to pay for her husband’s Mack conventional truck before it’s seized by Douglas (Harry Dean Stanton). “Outdrive, outhaul, outdrag, outclutch, outtalk, outhog any bird on the boulevard,” Flatbed Annie, a friend of her husband’s who is a truck driver without a truck, joins them on the road. Flatbed Annie, starring Annie Potts, was directed by Robert Greenwald in 1979. To put it another way, this movie is like a mix of “High Ballin'” and “Thelma and Louise.”
8. High Ballin’ – 1978
During the 1978 film, starring Jerry Reed and Peter Fonda as truck drivers, Peter Carter’s film depicts a trucking company’s attempt to force them out of business. Smokey and the Bandit” also featured Reed as Snowman. Even for a 1970s trucking movie, this Canadian action comedy received a lukewarm reception from critics because of its highly exaggerated portrayal of trucking. In spite of this, it has a lot of action, which is why it’s often listed as one of the best trucking movies out there. When a movie is touted as “a modern-day western, with trucks instead of horses,” you’re going to want to see it. It remains to be seen if you’ll want to watch it repeatedly like a Sergio Leone spaghetti western.
Moreover, did we mention that it’s Canadian?
9. License to Kill – 1989
In “License to Kill,” starring Timothy Dalton as James Bond, the action-packed thriller featured international drug smuggling, double-crossing, and speeding as the usual components. 18-wheelers performed acrobatics never before attempted by Class 8 trucks, including a rear wheelie and a side wheelie, in the film Driverless trucks and supercharged engines were also depicted in the film.
It wasn’t as simple as walking into a truck dealership and ordering the vehicles needed to pull these acts out. Stuntman Remy Julienne hired Kenworth’s engineering department to design the customized vehicles needed for the film’s stunts. An engine capable of 1,000 horsepower was required for Julienne’s wheelie truck; a reworked suspension and front and rear axle replacements were also required. One of the most difficult challenges faced by Kenworth engineers was the dual steering autonomous truck, which necessitated the installation of two throttle pedals, each of which could control the engine independently. On a twisting mountain route, the steering, clutch, and shift links had to be adjusted so the Kenworth W900 could perform an impressive wheelie.
10. Smokey and The Bandit – 1977
CB radios became popular, and the language of truckers became more understandable to the general public thanks to this film, which may have inspired many people to start their own trucking businesses. The ’70s trucking movie genre was at its peak at the time of its debut. There is a good chance you are unaware that Hal Needham’s film was the second highest grossing film of 2013. And what is the highest point? Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope. Three short wheel base Kenworth W900A trucks were used in the film. This is another lesser known fact. Two of the three were from 1973, while the other two were from 1974.
11. White Line Fever – 1975
Carrol Jo Hummer, played by Jan Michael Vincent, marries his fiancée, borrows money to buy a truck, and strives to become an independent long-haul driver after returning from a two-year deployment in Vietnam with the U.S. Air Force. Red River, a fruit hauler his father worked for before his death, is where he returns. Hummer learns how much the company has changed since his father worked there. Because of his refusal to transport illegal smokes, Hummer is no longer employed by Red River, his father’s old business partner. When Hummer takes on the crooked businessmen and truckers, he puts his own life at jeopardy.
While we promised you our top ten list of trucking movies, these more titles deserve a brief mention:
12. The Great Smokey Roadblock (a.k.a.) The Last of the Cowboys – 1979
When Elegant John, a 60-year-old truck driver, is hospitalized for a terminal illness, his rig is repossessed by the loan company. Having escaped from the hospital, he snatches back his truck in order to complete one final cross-country run. Elegant John, who is being pursued by the police, becomes a folk hero after picking up six prostitutes for his buddy, madam Penelope, played by Eileen Brennan, on his way to her house. Aside from Brad Pitt, Susan Sarandon stars in this film.
Even though John Leone shares his last name with the spaghetti western movie director Sergio Leone, it doesn’t appear that he’s related in any way to the director of the picture. Isn’t it odd, in light of the film’s alternate title, that he was?
13. Over the Top – 1987
To win a new semi-truck and $100,000 to establish his own trucking company, Lincoln Hawk enters a Las Vegas arm wrestling competition, where he is played by Sylvester Stallone.
14. They All Kissed the Bride – 1942
Joan Crawford stars as cutthroat trucking company boss Margaret Drew in this film from the era of World War II, directed by Alexander Hall. Carole Lombard, who was set to play Margaret Drew, died tragically in a plane crash while returning from a bond-selling tour in Las Vegas. In this Columbia production, MGM’s Louis B. Mayer consented to allow Crawford to play the role. Critics attacked Crawford’s performance after its publication, calling it harsh and unfunny, which led many to question Melvyn Douglas’ portrayal of Michael Holmes’ romantic interests. In any case, we believe the film provides an intriguing look into the world of trucking prior to the late ’70s deregulation wave. Seeing Crawford’s Margaret Drew take down one of her company’s board members is also refreshing.
15. They Drive By Night – 1940
Raoul Walsh’s 1940 film noir follows Paul and Joe Fabrini, two brothers who own a trucking company in California that transports fruit from farms to markets in Los Angeles. Both George Raft’s Joe and Humphrey Bogart’s Paul are attempting to make ends meet while working for and competing against crooked businesspeople in the roles played by the two actors. As the three of them prepare to pick up Ann Sheridan’s waitress Cassie Hartley, they come face to face with the death of a close acquaintance. Paul and Joe are devastated by the loss, but they remain steadfast in their quest to find a solution to make their firm work again.
16. Transformers – 2007
Autobots: Let’s go! Michael Bay’s debut feature picture as director brought Optimus Prime to the big screen for the first time. When Peter Cullen’s voice shouted those three words for the first time on the big screen, it brought back memories of playing with the Hasbro toy over the holidays or watching the show on Saturday mornings. We’ve always known Transformers were awesome. We now had this amazing film to back us up. OK, so the first Optimus Prime was a cabover. What does it matter? As a Class 8 truck that transforms into an intergalactic-traveling robot, Optimus Prime fights evil for the sake of humanity. It’s hard to think of a better way to end the day.