Trucking movies usually depict truck drivers and truckers as rougher sorts, qualities that bear no resemblance to the knowledge and hardworking professionalism of today’s truck owners and drivers. Nonetheless, there are some exceptions and most of them are either touching dramas with a fictional plot or they are hilarious comedies that make light of everyday life. But, nevertheless, they often perpetuate a popular fantasy – that of the modern day cowboy, barreling through highways and backroads, ever traversing the vast open expanse of the great United States.
One way or another, famous trucker movies tend to reflect well the history, culture and language of the trucking industry. Ironically, some of them have had a profound impact on the public perception of the trucking industry. And today we bring you a list of the top 10 most popular movies about the trucking industry. Films are presented in alphabetical order, because such classics are simply impossible to rank.
Big rig – 2007
This movie is a remarkable example of contemporary trucking that was portrayed in a 2007 documentary created by Doug Pray. The project was filmed over numerous rounds of journeys, with Pray and his cameraman, a producer and an assistant director approaching the truck stops in a van and asking truck drivers for interviews. If the trucker gave the green light, Pray would ride with him for the entire day, having a chat with him and the producer would trail him behind in the van.
Big Trouble in Little China – 1986
The distinguished movie, featuring Kurt Russell, Kim Cattrall, and Dennis Dun, has proved to be the finest trucking production ever created. The story in the movie revolves around Jack Burton, an American trucker played by Russell, who unexpectedly finds himself amidst an unparalleled, captivating showdown in San Francisco’s famous Chinatown.
Convoy – 1978
About a year after Smokey and the Bandit were released, Kris Kristofferson stepped into the limelight as Martin “Rubber Duck” Penwald – coming face-to-face with the formidable Ernest Borgnine playing the role of Sheriff Lyle “Cottonmouth” Wallace. Unfortunately for the filmmakers, the film didn’t make much money at the box office. Nevertheless, it still remains an iconic classic cherished by truckers and aficionados of the subject.
Duel – 1971
This is one of the most potent movies that has ever been produced. After it first premiered, it terrified many non-commercial drivers, however strangely, it also has an abundance of dark facets of humor in it. The main protagonist, David Mann, a business owner, is attempting to reach an important appointment. Steven Spielberg’s outstanding directorial debut portrays this fussily occupied city dweller, who has become slightly anxious after being hit inexplicably by a destructive trucker on the freeway.
Every Which Way But Loose – 1978
James Fargo directed the hilarious movie, with none other than Clint Eastwood starring as the tough, unyielding truck driver, Philo Beddow. However, the bombshell surprise was when Manis stepped in to play the role of Clyde, the monkey. After the sequel, By Any Means Possible, was released, many believed that the role of Clyde was not reprised by Manis due to their size mismatch. It became an issue that triggered debates and heated discussions, before the topic eventually faded away.
BJ and the Bear – 1978 to 1981
The box-office success of the 1978 comedy-western “Every Which Way But Loose” led to the creation of the popular television series “B.J. and the Bear,” which ran for three seasons on NBC. Starring Greg Evigan in the role of the strong, independent trucker Billy Joe “B.J.” McKay and his delightful chimpanzee sidekick simply named “Bear”, the series followed the pair’s adventures as they traveled down highways and back roads in a majestic red and white Kenworth K100 truck. Claude Akins, famed for his previous role in another trucking series “Movin’ On,” was a frequent guest star in the first season of “B.J. and the Bear”.
Flatbed Annie and Sweetiepie: Lady Truckers – 1979
The startled wife of a trucker injured in an unexpected gunfight, must now find a way to cover the costs of her husband’s beloved Mack truck before it is apprehended by authorities. With the assistance of her husband’s trusted friend, flatbed Annie, they take off on a wild mission to “outrun, outrun, outrun, outrun, outrun, outrun any turkey on the boulevard.” This comedic road trip is brought to life in Robert Greenwald’s movie featuring Annie Potts in the lead role.
High Ballin’ – 1978
Jerry Reed and Peter Fonda gave award-winning performances as two determined truck drivers, who are determined to stand their ground against a formidable corporate giant that wants to put them out of business. The comedic action flick received favorable reviews, but was perceived as being somewhat over the top with its portrayal of truckers. It could be aptly described as a modern day Western with 18-wheelers taking the place of horses.
License to Kill – 1989
Another film from the “License to Kill” Bondian series, in which Timothy Dalton played Bond. Here was the full set of ingredients for a thriller: double treachery, drug smuggling, and high-speed chases. It was the first movie in which 18-wheeled trucks performed special stunts: rear and side flips.
Smokey and The Bandit – 1977
This film launched the careers of many truckers and helped CB radio stations become popular and the language of truckers become more accessible to a mass audience. It was released at the height of the popularity of trucker movies in the ’70s. Suffice it to say: this Hal Needham film, was the second highest-grossing film of the year after Star Wars – Episode IV – A New Hope.
White Line Fever – 1975
After returning from Vietnam, Carroll Joe Hammer marries his bride, borrows some money to buy a truck, and tries to become a trucker. He returns to the grocery trucking company where his father worked before he died and discovers that things have slightly changed since his father worked there. When he refuses to carry tax-free cigarettes, he discovers that his dad’s former business partner, the manager of Red River, has declared him a “black mark.” Hammer risks his life in the fight against corruption.
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