Trucking, with its lure of freedom, the ever-changing scenery and people, and the potential for romance and adventure, is made for the movies. Alone on the highway, facing everything people and Mother Nature can throw at them, truckers have become the pale rider of the modern era.
Actual truckers, facing endless paperwork, crabby bosses, tight deadlines, and the inevitable breakdowns, may disagree with the cinematic characterization of their trade. However, trucking movies draw drivers and the general public alike with their depiction of 18-wheeled heroes taking on every new nemesis. Here are five trucking movies rated among the best by truckers themselves, starting at number five:
Burt Reynolds plays the legendary trucker, “Bandit” Darville, in the 1977 hit, Smoky and the Bandit. He and his sidekick are hired to haul beer to Georgia, which technically is an act of bootlegging. To avoid capture by police and earn their $80,000 bounty, they must risk all and survive some hair-raising chase scenes.
The Road Warrior was released in 1981 as a sequel to the initial Mad Max movie. Forever in search of scarce fuel in a post-apocalyptic world, Max and and his former policeman partner face down deadly competitors. They become embroiled in a fuel fight on the side of the occupants of an oil refinery who scheme to escape from a criminal band that has cornered the refinery. Max agrees to drive a custom Mack truck for the group, and things erupt from there.
In Big Trouble in Little China, Kurt Russel plays a trucker who battles ghouls, monsters, and other unfriendly creatures to save a woman in distress. The truck plays only a cameo role, but the movie is rife with comedy and action scenes.
Coming in at the number two spot is Maximum Overdrive, a 1986 film that brings science fiction into the trucking genre. The story unfolds after a comet zooms past Earth and causes intimate objects to spring to life at whim and attack people. One group gets trapped in a truck stop and must fend off menacing trucks, which are led by the evil mind of “The Green Goblin.” Stephen King directed this movie version of his book by the same name.
Tops on the list of favorite trucking movies is Duel. Made in 1971, this oldie but goodie is one of the first “phantom of the road” tales. The driver of a Plymouth Valiant has a run-in with a decrepit 1960 Peterbilt tanker truck. While the driver of the tanker is never shown, it is obvious he is there as the pair dodge and parry across the desert to the increasing terror of the driver of the Valiant. The movie is based on an actual event, horrifyingly making the point that you never can be sure who or what you will encounter on the road.