When a trucker gets behind the wheel of their rig, every trip is an adventure waiting to happen.
Where else are adventures in high demand? The big screen, of course.
Truck driving’s ever-changing atmosphere, mysterious nature, and feeling of limitlessness translates well into stories of fiction.
Trucking movies about taking chances, running from something, or traveling toward a destination (literally and figuratively) have become cinema classics over the years.
These movies make us feel like we’re along for the ride or even behind the wheel as they inspire, amuse, and sometimes scare us. Whether you’re looking for a peek at what it might be like to be a driver or you’re lounging in the bed of your very own cab, grab your popcorn and dim the lights – it’s truck driving movie night.
Starting with the scares (and just in time for Halloween) Steven Spielberg’s Duel plays off the intimidating size and presence of the commercial truck.
It’s a darker take on something millions have shared the road with, taking that familiar sight and making it into a menacing metallic antagonist.
This enthralling story sees a dilapidated tanker truck pursue a passenger vehicle and its driver. After passing the truck twice, David Mann is stalked, chased, and attacked relentlessly afterwards.
While some people say the film plays off the classic horror trope of never showing the villain, the villain is on screen constantly. Though we never see the truck drivers’ face, the truck itself is the true antagonist, showing us what 40,000 pounds of speeding steel can do when driven with bad intentions.
Never showing the maniac behind the wheel doesn’t just follow thriller best practices – it also plays off the mysterious and secret-like nature of the trucking industry itself. The fear of the unknown is perhaps the most relatable fear of all, and this movie uses it masterfully.
The cat-and-mouse conclusion is worth the long trip, making Duel a can’t-miss thrill ride.
Playing off the trucker and CB craze of the 70s, Convoy taps into something primal that resonates with many truckers both current and former.
Centering around a trucker’s vendetta with a corrupt sheriff, it alludes to the mistreatment or mischaracterization truckers often deal with as a result of misconceptions about their industry.
But the allegorical tale is packed with action throughout, bringing a level of excitement that can even appeal to those who have never stepped behind the wheel. It also brings plenty of humor, aiming for that feel-good ambiance many associate with life on the road.
It has a great ending that shows us the wheels keep moving no matter what. Fun trivia fact – it’s based off the 1975 C.W. McCall song of the same name.
Over the Top
With a leading man like Sylvester Stallone in the year 1987, Over the Top was bound to bring a lot of bravado to the big screen.
Images of cross-country truck trips and arm-wrestling tournaments are common throughout the film. It’s got the macho magic that this era’s B-movies were made of. But it’s the figurative journey of the main character that matters as much as the literal one.
Protagonist Lincoln Hawk is a trucker and competitive arm wrestler who has two goals in life – rebuild relations with his son, and start his own trucking company. To do the latter, he needs to win a major arm-wrestling tournament. Matters are also complicated by his sick wife, and his father-in-law who disapproves of Hawk.
If anything, the movie offers a relatable journey for anyone who has ever worked hard on the road to take care of their family and build a better life.
Smokey and the Bandit
Some call it the quintessential movie about the trucking industry – Smokey and the Bandit hit theaters in 1977, becoming the second-highest grossing flick of the time next to Star Wars.
Though there’s no space battles, we do see Burt Reynolds’s timeless portrayal of “The Bandit” aiding his friend in thwarting the law.
The story of truckers trying to transport an illegal shipment captures the thrill of adventure and the teamwork that truly holds the trucking industry together. While many movies about trucking focus solely on the big rig itself, this one also gives great focus to the “blocker” – perhaps a nod to all those who help keep trucking rolling but rarely get credit.
Even though it may be called an inflated Hollywood-style cliché of the trucking industry, some elements are true to the field – like time limits.
The prize beer of the film, Coors, would perish quickly due to a lack of artificial preservatives, thus the 28-hour deadline.
Big Trouble in Little China
While most trucking movies stay true to the gritty realism of the open highway, Big Trouble in Little China seems like it took a wrong turn down a strange road.
Coming to us from famed horror director John Carpenter, this film is as unique as any movie about the trucking industry ever made.
Rather than battling corrupt lawmen or road-raging rigs, the protagonists in this film take on an ancient sorcerer. It’s the type of journey you’d never expect in a trucking movie, and that’s what makes it work.
Though some would say this film uses trucking as a minor plot device to lead to the real subject matter, the idea of venturing into new worlds and encountering other cultures, ideas, and sights is par for the course for the trucking industry.
Though the initial negative reception left Carpenter disillusioned with Hollywood, the film has since become a cult classic, even ranking in Top 500 lists.
Every Which Way but Loose
We end the list with 1978’s Every Which Way but Loose. Casting action veteran Clint Eastwood as a trucker and brawler roaming the Midwest seems like the kind of gritty, tough formula perfect for a truck driving movie.
However, this one betrays our expectations by mixing in a healthy dose of humor. From the lead’s penchant for crossing paths with the wrong people to his orangutan pet, there’s a lot that makes this one memorable.
If you like movies about trucking that provide a more upbeat and lighthearted experience, pop this one in the next time you sit down with your family, your cat, your dog, or your orangutan.
Why Just Watch Trucking When You Can Live It?
While the real trucking industry may not be as exciting in the daredevil, law-breaking sense as trucking movies make it out to be, it’s rewarding in a different way.
Instead of a ton of tense action packed into a 90-minute sequence, you could enjoy a stable, lifelong career earning a great living behind the wheel.
If you’re a fan of trucking who can’t get enough of the industry, why not apply to Hermes? No experience is necessary for consideration. If you’re a CDL A holder, apply here for a great opportunity at a fulfilling career.