The Un-Offical Truckers Top 10

Vanishing Point

1. “They Drive by Night” (1940)

This classic piece of film noir stars Humphrey Bogart and George Raft as the Fabrini brothers, a truck driving team struggling to make it during the Great Depression. It is one of the first films to center on truck driving as an occupation, and Bogie and Raft, albeit with great theatrics, bring to light many of the troubles independent truck drivers face. Add in the brassy and bold Ann Sheridan as a truck stop girl who doesn’t hold back, and the conniving and cunning Ida Lupino as a murderous vixen, and there you have it: a love triangle that leads to bad things. As the movie trailer implies, this film is “the high-geared saga of reckless men who find romance by the side of the road,” and Bogie and Raft sure give the audience a wild ride.

Vanishing Point

2. “Truck Stop Women” (1974)

And what of love on the road? This seventies flick is the epitome of campy, drive-in fun that revolves around a mother and daughter run New Mexican brothel for traveling truckers. The mantra “no rig was too big for them to handle” not only implies the obvious sexual innuendos, but is also a battle cry for these early feminists that fought against the Mafia and won. From start to finish, there are plenty of big rig chases, extremely violent and inventive death scenes, and of course, seventies-style nudity. This is not a film for the faint of heart or those interested in an accurate portrayal of an honest profession.

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3. “White Line Fever” (1975)

Remember when Jan Michael-Vincent was actually a normal actor and not the freak show he has become? He’s the star of this mid-seventies drama, playing Carroll Jo Hummer, an honest, hardworking truck driver that has finally had enough of the system. Hummer’s loyalty lies with his wife and his rig, lovingly called The Blue Mule. When Hummer gets too bogged down by his cheatin’ and schemin’ boss—played by the iconic Slim Pickens—he takes his anger out across the U.S.A. The Blue Mule has an amazing show stopper at the end, and has recently been made immortal with a reference in Quentin Tarantino’s campy on demand movie, “Death Proof,” released in 2007.

Vanishing Point

4. “Smokey and The Bandit” (1977)

It’s hard to not to think of this movie first when it comes to the truck driving genre, although there are more muscle car and police cruiser scenes than anything else. Played by a then-hunky Burt Reynolds, The Bandit is a legendary trucker reluctantly pulled out of retirement to once again show up his nemesis, Smokey—also known to us common folk as the police. This fun romp starts with the need to secure enough Coors beer to make an east coast party—a scheme that includes a hot rod decoy that in turn attracts a runaway bride—aptly performed by a young Sally Field. Even though The Bandit isn’t driving a big rig, there are some truly sweet scenes with his 1977 black Pontiac Trans Am that can’t be denied.

Vanishing Point

5. “Breaker! Breaker!” (1977)

There is no shortage of action within this slice of truck driving drama. The title alone is homage to the rise of the C.B. fad, the all-important form of communicating on the road at the time. Chuck Norris stars as former karate champion and current Alaskan trucker, returning from a Texan vacation only to find his brother has met with a grave injustice. Once again, Smokey comes into play, and this time the corrupt cops face the wrath and reemergence of a martial arts master out for revenge. Perhaps this is the very role that fueled Norris to become the powerhouse that we know today.

Vanishing Point

6. “Every Which Way But Loose” (1978)

This Clint Eastwood classic incorporates the character of Philo Beddoe, a semi-pro prize fighter and pipe supply company trucker, along with his endearing and awfully hairy sidekick, Clyde. Beddoe meets his romantic match with the country and western singer wannabe, Lynn Halsey-Taylor (played by Sondra Locke), and finds misadventures on the road while pursuing her. Although her love doesn’t prove to be worth the chase, enough kookiness transpired to make way for “Any Which Way You Can” two years later as another classic monkey and man adventure.

Vanishing Point

7. “Convoy” (1978)

Directed by Sam Peckinpah, “Convoy” was inspired by Bill Fries’ resplendent 1975 song of the same name. Just as the song relays, the movie is a rough ‘n’ tumble epic of truckers that break the law in a mile-long caravan traveling through the Southwest states to Mexico. Like all good, campy seventies flicks, this one is not devoid of sex appeal. The then-muscle bound Kris Kristofferson stars as the ringleader, named Rubber Duck after his C.B. handle, and an ever-lovely Ali McGraw plays his love interest. The soundtrack includes some great driving music, from an obvious inclusion of “Convoy” to Crystal Gayle’s hit “Don’t It Make Your Brown Eyes Blue” and “Okie from Muskogee” by Merle Haggard.

Vanishing Point

8. “Pee Wee’s Big Adventure” (1985)

Who could forget Large Marge from this Pee Wee saga? Even though she only had a two to three minute cameo, this hardened, truck-driving horror was no doubt a nod toward the storytelling song, “Phantom 309” by Red Sovine. Poor Pee Wee was just looking for a ride when he got more than he bargained for by this female trucker. After her spooky tale of the worst accident she had ever seen ten years ago that night, Large Marge lets him out at the Wheel Inn truck stop with an ominous, “be sure and tell ‘em Large Marge sent ya,” along with a cackle that can make your toes curl. Somehow, Sovine’s Big Joe seemed a more benign ghost of a fellow.

Vanishing Point

9. “Maximum Overdrive” (1986)

One of Stephen King’s goofier releases, “Maximum Overdrive” is a campy horror flick about a gaggle of trucks (and machines in general) that come alive, only to seek revenge on mankind. Although it was based on the well-written “Trucks” from his “Night Shift” collection, King’s directorial debut earned him the dishonor of the Golden Raspberry Awards’ “Worst Director” title in 1987. Sometimes prose doesn’t translate as well into film, but that’s what makes this particular offering classic. Emilio Estevez stars as the main man and the soundtrack is stellar—performed exclusively by metal mavens and King’s favorite band, AC/DC. Although most of the songs had already been released a few years earlier, “Chase The Ace,” “D.T.” and the underlying theme of the movie, “Who Made Who,” were written especially for this film.

Vanishing Point

10. “Black Dog” (1998)

Almost a decade after Swayze found his fame as a ne’er-do-well done good in “Dirty Dancing,” he continued to find roughened roles within the likes of “Point Break” and “Road House.” In “Black Dog,” Swayze stars as Jack Crews, another ex-con-turned-good driver that spans the U.S. with what he comes to understand is a dangerous haul. When it’s clear that his family and life are in danger, Swayze has more malevolence than customer service on his mind. Country crooner Randy Travis and operatic rock god Meat Loaf star in this offering as well.

Although most of the truck driving themed films are more of a fun romp across the U.S. than an accurate portrayal of the profession, that’s what makes these movies such an escape. The campiness factor only kicks the adventure up a notch or two and gives us unforgettable characters in the end. Heroes like Fabrini brothers, Philo Beddoe, Carroll Jo Hummer and Jack Crews manage to save the day, get the girl (or keep their family safe), and get paid in spite of easy-to-hate villains and the ever-present corrupt cops. Perhaps The Bandit said it best when describing his livelihood and why he does it: “For the good old American lifestyle: For the money, for the glory, and for the fun … mostly for the money.”



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