There is something very cool about seeing a huge truck on the big screen. Seeing a truck throwing up dust as it fires down a desert road is an iconic movie image that has been used in everything from action movies and has now found its way onto the small screen with Ice Road Truckers and The World’s Deadliest Roads. It makes you respect people who drive these trucks for a living, and explains why truck drivers are so popular in movies.
Truck drivers are almost always portrayed as the ‘everyman’ on screen, the blue collar guy who’s down on his luck but keeps on trucking (pun intended) through life. But not every truck character is portrayed that way, and we’re going to look at the 5 best truckers who have appeared in films. Some are good, some are bad, and some are just terrifying!
Portrayed on screen by Kurt Russell in John Carpenter’s 1986 cult classic Big Trouble in Little China, Jack Burton is a tongue-in-cheek cross between blue collar heroes like Lee Marvin, and cowboys like John Wayne and Clint Eastwood. Unfortunately, Jack is as dumb as he is brave, and the classic moment of Burton’s time in the film is where he fires a gun in the air as a war cry, only to be hit on the head by the debris and have to sleep through the big battle. As Burton says over his CB radio as he drives through Chinatown: “I never drive faster than I can see. Besides that, it’s all in the reflexes.”
Burt Reynolds played legendary truck driver Bo Darville (AKA The Bandit) in the 1977 action comedy Smokey and the Bandit. The film is ultimately one big car chase across Texas, with Smokey (AKA highway patrolmen) hot on the heels of The Bandit as he tries to transport 400 cases of Coors beer from Texas to Georgia in just 28 hours. It’s a lot of fun and completely crazy, but Burt Reynolds’ cool quips and cowboy charm as The Bandit is what viewers will take away from them. There was nobody cooler than Reynolds in the 70’s.
It says something that Oscar-winning actor and director Clint Eastwood was outshone not once but TWICE by a giant orangutan called Clyde, but he certainly was. In Every Which Way You Can and Every Which Way But Loose, Eastwood plays Philo, a truck driver and fist fighter who gets into all kinds of scrapes with his trust friend Clyde alongside him. It was a strange move for Eastwood to move into comedies, but there’s something about these two films that have earned it cult status. A lot of this is due to the classic line “Right turn, Clyde” which usually results in the person to the right of Clyde at the time being punched in the face. Clint Eastwood, big trucks and a monkey… How did it work?
After three examples of good old blue collar guys getting into adventures, we turn to the dark side of the trucking world on screen. 2001’s Roadkill is an underrated gem, and Rusty Nail is a trucker you won’t forget in a hurry. After two brothers on a road trip play a prank on a trucker by pretending to be a girl looking for a date over a CB radio, the pranked trucker makes it his duty to pursue the two poor guys and put them through hell for the rest of the movie. James Remar provides the very creepy voice for the trucker, who you never meet in the flesh. Remar also voiced the serial killer Buffalo Bill in Silence of the Lambs, so he knew very well how to be scary!
The inspiration for Roadkill, and countless other bad guys over the years, the Trucker from Steven Spielberg’s breakthrough film, 1971’s Duel, is a force to be reckoned with. What is so terrifying about this force of nature is that we never understand why he is hunting Dennis Weaver’s character, or who the mysterious trucker is. Spielberg used the ‘unseen antagonist’ to even greater effect in Jaws just four years later, but Duel will definitely have you checking your mirrors more than once the next time you’re on the road and a trucker’s headlights are coming up behind you on a cold, rainy night…
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