Best Trucker Movies You Need to Add to Your Watchlist [Updated March, 2023]

Hollywood has delivered a few trucker films over the years, mostly during the 1970s and 1980s. These movies often feature a trucker fighting against nefarious gang members — or a squad of sentient 18-wheeler cyborgs.

Although most of these trucking movies remain cult classics to this day, others have slowly faded into relative obscurity.

In this article, we’ll discuss the best trucker movies based on genre. By the time you are done reading, you may very well have a few new movies to add to your watchlist!


Contents:

  1. Best Trucker Movie Overall
  2. Best Action Truck Movie
  3. Best Trucker Comedy
  4. Best Mystery Movie
  5. Best Truck Cartoon Movie
  6. Best Thriller Truck Movie
  7. Best Truck Driving Documentary
  8. Best Trucker Horror Movie
  9. Honorable Mentions
  10. How We Determined the Best Trucker Movies?
  11. Conclusion

Best Trucker Movie Overall

Best trucker movie overall

Hoffa is a 1992 movie that narrates the true story (as far as public knowledge allows) of notorious Teamster boss Jimmy Hoffa and his relationship with his union, the Mob, and politicians throughout his career. If you are into Mafia flicks, this is one of the trucker films that use gripping cinematography to tell a compelling story.

Earnings and Ratings: Despite mixed reviews from critics (6.6/10 on IMDB), Hoffa still grossed $29.3 million at the Box Office.

Awards:

  1. 1992 Oscar nomination for best cinematography and best makeup.
  2. 1992 Golden Globes nomination for best performance by an actor in a motion picture - drama.
  3. Jack Nicholson — best performance by an actor in a motion picture - drama.

Notable cast: Jack Nicholson, Danny DeVito, and Armand Assante.

Check it out on IMDB.

Best Action Truck Movie

Best action truck movie

Big Trouble in Little China (1986) is the best action truck movie of all time. When you combine ancient rivalries, martial arts, and the untamed will to defeat evil, you get this action-packed cult classic.

The film follows the adventures of truck driver Jack Burton (Kurt Russell) and his buddy Wang Chi (Dennis Dun) getting into trouble with a Chinese street gang, The Lords of Death.

The two friends head into Chinatown to rescue Wang Chi’s fiancee, whom the Lords of Death have kidnapped. But their quest for justice and vengeance leads them to a shocking realization: the gang, headed by David Lo Pan (James Hong), uses sorcery to protect themselves.

This realization sets up a nail-biting battle featuring epic sword fights, secret potions, and over-the-top explosions.

Earnings and Ratings: The movie has a user rating of 7.2/10 on IMDB and grossed $11.1 million at the Box Office.

Awards: The movie won the Urban Action Showcase Martial Arts Cult Classic Cinemas Award in 2016. John Carpenter received a Saturn Award nomination for Best Music in 1986.

Notable cast members: Kurt Russell, Kim Cattrall, Dennis Dun, James Hong.

Check it out on IMDB.

Best Trucker Comedy

Best trucker comedy

Smokey and the Bandit (1977) is a lighthearted trucker comedy movie that follows the adventures of Bo "Bandit" Darville (Burt Reynolds) as he tries to deliver 400 cases of Coors to Atlanta in limited time.

In the company of Cledus "Snowman" Snow (Jerry Reed), this daredevil smuggling attempt turns dangerous as the duo become involved with runaway bride Carrie “Frog” (Sally Field), drawing the Sheriff’s attention. Their journey takes so many hilarious turns that they needed some crafty thinking to stay on course and avoid trouble.

This movie became so popular that the studio developed two sequels and several spin-offs. The TV series based on the original movie is in production.

Earnings and Ratings: The movie has a 6.9/10 IMDB rating and grossed $300 million at the Box Office.

Awards: The movie won no awards, but was nominated for the Best Film Editing at the 1978 Oscars. Sally Field also received a nomination for the Best Actress in a Motion Picture - Comedy or Musical at the 1978 Golden Globes.

Notable cast: Burt Reynolds, Sally Field, Jerry Reed, Jackie Gleason, Paul Williams

Check it out on IMDB.

Convoy (1978) by the American film director Sam Peckinpah is a road action comedy showing the story of a trucker's vendetta against an abusive sheriff taking place under the hot sun of Arizona and New Mexico.

Three truckers Rubber Duck (Kris Kristofferson), Pig Pen (Burt Young) and Spider Mike (Franklyn Ajaye) are cheated, followed and abused by the local brutal sheriff (Ernest Borgnine), however the team spirit and the truckers’ mutual support do not let him to fulfill his sinister plans and justice is served.

Interestingly enough the film is based on the 1975 country and western novelty song "Convoy" by C. W. McCall and it is considered to be the best commercial success in Sam Peckinpah's career.

Earnings and Ratings: This work has got a 6.3/10 IMDB rating with $45 million at the Box Office.

Awards: Although not recognized by any awards in the US, the movie has broken into the international charts by winning the Golden Screen award in Germany and the award of Turkish Film Critics Association (SIYAD).

Notable cast: Kris Kristofferson, Ali MacGraw, Ernest Borgnine, Burt Young.

Check it out on IMDB.

Best Mystery Movie

Best mystery movie

Based on the eponymous Stephen King short story, Trucks (1997) is a horror mystery that truckers can watch to decompress.

This killer truck driver movie focuses on the mysterious occurrences in a small Nevada town, where trucks start coming to life, to the dismay of the residents. Ray Porter (Timothy Busfield) and Hope Gladstone (Brenda Bakke) embark on a surreal journey of survival in this classic haunted semi truck movie.

Earnings and Rankings: The movie is rated 3.8/10 on IMDB; the Box Office earnings are unknown.

Awards: The movie didn’t win any awards.

Notable cast: Timothy Busfield, Brenda Bakke, Brendan Fletcher, Roman Podhora.

Trucks: Western Star 4964, Grumman-Olson Kurbmaster, Chevrolet Task-Force Apache, GMC C6500.

Check it out on IMDB.

Best Truck Cartoon Movie

Best truck cartoon movie

Animations about trucking are not common in Hollywood, but the success of the Transformers franchise made a compelling case for a truck cartoon movie — an animated TV series in this case.

The Transformers: Animated Series (2007-2009) features an adaptation of the Transformers storyline into a stand-alone show that lasted for three seasons.

The series narrates the story of 18-wheeler superhero Optimus Prime and the Autobots as they battle against the Decepticons, led by the notorious warlord Megatron. An evil attack on the Autobot ship sends the entire squad into a 50-year stasis.

Prof. Isaac Sumdac awakens the Autobots to defend Detroit, setting the stage for a series of mind-blowing, blockbuster adventures that threaten the unity and resolve of Optimus Prime and the Autobots.

The series was not renewed for a fourth season. However, the Transformers Animated game was released for the Nintendo DS platform in 2008.

IMDB Ratings: The cartoon movie is rated 6.6/10 on IMDB.

Awards: The series was nominated for the Best Sound Editing for TV Animation at the 2008 Golden Reel Award.

Notable voice actors: Jeff Bennett, Corey Burton, Bill Fagerbakke, David Kaye, Tom Kenny, Bumper Robinson.

Check it out on IMDB.

Best Thriller Truck Movie

Best thriller truck movie

Two films make it into this category; we’ll go through both of them in detail.

Black Dog

Black Dog (1998) is a thriller truck driver movie that details the adventures of a trucker and an ex-con who unwittingly end up in an arms trade.

Ex-convict Jack Crews (Patrick Swayze) is trying to get his life back after completing a jail stint for vehicular manslaughter. He tries to return to normal life by working as a truck mechanic, but he struggles to find work since he lost his CDL when he went to jail.

Left with no options, Jack Crews moves to Atlanta to ask Red (Meat Loaf) for a trucking gig. When Jack finally gets the gig, he couldn’t have guessed the rollercoaster ride that was about to unfold, involving multiple hijacking attempts, murder, kidnapping, and forced ingenuity.

Earnings and Ratings: The movie has a 5.4/10 user rating on IMDB and grossed $12.9 million at the Box Office.

Awards: Although the movie won no major awards, its official soundtrack peaked at Number 30 on Top Country Albums.

Notable cast: Patrick Swayze, Randy Travis, Meat Loaf, Stephen Tobolowsky, Charles Dutton.

Check it out on IMDB.

Rolling Vengeance

The second movie in the thriller category is Rolling Vengeance (1987). This film follows the travails of a bereaved truck driver Big Joe Rosso (Lawrence Dane), as he plots revenge on the miscreants who hurt his loved ones.

As the story unfolds, Big Joe’s son Joey Rosso (Don Michael Paul) takes over the mantle of vengeance from his dad by building a monster truck to help him get his payback on Tiny Doyle and his evil crew. In some circles, this movie is known as Monster Truck.

IMDB Rankings: The movie is rated 5.4/10 on IMDB.

Awards: The movie didn’t bag any major awards, which is no surprise considering the scathing reviews from critics upon its release.

Notable cast: Don Michael Paul, Lawrence Dane, Ned Beatty, Lisa Howard, Todd Duckworth.

Check it out on IMDB.

Duel

The third place in the thriller category is taken by Duel (1987), an action television film directed by a major American film director and producer Steven Spielberg.

A decent businessman (Dennis Weaver) is driving in a car through California highways to be unwillingly caught up in a duel with a psychotic semi-truck driver, who chases and terrorizes him in the hot and dusty desert roads. Is he going to win this battle of wits or die and burn in the gutter? Watch it and find out!

IMDB Rankings: The movie is rated 7.6/10 on IMDB.

Awards: The movie has won the Outstanding Achievement in Film Sound Editing award at Primetime Emmys and was also nominated there in Outstanding Achievement in Cinematography for Entertainment Programming. Among other achievements are grand prizes at Avoriaz and Taormina International Film Festivals.

Notable cast: Dennis Weaver, Jacqueline Scott, Eddie Firestone, Lou Frizzell.

Check it out on IMDB.

Best Truck Driving Documentary

Best truck driving documentary

Big Rig (2007) is a truck driving documentary that focuses on the personal stories of long-haul truck drivers.

This documentary by Doug Pray explores the trucking culture within the United States. The film crew takes a road trip that involves riding into truck stops and interviewing random truckers.

The main challenge that the crew faced while shooting the documentary was getting truckers to speak on camera without getting sent away from the truck stops.

Earnings and Ratings: The documentary has a 6.5/10 rating on IMDB. The Box Office earnings are unknown.

Awards: The movie didn’t win any notable awards.

Notable cast: Random truckers.

Check it out on IMDB.

Best Trucker Horror Movie

Best trucker horror movie

Maximum Overdrive (1986) is based on the earlier mentioned Stephen King short story “Trucks” — which also inspired the horror flick Trucks (1987).

This movie is the ultimate truck driver scary movie — and was Stephen King’s only attempt at directing a movie.

Maximum Overdrive tells the story of inanimate machines becoming sentient and wreaking havoc on innocent humans. Connie (Yeardley Smith) and Curt (John Short) narrowly escape an attack by BERTHA — a 1966 White 9000 tow truck.

But this is just the start of the couple’s run-ins with senile, sentient trucks. The couple finally meets Bubba (Pat Hingle) and Bill (Emilio Estevez), who also join the fight against the ravaging trucks.

Earnings and Ratings: The movie received a 5.4/10 rating on IMDB and grossed $7.4 million at the Box Office.

Awards:

  • 2019 Saturn Award — Best DVD/Blu-Ray Classic Film Release.
  • 1988 Fantasporto International Fantasy Film Award — Best Film (Stephen King).
  • 1987 Golden Raspberry Awards — Worst Actor (Emilio Estevez) and Worst Director (Stephen King).

The fact that Stephen King received a nomination for Best Film and Worst Director for the same movie highlights the mixed critical reception for Maximum Overdrive at the time. Ultimately, the movie ended Stephen King’s directing career prematurely.

Notable cast: Emilio Estevez, Pat Hingle, Laura Harrington, Christopher Murney, Stephen King, Yeardley Smith, John Short.

Check out this haunted semi-truck movie on IMDB.

Honorable Mentions

Joy Ride

This movie from 2001 follows the story of brothers Lewis (Paul Walker) and Fuller (Steve Zahn), who decide to prank a trucker named Rusty Nail (played by Ted Levine and Matthew Kimbrough). This ill-advised prank spirals the trio into a perilous adventure involving murder, deception, and betrayal.

Joy Ride won an award for the Best Score at the 2002 Fangoria Chainsaw Awards and generated $36.6 million at the Box Office.

Check it out on IMDB.

The Fast and the Furious

This masterpiece shot in 1954 features a truck driver Frank Webster (John Ireland), who breaks out of jail after being wrongly imprisoned for murder. He would like to clear his name, but with the police chasing him he decides to take a hostage. His hostage is a beautiful young woman driving a beautiful race car. As a result, Frank slips into a cross-border sports car rodeo to make it to the Mexico border and escape the police.

The Fast and Furious became a multiple winner of MTV Movie + TV Awards (in 2002 and 2017) and Hollywood Film Awards (2002), generating a total of more than $66 million at the Box Office.

Check it out on IMDB.

Smokey and the Bandit 2

Being a sequel released in 1980 Smokey and the Bandit 2 shows the Bandit a few years after his prominent 28-hour race down to Texas for several cases of Coors. Bandit is now a clean and honest guy living a decent life. Big Enos and Little Enos, however, make him another offer: transport a live Elephant across the country in 3 days or less. So that’s where the new episode starts.

Smokey and the Bandit 2 won the Jupiter Award in 1980 with Burt Reynolds as the Best International Actor, grabbing $66 million at the Box Office.

Check it out on IMDB.

Smokey and the Bandit 3

Smokey and the Bandit 3 released in 1983 tells about 2 guys Big Enos (Pat McCormick) and Little Enos (Paul Williams) opening a seafood place and planning to advertise it the way they used to. However the Bandit we know from the previous part of the movie cannot extend his helping hand this time and another one called Buford (Jackie Gleason) takes his place. Now the new Bandit starts the wild cross-country chase with huge fish spread on the car roof and the Sheriff on his fender.

Check it out on IMDB.

Cannonball Run

Cannonball Run featuring a truly all-star cast (incl. Burt Reynolds and Roger Moore), transfers us to the world of crazy and impossible cross-country race, with engines roaring, cars drifting, all against the background of beautiful American landscapes. An interesting fact is that the plot is based on an actual phenomena: the Cannonball Baker Sea-To-Shining-Sea Memorial Trophy Dash, an all-in ultimate competition that was illegal and notoriously known throughout the states.

The Cannonball Run action comedy was made in 1981 and got the Golden Screen award in Germany in 1985, collecting $72 million at the Box office.

Check it out on IMDB.

The Italian Job

The Italian Job is about John Bridger (Donald Sutherland) and Charlie Croker (Mark Wahlberg), who with their fellows are planning to steal gold bars worth dozens of millions from a securely guarded place in Venice, Italy. After they complete the job and everything seems to be an absolute success, one of the gang members decides to keep all the gold for himself and to kill the others. He makes an attempt to bring his cold-blooded plan into life and then flees to Los Angeles with the gold. However the group survives and wants to take revenge. Now the traitor has to face a team of a professional safecracker Stella (Charlize Theron), an experienced blaster "Left Ear" (Yasiin Bey), and the best-of-the-breed driver "Handsome" Rob (Jason Statham) with the plot of the story dynamically weaving through the Los Angeles highways and subways.

The Italian Job film came out in 2003 and in 2004 won the Santa Barbara International Film Festival and World Stunt Awards. The total box office made $19.5 million.

Check it out on IMDB.

Bullitt

Police Lieutenant Bullitt (Steve McQueen) in San Francisco is instructed to guard Johnny Ross (Pat Renella), a Chicago mafia thug, who's about to provide evidence against his cronies. Ross' safety has to be ensured at all cost, or else Bullitt will pay a price.

After being released in 1968, the Bullitt movie got a number of prestigious awards both back then, e.g. Academy Awards, USA (1969), and also recently, like the National Film Preservation Board, USA (2007). Gross box office of the film worldwide made $511,422.

Check it out on IMDB.

Vanishing Point

The Vanishing Point movie of 1971 tells the story of Kowalski (Barry Newman), who is an ordinary worker at a car delivery service. He undertakes to deliver a Dodge Challenger from Colorado to San Francisco. After that he takes a bet that he can get the car there in less than 15 hours. That's where the mad chase with cops starts along the hot highways of California. With a high concentration of chasing episodes, dynamic scenes and strange characters like gay hitchhikers and naked women on a motorbike, this movie is truly considered to be one of the greatest cult hits of the 70's.

Check it out on IMDB.

Two Lane Blacktop

The Driver and the Mechanic, 2 car freaks, are driving a 1955 Chevy across the deserts of southwestern U.S. with the only idea in mind - to participate in another race. Their only obsession is their vehicle, they even hardly speak to each other as they deem it is not necessary. Then they meet a girl, who joins them and G.T.O (Warren Oates), who tempts them to head for a race to Washington, D.C., where the winner will get the loser's car.

Two Lane Blacktop film received National Society of Film Critics Awards, USA after its release in 1971.

Check it out on IMDB.

Dukes of Hazzard

Cousins Bo and Luke Duke and their car "General Lee", assisted by Cousin Daisy and Uncle Jesse, have a running battle with the authorities of Hazzard County (Boss Hogg and Sheriff Coltrane), plus a string of ne'er-do-wells often backed by the scheming Hogg.

Dukes of Hazzard was nominated for Primetime Emmy Awards in 1984.

Check it out on IMDB.

Other noteworthy trucker titles include:

  • Breaker! Breaker! (1977)

  • Breakdown (1997)

  • Steel Cowboy (1976)

How We Determined the Best Trucker Movies?

To come up with a list of the best truck driving movies, we had to establish a criterion that factors in several variables. Here are some factors we considered when assembling this list of movies.

Cult Status

The list focuses on movies that developed a cult following after their release. This selection criterion helped us eliminate personal preferences. For instance, we included the Transformers Animated Series because of the animation’s (and movie’s) cultural impact.

IMDB Rating

Critical acclaim also played a significant role in our choice of movies for this list. As a standard rule, all the movies considered must have at least 2.0/10 to make the list.

Social Impact

Although it is difficult to gauge the cultural acceptance of these movies, especially those released in the 1970s, we added movies like Maximum Overdrive because they remained relevant in the modern era — through memorable scenes and quotes.

Star Power

Our ranking scale gave more points to truck driving movies with a world-renowned cast — or a famous protagonist. So, any trucker film starring Kurt Russel, Patrick Swayze, or Paul Walker weighs more on the scale of overall relevance than another one with a relatively unknown star.

Cinematography

This list also considered the cinematography for each movie. However, we recognized that action movies and thrillers would get the edge because of the futuristic CGI and spine-tingling action.

To even the balance, our ratings focused only on the cinematography based on genre. So, even though License to Kill has better cinematography, it doesn’t outrank Smokey and the Bandit in the comedy category.

Storyline

Although the entertainment factor played a vital role in our analysis, we didn’t overlook the storyline. Movies with impeccable writing and intricate character development ranked higher on the totem pole. And, of course, we couldn’t just overlook a mystery thriller directed by Stephen King.

Soundtrack

The movie score was not a key determining factor, but movies with memorable soundtracks received bonus points during our analysis. Also, movies with award-winning scores, like Black Dog, edged other equally ranked films to get the list.

Conclusion

The best trucker movies can provide you with on-the-road entertainment when you take a break from driving yourself. Whether you prefer action-packed thrillers or futuristic animations, Hollywood has the perfect film for you.

If you want to work with a company that cares about the driver’s overall health and wellbeing, HMD Trucking is the place for you. Our personalized approach to trucking makes us the favorite destination for drivers (at least 6 months of CDL A experience required). Apply with us now to start your trucking adventure.

Driving a truck means that you will be on the road for a long time and you will either have to eat fast food, which negatively affects your health, or cook your own food in the truck. If cooking is your choice, then you should read our article on the best cooking equipment for truck drivers.

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