What is it about truck drivers and trucker lingo? Their CB chatter is always entertaining, and in the mid-70s Americans couldn’t get enough of the big rig lifestyle. From classics like Smokey and the Bandit to trucker films with villains of every stripe (usually the law, but sometimes the mob) – trucker lingo spread across the land. Folks who’d never merged onto the highway bought CB radios and learned the CB basics, like “Breaker, Breaker” and – of course – how to warn your CB-listening friends that the fuzz (Smokey) was nearby.
8 Movie Classics that Brought Trucker Lingo into the Spotlight
While MicroMobiles are replacing CB radios in many rigs, we know after watching these movies you’ll be signing off your MicroMobile with “Copy. Over and out.”
1. Smokey and the Bandit (1977)
“Bandit? This is Mr B., and I’m gearjammin’ this rollin’ refinery, you got another smokey on the rubber?” — Mr. B the tanker truck driver
Starring Burt Reynolds and Sally Fields, this is the film that brought trucker fever in the U.S. to its peak. Released in 1977, the story follows a scoundrel trucker (Reynolds) and his pal (Jerry Reed) as they haul – what else? – beer. Of course, it’s illegal which leads to a lot of trucker lingo about “Smokey” (Jackie Gleason, as Sheriff Buford T. Justice) on their trail. They are chased most of the way as they drive from Texas to Georgia, all the while making their CB radio and trucker lingo into the hottest thing since mid-70s mustaches and Trans Ams.
2. White Line Fever (1975)
Filmed in Tucson, Arizona, this film tells the story of a trucker who has to fight organized crime to survive, just as he’s getting into the biz. An early trucking film from the pre-Smokey era, it tells the story of an Air Force vet (Carrol Jo Hummer) who just wants to provide for his family. He discovers the trucking industry is run by the mob, and – as they say in Hollywood – hijinks ensue. The title refers to having an addiction to the trucker life.
3. Convoy (1978)
“Breaker one-nine, breaker one-nine. This is the bear in the air, officer Lyle Wallace calling Rubber Jerk in that rattlin’ piece of black crap at your side door. Come on!” — Sheriff Lyle Wallace aka Cottonmouth
C.W. McCall took Smokey Bandit fever and recorded a classic county song, “Convoy” – then spawned a film about truckers banding together. Like Smokey, this film is about a heroic truck driver, played by the legendary Kris Kristofferson, who’s being chased across the US by the law (played by Ernest Borgnine). The twist? They must band together in a line of trucks – a convoy – to outwit Borgnine. C.W. re-recorded a new version of the song to follow the film’s plotline.
4. Thelma and Louise (1991)
Every genre has its dark side, and while there is little trucker lingo in this film, there are some stunning explosions. In the spirit of most great trucker films, the heroes fight the law. As Thelma (Gina Davis) and Louise (Susan Sarandon) road trip across the West, a lewd trucker keeps passing by. After he wags his tongue and points to his man-parts, the ladies decide to pull over – seemingly to fulfill his fantasies. He discovers they have a different plan, however, when they hold him at gunpoint, steal his baseball cap and sunglasses, and blow his truck to smithereens. If you love road films and trucks, watch with caution.
5. Flatbed Annie and Sweetiepie (1979)
“When 2 women, 18 wheels and 16 gears are rollin’…move over.”
Finally, a truck driver extravaganza that tells the story of lady truckers. Of course, the two main characters (you guessed it, Flatbed Annie and her pal, Sweetiepie) have to deal with the law (Deputy Miller, played by Billy Carter, then brother to President Jimmy), not to mention the rampant sexism on America’s highways. They only get into trucking because Sweetiepie’s husband is incapacitated – and the load needs haulin’. Of course, they master trucker lingo and the CB radio along the way. Tagline: “When 2 women, 18 wheels and 16 gears are rollin’…move over.”
6. High-Ballin’ (1978)
This Canadian film starred Jerry Reed – a country singer-turned-actor (who also wrote the theme song) – from Smokey, and counter-culture legend Peter Fonda. The plot revolves around two truckers trying to hold onto to their cowboy-style ways and maintain their independence. An evil cartel is trying to keep lone truckers from living free. They fight off scabs and hired guns at every turn – with some fantastic action scenes – to remain trucker heroes living the renegade life that only independent haulers really understand. It’s a cowboy flick, with trucks and trucker lingo.
7. Black Dog (1998)
“For Jack Crews, the rules of the road are simple. No passing, no tailgating, and no turning back.”
Patrick Swayze learned to drive a big rig for this film, and he did all his own stunts. The title is trucker lingo for seeing visions after extreme road fatigue sets in. In this story, our hero (Swayze) is the victim of lies and trickery, and ends up hauling a load of illegal guns. Two musical legends – Randy Travis and Meatloaf – make appearances and Travis’ soundtrack made the country music charts. The film has plenty of chase scenes, CB chatter, and athleticism as Swayze tries to uphold the law – and survive.
8. Over the Top (1987)
Not so much a trucker movie as an arm-wrestling film. Sylvester Stallone plays Lincoln Hawk the arm-wrestling trucker who is trying to make amends with his estranged son and win the World Arm Wrestling Championship. Hawk makes his way to redemption and trains with a custom weight machine in the cab of his big rig while he cruises down the road. The film is full of arm-wrestling villains like Bull, who says things like “I drive truck, break arms, and arm wrestle,” and Grizzly who chugs motor oil to intimidate his opponents. This is classic 1980’s film also has a soundtrack to match with songs by Eddie Money, Kenny Loggins, and Sammy Hagar.