10 Best Movie Trucks And Pickups To Ever Come Out Of Hollywood
Car chases might get all the glory, but trucks have enjoyed their share of screen time in Hollywood, too. In fact, there are a number of movies where pickups and SUVs have played a key role in either advancing the plot, saving the day, or just injecting some much-needed adrenaline into a movie's sagging second act.
What are some of our favorite movie trucks? We picked 10 of the coolest trucks to ever hit the big time and explained why we think they're worthy of just as much recognition as any flashy sports car or eye-searing exotic.
1995 Dodge Ram 2500 - Twister
When Dodge released the second-generation Ram in the early 90s, the truck was instantly a star thanks to its extroverted styling and available V10 engine in three-quarter and full-ton models. So brightly did the Ram's public persona shine that it was given a leading role in Jan De Bont's production of Twister in 1996, a movie where a ragtag gang of miscreants and weather scientists (lead by Helen Hunt and Bill Paxton) alternately chase down and are chased down by tornados.
The 10-cylinder Ram seen on-screen was a mish-mash between 1500 and 2500 stunt trucks, as well as the 2500 hero vehicle itself. Deputized by a reluctant Paxton to drop DOROTHY (a data-gathering capsule) in the path of a major storm, the Dodge Ram stole the show after another very cool truck - a 1982 Jeep J10 Honcho - is hurled through the sky during an earlier twister encounter.
If you ever get bored with the 90s-era special effects, you can always distract yourself by counting how many times Paxton's character winces as the Ram is relentless beaten up by high winds and flying debris.
1977 Chevrolet K10 Stepside - Red Dawn
If you can discount the unlikely premise of a Soviet paratrooper invasion that focused on the heartland rather than the coasts, and then also buy-in to the idea that a local high school football team is the only hope for small town America faced with a mechanized platoon of Russian soldiers, then you, too can enjoy Red Dawn's many absurd automotive action sequences.
Like say, the one where a lifted '77 Chevrolet K10 driven by Patrick Swayze dodges tank fire from a road block that is then obliterated by an American helicopter on their frantic escape from the county limits to the Colorado mountains (where they somehow become a crack military unit). Go Wolverines!
1985 Toyota SR5 Pickup - Back To The Future
Back To The Future was one of the first mainstream American movies to present a Japanese pickup truck as not just an object of desire, but also a crucial plot point in what would turn out to be all three entries in the franchise.
When we first encounter the lifted, rollbar-and-Hi-Lites 4x4 SR5, it's sitting in a dealership window for main character Marty McFly to drool over. By the end of the movie, it's transitioned to his garage, where his former nemesis (and now deferential domestic servant) has just finished a detail job. Two movies later, an ill-fated drag race from behind the wheel of the Toyota decides McFly's entire future, fortuitously avoided by a last-minute decision to shove the truck into reverse, all while Huey Lewis sings 'The Power Of Love' in the background.
Bigfoot 1 - Take This Job And Shove It
There exists no more important flashpoint for the popularity of monster trucks than a long-forgotten B-movie based on a country music song.
'Take This Job An Shove It' might not have been a blockbuster in 1981, but the race between Bob Chandler's Bigfoot 1 (a 1974/78 custom Ford F-250 lifted on 48-inch mud tires) and a lightly-disguised version of Everett Jasmer's USA-1 (among other off-road pickups) was the first look for most Americans at the phenomenon that monster trucks would become. It's a seminal moment for motorsports, buried in an ode to a Johnny Paycheck lyric.
1989 GMC Sierra 3500 - Lethal Weapon 2
It’s unknown why writer Shane Black consistently put Mel Gibson's burn-out cop character Riggs in a four-door, dually GMC in almost every Lethal Weapon movie, but the original film's sequel provides the pickup with its best role. How many other movie trucks can lay claim to pulling an entire house off of its foundations, and down a hillside, all in the name of the law?
Realistically, Riggs had a dually because he lived in a trailer on the beach, but in an era before trucks were 'cool,' it's rare to see a Hollywood hat tip to a working truck in a major franchise like this one.
1987 Chevrolet Suburban - Dante's Peak
There are more than a few cool truck scenes in 1997's unlikely volcano thriller Dante's Peak (including one where a pair of pre-teens are driving a rad Land Cruiser on a rescue mission) but it's Pierce Brosnan's '87 Suburban that steals the show.
Character Harry Dalton is a vulcanologist, which means he needs all the cool off-road gear slathered onto the Suburban (33-inch all-terrain tires, Warn winch, roof rack, brush guard, CB radio, Cepek off-road lights, and of course, a snorkel). This is no poser truck, either, as that snorkel helps keep the truck's head above water as Brosnan fords, and eventually floats down, a river on his way to gather up those crazy Land Rover kids.
1963 Jeep Gladiator - Tremors
This Gladiator is the ultimate survivor, in more ways than one. Not only does it feature a period-perfect desert patina, what with its sun-kissed sheet metal and work gear stuffed into its faded blue stepside box, but it also manages to tear a tongue off of one of the 'graboids' that emerges from deep underground to try and make a snack of its rear axle (and driver Kevin Bacon).
It's hard to think of a better endorsement for the saying 'they don't build them like they used to' like having a 40 year old truck help turn the tables on a subterranean alien invasion.
Whatever Tango & Cash Were Driving
On one hand, the 1989 movie Tango & Cash is a buddy cop flick set in ostensibly the same reality as our own. On the other hand, it has a climactic scene where Sylvester Stallone and Kurt Russell have to drive a futuristic 'RV From Hell' 4x4 through a bizarrely auto-centric flame-throwing, rocket-launching gauntlet to rescue Teri Hatcher.
What's lurking under all that bubble body work and fully-functional Gatling gun? Turns out it’s a 3500-series GMC pickup platform motivated by a 454 cubic inch V8 that's mounted just ahead of the rear axle (in a bid to better balance the vehicle for jump stunts). A trio of these bizarre trucks were built for the movie, with one currently working the show circuit / occasionally showing up for sale online.
Bigfoot 7 - Roadhouse
By the time Roadhouse came along in 1989, monster trucks were all over the multiplex- especially Bigfoot. So compelling were these massive machines that the producers of Roadhouse convinced Bob Chandler to build a special truck just for the movie - and by 'convinced,' we mean 'paid him a whole ton of money.'
The end result was used in a single scene where a small town crime boss intimidates the locals (and Patrick Swayze, making his second appearance on our list right alongside Bigfoot's double-dip) by having Bigfoot 7 smash through a new car showroom, seemingly with no consequences to himself or anyone in his hayseed gang. That one sequence cost a half million dollars to set up and shoot.
Bigfoot 7 is wearing 66-inch tires similar to those of other Chandler trucks in the movie, but today sits on 10-foot rubber in front of the Fun Spot in Orlando, where it's currently been renamed 'BigFun' after a not-so-fun lawsuit between Fun Spot and Chandler over both the Bigfoot name and the disputed ownership of the vehicle.
1974 Chevrolet C10 Stepside - The Driver
Unique among the movies on this list is The Driver's use of a Chevrolet C10 in a street chase rather than a rough-and-tumble off-road challenge, alien escape, or tornado hunt. The titular Driver (played by Ryan O'Neal) is a car thief with a serious set of skills, and in one of the film's most memorable scenes he uses a bright red, 454-powered pickup to escape a Pontiac Trans Am through the streets of Los Angeles.
It's the kind of stunt driving that's very rarely seen with a pickup truck as the star of the show, and it's a refreshing break from the standard muscle car and sedan fare found in the era's many, many chase set pieces.
Looking for trucks on the small screen too? Check out our round-up of the 5 TV trucks we miss the most.