“We’re gonna do what they say can’t be done” – The enduring Trucking Legacy of Smokey and the Bandit
“Eastbound and down, loaded up and truckin’,
We’re gonna do what they say can’t be done.”
From the opening frames of the film showing the stark twin silhouettes of Bandit’s smokestacks to the freeze frame at the end of the film and we hear Jerry Reed singing about going East Bound and Down, Hal Needham’s story of outlaw trucking is one of the most enjoyable stories of trucking ever put to celluloid.
The film centers on Bandit, played by the dearly departed Burt Reynolds, being contracted to bootleg 40 cases of beer across state lines for Big Enos “Because he’s thirsty, dummy!”
But Bandit cannot drive the nearly 2000-mile round trip by himself in 28 hours. So Bandit convinces his friend Cledus “Snowman” into assisting (so long as Snowman can bring his dog along). Snowman is tasked with driving the truck while Bandit runs the scout car to take the heat off Snowman.
Were you inspired to become a Professional Truck Driver after watching this film? If so, you are not alone. It is not hard to figure out why this film inspired so many to become road warriors. Not only is the movie hysterical and is full to the brim with excellent stunts, but it genuinely making being a Truck Driver look like the most fun job imaginable.
Every frame of this film is dedicated to Truck Drivers and the world they live in. With phrases like Choke and Puke, Smokies, Gumball Machines, Mobile Gas Station, and Ears this film adores everything about being a Professional Truck Driver. Share some of your favorite phrases and quotes from this movie with us on our Facebook page!
Whereas Convoy was focused on the fight against renegade police officers and government overreach at large, Smokey and the Bandit is focused on how fun and outrageous being a Truck Driver can be. Essentially, Convoy wants to discuss politics and the cultural climate around the era and Smokey and the Bandit just wants to have fun.
Granted, much of that fun is not DOT approved and would certainly ruin your CSA score. We do not encourage or endorse any of the stunts or driving habits in this film. As the tagline of the film states, “What we have here is a total lake of respect for the law!”
We also do not suggest that you live load anything the way Bandit and Snowman load the beer they are tasked with hauling.
It is easy to see the influence Smokey and the Bandit had on Convoy. Both films are about legendary risk-taking truckers with great CB handles. Each film features a memorable villain from a major comedic actor.
The Bandit’s main villain, the titular Smokey, is Buford T. Justice (played by the fantastic Jackie Gleason) a sheriff way out of his jurisdiction. It is easy to see how Buford influenced Convoy’s villain Lyle Wallace. Whereas Lyle Wallace genuinely hated anyone that drove a truck professionally, Buford is so much more a funny pain in Bandit’s side.
Much like Convoy, Smokey and the Bandit’s long life in pop culture can be traced back to its earworm of a theme song. We dare you to watch the movie one time and not have that song stuck in your head forever.
Another one of the biggest similarities to Convoy is the consistent use of CB Radio throughout the film. Both films employ it to outsmart the cops they are trying to avoid and rely on switching stations around. In today’s day and age, this would probably be replaced by cell phones, either on call or voice-to-text and we would lose so much of this film’s charm when it comes to Driver Slang. What is currently your favorite piece of Driver Slang? Ours is Lumpers. It is just such a funny word.
The film hauls 80,000 pounds of exciting stunts and laughs, with the lion’s share of what makes the film memorable going to Burt Reynolds and is best enjoyed with a cold can of Coors, so long as you are not planning on doing any driving afterward.
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