Nightmares on 18 Wheels: The Deadliest Horror-Movie Trucks

Nightmares on 18 Wheels: The Deadliest Horror-Movie Trucks

Joy Ride

In 2001, Joy Ride followed three young people on a cross-country trip who run afoul of a psycho truck driver. Paul Walker, Steve Zahn and Leelee Sobieski made for a very appealing trio, and Ted Levine (The Silence of the Lambs) supplied plenty of menace as the voice of Rusty Nail, the revenge-minded trucker. Director John Dahl, working from a sceenplay written in part by J.J. Abrams, kept raising the stakes throughout the thriller, resulting in a very tense ride. The film has spawned two sequels to date, with the latest, Joy Ride 3: Roadkill, hitting the home video circuit this week.

Anyone who's ever gotten behind the wheel knows that hard-working, long-laboring truck drivers deserve our utmost respect on the road, but, somehow, 18-wheel trucks and their drivers continue to appear as the villains in horror movies, as this list will attest.


Duel (1971)

Writer Richard Matheson drew from his own unpleasant experience with a tailgating truck to devise a script in which mild-mannered Dennis Weaver is pushed to the breaking point by an incredibly menacing 18-wheeler on a lonely highway in the Southwestern desert. The movie was made for television; an expanded version was later released theatrically in Europe. It was an early triumph for a young director named Steven Spielberg.


Road Games (1981)

Stacy Keach, an American trucker working in Australia, begins to suspect that the driver of a green van he keeps seeing on the road is a notorious serial killer, but the more he tries to prove it, the more he unwittingly indicts himself and his big old truck. Jamie Lee Curtis pops up as a hitchhiker. Director Richard Franklin next made another thriller, Psycho II.


Maximum Overdrive (1986)

Stephen King made his first (and only) film as a director with this tale of a rogue comet that causes all machinery on Earth to become sentient and start attacking human beings. The most villainous machine is an evil 18-wheeler, a ringleader of sorts in trapping a small group of survivors at a truck stop. Powered by the music of AC/DC, the movie has a funky charm and an offbeat sense of humor.


Breakdown (1997)

Kurt Russell and his wife (Kathleen Quinlan) are driving cross country when they have an unpleasant encounter with a trucker in New Mexico. Later, when their car breaks down, a passing 18-wheeler stops and the driver (J.T. Walsh) kindly offers to give the Mrs. a lift to a nearby diner so she can call for help. When she goes missing, however, it's Kurt vs. the truckers in a desperate battle for survival.


Road Train (aka Road Kill) (2010)

Four young campers in the Australian Outback are forced off a highway by a "road train" (a truck with two trailers) and then fall under its supernatural spell. While the premise quickly begins to strain credulity -- wait until you see what the truck uses for "fuel" -- this thriller works hard to deliver its horror elements in a fresh setting, and the "road train" ultimately provides a new twist on road rage.

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