6 scary trucking movies

Updated Oct 27, 2023

Updated April 6, 2023, with newer content, and ahead of Halloween in October 2023, Overdrive's Andrew Guinn put together this round-up of six of our absolute favorites among scary trucking movies spanning four decades of film history: 

Original story, as of the April 2023 update, follows:

If you're like us, you can get into a good psychologically scary movie better than a gory one. One raised eyebrow by Anthony Hopkins scares you more than a sawed-off body part, long as it's not your own, right? 

How about this dashcam footage, captured in March 2023 by trucker William Church along Arizona SR 87, according to the New York Post. Church reportedly believed he'd seen a ghost walking the route, perhaps one among the many "Black Dogs" owner-operators and other truck drivers have witnessed in the wee hours on lonely, dark roads . 

Talking about psychologically rattling, though. (Have you seen the Black Dog, driver?) Throw in a creepy clown, birds, a shower curtain, a homicidal doll, Jack Nicholson and an adolescent girl going to her prom and you'd pretty much have our top list of all-time scariest of scary movies.

Duel movie posterThe Duel film was the first feature film of director Steven Spielberg's career.Here's a short list for six scary trucking movies, some of them canonized long after their release with restorations of trucks used in the various productions. They're best watched in the dark, at a lonely rest stop in the middle of nowhere. 

1. Duel (1971)

Steven Spielberg’s first full-length film pits a menacing, unseen trucker driving a 1960 Peterbilt 281 tanker truck against David Mann (Dennis Weaver), in a red 1970 Plymouth Valiant Signet. It plays out across the California desert, with plenty of diesel exhaust blowing maliciously across the screen, toward a harrowing end.

Lincolnton, North Carolina-headquartered small fleet owner Brad Wike has owned a rig that starred in the movie as a menacing fuel hauler for many years. In 2021 Wike and Robb Mariani, past host of the Speed Channel docu-series "American Trucker," after a bit of a reconditioning of the "Duel" Pete, commemorated the 50th-anniverary of the film with this dark and stormy video featuring the rig


2. Maximum Overdrive (1986)

Written and directed by Stephen King (and based on the famous horror novelist's short story "Trucks") this bizzaro flick starred Emilio Estevez. Machines come to life when the Earth passes through the tail of a comet. Chaos reigns as hairdryers, vending machines, lawnmowers and homicidal semi-trucks begin a murderous raging rampage.

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Scary, and with a great soundtrack by AC/DC. 

3. Road Games (1981)

Filmed in Australia, starring Stacey Keach and Jamie Lee Curtis. A truck driver plays cat and mouse with a serial killer who uses a young female hitchhiker as bait to lure his victims.

4. Joy Ride (2001)

Directed by John Dahl and starring LeeLee Sobieski, Steve Zahn and Paul Walker. Three young people on a road trip from Colorado to New Jersey talk to Rusty Nail, a psycho trucker, on their CB radio. It’s all fun and games as they taunt him.

The tables turn when he starts stalking them. “You need to get that fixed,” he says over the radio.


“Your tail light.”

And the chase is on.

5. Joy Ride 2: Dead Ahead  (2008)

movie poster for Joy Ride 2: Dead aheadRusty Nail returned for the second edition of the "Joy Ride" series.Directed by Louis Moreau, starring Nicki Aycox, Nick Zano and Laura Jordan. Four friends embark on a road trip to Vegas when their car breaks down in the middle of nowhere and they must figure out how to get back.

They make a plan, but unfortunately for them, it puts them at odds with Rusty Nail. The murderous trucker is back and he will stop at nothing until he gets his revenge on them, one mutilated body part at a time.

The "Joy Ride" film series concluded with "Joy Ride 3: Roadkill" in 2014. Augusta, Georgia-based small fleet owner Ben Cadle restored one of the rigs that got its five minutes of fame in the flick.

It's a 1982 Freightliner cabover, and became his personal truck, as he explained in this video following trophies it added to the case with Overdrive's Pride & Polish truck show in Dallas in 2017


6. Road Kill (2010)

Speaking of Road Kill -- the original title for this project was "Road Train," and it's directed by Dean Francis, starring Bob Morley, Sophie Lowe and Georgina Haig. A group of teenagers down under in the Australian  outback are threated by a driverless road train determined to kill them.

The maniacal rig has a mind of it’s own, and is fueled by evil.

Subtitle: “It will drive you to hell.”

[Related: How old is that story, bro? Trucking tales, legends, ghosts]