Movie Truck Power Rankings — What’s the Toughest?

movie, film, truck, vehicle, knight rider, the fast and the furious, transformers, optimus prime, rusty nails, joy ride, mad max, fury road, the road warrior, war rig, phantom tanker, duel, happy toys, maximum overdrive, convoy, rubber duck, unisol, universal soldier, dreadnought, death race, fuel tanker

Are you the kind of person who hates NFL power rankings, those seemingly arbitrary lists ranking all the NFL teams from strongest to weakest via poorly constructed arguments, barely-there facts, and bone-headed opinions? They seem to exist only to generate clicks and foster angry comments while disguised as “passionate debate.”

Well, then you’d better get out your screaming pillow, because this list just might send you off the deep end. We’re gonna do the same thing for movie trucks!

Important note! While these rankings may seem irrational, inconsistent, and entirely subjective, there is indeed a method to my madness. Rankings are not based on what would win in a head-to-head fight, but rather how impactful each truck is to its particular movie.

#9. The Fuel Tanker

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Movie: The Road Warrior (1982)

Strengths: Aggressive design, good attempt at defensive armaments

Weaknesses: Marauding gangs, needs backup for protection

While the Fuel Tanker from The Road Warrior may be iconic for its looks, its overall performance is lacking. The truck actually has very little screen time, and once the action begins, it essentially just drives in a straight line until until crashing. To add insult to injury, it was only a decoy and was never going to be a hero, but we don’t need another one of those.

#8. The Dreadnought

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Movie: Death Race (2008)

Strengths: Armed to the teeth with offensive weaponry, fantastic design

Weaknesses: Lack of maneuverability, Jason Statham

The Dreadnought might be the best looking truck here. It’s aggressive, apocalyptic design was clearly influential on a certain other rig that made this list. But all the firepower in the world can’t save The Dreadnought from being easily out-maneuvered and outwitted by smaller, more nimble race cars. It also loses points for lack of screen time in what is arguably Paul W.S. Anderson’s “best” movie.

#7. Unisol Transporter

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Movie: Universal Soldier (1992)

Strengths: Almost indestructible, trailer expands to double size for extra comfort

Weaknesses: Cliffs, gravity

The Unisol Transporter is beautiful, if a bit overwrought, but that’s to be expected in a Roland Emerich film. Though not intended for offense, the Transporter is a powerful adversary that is hard to take down. While its fate in nothing to be ashamed of (it ends up at the bottom of a cliff — a common end for several trucks on this list), it loses points for essentially being a glorified mobile home.

#6. The Rubber Duck

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Movie: Convoy (1978)

Strengths: Willing to stand up to the man, has its own theme song

Weaknesses: Bullets, bridges, gravity

The Rubber Duck makes the cut for being a symbol of defiance against those who would oppress, and for fighting the good fight when no one else would. Never backing down from a challenge and always having its friends’ backs, the Rubber Duck is one of the most noble entries on this list. However, it is not designed to fight, but to transport fuel. Though it may have lost its final battle, its legacy of standing up for the little guy lives on.

#5. Happy Toys Truck

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Movie: Maximum Overdrive (1986)

Strengths: Sentience, is your worst nightmare, probably has lots of cool toys

Weaknesses: Rocket launcher-wielding Emilio Estevez

When an alien comet magically brings every earthly machine to life, this truck leads the way. Without a human being behind the wheel, the Happy Toys truck only has two things on its mind: getting fuel and killing anyone who gets in the way. But even if the Happy Toys truck hadn’t run into its nemesis during the film’s finale, it would have eventually lost its powers once the comet passed earth. While many questions remain unanswered about the comet’s mysterious powers, the greatest is this: who the hell would design a toy truck that scares most kids to death?

#4. The Phantom Tanker

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Movie: Duel (1971)

Strengths: Relentless pursuit, ability to operate while clearly violating Department of Transportation regulations

Weaknesses: Cliffs, gravity

The original bad boy of movie trucks, The Phantom Tanker from Steven Spielberg’s first film is a pure predator. Once it sets its mind to something, it follows through to the bitter end — the license plates bolted to its bumper are trophies from previous kills. But just as other trucks on this list learned the hard way, you can’t outsmart the edge of a cliff, and you can’t kill gravity.

#3. The War Rig

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Movie: Mad Max: Fury Road (2015)

Strengths: Killer looks, plenty of nifty gadgets and defensive measures

Weaknesses: Bogs, overheating engines

Driven for social justice and powered by feminism, The War Rig is the ultimate weapon against both the apocalypse and Men’s Rights Activists. Though its design borrows heavily from The Dreadnought, it has plenty of cool tricks up its sleeve, like a locking accelerator pedal and a plow that can kick up enough sand to extinguish a fire. Even with two giant armies are sent to stop it, the only thing that can defeat the War Rig is its intentional self-destruction.

#2. Rusty Nail’s Truck

movie, film, truck, vehicle, knight rider, the fast and the furious, transformers, optimus prime, rusty nails, joy ride, mad max, fury road, the road warrior, war rig, phantom tanker, duel, happy toys, maximum overdrive, convoy, rubber duck, unisol, universal soldier, dreadnought, death race, fuel tanker

Movie: Joy Ride (2001)

Strengths: Godlike ability to track its prey, able to carve a path of destruction without alerting the authorities

Weaknesses: Can’t take a joke, straight-to-video sequels

On the outside, Rusty Nail’s Truck appears no different from any other Peterbilt 18-wheeler, but this is no ordinary truck. Rusty is virtually indestructible, with the ability to push cars around like toys, crash through buildings, and smash through other trucks, all the while avoiding authorities and almost anyone else with a pair of eyes. Though the truck was eventually destroyed, the spirit of Rusty Nail survived, found a new truck, and keeps driving. Stay off the CB radio if you know what’s good for you.

#1. Optimus Prime

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Movie: Transformers: Dark of the Moon (2011)

Strengths: An uncompromising leader, a valiant warrior, is Optimus Prime

Weaknesses: Power lines, Ehren Kruger’s screenwriting

It’s almost not fair. With a trailer full of weapons, a jet pack, and an axe in Megatron’s head, Optimus Prime dominates the competition, owning everything in sight in Dark of the Moon. He is both the constant voice of reason and a take-no-prisoners warrior. Some might call this “cognitive dissonance” or “internally inconsistent,”  but I call it fucking badass. He put an axe in Megatron’s head. He disemboweled Sentinel Prime, despite losing an arm. Sure, he got tangled up in some power lines for, like, twenty minutes while Chicago burned to the ground, but did I mention the axe in Megatron’s head?

Honorable Mention: Goliath (Knight Rider)

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Goliath is one badass truck that manages to get a rare beatdown on KITT.  Had he appeared in a movie instead of a TV show, he would have made the list.

Dishonorable Mention: The Four Trailer Fuel Tanker (Fast & Furious)

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Seriously, who the fuck hauls around four tanks of fuel?  That’s just dangerous.

Article by contributor WatershipDownSyndrome.

13 thoughts on “Movie Truck Power Rankings — What’s the Toughest?

  1. Regarding your Dishonorable mention… did you know Ralph Nader is currently leading a crusade in America to make sure that very type of thing remains illegal? Trucking companies are trying to make it legal. Nader really does only care about Road Safety.

  2. Thanks to everyone for reading. I figured there might be some controversy with my top 3, but that’s what Power Rankings are for… what would be your line up? Were there any significant trucks I missed? Obviously, this list focuses on strictly 18 wheelers and not things like tow trucks, fire trucks or pick ups, etc. I also tried to focus on trucks that played a significant role and/or had lots of screen time. I also didn’t want to load the list with other trucks from various Transformers movies. I briefly considered the trucks from Black Dog and Breakdown, but ultimately didn’t feel they were that memorable.

  3. For your Dishonorable Mention, are you not counting the first fuel tank because having one is standard, or is it really a Five Trailer Fuel Tanker? I ask because this kind of pointless semantics is what comment sections are really made for.

  4. Great article – OP definitely is #1 by a landslide. But “Dead Reckoning” from John Romero’s “Land of the Dead” would gut the rest of the list with its side-mounted .50 machine guns and rocket launchers, all while giving a kick-ass, Fourth-of-July-caliber fireworks show.

    https://youtu.be/88e3vpFmebw

    1. This – Dead Reckoning needed to be on this list – maybe not a Prime beater, but certainly a podium place.

    1. I considered it, but it is technically a tow truck. Including it would have opened up a huge can of worms as to what other kind of trucks to include and the list would have ballooned out of control. That’s why I went 18 wheelers only.

  5. Yea, the comment may be old, but as far as hauling 5 fuel tanks at once, that is nothing.

    Check out the Australian Road Trains. Those real world trucks would plow right through most of the trucks on this list, heh. They are the toughest trucks on the earth, weighing nearly twice as much as a typical American truck. BTW, a typical American truck alone without trailer is about 19,000 to 20,000lbs, while an Australian rig is just getting started at 35,000. Triple frames, full 6×6 drive, or even 8×8 drive, snorkel kits for fording through water 7 feet deep, all the while hauling 7 trailers weighing 100,000lbs… EACH across open trails that would bury a lifted 4×4 pickup.

    Biggest, baddest trucks on earth.

    Though I do have to say that my own truck is pretty badass itself, heh.

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