Working Iron Blog

Rolling iron and box office receipts

When it comes to trucks in the movies, everybody’s got their favorite, be it Smokey & The Bandit, Convoy, maybe even the dreaded Patrick Swayze schlock film Black Dog.

But here’s a question that’s rarely asked: how do movies based around trucking – or sporting trucks as central characters, so to speak – fare in terms of box office receipts? In other words, do they make big money?

You can answer that question in two words: it depends.

That’s because, after pouring over the top 625 films in terms of U.S. box office receipts last week, the conditions for trucks and trucking to rake in big film-making bucks vary widely.

In terms of pure trucking movies – ones that feature freight hauling rigs and drivers mirroring their “real lives” to at least some degree – Smokey & The Bandit is the only film that makes the list.

Released in 1977, it is ranked 405th with total U.S. box office receipts of over $126.7 million.

By comparison, however, Star Wars came out that same year … and is ranked 7th with $460.9 million in gross U.S. receipts to date.

Now, if we want to talk about vehicles as central characters in films – cars and trucks alike – the picture shifts a little bit.

The movie Cars, of course, centers on vehicles that talk. Issued in 2006, it is ranked 95th with just over $244.05 million in U.S. box office receipts.

However, the sequel Cars 2, did not fare quite as well. Released in 2011, it is ranked 170th on the list at just over $191.45 million (though that still beats the Snowman and his fancy Kenworth by a good country mile).

The biggest box office revenue generators where trucks are concerned, however, are the Transformer movies – far and away, they’ve grossed the most.

For what it’s worth, the Transformers started out as toys created by Japanese toymaker Hasbro in the 1980s – interstellar robots capable of “morphing” into different motorized equipment, such as trucks, cars, planes, etc.

They became central figures in a popular cartoon TV series back in the 1980s as well – even starring in a big time animated film in 1986 – before fading into obscurity.

That all changed when Steven Spielberg and director Michael Bay revitalized the Transformers with (so far) four “live action” films packed with the lasted computer generated imagery (CGI) – featuring the Optimus Prime, the leader of the “good guy” robots or Autobots, whose vehicle “alter ego” is a highway tractor.

Yet, interestingly, the financial performance of those films is out of synch with their chronological release dates.

The second film in the series, Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, is the biggest box office winner to date. Released in 2009, it is ranked 20th at $402 million.

The third film in the series, Transformers: Dark Side of the Moon and released in 2011, is ranked 29th at $352.3 million, while the first film in the series – released in 2007 and entitled simply Transformers (and the one I like the most) – ranks 39th at $318.7 million.

Yet the latest installment of this robotic franchise – Transformers: Age of Extinction, released in 2014 – only made $245.4 million so far, garnering just 94th place on the all-time U.S. box office money list.

Still, taken together, that’s a pretty impressive haul for trucks playing central roles in the movies; a haul that doesn’t include some of their “tangential” appearances like in Mad Max: Fury Road (released this year and already ranked 287th with $149.06 million).

Nice when big iron gets to be a Hollywood star, eh?

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