Follow TV Tropes


Film / Smokey and the Bandit

Go To
The star of the movie with the other star.

"East bound and down, loaded up and truckin'..."

Smokey and the Bandit is a 1977 action comedy film directed by Hal Needham, starring Burt Reynolds, Sally Field, Jackie Gleason, and country singer Jerry Reed (who also sang the franchise's theme song, "East Bound and Down"). It is the Trope Codifier of the "Moonshiner on the run from Corrupt Hick cops" movie (even though, technically, moonshine had nothing to do with the plot of the films).

The plot revolves around truck driver Bo "Bandit" Darville (Reynolds), who is offered $80,000 to bootleg four hundred cases of Coors beernote  from Texarkana, Texas, to the Southern Classic truck rodeo in Georgia within 28 hours. The Bandit recruits fellow trucker Cledus "Snowman" Snow (Reed) to make the journey with him, with the Bandit's Pontiac Firebird Trans Am acting as a blocker for Snowman's rig. On the journey back, the Bandit picks up a Runaway Bride named Carrie (Field), making him the target of the jilted groom's father, Sheriff Buford T. Justice (Gleason). Hilarity and a chase across the South ensue.

Smokey was the second highest-grossing movie of 1977, beaten to the #1 spot by a small indie sci-fi picture called Star Wars, and established Burt Reynolds as one of the biggest stars in Hollywood in the late '70s and early '80s. Two sequels were made, Smokey and the Bandit II in 1980 and Smokey and the Bandit Part 3 in 1983, the latter with Gleason and Reed but sans Reynolds and Field (Reed's Snowman becoming a "new" Bandit), though Reynolds makes a cameo near the end. They did not end up doing as well in competition with the respective Star Wars films at the box office. In 1994, a grand total of four made-for-TV Bandit movies based upon the original trilogy were produced. They were subsequently released in a box set along with the original three, likely surprising many fans unaware of their existence.

Worth noting is that Alfred Hitchcock once named the first film as his favorite movie ever made.

Breaker, breaker, Bandit Lister, this is Trope Reader, what kinda tropes ya haulin'?

    open/close all folders 

     Smokey and the Bandit 
  • Actor Allusion: "Soon as I get home, first thing I'm gonna do is punch yo mamma in the mouth". Is your wife's name by any chance Alice, Sheriff? He also threatens to kick Junior "over the moon."
  • All Bikers are Hells Angels: Snowman runs afoul of a denim-clad biker gang at a choke-n-puke, and they pick a fight with him. He returns the favor by running over their bikes.
  • The Alleged Car: Buford's police cruiser becomes this as it gets smashed to hell. A Running Gag in the sequels, naturally:
  • Ambiguous Syntax: When Frog mentions that she's a professional while she and Bo are talking about her legs, Bo replies that she shouldn't be wearing white for a wedding. Frog glares at him before saying that she's a dancer. It isn't clear whether he actually thinks she's a prostitute or is just teasing her.
  • Anti-Villain: Buford T. Justice.
  • Are You Sure You Can Drive This Thing?: "I can drive any fork'n thing around."
  • Artistic License Geography: Supposedly, Texarkana, Texas is 900 miles from Atlanta, whereas in the real world, it's only 650, even avoiding interstates. Turning the "impossible" 28 hour round trip into something that is completely doable even obeying the speed limit. The Sequel hook of going from Atlanta to Boston and back in 18 hours, though, is completely impossible save by planenote .
  • Artistic License Law Enforcement: Sheriff Buford T. Justice pursues The Bandit far outside his Texas county jurisdiction, across multiple state lines. Whenever he's called out on it, he insists he's in the middle of a high-speed pursuit and there's no way to break it off. While he may be able to get away with this (to a point) while remaining in Texas, once the pursuit crosses state lines he would have to break it off and allow law enforcement from that state to take over.
  • Aside Glance: The Bandit gives one after hiding behind a building from the cops.
  • Asimov's Three Kinds of Science Fiction: The film delves into the hypothetical social implications of citizen-band radio, a recently invented real-life technology. In the film, CB radio finds itself being used for crime, law enforcement, entrapment, and social resistance. It also gets a whole community revolving around it.
  • Badass Boast
  • Badass Driver: The Bandit.
  • Bar Brawl: Snowman gets his ass kicked in one after his dog, Fred, bites one of the patrons. He gets his revenge.
  • Blatant Lies: After addressing the black Branford as "boy," Buford says the reason he didn't recognize him as the local sheriff is because he "sounded taller on the radio."
  • Bowdlerise: The TV edit replaced "sum'bitch," Buford's Catchphrase, with "scum bum". This phrase wound up becoming quite popular with children at the time. Years later, when Hot Wheels released a '70s Firebird Trans Am toy car, it had the word "scum bum" on the back as a reference to the TV edit.
  • Breaking the Fourth Wall: The Bandit does this when he smiles at the audience after eluding a cop on the way to Texarkana.
  • Buffy Speak: Frog's comprehension of CB lingo leaves a bit to be desired.
    I got the metal to the petal and the thing to the floor!
  • Butt-Monkey: Junior, hands down.
  • Captain Obvious:
    Junior: Daddy, the top came off.
    Buford T. Justice: No shit.
  • Casual Car Giveaway: At the end, Big Enos gives Bo the keys to his convertible, leaving him with an even dozen.
  • Catchphrase: From Buford T. Justice:
    • "I'm in the MIDDLE of a HOT PURSUIT!"
    • "Sum'bitch!" (Not to mention "Scum Bum!" — the infamous TV edit version of the latter.)
  • Chewing the Scenery: Buford T. Justice.
  • City Mouse: Carrie, a Broadway dancer who is implied to be from New England (judging by her comment about taking a bus up to Jersey and walking the rest of the way home).
  • Clueless Deputy: Junior.
  • Cool Car: The Bandit's black Trans Am. It's not for nothing that the caption under the poster refers to it as "the other star" of the film.
  • Small-Town Tyrant: Buford T. Justice has no idea that The Bandit is hauling illegal beer, which would have justified the pursuit at least within his jurisdiction — if not for the fact that he leaves said jurisdiction almost immediately. His pursuit is entirely for personal reasons and thus qualifies as being corrupt. Of course, the titular Bandit is breaking the law left and right, so neither party comes to the plot with clean hands.
  • Cut His Heart Out with a Spoon: Buford delivers a classic.
    Buford T. Justice: I'm gonna barbeque your ass in molasses!
  • Cyclic National Fascination: This film, along with the CW McCall song "Convoy", helped to kick off the CB radio and trucker fads in the late '70s.
  • Deep South: However, Buford T. Justice is the only southern Stereotype and he's not supposed to be taken seriously. Likewise, he's the only character in the entire movie who displays any racism, so it's taken in the same manner many characters in Blazing Saddles are viewed. The rest of the movie is actually quite progressive. Notice that several black characters interact with white characters in a manner that would've been unthinkable, possibly even illegal, just a few years before. There's also an Asian and woman trucker who are portrayed as being very competent and aren't stereotypes in any way. Finally, Sally Field's character chooses not to enter a loveless marriage and quickly becomes a very useful member of the team. None of this is portrayed in a preachy manner.
  • Dispense with the Pleasantries: At the conclusion, Bandit and Sheriff Justice are in virtual arm's reach as they communicate through C.B. radio:
    Bandit: (to Justice on C.B.) You must be part coon dog. 'Cause I've been chased by the best of 'em, but you make 'em all look like they're running in slow motion. Just want to tell you that.
    Justice: (a bit humbled) Well, thank you kindly, Mr. Bandit. And may I just say that as the pursuer, you're about the God damndest pursuee I ever pursued. Now that the mutual bullshit is over...WHERE ARE YOU, YOU SUM'BITCH??!!
  • Dynamic Entry: The door for the Coors warehouse is locked, so The Bandit kicks in the door.
  • Early-Installment Weirdness: Burt Reynolds' character is so widely associated with driving the fancy Trans Am featured in this film and the ones that followed that the early scenes in this first movie showing him actually driving a big rig feel downright strange. Also, while still hilariously over-the-top, this film is not as cartoonish as the sequels that follow.
  • Epic Race: Against the clock. Big and Little Enos bet the Bandit and Snowman $80,000 dollars (over $300K in today's money) that they can't drive out to Texarkana, pick up a shipment of Coors, and then drive it back to Atlanta within 28 hours.
  • Expecting Someone Taller: Played with by Buford saying a black sheriff "sounded a little taller on radio." It's really an attempt to downplay his racism.
  • Greasy Spoon: A rest-stop burger joint is referred to as a "Choke-and-puke" over the CB radio; in CB slang, the term is used to refer to truck stop restaurants in general due to the less-than-ideal quality of the food served in such places.
  • Grey-and-Gray Morality: Buford is breaking the law by continuing his pursuit of the Bandit by justifying that he is trying to dispense justice against "a maniac" but it is mostly because he feels insulted for Carrie leaving his son at the altar which then morphs into Buford wanting to apprehend the Bandit because the Bandit is Moby Dick to Buford's Ahab; but he is right in the fact that The Bandit has threatened the lives of many officers. The Bandit is running as a blocker for an illegal shipment of beer... not for any good cause but because of money and glory; it is only by sheer luck that most of the stunts pulled by Bandit does not result in the loss of innocent life. However, Bandit is helping a young woman escape from a marriage that she was not prepared for. And he is just so damn charming that you can't view him as a total villain and neither can anyone in the movie.
  • Hollywood CB: Averted, mostly. Perhaps the Trope Codifier. Many learned their CB lingo from this and similar movies.
  • Hollywood Law: Sheriff Buford T. Justice is under the impression that being in 'hot pursuit' means that he has the authority to pursue the Bandit wherever he goes. That's not exactly how it works. That part of the hot pursuit doctrine does grant him the authority to chase Bandit over the county line (it was written so the police would not be hamstrung by red tape when dealing with criminals who immediately cross the border to another jurisdiction). He would not have the authority to continue chasing him all the way across that county and into the next, and the next, and the next, and the next, ultimately resulting in a chase across multiple states. There is a point where Buford would be obliged to turn over the chase to people with either local jurisdiction for that region (the other local sheriffs) or simply a wider jurisdiction (state police or the FBI). Though even that could cause some potential difficulties, as at the beginning of the chase Buford didn't even have any proof that Bandit was doing anything illegal (yes, he was hauling several hundred cases of beer that was illegal to ship in bulk to that part of the country at the time, but Buford didn't know that), he was chasing the man for purely personal reasons. Making the entire pursuit illegal even within Buford's own jurisdiction.
  • Hollywood Police Driving Academy: Any and all cops that appear in this series graduated with honors, but Buford may as well have done a stint as dean for his sheer epic levels of vehicular demolition.
  • Hot Pursuit: Buford T. Justice seems to be under the impression that declaring he's doing this will allow him to continue chasing Bandit all over the United States without being disturbed by other law enforcement.
  • Inspector Javert: Buford. He's Right for the Wrong Reasons, though — Bandit is committing multiple felonies, but Sheriff Justice begins his pursuit out of Disproportionate Retribution, adds multiple made-up charges as he goes along (on top of any real ones) and tops it off by having complete disregard of jurisdiction.
  • Instant Convertible: In his wild pursuit of The Bandit, Sheriff Justice's patrol car eventually loses its top, among other things.
  • Jurisdiction Friction: At least one cop per film will question Sheriff Justice on what the hell he's doing so far away from his jurisdiction. Buford will insist that he's in "hot pursuit" and to get the hell out of his way. The plot will always prevent him from getting in deeper trouble (usually because said cop gets distracted by Bandit).
  • The Lancer: Snowman to the Bandit.
  • Large Ham: Jackie Gleason turns it up to eleven in nearly every scene, and is clearly enjoying himself while doing it.
  • Last Disrespects: An inconveniently-placed funeral procession gets Sheriff Justice so annoyed, he wishes they'd have burned the stiff already so that he could go ahead and nab Bandit then and there.
  • Lemming Cops: Any cop that tries to chase the Bandit ends up either in a ditch, on their roof or buried in a multicar pileup.
  • Lovable Rogue: Bandit. Everywhere he goes there are people lining up to help him out or at least cheer him on.
  • Malaproper: Buford has entered Desha County, Arkansas in his pursuit of the Bandit. When Sheriff Branford tells him he's out of jurisdiction and the fact that Buford being a sheriff isn't germane to the situation, Buford splutters "The Goddamn Germans got nothin' to do with it!"
  • Male Gaze: The camera lingers on Carrie's ass for about five seconds as she's reaching into the backseat.
  • Metallicar Syndrome:
    • The black 1977 Pontiac Firebird Trans Am is actually an aversion, as the entire point of The Bandit's car is to draw Smokey's attention away from the tractor-trailer he is escorting.
    • Snowman's rig is pulling a trailer with a large custom-painted mural on the side, which is very out of place for someone ostensibly trying to blend in with the hundreds of other 18 wheelers on the highway hauling plain white trailers or ones with less-conspicuous industrial graphics.
  • The Mountains of Illinois:
    • While northern Georgia has mountains, Northeastern Texas does not, as the nearest is 100 miles to the north.
    • An early scene has Bo and Cledus heading back and are in Arkansas. A shot framing the back window of Bo's car clearly shows a Georgia state highway sign.
  • Motorcycle Dominoes: After Snowman gets beat up by bikers because his dog supposedly bit one of them, he stumbles outside and sees their bikes lined up. So he gets in his semi and runs over the entire line of them on his way out of the parking lot.
  • Ms. Fanservice: Carrie is played by a young Sally Field, and the director takes advantage of this fact.
  • Noodle Incident: Junior and Carrie's wedding can almost qualify, but a clearer example is this exchange:
    Buford: Nobody, nobody makes Sheriff Buford T. Justice look like a possum's pecker!
    Junior: Except for that-
    Buford: Shut your ass.
  • No Warrant? No Problem!: Sheriff Justice abuses the "hot pursuit" rule to the point of absolute insanity throughout the trilogy (a more detailed explanation can be seen in the "Hollywood Law" bullet point).
  • Only Known by Their Nickname: Bandit's real name is Bo Darville, but this is almost never mentioned.
  • Parental Hypocrisy: Sheriff Justice swears a blue streak, but doesn't want people using foul language in front of his son.
  • Percussive Maintenance: Buford's car horn jams at one point and he's unable to fix it, but an irate state trooper giving the car a good kick shuts it up.
  • Plot Hole: Buford never learns about the illegal cargo of beer; The Bandit never learns that the man that Frog left at the altar is Buford's son.
  • Politically Incorrect Villain: Buford, as seen with his reaction to finding out that Sheriff Branford is black. To say nothing of the casual sexism and homophobia.
    Buford: Hey boy! Where's Sheriff Branford?
    Branford: I am Sheriff Branford.
    Buford: Oh OK. Hell, for some reason or another you sounded a little taller on radio. [turns to Buford Jr.] What in the hell is the world coming to?
  • Porn Stache: Burt Reynolds, naturally.
  • Product Delivery Ordeal: The story concerns the delivery of a truckload of Coors beer to Georgia. Two problems: 1) at the time, it was illegal to ship Coors to the eastern United States, and 2) to make the delivery in time, they'll have to break the speed limit the entire way, getting them chased by the police (or, in 70's trucker parlance, "Smokey"). The movie's first sequel, Smokey and the Bandit II, uses the same plot, but the cargo is a live elephant.
  • Ramming Always Works: Snowman rams through the final police roadblock and saves the run.
  • Ramp Jump: The "Reynolds Ramp" originator.
  • Road Runner vs. Coyote: Let's just say the Bandit and Snowman assume the roles of the Road Runner, managing to elude capture, while Sheriff Buford and the many policemen that pursue them collectively assume the role of the unfortunate Coyote.
  • Runaway Bride: Carrie.
  • Screw the Rules, I Have Connections!: Defied. Sheriff Branford tells his deputy that he doesn't care if his deputy is the mayor's kid, if he wrecks the patrol car it's coming out of the deputy's pay. The deputy stops just short of going off Mulberry Bridge, only for Buford to rear-end him and knock him into the creek.
  • The Sheriff: Buford T. Justice.
    • Sheriff Branford is set up as Buford's polar opposite — laconic, deadpan, and much more professional than the hot-tempered and impulsive Texas lawman.
  • Shout-Out: Much of Buford's dialogue in the TV Edit was redubbed by Henry Corden, whose most famous character Fred Flintstone was inspired by Gleason's most famous character Ralph Kramden.
  • Smokescreen Crime: The Bandit leads law enforcement on a wild goose chase in his Trans Am in order to divert attention from his partner's truck full of illegally imported beer.
  • Sound-Effect Bleep: The only way they kept a PG rating.
    Officer: I hope you'll accept my apologies for my profanity.
    Buford T. Justice: Apology accepted. Now, (mouths "fuck off" but is bleeped out by truck horn)
  • Take the Wheel: Lampshaded; Frog and The Bandit learn it's harder to do this than it looks. Also a This Is Reality moment as Bandit comments that it seems easier in the movies.
  • This Is for Emphasis, Bitch!: In this case, This Is For Emphasis, Sum'bitch!
  • Time Marches On: It was illegal to ship Coors in bulk to the southeastern US in the 70s because back then Coors was a regional brand that hadn't bothered to get distribution licenses for areas they didn't have the capacity to expand into. Nowadays Coors is a national brand that is licensed everywhere in the US, so there would be no need to bootleg something they could just order openly.
  • Worthy Opponent: Parodied. The Bandit plays with Buford by praising his skills while parked directly beside him without Buford's knowledge. Buford takes the Bandit seriously and returns the praise, though it's more of a formality.
    Bandit: You must be part coon dog. 'Cause I've been chased by the best of 'em, but you make 'em all look like they're running in slow motion.
    Buford: May I just say as the pursuer, you're just about the Goddamndest pursue-ee I ever pursued!
  • You Have No Idea Who You're Dealing With: Buford.
  • Your Mom:
    • Little Enos tries to bait Bandit into accepting the dare by hinting he's too cowardly to take up the challenge. An amused Bandit asks Little Enos why he doesn't just insult his mother while he's at it. Little Enos replies, "Your mama's so ugly..." before Big Enos cuts him off.
    • A version of Your Mom is a Running Gag with Buford and Junior — Buford insults Junior's mother, but she is of course Buford's wife. Then again, "There is no way — no WAY — that you sprang from my loins."

     Smokey and the Bandit II 
  • Ambiguously Gay: Gaylord Justice, who dresses and talks in an effeminate style compared to his brothers. The close proximity and perpetual smile on his deputy's face seems to indicate that they might be in a stronger relationship than just their profession. However, other than the Credits Gag below, nothing confirms whether he's homosexual or not.
  • Breaking the Fourth Wall: Bandit turns to the camera and tells the audience Frog still loves him.
  • Brick Joke: The first time Buford's watch goes off, he explains that it uses an algorithm developed by a pair of monks to detect stress. When it goes off while he's chewing out Junior over ruining his attempt to arrest The Bandit, he looks at it and snaps "Shut your ass! And that goes for the two monks too!"
  • Car Fu: Buford's team of Mounties and Texas Rangers vs. the Bandit and Snowman's team of 18-wheelers. Guess who wins.
  • The Cavalry: Snowman invokes this by bringing along some friends to save the Bandit.
  • Credits Gag: Owing to Jackie Gleason acting as Buford's brothers, the credits list him three times. As an additional gag, the credits for Buford and Reginald list him as "Mr. Jackie Gleason" while the credit for Gaylord lists him as "Ms. Jackie Gleason".
  • Denser and Wackier: This film is more cartoonish and slapstick-y than the original film.
  • Hard-Work Montage: Bandit even races racehorses.
  • Informed Flaw: Bandit, with regards to alcoholism, or at least being out of shape for drinking too many beers. Somewhat averted when he has to go through the Hard-Work Montage to work it off, but even beforehand he still looks in pretty good shape.
  • It Works Better with Bullets: Double Subverted. When the Bandit is about to leave the shipping yard, Buford blocks his path while holding his gun on him. The Bandit calls his marksmanship into question and tricks him into using up all of his ammo. However, Buford catches on and has Junior give him his gun. When the Bandit tries to escape, Buford tries to shoot him... and discovers Junior's gun is empty too. The Bandit makes a clean getaway.
    Buford: Why didn't you have your gun loaded?!
  • Know When to Fold 'Em: Played with when Buford considers retirement following his attempt to capture the Bandit failing once again. Only to be subverted when Buford resumes his pursuit, now driving a Greyhound shuttle.
  • Lighter and Softer: Bandit, Snowman, and Frog end up hauling an elephant in place of beer.
  • Logo Joke: The Trans Am being chased around the Universal logo by the police car, before crashing and following with the Bandit's laugh.
  • Mass "Oh, Crap!": Several times.
  • Rule of Cool: The ambush that Snowman's allies set for Sheriff Justice's army of cops.
  • Running Gag: During his introduction, Buford reveals that his watch detects stress in the wearer and sounds an alarm when it gets too high. It goes off several times through the movie.
  • Somebody Doesn't Love Raymond: The city gas station attendant who puts the Bandit on his list of assholes. He puts the Bandit in the top two. Bandit doesn't take it very well, even threatening to beat him up over it.
  • Shout-Out: Reginald Van Justice of the Mounties is one to one of Jackie Gleason's old sketch-comedy characters, Reginald Van Gleason III.
  • Singing Mountie: Buford T. Justice's cousin Reginald Van Justice is a Canadian Mountie who sings through all of his scenes.
  • Tempting Fate: After the Bandit crossed over the trucks, Buford attempted to do the same, until two trucks moved forward.
    Buford: The Bandit ain't the only dare devil.
    • An earlier example comes when Buford sees the Bandit and attempts to jump the bridge. The car gets wedged onto the bridge, before ultimately falling in the water.
  • Took a Level in Jerkass: The Bandit, largely due to his obsession with fame and money over everyone else's well-being — including Charlotte's. In fact, he still has his heart set on getting the job done after Charlotte conceives a baby in a zoo area at night.
  • Took a Level in Kindness: Then again, the Bandit does calm notably after he spots a tear from Charlotte's eye. So much so that he decides to put the elephants first over Big and Little Enos, and mends things up with Frog.
  • Uncanny Family Resemblance: Buford's brothers, Reginald Van Justice and Gaylord Justice; like Buford, they're played by Jackie Gleason.
  • Your Other Left
    Security Officer: First dock on the left.
    Bandit: Right.
    Security Officer: No, left.

     Smokey and the Bandit Part 3 
     Bandit: Bandit Goes Country 
     Bandit: Bandit Bandit 
     Bandit: Beauty and the Bandit 
     Bandit: Bandit's Silver Angel 

That's a big 10-4!


Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): Smokey And The Bandit II, Smokey And The Bandit Part 3


Bandit knows he's the best

You can't make a bootlegging run for illegal beer without a decoy car, and Bandit is the best decoy on either side of the Mississippi. He knows it, too.

As Burt Reynolds drove past the camera, director Hal Needham told him to look straight down the barrel, and a legend was born.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (6 votes)

Example of:

Main / BreakingTheFourthWall

Media sources: