Burt Reynolds, left, Sally Field and Jerry Reed gave cops fits in ‘Smokey and the Bandit.’ (Photo: Universal Studios)
Vin Diesel and the late Paul Walker leveled up four-wheeled insanity with the Fast and Furious movies, but what their fans might not know is that Burt Reynolds made it cool decades earlier with 1977’s Smokey and the Bandit. Director (and former stuntman) Hal Needham’s Southern-fried action comedy took the box office by storm: It was the second-biggest movie of the year (raking in $127 million), right behind a little film called Star Wars.
The Bandit turns 40 on May 27, and the film is returning to select theaters Sunday and Wednesday for its anniversary. If you love Fast and Furious car chases, you’ll dig Reynolds’ speedy mindset, but here are six other ways that Bandit shares common ground with its Diesel-powered successors.
Its heroes embrace the outlaw way.
The Bandit (Burt Reynolds) and his partner in crime (Sally Field) in ‘Smokey and the Bandit.’ (Photo: Universal Studios)
While Dom Toretto (Diesel) and Bo “Bandit” Darville (Reynolds) may be fun to root for, they don’t exactly abide by the law. Dom’s an illegal street racer who hijacks trucks, and the Bandit is on a bootlegging mission to haul 400 cases of Coors beer from Texarkana, Texas, to Atlanta in 28 hours. Dom isn’t a one-man show, though, and neither is Bandit, who picks up runaway bride and love interest Carrie (Sally Field) on the way.
There’s a definite love for American muscle.
The Furious movies have an endless supply of automobiles, though Dom prefers his Dodge Chargers over pretty much everything else. The Bandit likes his sports cars from the USA as well, choosing a Pontiac Firebird Trans Am as his speedy vehicle of choice. Fun fact: For those who need their own Bandit car, 77 Special Edition models were made last year that’ll set you back around $115,000.
True bromance blooms between its main characters.
It’s manly love almost at first sight between Dom and Brian (Walker) in the original Furious, with a healthy amount of tension and playful needling. The best friendship between Bandit and his partner Cledus “Snowman” Snow (Jerry Reed) is just as pure: Snowman hauls the booze in his big rig while his good buddy plays the role of blocker, getting Smokeys (aka cops) off his tail. (One thing the Fast movies never had was a mascot as cute as Snowman’s basset hound Fred.)
Cue the over-the-top lawmen with scores to settle.
Dom and his crew met their match when government agent Luke Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson) went after them in Fast Five. The Bandit and his shenanigans earn the ire of Texas Sheriff Buford T. Justice (Jackie Gleason), a high-strung, egotistical cop who’s in hot pursuit of both Bandit and Carrie — the woman who left Justice’s milquetoast son at the altar. Hobbs’ muscles regularly stretch his wardrobe, just as Justice’s gut is about to bust out of his uniform, probably from consuming many diablo sandwiches.
Supporting cast lend the breakout tunes.
Ludacris became part of the onscreen Fast family with 2 Fast 2 Furious, and he had a hit single with Act a Fool. In addition to playing Snowman in Bandit, Reed was a popular country singer who sang a few songs on the soundtrack, including the upbeat and catchy East Bound and Down — which reached No. 2 on the Billboard country singles charts.
Crazy things no one should do in a car? Check and check.
The Furious films are infamous for their action set pieces, which have involved tanks, moving trains, submarines and zombie cars. Smokey and the Bandit pushed the envelope for ’77: Carrie drives the Trans Am through a youth football game (taking out a press box in the process), while Bandit leaps the broken Mulberry Bridge with ease in one of the film’s signature scenes. “I want to jump something else!” Carrie shouts excitedly. “Jump me,” Bandit deadpans.
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