Smokey and the Bandit

Smokey and the Bandit Filming Locations

Smokey and the Bandit, Universal Pictures

Starring: Burt Reynolds, Sally Field, Jerry Reed, Jackie Gleason

Release Date: May 27, 1977

Director: Hal Needham (Directorial Debut)

Written by: Hal Needham & Robert L. Levy

Music by: Jerry Reed & Bill Justis

Red-Blooded, Southern Cinema

Smokey and the Bandit is one of those masterpieces of American Cinematography that reminds us of everything that we used to love about a fun, good, and entertaining night at the movies. Perhaps more importantly, it reminded us all that it was possible to have the time of your life, while engaging in some spontaneous bootlegging. If Coors truly is “The Banquet Beer,” as their slogan suggests, then Smokey and the Bandit was the Beer Company’s chariot ride into the hearts and imaginations of countless Americans, especially fun-loving Americans in the South.

Admittedly, Smokey and the Bandit is full of classic southern stereotypes, but this doesn’t seem to bother Southerners one bit. The fist Bandit film, followed by two more, are not embarrassing to Southern folk, especially not to Smokey fans. Instead, it’s a throwback to the stories of a younger, red-blooded, pedal-to-the-metal living that many local southern folk either lived, or heard about throughout the 20th century. Jerry Reed’s numerous contributions to the film’s tone, including the famous theme song (Eastbound and Down), and his spot-on performance as “Snowman,” Burt Reynold’s Truck-Driving cohort, add volumes to the throwback look, feel, sound, and portrayal of a very embraceable southern theme: lovable rebels vs. incompetent authority.

The Bandit trilogy was much more than an introduction to the on-screen, high-friction, intense chemistry between Sally Field and Burt Reynolds, it was a Southern work of cinematic art. Not necessarily in the Mona Lisa sense of artistry, but in the “Velvet Elvis” sense of classic, Southern, art. Bandit was a fun-time, seat-of-the-pants snapshot-of-Dixieland in the American 1970s. And quite frankly, it’s hard to imagine a world without Burt Reynolds and Jerry Reed making their immortal, cross-country beer run, picking up hitchhikers, dodging incompetent cops, and teaching us what heading “East Bound and Down” was really all about.

Rural Georgia and Douglas County’s Role in Smokey and the Bandit

Perhaps one of the reasons why Smokey and the Bandit was so successful in gaining the iconic status that the franchise attained was the fact that much of the movie was filmed in and around Southern towns, along Southern sections of Interstates and Highways, on small-town county roads, over bridges, and all around other vintage southern settings and landmarks. In fact, so many classic Southern settings were used for Smokey and the Bandit, that rampant rumors and claims about filming locations have become as much a part of the folklore of Bandit as the movie itself. Maybe this is because the filmmakers did such a great job of filming locations that were perfectly reminiscent of so many other southern towns. Many southern towns proudly lay some sort of claim to being part of Smokey and the Bandit trilogy. But truthfully, the state of Georgia, which is also legitimately part of the movie plot, was indeed a large contributor to the setting and tone of this beloved film franchise. Not to be left out of the equation, Douglas County was used for filming. Specifically, a strip of interstate heading down I-20, West of Highway 5, was used for an important series of chase scenes by the Bandit. Other Douglas County sites have long been rumored to be part of Smokey and the Bandit, including the Old Seven Flags Speedway, strips of Highway 166, and several other spots. A case could be made for several locations.