Bo Darville, aka The Bandit, is a semi-retired trucker legend, working in a trucking rodeo. He is approached by a shady father and son tycoon team (Big and Little Enos Burdett) who are planning a big party. Only problem is, in 1978 America, due to arcane liquor laws, it was illegal to ship Coors beer east of Texas...and the Burdetts wanted some for their Atlanta, Georgia shindig. 400 cases of it.
The Burdetts offer The Bandit $80,000 dollars to get the brews in Texarkana, Texas and bring them back to Atlanta in 28 hours. Enter Cledus Snow, "The Snowman." Bandit convinces Cledus to drive the beer truck, while he will run blocker--distracting Smokey, just like in their heyday. With Cledus convinced, the decoy is revealed...a 1977 black Pontiac Trans Am with gold eagle paint scheme, one of the most iconic automotive symbols in American film history.
Like the Battle of Troy is to Odysseus, securing of the brew is just the beginning. Now, they just gotta get it home. How hard could that be? They would have made it with hours to spare, save for their paths crossing with the disruption of the wedding of the soon to be blushing new couple, Deputy Buford T. and Mrs. Carrie Justice, Jr. Seems the almost-Mrs. Justice got second thoughts at the altar, and "danced back up the aisle", apologizing to Junior all the way. On her way out of the church, she flags down the first car to pass...Bandit Darville's Trans Am. She hops in, wedding dress and veil (for awhile at least), flapping in the T-tops. She introduces herself to The Bandit, who eventually names her Frog, as she's prone to hoppin'. Hey, you try getting out of a wedding train in a 70s American muscle car going 110 miles an hour.
Back at the Justice wedding, the father of the groom is beside himself with rage. As he exits the church, Sherriff Buford T. Justice--OF TEXAS!!--is informed that the harlot who has embarassed him in front of his town sped away at harrowing speeds...in a black Trans Am. The pursuit is on!!
Cledus is making good time in the beer truck, although an unscheduled swim with his co-pilot (Bassett Hound Fred) and a truck stop fight with a group of grizzled bikers lose him valuable minutes. Meanwhile, chemistry is sparking up ahead between Bandit and Frog. He even takes his hat off, which he only does for one thing...and one thing, only. As Texas turns to Arkansas, suddenly something becomes apparent...Sherriff Justice is still in pursuit, and he loses another marble with each new insult to his police vehicle.
Many, many police cruisers are destroyed. An unfinished suspension bridge is jumped...and then, not. Diablo sandwiches. The rocking chair. Hot Pants. Finally, the entire Georgia State Police force, complete with helicopter, join the chase. In a stunning climax of events, the deadline is met...and the money is collected from Enos and enos. OK, not really. A double-or-nothing deal is struck for some Boston clam chowder (in 18 hours), and off run Bandit, Frog, and the Snowman in their new candy apple red Cadillac. Bandit, via the police band of his ever-present CB, finally presents himself to Buford...eventually. Tipping him off to their next destination, they speed away...heading north to New England. Sherriff Justice peels out of the parking lot, leaving Junior behind...obediently chasing Daddy. Who else, after all, is going to hold his hat?