We theoretically analyze linear and nonlinear coherent propagation of linearly polarized, plane-wave, resonant single-cycle terahertz pulses through spatially extended rigid-rotor molecular media. Our model incorporates mixed state medium preparation, nonperturbative nonlinearities, saturation, coherence, memory effects, and propagation, but ignores the effects of damping. Explicit solutions are reported in the linear propagation regime. These solutions are the multilevel superposition of linear, single-cycle 0π pulses, and appear as temporal beats in the time domain. For media initially in thermal equilibrium, the pulse and molecular beats are dispersive and broaden temporally with increased propagation distance. In the simplified limit of equal rotational line strength (an idealized situation), the emitted impulses are exact temporal copies of the input pulse. An efficient, scalable computational method for solving the reduced multilevel Maxwell-Bloch equations for molecular media is reported. This method is based on a standard differential method for the propagation equation together with an operator splitting method for the Bloch equations. It invokes neither the slowly varying envelope (SVEA) or rotating wave approximations (RWA), and incorporates a large number of possible energy eigenstates (we solve for 7744 levels). Case studies of nonlinear single-cycle pulse propagation are then provided by means of computer solutions. In the nonlinear regime, we observe strong molecular orientations and suppression of the pulse and orientational revivals predicted by linear theory. For sufficiently strong pulses, coherent bleaching effects lead to increased transmission of the driving pulse, which also bears signs of self-modulation and carrier-shock formation. ©2015 American Physical Society.