The Best Road Trip Movies Ever
We all like an adventure. There is just something about breaking out of our normal routines, our day to day, and heading out in the pursuit of something different.
Vessels for such excitement have long been our cars and vehicles. They provide us with the freedom to just get out there and explore the world around us. Whether with friends or family, road trips can be liberating, fun, and sometimes even life changing.
It’s not hard to see why so many of cinema’s greatest films have a road trip at their very core. It’s a wonderful narrative tool in which to tell a story, and evokes something strong in audiences. So with that being said, we thought we would compile our list of the best road trip movies ever. Take a look, and see if you agree with our picks.
Little Miss Sunshine
When thinking about successful indie movies, one tends to think of Little Miss Sunshine. This film made an impressive $100 million armed with only an $8 million budget. Very impressive indeed. And when one thinks of road trip movies, this delightful little flick featuring a top cast that includes Steve Carell, is one of the first that comes to mind.
The film tells a heartfelt story about a dysfunctional family that travels across the country with the goal of entering their youngest daughter in a beauty pageant. The cast of characters is buzzing with personalities, all unique in their own way, making the film a true pleasure to watch.
The road trip in question, as so often is the case, is therapeutic for those involved, and helps to bring the family together. Through all the pain, the journey embarked on helps them realise their love for each other, and Little Miss Sunshine wonderfully represents the power of road trip movies.
This one is a classic, and perfectly encapsulates the time period from whence it came. Easy Rider, which was made in 1969, is a crazy adventure all about the pursuit of freedom and the old American way.
Starring Dennis Hopper and Peter Fonda, this iconic film tells a tale of two men at the end of the 60’s, looking for the last remnants of the free spirit, and the liberated lifestyle that they want to cling to. Travelling from LA to New Orleans on their motorcycles, the two are trying to reach their destination in time for Mardi Gras, but what they find along the way is not what they were hoping or expecting.
It turns out that their country is changing, and not as accepting of unique and colourful free spirits as it once was. Getting into all kinds of trouble, this is a road trip movie in all senses of the word, and perhaps the most definitive addition to the genre.
Thelma & Louise
Another iconic picture of the road trip genre, Thelma and Louise has been copied and spoofed over the years but it has endured as a truly memorable movie about the oppression of two women and a special friendship that is born.
Following two ladies, Geena Davis and Susan Sarandon, as Thelma and Louise respectively, we watch them on their two day road trip vacation, fleeing the entrapment that both have felt in their lives. The film’s themes are complex, and the movie itself hard hitting, with one of the more iconic endings in cinematic history.
Along with the darkness however, there is definite light in this movie. Full of humour and colourful characters, this is truly a road trip story for the ages, and one that is worthy of its place on this list.
This film, a critical and commercial success upon its release in 1988, ended up spawning three sequels, such was its appeal. Midnight Run starred Robert De Niro and Charles Grodin, and revolved around an accountant being chased by three forces; bounty hunters, the FBI, and the Mafia, after skipping bail.
Alton Williams, of the movie site Battle Royale with Cheese, chose Midnight Run as his top road trip movie.
“For me Midnight Run is the ultimate road trip movie. The relationship between is Charles Grodin and De Niro is terrific. And the Ry Cooder soundtrack is pretty sweet. Go hunt this film down!”
This is definitely an underappreciated movie by today’s audiences, and if you haven’t managed to see it, you should absolutely take Alton’s advice and seek it out. It might just end up being your new favourite.
Considered to feature one of the greatest performances of all time by Dustin Hoffman, and Tom Cruise in one of his own career best roles, Rain Man is a fervently heart-warming story that won’t fail to please. Definitely a movie of a different time, this modest film was the highest grossing of 1988, something that seems impossible in today’s environment.
When Cruises’ rich father passes away and leaves his wealth to his autistic older brother Raymond (Hoffman), a road trip ensues that takes the two on a physical and emotional journey. Jam-packed with iconic and memorable scenes, it’s not hard to see why the movie picked up four Oscar wins.
The audience really goes on this voyage with these two characters, and seeing just how the experience changes Cruise’s character Charlie, helping him to understand responsibility and in turn his brother Raymond, is an incredible experience. Rain Man is a must watch regardless of genre.
Everything is Illuminated
Everything is Illuminated is a unique cinematic journey indeed, brimming with quirkiness, this film blends top humour with devastating sadness quite like any other.
The film stars Elijah Wood as a young Jewish man that is obsessed with the past, who travels from the US to the Ukraine to find the woman that saved his grandfather during the Holocaust. Shot with a stylish lens, this road trip across modern day Ukraine, while also travelling back in time, is an emotional roller-coaster that accompanies Jonathan (Wood) with a cast of kooky characters along his journey.
The closer Jonathan gets to his destination, the more one becomes worried about what he will find, and as with any tale involving the Nazi’s pogrom of European Jewry, this one packs a punch. But before the credits close, Everything is Illuminated also manages to provide an uplifting and inspiring finale that everyone, including the audience, sincerely deserves.
Road Trips don’t get any more fun, all be it dangerous, than the one Woody Harrelson and co embarked upon during the deliciously gory Zombieland.
Back when the zombie genre was a little fresher, this flick captured imaginations the world over upon its release in 2009. This road trip wasn’t about digging up the past, or learning to love your family, this one was about surviving the zombie apocalypse, and making a few friends along the way. Bringing together a truly wonderful cast of Harrelson, Emma Stone, and Jesse Eisenberg, this film, set after the end of the world, is an action packed, gag laden, blood spattered affair that is bound to entertain.
This movie is pure fun, and puts a cheerier spin on the often dour zombie subgenre, and makes one think that even you and your new Ford car might be able to survive the impending apocalypse.
A highlight for a certain generation, this hilariously vulgar teen adventure was a definitely a product of its time, and unequivocally a memorable movie road trip.
Sean Evans of Back to the Movies, names the movie as his own definitive pick.
“Seeing Brecklin Mayer, Seann William Scott, DJ Qualls and Paulo Constanzo going on their wacky adventures in the movie Road Trip, how could I not add this film to the list. It is THE road trip movie for the frat-boy movie generation. A hilarious film that never gets old. Road Trip is the perfect blend of the coming of age story and a teen comedy. A raunchy classic. American Pie on wheels."
Mad Max: Fury Road
Mad Max: Fury Road skirts the line between all kinds of genres, and it even featured in our recent list of Cinema’s Greats Car Chases. This return to the franchise, starring Tom Hardy – the only man to play the infamous Max on the big screen aside from Mel Gibson – is pure adrenaline from start to finish.
Crafted with sheer cinematic expertise, once the film begins it never stops, not even for a breath. Part road trip movie, part one long car chase, Fury Road shows us how Max is captured by a nefarious tyrant and how he then ultimately helps the monster’s wives escape enslavement, embarking upon a rather sinister car trek across the apocalyptic Australian wasteland.
For those that don’t know, the Mad Max franchise is about the exploits of a half deranged former cop, who travels from one horrendous situation to the next after the world comes to an end. Fury Road is the latest in the franchise and undoubtedly one of the more spectacular road trips brought to film. A perfect addition to complete our list.