The road trip movie has been a Hollywood classic for years, having given birth to a genre of films that has produced a ton of legendary characters, memorable scenes and classic one-liners! More importantly these films have inspired the cinematic impetus behind the road trips of countless moviegoers (as if you’ve never wanted to pull a Clark Griswold, load up the car and head to Wally World). In celebration of these films, below is a list of the 10 best road trip movies off all time.
“Dumb & Dumber” — It doesn’t really get any better than Lloyd Christmas (Jim Carrey) and Harry Dunne (Jeff Daniels) traveling to Aspen, Colorado in a shaggy dog-inspired van. Throw in the presence of some Hispanic hitchhikers, a headless parakeet, some atomic peppers, a child-sized moped and a very Aspen-esque fringe jacket and furry boots, and you have one of the funniest road trip movies of all time!
“The Sure Thing” — Before everyone knew John Cusack as the guy holding a boom box over his head, he was starring in this classic road trip movie about a college student in search of a female ‘sure thing.’ During this quest, which ends up being a whacky ride across the country to sunny California, Cusack is able to learn what it is he really wants in girl — but not before posing as a deranged hitchhiker, shotgunning lots of beer and playing sing along with an over enthusiastic yuppie couple.
“Road Trip” —You can’t have a list of the best road trip movies, without mentioning the one film that is actually titled “Road Trip,” can you? Of course not! The quintessential college road trip movie, this film is filled with lots of funny dialogue, hot chicks, Tom Green, and a certain sex tape scenario that takes four college buddies from Ithaca, New York to Austin, Texas — and back again! A must watch for anyone longing to relive their college road trip days.
“Easy Rider” —Released during the summer of 1969, “Easy Rider” was the first film to grant America’s counterculture a place on the silver screen. Directed by the late Dennis Hopper, and starring Peter Fonda, Hopper and a young Jack Nicholson, the film follows the exploits of two bikers as they try to make their way across the country to Mardi Gras in New Orleans. Rife with cinematic commentary about the era this film was made in, “Easy Rider” has been hailed as an American masterpiece, and will forever be a favorite among ‘trippers’ of that generation.
“Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure” — If you had a bike like that stolen from you, you’d set out across the country in search of it too! But you probably wouldn’t have as much fun as Pee-Wee did. This ultimate road trip movie brought us characters like ‘Large Marge’ (the ominous sounding truck driver that picks Pee-Wee up along the road) and the all-time classic comeback line “I know you are, but what am I?” The movie also helped launch the career of director Tim Burton, and sent Pee-Wee into another stratosphere, in terms of popularity.
“Sideways” — Even if you’re not a wine aficionado, watching Paul Giamatti and Paul Haden Church make through way through California wine country in this road trip movie is guaranteed to produce some laughs. With undertones of an impending midlife crisis and career-induced depression closing in around them, these two characters quickly find themselves indulging in wine as a way to both cope with their personal situations, and potentially induce a temporary solution for their unhappiness.
“Breakdown” — Not all road trip movies are about the fun and happiness that people experience on a road trip. In fact, “Breakdown” starring Kurt Russell and J.T. Walsh is just the opposite. The film starts innocently enough, with a young couple making the journey across the desert as they relocate to California. But when they’re car breaks down along a deserted stretch of roadway, you begin to get the feeling that all hell is about to break loose. Suffice it to say, you should never take a ride from a stranger – especially during the middle of a road trip!
“Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas” — Though only part of this movie actually takes place on the road, it’s hard to argue the presence of this Hunter S. Thompson novel turned movie on the list of best road trip movies. In search of the American Dream, Raoul Duke (Johnny Depp) and his whacked-out lawyer (Benicio Del Toro) set out from Los Angeles to Las Vegas — passing through bat country along the way. Once they arrive in town, the duo’s drug and alcohol-infused antics quickly lead to a series of scenes and events which can’t help but evoke laughter and awe from viewers. If nothing else, this classic road trip movie will make you want to rent a “fast car with no top” and “get the hell out of town for a few days.”
“Planes, Trains and Automobiles” — Even though this road trip movie was released more than 25 years ago, the traveling situations and scenarios included in it are as relevant today as they were in the 80s. But without the presence of the late, great John Candy, and the always-comical Steve Martin, they definitely aren’t as funny. As the title suggests, this movie follows a seemingly odd-call couple of a big time business executive (Steve Martin) and shower curtain ring salesman (John Candy) who team up to travel via train, car and plane in a race to make it home from New York, before Thanksgiving. But after sharing the same bed, surviving a car fire, and bartering a wrist watch to pay for a hotel room, will the duo be able to stand each other long enough to make it home? Not only is this a great road trip movie, it will always go over well with visiting relatives at Thanksgiving!
“National Lampoon’s Vacation” — When the main character of a movie is mentioned in the lead of an article, chances are that movie is going to be referenced later on! Clark Griswold is the ultimate family man, who wants nothing more than to take his kids on a family vacation to the Wally World theme park in Southern California. The only problem is that the Griswolds live in Chicago, meaning they’ve got quite a trip ahead of them. Sure enough, all that can wrong eventually does, but Clark, Ellen, Rusty and Audrey do their best to persevere in the name of good family fun! A comedic classic for all generations, and by far the ultimate road trip movie!
— J. Morgan