Ever find yourself in the mood for a great road trip type movie and not quite sure where to start looking for one that appeals to you. There have been several of them over the years, all with various storylines and undertones. The list below represents a very wide selection of films from the early days of Clark Gable and Claudette Colbert in the 1934 classic “It Happened One Night”, a road show classic of Bing Crosby and Bob Hope in 1947’s Road To Rio, Stanley Kramer’s madcap, all-star cast, cross-country adventure of “It’s A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World” from 1962, as well as the legendary Easy Rider of 1969 through the 70’s cult favorite Death Race 2000 starring David Carradine and Sylvester Stallone. Cannonball Run, Smokey and The Bandit, Mad Max, Planes Trains and Automobiles, Thelma and Louise, Cheech and Chong antics in Things Are Tough All Over, more powerful dramas of Boys On The Side, Rain Man, Paper Moon, The Straight Story and The Bucket List – outrageous college frat-party type movies like Road Trip and EuroTrip – And the insanity of Dumb And Dumber and Tommy Boy. They’re all here with brief overviews as well as who stars in the film. Should be something here for everybody and for every mood. Enjoy 🙂
Almost Famous (2000)
starring Billy Crudup, Frances McDormand, Kate Hudson
Fifteen-year-old avid rock fan William lands an assignment from Rolling Stone to accompany a fledgling band from Michigan called Stillwater on their first tour. As he becomes more involved with the band members, he loses his objectivity and is soon entangled in the infamous 70’s rock scene. The adventure teaches him a life-changing lesson about the importance of family — the ones we inherit, and the ones we create.
Boys On The Side (1995)
starring Whoopi Goldberg, Mary-Louise Parker, Drew Barrymore
The story of three women, one dying of AIDS, who share a car trip across the country. Each has memories she’d like to forget and circumstances she’d like to change. Over the course of their trip, they become friends, joining together to form a makeshift family.
starring Kurt Russell, JT Walsh, Kathleen Quinlan
A couple is driving from Massachusetts to California when their jeep breaks down in a desolate part of the Southwest. The wife accepts the offer of a truck driver to take her to the nearest cafe where she can call for assistance. When the husband starts the car himself, he goes to the cafe where the driver claims that he’s never met him or his wife before. The husband begins a frantic search for his missing wife.
The Bucket List (2008)
starring Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman
Corporate billionaire Edward Cole and working class mechanic Carter Chambers have nothing in common except for their terminal illnesses. While sharing a hospital room together, they decide to leave it and do all the things they have ever wanted to do before they die according to their bucket list. In the process, both of them heal each other, become unlikely friends, and ultimately find the joy in life. Again, not your traditional road trip film but highly recommended.
Bustin’ Loose (1981)
starring Richard Pryor and Cicely Tyson
Foul-mouthed Joe (Richard Pryor) breaks his parole, but is given a chance to prove his worth by a schoolteacher (Cicely Tyson). She hires him to drive a bus full of Special School kids from Philadelphia, but Joe is a bit unnerved by their various mental problems. Soon, however, the bonds of friendship are formed and Joe wins the respect of the kids and their teacher.
Cannonball Run (1981)
starring Burt Reynolds, Roger Moore, Farrah Fawcett
In this movie Burt Reynolds is an adventurer who decides to participate in an illegal car race all over the country. There is an all-star cast of racers (Jackie Chan, Farrah Fawcett, Peter Fonda, Dean Martin, Roger Moore, Sammy Davis Jr. and others) that will do anything to outrun all the difficulties (including the police) and win the race.
starring Kris Kristofferson, Ali MacGraw, Ernest Borgnine
A mile-long convoy of protesting truckers speeds along the Arizona highway toward the Mexican border. The tense action builds to an incredible climax in one of the most destructive auto crash scenes ever filmed.
Death Race 2000 (1975)
starring David Carradine and Sylvester Stallone
In the near future the ultimate sporting event is the deathrace. Contestants get score points for running people down as they speed across the country. The sport has crazed fans who sacrifice themselves to the drivers. An overt agency is trying to bring an end to the immoral death race and has infiltrated one of their followers in to the race as a navigator. In the end of the race the lives of the competitors, the President and the deathrace itself are in peril. A Legendary cult film
Dirty Mary, Crazy Larry (1974)
Starring Peter Fonda, Susan George, Adam Roarke, Vic Morrow and Roddy McDowell.
Mary and Larry are two lovers who, with Larry’s ace mechanic, rob a grocery store and flee the police with hopes of making the professional racing circuit. They are chased over hill, over vale by the cops, who deploy everything from a 426 Hemi to a helicopter to stop Larry’s Dodge Charger culminating in a memorable ending….. Fast-paced ….. Fast action.
‘First Feature Film’ directed by Steven Spielberg starring Dennis Weaver
David Mann is trying to drive his car across California. When he tries to pass a gas tanker, the driver somehow takes offense. At first the unseen driver just annoys David by continually passing him and slowing down. Then he starts playing mind games with David, tempting him to pass the tanker, only to prevent him when he tries. The story is seen from David’s point of view, with commentary as he thinks to himself. Tense and riveting.
Dumb & Dumber (1994)
starring Jim Carrey, Jeff Daniels and Lauren Holly
The cross-country adventures of two good-hearted but incredibly stupid friends … For Harry and Lloyd, every day is a no-brainer. Join these two halfwits as they travel across the country to return a suitcase full of cash to its rightful owner. Along the way, they’ll confound and confuse everyone who crosses their path.
Easy Rider (1969)
starring Peter Fonda, Dennis Hopper and Jack Nicholson
Friends and partners Wyatt and Billy, both die-hard hippy bikers, score some illegal drugs in Mexico and cash in on it in Los Angeles, raising money to travel to the Mardi Grass in New Orleans. They discover what America is really like back in the days of the counterculture movement and see what intolerances exist along the way. Spectacular scenery abounds. A cult classic.
starring Scott Mechlowicz, Jacob Pitts, Kristin Kreuk
Have you ever pressed “Send” on an e-mail and immediately wished you could get it back? Scotty Thomas and his Berlin-based computer pen pal, Mieke, have been writing each other for years, sharing every detail of their lives. When Mieke makes a ‘cyber pass’ at Scotty, he completely freaks out, thinking that this guy he’s known for years is coming on to him–in German no less. Too bad the one detail Scotty doesn’t seem to know is that, in Germany, Mieke is a girl’s name. By the time Scotty figures out that Mieke is a girl, and a hot one at that, Mieke has cut off her e-mail account and all contact with him. Thinking that this might be his one chance at true love–even though he’s never actually met the girl–Scotty and his best friends, Cooper and the twins Jenny and Jamie, embark on a raucous trip across Europe headed for Berlin. Their trek takes them from London to Paris to Amsterdam and Eastern Europe, exposing them–literally–to every lascivious, larcenous and lecherous indulgence Europe has to offer, in a comedy that gives new meaning to the phrase “foreign relations.
starring Kevin Costner, Judd Nelson and Sam Robards
A group of five college guys decide to have their last fling between graduation and the “real world” during the early ’70s, even as the sceptre of the Vietnam War, still very real, looms on their conscience.
Fear & Loathing In Las Vegas (1998)
starring Johnny Depp, Benicio Del Toro and Tobey Maguire
Journalist Raoul Duke and his lawyer Dr Gonzo drive from LA to Las Vegas on a drugs binge. They nominally cover news stories, including a convention on drug abuse, but also sink deeper into a frightening psychedelic otherworld. As Vietnam, Altamont and the Tate killings impinge from the world of TV news, Duke and Gonzo see casinos, reptiles and the Amercian dream.
The Great Race (1965)
starring Jack Lemmon, Tony Curtis, Natalie Wood, Peter Falk, Keenan Wynn,
At the turn of the 20th century a host of colorful characters set out on a 20,000-mile auto race from New York to Paris, and hilarity ensues. Mayhem and double-crossing abound as some zany professional racers go up against each other in a 1908 cross-continental road race from New York to Paris. Featuring an all-star cast.
Gumball Rally (1976)
starring Michael Sarrazin, Norman Burton, Gary Busey
A group of wacky characters compete in an illegal auto race known as the Gumball Rally. It starts in New York and finishes in Long Beach, California with virtually no rules. It’s a hilarious coast-to-coast, 180 mile-an-hour, go-for-broke, outrageous road race with the world’s most expensive cars. And it’s all just for glory and a gumball machine.
It Happened One Night (1934)
starring Clark Gable, Claudette Colbert, Walter Connolly, Roscoe Karns, Alan Hale
A spoiled rich girl escapes from her millionaire father, who wants to stop her from marrying a worthless playboy. En route to New York, she gets involved with an out-of-work newsman. When their bus breaks down, the bickering couple sets off on a madcap hitchhiking expedition.
It’s A Mad Mad Mad Mad World (1963)
starring Spencer Tracy, Milton Berle, Sid Caesar, Buddy Hackett, Ethel Merman, Mickey Rooney, Phil Silvers, Jonathan Winters, plus many more
A Blockbuster Comedy with an incredible All-Star Cast (30+ major stars of that era) – Brilliantly simple, the plot concerns a caravan of motorists who witness a terrible accident on a very dangerous winding California desert highway. The auto-crash victim, Smiler Grogan, reveals in his dying words that he has hidden a fortune of stolen cash, sending the drivers on a greed-driven rambunctious race to see who can claim the loot first!
Little Miss Sunshine (2006)
starring Abigail Breslin, Greg Kinnear, Paul Dano, Alan Arkin, Toni Collette, Steve Carell
The Hoover family treks from Albuquerque to the Little Miss Sunshine pageant in Redondo Beach, California, to fulfill the deepest wish of 7-year-old Olive, an ordinary little girl with big dreams. Along the way the family must deal with crushed dreams, heartbreaks, and a broken-down VW bus, leading up to the surreal Little Miss Sunshine competition itself. On their travels through this bizarre landscape, the Hoovers learn to trust and support each other along the path of life, no matter what the challenge.
Lost In America (1985)
starring Albert Brooks, Julie Hagerty
A successful, yuppie couple in their mid thirties quit their jobs and decide to leave the everyday rat race of the real world. They liquidate their assets and take off to become ‘free spirits’ and make a soul searching journey across America in their Winnebago motorhome. Their idealized, unrealistic plans soon begin to unravel and go spectacularly wrong while comedy ensues.
The Lucky Ones (2008)
starring Tim Robbins, Rachel McAdams, Michael Peña
After suffering an injury during a routine patrol, hardened sergeant TK Poole is granted a one-month leave to visit his fiancee. But when an unexpected blackout cancels all flights out of New York, TK agrees to share a ride to Pittsburgh with two similarly stranded servicemen: Cheaver, an older family man who longs to return to his wife in St. Louis, and Colee, a naive private who’s pinned her hopes on connecting with a dead fellow soldier’s family. What begins as a short trip unexpectedly evolves into a longer journey. Forced to grapple with old relationships, broken hopes and a country divided over the war, TK, Cheaver and Colee discover that home is not quite what they remembered, and that the unlikely companionship they’ve found might be what matters the most.
Mad Max (1979)
starring Mel Gibson, Joanne Samuel, Hugh Keays-Byrne
It is a couple of years into the post-nuclear future… The highways of Australia are ruled by violent gangs and rebel bikers who have turned the highways into a bloody battleground as they loot gasoline and terrorize the innocent. Max Rockatansky is a policeman who had everything… Until, a murderous motorcycle gang led by the evil Toecutter burns his partner Jim Goose to death and murders his wife and son, after Max killed their leader “The Knight Rider”. Loosing his rocker, Max decides to take the law into his own hands as he sets out to get his revenge on the motorcycle gang and become the road warrior known as “Mad Max”
Midnight Run (1988)
starring Robert De Niro and Charles Grodin
Bounty hunter Jack Walsh is sent to find and return bail jumper and former Mafia accountant, Jonathan “The Duke” Mardukas. The FBI have had no success it locating The Duke, so when Jack finds him in no time at all, they are a little embarrassed. In order to collect his $100,000 fee, Jack must take The Duke from New York to Los Angeles. However, the Mafia and the FBI have other ideas, as does Marvin, a rival bounty hunter. On their long cross-country trip to LA, the two get to know each other and they build up a strange friendship.
The Muppet Movie (1979)
Jim Henson’s classic animation spoof ….. featuring a large cast of famous celebrity voice-overs
Kermit and the gang decide to take a trip to Hollywood. They begin their journey on a bicycle pedaled by Kermit, but friends accumulate along the way, and they change vehicles to accommodate them. They have the additional challenge of fending off the entreaties of the heartless Doc Hopper who wants Kermit to make some advertisements promoting fried frog legs. Kermit must also cope with his amorous feelings for Miss Piggy, and hers for him. Once in Hollywood they encounter many stars.
National Lampoon’s Vacation (1983)
starring Chevy Chase, Beverly D’Angelo, Randy Quaid
The Griswold brigade set out in high spirits, ready to spend quality time together as a family on their summer vacation driving from Chicago to Wally World on a cross country adventure. As fate would have it, the trip soon falls apart, with mishaps and bad luck at every turn. When they finally arrive at Wally World, and they find that the park is closed for maintenance, Clark Griswold snaps. He takes a Wally World security guard hostage, in one last attempt to deliver on his promise to his family of a fun-filled vacation.
Paper Moon (1973)
starring Ryan O’Neal, Tatum O’Neal, Madeline Kahn
Set in the Midwest during the Great Depression, the storyline follows the adventures of Moses Pray (Ryan O’Neal), a happy-go-lucky con artist who travels through the Midwest on a mission to swindle money out of innocent widows. While attending a friend’s funeral, Pray is called upon by two elderly ladies to deliver the daughter of the deceased, Addie (Tatum O’Neal), to her aunt in Missouri. Soon learning that the 9-year-old is almost as mischievous and manipulative as he is, Pray and Addie develop a father and daughter routine that increases their credibility as well as their income. Now, the devious duo set out on a series of misadventures involving crooked cops, bootleggers, grieving widows and a Carney dancer named Miss Trixie Delight (Kahn) who adds a little spice to their routine.
Pee Wee’s Big Adventure (1985)
starring Paul Reubens, Elizabeth Daily, Mark Holton
Pee Wee Herman, an awkward and childish character who never really grew up, sets off on a wild cross-country adventure for the first time ever when he finds his beloved shiny new bicycle is stolen when he was away by his nemesis Francis Buxton, a fellow man-child and neighborhood rich “kid.” He decides to set off on an obsessive journey, after learning from a fortune teller that his bicycle is in the basement of the Alamo in Texas, determined to recover it. He encounters an array of interesting characters along the way and tries to deal with things in his own unique way.
Planes, Trains & Automobiles (1987)
starring Steve Martin and John Candy
Two days before Thanksgiving, marketing consultant Neal Page races to catch a plane home to his family in Chicago, only to find that his flight has been delayed. Hours later, he boards the plane and ends up next to the obnoxious shower curtain ring salesman, Del Griffith. When the flight is detoured due to bad weather, the mismatched pair are forced to find their own way to Chicago-by any means necessary. Seems like whatever can go go wrong, usually does and in the worst possible ways. A madcap adventure follows that will have you in hysterics because we can relate to some of them quite well.
Rain Man (1988)
starring Dustin Hoffman and Tom Cruise
Charley is a hustler. He’s been on his own long enough to know how to work people and situations. He finds that the father who threw him out as a teenager has died. He’s left him a now antique convertible and something more important, a previously unknown brother, Raymond. Raymond is autistic, but is able to calculate complicated mathematical problems in his head with great speed and accuracy. Their father has left his fortune to Raymond who doesn’t even understand what money is for. Charley is enraged by what has happened and by his father keeping Raymond’s existence from him for his entire life. He kidnaps Raymond from his residential home and the two of them begin a long road trip that will lead them to a better understanding of each other.
Road To Rio (1947)
starring Bing Crosby, Bob Hope, Dorothy Lamour
A charming and classic Bing Crosby, Bob Hope “road movie” ….. When two musicians accidentally set fire to a “big top circus”, they escape town and the law by stowing away on an oceanliner headed for Rio. Once on board, they meet a lovely lady who was hypnotized so she’ll marry a man she doesn’t love. It’s up to them to save her. Received an Academy Award nomination for “Best Scoring of a Musical Picture”.
Road Trip (2000)
starring Breckin Meyer, Seann William Scott, Amy Smart, DJ Qualls, Tom Green
Cheating is when you’re in a committed relationship and have sex with another person….It’s not cheating if you live in different area codes, if you are too wasted to remember it, or if you are with two people at the same time because they cancel each other out. But it is definitely cheating if you videotape it and someone accidentally mails the tape to your girlfriend. This is what happens to Josh, who must now drag two college buddies, and one not-so-eager-kid who happens to own the car, on a raucous and raunchy 1800-mile road trip from Ithaca, New York to Austin, Texas to save his lifelong romance.Throw in Tom Green and a boa constrictor and you’ll have non-stop laughs along with fast paced action.
starring Paul Giamatti, Thomas Haden Church, Virginia Madsen, Sandra Oh
A wine tasting, California road trip to salute Jack’s final days as a bachelor careens woefully sideways as he and Miles hit the gas en route to mid-life crises. The comically mismatched pair, who share little more than their history and a heady blend of failed potential and fading youth, soon find themselves drowning in wine and women. Emerging from a haze of pinot noir, wistful yearnings and trepidation about the future, the two inevitably collide with reality.
Smokey & The Bandit (1977)
starring Burt Reynolds, Sally Field, Jerry Reed, Jackie Gleason and a few celebrity cameo appearances
Bandit and Cledus are two truck-driving southerners who accept a dare from big-shots Big and Little Enos to pick up a truckload of beer from Texas and return it to them within a specified amount of time. Picking it up is simple enough, but as they are leaving Texas, Bandit unwittingly picks up Carrie, a hitchhiking bride-to-be who just left her groom, Junior, at the altar. Junior, however, is the son of Sheriff Buford T. Justice. And when Buford and Junior discover what has happened, they go on a “high-speed pursuit” across the Southeast to catch the bandit. One of the wildest car chases of all time.
The Straight Story (1999)
starring Richard Farnswort and Sissy Spacek
The Straight Story” chronicles a trip made by 73-year-old Alvin Straight from Laurens, Iowa, to Mt. Zion, Wis., in 1994 while riding a lawn mower. The man undertook his strange journey to mend his relationship with his estranged 75-year-old brother Lyle. Alvin Straight lives a quiet life in a small country town. When his brother gets seriously ill, he decides to put away their differences and visit him after many, many years. So, alone, he begins a long journey through hundreds of miles, just to see again his brother, even if it’s the last thing he will ever do… Based on a real story.
The Sure Thing (1985)
starring John Cusack, Daphne Zuniga, Anthony Edwards
College freshman John (Gib) Gibson decides to go cross country to visit his friend in California during winter break. Awaiting there is a bikini-clad babe whom his friend assures him is a “sure thing”. Meanwhile, Allison, a cute (but somewhat anal retentive) girl at Gib’s college has also decided to head out to Cal. to see her boyfriend during break. Gib and Allison are thrust together on a road trip from hell, and somewhere along the way, they find each other’s company to be tolerable. Now, what will become of Gib’s “sure thing?”
Thelma & Louise (1991)
starring Susan Sarandon, Geena Davis, Harvey Keitel
Whilst on a short weekend getaway, Louise shoots a man who had tried to rape Thelma. Due to the incriminating circumstances, they make a run for it but are soon followed closely by the authorities including a local policeman who is sympathetic to their plight. The federal authorities, however, have less compassion and thus a cross country chase ensues for the two fugitives. Along the way, both women rediscover the strength of their friendship and surprising aspects of their personalities and self-strengths in the trying times.
Things Are Tough All Over (1982)
starring Cheech Marin and Tommy Chong
Cheech and Chong work briefly as car wash attendants and musicians before being hired to drive a car from Chicago to Las Vegas. Unbeknownst to them, their employers (themselves in double roles) have concealed five million dollars of dirty money in the upholstery. A series of adventures ensues, including the making of a porn film featuring ‘The Guys’ and their real-life squeezes.
Tommy Boy (1995)
starring Chris Farley, David Spade, Bo Derek, Dan Aykroyd
Tommy Callahan Jr. is a slow-witted, clumsy guy who recently graduated college after attending for seven years. His father, Big Tom Callahan, owns an auto parts factory in Ohio. When Tommy arrives back home, he finds he has a position at the factory waiting for him. His dad also introduces Tommy to the new brake pad division of the factory and to Tommy’s soon-to-be stepmother, Beverly, and her son Paul. But when Big Tom dies, the factory threatens to go under unless the new brake pads are to be sold. Therefore, Tommy must go on the road to sell them, along with the assistance of Richard, Big Tom’s right-hand man. Will Tommy save the company, or will the factory, and the town, go under?
Two Lane Blacktop (1971)
starring James Taylor, Warren Oates, Laurie Bird, Dennis Wilson
The Driver and The Mechanic are two car freaks driving a 1955 Chevy throughout the southwestern U.S. looking for other cars to race. They are totally dedicated to The Car and converse with each other only when necessary. At a gas station, The Driver and The Mechanic, along with a girl who has ingratiated herself into their world, meet G.T.O., a middle-aged man who fabricates stories about his exploits. It is decided to have a race to Washington, D.C., where the winner will get the loser’s car. Along the way, the race and the highway metaphorically depict the lives of these contestants as they struggle to their destination.
Vanishing Point (1971)
starring Barry Newman, Cleavon Little, Dean Jagger
Kowalski, works for a car delivery service. He takes delivery of a 1970 Dodge Challenger to take from Colorado to San Fransisco, California. Shortly after pickup, he takes a bet to get the car there in less than 15 hours. After a few run-ins with motorcycle cops and highway patrol they start a chase to bring him into custody. Along the way, Kowalski is guided by Supersoul – a blind DJ with a police radio scanner. Throw in lots of chase scenes, gay hitchhikers, a naked woman riding a motorbike, lots of Mopar and you’ve got a great cult hit from the early 70’s
And I just realized I left out one of my personal favorites that should definitely be on this list…
The Long, Long Trailer (1953)
starring Lucille Ball, Desi Arnaz, Keenan Wynn, Marjorie Main
Nicky (Desi Arnaz) and his fiance, Tacy (Lucille Ball) are engaged. Nicky wants to save up money for a house, but Tacy dreams of starting off with their own home on wheels — a trailer. After the two get married, the newlyweds hitch up their trailer and begin their honeymoon across the USA. The humor comes from several disastrous adventures the couple have while traveling including Tacy’s awkward attempt to cook dinner in a moving trailer, and a cliffhanging ride through the Sierra Nevada Mountains that nearly destroys their marriage. A very enjoyable and hilarious look at Lucy and Desi in the earlier years of their TV prime on the big screen. A must see for all Lucy fans.
Filed under: childhood memories, Movie Lists & Video Rentals, Nostalgia, road trips Tagged: | action, best road trip movies, can't miss road trip movies, chase, comedy, dramatic road movies, films about road trips, greatest road trip, movies about travel, must see road trip movies, on the road, road, road films, roadie movies, suspense