The 27 Best Road Movies of all Time

When characters in a motion picture take a road trip, it is often referred to as a road movie. In the course of their trip, they increasingly free themselves from a burden or come to a realization that is important for their lives. We have compiled the 30 best road movies in film history.

1. Easy Rider (1969)

The flick “Easy Rider” has become a cult film not only among bikers. The idea came from lead actors Peter Fonda and Dennis Hopper, who also co-wrote the screenplay. The two ride their motorcycles from Los Angeles to New Orleans to participate in Mardi Gras. On their way, they have to realize that America is now split in two. On one side stands the establishment, the young generation striving for change.

Against this background, there is hardly a better example of a road movie than “Easy Rider.” The film incurred manageable production costs of 325.000 US dollars but grossed more than 16 million dollars. Over the years, “Easy Rider” has become a cult film that every film fan must have seen once.

2. Into the Wild (2007)

Chris McCandless was a U.S. adventurer who began touring his native country in 1990. He preferred to spend his time in nature and made sure that he had enough to eat by fishing, among other things. After two years, McCandless decided to travel to Alaska and hike through the inhospitable snowy landscape. He probably died of starvation in August 1992.

Author Jon Krakauer later retraced McCandless’ itinerary and wrote the book “Into the Wild,” which became the film of the same name. Krakauer co-wrote the screenplay with Sean Penn, who also directed the film. Emile Hirsch played the role of Chris McCandless.

“Into the Wild” shows very clearly what a road movie is about: the change a person goes through on a long journey – even if, in the case of McCandless, it ends tragically.

3. Almost Famous (2000)

As a teenager, screenwriter and director Cameron Crowe wrote for music magazines and accompanied, among others, the Allman Brothers Band on tour through the USA. He later used his experiences in the film “Almost Famous” screenplay. In it, Patrick Fugit plays William Miller, a young journalist modeled after Crowe.

Miller spends wild weeks on tour with the band Stillwater and falls in love with Penny Lane, played by Kate Hudson. Crowe won an Oscar for his screenplay in 2001, and Kate Hudson received a Golden Globe. Almost Famous” is well worth seeing and provides a good picture of the 1970s music scene.

4. Blues Brothers (1980)

In 1977, actors John Belushi and Dan Akroyd first appeared on the comedy show “Saturday Night Live” as part of the fictional band Blues Brothers. Within a very short time, the group became so popular that Belushi and Akroyd also gave concerts outside of “Saturday Night Live” as the Blues Brothers from 1978 onwards. They also made the 1980 film “Blues Brothers” directed by John Landis.

In it, brothers Jake and Elwood Blues travel the country, reuniting their old band members. They perform to raise money for the orphanage where they grew up. To this day, the film and its music are cult. The far less successful sequel “Blues Brothers 2000” was released in 1998 – without John Belushi, who died in 1982. Instead, John Goodman, among others, belonged to the band.

Also recommend:   The 27 Best Romantic Love Stories on Amazon Prime Video

5. Borat (2006)

In full, the film is called “Borat – Cultural Learnings from America to Make Benefit for Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan.” In it, Kazakh reporter Borat Sagdiyev, played by Sacha Baron Cohen, sets off on a journey across the U.S. There, he is to shoot a report about American culture. For this pseudo-documentary road movie, Cohen interviews real people, including two politicians.

He puts them in awkward conversational situations with his anti-Semitic and sexist views. Most iconic, however, is a scene in which Borat is seen wearing a bathing suit with shoulder straps – a so-called mankini.

“Borat” lives on the spontaneous wit of Sacha Baron Cohen and holds up a mirror to conservative America.

6. Dumb & Dumber (1994)

Jim Carrey’s career was at its peak in 1994. This year saw the release of three films that marked his worldwide breakthrough. Besides “Ace Ventura” and “The Mask,” this was the comedic road movie “Dumb and Dumber.” In it, Lloyd (Carrey) and Harry (Jeff Daniels) travel from Rhode Island to the tourist town of Aspen, Colorado.

They want to take a suitcase to the orphanage, which their friend Mary seems to have accidentally left at the airport. Because Lloyd and Harry are unbelievable jerks, they get into absurd situations repeatedly on their journey.

So if you’re into the gags, there’s no getting around “Dumb and Dumber.” In 2014, the sequel “Dumb and Dumber” appeared with the same main actors. As in the first part, the brothers Peter and Bobby Farrelly again took the direction.

7. Bonnie and Clyde (1967)

Clyde Barrow and Bonnie Parker were lovers who went on robberies together from 1930 to 1934. In the process, they robbed stores and banks and killed a total of 14 people. The story of the gangster couple is re-told in the 1967 film “Bonnie and Clyde,” with Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway taking the titular roles. From Texas, they go on a crime spree across the U.S. and are eventually shot dead by police in Louisiana.

The film was torn apart by critics shortly after its release, only gaining worldwide fame over time. In the meantime, the film is considered one of New Hollywood’s pioneers, in which young filmmakers broke up entrenched structures and implemented original ideas.

8. Thelma& Louise (1991)

In “Thelma& Louise,” the titular women, played by Geena Davis and Susan Sarandon, escape their stressful everyday lives. They want to spend a relaxing weekend in a fishing lodge in the mountains and set off in Luise’s car. In a bar, Thelma escapes rape only because Luise threatens her attacker with a revolver. When he also insults her, Luise shoots the man. As a result, the women decide to flee to Mexico and are pursued by the police.

“Thelma& Louise” was one of the first road movies in film history to focus on female characters. Screenwriter Callie Khouri was rewarded with an Oscar for her script. Geena Davis, Susan Sarandon, and director Ridley Scott were on the nomination list after all.

9. Duel (1971)

The unprecedented career of Steven Spielberg began in 1971 with the thriller “Duel.” In it, David, a businessman, is driving along a California highway when a mysterious truck driver attacks him. Spielberg originally wanted to direct “Duel” without any dialogue at all and therefore deleted all spoken words from the screenplay by Richard Matheson. At the insistence of the film studio, he finally left a few lines in the script.

The film was shown on U.S. television in 1971 and, because of its popularity, was also released in theaters two years later. The film’s aspect ratio had to be changed for this, and there were also some reshoots. Spielberg had a relatively narrow budget of 450.000 dollars, which the flick increased tenfold at the box office. In the course of time, numerous films, series, and video games have appeared that were inspired by the plot of “Duel.” This shows how groundbreaking this exciting flick was.

10. A Ticket for Two (1987)

The film, which is in the original “Planes, Trains& Automobiles,” is about Neal Page, who wants to spend Thanksgiving with his family in Chicago. From New York, where he works, he, therefore, wants to fly home in time. In the cab to the airport, he meets Del Griffith, who is not exactly likable because of his talkativeness.

Also recommend:   LGBT Movies: The 35 Best Movies for Gays and Lesbians

Because of a storm, Neal and Del fly to Kansas, and from there, they must get to Chicago by car. The main characters in “A Ticket for Two” are played by Steve Martin and John Candy and directed by John Hughes.

The comedy is distinguished above all by the fact that, despite its many absurd situations, it retains its warm-heartedness.

11. National Lampoon’s Vacation (1983)

The comedy by director Harold Ramis centers on the Griswold family, who want to vacation in California. They set out from Chicago in an old car that a shady salesman had sold them. On the road, they are also confronted with numerous impassibilities. Among other things, Aunt Edna dies, taking the family on their journey for a bit.

“The Shrill Four on the Road,” originally called “National Lampoon’s Vacation,” has since become a cult film. Clark, the father of the family, is played by Chevy Chase, and Ellen, the mother, is played by Beverly D’Angelo. Until 2015, five more films were made around the Griswold family.

12. Rain Man (1988)

Charlie Babbitt is a narcissistic car dealer who learns of his father’s death at the beginning of the film “Rain Man.” After the funeral, it is also revealed to him that he has a brother: the autistic Raymond. The latter can calculate at lightning speed and has some other amazing abilities, but at the same time, cannot build relationships with other people. Because Raymond has inherited three million dollars from his father, Charlie takes him to his California home.

Charlie wants to take Raymond into his custody to get the money, but gradually he develops a brotherly relationship with him. Because Charlie changes his initial character on the road, the definition of a road movie is also fulfilled. Charlie Babbitt is played by Tom Cruise, and Raymond Babbitt by Dustin Hoffman.

“Rain Man” won four Oscars, including the one for best picture and best screenplay. Director Barry Levinson also received the Best Director trophy, and Dustin Hoffman was named Best Actor in a Leading Role.

13. On the Road (2012)

Author Jack Kerouac wrote “On the Road” in 1957, which would become his most important work. 55 years later, director Walter Salles remade it, starring Sam Riley and Garrett Hedlund. The two travel from New York to California, consume marijuana and visit jazz venues. On their road trip, they meet various characters embodied by Kristen Stewart, Kirsten Dunst, and Amy Adams, among others.

The main character Sal Paradise (Riley), is to be understood as an alter ego of Jack Kerouac, his companion Dean Moriarty (Hedlund) as his source of inspiration Neal Cassidy. Other characters from the film also represent people from Kerouac’s environment. Thus the film provides a good picture of the life of the Beat Generation, to which the author belonged.

14. Road Trip (2000)

Of course, a film called “Road Trip” can not be missing from the best movies on the subject list. The comedy features college student Josh, who has a long-distance relationship with his girlfriend Tiffany. When she doesn’t contact him for a while, the disappointed Josh cheats on her with a fellow student.

Accidentally, the hot night video gets into the mail and is on its way to Tiffany’s house. Josh must now drive from New York to Texas within three days to still intercept the video. He is accompanied by two friends, with whom he gets into all kinds of strange situations. They are rarely level but still very funny. This teen comedy stars Breckin Meyer, Seann William Scott, Amy Smart, and Tom Green.

15. Little Miss Sunshine (2006)

Little Olive has a dream of winning a beauty contest. When she qualifies for the Little Miss Sunshine contest, she and her family travel from New Mexico to California. Six of them ride in a yellow V.W. bus and get closer on the trip. The film lives above all from its bizarre characters.

They include Olive’s half-brother Dwayne, who wants to be a test pilot and remains silent until he fulfills that dream. “Little Miss Sunshine” cleverly turns American winner culture on its head. Abigail Breslin plays Olive; Greg Kinnear, Toni Collette, Steve Carell, and Alan Arkin count to Cast.

Also recommend:   The 35 Best Military Movies of All Time

16. Mad Max: Fury Road (2015)

The first “Mad Max” movie came out in 1979, back when Mel Gibson was still in the titular role. In “Mad Max: Fury Road,” Tom Hardy embodies the main character Max Rockatansky. The latter escapes from the fortress of the ruthless ruler Immortan Joe at the beginning of the strip and joins the warrior Imperator Furiosa and her group of women. Together they want to reach the Green Country, where Furiosa comes from. Their way leads them through a parched landscape full of sand and rocks.

The car chase is thrillingly staged and also offers ruthless brutality. At the 2016 Oscars, “Mad Max: Fury Road” swept six trophies, including Best Costume Design and Best Makeup.

17. To Wong Fu, Thanks for Everything, Julie Newmar (1995)

Vida Boheme and Noxeema Jackson are drag queens who win a beauty pageant in New York. To compete in the U.S.-wide contest, they then travel to Los Angeles. On their journey, they take Chi-Chi Rodriguez with them. For good luck, the group uses a photo of actress Julie Newmar, which she signed with the titular line.

“To Wong Fu” allows completely opposite people to collide as the film unites drag queens with provincials. Vida is portrayed by Patrick Swayze, Noxeema by Wesley Snipes, and Chi-Chi by John Leguizamo. In addition, the drag queens RuPaul and Lady Bunny took supporting roles. At the film’s end, Julie Newmar can be seen in a short role. Swayze and Leguizamo each won a Golden Globe in 1996 for best lead and best actor, respectively. They are the supporting cast.

18. Zombieland (2009)

The film, starring Emma Stone, Woody Harrelson, Jesse Eisenberg, and Abigail Breslin, is set in an apocalyptic world populated by zombies. In it, four completely opposite survivors meet, addressing each other not by name but by their birthplace. Anxious Columbus (Eisenberg) wants to travel from Texas to Ohio to find out if his parents are still alive.

In the process, he initially joins the daredevil Tallahassee (Harrelson). The two soon encounter sisters Wichita (Stone) and Little Rock (Breslin), who want to visit an amusement park in Los Angeles. When Columbus learns that his hometown has been destroyed, he finally comes along to L.A.

“Zombieland” manages to stage a horror scenario wittily and lives above all from the dynamics of the four main actors. In 2019, the film received a sequel called “Zombieland: Double Tap” with the same actors.

19. A True Story – The Straight Story (1999)

In July 1994, the then 73-year-old American Alvin Straight got on his lawn tractor and drove it from Iowa to Wisconsin. There he wanted to visit his brother, who had suffered a stroke. It took Straight six weeks to cover the 390 kilometers because his vehicle could only go a maximum of eight kilometers per hour. In 1999, director David Lynch turned this story into the film “The Straight Story.”

Richard Farnsworth, who plays the main character, was nominated for an Oscar in 2000. Because the film tells a chronological story that is anything but dark, it represents Lynch’s most accessible work. The latter is otherwise known for his experimental approach.

20. Y Tu Mamá También (2001)

In the Mexican film “Y Tu Mamá También,” the two friends, Tenoch and Julio, want to travel from Mexico City to Italy. They meet Luisa, betrayed by her husband, and join the friends. But instead of going to Europe, they go to the beaches of Oaxaca in the country’s south. Along the way, Luisa has an affair with both Tenoch and Julio, which puts their friendship to the test.

They also confess that they also had sex with each other’s girlfriends. The tensions between the three characters are also what makes the film so appealing. Y Tu Mamá También” stars Gael García Bernal, Diego Luna, and Maribel Verdú and was directed by Alfonso Cuarón, who also wrote the screenplay together with his brother Carlos. The Cuarón brothers were nominated for an Oscar in 2003 for their screenplay.

21. Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle (2004)

22. Inside Llewyn Davis (2013)

23. Joyride (1977)

24. True Romance (1993)

25. Midnight Run (1988)

26. Magic Mike XXL (2015)

27. O Brother, Where Art Thou? (2000)

Whether comedy, drama, or thriller: a road movie always offers the best entertainment and, in the best case, also provides the viewer with insights into his own existence.

Leave a Comment