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Road Trip Movies

I am queueing up some road trip movies in our Netflix account, and I would love your suggestions to add to our list.

On my list so far are:

It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World(1963) G

Before literally kicking the bucket when his car careens over an embankment, “Smiler” Grogan (Jimmy Durante) tells onlookers he’s stashed $350,000 in stolen loot beneath “the big W” in the town of Santa Rosita, and thus begins a mad dash to recover the dough.

What an amazing collection of talent: Spencer Tracey, Milton Berle, Sid Cesar, Buddy Hackett, Ethel Merman, Mickey Rooney, Dick Shawn, Phil Silvers, Terry-Thomas, Jonathan Winters, Jim Bakus, Peter Falk, Normal Fell, Buster Keaton, Don Knotts, Carl Reiner, Jack Benny, and even an uncredited cameo by Jerry Lewis (as “Man who runs over hat”).

If our trip includes “a big W” we’ll let you know once we’ve dug up and re-stashed the loot.

The Blues Brothers: Theatrical Cut(1980) R

After Jake Blues (John Belushi) gets out of prison, he and brother Elwood (Dan Aykroyd) reunite for a one-night charity concert, then wind up in a monumental chase.

This is not a good movie, but it still manages to be a great movie. (I should point out, before Neil does, that Dan Aykroyd is Canadian, too.) I still love the soundtrack and the church scene with James Brown is one of my favourite movie scenes (right up there with “I am Spartacus!”).

The Cannonball Run (1981) PG

Burt Reynolds, Farrah Fawcett, Dom DeLuise, Peter Fonda, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr. and Jackie Chan are all entrants in an illegal cross-country car race, and all are willing to do anything to win.

I’m not sure how Blues Brothers wound up rated R while Cannonball Run was rated PG. I recall Cannonball Run as being in distinctly poorer taste.

I haven’t seen Cannonball Run in dog’s years, and I’m guessing that what I’ll delicately term its “1970’s sensibilities” are probably a little uncomfortable to watch today. (Has anyone seen it lately?) But Cannonball Run makes the list because it is still an ultimate road trip movie. I remember loving Dom DeLuise in this film, and I think this must have been Jackie Chan’s first big American movie role.

Strangers in Good Company (1990) PG

When a bus filled with eight elderly women breaks down in the wilderness, the group of strangers is stranded at a deserted farmhouse with only their wits, their memories and eventually some roasted frogs’ legs to sustain them.

Rita Kemply of the Washington Post characterized Strangers In Good Company as Outward Bound on Golden Pond, and that strikes me as a pretty good description. I saw this in Montreal back when it was released, and found it interesting and sweet but also substantial. Given that their bus breaks down, I don’t know if this is strictly speaking a “road trip movie” Kemply calls it “a kind of road movie sitting still” but then we haven’t been logging that many miles yet ourselves so I’m not really in a position to point fingers.

Strangers in Good Company was produced by Studio D of Canada’s National Film Board, which is now tragically defunct. A film came out in 2007 about the history of Studio D, and Gail Vanstone of York University also recently published a book titled D is for Daring: The Women behind the Films of Studio D. I look forward to tracking down both the book and the film.

(If I keep including Canadian content, do you think Stephen Harper will send me some grant money?)

Little Miss Sunshine (2006) R

Convinced little Olive (Abigail Breslin) is beauty queen material, parents Richard (Greg Kinnear) and Sheryl (Toni Collette) and the rest of the family embark on a life-altering road trip to a pageant.

Several friends recommended Little Miss Sunshine to us, but I dragged my feet on watching it because the trailers and promotions for it did nothing for me. When we finally watched it, I was delightfully surprised by how quirky and subversive it is. (That’s high praise from us.) Without spoiling the film for anyone who hasn’t seen it, I’d just like to clarify that Neil and I are not traveling with any dead bodies in the Mini. So far.

What are your favourite road trip movies?

As I look at this list, it occurs to me that many road trip movies are of dubious quality; this genre seems prone to movies that, while great as road trip movies, are not necessarily good as just plain movies. So be sure to explain your favourite road trip movies’ redeeming qualities!

And don’t feel constrained to American movies or English language films. There’s got to be some great road trip movies from other regions, and I’m surprised I can’t think of any off the top of my head.

Please share your favourites!

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26 comments

1 Shaula { 07.14.08 at 2:47 pm }

Update: how could I forget The Motorcycle Diaries, the biopic about the journey and written memoir of the 23-year-old Ernesto Guevara, who would years later become internationally known as the iconic Marxist revolutionary “Che” Guevara. Guevara is played by Mexican actor Gael García Bernal, and Granado by the Argentine actor Rodrigo de la Serna, who is a second cousin to Che Guevara on his maternal side. Directed by Brazilian director Walter Salles and written by Puerto Rican playwright José Rivera, the film was an international co-production between production companies from Argentina, the United States, Germany, the United Kingdom, Chile, Peru and France.

Plus, it is really good.

There’s one film at least for the international / allophone road trip movie list. What else have we got?

2 Justin { 07.14.08 at 2:51 pm }

I like Germans making movies about America!
My two additions to your list would be
Paris, Texas
in which Harry Dean Stanton spends most of the movie barely talking.

and
Strozek,
which was Herzog’s movie about America.

Both of these are very very sad movies though.

On a slightly happier note,
I really love the two great 70’s car road movies
Two Lane BlackTop
&
Vanishing Point.

I think Harry Dean plays a gay hitchhiker in Two lane, come to think of it.

All great movies though.

3 Shaula { 07.14.08 at 3:02 pm }

I don’t think I’ve seen any of them–and I like Werner Herzog.

Did you ever see Schultze Gets the Blues? It is another German-abroad-in-America movie (that I should have thought of earlier; we were just discussing it with our friend Herb who is a German movie fan).

It is very sweet, and I think you might really like it.

It is also a story about loss, and it gains an extra element of irony and poignancy from the fact that the US scenes were filmed on location in Louisana and Texas in 2002, before they were hit by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. The imaginary Schultze got to visit a real part of America that now most of us will never get to see.

To end on a less down-beat note: thank you for the recommendations! I’m adding them to the list.

4 Jason & Kelly { 07.14.08 at 10:22 pm }

Hey! I’d vote for “Everything Is Illuminated”. Long drives in tiny cars, dubious overnight stops and people who speak in horrendously broken English!
The two-liner fro imdb says:
A young Jewish American man endeavors to find the woman who saved his grandfather during World War II in a Ukrainian village, that was ultimately razed by the Nazis, with the help of a local who speaks weirdly funny broken English.

I found it to be a very touching movie. It doesn’t quite deliver the profundity it strives for, but all in all a well conceived and directed picture. It also features some absolutely stunning visuals/composition – many kudos to the DP.

And, although it may be bending the rules to call it a road-trip flick, I’d offer up “Across The Universe”. It’s definitely a trip of some sort, thanks to Julie Taymor. But, come to think of it, a guy crosses the ocean a couple times, there’s some hitchhiking, and a full-on bus-trip culminating in a brilliant sequence featuring Eddie Izzard! So, yeah, I’ll revise my statement to read, “puts the trip back into road trip”.
Seriously, this one is one of my top-10 all-time faves. Hope I’m not gushing too much

aloha y’all!

5 Shaula { 07.14.08 at 10:57 pm }

More movies that I’ve never even heard of: this is wonderful! (And who can get enough Eddie Izzard?)

Thank you, Jason! I’m adding these to the list.

(And give our love to the missus.)

6 Mike V. { 07.15.08 at 6:22 am }

1. Mad Max
No collection of road films is complete without this bastion of Australian post-apocalyptic dystiopian film-noir. Far, far better than the later Hollywood shlock, ironic in light of its famously tiny budget, Mad Max pulls no punches with the audioence yet offers surprisingly beautiful cinematography. Plus, you get to see Mel Gibson in his teenage years play a bike cop with a vengence.
(http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0079501/)

2. Planes, Trains, and Automobiles
John Candy and Steve Martin show great comic chemistry as two guys just trying to get home for Thanksgiving. It sould be pretentious to say they take the road less travelled by, but I can get away with it by wrapping the statement in this implied denial. Take that, 7th grade English! This is perhaps the road trip’s road trip film.
(http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0093748/)

3. Easy Rider
A weakly-acted but drug-pumped counterculture youth film celebrating the sixties hippie rebellion against whatever you got, baby. Especially rednecks. Peter Fonda, Dennis Hopper, and Jack Nicholson ride custom choppers west to east in search of meaning, identity, and America. A good, easy ride that became an icon.
(http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0064276/)

4. Vacation
National Lampoon’s first (and funniest) family vacation movie holds a special place in my heart, as it perfectly captures the ‘fun’ of waking in the pre-dawn hours to be packed cheek-by-jowl into the family car and taken on a death-march-esque long distance trip. Features Chevy Chase at his hapless, slapstick best.
(http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0085995/)

5. On Any Sunday
OK, I’ll be honest: the only road trip aspect of this movie is that it contains roads. Sometimes. But this is perhaps the definitive motorcycle movie, and an example of the difference between folks who ride (you know who you are) and those who race. If you ever watched a race and thought, ‘I could do that,’ Mert Lawmill shows you why you didn’t. Oddly, the ’70s vibe and Bruce Brown’s charming, hypnotic narration add up to a surpassingly fun movie. Watch it, then show it to your friends who say ‘I could never ride a motorcycle.’
(http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0067527/)

6. Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas
Monty Python’s Terry Gilliam interprets self-described ‘gonzo journalist’ Hunter S. Thompson’s drug-addled autobiographical trip-tik for the screen, as acted by equally gonzo Johnny Depp with the able assistance of Benicio del Toro. An excellent cast, and a wild ride of a movie.
(http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0120669/)

7. Death Race 2000
Um, right, see, um, I really don’t have the foggiest idea how to describe this movie. Really. You just have to see it. I think.
(http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0072856/)

8. Bullitt
An absolute classic, though more a car movie than a road trip flick, ‘Bullitt’ is just an unabashedly fantastic celebration of Steve McQueen and his movie-car-de-jour. It contains what may be the best car chase scene prior to the ‘Blues Brothers,’ made all the better by the soundtrack cutting away to pure car sounds. Great stuff! As a bonus, the film includes the car-and-driving work of Max Balchowsky, Bud Ekins
(http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0062765/)

9. Repo Man.
Not really a road trip movie, though, as the name implies, it does involve cars. Also, a great deal of weirdness. Best to watch this on acid, should you be so inclined. This is an absolute must-see for Neil, if only for the passing reference to the lattice o’ coincidence.
(http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0087995/)

10. O Brother, Where Art Thou?
The Coen brothers’ updated ode to Homer’s ‘The Odyssey,’ ‘O Brother’ meanders through a comic deep south circa 1930. A great cast and well developed comedic story make this a sure thing.
(http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0190590/)

11. The Straight Story
In which David Lynch takes us on a 400-mile road trip by lawn tractor. Based on a true story, this is not Lynch’s ususal fare, offering instead a journey that is as slow and sweet and golden as good southern iced tea. This movie is not for everyone, but makes for a great rainy-day getaway.
(http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0166896/)

12. The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada
I believe this move marks Tommy Lee Jones’ first effort at combining acting and directing, and in my opinion he nails both roles. A powerful film about the dedication of friendship and the value of life, I just today discovered that it is based very, very loosely on a real event. In 1997 U.S. Marines deployed along the Texas-Mexico border in support of the U.S. Border Patrol shot and killed an 18-year-old American student who was herding goats across a shallow ford in the Rio Grande. Although ‘Estrada’ deviates substantially from actual events, I think both the real and fictional versions are enlightening. I offer both as must-see material.
(http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0419294/)
(http://www.tvguide.com/detail/tv-show.aspx?tvobjectid=191706&more=ucepisodelist&episodeid=8014519)

Some easier, more mainstream choices for the faint of heart:
i. Kalifornia (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0107302/)
ii. Death Proof (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1028528/)
iii. It Happened One Night (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0025316/)
iv. Crazy in Alabama (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0142201/)
v. Transamerica (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0407265/)
vi. Lost in America (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0089504/)
vii. Rain Man (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0095953/)
viii. Thelma and Louise (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0103074/)
ix. About Schmidt (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0257360/)
x. Nurse Betty (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0171580/)
xi. The Gumball Rally (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0074597/)
xii. Smokey and the Bandit (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0076729/)

7 Justin { 07.15.08 at 9:07 am }

How could I forget
Abbas Kirostamis Taste of Cherry
for me it’s the greatest road movie of all time. And the most life-affirming film you could imagine about a guy driving around the hillsides of Iran trying to find someone to bury him after he kills himself!
(I’m not kidding about the life-affirming part either)

8 Neil { 07.15.08 at 10:25 pm }

I’ve been wracking my brain trying to think of fun road movies that aren’t just action (Road Warrior series) just bad (Smokey and the Bandit, et al) or just cliches, at this point (Rainman) but hey, if it weren’t for me, somebody else would have to be the philistine <g>

I would sit down right now with North By Northwest, or a decent make of Around the World in eighty Days.

9 Shaula { 07.15.08 at 11:27 pm }

Justin, I seem to recall hearing great things about A Taste of Cherry (didn’t it win scads of awards a while back?) although I haven’t seen it. It goes on the list!

(Speaking of movies that should be downers but are uppers, I’m guessing that you’ve seen Harold and Maude, yes? I was trying to explain it to a friend the other day…it is hard to explain. It was based on a play of the same name by Colin Higgins, which I would love to direct one day for a theatre festival.)

It is such a relief to know we can always count on Neil to be the philistine. (And I say that with love.)

Besides, North By Northwest is a GREAT movie. To fully appreciate it, you need to know that the movie is really all about Cary Grant’s Suit.

10 Shaula { 07.15.08 at 11:33 pm }

Mike, WordPress somehow ate your comment, but I’ve just retrieved and approved it. Sorry it took us so long to get it showing up live here. (I’ll ask Neil if he can figure out what went wrong.)

That’s a massive and pretty comprehensive list.

I can’t believe I forgot Deathrace 2000! Especially when I associate it with Cannonball Run — they must have come out around the same time, no?

And otherwise…I have seen very few movies on your list.

This is great! If Neil and I can ever stay awake long enough to watch a movie again, we’re going to be set for road movies for a long time to come!

11 Neil { 07.16.08 at 3:50 pm }

And Mike V. comes through in the crunch =]

I can’t believe I didn’t think of O Brother, Where Art Thou?–one of my favorite movies. The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada has been on my list for a while, and we will definitely pick up Repo Man, which I have nearly watched on several occasions.

12 Justin { 07.17.08 at 4:02 pm }

Hooray for Hal Ashby! (the director of harold an maude) he also made being there, with peter sellers which is (I think it’s safe to say) an Evans’ family favorite.

13 Shaula { 07.18.08 at 10:45 pm }

If you’ll all excuse me for going off topic for a moment, is anyone else here a fan of (French-)Canadian actor Roy Dupuis? (From The Last Chapter and Maurice Richard / The Rocket–and probably best known for his role in the tv series adaptaion of La Femme Nikita, although I’ve never seen it.)

When I was reading up on Harold and Maude I found out that Dupuis played Harolde in the debut of the French language stage production. I wish I could have seen that.

14 John Loring { 07.22.08 at 7:48 pm }

Wanna talk about a travel movie? Don’t be short-sighted!
“Silent Running”

Synopsis here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Silent_Running

An eco-travel saga at its best. And this was in 1972! I believe “Silent Spring” was written just five years prior. Also, “The Time Machine”.
Synopsis: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Time_Machine#2002_film

No true travel blog should be without the aspect of traveling along the space-time continuum.

15 Neil { 07.23.08 at 11:07 am }

We will certainly have more posts about traveling along the space-time continuum, in the future.

Perhaps you’ve seen them?

16 Liz Peach { 07.25.08 at 1:44 am }

Not that you don’t have enough movies on your list already, but… one of my all-time favorite (road) movies is Steven Spielberg’s break-through film Duel. Of course, you have to consider the risk of developing a case of paranoia on the road, or being just plain ol’ creeped out. :)

17 Neil { 07.25.08 at 7:31 am }

Any biker has a sense of paranoia on the road. At least…any old biker…

18 Shaula { 07.25.08 at 1:21 pm }

Duel goes on the list! Thank you, Liz.

And here’s to paranoid bikers who live to a ripe old age.

19 Zoe { 08.23.08 at 1:12 am }

Other suggestions:
The Mexican – don’t let the fact that it stars Julia Roberts and Brad Pitt put you off.
Labyrinth
Wizard of Oz
The Dark Crystal
Willow
Time Bandits
Lord of the Rings’s
Chitty Chitty Bang Bang
The Incredible Journey
Highway 61 – a MUST see Canadian Indy film but TOTALLY road trippy
Road Kill – same dudes as Highway 61
Rain Man
Ice Age
Stand by Me
Has anybody made a movie of Keruoac’s On The Road?

20 Shaula { 08.23.08 at 1:33 am }

I’m a big fan of Highway 61. In fact I have the soundtrack…on cassette tape!

Turns out that Nashua, where we spent the last week, is where Kerouac’s family came from, and he spent of lot of time just across the line in Massachusetts in the town of Lowell.

I guess if we’re adding The Wizard of Oz, we have to add The Wiz, too. :)

21 chrisuk { 01.13.09 at 8:58 am }

in terms of slightly more recent indie road trip films there’s-
-in to the wild* a personal favourite
-the go getter
-death proof- not so indie as homage
there’s also a fantastic spanish road film called ‘Y tu tambien mama’ – and your mother to (f0r those curious).
hope this helps

22 marc { 02.21.09 at 3:49 pm }

Not in particular order, or mentioned above…
Elizabethtown… quirky comedy orlando bloom loses job and father, culture shock from Seattle to Tennessee, last, best part is road trip at the end… also alec baldwin doing his evil thing and kirsten dunst… great rendition of Freebird

Around the Bend is great road trip… michael caine dies and his kids have to take a road trip to all the KFC’s across the southwest… also christopher walken doing his quirky thing, Tom Petty music, etc.

The World’s Fastest Indian… really great, based on true story of older man breaking speed record on ancient Indian motorcycle, travel from New Zealand to Utah via LA culture shock… anthony hopkins wonderful, and so are all the other characters

Bread & Tulips… Italian housewife on a bus tour gets stranded and heads for Venice and new life

The Yellow Rolls Royce all star 60s-style movie, car gets handed over from owner to owner

23 marc { 02.21.09 at 4:02 pm }

might as well add The Endless Summer, also Bruce Brown… surfing around the world… africa etc.

24 Mary { 01.23.10 at 4:27 pm }

I’m looking for a movie about a couple of Native American teenagers who take a roadtrip in the gas guzzler vehicle owned by one of these young men. From the late 70s or 80s. Anybody know what this movie is?

25 Shaula { 01.23.10 at 8:30 pm }

Mary, that sounds like Sherman Alexie’s movie “Smoke Signals,” but that’s from about 1998. Any chance that’s it?

26 erik { 04.21.11 at 11:01 pm }

It makes me sad when everyone throws in the same sort of movies. You want real road trip movies? Elizabethtown is a good road trip film. Also, try “One Week” with Joshua Jackson its really good. Americana is good as a road trip movie too.

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