Above all, these road trip films capture the spirit of life’s journey. Want to get your teeth into some onscreen adventure? Check out this list of great road trip movies.
Thelma and Louise (1991)
Not many car movies star two women behind the wheel. Perhaps that’s why 'Thelma and Louise' is such an iconic road trip movie. Geena Davis and Susan Sarandon are Thelma and Louise. The women plan a weekend getaway to escape boyfriend problems. To that end, they hop into Louise’s ’66 Ford Thunderbird and unwittingly become outlaws as they wind their way through the vast entrails of the country’s landscape from Oklahoma to Colorado. A cop is on their tail, and he chases them all the way to the Grand Canyon.
'Thelma and Louise' won an Oscar for Best Original Screenplay. Incidentally, this movie was Brad Pitt’s breakout film for which he was paid a paltry $6,000.
Two-Lane Blacktop (1971)
Starring not-yet-famous James Taylor and Beach Boys drummer Dennis Wilson, "Two-Lane Blacktop" (1971) is an existential film that cruises the open road to the tune of Easy Rider. The instant cult-classic, directed by Monte Hellman, depicts the two drifters on a cross-country trek, heading east from the West coast. The boys’ journey is punctuated by intermittent drag races and existential angst. The Driver (Taylor) and The Mechanic (Wilson) meet GTO, a dude named after his Pontiac. All agree to a winner-takes-all road race. Their prospective pink slips are up for grabs, and the cars are all each man is.
Cruising the gamut of Americana scenes in a bulked-up modified ’55 Chevy, the Driver and the Mechanic run into a drifter named Girl at a gas stop in a Route 66 town. After stowing away in the backseat, the Girl proceeds to mix things up. Director Hellman says the plot lives almost entirely in subtext. What he creates is arguably the best road film ever made and a lovely contribution to 1970s cinema aesthetic.
Two for the Road
Audrey Hepburn and Albert Finney star in 'Two for the Road' (1967). It’s essentially a love story that takes place on the road. Accompanying the drives through the South of France are a white Mercedes-Benz 230 SL, a Roadster, an MG TD, an Alfa Romeo, and a Triumph Herald. The various cars from different eras serve to remind the viewer of the setting’s time and place since the story is presented non-linearly. It takes place through a 12-year time period beginning when the couple falls in love.
AV Club calls it “a clear-eyed, openhearted, and ultimately open-ended portrait of a marriage.” Directed by Stanley Donen, 'Two for the Road' was nominated for a Best Original Screenplay Oscar. It was filmed on location in France.
Vanishing Point (1971)
This action-thriller road flick is about a dude who wants to race cross country to win a bet. He loves speed and the drug too. His gig is to deliver a supercharged Dodge Challenger Race and Track 440 from Denver to S.F. as fast as he can.
'Vanishing Point' stars Barry Newman, Cleavon Little, and Dean Jagger. Kowalski (Newman), a Vietnam vet, a former race car driver, and a dishonorably discharged police officer, is relentlessly pursued by two cops. He gets some help from a radio station DJ and hippie biker named Angel. On the way, Kowalski also gets propositioned to race a Jaguar E-Type roadster. You know who wins. (The maniac in the Challenger.) It’s a rock and roll movie.
The Hitch-Hiker (1953)
They should not have picked up that hitch-hiking sociopath, but then there wouldn't be a movie. Based on a true story, 'The Hitch-Hiker' is a 1953 oldie starring Edmund O’Brien and Frank Lovejoy on the road, and William Tallman as the murderous fugitive. Directed by Ida Lupino, a prominent British filmmaker, this movie was the first film noir by a woman.
The entirety of the film takes place inside of a generic car. The two men are off to a fishing expedition when they made the fatal mistake of giving the wanted murderer a lift. The hitchhiker is a psychopathic misanthrope wanted for murder in several states. The character was inspired by William Cook, who was ultimately executed at San Quentin for his long list of horrific murders.
Oscar-winning director Nikita Mikhalkov is the person behind this 1990 film. L'autostop was meant to be a short promotional video for Fiat, but it sort of blew out of proportion and became a lovely short film. The story here is that of an Italian racer who needs to drive a car to Russia from Italy.
During his road trip, the racer, who apparently has no real family, ventures into the Russian forests and creates himself a fully fictional family. What starts out as a road trip movie ends up being a cautionary tale about the choices we make in life.
Strangers on a Train (1951)
Another one of Alfred Hitchcock’s films, Strangers on a Train has a near perfect rating on every major review platform, with a 4/4 on Roger Ebert and a 98% on Rotten Tomatoes. The film follows two men who meet on a train and hatch a deadly plan to murder someone in each of their lives.
Aside from the suspense that Hitchcock is famous for, the film is also full of his unique camera angles. The film’s cinematographer, Robert Burks, was nominated for the Oscar for Best Cinematography, while Hitchcock was nominated for an award from the Directors Guild of America and the National Board of Review.
Into the Wild (2007)
Emile Hirsch played Chris McCandless, a man who starved to death in the Alaskan Wilderness hoping to be saved. To get into such a deprived state, Hirsch had to give up food. “I weighed about 156 pounds when I got the part, and I weighed 130 pounds throughout most of the film” Hirsch said. But, as the character he portrayed neared death, he lost significant body fat. “And then I went down to 115 pounds for the weight loss in the Alaska segment,” he said.
Wasting away like that was a mental and physical challenge. To do it, he explains, “was a lot of running and being very hungry and dreaming of candy all the time.” It was all he could think of Even though he was starving, candy was all he craved. “It was like, Steak? No. Like a Take 5 Candy Bar. That was like the ideal,” Hirsch said.
Almost Famous (2000)
This love letter to rock music by the legendary Cameron Crowe is a showcase of all the most glorious things in the 70s. A large part of that is of course, awesome rock bands on the road. Of course, with that comes fights, affairs, and all the wild indulgences that involve 70s rock stars.
The fun and moving film about fame and growing up is a definite must.
The Blues Brothers (1980)
Dan Aykroyd and John Belushi star in this cult classic as two brothers on a mission from God himself. Jake Blues (Belushi) and his brother Elwood (Aykroyd) decide to do some good and raise money for the Catholic home they few up in.
This mission results in a major road trip all through Illinois in an effort to get the band back in action. You can't resist these SNL legends.
Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan (2006)
A title as long as that needs a long journey. One of the funniest road trip films to have ever been released, Borat (Sacha Baron Cohen) travels throughout the United States to "learn" about American culture, and marry Pamela Anderson.
Along the way, the Khazaki journalist meets some pretty interesting folks, like hot-headed frat boys and rodeo fans. It's a crazy journey through American culture.
Dumb and Dumber (1994)
Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels star as dumb best friends in the Farrelly brothers classic. Due to a big misunderstanding, Lloyd (Jim Carrey) and Harry (Jeff Daniels) fear that the gas man is out to get them after the death of their pet bird. They drive all the way to Aspen to hand-deliver the "forgotten" briefcase to Mary (Lauren Holly), apparently, the love of Lloyd's life.
The two idiots hit the road in a car that looks like a dog, so you know you're in for laughs.
Easy Rider (1969)
The film Easy Rider took Hollywood into the modern era of auteur filmmaking of the 1970s. Director Dennis Hopper (who also stars in the film, alongside Peter Fonda) gives us the story of two hippie bikers traveling from LA to New Orleans after cashing in on a drug deal.
The film takes us (and them) on a journey through America as they witness the disparity between the conservative establishment and the younger generation yearning for change. It's the quintessential open road movie.
The End of the Tour (2015)
Jesse Eisenberg and Jason Segel star in this film about the conversations between Rolling Stone reporter David Lipsky (Jesse Eisenberg) and author David Foster Wallace (Jason Segel).
Both are beautifully profiled in director James Ponsoldt's special story that has the two men engaging with each tear while on the road for Wallace's book tour.
It Happened One Night (1934)
Frank Capra's famous movie is romantic comedy features the amazing Claudette Colbert as a spoiled heiress running away from home. Clark Gable is the handsome reporter who thinks he finally found a winning story. The action ensues as he follows her to New York, making it one of the best and beloved road trip films in history.
Of course, the most iconic scene is when Colbert's character gets them a ride by pulling up her skirt to show off a little leg.
Little Miss Sunshine (2006)
This beautiful movie starring an all-star cast of Steve Carell. Toni Collete, Greg Kinnear, Al,n Arkin, Paul Dano, and Abigail Breslin as a dysfunctional family journeying their way to their daughter Olive's (Breslin) beauty pageant.
The heartfelt cross country trip, all done in a VW has heaps of humor, pathos, and a strong message about inner and outer beauty.
This somber drama of Logan follows the superhero's final days. Wolverine and Carles Xavier drive out to find a young refugee in North Dakota who is said to have mutant powers.
Sounds like a straightforward story, but no. Watch Hugh Jackman travel far and wide to discover the truth about this young mutant.
Midnight Run (1988)
Watching Robert De Niro in this filthy comedy is fantastic. Playing the bounty hunter Jack Walsh who is seeking to track down a slippery accountant, De Niro gets himself into quite the road trip.
Of course, the FBI, the mob, and a few other bounty hunters get caught up in the mix, making things a little more complicated.
The Motorcycle Diaries (2004)
Based on Che Guevara's memoir during his days as a young man, the film shows Guevara's journey across South America, before he became a Marxist revolutionary. Gael García Bernal plays young Guevara in the year 1952 discovering the world's injustices that made him the man we know from history books.
It's a powerful journey that depicts how internal and external discovery shapes us as human beings.
The Muppet Movie (1979)
The original Muppet Movie burst out onto our screens as far back as 1979. For the first time, the world witnessed a big-screen Kermit, Fozzie Bear and the gang drive across the country in hopes of hitting the big time in Hollywood.
What ensures is tons of laughs, a bunch of high profile cameos, and catchy songs.
National Lampoon's Vacation (1983)
This comedy classic by the legendary late Harold Ramis stars Chevy Chase in one of his most iconic roles as Clark W. Griswold. Chase plays the ambitious father whose holiday plans just do not pan out.
You can bet your bottom dollar it's filled with road trip adventures.
On the Road (2012)
Sam Riley, Kristen Stewart, and Garrett Hedlund star in this beat themed film based on the iconic Jack Kerouac novel of the same name. Sam Riley plays the book's narrator, Sal Paradise.
After meeting Dean (Hedlund) and Marylou (Kristen Stewart), embarks on an open road-trip across America. The film depicts the free-spirited beatnik's journey and life on the road.
Over the Top (1987)
The forever tough guy Sylvester Stallone plays a trucker and pro arm wrestler who needs to get to Las Vegas in order to compete in the world arm wrestling tournament. His estranged son and dying mother gets thrown into the mix and things get a little more complicated.
The film results in a great father-and-son road trip. With plenty of muscle flexing of course.
Pee-wee's Big Adventure (1985)
One of the most beloved comedies to come out of the 80s, Pee-wee's Big Adventure loosely satirizes "Bicycle Thieves," the Vittorio De Sica classic. Paul Reuben's zany antics as Pee-wee Herman takes him on a big adventure as he tries to track down his stolen bicycle.
We follow Pee-wee to the mysterious "basement of Alamo" which of course we find out later does not exist. Who could do this better than the legendary Tim Burton?
Planes, Trains & Automobiles (1987)
You can't get much better than Steve Martin and John Candy in "Planes, Trains & Automobiles." The comedy features the two legends who are forced to become travel companions as they head home for the holidays.
The John Hughs film that brings these comedy greats together on a long, awkward, and hilarious road trip movie experience. It is a total delight and simply a must-see.
Rain Man (1988)
Watch Tom Cruise play the sleazeball Charlie Babbitt alongside his autistic brother Raymond (Dustin Hoffman.) The two take journey on a cross country road tip in the hope of cashing in on the fortune of their father. Of course, ultimately, what happens is a beautiful journey of self-discovery.
No wonder this film won an Oscar. If you haven't seen this film, shame on you.
Road Trip (2000)
What would this list be without the film Road Trip? It's all in the name. This raunchy and wild Todd Phillps teen comedy follows four college buddies on a race against time itself to retrieve (and destroy) a "problematic" videotape.
This wild ride of a film also features Tom Green and a little white mouse. Nuff said!
Smokey and the Bandit (1977)
Legendary stunt-double Hal Needham made his directorial debut with this classic 70s film. Starring his buddy Burt Reynolds, the film went onto become one of the best road trip movies in cinema history. Reynolds plays a wild-driving bootlegger who has to safely transport 400 cases of beer from Texarkana to Atlanta.
Things get a little messy when he picks up a runaway bride (Sally Field) on-route to Atlanta. Needham proved that he isn't just a daredevil but a great director too!
The Straight Story (1999)
Definitely, the most traditional film that David Lynch has ever done. Aptly named the "The Straight Story, the film tells the tale of Richard Farnsworth, a man who sets out on a long trip on a lawnmower to see his sick brother.
Did we mention this was a Lynch film? As absurd as it sounds, the film is actually based on the actual events. In 1994 Alvin Straight traveled 240 miles on a lawnmower from Iowa to Wisconsin.
Stranger Than Paradise (1984)
Jim Jarmusch's second feature film follows Willie and his buddy Eddie as they head out on a road trip all the way to Cleveland, Ohio. There they intend to visit Eva, Willie's cousin from Hungary.
This film made its mark as a modern indie classic and was especially lauded for its unusually long takes and DIY simplistic style.
Y Tu Mamá También (2001)
Gael Garcia Bernal strikes back in another beautifully powerful road trip film. Maribel Verdú, Diego Luna, and Gael García Bernal in "Y Tu Mamá También." Director Alfonso Cuarón got a best screenplay Oscar nomination, together with his brother Carlos for this compelling road trip film.
It was the film that made Diego Luna and Gael García Bernal international stars.
The incredibly talented Tom Hardy stars in this film as the titular character, Ivan Locke. In the bold drama, we go behind the wheel of a ferocious BMW X5 SUV in one of the most thrilling never-ending night-time dives in film history.
The Times called this Steven Knight film“a bold, genuinely thrilling piece of cinema out of seemingly meager ingredients”.
The Goddess of 1967 (2000)
Director Clara Law brought us her unique road trip movie to the genre. The film, with its distinctive French car, the Citroën DS (“Déesse” in French, meaning “Goddess”) really stands out from the lot.
The plot tells the story of a Japanese businessman and a blind woman who travel together across the Outback. Law’s dreamlike aesthetic might not appeal to everyone but if this is your style, you will certainly fall in love with the film.
Bonnie and Clyde (1967)
Of all the road trip movies, this pretty much blows everything else out of the water. The film is based on the real-life events of the infamous criminal couple. For the filming, producers got their hands on a 1934 Ford Sedan that was saved from a museum fire in 1988.
The car was restored and used in the legendary film starring the two iconic actors Faye Dunaway and Warren Beatty.
Ferris Bueller’s Day Off
This coming of age classic follows a day in the life (his "day off") of Ferris Bueller after he decides to skip school. The high school student goes on a road trip to Chicago with his best friend and girlfriend in a 1963 Ferrari Modena Spyder.
Like all of Hugh's films, this one perfectly captures the modern teen experience and the life of a teen slacker.
True Romance (1993)
The 1993 movie starring Christian Slater and Patricia Arquette takes a slightly darker tone. The action/crime film follows a couple who is being chased by the mob after a mix-up involving some illegal substances.
It's a lot of high-end cars, a lot of action, and a dreamy Christian Slater. Can't ask for much more!
The indie gem of a film features a depressed and divorced Paul Giamatti and a laid back Thomas Haden Church on a weeklong road trip through wine- country. Miles (Giamatti) treats his soon-to-be-married pal Jack (Church) to a pleasant trip to the California wine country.
Of course, Jack has other plans and ends up roping poor Miles into his shenanigans. Call it a sophisticated buddy road trip and a love letter to wine
The Reivers (1969)
Set in the late 60s, this beautiful movie tells the tale of a young Missipi boy who becomes convinced that he must steal his family's car in and drive all the way to Memphis.
The adventurous film is especially iconic with its signature yellow 1905 Winton Flyer.
The Cannonball Run (1981)
In Jackie Chan's first American movie, we witness The Cannonball Run, a super illegal wild race that takes place across several states. The film is a typical Hal Needham production which means a lot of action and a lot of fast cars!
Enjoy speeding Ferraris Dodge and Lamborghinis, you name it, the film's got it. Oh, and of course, Needham's trusted pal, Burt Reynolds.
Wild at Heart (1990)
Laura Dern and Nicholas Cage star in this romantic comedy road trip film about a couple on the run from a hitman who is after Sailor (Cage).
The black comedy directed by David Lynch is based on Barry Gifford's 1989 novel of the same name.
Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (1998)
This unforgettable film features an iconic Johnny Depp and Benicio Del Toro in the story about Duke and Dr. Gonzo and their journalistic quest to Vegas while under the influence of psychoactive substances.
While the film ended up being quite the box office flop, it did garner some major cult status. The 1971 Chevrolet Impala Convertible will also forever be synonymous with the film.
Paris, Texas (1984)
The 1984 drama Paris, Texas follows Travis Henderson a drifter who, after having been claimed as missing for four years, wanders out of the desert and back into society.
The amnesic nomad rents a car to find his family and reconnects with the man he was and who he's become. Not a light movie, but a solid road trip film about self-discovery nonetheless.
You just gotta have a zombie movie on the list. This comedy/horror starring Jesse Eisenberg and Woody Harelson team up on a road trip to Ohio to find Columbus's (Eisenberg) family.
Enjoy the wild ride, laughs, and a little gore in this wildly entertaining road trip film. The Cadillac Escalade is also a great touch.
Death Proof (2007)
The Grindhouse film brings all the action and horror possible. The Tarantino directed film stars, Kurt Russell, as Stuntman Mike McKay, and his evil pursuits of murdering young women in staged car accidents in his"death proof" car.
Abernathy (Rosario Dawson), Kim (Tracie Thomas), and Lee (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) try to survive the attack from the homicidal madman in this new wave exploration thriller.
David Mann (Dennis Weaver) plays a salesman driving the Mojave desert in the search for work. This Steve Spielberg directorial debut depicts the mild-mannered family man who is forced to resort to his survival instincts when he discovers that he has become the random target of a deranged truck driver.
The film proves one thing: Spielberg has an innate gift for thriller and tension that can be spotted at the very beginning of his career.
Inside Llewyn Davis (2013)
The ever-talented Oscar Isaac stars as a wandering musician in the film Inside Llewyn Davis. We follow the man in a series of events from New York to Chicago as he grieves the suicide of his musical partner.
You can't really go wrong with a journey of a wandering folk singer finding meaning in life. It's also one of the Coen Brothers' finest films.
Joy Ride (2001)
College student Lewis (Paul Walker) drives back for the summer to bail out his brother Fuller (Steve Zahn) out of a Utah jail. The brothers prank a truck driver over a CB rider from their car. Unfortunately, they mess with the wrong trucker, and the plot begins to become a little something like Spielberg's Duel and the fun road trip inevitably becomes a quest to stay alive.
Perhaps not the critical success it pays homage to, but a thrilling "ride" nonetheless.
Woody Grant played by the great Bruce Dern is a cantankerous old drunk who believes he won a million dollars when he sees a notice in the mail. He then forces his son David (Will Forte) to drive him to collect his fortune.
Of course, the rumors about the big cash prize swirl around the small town, making the father and son center of a lot of buzz. It's a classic Alexander Payne film. The guy sure does love his road trip flicks.
Queen and Slim (2019)
The newest film we have on this list, this movie is kind of a modern spin on "Thelma and Louise" and "Bonnie and Clyde" combined. Queen (Jodie Turner-Smith) and Slim (Daniel Kaluuya) meet on a dating app and go on their first date.
After an altercation with an overly aggressive cop, the two end up on the run from the law, driving across the country and falling in love. The film tackles racism in America in a beautifully powerful way.