Best Road Trip Films

film reviews | movies | features | BRWC Best Road Trip Films

“They just don’t make ‘em like they used to”, so the old saying goes. Do they not? Well… road trip movies have always been one of those “unsung hero” type staples of cinema. Perhaps not as widely recognised as a genre in its own right like others, but undoubtedly one that has brought much joy to millions on the silver screen for the past few decades,  add the right touch of comedy and you have an instant classic with you… or four! To celebrate the release of National Lampoon’s The Ultimate Vacation, available now for the first time on Blu-Ray, we take a look at some of the best road trip movies of the past 50 years.


Bets were taken on whether the VW bus or the dysfunctional family inside it would break down first in Little Miss Sunshine, the critically acclaimed feature film debut by director Jonathan Dayton. Eventually things turned ugly at a junior beauty pageant in this disturbing comedy off odd but loveable characters.


Just when you thought every road trip movie character combination had been used up, along come the Australians with Hugo Weaving, Guy Pearce and Terence Stamp starring as the larger than life drag queens that travel across the country on a tour bus, encountering all sorts of characters and situations and turning in a huge cult classic along the way, most recently into a Broadway and West End musical theatre hit.

Scarecrow (1973)

The story of two vagabonds, a sailor and an ex-convict, who meet in California and travel east across the US to start up a business together in Pennsylvania, Scarecrow one again teamed Schwartzberg with Pacino, with the addition of Gene Hackman.  Although it won the Palme d’or at the 1973 Cannes Film Festival, it remains a relatively unknown outing for this otherwise remarkably big ensemble.

Thelma and Louise (1991)

Waitress Louise (Susan Sarandon) and her friend Thelma (Geena Davis), who lives under the yoke of her domineering husband, head out for a trip into the mountains in a 1966 Ford Thunderbird convertible. Things take a dramatic turn when Louise shoots dead an attempted rapist, leaving the outlaw pair no option but to put pedal to the metal for Mexico – with the law in pursuit. Scott delights in Marlboro ad imagery of the desert, its roadside Americana and the vast, gaping grandeur of the Grand Canyon in this huge box office hit.

Duel (1971)

David Mann (Dennis Weaver) travels through the California desert, threatened in a bizarre manner at every turn by a smoke-spewing truck. Meeting disbelief from the patrons of the roadside diners and truck stops where he seeks help, Mann’s trip becomes a nightmare odyssey, as the mild-mannered businessman is forced to rise to the deadly occasion.

Easy Rider (1969)

Heavy metal thunder! The ultimate motorbike movie and the film that sparked a new wave for Hollywood film-making in the 1970s. Directed by Dennis Hopper, also in the starring role alongside Peter Fonda and Jack Nicholson, the film tells the story of two bikers who travel from Los Angeles to New Orleans in search of America, portraying many of the current social issues of the time in a manner that hadn’t been done before.

The Motorcycle Diaries (2004)

The dramatization of a motorcycle road trip Che Guevara went on in his youth that showed him his life’s calling. Based on the diaries by Che himself, Gael García Bernal turns in a highly moving performance as the young soon-to-be revolutionary.

Planes, Trains & Automobiles (1987)

A man must struggle to travel home for Thanksgiving, with an obnoxious slob of a shower ring salesman his only companion. One of the family comedy classics from the 1980s and possibly the peak of both Steve Martin’s and the late John Candy’s careers.

The Trip (2010)

Steve Coogan has been asked by The Observer to tour the country’s finest restaurants, but after his girlfriend backs out on him he must take his best friend and source of eternal aggravation, Rob Brydon. Originally a BAFTA winning sitcom, the film was adapted following the highly successful TV run of the show, with Coogan and Brydon both playing fictionalized versions of themselves.

Two For The Road (1967)

A film about an architect and his wife examining their twelve-year relationship while on a road trip to Southern France. The film was considered somewhat experimental for its time because the story is told in a non-linear fashion, with scenes from the latter stages of the relationship juxtaposed with those from its beginning. A much more familiar story-telling technique these days, it was certainly a rarity for its time!

The Ultimate Vacation four disc box-set (featuring National Lampoon’s Vacation, National Lampoon’s European VacationNational Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation and National Lampoon’s Vegas Vacation) is available now on Blu-ray™ with UltraViolet™

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Alton loves film. He is founder and Editor In Chief of BRWC.  Some of the films he loves are Rear Window, Superman 2, The Man With The Two Brains, Clockwise, Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind, Trading Places, Stir Crazy and Punch-Drunk Love.


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