The 20 best road trip movies
New Line Cinema

The 20 best road trip movies

Have you been on any memorable road trips? If not, don’t feel too bad. You can always enjoy a road trip in a movie. Of course, not every memorable road trip in film is a good one. Some of them are downright dreadful and may make you glad you haven’t actually hit the open road much yourself. Whether or not the road trip itself is one we’d like to take, these are the best movies about road trips. Stay home and watch one today.

 
1 of 20

“Road Trip” (2000)

“Road Trip” (2000)
Paramount

Is “Road Trip” the best movie on this list? No, the Todd Phillips comedy certainly is not. However, it’s a movie literally called “Road Trip.” The film also has a very turn-of-the-millennium cast, including Breckin Meyer, Amy Smart, and Tom Green.

 
2 of 20

“Midnight Run” (1988)

“Midnight Run” (1988)
Universal

What is the best road trip film then? We’re quite partial to “Midnight Run,” one of the best ‘80s action comedies. Robert De Niro and Charles Grodin are both fantastic in the film. De Niro plays a bounty hunter who is taking in Grodin’s character, at least if Grodin doesn’t annoy De Niro so much that the latter takes him out before delivering the bail skipper in.

 
3 of 20

“The Muppet Movie” (1979)

“The Muppet Movie” (1979)
Associated Film Distribution

The very first Muppets film is a road movie! While a bunch of Muppets, and celebrities, show up, the thrust of the film is Kermit the Frog taking a trip across the country to get to Los Angeles. There are musical numbers, silly jokes, a frog legs magnate who wants Kermit to be his spokesperson for his restaurants.

 
4 of 20

“It Happened One Night” (1934)

“It Happened One Night” (1934)
Columbia

“It Happened One Night” is one of only three films to win the “big five” Oscars: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor, Best Actress, and Best Screenplay. The screwball comedy is one of the last big films before the Production Code took effect and features big names like Frank Capra, Clark Gable, and Claudette Colbert. Maybe the most famous scene in the movie involves hitchhiking as well.

 
5 of 20

“Smokey and the Bandit” (1977)

“Smokey and the Bandit” (1977)
Universal

Here’s a movie all about action on the road. The premise is simple. Burt Reynolds aka “Bandit” and his pal Jerry Reed aka “Snowman,” take on a bet that says they can’t illegally transport 400 cases of Coors from Texarkana to Atlanta within 28 hours. With the law after them, “Smokey and the Bandit” features a bunch of car chases and some big-time stunts.

 
6 of 20

“Harry and Tonto” (1974)

“Harry and Tonto” (1974)
20th Century Fox

Art Carney is best known as the wacky best friend on “The Honeymooners,” one of the first hit sitcoms. Did you know he also won an Oscar for Best Actor? It’s true, and he beat out guys like Albert Finney, Dustin Hoffman, Al Pacino, and Jack Nicholson. He did that for the film “Harry and Tonto,” where he plays a man who goes on a cross-country trip after he finds out his apartment building is being demolished. He’s Harry. Tonto is his cat.

 
7 of 20

“Bonnie and Clyde” (1967)

“Bonnie and Clyde” (1967)
Warner Bros.

When we think of “Bonnie and Clyde,” we think of the bank robberies and the violence. Some consider this a pivotal film in the evolution of the Hollywood post-Production Code. However, it’s also kind of a road movie. We spend a lot of time with Bonnie and Clyde as they travel around from town to town until they meet their untimely demise in their car.

 
8 of 20

“My Own Private Idaho” (1991)

“My Own Private Idaho” (1991)
Fine Line Features

Yes, this movie has a strange name, but it’s actually a somber, elegiac film. Gus Van Sant based the film on a few Shakespeare plays, and cast up-and-coming actors Keanu Reeves and the late River Phoenix in the main roles. The two of them spend the film on a journey of discovery, with plenty of contemplative moments along the way.

 
9 of 20

“Something Wild” (1986)

“Something Wild” (1986)
Orion Pictures

We don’t want to spoil “Something Wild,” because the movie abruptly shifts in tone at a certain point. In fact, it’s one of the few films we can think of that goes from being a wacky comedy to serious thriller. The movie also has a fine cast at his disposal, including Jeff Daniels, Melanie Griffith, and a young, relatively-unknown Ray Liotta.

 
10 of 20

“Logan” (2017)

“Logan” (2017)
20th Century Fox

“Logan” is different from many superhero movies. One, it’s a serious R-rated film with plenty of swearing and violence (but not in a “Deadpool” way). Two, it’s a Western in many ways. Three, it’s also a road movie. Logan, aka Wolverine, and a dying Charles Xavier take a young mutant named Laura on a journey to try and find a purported refuge spot for mutants. There is much killing along the way, but not of the flippant variety.

 
11 of 20

“The Sugarland Express” (1974)

“The Sugarland Express” (1974)
Universal

“The Sugarland Express” is about a husband and wife who take a police officer hostage and take off across the country fleeing authorities. It stars Goldie Hawn, which is notable. That being said, the real noteworthy thing about “The Sugarland Express” is that it is Steven Spielberg’s first full-length theatrical film. You can see where everything began for the legendary director.

 
12 of 20

“Pee-wee’s Big Adventure” (1985)

“Pee-wee’s Big Adventure” (1985)
Warner Bros.

Pee-wee Herman’s beloved bicycle is stolen. Naturally, this leads to him having to go off on a trip that takes him all across the country, even to the Alamo (sadly, not to its basement). He dances for bikers. He meets Large Marge. The movie is strange but wonderful. Also, speaking of debuts, this is Tim Burton’s feature-length debut, and still one of his best offerings.

 
13 of 20

“Beavis and Butt-Head Do America (1996)

“Beavis and Butt-Head Do America (1996)
Paramount

Yes, Beavis and Butt-Head are goofy, lowbrow characters. They could seemingly sustain a narrative for the entirety of an episode of TV, so how would they survive a movie? Well, it’s not always successful, but there are charms to seeing these two doofuses on a trip across America. David Letterman was willing to do a cameo, so you know it has some things going for it.

 
14 of 20

“Dumb and Dumber” (1994)

“Dumb and Dumber” (1994)
New Line Cinema

In some ways, “Dumb and Dumber” is “Beavis and Butt-Head Do America” but live-action and with adult characters. For many, “Dumb and Dumber” is the quintessential road movie comedy. Heck, some consider it one of the funniest movies ever made. This is Jeff Daniels’ second film on this list, but in truth, this was largely a breakout role for Jim Carrey.

 
15 of 20

“Lost in America” (1985)

“Lost in America” (1985)
Warner Bros.

Early in his career, Albert Books trafficked in satire, usually successfully. “Lost in America” is definitely a pointed film. Brooks costars as half of a Yuppie couple who quit their job to explore America and “find themselves.” Of course, it doesn’t go well, mostly owing to the naivety and cravenness of these two middle-class Californians.

 
16 of 20

“Between Two Ferns: The Movie” (2019)

“Between Two Ferns: The Movie” (2019)
Netflix

“Between Two Ferns” the internet video series is quite stationary. That is to say, all we ever see is a black room with two chairs and two ferns. It’s a sendup of cheaply-made public access shows, and an excuse for Zack Galifianakis to be a jerk to celebrities. For the Netflix movie based on the comedy shorts, though, Galifianakis and crew take to the road. The film is largely improvised, but the cast is so talented it remains quite funny and sustains a full narrative.

 
17 of 20

“National Lampoon’s Vacation” (1983)

“National Lampoon’s Vacation” (1983)
Warner Bros.

The “Vacation” series features a few different trips, but the original movie involves a road trip. Specifically, a disastrous road trip to Wally World for the Griswold family. Chevy Chase may no longer be a comedy star, but “Vacation” is a reminder of what he could do at his best.

 
18 of 20

“Planes, Trains, and Automobiles” (1987)

“Planes, Trains, and Automobiles” (1987)
Paramount

John Candy is in “Vacation.” He has a much bigger role in “Planes, Trains, and Automobiles.” The John Hughes comedy is one of the few Thanksgiving movies ever made, and we personally credit any success in this film to the dynamic duo of Candy and Steve Martin, who are both talented comedic performers.

 
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“Nebraska” (2013)

“Nebraska” (2013)
Paramount Vantage

Will Forte usually acts in very silly comedies. For “Nebraska,” he had to get a bit more serious. Alexander Payne’s film is a comedy-drama mixture that is both funny and somber in equal measures. Forte plays a man on a road trip with his father, played by Bruce Dern, who is dealing with the effects of aging but remains dynamic and forceful. Dern was nominated for an Oscar, but unlike Art Carney did not win.

 
20 of 20

“Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas” (1998)

“Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas” (1998)
Universal

This is one of the weirdest road trips we can recall. Considering this was based on a book by Hunter S. Thompson, that makes sense. Johnny Depp and Benicio Del Toro are on a road trip to Las Vegas, and they are packing a ton of drugs for the excursion. When we say these two are on a road trip, we mean it’s a road trip. “Fear and Loathing” is full of bizarre, psychedelic imagery, and definitely does its best to capture the ethos of Thompson’s book.

Chris Morgan is a sports and pop culture writer and the author of the books The Comic Galaxy of Mystery Science Theater 3000 and The Ash Heap of History. You can follow him on Twitter @ChrisXMorgan.

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