Road trips have become a sort of staple in North American films, probably because the open road leaves room for almost anything and everything to happen. Oftentimes these stories carry the inner workings of close friendships, tragedy, humour, and not-so-subtle commentary on the trials and absurdities of everyday life. In light of the hilarious and the tragic, here is a list of a few road trip classics that offer something for everyone.
Little Miss Sunshine (2006)
A family favourite, Little Miss Sunshine posits the humble story of the Hoovers—a dysfunctional family trying to get their daughter, Olive Hoover (Abigail Breslin) to the finals of a beauty pageant. Also starring Greg Kinnear, Paul Dano, Alan Arkin, Toni Collette and Steve Carell, it’s Little Miss Sunshine’s honesty and total ridiculousness that makes this story a move night classic.
Almost Famous (2000)
Written and directed by Cameron Crowe, this film follows the fictional story of a young journalist who gets the opportunity to follow a rock band called Stillwater around on tour in the early ‘70s for Rolling Stone magazine. Miller’s experiences are based on Crowe’s real experiences as a young writer for Rolling Stone who toured with The Allman Brothers Band, Led Zeppelin, and the Eagles, among others.
Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (1998)
Although now a cult classic, Fear and Loathing was a box office bust on its release in 1998, grossing only US$10.6 million in North America, which was significantly below its original budget. However, it is now a favourite amongst most movie lovers. This film was adapted from Hunter S. Thompson’s novel Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas: A Savage Journey to the Heart of the American Dream, which first appeared as a two-part series in Rolling Stone magazine in 1971.
Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle (2004)
Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle was the first of the Harold & Kumar films. The film strings us along a hilarious unraveling of events that were caused by Harold and Kumar’s weed-induced desire to visit White Castle, a fast food chain. A whole bunch of stars appear along the way, including Ryan Reynolds, Anthony Anderson, and a cameo appearance by Neil Patrick Harris.
Easy Rider (1969)
Written by Peter Fonda, Dennis Hopper, and Terry Southern, Easy Rider follows the fictional journey of two bikers who travel across America to sell marijuana. Easy Rider has become an iconic counterculture film that explores the tensions that surrounded the United States during the 1960s. Much like Fear and Loathing, this film explores the perceived failure of the American dream.
Thelma & Louise (1991)
This film features two friends who intend to go on a fishing trip and end up on a wild road adventure with devastating effects. This provocative film was highly acclaimed by critics, and also caused quite the stir upon its initial release due to Geena Davis and Susan Sarandon’s characters’ approach against male sexual violence. Having won an Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay, Thelma & Louise has easily become a classic.
National Lampoon’s Vacation (1983)
You can’t get much better than Chevy Chase and a screenplay written by John Hughes. This cult classic follows the timeless journey of the Griswolds as they venture cross-country to the Walley World theme park. With Anthony Michael Hall as Rusty, Dana Barron as Audrey, Beverly D’Angelo as Ellen and Chevy Chase as Clark, this story, also often referred to as Vacation, is known for being the best National Lampoonfilm.
Dumb & Dumber (1994)
Dumb & Dumber tells the story of Lloyd Christmas (Jim Carrey) and Harry Dunne (Jeff Daniels) as the two friends embark on an adventure to Aspen, Colorado, to return a misplaced briefcase full of money to its rightful owners, as well as to find Mary Swanson, the woman Lloyd is in love with. Of course, Lloyd and Harry face a number of strange events that serve to test the boundaries of their friendship.
Road Trip (2000)
We can’t have a list about road trip movies without Road Trip. This seemingly plotless film is still pretty hilarious, and follows a group of friends as they drive out to Austin to retrieve a sex tape that was accidentally mailed to the girlfriend of Josh Parker (played by Breckin Meyer) that revealed Josh hooking up with one of his classmates. With the same crude humour that made American Pie famous, Road Trip easily opens a spot for itself in the raunchy teen comedy canon.