Now is the time of year I get itchy feet. All weekend I thought about where I want to travel in the coming year, and the thing I kept returning to was road trips. And since nothing inspires such a journey like a film, today I want to bring you 9 road trip movies that will make you want to travel the world.
Road Trip Movies
There’s no shortage of films about hitting the road. From Easy Rider to The Motorcycle Diaries and Dumb and Dumber, some are inspirational, some comedic, and others moving.
My list covers the road trip movies I’ve fallen in love with over the years, many of which have inspired adventures of my own. I hope they do the same for you.
1. Thelma and Louise
Thelma and Louise was the first epic road trip movie I ever saw, and it has always stuck with me. The story of two women on the run from the law, the scenes of Susan Sarandon and Geena Davis driving a vintage car through the lush greenery and stark deserts of the US always make me want to jump in a car and do a great American road trip.
Filming locations for Thelma and Louise include the La Sal Mountains, Arches National Park, Canyonlands, Monument Valley, Unaweep Canyon, and Dead Horse Point State Park, which stood in for the Grand Canyon. Having never been to any of them, I feel like a film-inspired road trip is in my future.
Being both Californian and partial to Pinot Noir, Sideways is one of my favorite road trip movies. The story of two friends on a pre-wedding road trip, it features some great towns and wineries in California.
Sideways is one of the few movies I’ve actually traveled to replicate. A few years ago I took a road trip through the places where Sideways was filmed and had a great time following in Miles and Jack’s footsteps.
I went to the restaurant in Solvang where they shared a meal, ate dinner at The Hitching Post II, where Maya worked as a waitress, and did some wine tasting at several of the wineries that feature in the film. If you get a chance to do it, I highly recommend going.
3. National Lampoon’s European Vacation
The National Lampoon movies figured prominently in my childhood. From the original to the rest, I adored watching Clark Griswold and his family navigate all the disasters life threw at them.
Given I live in London, my favorite of the films is National Lampoon’s European Vacation. The story of the family’s European road trip, it starts in the UK capital and continues in France, Germany, and Italy.
I love the scenes of Clark’s attempts to drive in the UK. From circling the Lambeth Bridge roundabout for hours to driving on the wrong side of the road, his humorous calamities have stuck with me as I’ve made my own attempts to drive in this country. Maybe one of these days I’ll follow in his tire treads, trying to succeed where he couldn’t.
4. Rain Man
Back in the US, Rain Man is another of my top road trip movies. It’s the story of two brothers driving across the country. Their journey starts in Cincinnati and goes through Las Vegas on the way to Los Angeles.
The Vegas scenes are the ones that stand out in my mind. Watching Raymond, an autistic savant, count cards in a casino is exciting, and the movie always makes me want to do a road trip that goes through Sin City.
5. Tommy Boy
Maybe it’s because I watched it a million times with my brother when I was young, but I’ve always loved Tommy Boy. The story of a man who embarks on an epic road trip with his father’s assistant in order to save his family business, it’s a Midwestern American classic.
I love the scenes of Tommy and Richard driving Richard’s vintage car through the countryside, singing at the top of their lungs. It always makes me want to get behind the wheel, crank up the music, and join them in a rousing rendition of “Eres tu”.
6. Little Miss Sunshine
Another heartwarming pick for my list of road trip movies is Little Miss Sunshine. It’s the story of a family on an 800-mile road trip from Albuquerque to Southern California to take the youngest member to compete in a beauty competition.
Their journey in a VW camper van partly inspired my great British road trip in a similar vehicle last year. While they drove through the American southwest, I motored through England and Wales. Different landscapes, but similar life-affirming experiences.
7. Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle
One of the funniest road trip movies I’ve seen is Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle. The story of two friends who embark on an epic journey just to eat at a fast-food restaurant, it goes through the highs and lows of road tripping.
While their experience verges on the extreme, every road trip has its unexpected moments. And while I wouldn’t want to repeat their experience of getting bit by a raccoon in my car, I like the idea of going to great lengths for a favorite food.
8. Almost Famous
Almost Famous is one of the greatest road trip movies of all time. The story of a young music journalist traveling across the US with a band, it’s not only a great film but also features an amazing soundtrack.
The scene on the tour bus when “Tiny Dancer” plays and everyone starts singing along is one of my favorites from any film. It has inspired many a road trip playlist, and every time that song comes on when I’m driving I can’t help singing out loud.
Not usually considered a road trip movie, Swingers nonetheless counts for me because it includes an impromptu road trip from Southern California to Las Vegas.
Covering the ups and downs of road tripping, the journey starts with the group being excited about Sin City, then hits a lull when they remember how long the drive through the desert is. Many a Californian has experienced the same thing, and their stories always make me think of Swingers.
I’ve never done a road trip to Vegas, but even though the desert stretch is long I’d like to do it someday.
I hope this list of road trip movies has inspired you. If your feet are itching as much as mine, watching them might just spark your wanderlust enough to hit the road in the coming year.
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