Get inspired to take a spring getaway with these great movies about road trips!
What's more American than getting in your vehicle and hitting the road? Road trip movies are a classic American film genre that crosses every genre, from comedy to drama and even scary movies. We choose our favorite road trip movies to make you laugh, make you think, and inspire you for the spring travel season.
1. Little Miss Sunshine
Dysfunctional family vacations don't get much quirkier than this. In this funny road trip movie, Olive (Abigail Breslin) is the youngest child of an unusual and cash-strapped family living in Albuquerque, New Mexico. When Olive qualifies for the coveted Little Miss Sunshine crown at a beauty pageant being held in two days in Redondo Beach, California, the entire family piles into their ancient Volkswagon mini-bus to drive her to the event, 800 miles away. As the family pushes forward toward the pageant, their van is plagued by mechanical problems. Meanwhile, long simmering family tensions threaten to boil over in the confined space. This delightfully fun movie is full of great performances, including Toni Collette as Olive's overburdened mother, Steve Carrell as her overly dramatic uncle, and Alan Arkin as her nutty grandfather. The payoff scene at the end, when Olive performs the act a family member has taught her for the pageant, is absolutely worth the wait.
2. Lost in America
Comically neurotic writer-director, Albert Brooks (he played Nemo's dad in Finding Nemo), stars alongside Julie Hagerty (Airplane) in this funny social satire from the 1980s. David and Linda Howard are a yuppie couple from Los Angeles who've achieved the American dream of high-paying jobs and a beautiful house, but feel their lives are empty. Deciding to quit the rat race, they cash in everything, buy an RV and hit the open road (like Easy Rider, David keeps insisting) to find their true selves. But when their plan hits trouble in Las Vegas, the couple's road trip takes an unexpected turn into the real America. Brooks and Hagerty have great acting chemistry that makes you believe they've been married for years (it's the bickering). And Brooks' award-winning screenplay keeps you laughing all the way, even (or especially) when it reveals the shallowness at the couple's core.
3. Thelma and Louise
This road trip movie about two best friends has created plenty of strong opinions, especially when it comes to the shocking ending (don't worry, no spoilers here if you haven't seen it). Above all, though, Thelma and Louise is a road trip movie that takes its two lead characters on a journey that has them ending up miles from where they started, both physically and metaphorically. Geena Davis and Susan Sarandon play Thelma and Louise, two blue-collar friends who are headed out on a girls' weekend to have some fun and get away from the men in their lives. But their trip turns ugly early on, when Louise uses deadly force to defend Thelma from a would-be assailant. Deciding they have no choice but to run and keep running, the women set off on a fateful adventure towards the Mexican border and potential freedom from the police who are pursuing them. You'll love this movie for the friendship, sassy dialogue and the scene where a young hustler (played by a babyish Brad Pitt) helps Thelma realize what she's been missing with her husband all these years.
4. National Lampoon's Vacation
No list of movies about road trips would be complete without National Lampoon's Vacation, the classic 1983 road-trip comedy that has spawned three sequels (so far) and makes a great case for family stay-cations. Clark Griswold (Chevy Chase), a Chicago man determined to spend more time with his family, loads his wife Ellen and children into the car for a cross-country drive toward Walley World theme park in California. Their trip is anything but smooth, as the family is beset by a series of on-the-road mishaps, including a breakdown in the desert, the demise of the family dog, and a horrible stop-over with Ellen's cousin's family in Kansas. Meanwhile, Clark is periodically distracted by a gorgeous blond (80s supermodel Christie Brinkley) in a hot red convertible, a fantasy figure who is apparently attracted to crazed family men. The movie features a number of appearances by a talented comedians (including John Candy and Jane Krakowski), but it rightly belongs to Chase, whose cursing-laced melt-down when the family finally arrives at the theme park is both hilarious and familiar territory to any parent who's ever killed themselves to make their kids happy.
5. About Schmidt
This independent comedy showcases the acting talents of Jack Nicholson, in one of the best performances of his long and successful career. Nicholson plays Warren Schmidt, a Nebraska man who's retiring from a long, unremarkable career in insurance. Warren's personal life is also unfulfilling. His long-term marriage is dull, and his daughter living in Denver is set to marry a man Warren believes isn't good enough for her. When his wife dies and Warren discovers some of her old letters with a surprise inside, he sets off in his new RV on a mission to stop his daughter's wedding. Along the way, Warren visits places from his past, and finds that everything has changed except for him. Arriving in Denver, Warren is aghast at his future son-in-law's family and more determined than ever to make sure the wedding never happens. We won't give away the ending, but Warren ultimately learns a lot about forgiving himself and others for their shortcomings by the end of this oddly feel-good movie.
For more movie therapy, visit Cathy's blog.