Going on a road trip always sounds like a fun and spontaneous thing to do in the movies, but a logistical nightmare if you try to do it IRL. Who’s gonna drive? Where are you gonna stay? Who gets the aux cord? Do you pack snacks and sandwiches or pray your favorite fast food joint is on the way? Wait .. gas is how much right now? If your urge to run away from home and go on an adventure keeps getting clouded by those pesky worries, better leave it to the professionals (fictional characters, natch) and live vicariously through a good-old-fashioned road trip movie.
All a road trip movie needs is a journey. It’s a pretty simple genre. Your main character, or characters, must embark on some kind of trek and be changed by what happens along the way instead of what happens when they get there. These movies don’t need a destination, honestly. They don’t even need wheels. It’s not about that. Some of the best road trip movies are about walking. See for yourself …
1 ‘Plan B’ (2021)
The road trip that Sunny (Kuhoo Verma) and Lupe (Victoria Moroles) go on isn’t necessarily a long one — they’re just crossing county lines to get the morning after pill — but full of enough colorful characters, side quests, and emotional revelations that you think they’ve journeyed much farther.
2 ‘The Long Dumb Road’ (2018)
It’s probably inadvisable to get in a car with a Jason Mantzoukas character. He’s made a name for himself playing 50 shades of creep. But that’s what makes his odd-couple dynamic with the character played by Tony Revolori (The Grand Budapest Hotel, Spider-Man Homecoming) so fun in this movie.
3 ‘Little Miss Sunshine’ (2006)
Ahhh, one of the quintessential ’00s indie darlings. Can’t you just hear the Sufjan Stevens on the soundtrack? Gonna go get a chai latte and plot my escape from the suburbs while I watch this road movie about a quirky family trying to get their quirky youngest daughter to a beauty pageant.
4 ‘Due Date’ (2010)
Director Todd Phillips also made Joker, but would the Joker think this movie is normal? Maybe. It’s a little dark. It’s a little … twisted.
5 ‘Into The Wild’ (2007)
More millennial indie film vibes, coming through! Someone save us. If you get a little thrill when your phone dies and you’re “off the grid” for even just a half hour, this movie’s for you.
6 ‘The Wizard of Oz’ (1939)
It’s not just a regular road, it’s a yellow brick road.
7 ‘On The Road’ (2012)
Let’s be honest, by 2021 standards, the beat poets of the 1960s would absolutely be f * ck boys. But there’s still something enviable and admirable in their nomadic, carefree lifestyle. Kerouac didn’t invent the road trip, but he sure was good at it.
8 ‘The Muppet Movie’ (1979)
You’re gonna put “Movin ‘Right Along” on all your road trip playlists after you watch this classic. It’s a bop!
9 ‘Almost Famous’ (2000)
In Almost Famous, the road trip is a struggling rock band’s tour and the passengers are the musicians, groupies, and one teenage would-be music journalist just trying to live for the music.
10 ‘Lovesong’ (2016)
After watching Zola, you might be worried about any woman who embarks on a trip with a Riley Keough character … but this seems like a much chiller adventure.
11 ‘O Brother, Where Art Thou’ (2000)
It’s based on The Odyssey, which has like … gotta be the oldest “road trip” story of all time, right? Close?
12 ‘Mad Max: Fury Road’ (2015)
Road is in the title and this movie is non-stop cars and action and new places to encounter with new conflicts.
13 ‘Magic Mike XXL’ (2015)
Who could have guessed that the sequel to “that Channing Tatum male stripper movie” would be a heartfelt road trip movie about male friendship? Not me!
14 ‘It Happened One Night’ (1934)
Don’t be fooled by the black and white. It Happened One Night might be as old as your grandparents, but it’s sexy AF.
15 ‘My Own Private Idaho’ (1991)
River Phoenix and young Keanu Reeves? Yes please. Oh and BTW, this is based on Shakespeare. Just thought you should know.
16 ‘Crossroads’ (2002)
Unfortunately, this iconic film STARRING Britney Spears, Zoe Saldana, and Taryn Manning and WRITTEN BY Shonda freakin ‘Rhimes is not streaming — so you’re going to have to beg someone for their DVD or even (gulp) check the library ?? Unacceptable.
17 ‘Thelma & Louise’ (1991)
It’s kind of iconic that so many female friendships are compared to these two, who [spoiler alert] together, isn’t it?
18 ‘And Your Mom Too’ (2001)
Two horny teenage boys go on a road trip with an older woman for a summer they’ll never forget. It’s a beautiful movie about friendship and love and growing up.
19 ‘Priscilla Queen Of The Desert’ (1994)
This Australian film was groundbreaking for LGBTQ + representation and also takes place on one of the most open roads: the Outback. It is considered a hit and a cult classic, proving you really can have it all.
20 ‘Stand By Me’ (1986)
Another road trip movie that’s mostly walking, and another that will make you long for the friends you’ve lost touch with over the years. Warning: may cause Facebook stalking.
21 ‘Away We Go’ (2009)
I didn’t want this movie when it came out because I wasn’t ready to accept John Krasinski’s hipster beard into my life. But after everyone’s quarantine beards in 2020, I may finally be ready.
Leah Marilla Thomas Leah Marilla Thomas is an entertainment writer, UNC alum, and former Hasbro Toy Tester (yes, that’s a real thing) who loves The Good Place and Love Island equally.
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