It is Summer! Well not officially, but it is hot outside and the kids are out of school, so that means that lots of families will be embarking on a classic staple of my childhood… the road trip. I have so many memories sitting in the back of my aunt’s suburban as we traveled all over the Southeastern United States visiting campgrounds, state parks, beaches, springs, and caverns. I hope to instill plenty of these memories in my kids as well.
But perhaps you are like me and you have to work most of the summer and don’t get to participate in a lot of the fun. That’s okay, you can live vicariously through some movie characters in some great road trip movies. I will say that these are probably not the best movies to watch while you are on a road trip, that is a list for another day. There are so many that I will share a couple of honorable mentions, but these are my top 3. Please share your favorites in the comments below.
Honorable mentions (in no particular order):
The Blues Brothers (1980) – a quotable cult classic, they were on a mission from God.
National Lampoon’s Vacation (1983) – Come rain, shine, dead relatives, or dragged dogs, the Griswolds were determined to get to Walley World. Skip the sequels and watch the original.
Thelma & Louise (1991) – They just wanted a girls’ weekend away. And instead they got a modern landmark of feminism on film.
Dumb and Dumber (1994) – Clearly not the smartest film on the list, but just try to keep a straight face as Lloyd and Harry rumble through America in their dog-shaped “shaggin’ wagon.”
Zombieland (2009) – Columbus (Jesse Eisenberg) emerges from a World of Warcraft marathon to find zombies have taken over America. When Tallahassee (Woody Harrelson) shows up, Columbus joins his quest for Twinkies and zombie annihilation.
3. Rain Man (1988)
When car dealer Charlie Babbitt (Tom Cruise) learns that his estranged father has died, he returns home to Cincinnati, where he discovers that he has an autistic older brother named Raymond (Dustin Hoffman) and that his father’s $3 million fortune is being left to the mental institution in which Raymond lives. Motivated by his father’s money, Charlie checks Raymond out of the facility in order to return with him to Los Angeles. The brothers’ cross-country trip ends up changing both their lives.
This was the highest-grossing film of 1988 and won four Oscars, including Best Picture, Best Actor for Hoffman, Best Director for Barry Levinson, and Best Original Screenplay. IMDb users rated it 8.0 out of 10. It is so much more than a road-trip movie, it is just good cinema.
2. Mad Max: Fury Road (2015)
Years after the collapse of civilization, the tyrannical Immortan Joe enslaves apocalypse survivors inside the desert fortress the Citadel. When the warrior Imperator Furiosa (Charlize Theron) leads the despot’s five wives in a daring escape, she forges an alliance with Max Rockatansky (Tom Hardy), a loner and former captive. Fortified in the massive, armored truck the War Rig, they try to outrun the ruthless warlord and his henchmen in a deadly high-speed chase through the Wasteland.
You might say that it is more of a chase movie than a road trip movie (especially since there are no actual roads just desert wasteland) but I think it should get a pass for such a large vision from George Miller being pulled off in nearly flawless fashion. It is a technical masterpiece and a great piece of storytelling. It is sitting at an 8.1 on IMDb.
1. Little Miss Sunshine (2006)
The Hoover family — a man (Greg Kinnear), his wife (Toni Collette), an uncle (Steve Carell), a brother (Paul Dano) and a grandfather (Alan Arkin) — piles into a VW bus and heads to California to support a daughter (Abigail Breslin) in her bid to win the Little Miss Sunshine Contest. The sanity of everyone involved is stretched to the limit as the group’s quirks cause epic problems as they travel along their interstate route.
I can’t even think of another movie that I would consider at #1. When I think of a road trip story this is what comes into my head now. The comedy and tragedy are so intertwined. This is one seriously messed up family, but the close quarters of the van and the superb storytelling makes it feel like its your messed up family.
So what do you think? Sound off in the comments below! We’ll argue about it until dad threatens to turn the car around.