Sitting in a car for hours on end with nothing to look at but the endless horizon might not seem like the basis for an entertaining film, but there’s an abundance of road trip movies in almost every genre imaginable. Whether it’s comedy, drama, romance, horror, or action, these movies prove that the journey matters more than the destination, which is a great excuse to watch one on your next road trip.
Thanks to advancements in entertainment technology, almost any car can be transformed into a mobile theater with a flip down TV and car DVD player, or individual headrest DVD players for passengers who can’t agree on what to watch together. If you’re looking for the best road trip movies to enjoy during a cross-country trek, check out these timeless favorites:
National Lampoon’s Vacation
One of the most classic—and most hilarious—road trip movies of all times, Vacation follows the Griswald family on their journey to visit Disney-knockoff Wally World. Of course, the journey is anything but a simple drive from point A to point B—the family encounters all manner of oddities, obstacles, and strange relatives along the way.
Pee Wee’s Big Adventure
For some road trip films, the destination is the goal. For others, the plot is more of a quest than a journey, adding a layer of satisfying suspense. In Pee Wee’s Big Adventure, it doesn’t matter that the quest revolves around something as simple as reclaiming a stolen bike. Pee Wee Herman’s America-spanning pursuit of his beloved—and admittedly awesome—bicycle involves hilariously weird scenes and introduces the audience to a cast of unforgettable characters, including the nightmare-inducing Large Marge.
Dumb & Dumber
Another quest-based road trip comedy, Dumb & Dumber relies on gross-out humor more than an offbeat cast of characters, but the movie proves that gross and dumb can also be side-splittingly funny. The dimwitted duo headlining the film set out to return a lost briefcase to a beautiful woman in Colorado, which tests their friendship and finally answers the question: “What is the most annoying sound in the world?”
The “buddies” of this buddy road trip movie start out as opposites just barely tolerating each other—one is the immature scion of a major company, the other the tightly wound assistant of the company’s late CEO—so you know they’ll be BFFs by the end. Before that happens, viewers are treated to a variety of shenanigans involving the late, great Chris Farley, including one of the best homages to Flashdance ever filmed.
While many of the best road trip movies are comedies, the cross-country template works well for dramas, too. In the touching 1988 film Rain Main, a selfish young man takes the autistic brother he never knew he had on an impromptu road trip after discovering he’s been written out of their late father’s will. First viewing his sibling as a burden and obstacle to millions of dollars, the younger brother eventually warms up and proves he might actually have a soul beneath his vapid cool-guy exterior.
Thelma & Louise
Another “serious” entry in the popular road trip genre, Thelma & Louise begins with an accidental crime and ends with quite a bang. In between, Girlfriend Power reigns for the outlaw buddies, who even find time to cozy up to a pre-fame Brad Pitt. And the final scene has become one of the most iconic moments in American cinema.
Easy Rider is another buddy road-trip comedy that goes even darker than Thelma and Louise, with two motorcycle-riding hippies encountering a hostile America on their way from Los Angeles to Mardi Gras in New Orleans. The gory violence, gorgeous landscapes, and reported use of real drugs while filming drug scenes have made this movie a counterculture film classic. It’s also inspired countless would-be drifters to buy motorcycles and hit the road.
The Blues Brothers
Many popular Saturday Night Live skits have been fleshed out into feature films over the years, but very few turn out to be box-office hits, let alone cult classics. The Blues Brothers is one of the few to accomplish both feats, which is remarkable considering the bare-bones plot of two Chicago-based brothers on a journey to reunite their band. Of course, when you’re on “a mission from God,” anything is possible, including one of cinema’s greatest car chases.
The Motorcycle Diaries
Coming-of-age adventures and road trip movies go hand-in-hand—add in a dash of historical significance and you have The Motorcycle Diaries, which chronicles the long road trip through South America taken by Ernesto “Che” Guevara, long before he was a revolutionary icon. Lush, sweeping landscapes and life-changing experiences fill the meandering journey, and at the end, it’s not difficult to see why Guevara fought so hard for his people and culture later in his life.
It Happened One Night
No road trip movie list would be complete without the very first, from way back in 1934. Featuring Clark Gable as a journalist who sets off on a road trip with Claudette Colbert’s runaway heiress, It Happened One Night is a timeless tale filled with humor, expert pacing, and an underlying sexiness that was so intense it wouldn’t have made it past the Hays Code against “obscenity” that was strictly enforced not long after the film’s release. Modern day romantic comedies could learn a thing or two.
Enjoy watching a classic road trip during your road trip with a new car TV system
Your next road trip might not have an epic destination or involve an adventurous quest along the way, but if you want to ensure that the hours fly by for your passengers, Car Stereo City can help. We have a huge selection of mobile video systems, including flip down TVs, DVD players, and headrest TVs for the car, and our trained experts can help you choose the right equipment for your needs and budget. So stop in our San Diego location before hitting the road on your next adventure.