As a genre, road trip movies rank pretty high. A bunch of characters stuck inside the same vehicle, learning about the world, but more importantly, about themselves. Inevitably, hijinx ensue. How could they not?
The Prompt Staff got together to pitch our favorite road trip movies. Here are the winners.
This is like how sports pundits always have trouble with the idea of a Most Valuable Player. Is it the best player, or the most important, or is it their favorite? My FAVORITE road trip movie is Chef, even if it’s not the best. Chef is a tour de force of great performances, memorable scenes, and food porn (the second best kind of porn…). Jon Favreau stars as a fat chef who happens to date a Scarlett Johansson after divorcing a Sofia Vergara. Life, right? Anyway, he has a meltdown after a bad review and then opens a food truck. While traveling the country he relearns why he loves cooking and gets his groove back. (Can white men get their groove back?)
Bonus points for John Leguizamo scene-stealing, a soundtrack that slaps, and harkening back to a time when Twitter was simply a tool for starting your food truck business.
For those who are unfamiliar, A Goofy Movie is the story of Max Goof and his dad, Goofy, who embark on a road trip where Goofy wants to spend quality time with his son, and where Max wants to attend a Powerline concert to impress the girl he likes (about whom Jay Kasten has written extensively).
But why is it my favorite road trip movie? Firstly, the film gave us “On The Open Road,” which is the perfect road trip song, encompassing the rich geography of the USA, along with the anxiety of leaving your friends (or love interests) behind. Secondly, A Goofy Movie also taught me everything I need to know about waterbeds, RVs, rock concerts, fishing, mall photo shoots, dancing with rockstars, heating up a can of soup using the cigarette lighter of a car, surviving a car going off a cliff and ending up floating on water, surviving an encounter with Bigfoot, and so much more. A Goofy Movie is all about the power of family and the importance of communication, and—as with any good road trip movie—it’s about the journey, not the destination.
First, I would just like to point out that both of the aforementioned films have excellent scenes involving cheese (the crafting of the most delicious, most loved grilled cheese, and the construction of the leaning tower of CHEEZA, respectively).
Now onto business—my favorite road trip genre is that of the Bromantic Saga. You know, two men set out on an unexpected journey together, often not of their own volition. The most iconic of this sub-genre is Planes, Trains, and Automobiles.
I watch this film every Thanksgiving, and it truly never gets old. Steve Martin and John Candy are in their prime as reluctant travel companions trying to get home for the holiday. Anything that can go wrong, does, and it is marvelous to watch how Steve Martin—the uptight, upper-middle class elite—reacts to the increasingly degrading circumstances in comparison to John Candy—the life-loving, traveling shower curtain salesman. As you can imagine, the movie is inundated with situational and behavioral comedy for maximum laughs. My favorite bit is one that involves the line, “Those aren’t pillows!” It’ll make you laugh, and it might even make you cry!
Also recommended in this genre: The Trip and The Trip to Italy, where a waning friendship is tested on these journeys to taste all of the food and deliver the biggest bits.
I cheated by Googling the words “list of top road trip movies,” because it’s not a genre that springs to the forefront of my mind when asked. Then again, nothing springs to the forefront of my mind when asked, anymore. I probably have Olney’s lesions in my brain big enough for the class gerbil to use as a Habitrail, so I’m happy at this point to remember things like “you pay for a buffet after filling your tray” and “your name is John.”
My pick from that list is Dumb and Dumber.
My favorite road trip movie might unfortunately be Road Trip, although the best Road Trip movie is probably Rain Man. Vacation still holds up even if Chevy Chase has not, while Sideways does not hold up even though Paul Giamatti is a national treasure.
For the purposes of this exercise I would like to highlight the best road trip scene in movie history. Of course I’m talking about the excursion in Goodfellas when the guys drive to the woods of Connecticut to bury Billy Batts. We’ve all been there—driving in the middle of the night with your buddies napping, when the no-good prick in the trunk turns out to still be alive.
The reason I choose this scene is not for the camaraderie surrounding body disposal but rather the visit to Tommy’s mother’s house. Any great road trip includes a stop for some home cooking, especially if there is an Italian mother involved. It doesn’t matter what time you get there, she will be happy to wake up and get some braciole on the table; she hasn’t seen you in so long!
I’m going to interpret this prompt a little bit differently, and say that Mad Max: Fury Road is obviously the best road trip movie: It’s right there in the name! Haven’t seen any other Mad Max movies? Not to worry. If you enjoy any of the following elements: Charlize Theron, Tom Hardy, feminism, post-apocalyptic societies with weird rules, car chases, explosions, silly names, practical stunts, warm color palettes, desert vistas, a guy playing a guitar with flames coming out of it—then there is something for you to enjoy in Fury Road.
The premise of the film is beautifully simple: Charlize Theron (as the wonderfully-named Imperator Furiosa) hits the road in an enormous truck to escape an evil guy’s rule with several of his wives in tow. Evil guy sends a bunch of people to catch them. Boom! Watching George Miller execute an immaculately choreographed action film, feels like a shot of adrenaline straight to the chest (I would imagine).
This film won SIX Oscars, you guys! And it’s a great source of inspiration—if Furiosa can survive her road trip from hell, you can certainly survive yours.
I hate road trips, but I would totally take the road trip in Zombieland, and anyone who says they wouldn’t is wrong or already a zombie. Also, the movie is super relatable.
Bonus points: It has Bill Murray surviving in a zombie apocalypse by disguising himself as a zombie in order to survive.
I was going to go with Road Trip because it was the first thing that came into my mind. But then I realized that it’s place in my memory has been cemented not for it’s quality, but because of the two things it taught me: DJ Qualls is a man named DJ and not a DJ named Qualls. And that like his character I enjoy a full-figured woman.
My real answer is Superbad. It’s a road trip movie for people without cars, and even though Evan, Seth, and Fogell stay in the same city, they put it a lot of miles. It captures that end of high school feeling. The way that the Superbad crew bakes in Home Ec with a mix of duty and half-assedness really spoke to me in a way that cool kids smoking pot over lunch (like the ones in Dazed and Confused) did not. The level of earnest love that Evan and Seth express for each other was foreign and therefore hypnotizing to me. The way that their night and Fogell’s diverge only to zig-zag across each others paths is enjoyable and true to high school/college memories and being unclear as to who was and wasn’t present for a given event. It’s funny, it’s bromantic, they’re in moving vehicles, and it holds up. Plus, Michael Cera’s version of “These Eyes” is iconic.