RANKED! The 10 Best Road Trip Movies For a Wildly Entertaining Ride
Road trip movies are pretty straightforward: they feature distressed characters that are looking for some kind of change in their lives. The road trip itself acts as the catalyst for some sort of character transformation, with plenty of comedic elements along the way. From the classic National Lampoon’s Vacation to the hilarious Planes, Trains, and Automobiles, the cornerstone of the genre relies heavily on laughs. Let’s take a look at the top 10 best road trip movies.
Cover Photo: MGM
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10. 'Easy Rider'
Easy Rider is an absolute, stone-cold classic. It’s undoubtedly the most prestigious and culturally significant film on this list. Its lack of straightforward narrative, however, makes it perhaps the least rewatchable.
9. 'Little Miss Sunshine'
Little Miss Sunshine has the best screenplay of the films on this list. Arndt’s Oscar-winning script is indeed great, and the fantastic ensemble cast anchors this wholesome family film. While most road trip movies are pretty lighthearted, Little Miss Sunshine has the most positive and fulfilling message of the bunch.
8. 'Rain Man'
Out of all the entries in the road trip genre, Rain Man is the only film actually to win Best Picture at the Oscars. It’s not a perfect movie, but even as a drama, the film features some natural comedic moments with a huge helping of heart. More than anything, Rain Man provides the best acting and all-around direction of the entries on this list.
7. 'The Blues Brothers'
The Blues Brothers is as much of a musical as it is a road trip movie. Although the story in The Blues Brothers is paper-thin, the film is still highly rewatchable. The car chases are excellent, and the leading performances from both Dan Aykroyd and John Belushi still manage to anchor the film in an endlessly entertaining way.
6. 'Y Tu Mamá También'
Y Tu Mamá También may not be the most approachable road trip movie, but it sure is the sexiest. As one of the only road trip movies to explicitly feature sex and drug use, this film isn’t your average road trip story. Although On The Road certainly influenced it, Y Tu Mamá También is the better film, especially when you consider its political and economic undertones.
5. 'Thelma & Louise'
While Thelma & Louise walks the tightrope of combining several different genres into its narrative, it’s undoubtedly a road trip movie at its core. Not only did it introduce the world to Brad Pitt, but it also garnered Best Actress Oscar nominations for both Geena Davis and Susan Sarandon. More importantly, Thema & Louise remains a bold feminist statement. Considering that the National Film Registry selected the movie for preservation in 2016 for being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant,” it’s easy to see how Thelma & Louise remains one of the best road trip movies ever made.
Sideways often gets forgotten in the road trip movie genre. What at first seems like a simple, quiet road trip to California wine country quickly turns into a hilarious and endlessly engrossing adventure. Alexander Payne is no stranger to making good movies, but Sideways is perhaps his best. Tack on outstanding, nuanced performances from the likes of Paul Giamatti, Virginia Madsen, Thomas Haden Church, and Sandra Oh, and you get one of the most moving road trip movies out there.
3. 'National Lampoon's Vacation'
National Lampoon's Vacation is the epitome of the road trip movie genre. This comedy has great visual gags, which also gives it a lasting appeal. It's among the most essential and rewatchable movies on this list, even if it isn’t objectively one of the best.
2. 'Almost Famous'
Although Almost Famous is undoubtedly a road trip movie in terms of storytelling structure, it’s also a nearly perfect coming-of-age tale and is the most genuine film on this list, likely due to writer-director Cameron Crowe’s real-life experiences writing for Rolling Stone in his teenage years. The result is a beautiful, character-driven story that masquerades as a compelling road trip movie.
1. ' Planes, Trains, and Automobiles'
Whereas National Lampoon’s Vacation solidified the road trip genre, Planes, Trains, and Automobiles perfected it. So much so that the current tropes of the genre were derived from this singular film. That’s not as much of a knock as it is a testament to its staying power and ingenuity. Not only does it encapsulate the quintessential road trip movie, but it’s also just a great film. It features John Hughes at arguably the height of his powers and John Candy and Steve Martin in perhaps their best roles. Planes, Trains, and Automobiles is packed with a wonderful mix of drama, humor, and heart that make it the most rewatchable and endlessly entertaining film of the bunch.