The summertime is always when most get the itch to set out on the open road and do some traveling.
Hollywood has always had a soft spot for road trip movies, and some have become memorable not just for what was shown on screen, but what the spirit of the movie meant for the people who saw them. Take “Easy Rider” for example, whose no-rules approach launched a new way movies were made for decades.
Here are 23 road trip movies you should check out before heading on your own adventure:
“Almost Famous” (2000)
Cameron Crowe’s love letter to the 1970s rock and roll scene, which he covered as a writer for Rolling Stone, is a fun look at adolescence, fame, and highlights the non-stop grind of a band being “on the road.”
“The Blues Brothers” (1980)
John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd play two brothers on a mission from God. Trying to get on the straight-and-narrow after getting out of prison, Jake Blues (Belushi) and his brother Elwood (Aykroyd) decide to help raise the money the Catholic home they were raised in needs to stay open. That leads to a road trip around Illinois to get the band back together.
“Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan” (2006)
With the help of director Larry Charles, Sacha Baron Cohen creates one of the funniest road trip movies ever made as he takes his character, Borat, to America to marry Pamela Anderson. But in the process, the movie highlights the US itself, as Borat travels the country doing everything from singing the Kazakhstan national anthem at a rodeo to hanging out with some fraternity kids.
“Dumb and Dumber” (1994)
In this Farrelly brothers classic, friends Lloyd (Jim Carrey) and Harry (Jeff Daniels) are convinced the gas man is out to get them after the death of their bird, so they decide to drive to Aspen to hand-deliver the briefcase the beautiful Mary (Lauren Holly) “forgot” at the airport. Oh, and they are hitting the road in a truck that’s made up to look like a dog.
“Easy Rider” (1969)
It’s the movie that launched the “New Hollywood” era of the 1970s, and was made with little money and lots of drugs. Directed by Dennis Hopper, the Hollywood bad boy also stars alongside Peter Fonda as two hippie bikers who travel from L.A. to New Orleans after cashing in on smuggling cocaine from Mexico. On their freewheeling trip they find an America that’s split between the stuffy establishment and the younger generation that is starving for change.
“The End of the Tour” (2015)
The days of conversations between Rolling Stone reporter David Lipsky (Jesse Eisenberg) and author David Foster Wallace (Jason Segel) are beautifully profiled in director James Ponsoldt’s intimate story that has the two men interacting while on the road for Wallace’s book tour.
“Into the Wild” (2007)
Christopher McCandless’ quest to go off the grid and hitchhike to Alaska to live in the wilderness is a powerful exploration of human desire and the kindness of strangers.
“It Happened One Night” (1934)
Frank Capra’s famous movie is romantic comedy at its best. Claudette Colbert plays a spoiled heiress running from home, and Clark Gable is a reporter who finally thinks he’s found a story that will get him some attention as he follows her to New York. But it will be forever known for its hitchhiking scene in which Colbert’s character gets them a ride by pulling up her skirt to show off her legs.
“Little Miss Sunshine” (2006)
Filled with an all-star cast including Steve Carell, Toni Collette, Greg Kinnear, Paul Dano, Alan Arkin, and Abigail Breslin, we follow a dysfunctional family as they come together to jump in a VW bus to drive the young Olive (Breslin) on a cross-country trip to the finals of a beauty pageant she’s competing in.
“Midnight Run” (1988)
Robert De Niro is fantastic in this foul-mouthed comedy as bounty hunter Jack Walsh who plans to cash in when he tracks down a sneaky accountant (played by Charles Grodin) who has jumped bail. But with the FBI, other bounty hunters, and the mob also trying to get their hands on him, things aren’t easy for Jack.
“The Motorcycle Diaries” (2004)
Based on the Che Guevara memoir he wrote before becoming the Marxist revolutionary, Gael García Bernal plays young Guevara who, in 1952, went on a trip across South America with his friend Alberto Granado. The experience shaped Guevara’s life as it showed him the injustices of the world.
“National Lampoon’s Vacation” (1983)
This classic from director Harold Ramis stars Chevy Chase as his first time playing Clark W. Griswold, the ambitious father whose vacation plans always never work out. Here Clark takes the family cross-country to Walley World and in the process leaves chaos in his wake.
“On the Road” (2012)
Based on the iconic Jack Kerouac novel, Sam Riley plays the book’s narrator, Sal Paradise, who after meeting Dean (Garrett Hedlund) and Marylou (Kristen Stewart), head on a free-spirited road trip across the country.
“Over the Top” (1987)
Sylvester Stallone plays trucker and arm wrestling pro Lincoln Hawk who needs to get to Las Vegas to compete in the world arm wrestling tournament. But he also has to get his estranged son to his dying mother. This all leads to a big-rig father-and-son road trip.
“Pee-wee’s Big Adventure” (1985)
A loose parody of Vittorio De Sica’s classic “Bicycle Thieves,” Tim Burton makes his own classic around the zany antics of Paul Reubens’ hit character Pee-wee Herman. The movie follows the “boy” as he goes to search for his stolen bike, which he’s been told by a psychic is in the basement of the Alamo (spoiler alert: there’s no basement in the Alamo).
“Planes, Trains & Automobiles” (1987)
Steve Martin and John Candy play two men who suddenly have to become travel companions as they try to get home for the holidays. Written and directed by John Hughes, Martin and Candy together are a delight.
“Rain Man” (1988)
Tom Cruise plays sleazy Charlie Babbitt and Dustin Hoffman is his brother Raymond, who suffers from savant syndrome. Hoping to cash in on the fortune Raymond got from their father, Charlie sets the two out on a cross-country trip leading to a lot of self-discovery. If you’ve never seen Barry Levinson’s Oscar-winning movie, now’s the time.
“Road Trip” (2000)
Of course “Road Trip” was going to be on this list. Todd Phillips’ insane raunchy comedy about four college friends on a race against time to retrieve a sex tape sent in the mail is always a fun watch.
“The Straight Story” (1999)
In one of David Lynch’s most traditional storytelling offerings, Richard Farnsworth plays a man who sets out on a trip via riding lawn mower to make things right with his ill brother. The story is based on a real-life event, in which Alvin Straight traveled 240 miles from Iowa to Wisconsin on a lawn mower.
“Stranger Than Paradise” (1984)
Jim Jarmusch’s second feature film follows Willie and his friend Eddie as they set out on a road trip to Cleveland to visit Willie’s cousin from Hungary, Eva. The movie went on to be regarded as a landmark work in the independent film world for its unconventional long takes and do-it-yourself aesthetic.
“Thelma & Louise” (1991)
Ridley Scott’s look at the road-trip-turned-manhunt adventure of friends Thelma (Geena Davis) and Louise (Susan Sarandon) is arguably more powerful today in the #MeToo era than when it opened in the early 1990s.
“Tommy Boy” (1995)
Perhaps the best Chris Farley/David Spade collaboration, in this one Farley plays a underachieving college graduate who suddenly has to travel the nation (with Spade as the geeky sidekick) to keep the accounts for his auto-parts family business after his father dies. This one truly shows off Farley’s high-energy comedy greatness.
“Y Tu Mamá También” (2001)
Director Alfonso Cuarón received a best screenplay Oscar nomination with his brother Carlos for this powerful road trip movie that made Diego Luna and Gael García Bernal international stars.