12 Great Road Trip Movies to Satisfy Your Wanderlust
Not quite ready to travel? See America from the comfort of your couch
En español | Don't feel quite safe just yet to take a big road trip this summer? Take a virtual voyage with the greatest stars on earth in the best road movies ever made, from the flick that cheered America in the Great Depression (It Happened One Night) to 2019's Oscar (and AARP Movies for Grownups) best picture winner Green Book. See America from the comfort of your couch all summer long — no turn signals required!
It Happened One Night (1934)
Originally titled Night Bus, Frank Capra's snappy comedy about an unemployed reporter (Clark Gable) and a spoiled runaway heiress (Claudette Colbert) on the road to New York swept the five top Oscars and influenced every romantic comedy ever since. Nobody could top Clark's hitchhiking lesson — except Colbert, who summons an instant ride by flashing her gams.
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Sullivan's Travels (1941)
In this Preston Sturges satire, a Hollywood director (Joel McCrea, who shares top billing with Veronica Lake) sick of making silly comedies like Hey-Hey in the Hayloft, decides to make a Grapes of Wrath-like serious picture called O Brother, Where Art Thou? (which inspired the Coen brothers film title). To experience the downtrodden life, he travels the U.S. disguised as an indigent soul.
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Easy Rider (1969)
In the role that made him a star, Jack Nicholson hops on a chopped-out motorbike with hippies Peter Fonda and Dennis Hopper on their epic, doomed trip from L.A. to New Orleans for Mardi Gras (filmed during the real Mardi Gras). A total mess of a film, but its open-road counterculture spirit hit it big. When it made a zillion dollars, Fonda said the movie execs who doubted it “went from shaking their heads in incomprehension to nodding their heads in incomprehension.” But viewers understood, and remember.
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RELATED: Want to keep the Sixties vibe rolling? Check out our Best Movies of the 1960s.
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National Lampoon's Vacation (1983)
The movie that launched the career of John Hughes (Home Alone) started as a classic National Lampoon story that began, “If Dad hadn't shot Walt Disney in the leg, it would have been our best vacation ever.” In his greatest deadpan performance, Chevy Chase is Chicago's Mr. Griswold, who takes his clan to California's Walley World in an unlucky car trip every survivor of the 1950s or ‘60s can relate to.
Watch it now: Amazon, iTunes, YouTube, Google Play, Vudu, Sling
Planes, Trains and Automobiles (1987)
All the aloof urban executive (Steve Martin) wants is to get home to Chicago for Thanksgiving, but malevolent fate forces him to get there via many forms of thwarted transportation, alongside a sweet, infuriatingly annoying traveling shower-curtain ring salesman (John Candy). They're as funny as Walter Matthau and Jack Lemmon in The Odd Couple.
Watch it now: Amazon, YouTube, Google Play, Vudu, iTunes, HBO Max
Rain Man (1988)
A crooked Lamborghini salesman (Tom Cruise) and his long-lost brother, an autistic savant genius (Dustin Hoffman), see the nation in a 1949 Buick Roadmaster convertible. At first con man Cruise wants to screw Hoffman out of their father's $3 million inheritance, but instead of a mark, he discovers a brother whose uncanny skills come in handy gambling in Vegas.
Watch it now: Vudu, YouTube, Google Play, iTunes
RELATED: Love a Tom Cruise flick? Don't miss our critics’ ranking of the 10 best Tom Cruise movies, here.
Midnight Run (1988)
In Robert De Niro's first comedy, and first mainstream commercial hit, he's an irritable bounty hunter who has five days to take a passive-aggressive Mafia accountant (Charles Grodin) from New York to Los Angeles for a big payoff. Pursued by the mob, the FBI and another bounty hunter, they steal cars, take planes, hop freight trains, dive into rapids, and deceive and insult each other to hilarious effect.
Thelma & Louise (1991)
When shy Thelma (Geena Davis) and brassy Louise (Susan Sarandon) take a weekend road trip from Arkansas and Louise shoots a would-be rapist assaulting Thelma, what's a girl to do but put pedal to the metal in their ‘66 T-Bird and flee with Thelma to — and right into — the Grand Canyon, pursued by kindly cop Harvey Keitel? Butch Cassidy and Sundance got nothing on these two iconic gals.
Watch it now: Vudu, YouTube, iTunes, Google Play
True Romance (1993)
In the most romantically satisfying Quentin Tarantino movie (sweetened by director Tony Scott), a gold-hearted floozy (Patricia Arquette) and a comic-book store clerk (Christian Slater) light out cross-country for Hollywood, hunted by gangsters and cops. Brad Pitt is hilarious as a Soundgarden-loving stoner, and the acting duel between Dennis Hopper and Christopher Walken alone is worth the trip.
Watch it now: Vudu, YouTube, Google Play, Hulu, Sling, Starz
Flirting With Disaster (1996)
Mary Tyler Moore brilliantly plays against type as the control-freak adoptive mother of a neurotic scientist (Ben Stiller) who hits the road to find his birth parents — who may or may not be an appalling Grateful Dead-loving couple (Lily Tomlin and Alan Alda) in New Mexico. Fresh, original and more fun than a real road trip.
Watch it now: Amazon, YouTube, Google Play, Vudu, Hulu, iTunes
Almost Famous (2000)
Cameron Crowe was a 15-year-old journalism genius who traveled with Led Zeppelin and others and turned his memories into a road-trip masterpiece about his coming of age. “It's as if Huckleberry Finn came back to life in the 1970s, and instead of taking a raft down the Mississippi, got on the bus with the band,” said Roger Ebert. And you're invited along — to sing “Tiny Dancer” along with everyone on the bus.
Watch it now: Amazon, YouTube, Vudu, Google Play, iTunes, Hulu
Green Book (2018)
In a feel-good take on a complex time, an Italian-American bouncer (Viggo Mortensen, The Lord of the Rings) chauffeurs an upper-crust black pianist (Mahershala Ali, True Detective) on a tour of the picturesque but perilous 1960s South. The odd couple squabble and become pals, while these two fine actors perform an exquisite duet.
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