Home REVIEWS Best road trip movies ever made
Best road trip movies ever made PDF Print E-mail

With gasoline prices much lower than their highway robbery highs of just a year ago, more people are planning road trips. The comfort of a car can be more preferable than sitting in sardine-tight airline seats. And considering the security hassles and delays of flying, it is often quicker and considerably cheaper to go by car. For example, these movies prove it is much more fun on the road, at least for members of the audience.

Vegas Vacation (1997 once again in this comic series of family travel movies had the Griswold dad, mom and two teens on the road. This time they arrived in Las Vegas, where each had a hilarious adventure. Wife Ellen (Beverly D’Angelo) was hit on by the horny Wayne Newton. Yes, the real Wayne Newton, whose comic intensity almost stole the movie.

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Husband Clark (Chevy Chase) had never-ending bad luck and lost all the family savings. Rusty, age 16, (Ethan Embry) had fantastic winning streaks with a fake adult ID card, and Audrey, age 15, (Marison Nichols) got a job as a go-go dancer. The desperate Clark teamed up with idiot cousin and local trailer park resident, Eddie (Randy Quaid), but his bad luck continued.

Finally, Clark gathered his family and admitted he had only a few dollars left, and they sat in on a hotel’s bingo game. He lost again, but next to them with a winning ticket was a lonely old man, Mr. Ellis (Sid Caesar). Clark befriended him and when the man won $30,000, he dropped dead, but not before he whispered to Clark to take the winning ticket. The final moments included the Griswold parents renewing their wedding vows in a cheesy Vegas chapel and then heading for home in four brand new cars won by Rusty.

It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World has to be the funniest road trip movie ever made. The cast of the 1963 classic included many immortals of comedy of the time. They were Jimmy Durante, Milton Berle, Mickey Rooney, Buddy Hackett, Jonathan Winters, Jack Benny, Buster Keaton, Phil Silvers, Don Knotts, Sid Caesar and Terry-Thomas.

Even the usually very serious all-time movie dramatic star Spencer Tracy did his part to give the film some wonderfully combined comedy-pathos segments. He portrayed a cop who pursued the gang as they raced through Nevada and California deserts to find a buried treasure at a Santa Monica beachfront.


The all-time 1939 classic fantasy road trip movie, The Wizard of Oz, was based on a series of children's books written by L. Frank Baum in the early 20th Century. Although the road in the movie was made of bright yellow bricks, it proved a long, dangerous and often hilarious journey for Dorothy (Judy Garland) and pals, the Cowardly Lion (Bert Lahr), Scarecrow (Ray Bolger), Tin Man (Jack Haley) and little dog, Toto. All wanted magic favors from the wizard himself (Frank Morgan). Of course, there was also the witch we loved to hate (Margaret Hamilton).

The Grapes of Wrath was also originally a book, written by John Steinbeck concerning fictional people who suffered terrible hardships during the real-life eras of the Oklahoma Dust Bowl and Great Depression years of the early 1930s. The 1940 movie starred Henry Fonda and followed the rickety road trip of the Joads, a family of poverty-stricken Okies. After losing their farm, they envisioned California as the golden destination for them. However, all along Route 66, they found more poverty, cruelty, hostility and prejudice.

Not many people today remember the tremendously popular buddy road movies starring comedian Bob Hope and singer Bing Crosby. All of them had the same title beginning, including 1940's The Road to Singapore, 1941's The Road to Zanzibar, 1942's The Road to Morocco, 1946's The Road to Utopia and 1947's The Road to Rio. Another factor was that all during the years of starring in these movies, Bob Hope took time to make his classic World War II real-life USO road tours of US combat bases throughout the world.

Rain Man was a 1988 movie that managed to provide gentle humor in what is usually a heartbreaking family situation.  The tale of the road trip from Cincinnati to Los Angeles, with a wonderful segment of a night in Las Vegas, was about two brothers. Raymond, as portrayed by Dustin Hoffman, was an institutionalized autistic. Advertising agent brother Charlie, as portrayed by Tom Cruise, got permission to take his brother he used to call Rainman on a cross-country road trip. The story was profoundly sad, but blessed with moments of humor because of Raymond's surprising savant skills and Charlie's deep love for his brother.

Thelma and Louise was a 1991 girl buddy movie, where they're on a road trip together to escape unhappy lives. After they were involved in the killing of a man who assaulted one of them, they must get away. They had some moments of wry humor when they captured a cop, then have no idea what to do with him. He eventually goes free, and the girl buddies realized they'd soon be captured and tried for murder. The climactic scene was both thrilling and profoundly shocking as they drove their car off the rim and down into the Grand Canyon.

Of course, there are many, many more interesting movies about road trips. It has to be a difficult task to select just a few. However, choosing favorites of years gone by is an enjoyable task of remembering how much joy they gave us.

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