Best Road Trip Movies
For nearly as long as there have been cars and film, there have been road trip movies. From the serious ("Easy Rider," "Thelma and Louise") to the delightfully silly ("Dumb and Dumber," "National Lampoon's Vacation"), these films have been a staple of worldwide cinema for nearly a century. But while some, like those on this list, are enduring classics, others (we’re looking at you, “Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Road Chip”) are best left in the archives.
Using data from Rotten Tomatoes’ Audience Scores, we’ve compiled a list of the top 15 road trip movies and discovered that, just like the best adventures, the most memorable films about hitting the road are about more than the destination — they’re about the people and places we find along the way, and the experiences that change us forever.
15. "Sideways" (2004) - 78% on Rotten Tomatoes
One of many Academy Award winners on the list, this dramatic comedy put California’s Santa Ynez Valley on the wine tourism map, and had a significant negative impact on merlot sales, thanks to the main character’s disdain for the varietal.
The story follows divorced, depressed, wine-obsessed Miles (Paul Giamatti) and his friend Jack (Thomas Haden Church), an aging, former soap opera actor who is soon to be married and plans to have a last fling before marriage. Against the beautiful backdrop of vine-covered hills, the two both begin to hit rock bottom in their lives.
Pour a glass of wine — preferably pinot noir — for this one.
14. "Thelma and Louise" (1991) - 82% on Rotten Tomatoes
Ridley Scott's dark comedy follows the story of friends Thelma (Geena Davis) and Louise (Susan Sarandon) as they leave their boring lives in Arkansas for more adventure than they bargained for. Sure, there are some dark themes, but the film also explores the close bonds of friendship, the lengths we’ll go to for the ones we love and the importance of living on your own terms. Plus, there’s an iconic appearance by a young Brad Pitt.
It’s all but guaranteed to make you want to grab your bestie and hit the road for your own adventure in a 1966 Ford Thunderbird convertible — just without the crime spree, ensuing police chase or iconic but bleak finale.
Along the way, the group has plenty of laughs, while reexamining their friendships, the reasons they’ve drifted apart and the bonds that keep them together.
13. "Easy Rider" (1969) - 82% on Rotten Tomatoes
Directed by Dennis Hopper and made on a small budget, "Easy Rider" follows two hippie bikers, Wyatt (Peter Fonda) and Billy (Dennis Hopper), as they travel from L.A. to New Orleans after a successful drug deal.
As they ride their Harleys across the country, the film explores the counterculture of the late '60s and early '70s — LSD, marijuana, communal living — and the changes that were happening in the U.S. as a younger generation rebelled against the established norms of their parents and grandparents.
12. "The Motorcycle Diaries" (2004) - 83% on Rotten Tomatoes
Set in 1952, this film shares the experiences of Ernesto “Che” Guevara (Gael García Bernal) long before he became a Marxist revolutionary. In the movie, young Guevara takes a trip across South America with his friend Alberto Granado.
Their 8,000-mile road journey by motorcycle and other transport takes them from Argentina to Peru, and exposes Che to the world’s suffering, injustice and oppression, ultimately informing some of his ideas about freedom and equality.
11. "Dumb and Dumber" (1994) - 84% on Rotten Tomatoes
“We got no food, we got no jobs, our pets' heads are falling off!” This Farrelly brothers comedy offered up a half-dozen catchphrases that dominated the latter half of the '90s, and that can still be heard today.
The story is a classic buddy road trip tale — except that these two buddies, Lloyd (Jim Carrey) and Harry (Jeff Daniels), happen to be complete idiots. Convinced that “the gas man” is coming to kill them, they decide to travel from Providence, Rhode Island, to Aspen, Colorado, to return the briefcase beautiful Mary (Lauren Holly) left at the airport after Lloyd chauffeured her there. Hilarity, of course, ensues.
10. "National Lampoon’s Vacation" (1983) - 85% on Rotten Tomatoes
This Harold Ramis classic stars Chevy Chase in his first turn as Clark W. Griswold, a well meaning, fumbling father who takes his family on a cross-country trip to Walley World.
Anyone who has experienced an everything-goes-wrong road trip with family will relate as the Griswolds make their way through Death Valley and the Grand Canyon and, eventually, to the fictional amusement park, with plenty of trials and tribulations along the way.
9. "Planes, Trains and Automobiles" (1987) - 87% on Rotten Tomatoes
Set around Thanksgiving, this John Hughes comedy uses the chaos of holiday travel as a plot device, bringing together two strangers — Type-A Neal (Steve Martin) and overly chatty salesman Del (John Candy) — who become travel partners and have to work together to get home to their respective families.
The odd couple finds themselves in one hilarious situation after another and along the way — spoiler alert — the unlikely duo actually forms a friendship as their journey comes to an end.
8. "Bonnie and Clyde" (1967) - 88% on Rotten Tomatoes
If you’ve heard the story of Bonnie and Clyde, two real-life criminals who traveled the central U.S. in the 1930s, leaving a trail of death in their wake, then you know how this movie ends (hint: with a scene that’s regarded as one of the bloodiest death scenes in film history).
But that doesn’t make the story any less fascinating, as Clyde Barrow (Warren Beatty) and Bonnie Parker (Faye Dunaway) transition from small-time amateur thieves to the leaders of a small gang of murderous bank robbers terrorizing the midwest from Texas to Minnesota.
7. "Into the Wild" (2007) - 89% on Rotten Tomatoes
Based on the 1996 novel, this film tells the story of Christopher McCandless (Emile Hirsch) as he travels across North America and Alaska on a quest to be self-sufficient, reject conventional life and live off the land. Eventually, he ends up near Denali National Park in Alaska, where he finds an abandoned bus that he makes his home.
Alas, it turns out life in the Alaskan wilderness isn’t easy, and while the movie may make you yearn for a simpler life closer to nature — or at least a visit to Alaska — you won’t envy what happens to McCandless in the end.
6. "Tommy Boy" (1995) - 90% on Rotten Tomatoes
Comedians Chris Farley and David Spade team up in this hit comedy that gave the world Farley’s famous “fat guy in a little coat” moment.
After Tommy’s (Farley) father dies, the family business is in jeopardy and underachiever Tommy has to travel around the country with the antagonistic Richard (Spade), trying to sell 500,000 brake pads to save the company. Of course, mishaps follow, including a hilarious run-in with a deer, as the two try to make deals and keep the company out of the hands of rival businessman Ray Zalinsky (Dan Aykroyd).
5. "Rain Man" (1988) - 90% on Rotten Tomatoes
Winner of four Academy Awards, this critically acclaimed film pairs Tom Cruise as self-centered Charlie Babbitt and Dustin Hoffman as Raymond, the autistic savant brother Charlie never knew existed.
When Charlie’s father dies and leaves his fortune to Raymond, Charlie attempts to gain custody of Raymond — and his fortune — and insists on taking Raymond back to his home in L.A. from Ohio. When Raymond refuses to board the plane, the two embark on a cross-country trip that changes both of their lives.
4. "Little Miss Sunshine" (2006) - 91% on Rotten Tomatoes
Winner of two Academy Awards, this dark comedy follows an all-star cast, including Steve Carell, Toni Collette, Greg Kinnear, Paul Dano and Alan Arkin, as they drive across the country in a VW bus so 7-year-old daughter Olive (Abigail Breslin) can compete in the Little Miss Sunshine beauty pageant.
The quirky, troubled family — overworked mom, suicidal brother, Type-A dad, silent stepbrother, foul-mouthed grandfather — aren’t immediately likable, but in the end, this is a heartwarming tale about road trips gone wrong, loving your weirdo family members as they are, and being there for them no matter what.
3. "Blues Brothers" (1980) - 92% on Rotten Tomatoes
A cult classic, this musical comedy stars comedic giants John Belushi (as ex-con Jake Blues) and Dan Aykroyd (as his brother Elwood) playing brothers on a mission to help raise money for the Catholic orphanage they grew up in. Their idea: reunite their former blues band, which broke up while Jake was in prison.
The pair head off on a road trip to recruit their reluctant former bandmates, evading police, Nazis and a murderous mystery woman as they careen around Chicago and much of Illinois in their Bluesmobile.
2. "Almost Famous" (2000) - 92% on Rotten Tomatoes
Cameron Crowe's semi-autobiographical story about his time as a writer for “Rolling Stone” in the 1970s, this Golden Globe winner tells the story of William Miller (Patrick Fugit), a 15-year-old aspiring rock journalist who gets the assignment of a lifetime: tour with the up-and-coming band, Stillwater.
The film follows William, the band and their many hangers-on, including groupie Penny Lane (Kate Hudson), as they travel by bus (and one harrowing plane ride) touring the U.S. and trying to make it big.
1. "It Happened One Night" (1934) - 93% on Rotten Tomatoes
Directed by Frank Capra, this black-and-white film from Hollywood’s golden age tells the tale of a spoiled heiress (Claudette Colbert) running away from home and the reporter (Clark Gable) who follows her to New York trying to get the scoop.
Winner of five Academy Awards, it’s most known for the famous hitchhiking scene in which Colbert's character finally waves down a ride by pulling up her skirt to show off her legs on the side of the road.