I love road trips. I love movies. Today I started thinking about classic road trip movies – really early ones – before GoPro, Thelma and Louise, or even National Lampoon, for instance. Other road trip films that have been up-staged or overshadowed.
Maybe you’ve seen all five movies on my list. (If not, may I suggest that you “hit the road” to Netflix or Amazon immediately to enhance your repertoire?)
Here’s my personal list of 5 Not-So-Obvious Road Trip Movies, starting with the very FIRST road trip movie ever made!
1. It Happened One Night (1934 – starring Clark Gable, Claudette Colbert)
This movie is the very first road trip movie, as well as the first screwball romantic comedy and the first time most people saw a man slip out of his dress shirt and bare his chest on the big screen! (At the time, most men wore white undershirts under their shirts, and rumor has it that undershirt sales plummeted immediately after this film came out.) The shirtless wonder is none other that Clark Gable, before his big roles in Gone With the Wind, etc. Things to watch for (other than the half-naked man) are the cute attempts at modesty when the socialite hangs sheets between her bed and his, and the hitchhiking scene where Claudette shows some (very scandalous!) leg.
2. Duel (1971 – starring Dennis Weaver and an 18-wheeler)
Since we’re talking firsts, here’s Steven Spielberg’s first feature film and it is terrifying. This is a road trip from hell. A traveling salesman gets chased by a semi-truck for an hour. It sounds crazy. But remember, it is Spielberg. I saw this one once on television at my grandmother’s house, when I was a kid. It still haunts me.
3. Fandango (1985 – starring Kevin Costner, Sam Robards, Judd Nelson)
Call it a more innocent version of The Hangover, if you want. This film follows a bunch of fraternity guys on a last-hurrah road trip before graduation, marriage (and Vietnam) come between them. There’s parachuting, train lasso-ing, a burned-down roadhouse, a passed-out-drunk buddy, and an old guy named Dom. Oh – and this is Kevin Costner’s first starring role in a feature film. Worth seeing.
5. Sideways (2004 – starring Paul Giamatt, Thomas Haydn Church and Sandra Oh)
A washed up writer and an actor about to be married take a journey through California Wine Country. This film won Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay and was nominated for several others. If you are a wine lover, this is a must see. The script includes some excellently idiotic wine-tasting notes such as “tastes like the back of a f**king L.A. school bus” as well as memorable lines like “If anyone orders Merlot I’m leaving. I am NOT drinking any f**king Merlot!” Pair this movie with a 2006 Sonoma Pinot Noir…
6. Little Miss Sunshine (2006 – starring Steve Carell, Toni Collette, Abigail Breslin, Alan Arkin)
Quirky, heart-wrenching and laugh-out-loud funny all at the same time, how can you not love a little girl like Olive. Her family members include a WWII vet who is into heroin, a dad who’s a life coach and motivational speaker, and a step-brother who has taken a vow of silence. Throw them all in a beat up VW van and send them on an 800-mile trip to a kids beauty pageant and something interesting is bound to happen. Plus this one has a great score, including film-specific music by the awesome folk/indie band DeVotchka – and of course, “Super Freak” by Rick James. Seriously. What more do you need?