Best Road Trip Movies

Serious ("The Motorcycle Diaries"), romantic ("Two for the Road") or designed for laughter—like the 2013 "Identity Thief"—Hollywood’s highway excursions offer first-rate escapes

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"Identity Thief" (2013)

When Diana (Melissa McCarthy) steals the identity of Sandy Patterson (Jason Bateman) in the hit comedy Identity Thief, he is determined to find her. But getting back his money and his job proves more complicated as victim and thief end up on a hazardous road trip back to his Colorado home.

"Planes, Trains and Automobiles" (1987)

With Steve Martin and John Candy as the ultimate strange bedfellows (and the bed-sharing sequence is one of its funniest), this multi-transportation journey might have inspired Identity Thief.


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"The Guilt Trip" (2012)

Guilted into taking along his widowed mom on a cross-country sales tour, inventor Andy Brewster initially resists, then profits from her interference. Though the script is slight, costars Seth Rogan and Barbra Streisand have such great chemistry that they make the trip more than worth its 95-minute running time.


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"Thelma & Louise" (1991)

A housewife (Geena Davis) and waitress (Susan Sarandon) turn rogue following a rape attempt in what might be the greatest female buddy movie ever, right down to that Cadillac-flying ending. The film also gets bonus points for an appearance by the young Brad Pitt as a seductive thief.


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"Easy Rider" (1969)

The ultimate hippie road trip follows Peter Fonda and Dennis Hopper on a cross-country counter-culture adventure. Considered groundbreaking at the time, the movie now seems most notable for the breakout performance by Jack Nicholson as a drunken lawyer they pick up along the way.

 

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"It Happened One Night" (1934)

Claudette Colbert is the runaway heiress, Clark Gable the reporter who aids her escape—for the promise of an exclusive story—in Frank Capra’s still-delightful romantic comedy. The movie was the first to win Oscars in all five major categories: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor, Best Actress and Best Screenplay.

 

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"The Hangover" (2009)

What’s not going on in this raunchy, raucous road trip? Somehow, a Vegas bachelor party ends up with a baby in the closet and a tiger in the bathroom. The movie’s so funny, we’ll even forgive the less than stellar sequel (the third and final installment will be in theaters May 24). Besides, who can resist a cast that includes Bradley Cooper, Ed Helms and Zach Galifianakis?

 

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"The Motorcycle Diaries" (2004)

Based on his own diaries (first published in 1993), this Spanish-language movie traces the 1950s South American journey that turned medical student Ernesto into Marxist revolutionary “Che” Guevera. Gael Garcia Bernal (Che) and Rodrigo de la Serna star—along with some very lush scenery —in this political coming of age story.

 

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"Midnight Run" (1988)

Gangsters and g-men collide to make a simple assignment turn deadly—and many modes of transportation necessary—for bounty hunter Jack Walsh (Robert DeNiro). Somehow, this all adds up to a comedy, costarring Charles Grodin as the guy dumb enough to steal from the mob.

 

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"Little Miss Sunshine" (2006)

A dysfunctional family boards a battered microbus and heads from New Mexico to California to enter six-year-old Olive (Abigail Breslin) in a beauty contest. The misadventures of this marvelous ensemble cast (Steve Carell, Toni Collette, Greg Kinnear, Alan Arkin) culminate with Olive’s hilariously inappropriate talent act.

 

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"About Schmidt" (2002)

The unlikeable title character (Jack Nicholson) doesn’t have much to like about his post-retirement life. He lost the wife he didn’t love, his daughter is about to marry a guy he hates and his entire career as an actuary is packed up for the dump. A road trip to revisit the past doesn’t do much to cheer Schmidt up, but a long distance correspondence with an African boy he has adopted provides emotion and a touch of optimism. Best scene: An attempt by Schmidt’s future in-law (Kathy Bates) to seduce him in a hot tub.

 

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"Two for the Road" (1967)

Audrey Hepburn and Albert Finney memorably star as a British couple dissecting their marriage while driving to Saint-Tropez—a journey they’ve made several times before, as seen in flashbacks. One sign that movie morals were about to change: The revelation that each has had an extramarital fling.

 

 

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"Almost Famous" (2000)

Director Cameron Crowe based this rockin’ road trip on his own experiences as a teenage writer for Rolling Stone (played by Patrick Fugit). Filled with a surprising number of accomplished actors—Billy Crudup, Frances McDormand, Philip Seymour Hoffman—it also put Kate Hudson on the map as groupie Penny Lane, a performance she has yet to match.
 

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"The Bucket List" (2007)

Jack Nicholson hits the road again (are we beginning to see a pattern here?), this time with Morgan Freeman, as two terminally ill men determined to do all the things they’ve dreamed about before they “kick the bucket.” Fortunately, Nicholson’s character, Edward, has the bucks to get them to such exotic spots as the Great Wall of China; in turn, Freeman’s character, Carter, serves as a catalyst for Edward to reconnect with his daughter.

 

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"Breakdown" (1997) and "Joy Ride" (2001)

Road trips turn into fright nights in these two thrillers. In Breakdown, Kurt Russell stars as a guy searching for his abducted wife after his car sputters to a halt in what appears to be a highway conspiracy. Joy Ride’s traveling trio find their juvenile prank backfiring into revenge and murder.  Either movie is enough to keep us off those side roads.

 

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Sideways (2004)

Failed writer and wine snob Miles (Paul Giametti) goes on a California vineyard tour with his less than picky pal Jack (Thomas Haden Church). Imbibing, spitting and coupling ensue in a very funny film that also features winning performances by Virginia Madsen and Sandra Oh.


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