Total Recall: Road Trip Movies

With Due Date hitting theaters, we run down some of the best in road trip cinema.

Due Date

This weekend, Robert Downey, Jr. and Zach Galifianakis have a Due Date with a cross-country journey full of comedic screaming, vehicular damage, and at least one quote from a classic Ice Cube hit. It has all the makings of a classic wacky road trip comedy, in other words, which got us to thinking about some of the many other entries in the genre -- and before we knew it, we had this week?s super-sized Total Recall, containing 19 of the wackiest, trippiest cinematic journeys of them all. It?s by no means definitive, but with so many to choose from, some were bound to be left out. So which are your favorites? Which ones did we miss? Let us know in the comments!

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The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert

The Journey: In a journey unlike any other road trip movie you've ever seen (or heck, any other movie, period), The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert follows the efforts of a trio of drag queens (very memorably played by Hugo Weaving, Guy Pearce, and Terence Stamp) who take a tour bus (nicknamed "Priscilla") across the Australian Outback.

The Roadblocks: The trio's flamboyance is met with confusion (and in some cases, anger and/or violence) in some of the less densely populated pockets of the Outback, but their trip isn't seriously derailed until Priscilla gives up the ghost in the middle of the desert. What happens next -- and what's revealed about the real reasons for the trip -- have a major impact on the rest of the film.

Notes from the Road: "Both an unalloyed delight and a surprisingly human, moving film." --Ken Hanke, Asheville Mountain Xpress

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Around the World in 80 Days

The Journey: Dashing, oddly named 19th-century adventurer Phileas Fogg (David Niven) bets 20,000 that he can make the titular journey, then takes to the sky in a hot air balloon with his trusty manservant (Mario "Cantinflas" Moreno).

The Roadblocks: Aside from the usual stuff you'd expect to encounter when skipping around the globe in a hot air balloon -- bullfights, Indian widows who look like Shirley MacLaine -- Fogg is also being pursued by a Scotland Yard detective (Robert Newton) who suspects him of stealing from the Bank of England.

Notes from the Road: "An amusing trip around the world in a style befitting Jules Verne, Around the World in 80 Days lives up to its hype as a massive, glossy epic." --Wesley Lovell, Oscar Guy

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The Blues Brothers

The Journey: A mission from God, of course -- and a pretty righteous one at that: Elwood Blues (Dan Aykroyd) and his recently paroled brother, "Joliet" Jake (John Belushi) set out to reassemble one of the mightiest blues bands ever to get their mojo working, all in the name of raising $5,000 to save the orphanage where they were raised.

The Roadblocks: Unfortunately, the brothers embark on their journey with a suspended license, and they aren't about to slow down for a little inconvenience like the police (or mall pedestrians). Meanwhile, one of Jake's spurned girlfriends (a bazooka-toting Carrie Fisher) is hot on their tail, and has no intention of letting the Blues Brothers reunite -- or, for that matter, letting Jake live. Confined to the highways and byways of Illinois, The Blues Brothers doesn't cover as much ground as most road movies, but it's a high-speed trip -- and it culminates in one of the most righteous car crashes ever filmed.

Notes from the Road: "A damn fine mess of a movie." --Richard Luck, Film4

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The Journey: A Kazakh celebrity (Sacha Baron Cohen) travels to the United States to make a documentary for the folks back home; soon after arriving, he becomes captivated by the sight of Pamela Anderson and heads across the country to make her his wife. Sexytime! Highfives!

The Roadblocks: Borat is essentially his own roadblock -- if he isn't shocking and/or offending middle Americans with his witless comments about women and minorities, he's picking an epic, distressingly naked fight with his best friend and producer (Ken Davitian). It will not surprise you to learn that things don't go according to plan.

Notes from the Road: "Although I knew it was dishonest, cynical, and the ultimate in cheap-shot humor, I laughed more at Borat than at any other film this year. So I guess the joke is on me." --Peter Keough, Boston Phoenix


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The Cannonball Run

The Journey: Starring just about every movie star on the planet in 1981, Cannonball Run used the real-life Cannonball Baker Sea-to-Shining-Sea Memorial Trophy Dash as the inspiration for a celebrity-stuffed extravaganza about an illegal cross-country car race whose entrants include a pair of buxom beauties (Tara Buckman and Adrienne Barbeau), a computer-lovin' Mitsubishi duo (Jackie Chan and Michael Hui), fake priests (Dean Martin and Sammy Davis, Jr.), an addle-brained heir who thinks he's Roger Moore (Roger Moore) -- and, of course, a couple of ambulance-driving pals played by Burt Reynolds and Dom DeLuise.

The Roadblocks: Given that the entire cast is trying to prevent everyone else from reaching the finish line first (or at all), Cannonball Run is basically 95 minutes of roadblocks, from impish pranks (Davis slashes the ambulance's tires; Reynolds reports the priests as serial flashers) to all-out war with a biker gang (led by Peter Fonda, natch). But don't worry -- most of the cast had enough fun to return for 1984's Cannonball Run II.

Notes from the Road: "Somehow it's all totally watchable." --Oz,

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Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle

The Journey: There are these two dudes, you see, and their names are Harold (John Cho) and Kumar (Kal Penn). And they get hungry, and they decide they'd like to satisfy that hunger with some burgers. From White Castle.

The Roadblocks: What should have been a 10-minute trip becomes an epic odyssey in which our heroes battle the cops, a flaky dealer, a raccoon, car problems, and a high-as-a-kite Neil Patrick Harris (Neil Patrick Harris) -- all in time to (spoiler alert!) satisfy their White Castle craving and set up a sequel.

Notes from the Road: "A deserving, albeit minor classic, if only for being so bold as to describe Katie Holmes' breasts as being ?the exact opposite' of the Holocaust." --Rob Humanick, Projection Booth

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It Happened One Night

The Journey: If you've ever watched a romantic comedy where the main characters start off hating each other, only to slowly realize that they're falling in love, you've seen the far-reaching effects of the hugely influential It Happened One Night, in which Frank Capra brings his lightest touch to the story of an impetuous heiress (Claudette Colbert) whose botched wedding sends her on the road with a down-on-his-luck reporter (Clark Gable).

The Roadblocks: Screenwriter Robert Riskin pulled out all the stops for Colbert and Gable's journey, including a series of screwball misunderstandings, the most famous hitchhiking scene in movie history, and an added dash of last-minute wedding excitement in the final act. If its ingredients all seem overly familiar now, it's because they worked so brilliantly here.

Notes from the Road: "It Happened One Night is a true classic in every sense of the word, one that withstands the test of time and indeed defies it completely." --Scott Nash, Three Movie Buffs

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Little Miss Sunshine

The Journey: They're as hilariously dysfunctional as any family in an American indie film, but the say this much for the Hoovers of Albuquerque: When young Olive (Abigail Breslin) finds out she's a late qualifier for the Little Miss Sunshine beauty pageant in Los Angeles, parents Sheryl (Toni Collette) and Richard (Greg Kinnear) pack the whole gang in their aging VW Microbus and head west.

The Roadblocks: The Hoovers are on a tight 48-hour timetable, for starters; making matters more difficult is their lack of funds, as well as the gloomy presence of Sheryl's brother (Steve Carell), who recently tried to commit suicide, and Richard's father (Alan Arkin), whose heroin habit just got him kicked out of a retirement home. And then there's the matter of that ancient yellow Microbus...

Notes from the Road: "This inspirational, hilariously sad dysfunctional-family-road-trip dramedy offers absolutely everything -- except pretension." --Brian Marder,

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Lost in America

The Journey: Plenty of the movies on this list settle for wacky (and/or ribald), but Albert Brooks' Lost in America has more on its mind: the bumpy journey of a successful married couple (played by Brooks and Julie Hagerty) who decide to imitate Easy Rider by dropping out and hitting the open road.

The Roadblocks: Quick tip for itinerant travelers: it's probably best to avoid casinos -- and if you must gamble, try not to bet everything you have, especially if you're playing roulette. Broke and homeless, our heroes end up settling down in a small Arizona town, where he gets work as a crossing guard and she joins the paper-hatted crew at the local Wienerschnitzel -- at which point their old, tied down lifestyle starts to look pretty attractive again.

Notes from the Road: "If Mr. Brooks isn't often laugh-out-loud funny, that's largely because so much of what he has to say is true." --Janet Maslin, New York Times

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Midnight Run

The Journey: They were far from the first mismatched couple to find adventure on the road, but bounty hunter Jack Walsh (Robert De Niro) and Mafia-crossing accountant Jonathan Mardukas (Charles Grodin) are among the most entertaining to watch. Promised $100,000 and given a strict deadline to get there, Walsh has to get Mardukas from New York to Los Angeles so he can be returned to police custody -- but the mobster Mardukas swindled (Dennis Farina) has other ideas.

The Roadblocks: Once Mardukas loudly feigns fear of flying and gets them kicked off their flight to L.A., he and Walsh are forced to embark on a hellish cross-country journey that finds them dodging interference from the mob, a competing bounty hunter (John Ashton), and their own loathing for one another. A sequel is reportedly in the works; here's hoping the decades in between haven't softened their mutual disdain/begrudging respect.

Notes from the Road: "When it comes to odd-couple action comedies, this is pretty much the epitome of how to do it." --Luke Y. Thompson, New Times



David Acosta

Nice list!

Nov 3 - 03:15 PM

Over the Rising Sun

Simeon Deutsch


Nov 3 - 03:18 PM

Mysterious F.

Mysterious F

Pierrot le fou?

Nov 3 - 03:31 PM


That Guy

I spent a lot of my life driving across the country, so I love road trip movies. Planes, Trains and Automobiles is definitely my favorite. The Cannonball Run and Vacation are also great. Though I would have included Joy Ride.

Nov 3 - 03:36 PM


sputnik 99

I totally agree with your choices, although I haven't seen Joy Ride.

I have a soft spot for Cannonball Run II. I know it's cheesy, but I grew up watching that and Airplane II a lot more than their predecessors. Movies that don't require a lot of thinking are great for kids, ya know?

Nov 3 - 08:31 PM

Matt the Hat

Matt The Hat

My favourite would be Detour (1945). A low budget Film Noir about a loser who hitch hikes his way from East Coast to West Coast only for fate to trip him up.

Nov 3 - 03:44 PM

Dave J

Dave J

I remember seeing that one as well but I have to rewatch that one again! I think the article is implying for road movies with a little comedy since i had to repost my comment a couple of times since I realized that "Into The Wild", "My Own Private Idaho" and "Running on Empty" wouldn't be candidates for this particular list!

Nov 3 - 03:52 PM

Dave J

Dave J

I remember seeing that one as well but I have to rewatch that one again! I think the article is implying for road movies with a little comedy since i had to repost my comment a couple of times since I realized that "Into The Wild", "My Own Private Idaho" and "Running on Empty" wouldn't be candidates for this particular list!

Nov 3 - 03:52 PM

Dave J

Dave J

"It's A Wonderful World", "True Romance", "Every Which Way You Can", ", "Raising Arizona","Rain Man", "Almost Famous","The Mexican", "Gumball Rally", "O Brother, Where Art Thou?"!

Nov 3 - 04:02 PM


Graham H.

How is Raising Arizona a road trip movie?

Nov 5 - 04:11 PM

Dave J

Dave J

As I recall the movie was about two characters stealing a baby while on a road!!

Nov 5 - 04:27 PM

Brad H.

Brad Hadfield

No Thelma & Louise???

Nov 3 - 04:18 PM

Bye bye

Steven Bailey

Wow, I've only seen two of these. As mentioned above, I can't believe Thelma and Louise and Almost Famous aren't mentioned here.

Nov 3 - 04:46 PM

Niall K.

Niall Keenan

Easy Rider??

Nov 3 - 05:26 PM


Harold Warren

I was upset that they didn't mention Easy Rider (1969) as well as Pirrot Le Fou (1965).

Nov 5 - 01:30 AM

Armond White Sucks

Michael Baldelli

I have to admit, I'm a little disappointed that Due Date is getting such mixed early reviews.

I mean, even Road Trip had 58% rating. I hope Due Date can surpass that. I'm sure I will still enjoy it, but it's not going to be the classic I had envisioned.

Nov 3 - 06:01 PM

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