Road trip movies are a great way to escape reality and inspire your wanderlust in times when you cannot travel. Whether it’s a comedy, drama, or even a horror film – a road trip movie is always filled with lots of twists and turns, unexpected challenges, and roadside attractions – it’s just a great entertainment that will never bore you out.
Most of the road trip movies also share an appreciation for self-discovery, often serving as an allegory for the inner journey of the characters. As they say, the destination is rarely as important as the road itself!
Without further ado, here are 20 of the best road trip movies of various genres that will make you laugh and cry, appreciate the incredible personal development, inspire you to travel, and simply keep you entertained.
Green Book (2018)
Set in the 1960s and inspired by a true story, “Green Book” is a multi-award-winning comic drama directed by Peter Farrelly. The film follows an Italian-American bouncer (Viggo Mortensen) as he drives an upper-class black pianist (Mahershala Ali) on a tour through the southern states in America. While barely getting along at first, the two completely different characters manage to become pals and find respect for each other’s talents.
Little Miss Sunshine (2006)
If you’re looking for a family road trip movie, “Little Miss Sunshine” is a great choice. Filled with an all-star cast (including Steve Carell, Toni Collette, Greg Kinnear, Paul Dano, Alan Arkin, and Abigail Breslin), the film tells the story of a dysfunctional family that hits the road to travel from New Mexico to California in a beat-up VW bus so that the family youngest could compete in a beauty pageant. Family fights, personal struggles, car problems, and unexpected detours make this adventure super fun to watch.
Almost Famous (2000)
“Almost Famous” is a semi-autobiographical comedy-drama film from director Cameron Crowe who, as a teenager in the early 1970s, was writing for the “Rolling Stone” and touring with various rock bands. The film itself centers around William, a 15-year-old journalist following a fictitious rock band Stillwater trying to get his first cover story published. On the road, William learns some valuable lessons about honesty, friendship, and fame, while also experiencing first love.
The Road Within (2014)
The independent drama film “The Road Within” tells the story of Vincent (Robert Sheehan), a young man with Tourette Syndrome who is enrolled in a behavioral facility. Here he meets his obsessive-compulsive roommate Alex (Dave Patel) and a girl named Marie (Zoë Kravitz) suffering from anorexia. Together they decide to steal their therapist‘s car and go on a road trip towards the sea where Vincent wants to scatter his dead mother‘s ashes.
Thelma & Louise (1991)
One of the best-known road trip movies of all time, “Thelma & Louise” is a classic that hasn’t lost its significance even 30 years later. The film follows two best friends – Thelma (Geena Davis) and Louise (Susan Sarandon) as they’re looking to escape their boring lives in Arkansas. After an unexpected turn of events, the duo ends up being chased by police as they’re trying to reach Mexico. “Thelma & Louise” is a fun road film that explores the roles of women in society, their self-reliance, and the different layers of female friendship.
Dumb and Dumber (1994)
Another classic road trip movie, “Dumb and Dumber” is probably one of the funniest comedies of all time. Created by the great Farrelly brothers, it centers around two friends – Lloyd (Jim Carrey) and Harry (Jeff Daniels) who hit the road to return a lost briefcase to its owner in Colorado. The duo is driving around in Harry’s truck that’s made up to look like a dog and constantly get themselves involved in all kinds of funny and weird situations.
Y Tu Mamá También (2001)
One of the best road trip movies ever, “Y Tu Mamá También” earned a best screenplay Oscar nomination for his director Alfonso Cuarón and made its main actors, Diego Luna and Gael García Bernal, into international stars. The movie follows two teenagers, Julio and Tenoch, who embark on a road trip through Mexico, accompanied by a confused and slightly older Tenoch’s cousin’s wife, Luisa (Maribel Verdú). Set against the backdrop of Mexico’s political and economic realities, their journey is full of lust, jealously, and pain, as well as self-discovery and humor.
The Motorcycle Diaries (2004)
Another great road trip movie starring Gael García Bernal, “The Motorcycle Diaries” is based on Ernesto “Che” Guevara’s memoir which he wrote before becoming the Marxist revolutionary. Bernal plays young Guevera who sets on a road trip across South America with his pal Alberto Granado (Rodrigo de la Serna). From the Andes mountains to Machu Picchu, the journey takes them through major landmarks of the continent while also opening their eyes to political injustice and eventually shaping their whole lives.
One of the best independent road trip movies, “Transamerica” tells the story of Bree Osborne (magnificently played by Felicity Huffman), a middle-aged trans woman going through some serious life changes. After suddenly learning that she has a 17-year-old son, Bree flies to New York to meet him and bail him out of jail. The two of them set on a road trip back to Los Angeles while on the way discovering unexpected things about each other.
Inside Llewyn Davis (2013)
In this black comedy-drama film, Oscar Isaac portrays a struggling folk singer Llewyn Davis who’s constantly lacking money and has to get by sleeping on the coaches of his friends and acquaintances. As part of his inner search for meaning, Llewyn embarks on a journey from Greenwich Village in New York to Chicago. In a local club, he finally meets a big-time music executive who might change the course of his carrier.
On the Road (2012)
As you might have already guessed, “On the Road” is based on the iconic Jack Kerouac novel of the same name. The story centers around a young writer Sal Paradise whose life is changed after meeting a free-spirited car thief Dean Moriarty and his teenage wife, Marylou. Hoping to overcome his writer’s block and gain some inspiration, Sal decides to join his new friends on a road trip across the country which also becomes a major self-discovery journey.
We’re the Millers (2013)
Even though “We’re the Millers” might be called a family road trip movie, watching it with your little ones is probably not a good idea… The film follows a low-life marijuana dealer (Jason Sudeikis) who convinces his stripper neighbor (Jennifer Aniston) and two teenagers to help him out and pretend to be a family to smuggle drugs from Mexico into the US. Packed with action and hilarious jokes, “We’re the Millers” will make you laugh all the way through.
The Straight Story (1999)
Directed by David Lynch and based on a true story, “The Straight Story” is a biographical road drama film centering around a stubborn old man Alvin Straight and his incredible journey. In failing health and unable to drive, Alvin wants to visit his brother, who’d recently suffered a stroke, and eventually decides to hit the road on a loan mower. His journey from Iowa to Wisconsin is full of struggles, beautiful landscapes, and interesting encounters.
Come as You Are (2019)
“Come as You Are” is an American remake of the acclaimed 2011 Belgian film “Hasta la Vista”. Based on a true story, this comic drama follows three young men with disabilities, dreaming to experience sex for the first time. After hearing about a brothel in Canada that caters to people with special needs, they decide to rent a car and drive there. This is a very clever, emotional, entertaining, and funny road trip movie that touches on sensitive and sometimes uncomfortable subjects with heart and humor.
When the apocalypse hits and the whole United States (and presumably – the whole Earth) is filled with zombies, a group of survivors (played by Woody Harrelson, Jesse Eisenberg, Emma Stone, and Abigail Breslin) is traveling across the country to reach a safe haven in Los Angeles. A bit unexpected, but a road trip movie nonetheless, “Zombieland” is a great comedy that shows the importance of human connection.
“Nebraska” is a great black-and-white comedy-drama road film that shows a slow mental decline of an elderly man Woody Grant (Bruce Dern). Woody gets convinced that he won $1 million and is desperate to get to Lincoln, Nebraska, to collect his winnings. His son David (Will Forte) agrees to drive him there, even understanding that the win is actually a scam. An emotional trip takes them through the cornfields of middle America as well as the complicated past of the Grant family.
Queen & Slim (2019)
After an awkward blind date, Queen (Jodie Turner-Smith) and Slim (Daniel Kaluuya) are pulled over by a police officer for a minor traffic violation. The situation unexpectedly escalates, and the couple is left with no choice but to go on a run, or else spend their lives in prison. “Queen & Slim” is a romantic road crime drama that portrays the social injustices in the African American communities and touches on some important subjects from slavery and religion to feminism and masculinity.
Flirting with Disaster (1996)
“Flirting with Disaster” is a hilarious black comedy about a young father and a neurotic scientist Mel (Ben Stiller) who hits the road to find his biological parents. The search turns into a whole adventure as Mel, his wife Nancy (Patricia Arquette), their newborn baby, and an adoption agency employee Tina (Téa Leoni) are traveling around the States meeting potential candidates. As you might guess, their road trip is full of surprises and funny incidents.
Wendy and Lucy (2008)
A very moving drama film, “Wendy and Lucy” tells the story of a homeless woman Wendy (Michelle Williams), traveling to Alaska with her dog Lucy, in the hopes of starting working in a cannery. On the way, her car breaks down, Lucy goes missing, and Wendy needs to deal with some difficult issues to continue her journey. The movie touches on various important subjects, including social injustice and limits of the system, also showing the power of kindness and humanity.
Due Date (2010)
“Due Date” is a funny black-comedy road trip movie about a selfish workaholic man named Peter (Robert Downey Jr.) who needs to get across the country to Los Angeles in time for the birth of his child. On his journey, Peter is forced to pair with an aspiring actor Ethan (Zach Galifianakis), who is also planning to scatter his deceased father’s ashes at the Grand Canyon. If you’re looking for something easy, enjoyable, and entertaining, “Due Date” is a great choice.