Most Memorable Road Trip Movies

Road trip films can tug at the viewer's heartstrings and inspire them to hit the open road.
by Allison Bowsher — 

John Cho and Mia Isaac in 'Don't Make Me Go'

Amazon Studios

Setting off on the open road is one of film's greatest past times. Some of the most memorable and iconic films have used highways and small-town streets as their backdrop. National Lampoon took the Griswold family on a cross-country road trip to Walley World — twice!

Road trip films are all centered on a crucial destination point, but it's the journey that typically makes up the bulk of the story. The impetus for the trip can vary, from getting a burger at a beloved fast-food chain to pitching an invention, but some of the most memorable road trip films have focused on travelers who are disabled, sick, or dying and looking for a seismic event in the form of a road trip that can help them make sense of their lives. And some are just about making sure your girlfriend doesn't find out you cheated. There's a road trip film for just about every scenario.

Road trip films use physical travel as a metaphor for life, with the characters facing several obstacles that they must overcome in order to reach their destination. These trips can be a chance for characters to connect with others, whether it's the person joining them in the passenger seat, new acquaintances, or a reunion between old friends.

From comedies to dramas, Academy Award-winning films to sleeper hits you may have missed in the theaters, these are some of the most memorable road trip movies as listed by their Metascore.


'Thelma & Louise'


Thelma & Louise

Metascore: 88
Best for: Fans of movie classics who want to see incredible performances by established and then-unknown leads
Where to watch:

, Google Play, HBO Max, Vudu
Runtime: 129 minutes

Is there a more iconic road trip film than Thelma & Louise? The Ridley Scott buddy dramedy remains the only film to have two leads nominated in the same category at the Oscars, with Susan Sarandon as a sharp-tongued waitress named Louise and Geena Davis as her shy housewife best friend Thelma. The iconic film follows the two women as they set off on a fishing trip and end up in a series of violent encounters. Featuring Brad Pitt in one of his first major film roles, Thelma & Louise remains an icon in feminist pop culture and an inspiring film about friendship.

"This is a movie to love, that touches you in places you never suspected, that shows you that the road less traveled is the road to your dreams." — Marjorie Baumgarten, The Austin Chronicle


'Easy Rider'

Columbia Pictures

Easy Rider

Metascore: 85
Best for: Biker fans who want to be transported back to the 1960s
Where to watch:

, Google Play, iTunes, Tubi, Vudu
Runtime: 95 minutes

Like Thelma & Louise, Easy Rider is another Academy Award-nominated road trip film that helped catapult the career of one of Hollywood's biggest stars. In this case, it was Jack Nicholson, who appears alongside the film's stars, including Peter Fonda, who co-wrote and produced Easy Rider, and Dennis Hopper, who made his directorial debut with the counterculture film. Filled with free love, violence, and waxing poetic about the current state of America, Easy Rider follows two men (played by Fonda and Hopper) on two wheels as they ride from California to Louisiana. 

"Not only emblematic of independent American cinema, but, released in 1969, is the definitive statement on the death of the 60s." — Christopher Machell, Cinevue


'Little Miss Sunshine'

Searchlight Pictures

Little Miss Sunshine

Metascore: 80
Best for: Dramedy fans who want to see award-winning actors at their best
Where to watch:

, , ,
Runtime: 102 minutes

A film that explores dysfunctional family dynamics, mental health, drug addiction, and the danger of beauty pageants and their sexualization of children, Little Miss Sunshine covers a lot of ground, literally and figuratively. The dark but lovable film won Best Original Screenplay at the Oscars and boasts an all-star cast that includes Toni Collette and Greg Kinnear, who are trying to manage their family that appears to be growing by the minute. Steve Carell is Collette's suicidal brother, Paul Dano is their son who has taken a vow of silence, and Abigail Breslin is their precocious 7-year-old who wants to compete in the Little Miss Sunshine pageant in another state, prompting the family's road trip. Alan Arkin, who won an Oscar for his performance, stars as Kinnear's character's curmudgeonly drug addict father who has a soft spot for his granddaughter and a talent for teaching inappropriate choreography.

"Tucked in between all the hurt and the jokes, the character development and the across-the-board terrific performances is a surprisingly sharp look at contemporary America." — Manohla Dargis, The New York Times



Studiocanal UK

Supernova (2020)

Metascore: 73
Best for: Viewers who want to see two acting greats deliver devastatingly emotional performances
Where to watch:

, , , ,
Runtime: 93 minutes

While Supernova has a few moments of levity sprinkled throughout, it's mostly a devastatingly realistic look at the struggle of being part of a couple that is facing a terminal diagnosis together. Starring Colin Firth and Stanley Tucci as long-term partners who are embarking on a road trip while attempting to navigate Tucci's early-onset dementia, the film feels more like an intimate play. Accepting his imminent mortality, Tucci's character attempts to push his own fears aside to comfort his partner, who also tries to put on a brave face as the men travel together to see friends and family for what may be the final time.

"Supernova is modest in every respect except its emotional impact. In the characters' internal arcs, the title — the name for a stellar explosion — comes fully into perspective." — Karen Han, Slate


'Come As You Are'

Samuel Goldwyn Films

Come As You Are

Metascore: 71
Best for: Fans of comedies with a lot of heart and some adult content
Where to watch:

, , , ,
Runtime: 106 minutes

A film about three men driving to a brothel doesn't sound like the basis for a heartwarming flick, but it is. Come As You Are is also packed with moments of hilarity, vulgarity, and yes, some nudity. So, it's well-rounded. The endearing film follows Scotty (Grant Rosenmeyer) and Matt (Hayden Szeto), two men in wheelchairs, and Mo (Ravi Patel), who is visually impaired, as they make the trek to a brothel in Montreal that caters to customers with disabilities. The inclusive film also stars Gabourey Sidibe as their nurse and driver and Janeane Garofalo as Scotty's protective mother.

"Come As You Are has a wonderful way of making even the most obvious situations seem fresh and funny and original." — Ian Freer, Empire


'Green Book'

Universal Pictures

Green Book

Metascore: 69
Best for: Viewers who want to see excellent performances and get a history lesson
Where to watch:

, , Google Play, Vudu
Runtime: 130 minutes

Inspired by the relationship of famed Black pianist Don Shirley (Mahershala Ali) and his white driver Frank "Tony Lip" Vallelonga (Viggo Mortensen), Green Book follows the men as they tour the Deep South in 1962. Basing the title on The Negro Motorist Green Book, a guide book that was used during the middle of the 20th century to help Black people locate restaurants and hotels where they would be safe, the movie focuses on the men's relationship as they bond during their time driving to Don's concerts. Although Green Book sparked controversy for perpetuating the white savior trope and received criticism from the real Shirley's family, it took home Academy Awards for Best Picture, Best Original Screenplay, and a Best Supporting Actor trophy for Ali.

"Two terrific performances and the interplay between the two actors —Mahershala Ali and Viggo Mortensen — are the reasons to see Green Book." — Marjorie Baumgarten, The Austin Chronicle


'Rain Man'


Rain Man

Metascore: 65
Best for: Viewers who like to watch award-winning movies that have helped shape popular culture
Where to watch:

, , ,
Runtime: 134 minutes

Winning four Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Actor for Dustin Hoffman, Rain Man stars self-obsessed car dealer Charlie Babbitt (Tom Cruise), who upon his father's death learns he has an older brother Raymond (Hoffman) who has lived in a mental institution since childhood. The pair set out on a cross-country road trip and eventually learn to understand and care for one another. Rain Man's impact is still felt in popular culture. Hoffman's character helped to increase awareness and understanding of Autism and iconic scenes in the film continue to be referenced in shows including The Simpsons and films including The Hangover.

"In every detail — the superb soundtrack, the rich cinematography, the distinctively edgy editing — Rain Man reveals itself as a movie made with care, smarts, and a refreshing refusal to settle for the unexpected." — David Ansen, Newsweek


'Don't Make Me Go'

Amazon Studios

Don't Make Me Go

Metascore: 61
Best for: Fans of father-daughter dramedies and twist endings
Where to watch: 

Runtime: 109 minutes

Terminal illness, absentee parents, and hormonal teenagers all come together in this touching road trip dramedy that premiered at the Tribecca Film Festival in June. Cho stars as a single dad trying to impart as much wisdom and advice as he possibly can to his teenage daughter before his death. The pair embark on a cross-country road trip with Cho's character hoping to reunite his daughter and her mother. Grief, mortality, parental anxiety, and the (almost) always terrifying action of learning to drive come together in this bittersweet film that has an ending that will likely divide viewers. 

"A sweet, charming, and eventually daring dramedy with tons of heart." — Kate Erbland, IndieWire





Metascore: 57
Best for: Fans of stories that center on difficult parent-child relationships
Where to watch: Netflix
Runtime: 100 minutes

On the brink of losing his job if he doesn't sign a major act, record producer Matt (Jason Sudeikis) gets a surprising offer: drive his estranged and dying father Ben (Ed Harris) across the country to develop a few rolls of film before the last place in the world to develop Kodachrome is closed. In return for reuniting with his famous photographer father, Ben's manager (Dennis Haysbert) has helped Matt secure a meeting with a major rock band. Joining the pair is Ben's nurse Zooey (Elizabeth Olsen), who tries to keep the peace between the men while also opening Matt's eyes to everything he's shut out for years, including a relationship with his dad. The acerbic men provide some comic relief in a film that explores strained family relationships and what it means to live an "important" life.

"Screenwriter Tropper has also constructed some solid father and son sparring matches about the value of being a good person versus being a great artist, which Harris and Sudeikis make the most of." — Kenneth Turan, Los Angeles Times


'The Fundamentals of Caring'


The Fundamentals of Caring

Metascore: 55
Best for: Viewers who like coming-of-age films and dramedies
Where to watch: Netflix
Runtime: 93 minutes

The Fundamentals of Caring stars Paul Rudd, Craig Roberts, and Selena Gomez, who have powerful on-screen chemistry in an emotional storyline in whcih an unemployed writer whose grief is giving him writer's block (Ben, played by Rudd) takes a job as a caregiver to 18-year-old Trevor (Roberts), who has Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy. Against the better judgment of Trevor's mother (played by Jennifer Ehle), the pair set out on a road trip to visit American landmarks and along the way meet a young hitchhiker named Dot (Gomez). The trio helps one another confront their painful pasts, giving themselves more emotional room to take on their future.

"Solid performances and some genuinely sharp humor elevate writer-director Rob Burnett's second feature." — Geoff Berkshire, Variety