7 Great Road Trip Movies to Kick Off Your Summer

It's summertime, the livin' is easy, and you're preparing to go on a road trip. Your playlist is ready, you know your route, and you've got a full tank of gas. But before you drive off into the sunset, spend a day immersed in the cinematic poetry of the American road trip. Let your passengers do the packing; you should sit back, relax, and draw some off-road inspiration from these seven great road trip movies to kick off your summer.

  1. Easy Rider

    "I mean, it's real hard to be free when you are bought and sold in the marketplace."

    It's No. 1 with a bullet. Definitely the best road trip movie out there, and one of the best films ever, Easy Rider encapsulates the freedom and philosophy of the nomadic American hippie. Proving to us that long-haired hippie freaks can be patriots (while also finding free love and cheap drugs), Easy Rider is an easy pick — for road trips, summer or otherwise.

    Honorable Mention: Steve McQueen in The Reivers

  2. Thelma and Louise

    "You shoot off a guy's head with his pants down, believe me, Texas ain't the place you want to get caught."

    Hillbilly tries to rape woman. Best friend kills rapist hillbilly. Women go on the run in a convertible '66 Thunderbird. Instant classic. Directed by Ridley Scott. What more could you possibly need?

    Honorable Mention: National Lampoon's Vacation and a documentary about truckers called Big Rig. Watch the full documentary here.

  3. Motorcycle Diaries

    "What do we leave behind when we cross each frontier? Each moment seems split in two; melancholy for what was left behind and the excitement of entering a new land."

    Here's another one for all you motoring hippies. An improvisational trip spanning an entire continent. 5,000 miles in four months. You'll see the beautiful South American countryside through the eyes of one of the 20th century's most controversial figures. Bonus for the Lazy Socialist: If you hate reading, but you want to know what Che kept in his diary as a 20-something, this is the movie for you.

  4. Smokey and the Bandit

    "Go, girl, go!"

    "I'm goin', I'm goin! I got the metal to the petal and the thing to the floor!"

    Moonshine, Burt Reynolds' mustache, and a lot of '70s kitsch. What could be better to prepare you for a road trip? If Bandit, Cledus, and their journey across the American South can't get you in the mood to motor, nothing will. Chock full of classic quotes and scenes, Smokey and the Bandit is both a road trip and an often-referenced cinematic gem.

    Honorable Mention: The oft-debated Vanishing Point, plus the 1978 film Convoy, which you can watch in its entirety here.

  5. Planes, Trains, and Automobiles

    "Train don't run out of Wichita … unlessin' you're a hog or a cattle."

    Best for those with a hellish road trip ahead or for those with holiday travel horror stories of their own. The John Hughes' 1987 road trip comedy classic starring Steve Martin and John Candy was an instant hit, and hopefully serves as a slapstick reminder of both cruel fate and the importance of great care in choosing a travel companion.

    Honorable Mention: Sideways and Dumb and Dumber

  6. TransAmerica

    "You don't have to say 'like.' 'Probably disemboweled by a ninja' is sufficient. And please don't put your feet up on the dashboard.

    It's a beautiful movie about discovery — those we have in life and behind the wheel. A pre-operative male-to-female takes both a personal journey and one across America. Bree (brilliantly portrayed by Felicity Huffman) takes a road trip with her estranged son, who she's just bailed out of jail. Their car and money get stolen by a peyote shaman hitchhiker, and the road trip takes an unexpected turn.


    Honorable Mention: Little Miss Sunshine and The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert

  7. Beavis and Butthead Do America

    "Beavis and Butt-head, on behalf of your fellow Americans I extend my deepest thanks. You exemplify a fine new crop of young Americans who will grow into the leaders of this great country."

    "Huh huh huh huh. He said, 'extend.'"

    They're looking for their stolen TV, but it's really just an excuse to see the vulgar teens quip across the country, from sea to shining sea. With a soundtrack that reeks of 1996's zeitgeist, the movie was an instant classic for the MTV generation. Where else can you see Cornholio's take on the White House tour?

    Honorable Mention: Road Trip and Borat: Cultural Learning of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan

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