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Hot Movie Takes: In a Road Pic State of Mind – Favorite Road Movies and Ones Still to See


 

 

Hot Movie Takes:

In a Road Pic State of Mind – Favorite Road Movies and Ones Still to See

©By Leo Adam Biga

Author of “Alexander Payne: His Journey in Film”

 

Having taken back to back road trips this summer, the cinephile in me got to thinking about road trip movies and how intrinsically satisfying they can be. It turns out that I have seen and you likely have too many good ones. There is also a large number of must-sees I have yet to view. I have curated here a list of notable movies I have seen that meet the basic criteria for a good road trip pic. There are many such flicks with great reps that I haven’t seen and I’ve also made a list of those that I intend to catch up with some day. Among those I have yet to see that are considered seminal road pics are “Wild Boys of the Road,” Kings of the Road” and “Two Lane Blacktop.”

On the list of road pics I have seen, three are by Omaha’s own Alexander Payne: “About Schmidt,” “Sideways” and “Nebraska.” His “The Descendants” could be considered a road pic as well. There are some selections that might better fit other categories, such as “The Terminator” franchise, but they absolutely work as road movies, too. A more recent example of this blurring or melding of categories might be “Mad Max: Fury Road” and the preceding films in that series.

I purposely excluded from my listings some movies I’ve seen that I know fit the road pic theme, such as the Hope-Crosby series and “It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World” because for my tastes anyway they just don’t work very well, at least not today.

For the following lists, the movies are ordered in a rough approximation of their release dates.

 

Among my personal favorite road pics are:

The Grapes of Wrath

Sullivan’s Travels

The Treasure of the Sierra Madre

Gun Crazy

La Strada

The Searchers

Thunder Road

North by Northwest

Bonnie and Clyde

Easy Rider

Five Easy Pieces

The Out of Towners

Man in the Wilderness

Harold and Maude

The Getaway

Paper Moon,

The Last Run

Scarecrow

Badlands

The Last Detail

Emperor of the North

Thieves Like Us

Harry & Tonto

The Sugarland Express

 

Two-Lane Blacktop

 

 

Rafferty and the Gold Dust Twins

Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia

The Man Who Would Be King

Freebie and the Bean

Sorcerer

The In-Laws

Rolling Thunder

Who’ll Stop the Rain?

Bite the Bullet

Handle with Care

The Blues Brothers

Melvin and Howard

Cutter’s Way

El Norte

Something Wild

Lost in America

Mountains of the Moon

Rain Man

Dumb and Dumber

Map of the Human Heart

The Straight Story

O Brother Where Art Thou

Three Kings

Joy Ride

Almost Famous

Aboout Schmidt

Y Tu Mama Tambien

Sideways

The Motorcycle Diaries

Little Miss Sunshine

Nebraska

 

Between both lists, that is the list of movies I’ve seen and the list of movies I haven’t seen, a surprising number were either shot or set in Nebraska or have production histories or back stories that intersect wth Nebraska, including the three Payne films as well as “The Rain People,” “Paper Moon,” “Badlands,” “Convoy” and “To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything Julie Newmar.”

When I sat down to start thinking about and researching the subject of this post, it became very clear very early on that there are more really good road movies than I ever realized. Many top directors have explored this genre or sub-genre. It makes sense, of course, because characters on the open road, whether on foot or in a vehicle or in a stagecoach or aboard a train or on horseback, make for kinetic cinema, particularly when the characters are framed in space against dramatic landscapes and backdrops. There is nothing more elemental in cinema than figures moving through space and going on some journey. When the context for that movement, journey, trip, quest or escape includes elements of time or danger, or when the stakes are somehow raised because of the dramatic or comedic situation, then we are pulled right along on that path with the protagonists. It only works though if the basic narrative exposition is compelling enough. We’re only invested in the road adventure to the extent we are made to care about the characters and their dilemma or objective. The best of these films depict human yearning and growth through the physical act of travel, which invariably means encountering some kind of obstacles or conflicts en route. In one way or another, all of these movies are about searches – internal or external – and moving on to some desired destination or resolution or state of mind. These stories tap into the human heart and mind in terms of what makes us tick. For these reasons and more, road pics done well will always be relevant and engaging.

 

 

Here are virtually all the road pic movies I’ve seen that I can recommend:

It Happened One Night

You Only Live Once

Stagecoach

The Grapes of Wrath

They Live by Night

They Drive by Night

Sullivan’s Travels

The Treasure of the Sierra Madre

Detour

Gun Crazy

The Wild One

La Strada

Westward the Women

Wild Strawberries

Thunder Road

North by Northwest

The Great Race

Bonnie and Clyde

The Rain People

Easy Rider

The Out of Towners

Man in the Wilderness

Harold and Maude

Five Easy Pieces

Duel

The Getaway

The Last Run

 

 

Scarecrow

Badlands

The Last Detail

Paper Moon

Emperor of the North

Thieves Like Us

Harry & Tonto

The Sugarland Express

Rafferty and the Gold Dust Twins

Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia

The Man Who Would Be King

Freebie and the Bean

The Bingo Long Traveling All-Stars & Motor Kings

Sorcerer

The In-Laws

Rolling Thunder

Who’ll Stop the Rain?

Bite the Bullet

Handle with Care

Smokey and the Bandit

Mad Max

The Blues Brothers

Melvin and Howard

National Lampoon’s Family Vacation

Cutter’s Way

The Road Warrior

El Norte

Starman

The Terminator

48 Hours

The Sure Thing

Stranger Than Paradise

Paris, Texas

Something Wild

Down by Law

Lost in America

Wild at Heart

Planes, Trains and Automobiles

Mountains of the Moon

Thelma and Louise

Rain Man

Map of the Human Heart

Crossing the Bridge

Terminator II: Judgement Day

Omaha the Movie

Dumb and Dumber

The Straight Story

Midnight Run

Flirting with Disaster

O Brother Where Art Thou?

Three Kings

Joy Ride

Almost Famous

About Schmidt

Terminator III: Rise of the Machines

Y Tu Mama También

Children of Men

Sideways

The Motorcycle Diaries

Little Miss Sunshine

Terminator Salvation

Nebraska

 

 

Here is a list of road pics I mean to get to one day:

Wild Boys of the Road

The Hitchhiker

The Wages of Fear

Journey to Italy

Il Sorpasso

Pierrot le Fou

Weekend

Wanda

Vanishing Point

Deadhead Miles

Two Lane Blacktop

Kings of the Road

Honky Tonk Freeway

The Living End

The Vanishing

Love and a .45

Vagabond

My Own Private Idaho

The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert

To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything! Julie Newmar

True Romance

Natural Born Killers

Get on the Bus

Smoke Signals

Central Station

Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas

In This World

Broken Flowers

Old Joy

Borat

Wendy and Lucy

Meek’s Cutoff

Mad Max: Fury Road

Grandma

 

 

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