Aside from actually getting out on the road, or maybe planning a trip, a good movie or book to get you amped up is not too shabby of a time either. We’ve put together some favorite road trip films, books and a few other resources that hopefully excite you to get behind the wheel this summer. The open road awaits!
From the ‘80s to today, we’ve compiled a list of must-watch road trip films. Some are serious, some are hilarious, and all are worth a watch. Keeping it short and sweet, they’re included below with their release year, very brief information and a quote that probably won’t make sense until you see the movie. Be sure to report back.
National Lampoon’s Vacation (1983)
Starring Chevy Chase, this comedy launched a string of hilarious vacation movies. It should come as no surprise that Vegas Vacation (1997) is another favorite of American West, though the Christmas Vacation (1989) film is easily the best in the series.
“Oh Ellen, the Old West was dirty. Everything isn’t like home. If everything were like home, there would be no reason for leaving home. Right, Rusty?”
Thelma & Louise (1991)
From adventurers to outlaws trying to escape to Mexico, this iconic film stars Geena Davis and Susan Sarandon as the titular characters.
“What in the hell is this?” “I don’t know. I think… I think it’s the goddamn Grand Canyon.” “Isn’t it beautiful?” “Yeah. It’s something else, all right.”
This is a love or hate movie. If you haven’t seen it by now, you’d probably hate it. Sacha Baron Cohen’s Borat character leaves nothing back in this mockumentary satire.
“I had not come to Hollywood to fight with a man dressed as Hitler.”
Geek out at the Extraterrestrial Highway and other quintessential West filming locations or watch this and head out there for yourself. Rent an old RV and try to find an alien of your own. Why not?
“You have to spin a good yarn before you can weave a great dream.”
This father-and-son road trip flick follows the duo heading from Billings to Lincoln. Co-starring Bruce Dern and Will Forte, the film was nominated for the Palme d’Or at Cannes.
“So, you told the Sheriff you were walking to Nebraska?” “That’s right. To get my million dollars.”
Based on a 2010 article from The New York Times, this movie is set in the final days of Kodachrome as a father and son hit the road in order to reach a Kansas photo lab before it closes for good.
“We’re all so frightened by time, the way it moves on and the way things disappear. That’s why we’re photographers. We’re preservationists by nature. We take pictures to stop time, to commit moments to eternity.”
Heading down the Pacific Coast Highway from Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Washington, former Army Ranger Briggs (Channing Tatum) is tasked with bringing an ornery military dog to Nogales in time for her handler’s funeral.
“Sir, are you asking me to fly a damn dog to Arizona?” “No, I’m asking you to drive a Ranger to Arizona. She refuses to fly.”
With a seemingly endless array of books and other reading materials on the topic of “road trips,” we’ve narrowed it down to some of the best for the West (though not necessarily West-specific publications). Let us know your favorites at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Firstly, there are a couple of terrific guidebooks to get you started – National Geographic’s Guide to Scenic Highways & Byways and Fodor’s Complete Guide to the National Parks of the West.
The latest (fifth) edition of the NatGeo guide features 300 drives around the U.S. A couple of our favorites include the Kaibab Plateau – North Rim Parkway in Arizona, the Zion National Park Scenic Byway in Utah and the Mount Hood Scenic Byway in Oregon.
The latest (seventh) edition of Fodor’s guide came out in 2021. Since the 2007 original, Pinnacles and White Sands have been added as national parks. Though perhaps a bit heavy on food and lodging options, the guide has great campground information, weather details, maps and other in-depth planning help.
In The Longest Road: Overland in Search of America, from Key West to the Arctic Ocean, author Philip Caputo heads from the United States’ southernmost point to the northernmost point reachable by road – some 6,000 miles away. With their Airstream trailer in tow, he and his wife ask, “What unites the United States?”
Taking a more historically-themed approach, author Dayton Duncan follows the voyage of Lewis and Clark in the 1980s, some 180 years after the explorers did, in Out West: An American Journey. (The subtitle in more recent edition of the book is A Journey through Lewis and Clark’s America.) Unlike Lewis and Clark, Duncan took a Volkswagen camper.
Last, but certainly not least, a map. Seriously, grab a physical map. The trip is right there in your hands… go make it happen.