Everything in life is somewhere else, and you get there in a car.
— E.B. White, One Man's Meat
More or less a film genre in itself, although it's more of a plot type than a genre in the usual sense.
A Road Movie
is a movie about characters taking a trip to go from point A to point Z. Along the way, they stop by points B, C, D, et all while things happen to them at each point. Oftentimes a comedy, but occasionally a drama. The things that happen often teach the characters things they didn't know about themselves. Unsurprisingly, this type of plot opens itself wide to Cliche Storms
, but directors conscious of what kind of movie they are making can defy these and create very original and poignant tales.
An important distinction needs to be made between a Road Movie
and a Walking the Earth
story. If the heroes encounter an adventure at every stop and end up staying at each location for a while to solve some major problem or deal with a big event, it's Walking the Earth
; especially if each location can be considered an Adventure Town
. If, on the other hand, each location is merely a brief stop along the way, and the story is more about the journey than the specific locations, then it's a Road Movie
Not all Road Movies involve use of a vehicle, but it's often what one associates with the genre: a family or group of friends traveling in a car or a van from one place to another, with stuff happening at each location. Because of the vastness of the continental United States, most road movies take place there.
Compare Blake Snyder's description of this plot
, under the title Golden Fleece
. Also compare The Quest
, along with Booker's version
of the archetypes behind it.
If this movie is part of a tightly networked franchise and is the only / one of the few film(s) to feature a Road Trip, it crosses into the Road Trip Episode
See also the Music
equivalent of this trope, Wanderlust Song
- The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle has the plot device of Rocky and Bullwinkle being brought into the real world in Los Angeles, and having to make it to New York with FBI agent Karen Sympathy, to stop Fearless Leader from taking over the world via mind-numbing cable television.
- Beavis And Butthead: Do America
- Blonde in Black Leather - two women on a journey to be in a certain place at a certain time. Strangeness ensues.
- In Blue State two Democrats take a road trip to move to Canada after George W. Bush is re-elected President after the 2004 elections.
- The Blues Brothers, man, The Blues Brothers.
- The first half of Boys On The Side.
- Bunny and the Bull is a strange variation. For most of the movie, it appears that you're merely watching Stephen, his best friend Bunny and their mutual love interest Eloisa having a bizarre trek across Europe, but as the film progresses, it becomes apparant that although these events did occur, they're being reconstructed in hindsight by Stephen - with his current-day hallucinations added on, just to confuse things - who hasn't left his flat in a year. Plus it seems likely that half the cast are dead by this point.
- Disney's Bolt is an example. A dog who thinks the TV show he acts in is reality, a cat who realizes he's been sheltered from reality, and a hamster who admires the dog-actor, all take a cross-country trip to, at least initially, rescue the dog's owner from a kidnapper from his TV show.
- Where Angels Go, Trouble Follows, the sequel to The Trouble With Angels. The sisters and a new group of girls drive across the country to a peace rally in California.
- Richard Scarry's Cars and Trucks and Things That Go
- Chasing Liberty involves air, rail, lorry/car, and aquatic travel.
- The Darjeeling Limited has three brothers trying to reconcile family bonds on a train across India.
- Dogma is about a trip/chase from Illinois to New Jersey. Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back is about their shenanigans on the way from New Jersey to Los Angeles.
- Duets follows the stories of three pairs of people as they progress through a national karaoke competition.
- Dumb and Dumber, Harry and Lloyd travel from Rhode Island to Colorado on a dog shaped van.
- Easy Rider centers around the main characters' road trip to New Orleans. It isn't a comedy.
- Euro Trip does not use any particular vehicle, instead several trains, planes, and automobiles (including a Yugo outfitted to look like the General Lee.
- Fanboys is about four (later five) Star Wars fans going from Ohio to California to break into George Lucas' house to see The Phantom Menace for a friend who won't live to see the film come out.
- Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, both the book and the film.
- Finding Nemo is a story about a fish swimming in the ocean, so there aren't any roads. But otherwise it fits this trope exactly, as Marlin travels across the ocean to find Nemo, meeting many colorful sea creatures along the way.
- Generation Kill is effectively described as a combination of this genre with a war movie, as it deals with the members of Marine Recon driving through Iraq during the 2003 invasion.
- A Goofy Movie is about Goofy (yes, the Disney character) taking his son Max on a father-son trip, while Max attempts to take a trip to a concert he wishes to attend. After Goofy discovers what he's been up to, they end up doing both.
- The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy is a road movie IN SPACE!.
- I Went Down is about two low level gangsters sent out by their boss to find a wayward associate and bring him back. Managed the impossible by making a car journey across Ireland, which can easily if not comfortably, be done in a single day, seem like a truly epic journey.
- Interstate 60: Episodes of the Road
- The first half of Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back.
- Joy Ride
- Knockin' on Heaven's Door: Two terminally ill guys with just a couple of days left to live get to know each other and refuse to just sit in a hospital and await their fate. They steal a car and go on a last road trip to see the ocean for the first and last time in their lives. The thing is, the car was used by gangsters to deliver a substantial amount of money to a kingpin.
- Little Miss Sunshine is about a family who travels across state lines and has various misadventures along the way, while trying to get to a beauty pageant in time for their daughter to participate.
- The Motorcycle Diaries follows a young Che Guevara and his friend Alberto touring South America on a motorbike. His experiences on the road slowly shape his revolutionary views.
- The Muppet Movie
- Narcissu is a Visual Novel example.
- National Lampoon's Vacation and its sequels.
- The Odyssey, in a way. It's basically about a king and his men on their journey home from war. By sea, of course.
- Paper Moon is essentially a movie about a trip from Gorham, Kansas to Joplin, Missouri.
- Paul is about two bumbling nerds who are on their way to a Sci-fi convention to pitch a comic one of them's written, only to wind up picking up a Grey named Paul who escaped Area 51 and was trying to get to an area he could contact his people to leave. Hijinks and an accidental kidnapping ensues.
- Planes Trains And Automobiles.
- Priscilla Queen Of The Desert.
- All of the Hope/Crosby On The Road pictures.
- Referenced in Family Guy, with an annual "Stewie and Brian on the Road to (Blank)" episode usually being the highlight of the season.
- Road Trip and its spiritual successor, Euro Trip, as well as its spiritual cousins, Harold And Kumar Go To White Castle and Harold & Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay.
- Rain Man
- The Return is about a father-son fishing trip...where the father has been missing for the past 12 years and returned just the previous afternoon under mysterious circumstances, leaving the two sons to wonder if their lives are in danger.
- The Road, a Pulitzer Prize-winning novel and film starring Viggo Mortensen about a boy and his father following an abandoned highway After the End.
- Rubin And Ed comically relates a trip made through Utah to give a man's deceased cat a proper burial.
- Sesame Street Presents Follow That Bird has Big Bird traveling to the fictional Ocean View, Illinois, to live with Dodo family, only to find he doesn't really fit in with the family, and flees to return to Sesame Street; at the same time, his friends embark on a journey to try and meet him half way.
- Sex Drive - A guy, his buddy, and female friend drive across the country to meet up with a girl he met on the internet who promises to "go all the way."
- The Stand turns into an After the End version of this.
- Stand by Me is about four boys about to enter middle school who travel from their hometown and follow the train tracks in the hopes of finding the dead body of a local boy who was hit by a train. Their adventure starts with the simple morbid curiosity of seeing a genuine dead body, but a lot happens along the way.
- The Sure Thing is a great example from The Eighties.
- "Thunderball Rally", a campaign for the d20Modern RPG in Polyhedron magazine and inspired by Road Movies, puts the players in an illegal cross-country road race in 1976.
- Tommy Boy follows Tommy and Richard's travels as they attempt to sell brake pads. Complete with singing along with the car radio, hitting a deer, and other events typical of the genre.
- We're the Millers
- Wild at Heart
- Director Wim Wenders has made at least four road movies (Kings Of The Road, Alice in the Cities, The Wrong Move and Paris Texas).
- Wir können auch anders may be the only example set entirely in Germany. Twist: The two brothers who are the protagonists are illiterate and can't read road signs. As the director said, Germany's too small (compared to the US) and too well signposted to make a road movie story set there long enough, otherwise.
- The Wizard is about a boy who runs away from home and breaks his brother out of a mental institution. The two meet a girl who discovers the younger boy's knack for video gaming, and the three set out to participate in a national video game tournament. The kids aren't old enough to drive, but it involves the use of a vehicle in instances when various adults are able to help them. Otherwise, it's a borderline case.
- Wristcutters: A Love Story features a road trip in a Crapsack World afterlife for those who have committed suicide. The main characters, one in search for his girlfriend, is joined by a girl who ended up there by mistake.
- Zombieland is pretty much a Road Movie set after the zombie apocalypse. Initially, Columbus is looking to get to Columbus, Ohio to find his estranged parents (mostly for want of anything else to do) and the girls are going to Pacific Playland. Tallahasee is mostly just in it for the zombie killin' (and the Twinkies). Halfway through Columbus finds out his parents are very probably dead already, and once the climax at Pacific Playland is over the end of the movie seems to signal the four of them starting their Walking the Earth.