Summer is the perfect season to pack a ton of snacks and sunscreen and hop in the car for a lengthy road trip. Whether you experience confused GPS systems, too many bathroom breaks, or less than ideal travel companions, not every adventure is perfect, and movies love tackling the improbable aspects of road trips. If you're planning your next driving odyssey right now, turn to some movies that will fuel your summer road trip vibes before sending out the itinerary to your squad.
Even if you've graduated from road trip vacations to elaborate excursions at resorts, chances are you've experienced long drives down dull-looking highways with your family. Your mom insisted on playing "I Spy" before realizing you could only describe cars or sky in so many ways, your dad controlled the radio, and you and your siblings fought for space in the cramped backseat. You might have graduated to road trips with friends, which probably involve more gossip and less sports radio, but maybe all of these trips have fallen short compared to the winding roads and smooth soundtracks of road trip flicks. Don't we all just want to look out a car window pensively as an acoustic song plays?
Whether you're in the mood for a whimsical drive across the country or a more debaucherous summer adventure, check out the list below for an early escape before it's time to roll your car out for your own trip.
1. 'Chasing Liberty' (2004)
Before Mandy Moore was the Pearson family matriarch and Matthew Goode starred in countless period dramas, they played a globetrotting pair in Chasing Liberty. As the president's teen daughter, Moore's Anna is desperate for some freedom and strikes a deal with her dad for time on the loose during an official visit to Prague. When Anna escapes her Secret Service agents there, she runs into Goode's Ben, who is actually an undercover agent tasked to look after Anna. The two hop across Europe through various modes of transportation, so while it's not exclusively a road trip story, the movie captures the glory of a summer spent traveling.
2. 'Little Miss Sunshine' (2006)
Long before Steve Carell segued into dramatic roles after years on The Office, he played a gay, suicidal uncle in the family comedy-drama Little Miss Sunshine. When his niece Olive (Abigail Breslin) learns she has a spot in a state beauty pageant, he joins the rest of the Hoover family in their eventful road trip to the competition. Crossing highways in their bright yellow Volkswagen, the Hoovers capture the best and worst elements of a typical family vacation. If you're nostalgic for the era in which Breslin was the cute little kid in every other movie, this is also a perfect fit for you.
3. 'Planes, Trains and Automobiles' (1987)
Although it's best associated with Thanksgiving and the holiday season, Planes, Trains and Automobiles is the perfect example of a road trip gone wrong. When Steve Martin's businessman character is delayed in traveling home for Thanksgiving, he's forced to partner with John Candy's salesman in his quest to reach Chicago. Because of inclement weather, they shift from one plan to another frequently, embarking on a relatable Odd Couple-esque journey. Something about traveling in a pre-cell phone age is very sweet to watch, so enjoy this retro take on clashing forces stuck in a car together.
4. 'RV' (2006)
If you survived a trip in a mobile home with your family, you deserve a badge of honor. Try out RV if you're still having nightmares about spending all summer with the fam in that vehicle, because the Munro family's vacation in this movie was probably way more dysfunctional. Dad Bob (Robin Williams) unexpectedly has to cancel the family's trip to Hawaii to attend a work meeting, but he buys a RV to cover up the real reason why they had to desert their more lavish plans. The rest of the cast includes JoJo, Josh Hutcherson, Jeff Daniels, and Kristin Chenoweth, so it's perfect for picturing big names legimitately stuck on a unappealing vacation. Stars — they're just like us!
5. 'The Fundamentals of Caring' (2016)
Road trips aren't all singalongs and snacks, and the Netflix original movie The Fundamentals of Caring demonstrates that. In it, Paul Rudd's Ben takes a new job as a caretaker and lands a job looking after teenager Trevor (Craig Roberts), who suffers from muscular dystrophy. Ben takes Trevor on a road trip, sparking encounters with other travelers, including Selena Gomez's Dot. Whether or not you're into picking up hitchhikers on your own journey, watching this may ignite daydreams of Rudd as your road trip companion.
6. 'Thelma & Louise' (1991)
One of the ultimate road trip stories, Thelma & Louise combines female friendship and travel when Susan Sarandon and Geena Davis' titular characters go on the run after killing a man. The movie's deeper meaning of people believing women has become even more relatable over the years, which makes the women's internal struggles even more heartbreaking to watch. Luckily, Thelma and Louise's tough duo act makes up for the more emotionally charged moments, providing an empowering and entertaining finished product. Get ready for all of the feels while watching this.
7. 'We're the Millers' (2013)
Have you ever gone on a long-haul trip with total strangers? This is the concept of We're the Millers. When pot dealer David (Jason Sudeikis) has to smuggle a supply of marijuana over the border, he enlists a series of neighbors (Jennifer Aniston, Emma Roberts, and Will Poulter) to pose as his family, as one man going through customs alone looks more suspicious. While transporting the marijuana on a RV, they run into hilarious, unforeseen circumstances that encourage them to bond. If anything, the movie teaches audiences that people can make the best of any situation, so keep your head up if your trip takes a turn for the worst.
8. 'Away We Go' (2009)
Best known for their comedic roles, Maya Rudolph and John Krasinski became an adorable indie couple in Away We Go. Rudolph's Verona is heavily pregnant when she and Krasinski's Burt learn that his parents are moving away from their area. Now without any family nearby, the couple decide to visit several different states where friends and family live in order to determine the best place for them to raise their baby. Packed with memorable cameos from stars like Allison Janney, Maggie Gyllenhaal, and Jim Gaffigan, Away We Go is a more grounded, kindhearted story about travel.
9. 'Are We There Yet?' (2005)
You definitely have memories of watching this in middle school, but seeing it as an adult, you may still appreciate the hilarious ridiculousness of Are We There Yet?'s premise. Kids Lindsey and Kevin are experts at scaring away the men their mother Suzanne dates, but they're forced to get to know her newest prospect Nick (Ice Cube) when he has to bring them to meet Suzanne in Vancouver on New Year's Eve. The kids foil their plan for a smooth and easy flight, so the trio has to hit the road instead. It's a comedy of errors, but hopefully they're mistakes you'll never have to face.
10. 'National Lampoon's Vacation' (1983)
As the ultimate family road trip story, National Lampoon's Vacation led to a series of similar films set in different places, but as always, the original is typically best. This follows the Griswold family on their cross-country trip to amusement park Walley World, but the journey proves more difficult than they expected. This movie may have ruined your expectations for a road trip when you were younger, but there are definitely some scenarios in it I'd rather see onscreen than IRL. Look out for a young Jane Krakowski as a Griswold relative.
Happy adventuring, summer travelers!