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5 best road trip movies, ranked

Susan Sarandon and Geena Davis in Thelma and Louise.
MGM

Taking a road trip is one of the most fun things you could do if you want to experience freedom, adventure, and discovery. If you want to relieve that thrill of going on a road trip, some movies have captured its exhilarating experience. 

These films shine a light on the ups and downs of going on a road trip with loved ones — or even complete strangers. They take a look into what makes road trips so fun, whether it’s the dramatic moments of self-discovery, the high-octane action sequences, or the hilarious mishaps that make us laugh out loud. So, buckle up and take a look at our list of best road trip movies, from the indie drama Paris, Texas to hysterically tragic Little Miss Sunshine.

Thelma and Louise (1991)

Two women sit in a car in Thelma and Louise.
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer / MGM

Ridley Scott’s Thelma and Louise is a movie about the feminist awakening of two friends. In it, Thelma, a stifled housewife yearning for freedom, embarks on a fishing trip with her friend Louise. What starts as a carefree escape takes a dramatic turn when Louise intervenes in a violent act, forcing them both on a desperate run from the law.

The film builds to a truly unforgettable finale, where Thelma and Louise, cornered by the law, make a shocking yet powerful choice. This blend of humor, drama, and action keeps viewers glued to the screen, making it a must-see for adventure seekers. But Thelma and Louise transcends a simple road trip movie. Its exploration of female empowerment and friendship adds depth, making it an enriching and poignant road trip movie to watch. 

Watch Thelma and Louise on Amazon Prime Video. 

Little Miss Sunshine (2006)

A family of four stands next to a yellow van in Little Miss Sunshine.

In Little Miss Sunshine, the Hoover family goes on a cross-country trip to make sure young Olive gets to join the titular beauty pageant. But along the way, they go through entertaining hijinks and realizations, such as when their bus breaks down and they’re forced to push-start it, as well as Dwayne’s shattering realization that he’s actually colorblind. 

It has an ensemble cast that includes Greg Kinnear, Toni Collette, Steve Carell, and Alan Arkin — all of whom deliver incredible performances. It’s a must-watch road trip movie as it chronicles the hilarious and chaotic journey of a dysfunctional family — which, let’s be honest, is unavoidable if you’re going on a long-haul travel with your family. 

Watch Little Miss Sunshine on Hulu.

Paris, Texas (1984)

A man drives a car with a child in the passenger seat.

It’s not hard to see why the indie movie Paris, Texas won the prestigious Palme d’Or at Cannes Film Festival. Highlighting a story about reconciliation and vindication, Paris, Texas follows Travis Henderson, a man who returns from the unforgiving Texas desert after a self-imposed exile lasting four years. His path to healing includes taking his son and estranged wife Jane on a trip across the breathtaking yet desolate landscapes of the American Southwest.  

A powerful moment in the film is the peep-show booth scene, where Travis lays bare all his regrets to Jane, showcasing the strength in human vulnerability. Paris, Texas takes its time, and with good reason: The deliberate pace allows the characters to develop organically. We witness their struggles firsthand and not through rushed exposition, which elevates the watching experience. 

Watch Paris, Texas on HBO Max.

Y tu mamá también (2001)

Tenoch, Julio, and Luisa inside a car in Y Tu Mamá También.

Life is a highway, and for Julio and Tenoch in Alfonso Cuarón’s Y tu mamá también, it’s a bumpy one filled with laughter and heartbreak. This coming-of-age odyssey throws these two teenagers alongside the enigmatic Luisa headfirst into a whirlwind road trip across Mexico. Viewers should brace themselves for a story about youthful abandon clashing with harsh realities, as the main characters navigate self-discovery, sexual awakening, and the lessons life throws their way.

Y tu mamá también’s story is both raw and tender, as Julio, Tenoch, and Luisa navigate the intricate web of their relationships. The film doesn’t shy away from the harsh realities of growing up, resulting in an ending that will leave you pondering the complexities of friendship and self-discovery long after the credits roll.

Y tu mamá también is streaming on YouTube.

Easy Rider (1969)

Two men ride bikes in Easy Rider.
Columbia Pictures

Easy Rider is a road trip movie that highlights the 1960s counterculture movement. In the movie, two bikers named Wyatt and Billy are on a mission to chase freedom across America. But their journey becomes a social commentary as they encounter a microcosm of American society — a lost soul on the road, a suspicious rancher, and the alcoholic lawyer George Hanson, played by an unforgettable Jack Nicholson

Easy Rider doesn’t shy away from showcasing the breathtaking diversity of the American landscape — from scorching deserts to the lush countryside — with each frame amplifying the sense of an epic adventure. The soundtrack is also a time machine straight to the 1960s with music from The Byrds, Jimi Hendrix, and Steppenwolf, creating an immersive viewing experience. This is a film that will have you questioning societal norms and pondering the true meaning of freedom.

Watch Easy Rider on Apple TV.

Editors' Recommendations

Jom Elauria
Jom Elauria is a freelance writer for Digital Trends. When he's not busy writing movie and TV lists, you can catch him gaming…
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