January 04, 2023 4 min read

Two people in the mountains standing next to a blue campervan

If you want to go for a long-distance journey by car but are not sure about the route, why not take some legendary movie as inspiration? From carefree comedies to thought-provoking dramas, the US film industry has plenty of road trip movies to offer.

Read ahead to find an example of a journey that makes you want to go for an adventure, and note the places you can visit.

5 Iconic Movies About Road Trips

No matter if you’re an outdoor enthusiast, a cinephile, or a bit of both, you are sure to find this compilation of American road trip movies interesting:

1.   Easy Rider (1969)

Harley Davidson old-style motorbike

This cinematography classic was one of the most talked-about movies at the time. It tells the story of two motorcyclists that go from Los Angeles to New Orleans after receiving a large sum of money from a drug deal.

It’s an interesting movie to watch as it demonstrates the sub-cultures of the 1960s with American Southwest as a background. It was one of the most talked-about films at the time and remains a classic today.

If you decide to recreate the journey featured in this film, your starting point would be Death Valley. From there, head down Route 66 and onto Interstate 40. With Las Vegas and New Mexico on the itinerary, it will surely be an experience of a lifetime.

2.   Rain Man (1988)

This legendary movie features Tom Cruise and Dustin Hoffman as two brothers on the journey to collect a fortune left by their father. The film follows the characters’ adventure from Cincinnati, Ohio, to Los Angeles, California. The distance of such a route going across the US is approximately 2,200 miles.

If you embark on this journey, you’ll witness a variety of gorgeous sceneries and see some iconic shooting locations, such as:

  • John A. Roebling Suspension Bridge, Cincinnati
  • Columbia Parkway (Route 50), Cincinnati
  • Pompilio's Italian Restaurant, Kentucky

3.   Little Miss Sunshine (2006)

Yellow camper van in a picturesque area

While this independent comedy-drama had an $8 million budget and a 30-day shooting process, it was a box office success, earning a worldwide gross of over $101 million. This road trip film also received four Academy Awards nominations, the Independent Spirit Award for Best Feature, and multiple other accolades.

The plot revolves around the dysfunctional Hoover family members who drive a yellow Volkswagen T2 campervan to get their daughter to the Little Miss Sunshine beauty contest.

It’s very likely that you’ve seen this Oscar-winning movie beloved by many. But have you ever wanted to repeat the Hoover family’s journey?

The shooting of the movie was performed in the following locations:

  • Flagstaff, AZ
  • Chandler, AZ
  • Phoenix, AZ
  • Acton, CA
  • Ventura, CA
  • Santa Clarita, CA
  • Los Angeles, CA

Some of the sights from the movie scenes to see along the way include:

  • Hyatt Regency Valencia
  • Vasquez Rocks Natural Area Park
  • Crowne Plaza Ventura Beach (this doubled for Redondo Beach in the beauty pageant scenes)

However, according to the plot, the characters’ journey lies from Albuquerque, New Mexico, to Redondo Beach, California. Besides, the family doesn’t take a short route but rather undertakes a scattered itinerary that reflects their emotionally bumpy ride.

If you decide to take the direct way, you will have to travel along Interstate 40, which is parallel to the infamous Route 66. For a hassle-free journey, it’s advisable to have your vehicle equipped with a rooftop tent so that you won’t have to worry about accommodation.

4.   Into the Wild (2007)

The Magic 142 bus in Alaska

“Into the Wild” is one of the most famous movie road trips based on the true story of Christopher McCandless, who started his quest for freedom after graduating from college. He traveled from Georgia to Alaska through South Dakota, Arizona, Nevada, Mexico, and California.

The sceneries along the character’s way are breathtaking, and viewers also see some well-known hiking routes, such as the Pacific Crest Trail and the Stampede Trail with the famous Magic Bus 142.

If this sounds like the road trip of your dreams, be prepared for many days of travel, as the route spreads across the country for over 9,600 miles. However, replicating even a small part of this journey will be an adventure to remember.

5.   Due Date (2010)

A view of the Grand Canyon at sunrise

Following the route featured in this comedy loved by many is promising to be a fun experience! When an expectant father (Robert Downey Jr.) and an aspiring actor (Zach Galifianakis) took this trip, they had to hurry up to get from Atlanta to LA. We suggest you take it slow and enjoy a variety of points of interest along the way.

Your journey would lay through the following states:

  • Atlanta
  • Dallas
  • New Mexico
  • Arizona (if you are up for a detour to the Grand Canyon)
  • Los Angeles

Get ready for a picturesque adventure full of iconic places where the movie was shot!

Other Worthy Mentions

A road in a deserted area leading toward the mountains

The US movie scene has a lot to offer those who are seeking road trip inspiration. Thus, apart from the movies mentioned above, there are plenty of other cinematographic gems where you can get ideas for your upcoming travels:

  • Thelma & Louise (1991) - a movie nominated for six Academy awards featuring an adventurous trip of two women from Arkansas to Mexico.
  • On the Road (2012) - based on a novel that defined the Beat generation, the movie follows the characters’ journey from New Jersey to San Francisco.
  • Green Book (2018) - this Oscar-winning movie takes the viewers on a twisted tour across 11 states - New York, Pennsylvania, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, North Carolina, Georgia, Tennessee, Arkansas, Mississippi, Louisiana, and Alabama. Yet, if you’re on the hunt for the locations where the movie scenes were shot, you will only need to explore New Orleans and its neighborhoods.

Which of these road trip movies make you want to hit the road? Have fun on your next adventure!

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