A clever director can do quite a bit with little more than a handful of serviceable actors, a vehicle and an open road. In fact, David Lynch, Alexander Payne and Terrence Malick have all made films using these key ingredients.
Long car trips and rest stops in strange places can force friends and families alike to deal with unresolved issues in a variety of unpredictable ways, and that is probably why filmmakers love using them. (The changes of scenery and inherent narrative metaphors are also big selling points.)
The film world is full of fun and danger on the road, and our short list of favorite indie road trip films is a great starting point for anyone looking to get psyched up for a long drive. These are the ten flicks that get us the most pumped about stepping on the gas pedal, while simultaneously making us think twice about who is going to be riding in the passenger’s seat.
10. “The Road” (2009)
Director John Hillcoat’s adaptation of Cormac McCarthy’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel certainly isn’t the most cheerful road trip film ever made. In fact, it’s bound to make you grateful for about every source of love and support you have ever had in your life. It’s bleak, and each scene has been flushed free of nearly any trace of vibrant color. Nevertheless, it is still a brilliantly made tale about the bond between a father and son.
9. “The Motorcycle Diaries” (2004)
Robert Redford executive produced this film, which was based on Ernesto “Che” Guevara’s memoir of a continent-spanning trek with his friend Alberto Granado. Filled will heartstring-tugging human encounters and knock-you-out-of-your-seat imagery, it’s definitely a viable alternative if you can’t afford to do a South American road trip in person.
8. “Sideways” (2004)
Miles (Paul Giamatti) and Jack’s (Thomas Haden Church) last hurrah of a trip into wine country before Jack’s wedding turns into one bitter pill of a story. It’s a film that any socially awkward nerd (wine-savvy or otherwise) should be able to appreciate, though. “Sideways” took home am Oscar for its screenplay in 2005 for good reason—as much as these characters make you squirm, they really are vivid, true-to-life depictions of two guys in a friendship gone south thanks to deceit and significant personality differences.
7. “The Go-Getter” (2007)
Zooey Deschanel has played a lot of weird characters who get into out-of-the-ordinary relationships over the course of her career. That said, Kate’s rapport with Mercer (Lou Taylor Pucci), the kid who steals her car in ”The Go-Getter,” is by far one of Deschanel’s most unique on-screen interactions. Come to this film to enjoy her ability to act normal under irrefutably bizarre circumstances, but stay for the killer performance by Jena Malone.
6. “The Darjeeling Limited” (2007)
No one makes a film about family quite like director Wes Anderson, who sent Francis (Owen Wilson), Peter (Adrien Brody) and Jack (Jason Schwartzman) off to India to bond on a train, bus and motorcycle trip as they rediscover one another and negotiate a few cultural misunderstandings with the locals. In terms of slow motion scenes featuring Jason Schwartzman tossing flower petals, “The Darjeeling Limited” cannot be beat.