November 4, 2010

MRQE Rewind: Cinema's 35 Best Road Trips

Pack your bags, fill up your gas tank and don't forget the map: in honor of November 5th's release of the road trip comedy Due Date, MRQE's bringing you the best road trip movies ever made. These top odes to hitting the road tend to also bring the laughs, whether in the form of slapstick romps or more understated, gentle character studies. Even when everything goes wrong, these movies are so top-notch that they manage to make even the most accident-prone travel look fabulous.

Here are the top ten road trip flicks. Don't forget the check out the rest of the list over at MRQE.

10. Little Miss Sunshine (2006)
MRQE Rank: 80
This little indie that could delighted audiences and critics alike with its quirky portrayal of a dysfunctional family thrown together on the road. When unlikely Olive is picked to take part in a beauty pageant at the last minute, the whole brood piles into a yellow Volkswagon van and tries to reach their destination without killing each other on the way. Old standard Alan Arkin won the Oscar for his role of the foul-mouthed grandfather, and Steve Carell, Toni Collette and Abigail Breslin also turn in captivating performances. The movie is first and foremost a comedy, but Little Miss Sunshine delivers a tale of a family of misfits learning to function together and support each other. It also includes the best use of the Rick James song “Superfreak” in film of all time.

9. Planes, Trains, & Automobiles (1987)
MRQE Rank: 80
Steve Martin and John Candy make a dynamic comedic duo in this slapstick tale of an odd couple on an epic voyage to make it home in time for Thanksgiving. Steve Martin's uptight businessman is thrown together with John Candy's affable everyman when a simple flight to Chicago turns into a comedy of travel errors. As nearly every transportation choice turns into an over the top catastrophe, the two men begin to forge an unlikely friendship. The movie even gets a little sappy on us at the end, but the movie never forgets what the audience is there for. One of the most consistently laugh out loud films of the decade, Planes, Trains & Automobiles is a perennial cable classic come the holidays.

8. The Blues Brothers (1980)
MRQE Rank: 81
Remember when Saturday Night Live sketches were actually good? Dan Aykroyd and John Belushi's SNL act was inspired in part by Aykroyd's real life love for blues music. After delighting television audiences, the duo on a mission from God roared large onto the big screen in 1980 in a loud and star-studded rock and roll extravaganza. There's a little bit of plot amongst the songs -- the two stars are putting the band back together in order to save their orphanage home – but The Blues Brothers is remembered first and foremost as a heady mix of musical extravaganza and car crash ballet. The film broke the record for most cars crashed in one film (a record only broken by the pretty forgettable sequel), and one memorable stunt involved a helicopter dropping a car from nearly a mile up in the air. Both film and music stars make whirlwind and often hilarious appearances: what other film can you name that features Aretha Franklin, Steven Spielberg and Pee Wee Herman?

Movie Videos & Movie Scenes at

7. Rain Man (1988)
MRQE Rank: 83
Dustin Hoffman and Tom Cruise, two equally famous but very different actors, play brothers in this comedic drama. Tom Cruise's role as a self-absorbed hotshot echoes his future Jerry Maguire days. When his father dies and leaves him next to nothing instead of the expected fortune, Cruise follows the money to discover his long lost savant brother, played by Hoffman. Cruise kidnaps Hoffman in a half-baked attempt to claim the money for his own, but somewhere along the way the journey between the two becomes more fulfilling than the destination. The touchy premise, dealing with mental illness and familial estrangement, could easily have come off as gimmicky and heavy-handed. Instead, director Barry Levinson, with the help of a stellar script, crafted a sensitive and touching saga that swept up once awards season rolled around.

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6. Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (2001)
MRQE Rank: 84
Blockbuster fantasy epic The Lord of the Rings, a road trip? You bet, especially when it comes to the first installment in the trilogy. Sure, most people remember the parts with the gritty battles between orcs and elves, but Frodo and company's journey to destroy the One Ring of ultimate evil in the only place it could be destroyed is really a road trip with some particularly perilous pit-stops. It's also my personal favorite of the three films; Peter Jackson never did better in his beautiful introduction of the audience to the elaborate and beautiful world that he and his team took so many years to create. Middle Earth as a vacation destination? Sign me up, though maybe we can skip the Balrog.

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5. Sideways (2004)
MRQE Rank: 84
Middle-aged disenchantment never looked so frumpy: Paul Giamatti made his mark in this mid-2000's portrait of a failed writer and self-proclaimed wine expert. An expedition into California wine country with his ne'er-do-well hound dog of a BFF (played with sleazy gusto by Thomas Hayden Church) becomes an exploration of a life that never went the way it was planned. Sideways juggles its own flavor of wry humor with a more serious look at Giamatti's slow realization that his life hasn't quite gone the way he planned it to. Sideways became a critical phenomenon: wine country tourism increased, along with sales of Pinot Noir, the wine that Giamatti's character sings the praises of.

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4. The Straight Story (1999)
MRQE Rank: 84
Cult director David Lynch is best known for his creepy and strange offerings over the years. One of his most well regarded films, however, is much less bizarre, though not without its gentle quirks. Based on a true story, The Straight Story follows simple soul Alvin Straight as he travels across the country to meet with his ailing brother after years apart. Alvin doesn't have a driver's license, though, so instead he hitches up his tractor and heads out on a long, strange journey from Iowa to Wisconsin. Along the way, Alvin quietly connects with strangers and estranged family alike. The Straight Story became a critical darling, if not a box office smash, when it was released in 1999. Star Richard Farnsworth became the oldest man to be nominated for Best Actor. Sissy Spacek and Harry Dean Stanton also turn in quality performances as Alvin's family members.

3. The Muppet Movie (1979)
MRQE Rank: 87
This was the first big screen outing for Kermit the Frog, the unsinkable Miss Piggy and the rest of the Muppet crew. Armed with his trusty banjo, Kermit leaves his humble swamp in a quest for Hollywood fame, but the path is as strange as Kermit's many Muppety friends. With failed comedian Fozzie in the driver's seat and lovestruck Miss Piggy along for the ride, the plot becomes one enjoyable silly gag after another. As for the more human cast, it includes Charles Durning as a demented, evil take on Colonel Sanders and Orson Welles (yes, Orson Welles), who pretty much plays himself. Featuring its share of gonzo (or Gonzo) humor, a hummable musical score, and more cameos than you can shake a frog's leg at, The Muppet Movie is the first and probably the best of the Muppets' cinematic accomplishments.

2. It Happened One Night (1934)
MRQE Rank: 88
Scandalously fun to watch even after all these decades, It Happened One Night is the product of three massive talents at the top of their form. Frank Capra of It's A Wonderful Life fame directed Hollywood darling Claudette Colbert and Rhett Butler-to-be Clark Gable in this madcap romance screwball comedy. Colbert dazzles as a poor little rich girl who flees an overbearing father and a frivolous marriage. When she's caught by Clark Gable's eagle eye reporter, who blackmails her into tagging along with him and providing him with the story of the decade. Things don't go off quite as planned, of course, and a whirlwind romance complicates matters even further. The movie became a smash hit, which surprised even Frank Capra: he was convinced upon finishing that he'd just directed a bomb. Legend has it that Gable's daring choice to appear onscreen without an undershirt prompted undershirt sales to plummet. Whether or not this is true, it's still quite the risque scene.

1. The Wizard of Oz (1939)
MRQE Rank: 93
This much beloved family classic that put Judy Garland on the map is an especially psychedelic take on the road trip movie. Plucky Dorothy Gale is thrust into a Technicolor dream where people are tiny, the outfits are glittery, and her road trip buddies are lacking integral body parts. No wonder the film has prompted generations of kiddie nightmares: it's hard to look upon the Wicked Witch of the West without a shiver, even as an adult. Whether you enjoy it on its own or with a Pink Floyd soundtrack, this is one wild ride worth taking again and again.

There's more than just this Top Ten. Head on over to MRQE to catch the full list of Cinema's 35 Best Road Trips, including all the best from Hope & Crosby! You can also head to Vegas, with the Best Vegas Movies, or go to where you don't need roads, with the 20 Best Time Travel Movies.

1 comment:

  1. It's one of the best movie I've ever seen!


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