The best road trip movies of all time

 The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert film still

Jessica Taylor Yates

Posted April 06, 2023

From singing on a pink bus in the outback to cross-country police chases, silver-screen road trips are a must-see. Here are some of the best.

What comes to mind when you think of a classic road trip? Packing the car with the kids, trying to make sure everything goes smoothly on your road trip? Unlike real life, often the best part of watching a road trip movie, is watching everything go wrong.

For cinematic road trips, the characters rarely just get from A to B. After all, like all road trips, it’s about the journey, not the destination.

Here’s our pick of the best road trip movies to inspire you for your next road trip around the country.

And remember, when heading on your own adventure, stay road trip happy with RACV Emergency Roadside Assistance. 


The best road trip movies you need to see

The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert (1994)

“Don’t ‘darling’ me!”

The Australian road trip movie that won an Oscar for Best Costume Design follows three Sydney-based drag queens who take their act across the desert plains of Australia, encountering a plethora of colourful characters along the way.

A silver screen classic, the film spawned a Broadway musical, made stars of its cast including Hugo Weaving and Guy Pearce, and danced its way into the cult-status of Australian cinema.

Little Miss Sunshine (2006)

“We’ve gotta let Olive be Olive.”

The little indie film that won hearts worldwide, Little Miss Sunshine follows the Hoover family on a US road trip when their quirky daughter, Olive, decides to be in a beauty pageant.

With a stellar cast including Australia’s Toni Collette, as well at Steve Carell, Alan Arkin and Abigail Breslin’s breakout role, get ready to laugh and cry as Olive dazzles her way to make this film Oscars gold.

Sideways (2004)

“To open a bottle of '61 Cheval Blanc is enough reason to open a bottle of '61 Cheval Blanc.”

The comedy-drama adapted from the novel follows two former college roommates, now older and somewhat disappointed with the direction their lives have taken, on a road trip through the Californian Wine Country.

Winning Best Adapted Screenplay, Sideways explores themes of ageing, attraction, philosophy, and of course, wine. 

National Lampoon’s Family Vacation (series of films from 1983-1997)

“This is no longer a vacation. It’s a quest. It’s a quest for fun.”

Who didn’t grow up laughing and cringing at the Griswald family and their various holiday escapades?

Headed by their well-meaning but over-zealous family patriarch Clark (Chevy Chase), the family are thrust into crazy situations across the continents - running into hillbilly cousins in their cross-country drive across America (Vacation), language barriers and accidental crime across the EU (European Vacation), or surviving the bright lights of The Strip in Nevada (Vegas Vacation).

It will make surviving your own family road trip seem like a breeze.

Thelma and Louise (1991)

“Somebody said get a life… so they did.”

The film that introduced the world to Brad Pitt needs no introduction. Starring Oscar winners Susan Sarandon and Geena Davis as the title characters, the two head on a road trip adventure that takes a turn when they become wanted and on the run for a crime committed along the way.

Winning Best Original Screenplay at the Academy Awards, the movie has since been preserved by the US National Film Registry for being ‘culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant.’


Little Miss Sunshine is a black comedy with a whole lot of heart. Image: Alamy.
Surely, a road trip through Californian wine country couldn't go wrong. As seen in Sideways, it can. Image: Alamy.
It's fair to say the Griswald's family road trip is not going to plan. Image: Alamy.
A young Brad Pitt had his debut in the now-iconic road trip movie Thelma and Louise. Image: Alamy.

The Blues Brothers (1980)

“We’re putting the band back together.”

Part musical, part comedy and 100 per cent star power, the film follows brothers Jake and Elwood Blues (John Belushi and Dan Akroyd) on a redeeming road trip across America to save their childhood orphanage.  

Spawning a Billboard Top 20 album with hits like Shake a Tail Feather and Sweet Home Chicago, the cameo-laden classic (including appearances from Aretha Franklin, Ray Charles, James Brown and Cab Calloway) features one of the most iconic cars on film.

Nomadland (2020)

“I’ll see you down the road.”

The triple-Academy Award winning film, including Best Picture, interweaves acting with real life nomads on a journey across the United States.

Starring Frances McDormand as Fern, the movie is a commentary on the ‘grey nomad,’ those at retirement age who are either thrust into ‘van life’ because of economic circumstances or choose it for the freedom and joy it brings.

Fern, who falls into the former category, is forced into van life, but soon finds camaraderie with those she meets on the road.

Green Book (2018)

“Inspired by a true friendship.”

Another Best Picture winner, this time inspired by a true story set in the American south in 1962.

The film is a road trip that follows an Italian American bouncer (Viggo Mortensen) who is hired to drive and protect an African American pianist (Mahershala Ali) on a tour of the deep south in the height of racial intolerance. Facing injustice along the way, the two learn to respect each other and their differences, forming a friendship that lasts a lifetime.

Easy Rider (1969)

“A man went looking for America. And couldn’t find it anywhere…”

A film that eclipsed the counterculture movement of 1960s America, the movie follows two criminal bikies (Dennis Hopper and Peter Fonda, who also wrote the film with Terry Southern) and the characters and spiritual awareness they experience on their motorbike trip from Los Angeles to New Orleans.

Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (1998)

“If a thing’s worth doing, it’s worth doing right.”

Adapted from Hunter S. Thompson’s 1971 novel, the cult hit starring Johnny Depp and Benicio del Toro has polarised audiences since its debut, but nonetheless remains a classic worth a watch.

The story follows a journalist and lawyer who abandon the Mint 400 motorcycle race they are meant to be covering in pursuit of a psychedelic and rollicking good time on the search for the American Dream. 


The Bluesmobile has become almost as famous as The Blues Brothers movie itself. Image: Getty.
Frances McDorman won her third Best Actress Oscar for her portrayal in Nomadland. Image: Alamy.
Mahershala Ali won the Best Supporting Oscar for his role as Dr Don Shirley in 2018's Green Book. Image: Alamy.
Easy Rider remains a cult classic, making $60 million off a modest $400k budget at the box office. Image: Alamy.
Love it or loathe it, you certainly won't forget Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. Image: Alamy.

Rain Man (1989)

“A journey through understanding and fellowship.”

Taking home four Oscars including Best Picture, Rain Man is both a physical and emotional journey by two brothers across America.  

When Charlie (Tom Cruise) finds out his late father left all his money to an autistic brother he never knew existed, Raymond (Dustin Hoffman), he attempts to swindle him out of the estate. However, on a road trip from Cincinnati to Los Angeles, he learns more about the brother he never had.

Planes, Trains and Automobiles (1987)

"He's got some... amusing anecdotes."

The Steve Martin and John Candy comedy classic features a range of ‘whatever can go wrong, will go wrong’ occurrences as two men try to get home for the holidays.

Battling a rerouted flight, Neal (Martin) finds that as he tries to get home by any means possible, he remains stuck with Del (Candy), a loud mothed shower-curtain salesman who just so happens to be there every time something goes wrong. The odd couple then make their best efforts to make it home for Thanksgiving.

Bonnie and Clyde (1967)

“The world will remember us.”

Inspired by the famed bank robberies of real-life couple Bonnie and Clyde, the film stars Faye Dunaway and Warren Beatty as a couple who rob banks across America during the Great Depression, becoming famous outlaws in the process.

The film version went on to win two Academy Awards, and is regularly cited as one of the greatest movies of all time.


Rain Man showcased empathy for autisim and savant syndrome to a global audience. Image: Alamy.
Planes, Trains, and Automobiles is not only a road trip classic, but a heart-warming Christmas movie. Image: Alamy
The real life Bonnie and Clyde have spawned films, songs, plays, television shows, books and podcasts around the world. Image: Alamy.
Mad Max - apocolypic movie, or road trip film? You decide. Image: Supplied.
Launching the career of Kate Hudson, Almost Famous remains a rare modern classic about the ups and downs of fame on the road. Image: Alamy.

Mad Max  (1979 - ongoing)

“If you can’t fix what’s broken, you will go insane.”

Filmed right here in Victoria, Mad Max launched Mel Gibson and The Interceptor into the stratosphere. The original flick follows our titular character battling a motorcycle gang in the apocalyptic future, while the following instalments such as Mad Max: Fury Road (2015) follows new vigilante heroes looking to make it across the desert wasteland. 

Almost Famous (2000)

“They don't even know what it is to be a fan. Y'know?”

Anyone who has seen this Academy Award winner will have Elton John’s Tiny Dancer in their head for days.

Loosely based on writer / director Cameron Crowe’s experience working as a teenage journalist for Rolling Stone magazine, we follow William, a quiet 15-year-old who works his way into covering the band Stillwater. Here, he experiences what its like to be a rock n’ roll star on the road, experiencing group politics, partying to excess, romance, tragedy – and the one and only Penny Lane. 


Honourable mentions: Road Trip, Eurotrip, Are We There Yet?, The Trip, Guilt Trip, Due Date, We’re The Millers, Borat, Paper Moon, The Motorcycle Diaries, On the Road, Dumb and Dumber, The Muppet Movie.