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25 Essential Road Trip Movies of the Last 25 Years

We’re looking down the horizon and beyond for some of the best road trip movies that defined the genre over the last 25 years! To rev up this list, we selected American movies movies, journeys that begin in the States (where they actually finish is part of the fun). The movies celebrate the sights and sounds of the country, or at least will inspire you to pull out that camping gear, putting the convertible top down, and hitting the open road. These rides can be cross-county (Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle), on the freeway (Dog, Sideways), trekking across a few state lines (Little Miss Sunshine, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas), hitting a new time zone (Road Trip), or even runnin’ coast-to-coast (Rat Race, Transamerica). Even the Academy has felt the need for reasonable speed, awarding Best Picture to both Green Book and Nomadland. Carpool lane? Of course: we’ve got an Oscar strapped in the passenger seat!

So whether you’re looking for a map to a long summer drive or fixing a flat in your life, turn to these essential 25 road trip movies of the last 25 years (in chronological order)!

#1
Adjusted Score: 53827%
Critics Consensus: Visually creative, but also aimless, repetitive, and devoid of character development.
Synopsis: Raoul Duke (Johnny Depp) and his attorney Dr. Gonzo (Benicio del Toro) drive a red convertible across the Mojave desert... [More]
Directed By: Terry Gilliam

#2
#2
Adjusted Score: 99167%
Critics Consensus: With strong performances and director David Lynch at the helm, The Straight Story steers past sentimental byways on its ambling journey across the American heartland.
Synopsis: A retired farmer and widower in his 70s, Alvin Straight (Richard Farnsworth) learns one day that his distant brother Lyle... [More]
Directed By: David Lynch

#3

Tumbleweeds (1999)
82%

#3
Adjusted Score: 84847%
Critics Consensus: Strong performances add authenticity and depth.
Synopsis: Whenever trouble strikes in one of her relationships, single mother Mary Jo Walker (Janet McTeer) and her daughter, Ava (Kimberly... [More]
Directed By: Gavin O'Connor

#4

Almost Famous (2000)
91%

#4
Adjusted Score: 100246%
Critics Consensus: Almost Famous, with its great ensemble performances and story, is a well-crafted, warm-hearted movie that successfully draws you into its era.
Synopsis: Set in 1973, it chronicles the funny and often poignant coming of age of 15-year-old William, an unabashed music fan... [More]
Directed By: Cameron Crowe

#5

Road Trip (2000)
57%

#5
Adjusted Score: 60200%
Critics Consensus: Some humor is hit or miss, depending on the audience tastes, but the movie is funny overall. Mixed reviews for the cast, especially for MTV's Tom Green.
Synopsis: Josh (Breckin Meyer) videotapes his affair with another girl and accidentally mails it to his girlfriend. Discovering the mistake, he... [More]
Directed By: Todd Phillips

#6

Rat Race (2001)
45%

#6
Adjusted Score: 49251%
Critics Consensus: Rat Race moves from one sight gag to another, but only a handful of them are genuinely funny.
Synopsis: In an ensemble film about easy money, greed, manipulation and bad driving, a Las Vegas casino tycoon entertains his wealthiest... [More]
Directed By: Jerry Zucker

#7
Adjusted Score: 79635%
Critics Consensus: The likable leads and subversion of racial stereotypes elevate Harold and Kumar above the typical stoner comedy.
Synopsis: Nerdy accountant Harold (John Cho) and his irrepressible friend, Kumar (Kal Penn), get stoned watching television and find themselves utterly... [More]
Directed By: Danny Leiner

#8

Sideways (2004)
97%

#8
Adjusted Score: 104689%
Critics Consensus: Charming, thoughtful, and often funny, Sideways is a decidedly mature road trip comedy full of excellent performances.
Synopsis: Struggling writer and wine enthusiast Miles (Paul Giamatti) takes his engaged friend, Jack (Thomas Haden Church), on a trip to... [More]
Directed By: Alexander Payne

#9

Transamerica (2005)
77%

#9
Adjusted Score: 82079%
Critics Consensus: A terrific performance by Felicity Huffman carries this unconventional but touching transgender road movie.
Synopsis: Right in the midst of important changes in her life, Bree Osborne (Felicity Huffman) learns that she fathered a son,... [More]
Directed By: Duncan Tucker

#10
#10
Adjusted Score: 99948%
Critics Consensus: Little Miss Sunshine succeeds thanks to a strong ensemble cast that includes Greg Kinnear, Steve Carell, Toni Collette, Alan Arkin, and Abigail Breslin, as well as a delightfully funny script.
Synopsis: The Hoover family -- a man (Greg Kinnear), his wife (Toni Collette), an uncle (Steve Carell), a brother (Paul Dano)... [More]

#11

Cars (2006)
75%

#11
Adjusted Score: 83311%
Critics Consensus: Cars offers visual treats that more than compensate for its somewhat thinly written story, adding up to a satisfying diversion for younger viewers.
Synopsis: While traveling to California to race The King and Chick Hicks in the Piston Cup Championship, Lightning McQueen falls out... [More]
Directed By: John Lasseter, Joe Ranft

#12

Zombieland (2009)
89%

#12
Adjusted Score: 99435%
Critics Consensus: Wickedly funny and featuring plenty of gore, Zombieland is proof that the zombie subgenre is far from dead.
Synopsis: After a virus turns most people into zombies, the world's surviving humans remain locked in an ongoing battle against the... [More]
Directed By: Ruben Fleischer

#13

Away We Go (2009)
67%

#13
Adjusted Score: 74521%
Critics Consensus: Built on a set of quirks and charms that are as noticeable as they are interchangeable, Away We Go is a sweet but uneven road trip.
Synopsis: As they await the birth of their baby, a couple (John Krasinski, Maya Rudolph) travel across America in search of... [More]
Directed By: Sam Mendes

#14

Paul (2011)
70%

#14
Adjusted Score: 78154%
Critics Consensus: It doesn't measure up to Pegg and Frost's best work, but Paul is an amiably entertaining -- albeit uneven -- road trip comedy with an intergalactic twist.
Synopsis: For the past 60 years, a wisecracking alien named Paul (Seth Rogen) has resided at a top-secret military base in... [More]
Directed By: Greg Mottola

#15
#15
Adjusted Score: 54979%
Critics Consensus: We're the Millers squanders its potential with an uneven, lazily assembled story..
Synopsis: Small-time pot dealer David (Jason Sudeikis) learns the hard way that no good deed goes unpunished; trying to help some... [More]

#16

Chef (2014)
87%

#16
Adjusted Score: 95697%
Critics Consensus: Chef's charming cast and sharp, funny script add enough spice to make this feel-good comedy a flavorful -- if familiar -- treat.
Synopsis: After a controlling owner (Dustin Hoffman) pushes him too far, chef Carl Casper (Jon Favreau) quits his position at a... [More]
Directed By: Jon Favreau

#17

Grandma (2015)
91%

#17
Adjusted Score: 99135%
Critics Consensus: Boasting a stellar performance from Lily Tomlin and some powerfully empathetic work from writer-director Paul Weitz, Grandma is a dramedy that shouldn't have to ask you to visit.
Synopsis: A misanthropic poet (Lily Tomlin) takes her granddaughter (Julia Garner) across Los Angeles in search of the money she needs... [More]
Directed By: Paul Weitz

#18
#18
Adjusted Score: 96318%
Critics Consensus: Well-acted and steeped in Southern atmosphere, Mississippi Grind is a road movie and addiction drama that transcends each of its well-worn genres.
Synopsis: Convinced that his newfound friend (Ryan Reynolds) is a good-luck charm, a gambling addict (Ben Mendelsohn) takes the man on... [More]
Directed By: Ryan Fleck, Anna Boden

#19
#19
Adjusted Score: 84348%
Critics Consensus: The simple story is a little short on laughs, but there's plenty of sweet wackiness for Pee-Wee Herman fans to enjoy.
Synopsis: A fateful meeting with a mysterious stranger inspires Pee-wee (Paul Reubens) to take his first-ever holiday.... [More]
Directed By: John Lee

#20

Green Book (2018)
77%

#20
Adjusted Score: 97398%
Critics Consensus: Green Book takes audiences on an excessively smooth ride through bumpy subject matter, although Mahershala Ali and Viggo Mortensen's performances add necessary depth.
Synopsis: Dr. Don Shirley is a world-class African-American pianist who's about to embark on a concert tour in the Deep South... [More]
Directed By: Peter Farrelly

#21

Nomadland (2020)
93%

#21
Adjusted Score: 118789%
Critics Consensus: A poetic character study on the forgotten and downtrodden, Nomadland beautifully captures the restlessness left in the wake of the Great Recession.
Synopsis: A woman embarks on a journey through the American West after losing everything during the recession.... [More]
Directed By: Chloé Zhao

#22
Adjusted Score: 107529%
Critics Consensus: Eye-catching and energetic, The Mitchells vs. the Machines delivers a funny, feel-good story that the whole family can enjoy.
Synopsis: Young Katie Mitchell embarks on a road trip with her proud parents, younger brother and beloved dog to start her... [More]
Directed By: Michael Rianda

#23

Bad Trip (2021)
79%

#23
Adjusted Score: 82097%
Critics Consensus: With ingeniously gross hidden-camera bits that often find their unsuspecting marks at their best, Bad Trip turns out to be a surprisingly uplifting ride.
Synopsis: Hidden cameras capture two best friends pulling hilarious and inventive pranks on an unsuspecting public.... [More]
Directed By: Kitao Sakurai

#24

Dog (2022)
77%

#24
Adjusted Score: 85170%
Critics Consensus: Dog's dramatic breed is far from exotic, but solid narrative bones and well-trained work from co-director/star Channing Tatum make for a fetching viewing experience.
Synopsis: DOG is a buddy comedy that follows the misadventures of two former Army Rangers paired against their will on the... [More]

#25

Joy Ride (2023)
90%

#25
Adjusted Score: 101411%
Critics Consensus: Joy Ride isn't afraid to shock with its gross-out gags, but this road trip's real surprise is how successfully it blends its raunchy humor with real heart.
Synopsis: The hilarious and unapologetically explicit story of identity and self-discovery centers on four unlikely friends who embark on a once-in-a-lifetime... [More]
Directed By: Adele Lim