In Hollywood, certain staples will never die, no matter how many years go by. Some clichés like the less attractive sidekick, superhero films, the nerdy underdog, or the Oscar-bating based on a true story movie are built into the fabric of Hollywood. These clichés make audiences feel comfortable because they already know what to expect. One trope that’s constantly repeated is the buddy road trip film.
Whether it’s Rainman or Train, Planes and Automobiles, movies where two characters don’t get along but are stuck in a car together and end up being good friends by the end always seem to garner an audience. However, being a cliché doesn’t make a film great; it needs the right balance of heart and familiar tropes to become classic and not commonplace.
10 Plains, Trains and Automobiles (1987)
Rotten Tomatoes: 87%
This classic film is instantly hilarious because fans can relate to all the hi-jinks that come with having a flight delayed during the holidays. Legendary comics Steve Martin and John Candy masterfully play off of each other like the Harlem Globetrotters of comedy. Martin’s conservative straight-man character meshes perfectly with Candy’s annoyingly offbeat salesman, setting up the prototype for all the following buddy road trip films.
9 Dumb and Dumber (1994)
Rotten Tomatoes: 84%
The Farley Brothers breakout hit about two loveably dimwitted friends who take a road trip to Aspen is a milestone in comedy and took the buddy road trip film to new levels of ridiculousness and funny.
This classic comedy about friendship is choked full of immature yet deceptively smart jokes. Whether complaining about not being able to find good jobs under 40 hours a week or thinking Aspen is a tropical resort, this film’s characters are so silly that fans are left with no choice but to laugh, even if it’s despite themselves. This vital film represents a turning point from the cheesy hi-jinks of the 80s to the more irreverent comedy of the 90s.
8 Thelma and Louise (1991)
Rotten Tomatoes: 82%
This female-led road trip dramedy about two women on the run from the law was a cultural phenomenon and spoke up for a segment of the population not used to being heard.
Whether it’s the epic last scene where they drive off a cliff or introducing the world to Brad Pitt, there’s a lot that makes this film a classic. More importantly, this film highlighted women’s exhaustion at being objectified and showed two female characters unwilling to take it, which was a novelty at the time. Scenes like Thelma and Louise blowing up an eighteen-wheeler belonging to a truck driver who berated them resonated with women who might have been in similar situations but couldn’t do anything as drastic, making this one of the most influential movies of the decade.
7 Midnight Run (1988)
Rotten Tomatoes: 87%
This Golden Globe-nominated action about a bail bondsman who has to retrieve a criminal who skipped town keeps the audience laughing and guessing what will happen next.
Midnight Run proves Robert Deniro isn’t just an outstanding dramatic actor but also has impressive comedic timing. Deniro and Charles Grodin play their characters straight and not wacky, making them even funnier because it feels natural. More impressively, the audience never knows what will happen next in this cat-and-mouse chase between the two leads, the mob, and the police, leaving viewers on the edge of their seats after every plot twist and turn.
6 Easy Rider (1969)
Rotten Tomatoes: 82%
This groundbreaking film about two free-spirited bikers struck a chord in counterculture for daring to question the legitimacy of freedom in America.
Easy Rider is considered the first American arthouse film and started a wave of independent filmmakers who, similar to the film’s main characters, wanted freedom from the establishment. As the characters ride through America, they encounter everything wrong, including bigotry, consumerism, and violence. However, there’s no putting a halo on counterculture as the drug-selling cyclists are also contributing to consumerism in this time capsule of the late 60s.
5 Rain Man (1988)
Rotten Tomatoes: 90%
This road trip film is about a down-on-his-luck collectibles dealer who kidnaps his autistic brother never fails to leave fans misty-eyed.
Dustin Hoffman delivers the performance of a lifetime as he disappears into a character with autism. At the same time, Tom Cruise manages to make the audience empathetic to a flawed character like Tommy, who uses people for a living. While cliché of the genre, seeing Tommy go from treating his brother as a nuisance at the beginning of the trip to genuinely caring for him by the end leaves the audience emotionally satisfied, showing some tropes never get old.
4 Blues Brothers (1980)
Rotten Tomatoes: 92%
This musical, based on an SNL Sketch about two brothers traveling to find their old bandmates to raise money to save a Catholic Orphanage, is as wild as it sounds in all the best ways.
Blue Brothers is full of insane comedy moments fans expect from SNL, including floating angry nuns, Carry Fisher shooting a rocket launcher at the brothers, and a two-hundred cop car pile-up. When things can’t get crazier, characters break out into song, including amazing performances from Aretha Franklin, James Brown, and Ray Charles that are worth the watch alone.
3 Smokey and the Bandit (1977)
Rotten Tomatoes: 85%
Bert Reynolds and Sally Field star in this box office smash with a charismatic lead character who single-handedly raised the sales of Pontiac Trans Ams in the late 70s.
This unique film almost entirely takes place in cars, making it the ultimate road trip film. Decades later, its practical car stunts are even more fun compared to today’s CGI-laden chases. However, the film is sold on the cult of personality, Smokey. Smokey’s confidence and bravado endear him to viewers even though he’s a criminal. Sally Field also bewitches audiences as the lovable runaway bride who’s swept up in the madness like the viewer. Refreshingly, Fields is more than a ditzy sidekick but is running from the responsibility of marriage by doing something completely irresponsible. Whether running from cops or a groom, this film is ultimately about defying authority.
2 Toy Story (1995)
This groundbreaking Pixar film about toys that come to life when no one is looking was the first completely CGI animated movie and taught a generation of kids what true friendship means.
Toy Story features timeless voice acting performances by Tim Allen and Tom Hanks, making fans forget they’re watching a child’s action figures. When rival toys get lost and have to join forces to find their way home, fans are brought to tears with its message about people getting over their differences to work together and the necessity of friendship.
1 Logan (2017)
Rotten Tomatoes: 90%
This film is like an ultra-violent family road trip with Professor X as the senile grandpa, X-23 as the annoying daughter, and Logan as the dad trying to keep everything together.
Hugh Jackman and Patrick Stewart’s twenty-year friendship shows on screen. Fans can feel the bond between Logan and Professor X, including arguing every five seconds, showing how comfortable they are with each other. Both characters are also the most vulnerable audiences have ever seen them, with Logan slowly dying and the once genius professor’s mind deteriorating. Similar to the film’s message, the grand illusion of our heroes is wholly destroyed. However, like a real father, Professor X still has one more lesson to teach Logan after he’s tasked with protecting X-23 he learns being a hero isn’t about how strong he is but about choosing to help others.