Thanksgiving Top 5: Road Trip Movies

     November 23, 2011

For me, one of the highlights of the Thanksgiving holiday is the trip home: it’s blissfully between the demands of work and the insanity of a family gathering. While holiday traffic is usually my biggest concern during the trek, movies have made quite a bit of money off of dreaming up ways a road trip can go wrong. If you’re driving this holiday week, stay safe. If you’re lucky enough to be a passenger and need some suggestions on movies to pass the time, well you’re in luck! We’ve put together the five most iconic travel movies which remind us that it’s not the destination, but the journey. Hit the jump to hit the road with Collider’s Thanksgiving Top 5 Road Trip Movies, and be sure to check back here over the next few days for more entries in our “Thanksgiving Top 5” series, including memorable food scenes, football movies, and more.

*The following article and clips contain spoilers.*



In the first movie of the classic National Lampoon’s Vacation series, Chevy Chase leads the Griswolds on a good old-fashioned road trip to America’s favorite family fun park, Wally World. Along the way they experience the usual trials of trekking across America: getting lost in the ghetto (“Roll ‘em up!”), soggy sandwiches and the death of poor old Aunt Edna (Imogene Coca) and her dog, Dinky. Like any dad who has the best intentions at the beginning, Clark Griswold eventually cracks under the strain:

Maybe it’s more about the destination than the journey after all. Good thing Wally World is in sight, right? Here’s a bonus video from John Candy:

The Motorcycle Diaries


Some road trips have more serious goals than going to an amusement park or trekking home for a holiday dinner. Some people, like Ernesto “Che” Guevera (Gael Garcia Bernal) travel the South American continent on a single-cylinder motorcycle with their best friend. The Motorcycle Diaries is the ultimate road trip movie as it explores the various cultures and climates of South America while forging Guevera’s basis for his Marxist revolutionary ideals. For Thanksgiving, I think I’ll just stick to the turnpike. Check out the trailer here:

Dumb and Dumber


Okay, back to the funny stuff. In Dumb and Dumber, idiotic best friends Harry (Jeff Daniels) and Lloyd (Jim Carrey) travel across the country to return a briefcase to Mary…Swammy, Swanson, was it Swanson? Samsonite! I was way off. Anyway, the dim duo starts the trip in their “Shaggin Wagon” which they trade in for a scooter and eventually trade up for a Lamborghini Diablo. There are so many clips from this movie I could have chosen, but here’s one that sums up the relationship between Harry and Lloyd:

And here’s a bonus just for fun:

Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle


It’s hard to believe that Harold (John Cho) and Kumar (Kal Penn) first went to White Castle back in 2004, but the first movie in the series has already become a classic. Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle trumps the idea that the journey is more important than the destination. These two do everything in their power to get themselves to those tasty, steamy sliders. Far tastier and steamier than White Castle’s burgers was Malin Akerman’s role of Liane, who the boys meet in the middle of their journey:

Planes, Trains and Automobiles


The ultimate Thanksgiving road trip movie follows Steve Martin and John Candy in their attempt to get from New York City to Chicago for the holiday. Planes, Trains and Automobiles takes the characters through all the struggles and complications that come with holiday travel (what should have been a two-hour trip turns into a three-day ordeal). The pairing of Martin and Candy is fantastic as they continually irritate each other, but also learn to work together. While the journey is the meat of the film, the destination and the touching ending is really what Thanksgiving is all about: friends, family, being thankful for the things we have and being charitable for those who aren’t as lucky. Here’s one of my favorite clips:

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