The notion of the road trip is a familiar one. Whether it’s travelling with the family in our youth over the school holidays or packing up the sleeping bags and tents for a weekend away with our mates, we all know the pressures that come with agreeing to pile ourselves in together and experienced firsthand the flared tempers, the heightened emotions, and joyous celebrations of going on the road.[related_articles]60479,59156,52995[/related_articles]
The road trip is a quintessential part of cinema and have been making audiences laugh, cry, and scream with fear since the days of silent movies. When it comes to the simple act of getting from Point A to Point B, filmmakers can come up with endlessly vivid ways to bring out the best and the worst in their characters while on wheels.
Luckily for us we can recreate these holidays without quite the same level of drama. Here are eight movie road trips that you can enjoy on your next vacation.
#1 The Adventures Of Priscilla, Queen Of The Desert
Where: Sydney to Alice Springs
You’re not likely to get into the hijinks that the drag cabaret act in this fabulous Australian classic from 1994, but that shouldn’t stop you using this as a chance to see parts of Australia you’ve likely only ever seen on film. And seen them you have – Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome (1985) was filmed in Coober Pedy and Broken Hill was the setting for Wake In Fright (1971).[related_articles]52361,48391[/related_articles]
From Sydney (King’s Cross and on over the bridge if you want to be authentic) go on your way making sure to stop off at The Palace Hotel in Broken Hill where the three entertainers make friends with a hostile crowd, before checking out Mundi Mundi Plains, Coober Pedy, and attempt a hike to the top of the sandstone cliffs of King’s Canyon in the Watarrka National Park to the west of Alice Springs. It’s as pretty as a (moving) picture.
#2 Thelma & Louise
Where: California to Moab
It’s actually impossible to recreate the exact road trip from the brilliant feminist flick Thelma & Louise (1991) because it doesn’t exist. Thelma (Geena Davis) and Louise (Susan Sarandon) begin their road journey in Arkansas on through Oklahoma and New Mexico, yet it was predominantly filmed in California, Utah, and Colorado. You should start in Tarzana where Thelma’s house is and then on to Thousand Oaks where Louise’s diner is located before continuing to Long Beach where the Silver Bullet bar can be found.[related_articles]58841,54528[/related_articles]
Carry on then north for 12 hours to the La Sal Mountains on Route 46 through to the Arches National Park and Canyonlands around Moab, Utah. Complete your journey at the site of the famed climactic confrontation, which isn’t the Grand Canyon, but actually Dead Horse Point State Park some 30 kilometres off of Highway 191, southwest of Moab. Make sure you take a Polaroid selfie for old times.
Where: South California Coast
Maybe you’ve just returned from that Thelma & Louise trip, or maybe you’d rather experience California with grape-coloured glasses. There is no better way than by recreating the winery road trip from Sideways (2004). The characters find their way predominantly around the Santa Barbara County, but given how much wine you’re going to be drinking it’s best to take a weekend and make sure you’re not drinking and driving. The county has a handy guide to the wineries of the region that were featured in the film, but for other Sideways-related locations there is Ostrich Land as well as golf at the Alisal Guest Ranch Ostrich Land in Solvang, the farmer’s market in Lompoc, and the Gaviota State Park on Highway 101.
#4 The Motorcycle Diaries
Where: Buenos Aires and across South America
It can be hard work and certainly takes more planning than a regular car trip, but it’s possible with a lot of time and money to walk in the footsteps of Che Guevara as filmed by Walter Salles in The Motorcycle Diaries (2004). After setting out in 1951 from Buenos Aires atop of a 1939 Norton 500 CC motorcycle, he grew to see South America as not just a bunch of individual countries, but one large connected entity and you can certainly attempt to recreate the two-wheeled journey along the back roads of Latin America (not to mention hiking to Machu Picchu). Any trip that takes you from Argentina to Chile, Peru, Colombia, Venezuela, the Amazon River and back again (with a pit stop in Miami if you want to be 100 per cent accurate) is sure to be breathtaking.
#5 On the Road
Where: New York to San Francisco
Walter Salles’ second adaptation of a famed road trip book, On The Road (2012), is a simpler journey, but a trickier source material. The famed Jack Kerouac novel’s reputation has meant many of life’s wanderers have set out to discover themselves by tracing his way across America. Kerouac himself tried and failed to recreate the experience, discovering the country’s interstates had ruined the experience – but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try.
Starting and ending in the home of the beat poets, New York City, you should experience the jazz and the creativity there at places like Village Vanguard where Kerouac once performed poetry, before setting out to Chicago, New Orleans, Denver (check out Kerouac drinking hole haunts El Chapultepec and Don’s Tavern while you’re there), and on to San Francisco. You can end your trip with a visit to The Beat Museum and Vesuvio Café, which has a drink named after the author.
Where: Perth to Melbourne
This Australian thriller has been described as “Alfred Hitchcock’s Rear Window on wheels”. And while it’s full of dead bodies and vehicular violence, that doesn’t mean you can’t take inspiration to head out onto the Nullarbor Plain for 3500 kilometres of Australian beauty. Roadgames (1981) is accurate in representing the vast amount of wide open spaces along the Plain, but if you take the trip then you’ll also discover strange and tasty eateries, authentically rustic roadhouses, plentiful native animal life, and hidden gems like Ceduna, one of the country’s biggest oyster producers, 500 kilometres into South Australia. The two-day event Oysterfest is hosted there every October so time your trip well.[related_articles]49025,35964[/related_articles]
#7 Y Tu Mama Tambien
Where: Mexico City to the coast
You don’t need to be as sexually-charged as the characters in Alfonso Cuaron’s Y Tu Mama Tambien (2001) to enjoy the search for the perfect beach (although it would certainly be memorable). The two attractive central male characters in this Oscar-nominated road trip movie set out to discover a mythical, idyllic beach called Boca del Cielo to impress a beautiful woman. While the beach is imaginary and invented to impress a woman, their trip is full of local sights and sounds like weddings, fiestas and bars that you’re also sure to find. The final scenes were filmed at Bahia Cacaluta, known for being described by King Juan Carlos of Spain as his favourite beach in the world.
#8 Radio On
Where: London to Bristol
This is the shortest road trip on the list at just over two hours, which means there’s no reason you can’t do it on your next visit to London. Get inspired by British cult flick Radio On (1979) and charge up a set-list of travelling tunes by David Bowie, Kraftwerk, and Devo and head to Bristol to discover the unexpectedly vibrant scene on the other side of the island. Director Christopher Petit was inspired by Wim Wenders, himself a road movie expert with movies like Paris, Texas (1985), and it’s heavily reminiscent of West German cinema of the time. But its British setting offers something completely unique and different that you can experience for yourself.
(Lead image: The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert)
Glenn Dunks is writer from Melbourne who recently returned from living in New York City. While in America he got to visit more states than many actual Americans. He is predominantly a film and music critic and has written for many Australian online and print publications including Junkee, SameSame, Metro Magazine and The Big Issue. Internationally he’s written for Vanity Fair, Dutch website biosAgenda and can occasionally be heard on the Monocle 24 digital radio network out of London. In 2014 he won an award from the Australian Film Critics Association for his work.