Feel like renting or downloading a bunch of movies for the family this holiday season?
From drama in a Thunderbird to comedy in a Plymouth Belvedere, cars are supporting characters and plot providers in road trip movies. And in our opinion, here are some of the most memorable.
Due Date – 2011 Subaru Impreza
Due Date is the modern day Planes, Trains and Automobiles. A man (Robert Downey Jr.) is just trying to get home to be with his family for the birth of his child. To do so, he accept a ride with goofy character (Zach Galifianakis) and finds himself in the middle of a nightmare road trip. There’s something about taking a car and driving it a long distance that makes for interesting material – for better or worse – and in this case, it was a rented 2011 Subaru Impreza that became the victim of wacky comic relief.
Swingers – 1964 Mercury Comet Caliente Convertible
In 1996’s Swingers and again in 2009’s The Hangover, a ritual takes place: men drive the 265 miles from L.A. to Vegas for a good time. While it’s less than a five-hour road trip, the scenes are still memorable. In Swingers, the drive takes place in a 1964 convertible Mercury Comet Caliente, which was actually owned by co-star and director Jon Favreau. The license plate on the Mercury was THX1138, a reference to the title of a 1971 sci-fi movie by George Lucas.
The Hangover – 1969 Mercedes-Benz 280 SE Convertible
For a bachelor weekend in The Hangover, the boys drove a 1969 Mercedes-Benz 280 SE convertible that the father-in-law loaned the groom. While the guys came away pretty damaged, the car, after encounters with car crashes, a tiger and several bullets, is also not left unscathed – but it is able to make the trip back home to LA and make the wedding.
Cannonball Run – Various Vehicles
The trek from Connecticut to California in Cannonball Run (1981) is less of a joyride and more of a no-holds-barred race, where each entrant picks his or her desired vehicle. Among the competing rides are a Dodge Tradesman ambulance (which actually competed in the real-life Cannonball race in 1979), a Lamborghini Countach, a high-tech Subaru GL with a rocket-powered engine and computer, a red Ferrari 308 GTS, a replica of a Chevrolet stock car, a Rolls Royce Silver Shadow and an Aston Martin DB5 (driven by Roger Moore, no less). This is one of the greatest racing comedies ever made and is less about the road trip and more about the characters and their cars as they race cross-country.
Thelma and Louise – 1966 Thunderbird
In 1991, men and women gained a newfound respect for the 1966 Thunderbird. The title characters in 1991’s Thelma and Louise drive a blue one while on the run from Arkansas, where they killed a would-be rapist. The drive, and adventure, ends in one of the most memorable movie finales of all time: the ladies driving the convertible right off a cliff into the Grand Canyon. One of the five models used in the movie went on the auction block in the fall of 2008 and sold for $65,000.
Rain Man – Lamborghini Countach
During the opening credits of Rain Main (1988), the camera follows a Lamborghini Countach across the screen as it’s unloaded from a boat onto the docks. Charlie Babbitt (Tom Cruise) is an L.A.-based car dealer who imports Lamborghinis. But those are not the focus of the story: it’s the 1949 Buick Roadmaster Convertible that Charlie’s father wills to him. In the process of picking up his inheritance and driving from Cincinatti to L.A., Charlie meets and comes to love his autistic brother Raymond (Dustin Hoffman).
Tommy Boy – Plymouth Belvedere GTX Convertible
In another tale of family drama, Tommy Boy follows Tommy (Chris Farley) and his friend Richard (David Spade) as they try to save Tommy’s family auto parts company. The two hit the road in Richard’s blue Plymouth Belvedere GTX convertible. Through a series of blunders, the car’s door is ripped off (and subsequently replaced with a child safety gate and then taped-on cardboard), the hood is gone and a blue tarp replaces the missing roof. When they make it to Chicago, the car’s in bad shape, but the company is saved.
Sideways – 1987 Saab 900 Convertible
Views on Merlot aside, the 1987 Saab 900 convertible that Miles drives in Sideways fits the character well. He, along with his friend Jack, drive from San Diego and L.A. up to the Santa Ynez wine country for a week of golf and relaxation before Jack ties the knot. When golf turns into chasing women, Jack winds up with a broken nose and crashes the Saab to make it look like that was the cause of his face injury.
Little Miss Sunshine and National Lampoon’s Vacation – VW Bus & Wagon Queen Family Truckster
There are two family trips where the car becomes a supporting (and at times, irritating) member of the family: Little Miss Sunshine (2006) and National Lampoon’s Vacation (1983). In the original Vacation movie, Clark Griswold and family leave Chicago en route to Wally World in Southern California. The Wagon Queen Family Truckster is a fictional car based on the Ford LTD Country Squire. Idiosyncrasies of the car become plot lines, like how the gas tank is by the hood near the front passenger side and Clark can’t find it. The Hoover family has equally frustrating mishaps with its 1979 VW T2 bus-van, which the family drives from Albuquerque, N.M., to Redondo Beach, CA, so little Olive can enter a beauty pageant. The yellow van is on display at L.A.’s Petersen Automotive Museum. The only Truckster to have survived the Vacation road trip is on display at the Historic Auto Attractions museum in Roscoe, IL.
Smokey and the Bandit – 1977 Pontiac Firebird Trans Am
In Smokey and the Bandit, Burt Reynolds plays Bo the bandit, who is hired to transport beer from Texas to Georgia (which was illegal to do across state lines). His partner drives a truck full of Coors and Bo drives a Trans Am to help thwart any police suspicion. When he helps a runaway bride, he accidentally invites unwanted attention from the Sherriff and mayhem ensues. The three 1977 Pontiac Firebird Trans Ams used in filming were special editions with a black and gold paint scheme inspired by the Lotus F1 race car. At the end of the movie, the beer made it to Georgia, but the three cars were beat up after the stunts.
Fandango – 1959 Cadillac Series 62 Convertible
It’s an oft-used plot: A group of kids needs a car; the pushier kids choose the quiet guy because his dad has the cool convertible; quiet guy gets pressured into stealing dad’s car and the kids take off. This is a rough outline of the plot for Fandango, starring Kevin Costner and Judd Nelson, who are in 1971 Texas and ready for an adventure south of the border. They take “dad’s” 1959 Cadillac Series 62 convertible for the ride. At one point the guys decide to get a pull from a train by lassoing a rope from the car to the train. The only thing that gets pulled is the bumper.
Planes, Trains and Automobiles – 1986 Chrysler LeBaron Town & Country
And finally, no road trip montage would be complete without Planes, Trains and Automobiles, where John Candy and Steve Martin try to get from New York (via Wichita) to Chicago. Part of the distance is covered in a green 1986 Chrysler LeBaron Town and Country that was modified for the movie with numerous Dodge 600 parts, including lights and a steering wheel. If only the driver could keep it on the right side of the road.