5 Movie Rules of the Road

September 22, 2009 by  
Filed under - Home, Features

As well as Fox, Twinkies, and Oprah Winfrey, the US of A is blessed with thousands of miles of open road.

With the open road comes the grand tradition of the road trip, inevitably followed by the road movie.

Since Dorothy trotted down the one of yellow brick fame, the open road has been the setting of many a formative experience for the folk on screen, and if we look hard enough, there’s plenty to be learned from their god-awful experiences.

This week sees the release of the delightful Away We Go, about an expectant couple taking to the road to find the perfect place to raise their baby. It got us thinking; what has the road got to offer us, and what have movies taught us?

OTB got their motor running and headed out on the celluloid highway to find out, creating the five movie rules of the road trip.

Planes, Trains and Automobiles (1987) – Don’t Rent a Car

Destination: Chicago
Vehicle: Various

In this John Hughes-directed road/track/runway movie, Steve Martin plays the tightly wound advertising executive Neal Page, who embarks on the short journey from New York to Chicago to get home in time for Thanksgiving.

A series of bizarre interventions, freakish weather and the forming of an inadvertent alliance with friendly if irritating stranger Del (John Candy) turns the two-hour trip into a three-day long slog.

The travel methods of plane and train failing him, Neal decides to bypass the perils of public transport by renting a car, though this is just another obstacle in this relentless journey.

The car he’s rented isn’t where they said, and Neal really isn’t very happy.

The clip contains some naughty language.


Destination: Somewhere in California
Vehicle: Plymouth Valiant

Stephen Spielberg’s feature directorial debut, Duel started as a TV movie which went down so well it was theatrically released in Europe.

It follows David Mann (Dennis Weaver), a businessman making good time on the way to his meeting as he drives through the Californian desert before he encounters a beast of a tanker ahead of him travelling way too slowly.

He overtakes the tanker, though this lapse in road courtesy hasn’t gone unnoticed as the driver declares war, sounding a long, booming air horn that scares the bejeezus out of him.

The tanker then goes to chase him down the highway, later smashing into the back of his car and trying to force him off the road.

Gradually the driver of the tanker becomes more and more psychopathic, the murderous events culminating in an incident involving a level crossing. So what have we learnt? Never, ever overtake a big ominous vehicle. Unless you want to end up underneath it.

Objects in rear view mirror are deadlier than they appear.

U-Turn (1997) – KEEP YOUR PANTS ON

Destination: California

The road trip, being a holiday of some sorts, is a journey rife with temptations, and the anonymity the open road brings is conducive to fulfilling one’s carnal desires.

But what we’ve learnt from Oliver Stone’s U-Turn (and Thelma and Louise, and Sideways) is that these escapades can have dire consequences.

Drifter Bobby (Sean Penn) is off to California to deliver some money to the bookies before they cut more of his fingers, when the inevitable happens.

His car breaks down near a small, inbred town in Arizona, where he is seduced by the troubled Grace McKenna (then-actress Jennifer Lopez). They start doing grown-up things when the inevitable happens again and Grace’s husband walks in on them.


A more than unfortunate chain of events sees Bobby becoming more and more mired in the filth of the town of Superior following his little mistake, and he ends up in more of a mess than he started in.

Warning! Contains spoilers”


Destination: Brookfield, Connecticut
Vehicle: Pontiac GTO Judge

While they may not be the best road trip buddies in the world (see Kingpin), if you stop for anyone on the open road, stop for the Amish.

Ezekiel’s (Seth Green) mechanic skills save the day after Ian Lafferty’s road trip to get laid hits the skids when his “borrowed” car breaks down.

Ian’s on the way to Brookfield to give his flower to a Ms. Tasty he met on the internet, in a movie that must be the only one that involves peeing in a car radiator.


Destination: Spring Break! Yeeeeah!
Vehicle: 1970 Oldsmobile 442

In Dave Meyers’ The Hitcher, Jim Halsey (Zachary Knighton) and Grace Andrews (Sophia Bush) are on their way to Spring Break (whoo!) when they pass a solitary figure on the side of the road.

He’s up the proverbial creek, his car broken down in the middle of nowhere in the dark of night. It’s really raining too.

They take pity on the Sean Bean-played John Ryder (really), who seems like an amiable fellow.

But as is the way with the movie road trip, he isn’t what he seems, and it isn’t long before he pulls a knife on the nice couple, later going on to torment other road trippers in true Chainsaw Massacre-style. Not nice.

Conclusion: Just get on a plane.

Leonie Mercedes

Itching to get out on the open road? Perhaps our review of Away We Go will rev you up. Or take a look at what we thought of Sex Drive

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