The United States is an amazing piece of real estate.
The sprawling landscapes between the Atlantic and Pacific have always proved inspirational for artists, and our homegrown autos have generally been designed with road trips in mind. Presently, Memorial Day—created to honor the men and women who died serving in our armed forces—is more synonymous with cookouts than sacrifice. But getting out to experience the highways and hospitality of our amazing country is a better way to honor fallen patriots than firing up the grill.
In the event you can't make time to get away this weekend, we've assembled a highly subjective list showcasing some of our all-time favorite road trip movies. And if you can't find something here?
Pick up a copy of Jack Kerouac's On the Road.
Without a doubt, the heaviest movie on this list—by a country mile. But this under-appreciated, Bonnie and Clyde-esque classic is gorgeously shot, and Martin Sheen crackles with menace as the trigger-happy antihero who liberates doe-eyed Sissy Spacek from her sheltered small-town life.
The Blues Brothers (1980)
Dan Aykroyd and John Belushi's portraits of men on "a mission from God" features Nazis as bad guys, stellar musical performances—James Brown and Aretha Franklin stand out—and wrecks more cars in the final chase than probably any movie ever will again. Easily, the best movie to come from a Saturday Night Live skit.
Bottle Rocket (1996)
Indie darling Wes Anderson's first feature didn't make the mainstream splash later efforts like The Royal Tenenbaums did, but this crime caper introduced audiences to the rambling comedic dialog he'd become known for, even if his wickedly intricate sets aren't present. Remember, "Leave the gun on the table."
Cannonball Run (1981)
Everyone who was anyone in the '80s made an appearance in this playful take on the infamous coast-to-coast contest. Roger Moore, Burt Reynolds, Farrah Fawcett, Sammy Davis Jr. and Dean Martin starred, but even quarterback Terry Bradshaw had a role. And the opening scenes? Yup, there's a Countach involved.
Midnight Run (1988)
This was the first time audiences saw that Oscar-winner Robert De Niro could do comedy as well as heavy fare like Raging Bull and Taxi Driver, and he's an excellent straight man for Charles Grodin's whiney accountant. Casting couldn't have gotten the tough bounty hunter and crooked number-cruncher roles better.
The Muppet Movie (1979)
We didn't want to be the ones to break this news, but if you don't like the Muppets, there's something wrong with you. And while whether Kermit and the gang's first foray onto the silver screen is as magnificent as Muppets Take Manhattan might be up for debate, we'll take the open road over the subway any day.
National Lampoon's Vacation (1993)
The demise of the family dog still makes us cringe, but the story of the Griswold clan's ill-fated trip to Wally World in the Family Truckster is pure gold, and the scenes with Christie Brinkley driving the Ferrari 308 perfectly illustrate the contemporary male fantasy. The sequels aren't bad, but the original is still best.
Planes, Train and Automobiles (1987)
This is one of '80s teen movie master John Hughes' rare ventures into R-rated territory, and showcases comic icons Steve Martin and John Candy at—arguably—the height of their powers. There are plenty of laughs as the pair try to get home for Thanksgiving, but the ending lends the story some surprising dramatic heft.
Smokey and the Bandit (1977)
Forget that Coors isn't really better than any other macro brew—no list of road trip flicks would be complete without including the epic adventure to deliver it across state lines. This movie is why 40-ish dudes still want a Trans Am with a screaming chicken on the hood. And Sally Field's reaction to the bridge jump? Super hot.
The Sure Thing (1985)
If you've seen a movie before, the arch of the story in this '80s romantic comedy will be apparent from the first frames. But the banter between John Cusack's luckless loser and his English class crush—Daphne Zuniga, the princess from Spaceballs—as they negotiate a cross country trip make it an '80s classic.
Tommy Boy (1995)
Chris Farley is at his bumbling best and David Spade's snarkiness is set to stun in this tale of a loveable oaf's struggle to save his deceased father's auto parts company. If you've never found yourself singing along to crappy random music on the radio, you've been doing road trips all wrong.
Vanishing Point (1971)
"It takes a Mopar to catch a Mopar" is one of the best lines in the history of gearhead cinema, and this story of a lead-foot car delivery driver's southwestern sprint is so gorgeous, you could almost watch it on mute. The hero car—a 1970 Dodge Challenger R/T 440 Magnum—makes this movie a must-see for fans of American muscle.
More in the vein of Shaun of the Dead than The Walking Dead, Zombieland is an absolute hoot of a film, and chronicles the travels of unlikely survivor Jesse Eisenberg and Twinkie-obsessed Woody Harrelson. It's worth watching just for Bill Murray's scenes alone.
Obviously, there are plenty of experiences in these flicks that are better left to fiction. So if you do wind up hitting the road this weekend, remember that murder is illegal in all 50 states—along with the District of Columbia—as is robbing gas stations. That said, feel free to sing "Superstar" or "Moving Right Along," and as the clip from Zombieland advises, "fasten your seatbelts."