License to Drive – 5 Lessons From Road Trip Movies (What Not To Do)

July 9, 2012

No one can deny that there’s a certain amount of freedom and independence to be gained by getting your driver’s license. Seriously, it’s been culturally ingrained into our collective consciouness that this is a serious rite of passage. To act of getting behind the wheel of a vehicle and going pretty much anywhere is an amazing concept once you actually experience it. There’s an enormous amount of responsibility one holds in getting behind the wheel of a car. Not only do you have to be aware of your surroundings and worry about yourself but also to be hyper-aware of other people that you are sharing the road with.

Now, I don’t know what it is about movies centered around road trips but something is always falling to pieces. Always. There’s an adventure, someone’s bound to get lost or be on the run from the authorities. Road trips are fun and I recommend everyone experience one at least once in their life but unless you find yourself as a lead in a Hollywood movie here’s what NOT to do on a road trip.

1) Don’t have your vehicle checked/inspected before you embark on your trip. Don’t fill the tank with gas. Be unprepared for the unexpected. Be confident that there’s no way your car will ever, ever break down or run out gas along a stretch of deserted road. That’ll never happen.

REALITY: Listen, if you learn anything from a road trip movie, your vehicle will break down, you will be stranded and you need to be prepared for when this does happen. Charge your cell phone, have extra cash on you. Have a plan B and a plan C. Be prepared.


{NATIONAL LAMPOON’S VACATION – 1983} The first movie to introduce the Griswold family into pop culture. This was pretty much the road trip from hell. Everything that could go wrong did even when they reached their final destination.


{THE ADVENTURES OF PRISCILLA, QUEEN OF THE DESERT – 1994} Of course, your bus is going to break down in the middle of the Australian Outback on the way to a drag queen gig. Getting there is half the battle.


{LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE – 2006} Every family is filled with oddballs but the Hoovers take the cake. That doesn’t stop them from working together to make sure that the littlest Hoover (Olive) makes it to a child beauty pageant in California. They set off on the road in their ancient Volkswagon bus and hilarity ensues.


{BREAKDOWN – 1997} Listen, it’s in the title of the movie, we know that the car that this couple are driving cross-country in is going to breakdown. But what we don’t expect is for the truck that stops to help them ends up kidnapping the wife. Oh, hell no!


2) Embrace your inner road rage demon. Did someone pass you on your blindside or didn’t signal before turning? Ooh, watch out. Do you feel a muscle-ly, green, angry thing wanting to emerge from the depths of your soul? Well, then I definitely foresee a happy ending in the works. No major catastrophes or deaths. And wait, has someone done something to you in their car? Then by all means, go get your road revenge on.

REALITY: Leave this for the movies. Please. Unless, your life is in danger and the cops are taking their sweet time to get to you. Calm down, Mad Max. And don’t do anything stupid.

Mel Gibson in Mad Max.

{MAD MAX -1979} Pretty much Max turns Mad when a destructive bike gang destroys everything he holds dear. He decides to take the law into his own hands and goes on a revenge killing spree.


{DUEL – 1971} Talk about having some serious road rage issues. The mysterious driver of this tanker truck is out for blood when a Plymouth bypasses him on the highway. Jeez, relax dude.


{DEATH PROOF -2007} What happens when a psychotic stuntman stalks young women with his death proof care? Chaos. What happens when the women fight back? Revenge and great action scenes.

Mel Gibson in Mad Max.dueldp

3) Your road trip is only about getting from point A to point B. That’s it. There’s absolutely no need to enjoy the scenery or the people that you are with. But most importantly, the journey is not part of the experience. I repeat, the actual journey has nothing to do with the experience. That’s not what a road trip is about.

REALITY: You will grow. You will change. Hopefully, for the better. You will realize something about yourself or your friends. It could be as menial as discovering someone’s favorite type of breakfast or as core-shaking as the truth behind your childhood but rest assured, it will happen.


{SIDEWAYS – 2004} Rational human beings know that combining the open road and wine is not a good thing. The film follows two men in their forties on a week long road trip through wine country.


{Y Tu Mama Tambien – 2001} – Yes, this caused a bit of ratings controversy when it was first released due to the sexual nature but at the heart of the story is how this road trip changed the lives of everyone involved.


{WRISTCUTTERS: A LOVE STORY 2006} – This is definitely not a typical road trip since it mostly happens in this weird afterlife limbo alternate universe. However, the characters definitely find themselves and each other on this trip.


{THE MUPPET MOVIE -1979} Classic tale of characters going on a road trip to Hollywood hoping to find fame and fortune. The only difference is that this cast of characters feature Jim Henson’s muppets in this heart-warming film.

motorcycle diaries

{THE MOTORCYCLE DIARIES – 2004} Want to talk about how a road trip can change you? Ernesto Guevera travels across South America with his best friend and sees how the poor and destitute face injustice. Years later he would become the revolutionary Che Guevera.


{BROKEN FLOWERS – 2005} Bill Murray stars as an aging Lothario who goes on a cross-country adventure to track down his former lovers and find out if he has a child. The journey helps to bring him to terms with where he is in llife.

sidewaysytumamawristcuttersthe-muppet-moviemotorcycle diaries600full-broken-flowers-screenshot

4) Do something really stupid like armed robbery or go on a killing spree and expect to get away from the authorities. Because that’s really going end well. Why would the cops want to perpetuate law and order?? That totally goes against everything they stand for. You can definitely make the border before getting caught. Totally.

REALITY: C’mon now. Almost every movie about a road trip is bound to have a car chase or someone with homicidal tendencies running around. It’s all part of the suspense but keep this in the movies folks. Take it easy, cowboy.

thelma & louise

{THELMA & LOUISE – 1991} This is definitely an example of a road trip not going as planned. Somehow, Thelma & Louise find themselves in a situation where they are on the run from the cops and the FBI and we all know how this one ends.


{NATURAL BORN KILLERS – 1994} Two victims of messed-up childhoods fall in love and go on a killing spree road trip. Chaos ensues naturally.


{BONNE &CLYDE – 1967} You know the story and it doesn’t end well. Notorious bank robbers Bonnie & Clyde go on the lam during the Great Depression.


{BADLANDS – 1973} Loosely based on a true story of a teenage girl and her greaser boyfriend who go on a killing spree in the Dakota badlands.

thelma & louisenbkbonnie&clydebadlands

5) Be absolutely reckless with your life and others. That includes and is not limited to: drinking while driving, thinking that you are an Indy Formula 1 racer, or believing that you are invincible. Don’t tell anyone what you’re doing and where you’re going. Try to re-enact the Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas road trip, you won’t do anything stupid and won’t get caught.

REALITY: Tell someone where you are going. I know we all want to be independent and free but there is absolutely nothing wrong with letting people know where you are. There’s only one Hunter S. Thompson, you are not him. Most importantly, don’t drive while under the influence of alcohol and drugs. 


{INTO THE WILD – 2007} Based on a true story, a young man embarks on a journey of self-discovery taking him across North America and Alaska. A noble road trip he neglects to inform his family and his friends of his whereabouts as he attempts to live alone in the Alaskan wilderness. Guess what happens next?


{THE HANGOVER -2009} When this group of friends wake up in Las Vegas with no recollection of what happened the night before at a bachelor party, they have to quickly figure out where the groom-to-be is and why Mike Tyson’s tiger is in their bathroom.


{FEAR AND LOATHING IN LAS VEGAS -1998} What is it about road trips and Las Vegas that brings out the crazy in everyone. This oddball journalist and his attorney embark on a drug-fueled road trip of epic proportions.

easy rider

{EASY RIDER – 1969} Arguably, one of the best movies ever made, it depicts the counterculture of the late sixties that hadn’t been shown in cinema at that time. The film explores the social landscape and tension of the these bikers who travel through the American Southwest and South trying to assert their independence.

into_the_wild_22thehangoverfearandloathingeasy rider

There you have it: 5 things NOT to do on a road trip. We love movies for their escapism and entertainment value but sometimes they are filled with the worst kinds of advice. Enjoy your road trip but refrain from doing anything detrimental to your health and freedom. However, be aware, that things are going to go wrong, you will probably not stick to the plan and that is all part of what makes the experience and gives you a great story to tell.

    Submit to StumbleUponShare on Tumblr

    Tagged with:

    1 Comment
      www Apr 08, 2014

      What’s up, I check your blogs regularly. Your story-telling style is
      awesome, keep doing what you’re doing!


    Leave a Comment

    Please keep in mind that comments are moderated and rel="nofollow" is in use. So, please do not use a spammy keyword or a domain as your name, or it will be deleted. Let us have a personal and meaningful conversation instead.