If three sexy brothers (Jason Schwartzman, Owen Wilson and Adrien Brody) invited you to go on an exotic journey by train, you would so go. Unless of course said journey was directed by Wes Anderson and called The Darjeeling Limited, and you knew that meant it'll be all very cool to look at but not much would happen.
The road trip movie, see, is trickier than it seems. Here are a few that did it right—but there's at least one missing. And that's where you come in and drop your suggestions in the Comments section. All right, now let's rev it up.
1. Thelma & Louise: What I remember most isn't the iconic moment when the wild babes (Geena Davis and Susan Sarandon) drive off the cliff or Brad Pitt at his peak of sexiness. It's the little things—the way Louise's kitchen glistens like a polished funeral home before she takes off, or the white T-shirts that get dirtier and dirtier. Hello, symbols!
2. Almost Famous: If you say you wouldn't have liked to be on the tour bus when Kate Hudson et al. spontaneously break into Elton John's "Tiny Dancer," you need to say that while attached to a lie detector. The buses, the iffy plane and the random hotel rooms in Cameron Crowe's rock 'n' road story positively beckon us to hit the road with the cool kids.
3. Y Tu Mamá También: Traveling was never sexier. Julio (Gael García Bernal) and Tenoch (Diego Luna) grow up fast as they take the luckiest woman alive (Maribel Verdú) on a journey to Heaven's Mouth. Of course, they don't know where they're going, the directions are confusing and the beach doesn't actually exist, but they arrive just the same. Sigh.
4. Dumb & Dumber: Simply the funniest, most misguided tour of America in cinematic history. Yep, this movie is on almost every one of my lists, as well it should be. They sing (and by sing I mean kill) "Mockingbird." Lloyd (Jim Carrey) urinates in empty beer bottles. They fall asleep and go in the wrong direction for miles and miles. And yes, they wind up on a moped, peeing to keep warm.
5. Little Miss Sunshine: The next time your family goes on a trip, you should invite Olive (Abigail Breslin). Her presence could keep your family's version of grumpy, loving, heroin-taking grandpa (Alan Arkin) from strangling his idiot son-in-law (Greg Kinnear). She's so cute and optimistic you would have to keep going, even when the horn in the VW bus won't stop beeping.
6. Plains, Trains and Automobiles: Sometimes you need to be stuck on a bus with a talker to loosen up and get that stick out of your butt. John Candy is loneliness personified as a wandering, lost soul and self-proclaimed shower-ring salesman to Steve Martin's colder, stable, more easily agitated family man who just wants to get home for Thanksgiving. Together, they grow. And I cry.
7. Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle: New Jersey is for stoners like Harold and Kumar (John Cho and Kal Penn). It's so easy to get on board for the ride to a burger in a paper sheath…even if I'd rather go to McDonalds or Burger King. But anyway, screw big-life journeys like med school. Yay, pot and sudden cravings that stalk you harder than Glenn Close in Fatal Attraction.
8. Easy Rider: Heading to Mardis Gras with drug money isn't the kind of trip you're going to see mapped out in Every Day with Rachael Ray magazine. Wyatt and Billy's journey is that other American road trip dream, the one fueled by sex, drugs, lawlessness and leather. You break the rules on any decent road trip, but never with as much panache as Dennis Hopper and Peter Fonda.
9. National Lampoon's Vacation: All hail the Griswolds! All hail Chevy Chase circa 1983! Oh sure, a vacation to Wally World sounds like fun. But the pressure to have fun can make a dear old dad, his hot wife and their self-conscious kids go haywire, embarking on skinny-dipping, pee-soaked-sandwich eating and unarmed robbery. Let's also hail Lindsey Buckingham's anthem "Holiday Road" and a young John Candy.
10. You Tell Me! Did I just blow right by your fave cinematic off-ramp? Hit me with it in the Comments.