Top Ten Travel Movies: Planes, Trains and Automobiles

It’s not the destination, it’s the journey. While that may be the ultimate travel cliché, it sure makes for some great movies. Some of these films may inspire envy with their beautiful scenery, but most of them leave us feeling thankful that we’re safely on the other side of the screen and not in a moving — or delayed — vehicle.

1. Planes, Trains and Automobiles
It only seems to fair to start with John Hughes’ comedy that covers multiple forms of transportation, and hilariously at that. Steve Martin plays an uptight marketing executive who is trying desperately to get home from NYC to Chicago in time for Thanksgiving, but encounters weather nightmares and a shower curtain salesman (John Candy) along the way.

2. Two for the Road
This Audrey Hepburn/Albert Finney movie doesn’t just take you on a convertible ride through Europe, it takes you through the 10-year marriage of Mark and Joanna Wallace and through the 1960s, fashion and all. One of the best parts of the film, however, doesn’t take place on the road. A young Mark and Joanna are so worried about their expensive hotel bill that they go to great lengths to avoid the dining room, only to find out in the end that meals were included in the price of the room.

3. The Darjeeling Limited
In this darkly comic Wes Anderson film, three American brothers (Owen Wilson, Adrien Brody and Jason Schwartzman) with a lot of baggage (both of the emotional and the Louis Vuitton variety) travel across India by train. As the brothers work on their relationships, the viewers are treated to breathtaking scenery.

4. National Lampoon’s Vacation So what if it turns out that Walley World is closed? And if Aunt Edna ends up tied to the car’s roof rack? The first of the “Vacation” movies, this hysterically funny film of the Griswold family’s summer cross-country drive is a classic that makes you yearn for simpler times and for vintage Chevy Chase.

5. The Motorcycle Diaries
This film captures the eight-month, 8,000-mile oddysey around South America that a young Che Guevara (Gael García Bernal) and Alberto Granado (Rodrigo De la Serna) took on an aging motorcycle — which broke down, forcing them to hitchhike and sail the rest of the way. This film’s release in 2004 inspired today’s travelers to undertake a similar journey.

6. Red Eye
The next time you’re grimacing at your seatmate’s halitosis, just be thankful that you’re not flying next to Jackson Rippner (Cillian Murphy), who tries to coerce Lisa Reisert (Rachel McAdams) into facilitating the assassination of a politician by threatening to kill her father if she doesn’t help him.

7. Kandahar
Based on a true story, this film feels like a documentary, but it’s not (although one was made later). Nafas, our melodious-voiced heroine, has received a letter from her sister, who says she plans to commit suicide because she can no longer bear to be stuck in Afghanistan under Taliban rule. Nafas travels from Canada to Iran in hopes of crossing the border to get to Kandahar, but as she treks through the desert she finds that the closer she gets, the harder it is.

8. The Terminal

Viktor Navorski (Tom Hanks) is a man without a country. When his flight took off he had one, but by the time he landed in JFK, his Eastern European fatherland is no longer recognized by the U.S. government. So he’s struck in a bureaucratic no man’s land and stranded at the airport. It’s a humorous and heart-warming tale that will make you feel bad about freaking out over a little delay.

9. Murder on the Orient Express
Agatha Christie’s novel comes to life in this 1974 film set in 1935. Detective Hercule Poirot is traveling on the Orient Express and — wouldn’t you know it — someone is murdered. The train gets stuck in snow which gives Poirot time to solve the case before the local police can get involved.

10. Airplane!
In Leslie Nielsen’s funniest movie, he plays an ex-pilot who’s afraid to fly but has to take over when the pilot gets sick. He’s no Capt. Sullenberger but he gets the job done while delivering laugh after laugh along the way. 

What are your favorite movies about the trials and tribulations of traveling?

One Response to Top Ten Travel Movies: Planes, Trains and Automobiles

  1. jen laceda April 19, 2009 at 12:38 pm #

    Lovely list. Yearning to see Darjeeling Limited. Sounds like a fun, quirky movie I’d like! All the classic A. Hepburn movies too, i.e. Roman Holiday, etc.

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