Road movie  

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"Until The Road Warrior (1982) and The Hitcher (1985), Duel is probably the best "road" chase movie ever made." --Horror Films of the 1970s (2007) by John Kenneth Muir

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

A road film is a film genre in which the film's plot takes places during a journey.



The genre has its roots in spoken and written tales of epic journeys, such as the Odyssey and the Aeneid. The road film is a standard plot employed by screenwriters. It is a kind of bildungsroman, a kind of story in which the hero changes, grows or improves over the course of the story. The modern "road picture" is to filmmakers what the heroic quest was to Medieval writers.

The on-the-road plot was used at the birth of American Cinema but blossomed in the years after WWII, reflecting the boom of America's postwar automobility and youth culture. Even so, awareness of the "road picture" as a genre came only in the 1960s with Easy Rider and Bonnie and Clyde.


Like their antecedents, the road movie tends towards an episodic structure. In each episode, there is a challenge to be met, although not all of them will be met successfully. In most episodes, a piece of the plot is revealed - knowledge or allies are gained, and so on. Sometimes, as Heart of Darkness, this progress is inverted, and each episode represents a loss rather than a gain.

Road movies traditionally end in one of four ways:

  • having met with triumph at their ultimate destination, the protagonist(s) return home, wiser for their experiences.
  • at the end of the journey, the protagonist(s) find a new home at their destination.
  • the journey continues endlessly. In such cases, the last shot of the film is almost always the driver's point of view of a lonely highway at night.
  • having realised that, as a result of their journey, they can never go home, the protagonists either choose death or are killed.

Notable Examples

Notable examples include Duel; Easy Rider; Vanishing Point; The Long Long Trailer; Planes, Trains and Automobiles; Just Like the Son; Natural Born Killers; Rain Man; Thelma and Louise; Elizabethtown; Wild at Heart; Little Miss Sunshine; Sideways; Dutch; Y tu mamá también; Rat Race; Larger Than Life; The Hitcher; The Cannonball Run; The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert; Harold & Kumar Go To White Castle; Transamerica; Children of Men; National Lampoon's Vacation; Fandango; Road Trip; Two-Lane Blacktop; and A Goofy Movie.


Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Road movie" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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