The Quest for Fun: Top 5 Road Trip Comedies

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Other than dancing in the streets, is there a better summertime activity than road-tripping? Sunshine coming in through the convertible, a cool breeze parting your hair, and nothing but paved possibility ahead.

Such a time-honored activity has been respectfully immortalized in many a good movie. And no doubt, some amazing dramas have taken it to the streets — Easy Rider, Badlands, Thelma & Louise, to name a few. But for me, the road trip movie is all about comedy. From fish-out-of-water wackiness to hi-speed high-jinks, there’s just something about a road trip which is ripe for laughs.

Since it’s officially summer, and the time is right for laughs on the open road, here’s my top five road trip comedies. Believe me, it was hard to ignore so many honorable mentions — Planes, Trains & Automobiles, The Muppet Movie, Cannonball Run… — and I could easily be talked out of one or two on this list. So go ahead and fire away in the comments.

5. Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan (2006) — One of the tenets of a really good road trip comedy is showing off America, and then laughing at it. With his complete lack of tact and manners, and oddly foreign ways, Sacha Baron Cohen’s clueless Kazakhstanian is the perfect character for revealing the hilarious underbelly of America. Although perhaps we see a bit too much of Borat’s traveling companion’s underbelly as well.

4. Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure (1985) — Speaking of showcasing America, while out searching for perhaps the most coveted bicycle of all time, Pee-Wee discovers some of the weirdest tourist attractions this country has to offer. Such settings on their own are laugh-incubators, but they become all the more hilarious when you visit them with Pee-Wee and director Tim Burton.

3. National Lampoon’s Animal House (1978) — Though I’d call it a college movie more than a road trip movie, when you Google “road trip movies,” this Lampoon’s classic pops right up. Which is good enough for me, especially when you consider the immortal road trip the boys take in Flounder’s brother’s car (“Wait ’till Otis sees us!”). As such, the film is easily good enough to make this list, solely based on laughs alone, but when you throw into the mix Eric “Otter” Stratton’s 1959 Roman Red C1 Corvette, it jumps all the way up to number three.

2. Tommy Boy (1995) — If I were basing this list solely on how often I quote a movie, No. 1 would have to be this one (“Fat guy in little coat,” “That’s gonna leave a mark,” “He’s a big dumb animal, isn’t he folks?”). But the list is about impact as much as it is about laughs, and while Chris Farley and David Spade have certainly impacted the way I speak, No.1 on my list actually changed the way I view the world.

1. National Lampoon’s Vacation (1983): Chevy Chase and the Griswolds made a road trip comedy that was so darn funny, it miraculously spun all my terrible childhood road trip memories into positive ones. No longer would I see the annual family trip down to Arizona as torture, but instead, it became a quest, a “quest for fun.” One that didn’t need to stop in Arizona. That’s the power of a good road trip comedy.

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