Twenty-five years ago today, Thelma and Louise jumped behind the wheel in search of a little freedom — and although the trip didn’t turn out quite the way they’d planned, their movie has enjoyed a far smoother journey, becoming one of the best-reviewed (and most popular) road trip movies of the last quarter-century. In celebration of Thelma and Louise‘s latest milestone, we’ve compiled a list of audience-tested and critic-approved road trip movies that’ll keep you going for hours.
The Roadblocks: Unfortunately, the brothers embark on their journey with a suspended license, and they aren’t about to slow down for a little inconvenience like the police (or mall pedestrians). Meanwhile, one of Jake’s spurned girlfriends (a bazooka-toting Carrie Fisher) is hot on their tail, and has no intention of letting the Blues Brothers reunite — or, for that matter, letting Jake live. Confined to the highways and byways of Illinois, The Blues Brothers doesn’t cover as much ground as most road movies, but it’s a high-speed trip — and it culminates in one of the most righteous car crashes ever filmed.
Notes from the Road: “Constantly hilarious, with a comic supporting cast to die for.” — Jeffrey M. Anderson, San Francisco Examiner
The Roadblocks: Borat is essentially his own roadblock — if he isn’t shocking and/or offending middle Americans with his witless comments about women and minorities, he’s picking an epic, distressingly naked fight with his best friend and producer (Ken Davitian). It will not surprise you to learn that things don’t go according to plan.
Notes from the Road: “Although I knew it was dishonest, cynical, and the ultimate in cheap-shot humor, I laughed more at Borat than at any other film this year. So I guess the joke is on me.” — Peter Keough, Boston Phoenix
The Roadblocks: It’s the establishment, man. Okay, so they might be biking across the country with drug money stuffed in a tube, but Wyatt and Billy aren’t bad guys. Problem is, their scruffy appearance and relaxed attitude toward local customs have a way of attracting untoward attention from The Man.
Notes from the Road: “This is a glorious widescreen vision of a hot and bothered America, at once beautiful and lost.” — Ian Nathan, Empire
The Roadblocks: They’re both broke and the girl needs $850, for starters — and then there’s the complicated tangle of personal relationships that forces its way into their path at seemingly every turn, initiating a series of uncomfortable reckonings along the way.
Notes from the Road: “Grandma is a small film, but one with huge things to say about the meaning of family and the value of living on one’s own terms.” — Calvin Wilson, St. Louis Post-Dispatch
The Roadblocks: Screenwriter Robert Riskin pulled out all the stops for Colbert and Gable’s journey, including a series of screwball misunderstandings, the most famous hitchhiking scene in movie history, and an added dash of last-minute wedding excitement in the final act. If its ingredients all seem overly familiar now, it’s because they worked so brilliantly here.
Notes from the Road: “It Happened One Night is a true classic in every sense of the word, one that withstands the test of time and indeed defies it completely.” — Scott Nash, Three Movie Buffs
The Roadblocks: The Hoovers are on a tight 48-hour timetable, for starters; making matters more difficult is their lack of funds, as well as the gloomy presence of Sheryl’s brother (Steve Carell), who recently tried to commit suicide, and Richard’s father (Alan Arkin), whose heroin habit just got him kicked out of a retirement home. And then there’s the matter of that ancient yellow Microbus…
Notes from the Road: “This inspirational, hilariously sad dysfunctional-family-road-trip dramedy offers absolutely everything — except pretension.” — Brian Marder, Hollywood.com
The Roadblocks: Once Mardukas loudly feigns fear of flying and gets them kicked off their flight to L.A., he and Walsh are forced to embark on a hellish cross-country journey that finds them dodging interference from the mob, a competing bounty hunter (John Ashton), and their own loathing for one another. A sequel is reportedly in the works; here’s hoping the decades in between haven’t softened their mutual disdain/begrudging respect.
Notes from the Road: “When it comes to odd-couple action comedies, this is pretty much the epitome of how to do it.” — Luke Y. Thompson, New Times
The Roadblocks: As pretty much everyone who watched it already knew, Ernesto grew up to be the revolutionary Che Guevara — and The Motorcycle Diaries dramatizes his political awakening on the trip, sparked by firsthand experience with systemic corruption and a poverty-stricken populace.
Notes from the Road: “You get so caught up in the beauty of the images, and lost in the weathered faces found along the way, you quite forget that you’re traveling with Che Guevara — which is, of course, exactly what the original experience would be.” — Moira MacDonald, Seattle Times
The Roadblocks: Unfortunately, Kermit also attracts the attention of Doc Hopper (Charles Durning) and his mealy-mouthed sidekick Max (Austin Pendleton), whose frog legs restaurant franchise needs a new spokesman — and who doesn’t take kindly to being spurned by a banjo-playing frog.
Notes from the Road: “Still one of many great reasons to be a movie buff.” — Rory L. Aronsky, Film Threat
The Roadblocks: Things go wrong early and often, from the eight-headlighted lemon Clark buys from an unscrupulous car salesman (Eugene Levy) to an ill-advised pit stop at the depressing Kansas homestead of Cousin Eddie (Randy Quaid) and his off-putting clan. It doesn’t help that beneath Clark’s family values exterior lurks the heart of a drooling lech; his panting pursuit of an unnamed beauty (Christie Brinkley) causes almost as many problems as his refusal to ask for directions.
Notes from the Road: “Constantly hilarious, with a comic supporting cast to die for.” — Jeffrey M. Anderson, San Francisco Examiner
The Roadblocks: Well, for starters, the Alamo doesn’t have a basement. And then there’s the biker gang, and the fire at a pet store, and the former child star in possession of the bicycle… what doesn’t stand between poor Pee-Wee and his bike?
Notes from the Road: “It’s a true original — a comedy maverick that looks and feels like no other movie I know.” — David Steritt, Christian Science Monitor
The Roadblocks: Cruise’s efforts to get back to Los Angeles by plane are thwarted by his brother’s phobia, forcing the two to travel by car (and make regular stops for viewings of The People’s Court). Naturally, the slow journey in close quarters brings the two closer together — and brings up long-buried family secrets.
Notes from the Road: “A fascinating, often very moving, frequently funny film.” — Jay Boyar, Orlando Sentinel
The Roadblocks: Sideways is full of messy detours and unfortunate events, including a broken nose for Jack, a car crash, and a howling early-morning pursuit by a naked giant (memorably played by Lost’s M.C. Gainey) — but they can all be traced back to one thing: Jack’s fear of commitment and unquenchable thirst for sexual conquest.
Notes from the Road: “From its first minutes, maybe even from the credits, you know you are seeing something very special.” –Terry Lawson, Detroit Free Press
The Roadblocks: Men, mostly. After Louise fatally intervenes in an attempted rape on Thelma, the duo turn fugitive — and their journey is further complicated when a run-in with a hunky young thief (Brad Pitt) leaves them caught for cash and stuck in an increasingly desperate spot.
Notes from the Road: “Their adventures, while tinged with the fatalism that attends any crime spree, have the thrilling, life-affirming energy for which the best road movies are remembered.” — Janet Maslin, New York Times
The Roadblocks: To begin with, the idyllic secluded beach they’ve promised their female companion doesn’t exist — which actually isn’t as big a problem as the hornet’s nest of secrets and repressed desires that’s knocked over after they all start fooling around. It’s the end of an era for Mexican politics, and for our protagonist’s relationships.
Notes from the Road: “Easily one of the sexiest and funniest films about class struggle ever made.” –Manohla Dargis, L.A. Weekly
Four new films open wide, but they may not be enough to stop the North American box office from suffering its third consecutive down weekend.
Leading the way is the Paramount sequel "Jackass: Number Two" which will enjoy the widest release by far. The rest of the films will take moviegoers back in time just as so many other recent releases have done. Focus Features unleashes Jet Li‘s martial arts epic "Fearless," MGM takes off with the World War I adventure "Flyboys," and Sony remakes the political thriller "All the King’s Men."
Four years ago, Paramount shocked the industry with the number one bow for its crude stunts flick "Jackass: The Movie" which managed to keep "The Ring" out of the top spot on the weekend right before Halloween. Its $22.8M debut and eventual $64.3M domestic take and DVD success helped to bring about a sequel, "Jackass: Number Two" which hopes to conquer the charts once again. The R-rated pic regroups the team from the hit MTV reality series including Johnny Knoxville and finds them taking part in another series of outlandish don’t-try-this-at-home antics. Males in their late teens and early twenties are the target audience here although slightly older guys who were devoted followers a half-decade ago might also be up for some nostalgia.
The first "Jackass" bowed to a muscular $9,073 average from 2,509 playdates which at today’s ticket prices would be over $10,000. "Number Two" is not likely to match that amount though. A wider launch will dilute the average a bit and the franchise has aged and is no longer at the peak of its popularity. But since Knoxville has found more mainstream success recently with films like "The Dukes of Hazzard" and "The Ringer," the studio is hoping that some new fans will give "Two" a try. Competition for males will be fierce with last weekend’s top film "Gridiron Gang" still playing to sports-loving boys and men while Jet Li’s new film "Fearless" will
steal away dudes who dig martial arts fighting, bones cracking, and necks breaking. Male dollars will be stretched to the limit this weekend and an already sluggish marketplace will mean that there will only be so much overall traffic. Busting into over 3,000 theaters, "Jackass: Number Two" will rank number one and may open with around $23M.
Mr. Knoxville and co. are back to cheat death and reason.
Also gunning for young men with R-rated fare is Focus Features with the historical martial arts actioner "Fearless" starring Jet Li. Already a hit at cinemas in Asia, Australia, and parts of Europe, the period pic tells the true story of a legendary fighter who inspired his nation in China at the start of the twentieth century. With a bigger star in the lead, "Fearless" is sure to perform better than Tony Jaa‘s Thai actioner "The Protector" which bowed to just $5M two weeks earlier. Li has a consistently loyal fan following that is likely to turn out especially since the marketing campaign is pushing the claim that this is his final martial arts film ever. This tactic gives the pic a level of urgency, although it should not mean much to those outside of his fan base. Crossover potential to mainstream action fans is not very likely, though the actor’s pull with urban males should not be underestimated.
Still, Li has posted some impressive numbers in his career. Each of his six films from this decade has launched with an opening weekend average of at least $5,500 with five having averaged more than $6,000. His last effort "Unleashed" bowed last summer to $10.9M and a solid $5,570 average while 2004’s Chinese blockbuster "Hero" conquered the North American charts for two straight weeks bowing to an impressive $18M and $8,865 average. Foreign language films pretty much never do that in the U.S. market. "Fearless" will not duplicate the success of "Hero" which used the "Quentin Tarantino Presents" tag to attract extra biz. Plus with "Jackass" taking away many young men this weekend, only the true followers will make it out. But reviews have been very positive (the best for any new
release) and advance buzz from overseas has been encouraging too. Kicking its way into roughly 1,806 theaters, "Fearless" might debut to about $9M.
World War I bi-planes are the draw in "Flyboys," a new historical action adventure being released by MGM. The PG-13 film stars James Franco as a courageous American pilot in France who devotes his life to fighting for the Allies. With a high pricetag and no proven stars that can sell in America, this is yet another risky period film packed into the slow month of September. The "inspired by a true story" description used by half of the films in the current top ten is once again in play here. With sex and bad language kept to a minimum, "Flyboys" hopes to appeal to a broad family audience so adults can bring their kids. However, the starpower and subject matter are both lacking making this a tough sell at the box office especially since the marketplace is already filled with mediocre product. Zooming into 2,033 theaters, "Flyboys" might climb to around $7M over the weekend.
After taking a beating at the Toronto International Film Festival, Sony’s remake "All the King’s Men" enters the marketplace on Friday with more subdued expectations. The PG-13 reworking of the classic 1949 political thriller stars Sean Penn as a charismatic politician from the South who gains power and flirts with corruption in the process. The all-star cast also includes Jude Law, Kate Winslet, Anthony Hopkins, Mark Ruffalo, and James Gandolfini. Distributors often utilize the Toronto fest to generate buzz for their Oscar contenders right before their fall commercial openings, but in this case, it seemed to have backfired with so many reviewers panning the pic. "Men" should play exclusively to a mature adult audience as teens will yawn at the premise. The marketplace has been flooded with period dramas in recent weeks with "The Black Dahlia," "Hollywoodland," and "The Illusionist" all going after the same audience. Competition will be a major factor.
Sony is not giving its usual saturation release to "King’s Men," but instead campaigning in just 1,514 theaters this weekend hoping some positive buzz will spread. The lack of screens will keep the gross in check and the bad reviews should sting even more. Last weekend, "Dahlia" found out the hard way how far a serious film for adults can go when the critics give a thumbs down. The film’s starpower is about its only major asset right now, but will it be enough to make moviegoers risk their dollars? With negative press, an abundance of direct competition, and only a moderate amount of theaters, "All the King’s Men" could find itself with only $7M this weekend and a rocky road ahead.
In limited release, The Weinstein Co. unleashes its horror flick "Feast" in 140 theaters with special midnight shows across the country on Friday and Saturday. The latest winner from the Project Greenlight series is directed by John Gulager and finds a group of people trapped inside a bar fighting off flesh-eating creatures. Filmmaker Michel Gondry ("Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind") returns to the surreal with "The Science of Sleep," a new fantasy drama starring Gael García Bernal ("The Motorcycle Diaries") as a man whose dreams collide with reality. Warner Independent is opening the film on Friday in eight major U.S. markets and will expand it across the country next weekend. Miramax platforms its futuristic sci-fi toon "Renaissance" in New York and Los Angeles. Set in Paris in the year
2054, the R-rated tale is the latest film to bring the look of a graphic novel to the big screen.
Last weekend’s top film "Gridiron Gang" is sure to lose its first place ranking. The Rock‘s films never have very good legs on the second weekend as evidenced by the sophomore declines of his recent films – 48% for 2003’s "The Rundown," 46% for 2004’s "Walking Tall," and a horrendous 73% for last fall’s "Doom." While "Gang" was not a favorite with critics, it has been getting favorable responses from moviegoers so its drop this weekend may not be too bad. Competition for young males will be a factor with the dueling R pics "Jackass" and "Fearless," but younger boys may still be up for an uplifting football tale. "Gridiron Gang" might see a decline of 45% to around $8M giving Sony a reasonable ten-day cume of $25M.
Universal’s murder mystery "The Black Dahlia" was not too powerful in its opening last weekend and both critics and moviegoers are giving negative feedback. A 50% fall would leave the Brian De Palma flick with $5M for the frame and a weak $18M after ten days.
LAST YEAR: One A-list Hollywood blonde replaced another at the top of the charts. Jodie Foster‘s kidnapping thriller "Flightplan" flew to number one opening with a strong $24.6M. The Buena Vista release went on to gross $89.7M making it the top-grossing film in the September-October corridor for 2005. In second place, Warner Bros. expanded its animated film "Corpse Bride" nationally taking in $19.1M. The Tim Burton–Johnny Depp collaboration found its way to $53.4M. Reese Witherspoon fell from first to third with her comedy "Just Like Heaven" which collected $9.6M. Opening in fourth place with moderate results was the skating drama "Roll Bounce" which bowed to $7.6M on its way to $17.4M from less than 1,700 theaters. Close behind in fifth was the hit thriller "The Exorcism of Emily Rose" with $7.5M in its third round.
Author: Gitesh Pandya, www.BoxOfficeGuru.com
Master filmmaker Steven Spielberg has averaged a movie a year since the year 2000, so we understand if the guy needs to take a few months vacation, but (as usual) the guy’s back burner is absolutely stuffed with alluring projects … not the least of which is the ravenously anticipated "Indiana Jones 4."
The Hollywood Reporter recently ran a piece with new DreamWorks honcho Stacy Snider, and the article threw a spotlight on what Mr. Spielberg will be up to next:
"Snider’s current task will be finding the next picture Spielberg directs. Having made two 2005 movies back-to-back, "War of the Worlds" and "Munich," the prolific Spielberg has not yet committed to his next film. But there are several projects on the drawing board, including an Abraham Lincoln biopic, an untitled space travel project at Paramount and a script by Rod Lurie set in the glitzy New York media world as well as "Indiana Jones 4," which Paramount would co-finance with George Lucas‘ Lucasfilm. David Koepp‘s script is expected in two to three months."
Director Walter Salles and producer Francis Ford Coppola plan to bring Jack Kerouac’s classic book "On the Road" to the silver screen, according to The Hollywood Reporter. Mr. Salles will work with his "Motorcycle Diaries" screenwriter Jose Rivera in adapting Kerouac’s tale into a movie.
"The 1957 novel, which played a role in giving rise to the Beat movement, is narrated by Kerouac’s thinly veiled alter ego Sal Paradise, who gets inspired to hit the road and see America. The story follows his ups and downs as he hitchhikes, hops trains, meets other travelers, struggles for meals and explores the themes of freedom and longing."
No word yet on who’ll be starring in the film, but expect it to be a controversial choice, regardless of who snags the lead role.