Lesson: The truth about great road trips is they are more a journey of the soul than the body.
3. Almost Famous (2000) – What could be more cool than to have a road trip with rock stars? Not because of the drugs, the alcohol, or the girls (hmm…), but the chance to be up close and personal with the source of music that you love.
William Miller (Patrick Fugit) is a 15-year old boy who wants to be a rock journalist. Through a stroke of fate, he gets an assignment with the legendary Rolling Stone magazine, and he goes with the fictional band Stillwater on tour. As a journalist he is torn between his growing friendship with the band, especially the lead guitarist Russell (Billy Crudup), and his mission to tell the truth about the tension between the band members.
On the road he also falls in love with Penny Lane (Kate Hudson), the leader of quasi-groupies of Stillwater. Penny Lane is also has feelings for Russell, and this triangle is played out over the course of the band’s tour, as well as William’s quest to get his story done.
The standout scene is in the tour bus. Everyone is quiet in the aftermath of a big fight between the band members. The song “Tiny Dancer” by Elton John starts playing, and one by one they sing along. The music reaches out to them, and they go with it. Soon they’re all singing, even William and Penny Lane. The music binds them together despite their personal differences.
This is a perfect movie. The actors are good, the story is original (it’s a semi-autobiographical account of Writer/Director Cameron Crowe’s life as a writer for Rolling Stone magazine), the music of the era is pure rock and roll, and the characters are more real than our politicians.
Lesson: “Now go do your best. ‘Be bold and mighty forces will come to your aid.’ Goethe said that. It's not too late for you to be a person of substance.” – Elaine Miller (William’s mom)
2. The Hangover (2009) – Four friends go on a trip to Vegas for a bachelor party because one of them is about to get married in two days. They party the night away, and the next morning they wake up with a baby, a tiger in the bathroom, a missing groom, and no memory of what happened.
They try to piece together what happened but only as the clues appear do they truly realize how wild their party really was. They encounter a naked Asian man, one of them is married to a stripper, and the tiger they have was stolen from Mike Tyson.
This movie is for all of us who went out of town, got wasted, and all of the adventures in between. Yes, guys get drunk in the city all the time, but when it’s in another place it becomes more special. We want to make the trip memorable by drowning it in alcohol and forgetting all that happened. I know that doesn’t make sense, but you guys get what I mean right?
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Lesson: Cap a good road trip with a few cold beers. It makes the memories more special.
1. Elizabethtown (2005) – This is a good movie, but the payoff is towards the end, and it doesn’t let go from there.
Drew Baylor (Orlando Bloom) is about to kill himself because the shoe he designed is an epic fail. In his boss’s words, it’s “a disaster of mythic proportions, [...] a folktale told to others that makes other people feel more alive because it didn't happen to them.” Before he succeeds in ending his life, he receives a call saying that his father passed away.
He puts his suicide on hold and travels to his dad’s hometown, to bring the ashes back for his sister and mother. He meets a pretty flight attendant, Claire (Kirsten Dunst) who gives him directions to his father’s hometown along with her phone number.
Drew learns more about his father through the people who loved his dad. His relationship with Claire also begins to deepen, until they talk and realize they may not be right for each other.
His mom and sister arrive for his dad’s memorial, and it’s time for Drew to go back home with his father’s remains. He decides to drive, at Claire’s insistence, rather than take the plane.
She gives him an elaborate map with instructions, directions, and CDs to play along the way. He follows her map and discovers the beauty of road trips—the interesting places to see and the perfect music to experience them by. More importantly, it allows him to spend time with his father alone. Drew talks to his dad and finds closure in their shared trip together.
This last part immortalized the movie for me, creating a standard by which road trips are judged by. Again, director Cameron Crowe chooses an Elton John song to accompany this scene, “My Father’s Gun”, and it is perfect for the part.
Lesson: It’s never too late to go on a road trip you’ll never forget.
To read Dinzo's "8 memorable road trips (Part 1)," click here.