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  • Emma Greenleaf

5 Road Movies Perfect for Summer

Whether or not a road trip is included in your summer plans, there is just something about them that is synonymous with the warmest season. What is it about grabbing your closest friends or family, packing up the trunk, and getting out of town that just screams summer? No one can know for sure. Tensions rise in the heat, but so does vulnerability and openness as these movies show us. On screen, road trips are a time for breakthroughs and discoveries (often of a sexual or emotional nature). This subgenre is unsurprisingly robust, accounting for the idealization of the road trip. Road films aren’t always critical successes (anyone remember the odd pairing of Seth Rogen and Barbra Streisand in The Guilt Trip (2012), but they will almost always do well at the box office because of how nostalgic and emotional they make people. Out of thousands of road trip films, I’ve chosen five that truly epitomize the genre and summer in more ways than just many scenes taking place in a car.

#1 Little Miss Sunshine (2006)

There’s bound to be a few tears that roll in every road movie, but this one is the quintessential tear-jerker of the bunch. Focusing on a family, in which each member negotiates the melancholy of human nature, this film is the perfect combination of drama and comedy. With stellar performances by Steve Carell, Paul Dano, and a very young Abigail Breslin, this movie has become a classic for good reason - it brings together a family who needs each other, as summer road trips should.

#2 Y Tu Mamá También (2001)

You know back when I mentioned road films about sexual discoveries? Well that is what this one is all about. Two young and immature friends - Julio (Gael García Bernal) and Tenoch (Diego Luna) - decide to go on a road trip with an older woman, Ana (Ana López Mercado), in need of her own personal breakthrough. Over the course of their trip through the beautiful Mexican countryside, things get really steamy and hot - in every sense of the word.

#3 The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert (1994)

A sprawling, beautiful film through the Australian desert with Guy Pearce as a drag queen. What’s not to love? This film has become a classic in many genres. Drag culture, queer cinema, and of course, road films have all claimed this entertaining movie for their own. Not only does it have some of the most memorable scenes of all time, but its cinematography and costume design (for which it won the 1995 Academy Award) are a pure marvel.

#4 The Motorcycle Diaries (2004)

What is it about Gael García Bernal that without fail means summer? No one can know for sure, but I’m not mad about it. In this Che Guevara biopic, Che and his friend Alberto (Rodrigo De la Serna) travel from Brazil to Peru on motorcycle. As we all know the story of Che Guevara and his impact on the world, this bit of backstory provides an interesting outlook on the making of a great leader.

#5 American Honey (2016)

Andrea Arnold’s masterpiece is the most epic of road films. Its two hour and 43-minute runtime is not the only thing that’s expansive about the film. Taking place across multiple states, this tragically beautiful film is a road film, but so much more. It follows a group of reckless teenagers who sell magazine subscriptions to fund a life of partying, all stuffed to capacity in a large white van. This film strips down the often-glamorized aspects of teen sexuality and simultaneously paints a realistic portrait of poverty in America.

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