A road movie is best defined as a journey taken by a character or group of characters. Those involved in the journey will travel a long distance to reach their destination, but usually the journey is more important than the stated destination. There will often be beautiful scenery, plenty of self-discovery, and character development favored over plot, and road movies are often drama/adventure movies.

All of these things can be found in road movies that are both formulaic or a bit more unconventional. These more unusual road movies can prove to be very interesting, as the road movie’s laid-back and rather simple basic narrative structure allows it to be mixed with unexpected genres, settings, or emotions.


1 “Mad Max: Fury Road” (2015)

Big Bang in Mad Max: Fury Road - 2015

A dynamic action movie with a unique dark atmosphere. Mad Max: Fury Road rejuvenated Crazy Max series with a bloody and merciless spectacle. It seems like a small group of rebellious women – plus a reluctant protagonist – are battling a small army of car-obsessed fanatics in essentially one long chase (with a few moments of downtime) in a post-apocalyptic wasteland.

It has a lot more action than a typical road movie, but most of the movie is about traveling somewhere, and there is definitely a lot of driving. In addition, the characters learn about each other as the film progresses, and Max and the other protagonist, Furiosa, develop an understanding towards the end of the film, showing also the film’s personal journey.

2 ‘Dogma’ (1999)


Kevin Smith best known for his down-to-earth comedies, but he has had many films branching into unexpected genres and directions. The first – and perhaps the most famous – was 1999. Dogmacomedy/fantasy/adventure film with an unusual take on the apocalyptic conflict between good and evil, angels and demons.

In short, numerous characters cross paths while traveling from Illinois to New Jersey, and out of all this chaos, a lot of comedic situations emerge. There is low-brow humor, comments about religion and faith, and Matt Damon playing a character named Loki almost two decades before he (sort of) did it again in Thor: Ragnarok.

3 “Wild at Heart” (1990)

Nicolas Cage in a snakeskin jacket in Wild at Heart

wild at heart accepts the same premise, improved in the 1967s Bonnie and Clyde, making it more extreme, bizarre and unpredictable. It’s about as unusual as you’d expect from a movie about young lovers on the run, when one of those lovers is played Nicolas Cage to the greatest extent, and behind all this is none other than David Lynch.

The film is essentially two hours of Sailor (Cage) and Lula (Laura Dern), while avoiding various obnoxious characters sent by Lula’s mother to kill Sailor. Along the way, there are many references to music and filmography. Elvis Presley and enough Wizard of Oz references to make it sometimes seem like it’s some twisted remake of the 1939 classic. As the title suggests, this is definitely one of the wildest road movies of all time.

4 “Badlands” (1973)

Badlands - 1973
Image via Warner Bros.

Terrence Malickthe filmography gets more and more abstract as it goes on in many ways, which is probably good for some and maybe not so good for others. Therefore, it is not surprising that his debut feature film, Badlandsperhaps the most straightforward narrative story about two young lovers on the run from the law.

They are constantly on the move in this story, and that sense of momentum and dangerous adventure gives it a road movie feel. It also contains some of Malick’s signature traits, such as poetic voice-overs and masterfully shot natural shots, that set him apart from more typical “lovers on the run” films.

5 “Finding Nemo” (2003)

Finding Nemo - Marlene and Dory looking at each other
Image via Pixar

Despite the fact that it is located almost completely under water and far from any roads, Finding Nemo maybe works like a road movie. His story tells of a very caring father who is suddenly taken away from his only son, and then he resolutely sets out on a long journey to get him back.

Along the way, he makes friends, learns to be a better father, and eventually reaches his destination and finds the titular Nemo. Its Dory-focused sequel, Finding Doryless of a road movie, but actually contains a scene in which a group of fish manage to drive a vehicle on an open road.

6 “American Cutie” (2016)

Star in the car during a trip to American Honey.

american honey is a very personal film with an epic running time of 163 minutes. For such a long film, its premise is remarkably simple. A teenage girl wants to escape the boredom of her life, so she joins a group of rebellious young people who sell magazines by day and party by night as they travel throughout the Midwest.

This is a film about living in the present, arguing that finding yourself takes time, and aimlessness can be needed to help this process. Its length and drawn-out, sometimes unfocused nature set it apart from other road movies, though it’s undeniably captivating due to the acting, the way it looks, and the soundtrack.

7 “Until the end of the world” (1991)

Until the End of the World - 1991
Image via Village Roadshow Pictures

Known as the film that was meant to be “the best road movie ever”. Until the end of the world certainly has a chance at this title. The first thing that makes it stand out in the subgenre is its length: the director’s cut is almost five hours long (and the less popular theatrical cut is still 2.5+ hours anyway).

It also features an international journey in which the main characters visit many countries before reaching their destination in the Australian Outback, where much of the second half of the film takes place. Few films are so varied, long, or filled with so many interesting and varied locations that Until the end of the world right there with the best and wildest road movies of all time.

8 “Thelma and Louise” (1991)

Thelma and Louise - 1991
Image via Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

Thelma and Louise is one of the definitive road movies of American cinema. It centers on two women who go on the run after killing a man in self-defense, and their journey together on the run from the law strengthens their bond, each going on a sort of personal odyssey together.

Its crime/thriller aspects don’t set it apart too much from other road movies, as it’s fairly common to see characters running away. However, Thelma and Louise notable because the two main characters are characters on the run, and it’s a powerful feminist film that pits two confident women against a misogynistic society.

9 “Weekend” (1967)

Weekend - 1967

Despite Jean-Luc Godard not new to weird movies, Weekend still feels particularly strange. This darkly comedic satire from the French director of New Wave is about a weekend trip that turns into chaos and violence that really borders on the apocalyptic by the end of the film.

Weekend can’t be blamed for his ambition given that he touches on high political and social topics, as well as having some very interesting creative choices and plenty of on-screen annoyances. This film isn’t for everyone, but those who are tired of the more formulaic road movies will at least feel that this nightmarish take on the subgenre has a lot to offer in unique ways.

10 “Who’s singing there?” (1980)

Who sings there _ - 1980
Image via Centar Film

Yugoslav drama, which takes place shortly before the outbreak of World War II. Who sings there? definitely feels like a breath of fresh air in the road movie subgenre. It tells the story of a group of eccentric characters who all have to travel by bus across rough terrain and suffer various misadventures on their way to Belgrade.

There is a certain tension associated with the early knowledge that the action takes place in 1941, when those who know their history know that the invasion of German troops into Yugoslavia is imminent. This creates a film with an unusual tone, but in the end it works quite well, sometimes funny and sometimes hard.