Ten of the best American road trips on film

To hail the re-release of iconic biopic Easy Rider this week, we celebrate US road trips on screen

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With iconic indie Easy Rider hitting screens in London as part of the BFI's Dennis Hopper retrospective this week, hit the highways with the misfits an chancers of our other fave American road movies.

BONNIE & CLYDE, (1967)

This pioneering, unprecedentedly blood-spattered New Hollywood film – heavily indebted to the French New Wave – stars Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway as real-life Depression-era outlaw couple Clyde Barrow and Bonnie Parker, tearing through America on a robbery spree toward their inevitable shoot-out deaths.

BADLANDS, (1973)

Terrence Malick’s dark, lyrical classic was also inspired by a real-life murder spree. Holly (Sissy Spacek) is a teen in a dead-end South Dakota town, who runs off with young hood Kit (Martin Sheen), romanticising their bond even as his crimes become increasingly violent. 

THELMA & LOUISE, (1991)

Thelma (Geena Davis) leaves her controlling husband and goes on a holiday with sassy waitress Louise (Susan Sarandon) in her Ford Thunderbird convertible in this feminist classic. The pair are soon speeding west into Grand Canyon territory, pursued by cops after shooting a would-be rapist outside a roadside bar.

MY OWN PRIVATE IDAHO, (1991)

In Gus Van Sant’s dreamy misfit classic we first see narcoleptic Mike (River Phoenix) standing on a deserted stretch of highway, unsure how he got there. When he teams up with fellow street hustler Scott (Keanu Reeves), the two set out from Portland toward Idaho to find Mike’s mother.

ON THE ROAD, (2012)

Jack Kerouac’s generation-defining 1957 Beat bible, bursting with poetic exuberance, portrayed the mad cross-country adventures of the writer and his friend Neal Cassady as they reject conformity for a more free-spirited, maverick existence. This spontaneous prose could never fully be translated to screen – but director Walter Salles and his cast Sam Riley, Garrett Hedlund and Kristen Stewart give it a good shot.

TWO-LANE BLACKTOP, (1971)

Another existentialist road movie from the era of Easy Rider, Monte Hellman’s stark cult classic has minimal dialogue and is set among the world of street-racing drifters. Decades before Gosling’s nameless Drive antihero, its characters are simply dubbed The Driver, The Mechanic, GTO and The Girl.

BUFFALO 66, (1998)

Vincent Gallo stars in his own low-budget directing debut as convict Billy Brown. He kidnaps a teen tap-dancing student (Christina Ricci), insisting she pretend to be his wife to impress the parents he’s on his way to visit. His not very reluctant hostage tries to cut through his wounded misanthropy in this cult off-kilter romance.

THE LIVING END, (1992)

A film critic who’s just found out he has HIV (Craig Gilmore) hooks up with a hitch-hiker who’s also HIV-positive (Mike Dytri) and has just stolen a car and shot a trio of homophobes. Espousing the motto “Fuck the world”, the pair take off from the law across the western US in Gregg Araki’s vibrant pop-culture infused indie.

PARIS, TEXAS (1984)

A man wanders out of the vast, barren Texas desert after a four-year absence, reluctant to speak, and returns to LA with his brother to be reunited with his young son. They then journey back to Texas to find his former wife, and determine why she left them, in this portrait by director Wim Wenders of a sprawling America in which it’s hard to put down roots, and easy to become lost.

TRUE ROMANCE, (1993)

This vibrantly pulpy road movie, one of the iconic films of the '90s with the stamp of script-writer Tarantino all over it, sees Christian Slater as a chancer who hooks up with a call-girl (Patricia Arquette) at a kung-fu triple-bill in Detroit. Marrying her the next morning, he kills her pimp and they hit the road to sell the case of blow they've acquired and hightail it to Mexico.

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