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Posted at 1:50 PM ET, 11/ 5/2010

Friday list: Seven great road trip movies you may have forgotten

By Jen Chaney

Robert Downey Jr. and Zach Galifianakis, hitting the road. (Warner Bros.)

This weekend Robert Downey Jr. and Zach Galifianakis star in "Due Date," thereby joining in a time-honored, cinematic tradition: the road trip movie. I mean, who doesn't love watching a film in which incompatibly matched people gas up the car and head out on the road, only to encounter numerous travel-related high jinks? Answer: no one, unless that movie features Ice Cube and dares to ask the question "Are We There Yet?"

Obviously there are many, many well-known favorites in this genre: "It Happened One Night," "Easy Rider," "Thelma & Louise," and, of course, "Pee-Wee's Big Adventure," just to name a few. But even within this well-covered terrain there are a few slightly more obscure road trip movies that you may have neglected. Today's Friday List covers seven of the best. As always, feel free to share your favorites by posting a comment.

"The Daytrippers": Why take a trip into New York City to find out if your husband is cheating on you when you can bring the whole family? That's the premise behind Greg Mottola's 1996 indie-comedy that features a stellar ensemble (including Hope Davis, Parker Posey, Anne Meara, Liev Schreiber and Stanley Tucci), brilliantly funny dialogue and a punch of a twist ending. It takes place around Thanksgiving, too, making it all that much more appropriate viewing for the season. Bonus: You can watch the whole thing on YouTube.

"The Sure Thing": The premise -- prim girl starts to fall for uninhibited guy while traveling cross-country -- isn't terribly original. But director Rob Reiner and, especially, an irresistibly unhinged John Cusack totally made it work, elevating "The Sure Thing" into one of the best rom-coms of the '80s.

"The Straight Story": Anyone can take a road trip in a car. But it takes a special man -- specifically Alvin Straight, as played in this 1999 film by Oscar nominee Richard Farnsworth -- to ride a lawn mower from Iowa to Wisconsin in order to see his ailing brother. Easily the least bizarre, and perhaps most emotionally moving, film David Lynch has ever made.

"About Schmidt": When people think of brilliant Alexander Payne road-trip films, they tend to, understandably, gravitate toward "Sideways." While I love that film, I have just as much affection for another of Payne's somewhat less-trumpeted films, about a widower (Jack Nicholson) who drives his Winnebago from Omaha to Denver in the vain hope of talking his daughter (again, Hope Davis) out of marrying her well-intentioned, mullet-sporting fiance (Dermot Muilroney). The journey -- colored by narration from Nicholson's letters to a needy Tanzanian boy named Ndugu -- is dark and hilarious. But the end will have you in tears.

"The Puffy Chair": Liz recommended "Baghead" a few weeks ago in this space, when we wrote about hilarious horror movies. Mark and Jay Duplass, the filmmakers behind that indie effort, got their start with this 2005 mumblecore tale about two brothers (and a girlfriend) attempting to transport a beat-up purple La-Z-Boy as a gift to their dad.

"Wendy and Lucy": Michelle Williams delivers a superb performance in this melacholy story of a woman attempting to restart her life in Alaska but unable to get there when she gets arrested and her beloved dog goes missing. Worth watching, but pooch lovers would be wise to have tissues handy.

"The Muppet Movie": Okay, hardly anyone has forgotten about this one since "Rainbow Connection" is forever imprinted on our brains. But we rarely think of this as a road trip movie even though that's exactly what it is: the story of one frog's hopeful attempt to get to Hollywood and his run-ins with Mel Brooks, Charles Durning and the Electric Mayhem along the way. A frog and a bear, seeing America. What could be better?

By Jen Chaney  | November 5, 2010; 1:50 PM ET
Categories:  Friday Lists, Movies, Pop Culture  
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I respect your opinion, and love the Muppet movie, but how is this list complete without the great Britney Spears road trip flick Crossroads.

Posted by: MzFitz | November 5, 2010 2:10 PM | Report abuse

That was supposed to end with one of these "?," not this "."

Posted by: MzFitz | November 5, 2010 2:11 PM | Report abuse

What about "Up"? Does a road trip movie require an actual car?

Posted by: sldyer1 | November 5, 2010 3:14 PM | Report abuse

What about "Up"? Does a road trip movie require an actual car?

Posted by: sldyer1 | November 5, 2010 3:21 PM | Report abuse

don't forget the classic: Planes, Trains and Automobiles!

Posted by: cjbriggs | November 5, 2010 5:55 PM | Report abuse

Midnight Run.

That is all.

Posted by: sorcerers_cat | November 5, 2010 6:46 PM | Report abuse

How can you forget Sullivan's Travels? Veronica Lake, Joel McCrae, Preston Sturgess.

Posted by: lliles | November 6, 2010 10:13 AM | Report abuse

Cjbriggs - I wanted to do this so I could be nice about it: "Planes, Trains and Automobiles" isn't really forgotten. It's been referenced in almost every review of "Due Date," and therefore doesn't really fit this particular list. I'm sure if the ladies had written a "Seven great road trip movies" list it would have been at the top.

Have a great weekend!

Posted by: Aloe9678 | November 7, 2010 11:29 AM | Report abuse

Wim Wenders' "Paris, Texas". My favorite movie of all time. By the way, just seeing the title "The Straight Story" made me choke up. What a sap!

Posted by: mattfugazi | November 7, 2010 5:40 PM | Report abuse

Rain Man.

Posted by: Hunter | November 8, 2010 8:26 AM | Report abuse

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