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The Rules of a Movie Road Trip

Updated on June 18, 2010

From Chevy Chase's "National Lampoon's Vacation" to Robin Williams "RV" the road trip be it with family or friends is a recurring idea for a movie, one which gets wheeled out every now and then by someone who thinks they can give it a fresh new take. But whilst their intentions may be good it is a fact that most road trip movies play by the same set of rules, scenes and story elements which tend to be almost identical to something done in another road trip movie. As such there is a formula and set of rules which are used in almost every road trip movie.

#1 - Don't take your everyday car

It seems that the starting point for any road trip movie is the car and 9 out of 10 times the car or vehicle used is not the everyday run around. Nope, in "RV" they got the hideous recreational vehicle known as "The Big Rolling Turd" and in "National Lampoon's Vacation" Clark Griswold ended up with that equally hideous green and wood effect station wagon. And as you can see the uglier the vehicle the better because then it will lead to both embarrassment and arguments.

Needless to say there are exceptions to the rules and in "Genevieve", a movie you might not instantly think of when it comes to being a road trip movie, the choice of vehicle, a 1904 Darracq, is most definitely not a day to day car even for when "Genevieve" was made.

#2 - The More the Merrier

In most road trip movies the rule of thumb is at least 4 people in a vehicle, although the more the merrier be it family, friends or hitch hikers. The important thing is that being confined in a vehicle for hours on end is going to lead to two things, bad smells and arguments as stress levels rise and tempers flare.

#3 - There Maybe Trouble Ahead

Now a road trip movie wouldn't be a road trip movie unless your vehicle breaks down at least once, preferably more than once. It can be as something as simple as a flat tyre or something more significant like radiator trouble, but no matter what it is going to happen and it will cause even more arguments. Of course being stuck in the middle of nowhere with a broken down vehicle means someone has to go for help and if the troubles of driving on the road weren't bad enough animals and nature will get you.

But it's not all bad, or is it, because even when you are stuck in the middle of nowhere you can usually find a back water garage that can come to your rescue, although why no one calls for road side assistance is beyond me. Unfortunately a back water garage will have you at their mercy which often means waiting around for a part to arrive and then paying extortionate rates just to get your car back. If you're lucky they will loan you a vehicle but you can bet that it will be an unroadworthy wreck with no mod cons or alternatively you just steal a vehicle and a school bus will most certainly give you plenty of room.

#4 - You Gotta Stop

It's a dead cert that any road trip featured in a movie is going to take some time and you are gonna have to stop at some point for a sleep, especially when travelling with family. But it doesn't matter whether you have planned ahead and booked a room or just rolled up at a motel it's guaranteed to not be a pleasant stay. You're going to suffer from an unhelpful or weird receptionist, uncomfortable beds, shared bedrooms and dodgy plumbing. And no matter what you do never try the local cuisine it won't be good.

It actually doesn't even matter if you are in an RV just ask Robin Williams because whilst a trailer park may seem like a safe bet you can equally bet on both over helpful and over friendly neighbours who suddenly want to be your best friends for life.

#5 - You Will Get There In The End

It doesn't matter how many arguments and breakdowns you have or run ins with weirdo’s and battles with nature you will get to your destination in the end. You may be as battered and filthy as your vehicle but perseverance will lead you to the B in from A to B. Of course the destination may not be what you expected and so it becomes a case of taking pride in that you achieved it.


So there you have the rules of road trip movies and quite simply if you've seen one road trip movie the chances are you've seen them all.

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