14 Terrifying Movie Road Trips
Thanksgiving is only a couple of weeks away, and many people will be planning road trips to see their friends and family in different parts of the country. In real life, road trips can be long and boring, but the vast majority are extremely uneventful. But of course, this isn't the case in movies, where lengthy car journeys are often turned into something dramatic, funny--or terrifying.
We've rounded up some of the scariest road trips to feature in movies. Some of these are family vacations that go horribly wrong, while others are business trips where the unlucky travelers end up in the wrong place at the wrong time. In many cases, the protagonists encounter someone who wants to rob them, kill them, or use them as cover to get away from law enforcement, making for some truly terrifying road-based thrills.
For more automotive terror, check out GameSpot's ranking of the craziest killer car movies ever made. And if you want something slightly more wholesome, we've also got a Thanksgiving guide to the best movies about families.
14. Joyride (2001)
Life as a long-distance truck driver can get pretty dull, so why not liven it up with some old fashioned murder? A trio of kids driving from California to Colorado play a cruel prank on a truck driver known as Rusty Nail, who decides that hunting them down in his massive vehicle is an appropriate response to their mischief.
13. Say Yes (2001)
This tense South Korean movie focuses on a couple taking a trip for a relaxing winter vacation to celebrate their first wedding anniversary. Unfortunately, a small accident leads to a nightmarish experience with an intense drifter known only as M, who relentlessly pursues them, taking the film into seriously bloody territory.
12. The Hitch-Hiker (1953)
A classic film noir that set the template for many scary road trip movies. Two friends are making the trip from Southern California to the Mexican town of San Felipe for a fishing trip, and pick up a hitchhiker named Myers on the way. Unfortunately, Myers is a dangerous criminal who spends his days robbing and killing those unlucky enough to pick him up. Needless to say, our heroes don't get much fishing done.
11. Breakdown (1997)
Rule one of cross-country road trips through potentially dangerous areas should be: don't do anything to attract attention to yourself. Unfortunately, married couple Jeff and Amy Taylor (Kurt Russell and Kathleen Quinlan) decide to make the journey from Boston to San Diego in a bright red, expensive jeep, so it's little surprise they are targeted by a desert-dwelling gang which kidnaps Amy and demands a ransom.
10. Roadgames (1981)
This highly entertaining Australian thriller puts an interesting spin on the scary road trip movie. Rather than trying to escape the film's truck-driving serial killer, its two protagonists (Stacey Keach and Jamie Lee Curtis) are on his trail, in an attempt to identify and stop him. It's certainly a novel way to liven up a long road trip.
9. The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974)
The kids making a journey through rural Texas to visit their grandfather's house should've scrapped their trip as soon as the crazy knife-wielding hitchhiker climbed into their van. Unfortunately, they keep going after kicking him out, and find themselves prisoners of the rest of his family, the cannibalistic Sawyer clan.
8. The Hitcher (1986)
You can't blame young Jim Halsey for picking up a hitchhiker to break up the boredom of his long trip from Chicago to San Diego to deliver a car. Unfortunately, the hitcher is a psychopathic serial killer named John Nash, played by a terrifying Rutger Hauer, who plans on making Jim his next victim.
7. The Hills have Eyes (1977)
If you're the character in a horror movie and you're ever warned to stay on the main road by an old local, then it's a really good idea to do just that. Unluckily for the family making a road trip to California in Wes Craven's scary classic, they decide to go off road in rural Nevada and encounter the inbred cannibalistic crazies living there.
6. Judgment Night (1993)
This '90s oddity features a quartet of young guys (Emilio Estevez, Cuba Gooding Jr, Jeremy Piven, and Stephen Dorff) who decide to make the trip to watch a boxing match in Chicago in a luxurious rented RV. But again, their flashy ride draws far too much attention when they find themselves in a dangerous neighborhood, leading to a terrifying nocturnal fight for survival.
5. Hitch-hike (1977)
Another road trip, another crazy hitchhiker. In this cult Italian exploitation movie, a reporter and his wife are heading to LA and pick up a hitcher along the way, played by Last House of the Left's always-terrifying David Hess. He's an escapee from a mental asylum and takes the couple hostage in an attempt to make it to Mexico without being detected. It's a gritty, grueling experience that again makes you wonder why anyone ever picks up hitchhikers.
4. Kalifornia (1993)
Some people take a road trip for a vacation or business trip. Others take one to visit loved ones or make a delivery. But in the case of journalist Brian Kessler and photographer Carrie Laughlin, it's to research serial killers. Inevitably, they end up with an actual psychopath and girlfriend in their car, played with scary conviction by Brad Pitt and Juliette Lewis. Things do not go well.
3. From Dusk Till Dawn (1996)
The scary road trip in this collaboration between writer Quentin Tarantino and director Robert Rodriguez only occupies the first section of the movie, but it's a memorable one. Criminal brothers Seth and Richie Gecko (George Clooney and Tarantino) kidnap a vacationing family in their RV and force them to travel to Mexico. The movie shifts gears when they cross the border and find themselves in a bar run by bloodthirsty vampires, making the preceding road trip seem like a jolly fun time in comparison.
2. Race With the Devil (1975)
It's not just serial killers and murderous backwoods families you need to watch out for when making that long-planned road trip. The two unfortunate couples driving an RV from San Antonio, Texas to a ski resort in Aspen, Colorado, accidentally witness a ritual sacrifice by a satanic cult while stopped for the night, and find themselves pursued across Texas by a convoy of truck-driving devil worshippers.
1. Duel (1971)
David Mann's trip across Southern California to meet a client should've been simple enough, but he didn't plan on encountering the murderous driver of a huge tanker trunk, who will stop at nothing to run the unlucky businessman off the road. Steven Spielberg's debut film remains a classic of automotive terror.