These Cinematic Journeys Can Add Some Summer To Your New Year

Feeling cooped-up after a holiday spent amid winter’s tragically limited color scheme? Finding yourself in the middle of a month-long holiday hangover? Believe us, you’re not alone.

Good thing there’s an easy way to kick your new year into gear: a good, old American road trip!

Wait, what’s that you say? The roads suck, summer seems a million miles away, and anywhere you’d want to go is covered in brown piles of slushy snow leftovers?

Well, fear not! Here are ten totally streamable flicks involving (mostly) warm-weather road travel that can offer an escape from the doldrums of January and a much-needed glimpse of nature’s full swatch palette.

The Darjeeling Limited

At its heart, Wes Anderson’s fifth movie is relatable to any American family forced to set aside their quirks and differences to arrive at a destination in peace. The story centers on three brothers who take a long, winding train ride through India attempting to “be brothers like we used to be.” And while it involves neither a car nor a panorama of America, the film’s unrestrained narrative, mellow aesthetics and obtuse comedic sensibilities will replicate the state of calm and bemusement elicited by a long, satisfying summer road trip. 

On The Road

Based on the Jack Kerouac book that to this day inspires gypster Instagram feeds and free-spirited travelogues, this 2012 feature is perfect for the adventure seeker hemmed in by winter weather and a serious lack of post-holiday vacation days. It follows writer Sal Paradise and friend Dean Moriarty in a series of intoxicated wanderings featuring girls, jazz and poetry as they tread through America toward San Francisco in a beat-up Cadillac. 

Little Miss Sunshine

A wonderfully weird extended family dealing with the realities of working-class strife piles into a vintage VW bus to shepherd their youngest member, Olive, to the finals of a distant beauty pageant. As their vehicle slowly disintegrates on the 800-mile trip, the family’s members come together to safeguard Olive’s dreams through willpower and compromise. Meanwhile, the girl’s stoic mother, suicidal gay uncle, foul-mouthed grandfather, and voluntarily mute brother provide a rag-tag group of comedic travel companions. With the road trip serving as a crucible for addressing their own personal struggles, each member shares their own subtle sparkles of encouragement as Olive attempts to be the next Little Miss Sunshine—capped by a truly unforgettable performance in the pageant’s finals. 


Need some legit excitement and vintage LA vistas amid the lifeless expanse that is January? Try this quintessential ‘90s flick starring Keanu Reeves, whose one-liners are need-to-behold remnants of a simpler time—for society and terrorist-based vehicular plots. As a member of the LAPD bomb squad, it’s Keanu’s job to stop a madman bomber from blowing up a bus full of hard-scrabble Angelenos and tourists who are, for the record, doing their city tour ALL WRONG. The wiring is rigged so that once the bus hits 50 mph, it can’t drop below that threshold, or else… boom. Strap yourself in for a wild ride—then stay for the sweet twists and well-earned romantic ending.

The Bucket List

In case you needed some inspiration to go with your distant RGB-colored locales, this film follows two senior citizens (Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman) who break out of their cancer treatment facility for one final, epic journey. Freeman plays a retired auto mechanic with a big idea: to make a list of all the things they should do and see before kicking the bucket. Meanwhile, Nicholson is a wealthy businessman with a big ego whose four divorces weren’t enough to whet his appetite for romance. He has the goods they need—namely a private jet in waiting—to pull off their unconventional approach to fulfilling life’s promise, providing a narrative that is equal parts positivity and enchantment.

The Motorcycle Diaries

Although he never went out of style among liberal arts majors and patrons of hipster dive bars, Che Guevara’s formative years provide a glimpse of the sepia-toned world as seen through the eyes of a warm-hearted and curious adventurer. This biopic chronicles a South American road trip in which Guevara (Gael García Bernal) and a friend discover how the wealth gap affects everyday people living under extreme conditions. Meanwhile, sweeping views of Brazil and Peru provide a breathtaking cinematic backdrop that may very well help you through the whole seasonal affective thing you have going on. 

Fly Colt Fly: Legend of the Barefoot Bandit

In 2010, the nation was captivated by a selfie-taking teenager who left behind chalk footprints and notes saying, “Cya!” in a string of car, boat and airplane heists that he documented on the go. Colton Harris-Moore, the teenage outlaw who became known as “Barefoot Bandit,” took his spree across six states and three countries before he was finally caught. Now out of prison, he currently works for his old lawyer who sees promise in the young man. With original animation and live action re-enactments, this documentary tells Colt’s story of fending for himself, hop-scotching continents and crash-landing planes—all while posting it to Facebook. 

Into The Wild

Ever been so burned out that you wanted to ditch the internet, tell off Uncle Sam, say goodbye to society and go live off the land on your own terms? That’s exactly what Christopher McCandless (Emile Hirsch) did after graduating from Emory University and choosing to spurn his life of privilege for one of adventure and grave danger. Forsaking his physical possessions and the many opportunities afforded by his education, he sets out for a more spiritually fulfilling journey in America’s untouched wilds—with tragic consequences. Warning: Some seriously depressing winter stuff near the end of this one. Be warned if you’re already teetering on the edge of Seasonal Affective Disorder.

The Wraith

Okay, so this one isn’t about a road trip at all. But it’s got a really cool supernatural car so… just bear with us? In this ‘80s cult classic, a young Charlie Sheen stars as a high-school jock who returns from the dead as a techno-morphing race car to exact revenge on a gang of desert-dwelling punks responsible for his murder. The black turbo-charged racing car brings the thunder throughout by appearing at random to go on killing sprees—all while trying for one more chance to return to Sheen’s high school sweetheart. And when he does, she won’t stop him from taking part in a series of epic highway races that will decide his destiny—for better or worse. Is it just us who thinks this is awesome? It is? We apologize. But it stays.

Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle

One of the most epic road trip movies of all time (and a fine piece of 2000s nostalgia) involves two unlikely pot heads dealing with a full-on case of the munchies in an era of marijuana prohibition. Reticent investment banker, Harold (John Cho), joins his excitable best friend, Kumar (Kal Penn), as the pair look for an escape from their own closed-off existence of dank ganja and mindless TV with a trip to a distant White Castle franchise. The midnight journey produces a menagerie of strange characters (pre-HIMYM Neil Patrick Harris, anyone?), hysterical plot twists and even a foot race with a cheetah through the streets of New Jersey—all in the name of America’s favorite cheese-and-onion-smothered sliders.