8. The Hit (1984)
“Even Bad Guys Have Bad Days” . Willie Parker was a London gangster who took a deal to testify against his colleagues, ten years later he lives comfortably in Spain. He is found and kidnapped by two hitmen, one is an aged professional (John Hurt) and the other is his hot headed apprentice (Tim Roth). They are supposed to bring him to Paris for a trial, but it is a long way to Paris.
This is an excellent British gangster movie that doesn’t actually take place in Britain, essentially being a road movie that goes throughout Spain. It features absolutely brilliant performances from Stamp, Hurt, and Roth. Roth was nominated for a BAFTA for Most Outstanding Newcomer.
It also has great direction from Stephen Frears, good script, fast pacing, nice scenic shots, good dialogue and relationship building, and a great score and opening music by Eric Clapton. There is a nice juxtaposition during the movie of the scenery and road traveling versus the impending fate of Parker.
9. Pee Wee’s Big Adventure (1985)
“The story of a rebel and his bike” . The perfect combination of three extremely talented individuals all coming together to create a fun story that does an amazing job of mixing elements of innocence, comedy, and terror. It’s about the innocent man-child Pee Wee Herman and his cross country trek searching for his stolen bike, encountering a wide host of characters and places.
Paul Reubens, director Tim Burton, and composer Danny Elfman were all essentially new at the time and would go on to have great success. Reubens by this time had been performing as Pee Wee for several years and had the character down pat.
He would go on to more success with a film sequel titled Big Top Pee Wee, a children’s television show titled Pee Wee’s Playhouse, and a resurgence with the 2016 released Pee Wee’s Big Holiday. He created one of the most iconic comedic characters in cinema history, going down with the likes of Charlie Chaplin’s Tramp, The Three Stooges, and many others.
10. The Sure Thing (1985)
“He’s onto a sure thing . . . but ends up on the funniest journey to romance you’ve ever seen” . Gib (John Cusack) is a college freshman who is trying to travel cross country in order to meet his friend in California, who has promised him a girl that will have sex with him with no strings attached.
He answers an ad for a ride share and ends up traveling with a girl he dislikes, who is a somewhat anal retentive person that is going to visit her boyfriend. They end up getting kicked out of the car they were traveling in and are put through the road trip from hell, slowly beginning to like each other during their journey west.
It’s a somewhat typical romantic comedy from the 1980’s that is boosted by the appearances of John Cusack, Daphne Zuniga, Anthony Edwards, and Tim Robbins. Cusack is pretty much his usual character from this era of his filmography; he’s funny, weird, and tends to have a decent amount of amusing dialogue.
If you liked him in Better off Dead, One Crazy Summer, and Hot Pursuit, then you should find this one enjoyable. Interestingly, Cusack was only 16 when they made this picture and the producer had to be made his legal guardian. Robbins is also funny as the straight-laced and offbeat car driver that wants to sing showtunes while they drive.
11. Something Wild (1986)
“Something Different Something Daring Something Dangerous” . The wild and sexy Lulu (Melanie Griffith) kidnaps the square businessman Charles Driggs (Jeff Daniels) and takes him on a weekend road trip where they pretend to be a married couple, while visiting her mother and also attending her high school reunion. The trip is fun and light until they arrive at the reunion and meet her ex-convict husband Ray (Ray Liotta), where things turn dark as Ray wants her back and kidnaps her.
This movie really mixes things up. It goes from a comedy to a thriller about halfway through the picture, almost becoming a neo-noir. The performances from Daniels, Griffith, and Liotta are all excellent, with all three of them being nominated for Golden Globes.
This was an early picture from director Jonathan Demme, who would later go on to make The Silence of the Lambs and Philadelphia. The music in this is excellent; featuring a title song from David Byrne, The Troggs “Wild Thing,” a mix of reggae music, and more than 40 other titles.
12. Candy Mountain (1987)
This is a wonderful low budget independent drama about a struggling musician from New York that makes a deal to track down the famous guitar maker Elmore Silk. His travels take him from New York into Canada, meeting various quirky people and Silk’s family members and acquaintances along the way.
It is much in the style of a Jim Jarmusch independent film, who also makes an uncredited appearance. The things that stand out is the great score, music, and cast; featuring cameos from musicians Tom Waits, Dr. John, Leon Redbone, David Johansen, and Joe Strummer. It stars Kevin J. O’Connor and features appearances by Laurie Holden, Roberts Blossom, Wayne Robson, and Harris Yulin.
13. Leningrad Cowboys Go America (1989)
“No commercial potential. Go to America. They’ll put up with anything there…” . This is a story about a Russian band called the Leningrad Cowboys, a polka style band with an unusual look that is told to go to America because people will buy anything there.
When they arrive, the agent that they are supposed to meet in New York tells them to learn Rock n’ Roll and books them for a wedding gig in Mexico. This leads to a cross country trip that takes them through the likes of Memphis, parts of Louisiana, parts of Texas, and finally Mexico. Along the way they learn and play various types of music, get exploited by their greedy manager, get put in jail, beg for money on the streets, and play in small clubs.
It’s a crazy mix of The Blues Brothers, a Jim Jarmusch independent film, and John Waters kookiness. It honestly has to be one of the funniest movies about a road trip and also one of the funniest about being a musician or in a band. Part of the hilarity is their style; they all have long quiff hairstyles and absurdly longer winklepicker shoes. It’s also the great script and totally original and absurd situations that they get put into and their deadpan reactions.
This was written and directed by Aki Kaurismaki, a fairly well known Finnish independent filmmaker that is notorious for making parodies of various genres. The picture also features cameos from director Jim Jarmusch, blues guitarist Duke Robillard, and rockabilly artist Colonel Robert Morris.
14. Until the End of the World (1991)
“It’s 1999. The government will kill for his invention. One woman will do anything for his love. Together they share an adventure that circles the globe – And invades the mind” . Director Wim Wenders returns to the road genre, this time in the form of a sci-fi drama. Claire (Solveig Dommartin) follows Trevor (William Hurt) around the globe partly because of money that he stole from her and also because of her physical fascination with him.
He is being hunted because of a device that he has stolen that multiple government agencies are after. They are eventually joined by Claire’s ex-lover Eugene (Sam Neil), who follows them and tells of their story. Their travels take them through Venice, Paris, Berlin, Lisbon, Moscow, China, Japan, Australia, and San Francisco; covering a total of 15 cities in seven countries and four continents.
The film has an interesting style and look to it, featuring lots of neon lights and bright and unusual clothing in order to give it a futuristic look. It contains beautiful and interesting locations and superb cinematography, with Wender’s usual style of long road shots from inside vehicles and vast scenic shots.
The music is impressive and is considered one of the most memorable things from this picture, with performances by Depeche Mode, U2, R.E.M., Talking Heads, Patti Smith, Can, Elvis Costello, Nick Cave, Lou Reed, and others. The initial version of the movie runs near two and a half hours, which Wenders referred to as the Readers Digest version of it. He would later go on to release a director’s cut that is 288 minutes long.
15. The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert (1994)
“It’s the Australian film that blitzed overseas box offices. It caused a near riot at the Cannes Film Festival. It won an Academy Award. It’s fun, daring, over-the-top and unforgettable. It’s a road movie with attitude and the occasional frock” .
This is an Australian comedy-drama about two drag queens (Hugo Weaving and Guy Pierce) and a transgender woman (Terrance Stamp) that end up traveling from Sydney across the Australian Outback in a bus called Priscilla, in order to perform a four week gig at a casino. Along the way they deal with oppression, get stuck in the desert, and encounter various groups and individuals.
This is an absolutely outstanding film that is both hilarious and touching and features three powerful performances from Weaving, Pierce, and Stamp. It also has some superb cinematography of the Australian Outback that is simply breathtaking at times.
While this is a story that deals with LGBT issues, it is so much more. It also deals with relationships, family, love, and being an aging artist facing the end of their career. It won an Academy Award for Best Costume Design and was also nominated for 7 BAFTA’s, including the nomination of Best Actor for Terrence Stamp.
All the works cited can be found here.
Author Bio: Raul J. Vantassle is a jazz musician whose key strokes move about the page creating an explosion of formlessness to form, or just total bullshit. His heroes include John Waters, Robert Crumb, Charles Bukowski, and the Cobra Commander. His Knowledge of film goes across the board but he specializes in Asian and cult cinema. He may be the filthiest person alive. You can visit his blog here.