Route 66 is the most famous road in the United States. Route 66 originally covered 2,418 miles from Chicago, Illinois, to Santa Monica, California, passing through neon-lit motels, odd roadside attractions, and vast areas of desolate wilderness. Route 66 has used as a setting for numerous films due to its abundance of creative ideas. The Route 66 Big 8 Motel in El Reno, Oklahoma, is the setting for a critical sequence in the 1988 film Rain Man. Films like Rain Man went on to garner countless honors and awards, including four Oscars. Even if a film shot on Route 66 doesn’t win an Oscar, it’s still worth seeing. Here are eleven must-see movies you may binge-watch over the course of a few days:
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1. Easy Rider (1969)
This 1969 film follows two “biker-hippies” (Peter Fonda and Dennis Hopper) as they travel from Santa Monica, California, to New Orleans, through the west and southern United States. In their travels, they come across a wide variety of interesting people and bizarre events. The ultimate road-trip movie for bikers, this film cost less than $1 million to make yet ended up earning over $60 million worldwide. Due of Hollywood’s cinematic revolution, this film is particularly interesting. It was one of the first low-budget films to achieve success, and it dealt with issues such as sexuality, politics, and narcotics with unparalleled honesty.
2. The Grapes of Wrath (1940)
This 1940 film is based on John Steinbeck’s novel of the same name. It depicts the narrative of an Oklahoman family on their way to California via Route 66. A poor Joad family flees Oklahoma during the Great Depression and the Dust Bowl era in quest of a better life. There are numerous scenes in this film that take place on Route 66, which Steinbeck coined the title “Mother Road” to describe, and many of these locales are portrayed heavily. AFI’s 2007 list of the finest movies ever made places this film at number 230, and it was nominated for seven Academy Awards during that time.
3. Bagdad Cafe (1987)
It is a German comedy-drama set in a remote truck stop café and motel in the Mojave Desert of California in 1987 known as Out of Rosenheim. The plot revolves around the friendship that forms between two ladies who have recently divorced their spouses. A former Route 66 village, Bagdad, California, serves as the backdrop for this film. The community was bypassed by Interstate 40 in 1973 and finally demolished. It’s no secret that the movie was shot at a location in Newberry Springs, California, which has since been renamed the “Bagdad Cafe.” As a result, this cafe has become a popular site for tourists on the road.
4. No Country for Old Men (2007)
Based on a novel written by Cormac McCarthy, the film tells the story of two Texas welders who find themselves caught in a cat-and-mouse game in the deserts of west Texas. Though it appears as though the Desert Sands Motel in the last scene is located somewhere in Texas, it was really photographed and shot in New Mexico’s Albuquerque on Historic Highway 6. Four Academy Awards and countless other honors were awarded to this film, which has been much praised.
5. Little Miss Sunshine (2006)
To transport Olive to a beauty competition in Redondo Beach, California, the Hoover crew crams into a canary yellow Volkswagen bus and sets off on a cross-country journey. Chandler, Phoenix, and Flagstaff, Arizona, all along Route 66, served as backdrops for scenes of the road trip. This film, which had a budget of $8 million, generated more than $100 million worldwide despite having a comparatively low budget. Stay for the strange family antics and the beautiful scenery.
6. National Lampoon’s Vacation (1983)
Wally World is the theme park that the Griswold family visits in this famous movie, starring Chevy Chase. In this film, Flagstaff, Arizona, as well as other highway places in the state, were included. Monument Valley and the Grand Canyon, which the cast actually visited, are two more destinations near Route 66. (unlike the cast of Thelma and Louise). The film was a huge success at the box office, grossing over $60 million and boosting the National Lampoon franchise’s profile.
7. Starman (1984)
Meteor Crater Trading Post, located outside Winslow, AZ on Route 66, was the setting for this 1984 film despite being shot in several places around America. It was at this crater area that the movie’s central character (Starman) met and returned to his ship in order to tell a story about an alien who has come to Earth in response to the gold gramophone record from Voyager 2. This film is notable because it is the first time a science-fiction film has been nominated for an Academy Award for acting (Jeff Bridges for Best Actor).
8. Beneath the Dark (2010)
An Amboy, California town situated along Route 66 deep in the Mojave Desert, the setting for this 2010 thriller. This picture introduces us to a couple traveling through the desert to attend a wedding, much of it takes place in Roy’s Motel and Cafe, a location that has appeared in numerous horror films over the years. A bizarre and unnerving experience awaits them when they stop at Roy’s for a roadside rest stop. Secrets are revealed. Amboy, once a major rest station along the road, has been largely abandoned since the completion of Interstate 40 in 1973. Watch this film to be scared, but also to learn about Route 66’s history, and then go to Roy’s for a visit.
9. Wild Hogs (2007)
A bunch of suburban bikers in their 50s and 60s set out on a road trip in search of excitement. When these “Wild Hogs” meet a New Mexican biker gang nicknamed the Del Fuegos, they realize they’ve gotten more than they bargained for. The Route 66 town of Albuquerque, New Mexico, has seen an inflow of recreational bikers since the filming of this comedic flick. Visit Albuquerque’s The Library Pub & Grill, which was featured in the movie as a welcoming biker bar on Central Avenue (Route 66).
10. Natural Born Killers (1994)
This 1994 satire film portraying a murder spree by serial killers was shot on Route 66 in a variety of locales (Illinois, New Mexico, and Arizona). Mickey and Mallory Knox’s Dodge Challenger drives down the highway, killing every few miles, in this controversial film that examines the dangers of glorifying persons in the media. In a distinctive frenetic and psychedelic style, this film uses animation, numerous color schemes, and several camera angles as well as various filters and special effects to create an unforgettable experience.
11. The Outsiders (1983)
Route 66 goes right through Tulsa, Oklahoma, where this 1983 film adaptation of S.E. Hinton’s novel of the same name was filmed. There’s a lot of tension between the Greasers, a young gang in the movie, and another group in the movie (the Socials). When a member of the Social is killed in a fight, the ramifications are grave and terrible for everyone involved. Featuring some of Hollywood’s biggest names as they were just starting out, this picture was a major hit at the box office and earned a spot in our list of the best movies of all time.