Hollywood has an unusual fascination with hitchhiking. Perhaps it’s just a convenient way to crash characters that are complete strangers into the same location for a period, or maybe it’s just become a horror movie trope that won’t leave anytime soon.
The fact of the matter is that these are the most common themes in hitchhiking movies; either the characters are traveling and having self realizing experiences, or they get murdered. But more often than not, it turns out, it’s the former conceptual base that provides the most high quality film library.
1. The Hitchhiking Movie
This is a documentary, making it distinct from most other items on the list. Unfortunately, the guys heading out on a journey across the United States — using only the help and rides given them by strangers — are not the most likeable characters to be forced to follow for a full movie. Ryan and Phillip team up to traverse 3,000 miles from New York to Los Angeles in a mere week, which is somewhat interesting, even if the two are a little bit bro-y and annoying. The production value is also rather terrible. But still, if you want to see what modern day hitchhiking in the United States might look like, this is a decent film for showing just that, and not much more.
2. Into the Wild
This has become a well known movie for it’s less-than-cheerful ending (spoiler alert) but is generally considered a good movie about finding oneself. Rotten Tomatoes gave it an 82% and NPR’s Bob Mondello said of the film’s protagonist, “his incredible frailty and the cinematic’s increasing grandeur mesh in a way that’s at once iconic and wrenching.” The story begins with Christopher McCandless graduating from school and giving away everything he owned before taking off on a road trip, hitchhiking his way to the Alaskan wilderness where he eventually struggles for survival.
3. The Sucker
The Sucker or Le Corniaud as it was called in its original French, is a movie made in 1965 about a man on a road trip who encounters misfortune that forces him to catch a ride in a stranger’s car — a car that just so happens to be filled with the criminal contraband. This of course attracts the wrong kind of attention, and the adventure begins. It’s an older, more French version of your average hitchhiker’s movie, but it’s certainly worth a watch.
4. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy
It would be a mistake not to include one of the most obvious and unusual hitchhiking movies of all time: The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, an adaption from Douglas Adams’ humorous science fiction book series. It does include hitchhiking, but not in your normal way. This time, the hitchhiker is not exactly willing, and he’s being dragged not only from his home and city, but from his very planet — which has been blown up. What follows is a trip around the galaxy and beyond, with some very strange traveling companions. The book was also made into a TV series before it was a film, but fans have different critiques of each one, as is usual for any adaption of a long running and well loved book series.
5. The Motorcycle Diaries
The Motorcycle Diaries is a movie that manages to hit on all the major points a film of its type should. It’s about both love and friendship, coming of age, and learning about the world from the back (and front) of a motorcycle. The protagonist is soon-to-be-doctor, Che Guevara, and the film takes you through his novel’s description of his trip through South America with his friend and fellow student, Alberto Granado. Obviously the trip isn’t entirely without incident, and the two have various fights and disagreements, not a few of which have to do with their very thin wallet.
6. The Hitcher
It would be a mistake not to include at least one horror movie. Therefore, we’ll take a look at The Hitcher, a film that makes you groan and cover your face at the stupidity of its main characters, but certainly deserves its place in the horror genre with a few good jumps. Jim and Grace, played by Zachary Knight (The Prince and Me) and Sophia Bush (John Tucker Must Die) pick up a hitchhiker on a road trip through New Mexico who turns out to be very twisted. He proceeds to kill a load of people and then blame the two of them for the carnage, and then the story unfolds predictably from there. Lots of blood and screaming; roll credits.