The open road – films to inspire your American adventure

Things can get a bit crazy out on the open road and off the beaten track, so it is natural that countless filmmakers have taken advantage of this narrative to create a natural storyboard that us humans are so inherently inquisitive about. Not many people dream about staying in the same place; we are settlers by nature after all.

The United States has long been synonymous with the great unknown and the forging of a grand adventure or journey. Whether it be its vast plains, wild frontiers, barren national parks or endless highways, the USA has often been a backdrop for for big screen pilgrimages. Sometimes the journey’s end goal is grand; with the subject of the film seeking solitude or a clean break in a difficult time of their life. Sometimes the end goal is adventurous self-indulgence. Sometimes the end goal is just copious amounts of wine.

However, the unchanging aspect of these journeys are the locations in which they take place. Of course, scores of films have been produced around, shot at and written about the landscapes and cityscapes of this huge land mass. However, the traveler is interested in the scenic and geographical nuisances, the attention paid to the story’s surroundings, and the role the location itself plays in the film.

I’ve chosen a selection of my favourite films that this bill. They’re something a little different, feature stunning cinematography, are great films in their own right, and will give you a real feel for the locations across the US that are at the forefront of the films’ ambience and plot.

wild2
Wild (2014) Reese Witherspoon revives her career with new credibility as she treks 1100 miles from California to Washington, via Oregon, as Cheryl Strayed (ironically). She traverses though snow, countryside and mountainside to shrug off the personal demons that haunted her city life.
truegrit
True Grit (2010) True Grit features some of the best cinematography you’ll ever see, depicting the vast open beauty of Texas and New Mexico. Follow young Mattie Ross’s journey across wild desert and country plains as she pursues her father’s murderer alongside the fearsome Texan sheriff, Rooster Cogburn.
intothewild
Into the Wild (2007) Brooding and stroppy, Christopher McCandless wants no part of society as it stands. In his quest to find true fulfilment and meaning, he discards his belongings and survives on hard labour and meagre supplies as he travels across the country, through California via South Dakota, until he reaches Alaska: his final destination, his enlightenment and potentially his grim end.
caring
The Fundamentals of Caring (2016) Paul Rudd plays Ben, a caregiver who feels that 18 year old Trevor deserves to see all of the peculiar, rural, day-time TV sights that he has mapped out across the country, despite his MD. The pair pick up unusual characters along the way as they hit the road towards Denver, via Salt Lake City and the fictional World’s Deepest Pit (actually set at the spectacular Bellwood Quarry in Atlanta, Georgia). This sarcastic, touching comedy gives you the fuzzy feeling that life on the road can be enjoyed even on the shortest of journeys.
127 hours
127 Hours (2010) James Franco plays Aron Ralston, a buchaneering climber that heads out into the night towards Utah’s Canyonlands. Ralston treks and climbs Blue John Canyon until he finds himself trapped by a boulder in one of the canyon’s slots, giving him the true solitude he desired. This is a tale of survival that gives you staggering views of this almost Martian desert landscape.
sideways3
Sideways (2004) Wine fiends and friends Miles Raymond and Jack Cole take a road trip into the Santa Ynez Valley vineyards of California ahead of Jack’s big day in this subtly hilarious and cleverly written drama. If this doesn’t make you want to sample the good stuff in the idyllic California, the nothing will.

 

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