Well, I’m officially back from my trip to Florida, which I couldn’t have chosen a better way to spend than hanging out inside, competing in martial arts tournaments until my arms were too sore to lift. But I have to say, over 56 hours total on the road in a Greyhound bus will make you remember that such a trip comes with a price. So here, as a souvenir gift, is my list of the top 9 movie road trip songs that helped me stay excited for the journey. Why only the top 9? Because I need to believe this trip doesn’t go on forever.

 

Rules:

– The song must have been featured in a movie with a theatrical release

– The song must have been played in the movie during a travel scene of some kind

– The song should preferably be more about actually traveling than self-discovery or self-improvement or some such.

 

 

 

9. Moving Right Along – The Muppet Movie 

 

Sometimes sheer nostalgia, humor, and memorability is enough, and with the choice between this and On the Open Road from A Goofy Movie, Moving Right Along wins two out of three.

 

 

In this scene, Kermit and Fozzie Bear create an affectionate time-passer of a number that vouches for a breezy outlook on traveling. “Getting there is half the fun, come share it with me!” insists Kermit, one of the few characters we’d trust to make that statement. This one will indeed keep your trip moving right along.

 

 

 

8. Where I Find My Heaven – Dumb and Dumber 

 

Alright, so maybe the song doesn’t directly state that it’s about traveling. Still, there’s something about the depiction of two idiots and their dream road trip that made it impossible to leave off. It’s here that Lloyd and Harry, having traded their minivan that ran out of gas for a mini bike, reinvent themselves as open road rebels and finish their journey to Aspen. They get passing trucks to blow their horns (for various reasons), hold up traffic, refuse to stop for a bathroom break, and freeze themselves together. This, after all, is where they find their heaven, and if it’s enough to play this song over it, you sure as heck can play it over your trip. Sit back and enjoy. (And if you’re worried about the sequel, ask yourself, could it really be any worse than the movies Adam Sandler releases every year? Jim Carrey has been exploring kid movies and film festival projects with decent success over the past few years, and now it’s time for us to welcome him back to the spotlight, in a genre that’s sorely missing his level of talent.)

 

 

7. On the Road Again – Honeysuckle Rose 

 

It’s appeared in a few different movies, but I have to credit the one it premiered in, which, from what I’ve been able to gleam, did use it for some kind of travel scene. I admit, compared to some of the entries on this list, I find this one just okay to listen to, and it’s not one that makes me catch the feeling after several hours driving in a cramped vehicle. (That takes a little more than sheer drifter affection for the lifestyle of traveling.) Still, I do respect its well-earned status as a country classic, which is so great that no list of road trip songs is complete without it. It reminds you that some people really do love the open road, and it helps to pretend you’re one of them.

 

 

6. Highway to Hell – Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief 

 

Admittedly, I can’t quite remember which scene of the movie this song appeared in, so it’s entirely possible that I’m cheating here. But, come on, it’s also listed on the soundtracks of Little Nicky, Final Destination 2, Heavy Metal, and other movies I either can’t remember or didn’t bother to finish. Surely one of them used it in a traveling scene. (Why couldn’t Iron Man 2 have made this easy and used it in a prolonged scene of Tony flying nowhere in particular?)

 

The song itself is classic hard rock and perfect to sing while going down the highway. It won’t exactly make the trip seem more pleasant, but in that, it sort of has its own appeal. It’s the song to vent how much all this driving sucks, for which it now absolutely rocks.

 

 

5. Send Me On My Way – Ice Age

 

I know, other movies used it in their soundtrack before this one, but Ice Age is the one I saw first and the one I remember. Really though, any movie would have only been the excuse to list it. This song could be argued as the anthem for travel scenes, working its way into everyone’s subconscious long before they realize that they’ve heard multiple times in various places or bother to remember the title. Like On the Road Again, it’s a little laid back to get behind as much as the songs in the top half of the list, but I actually find this one more comforting. It just seems to capture the good-natured side of traveling, in a way that reminds us of the highlights on our past trips we still remember affectionately.

 

 

4. Westbound and Down – Smokey and the Bandit

 

I never get tired of this one. With this song playing, there’s no slow spot to get angsty over. It’s far too upbeat, fast paced, and encouraging to not get behind, even if it probably doesn’t quite apply to you. True, Burt Reynolds drawing a sheriff away from his bootlegging buddy doesn’t describe most people’s road trips, but the movie itself has so much fun with life on the highway of any kind, it plays like a team anthem. You only have to grip the wheel and imagine trying to keep up with the others, blazing through that “long way to go” as only you can.

 

 

3. Holiday Road – National Lampoon’s Vacation 

 

No way your trip is as bad as Clark Griswald’s, right? It’s a long way down the holiday road, as this song reminds us. It was for him. It was for us. That’s enough excuse to break into the high spirited classic of a number from the high spirited classic of a movie we all love. The sheer carefree humor of National Lampoon’s Vacation keeps every miserable setback the Griswald’s encounter from bogging down the movie even a little, so the spirit of the whole thing really does match the song. With that in mind, it’s the perfect tune to liven up any distressing road trip and easy to sing along to on top of that. Only by virtue of its short and simple verses does it not quite have the muscle power to finish even higher.

 

Actually, off the top of my head, I’m not entirely sure if the first movie played the song again after the title sequence, during the family’s travels, but the sequels did, so the song counts one way or another.

 

 

2. I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles) – Benny and Joon 

 

Hey, Sam was on a train during the opening scene with this song. That counts.

 

That aside, this spirited and unforgettable number has just one thing to say to the prospect of a long journey: Bring it on. This song is both energetic and cool, bouncy and serious, and it’s capped off by one of the most memorable hooks of all time. It’s good for montages, good for parodies, but most of all, good for turning that dragging drive into your own personal crusade. The one who really had to travel all that way? I’m gonna be.

 

 

1. Life is a Highway – Cars 

 

Oh yeah! Thank goodness Cars used this song so I could put it here. I don’t even care that its version, performed by Rascal Flatts, is slightly inferior. It might not have ranked quite as high in Rolling Stone Magazine’s road trip songs as one or two of the previous entries, but from this angle, it’s the only song that could place first. Either version – especially the Tom Cochrane original – is the perfect answer for those long trips down the highway at the end of a weary day.

 

Just picture it: You’re driving late into the night, tired, stiff, and dreading having to do it again on the trip back. Next year, if you do this again, you’re definitely going to fly there, because there’s no way this is worth it. But then, the radio finishes playing Fancy for the 3rd time in an hour, and the mood changes with a punch when the opening bar of a certain old favorite fires up. Already “one day here and the next day gone” sounds cool and catchy, instead of exhausting. Then comes the windup, you know it by heart, and, wait for it, bam that immortal chorus that has you feeling like a road warrior, ready to do this until the sun rises. Life is a highway! I wanna ride it all night long.

 

 

 

And so, we’ve come to the end of this list. Did I miss any of your favorites? Probably. Please share them in the comments section if you’re as fond of this trope as I am. (Besides, I’m traveling again to Delaware in a couple weeks, and I need all the help I can get.)

 

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