Barbra Streisand started it.
In “Guilt Trip,” which opens Wednesday, Barbra appears in her first starring role since “The Mirror Has Two Faces” in 1996. She plays Seth Rogen's very Jewish mother, and the two go on the road so he can sell his invention.
The movie's tagline: “Get ready for one mother of a road trip.”
Omaha director-screenwriter Alexander Payne is nearly finished shooting “Nebraska,” his third road movie.
That got us thinking about this popular, timeless genre. When we asked local film experts and fans, we found everybody had a favorite.
Here are a few additional titles too good to pass up:
World-Herald movie critic Bob Fischbach's other too-good-to-miss films
“It Happened One Night,” 1934. A rarity as a romantic comedy that won the best-picture Oscar. Clark Gable and Claudette Colbert are proverbial opposites in this Frank Capra classic, which holds up nearly 80 years later.
“Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore,” 1974. An early Martin Scorsese picture that won Ellen Burstyn an Oscar playing a newly widowed mom trying to make a new life as a singer.
“Almost Famous,” 2000. A high school kid working as a freelance writer for Rolling Stone goes on the road with a rock band and gets his eyes opened. Patrick Fugit, Frances McDormand and Kate Hudson star in director Cameron Crowe's best.
“The Daytrippers,” 1996. I couldn't stop laughing at Hope Davis, Stanley Tucci, Parker Posey, Anne Meara, Liev Schreiber and Campbell Scott. Piled into a station wagon, a wife and others travel to New York City to confront her husband, who she thinks is cheating.
“Little Miss Sunshine,” 2006. Not every family can boast an 8-year-old beauty pageant freak, a teen who's silent by choice, a gay suicidal uncle, a cocaine-snorting grandpa, a dad with more ambition than brains and a Volkswagen bus that has to be kick-started — and still somehow manage to be heartwarming.
“Easy Rider,” 1969. Dennis Hopper directs and stars in this low-budget counterculture classic from the peak of the hippie era along with Jack Nicholson and Peter Fonda.
“The Grapes of Wrath,” 1940. John Ford directs this adaptation of John Steinbeck's Pulitzer-winning novel about Depression-era refugees. Henry Fonda's Oscar-nominated turn as Tom Joad lights a rocket under his career.
“The Great Race,” 1965. A guilty pleasure from childhood, this broad Blake Edwards comedy stars Tony Curtis and Natalie Wood as good guys, and Jack Lemmon and Peter Falk as villains, in a car race across three continents, circa 1910. Contains one of the best pie fights ever captured on film.
“Harry and Tonto,” 1974. A great director-writer, Paul Mazursky. A great actor, Art Carney. Both Oscar-nominated (Carney won). An old New Yorker whose apartment building is torn down goes on the road with his cat.
“The Straight Story,” 1999. Richard Farnsworth got an Oscar nod at age 78 for this true story of an old man who rides a lawn mower from Iowa to Wisconsin to reconcile with an ill brother. David Lynch directs.
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What the experts say
We asked local filmmakers and film scholars why the road-trip genre is so popular. Here's what they had to say, while listing their own favorites:
Mauro Fiore, Oscar-winning cinematographer (“Avatar”): “The road movie is a perfect narrative structure for conflict and adventure, and who doesn't like adventure? The genre reflects our fascination with traveling the roads to explore ... and reflects our own experiences on that journey.”
Favorites: “Bonnie and Clyde,” “Easy Rider,” “Badlands,” “The Last Detail,” “Paris, Texas,” “Stranger Than Paradise,” “Thelma & Louise,” “About Schmidt,” “Sideways.”
Mark Hoeger, Oberon Entertainment filmmaker: “As a dramatic form the epic journey is as old as civilization and literature. Think 'Gilgamesh' and 'The Odyssey.' It works as a perfect metaphor: life as a journey of discovery. We set a goal, embark on the quest, overcome challenges, make friends and enemies and, most important, discover something about ourselves.”
Favorite: “The Wizard of Oz” and its profound truth, that there's no place like home.
Jason Levering, Omaha Film Festival executive director: “They're quest movies. The characters set out on an adventure or in pursuit of some grand purpose. Along the way, they change through their interactions and experiences. Most people can relate to that kind of story.”
Favorites: “National Lampoon's Vacation,” “Smokey and the Bandit”
Thomas Elkins, director and cinematographer: “Audiences love seeing two opposing characters stuck together in a confined space, forced to sort out their differences while chasing a common goal. There are endless possibilities for comedy and conflict.”
Favorites: “Planes, Trains and Automobiles,” “Midnight Run”
Jim Fields, director of the documentaries “Bugeaters” and “Preserve Me a Seat”: “They can be adapted to comedy or drama, appeal to people of any age, focus on young people or older adults or a combination of generations. They speak to the American ideal of striking out and exploring the unknown and our quest for adventure.”
Favorites: “The Rain People,” part of which was filmed near North Platte, Neb.
William Blizek, founding editor of UNO's Journal of Religion and Film: “Road trip movies are popular because, in the end, they are about friendship.”
Favorite: “Sideways.” He calls it both fun and serious, “and in the end we are left with a mystery — unlike most Hollywood movies that have a clear happy ending.”
Wheeler Winston Dixon, UNL film professor: “They're an adventure everyone can take. They offer the promise of a different life: Something is always over the horizon. They represent the quest for a change, for something new.”
Favorite: “Y Tu MamŠ Tambiťn” (“And Your Mother, Too”).
Bruce Crawford, film historian: “Road trip films touch people in a unique way. We can all relate to making trips by car or plane and have experienced many of the foibles the characters in these films have to deal with.”
Favorite: “It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World,” “Planes, Trains and Automobiles”
Jon Bokenkamp, screenwriter (“Taking Lives,” “Perfect Stranger”): “There's something wonderfully intimate and personal about road movies. The good ones are quite simple, and that 'road trip' is usually about some inward, self-discovery.”
Favorite: “Planes, Trains and Automobiles”
Rachel Jacobson, director of Film Streams' arthouse movie theater: “Putting your characters on the road gives you so much to work with: changing landscapes, evolving communities, chances to interact with the strangest strangers. It also provides opportunity for comedic mishaps. Lost keys, car trouble, lost cash, getting lost, hitchhikers and police trouble are all easy to insert.”
Favorites: “Lost in America,” “Planes, Trains and Automobiles,” “National Lampoon's Vacation,” “Stranger Than Paradise,” “The Wind Will Carry Us,” “No Country for Old Men”