American Road Trip: The South West Cinema Route
Road Trip Across the American Southwest with Cinema as Your Guide
Find the above route HERE
If you’re trying to hit the all-American highlights, you’ll have to start with a Southwestern adventure. Hop in a convertible and start your journey in Los Angeles, where the iconic cult classic Big Labowski was set. If you leave without hitting the In and Out Burger, you’re cheating yourself. Fit in a round of bowling and you’re sitting pretty. If you have more time in L.A and are a Labowski fan, check out this travel guide for the film locations to tour, like the apartment where the Dude’s rug was stolen.
Once you’ve had your fill of L.A, get your convertible in gear and head to Las Vegas, the city of sin. There is no shortage of films about Vegas, but one of the best is Tour through town with your aviators and roof top down, and make sure to hit a few casinos, Hangover style.
North of Vegas is a nerd’s dream at Area 51. While you can’t actually get into Area 51 (duh), you can get close by following the little travel route from the scifi nerd film Paul. In this film, two British geeks in an RV seek to hit all the highlights of this Alien gathering ground, only to end of traveling with an actual Alien (named Paul). The film has great suggestions on what to see and do in the area, but in reality all you can really do is drive around the desert kicking up sand and looking like tourists. Still fun though, and if you leave without re-watching Independence Day, you’re doing yourself an injustice.
Thelma and Louise is so iconic that most American women feel a tinge of bittersweet nostalgia every time they hear the words Grand Canyon. Recharge with hyper-reality after your Alien adventures by heading through Vegas and south-west to the Canyon. While there are many movies about America’s largest canyon, this one is the best. Re-watch the film and then leave Vegas behind as you skid towards the cliffs. Just be sure to stop far before the ladies in this inspired film did.
After the Canyon, jump down to Flagstaff (where Gumball Rally was filmed) and pop onto Route 66, Main Street USA. An oldies but a goodies, American writer John Steinback penned The Grapes of Wrath, set (and later filmed in the video version) along Route 66. For a modern film on the famous road, try Little Miss Sunshine.
The long road from Flagstaff to Albuquerque is a bit scary. When other, faster routes came along (and air travel became common place) a lot of the ol’ Route 66 classics fell into disrepair and were eventually abandoned. Now, the route has a bit of a creepy feel in places, and horror films have been filmed along this stretch for good reason. But once you get to Albugerqie, go a bit more on the light side by watching We’re the Millers, a comedy about traveling and making bad decisions in New Mexico (and beyond!).
Time to head south. Kick it down HWY 25 to El Paso, where a host of great Westerns were filmed (and set). The best is the Steve McQueen classic The Getaway. This also means you’ve crossed into Texas, so grab some great Tex-Mex grub along the border and turn that sexy convertible West for the final leg of this round-trip adventure.
Tuscon has been the filming location of many a film, and yet the best is probably Broken Arrow, film about a missing weapon and a battle of wits between two pilots. The beautiful desert setting leaves you longing to explore the national parks around Tuscon, and of course the town itself is featured in some of the final scenes.
Psycho was set in Phoenix, and with a the desert and open spaces it’s no wonder Hitchcock chose the area for the perfect setting for his contorted killer. More recently, America’s favorite Bluth keeps attempting to escape to Phoenix in Arrested Development, only to be spurred away by the heat.You’ll have a long, open stretch of nothingness for a while before hitting Joshua Tree, where Seven Psychopaths was set and filmed. This flick will leave you scratching your skull, but it does feature the landscape perfectly, and no road trip through the area is complete without wondering what is going on out in the desert just out of sight (Breaking Bad, anyone?)
Back in LA there is no shortage of film-related highlights. We won’t even attempt to pick the best film set or about Los Angeles.