I Want My $200

Paper Moon is the second best con of 1973. Since it came out the same year as Best Picture winner The Sting. Both movies managed to capture the 1936 Great Depression time period, but Paper Moon goes the extra mile by shooting in black & white. Though intended for Paul Newman and his daughter, the 1971 book Addie Pray became a starring vehicle for Ryan O’Neal and his daughter instead. The new title refers to the old fashioned Ella Fitzgerald song “It’s Only a Paper Moon.” Aside from a reference in The Simpsons episode “The Great Money Caper,” Paper Moon captured my attention long ago for featuring one of the greatest child acting performances of all time.

Despite having zero acting experience, 10 year old Tatum O’Neal became the youngest actress to ever win a competitive Oscar in her debut performance. O’Neal won Best Supporting Actress even though she’s clearly the co-lead. Her mature performance even manages to outshine her own father, but Ryan O’Neal is just as good. Their characters may or may not be father and daughter as Moses “Moze” Pray agrees to take the orphaned Addie Loggins to her aunt in Missouri. Moze is a small time con man and Addie is a bit of a tomboy who catches on to his scheme.

Her demand for $200 leads to a humorous road trip across the great state of Kansas. Their cons start small with phony Bible sales, but they hit a snag when Moze picks up bimbo burlesque dancer Miss Trixie Delight. Madeline Kahn earned her first Best Supporting Actress nomination with her airheaded performance. Paper Moon was also nominated for Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Sound. Addie befriends Trixie’s black teenage maid and forms a tight bond with her possible father. They make the mistake of conning a crooked bootlegger, but that’s not enough to keep them apart. Paper Moon is a caper that the whole family can enjoy.

Paper Moon

Moze drives with Addie

From Gentle to Mental

Me, Myself & Irene gave Jim Carrey an excuse to go crazy. 2000 wasn’t always the best year for comedians who were popular in the 90’s. Me, Myself & Irene is the second collaboration between Carrey and the Farrelly Brothers. Aside from being a road movie set in Rhode Island, Me, Myself & Irene is a bit dumber than Dumb and Dumber. The title refers to a split personality disorder. Carrey plays friendly pushover and state trooper Charlie Baileygates. When his wife leaves him for an intelligent black little person, Charlie lives in denial with his three black children.

All the disrespect and pent up rage causes Hank to come out. I feel like any problem people had with The Cable Guy is much worse in Me, Myself & Irene. Hank is a foul mouthed psychopath and sexual deviant who lets out Charlie’s aggression. Carrey’s manic energy is funny when he’s trying to put down an injured cow, but not so much when he’s attacking children. The Farrelly Brothers’ gross out humor also goes too far with sex toys and less creative poop jokes.

Black jokes are funny to a degree, but the sons constantly saying “motherf***er” gets old after awhile. Anthony Anderson is the only recognizable actor in the trio. Renée Zellweger is the titular Irene who hates Hank, but begins to fall for Charlie. She’s caught up in an overly complicated plot by a criminal ex-boyfriend. Chris Cooper, Robert Forster, and Richard Jenkins give the movie credibility, while narrator Rex Allen Jr. gives it an easygoing feel. Of course it does go off the rails with a physical fight between Charlie and Hank. Me, Myself & Irene can only do so much with two Jim Carrey performances.

Me, Myself & Irene

Charlie, Hank and Irene take the road

The Heffley Family Road Trip

Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Long Haul is not what fans had in mind. Rather than end the franchise after the cast grew up, the sort of sequel removed everyone I grew to like. I was more than a little baffled when the trailer first dropped. Despite only adapting the first 4 Jeff Kinney books, The Long Haul goes straight to the 9th book. Since I’m such a completionist, I read the first 10 books just to get to the final live action movie. The Ugly Truth and Cabin Fever were a lot of fun, but only the latter was seriously considered for an animated special. Since there’s a lot of good material in The Third Wheel, Hard Luck, and Old School, the movie sloppily works in plot points from those books.

The Long Haul arguably made the most sense for a movie adaptation, since it’s about a road trip gone wrong. Although the movie retains director David Bowers, 20th Century Fox, and slightly updated animation, The Long Haul is significantly worse. There’s a serious reliance on potty humor, cringy internet culture, and the new cast is more distracting than anything. Jason Drucker doesn’t have half the charm of the previous Greg Heffley. The unknown Owen Asztalos who plays Rowley is barely in the movie. Charlie Wright’s hair is way too long and he feels so miscast that the #NotMyRodrick began trending. Tom Everett Scott barely tries as Greg’s dad, but I can hardly fault the toddlers who play Manny.

Strangely enough, I feel like Alicia Silverstone was trying the hardest as Greg’s mother. The film keeps the Corny’s family restaurant from The Third Wheel, visiting Meemaw from Hard Luck, and mom’s technology ban from Old School. Almost everything from The Long Haul is adapted for the movie. Including the antagonistic Beardo family, wrecking the car, Manny’s tooth pacifier, and winning a pig at the county fair. Even the funniest moments from the book are somehow ruined. The biggest offense was adding an unfunny meme that torments Greg and a YouTuber that he wants to meet at a video game expo. Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Long Haul is a waste of a good book.

Diary of a Wimpy Kid The Long Haul

The Heffley’s on the road

Sunny Days

Sesame Street Presents: Follow That Bird is the first movie to star the beloved educational puppets. Sesame Street has been on for an impressive 50 years. So everyone, including myself, grew up watching it. The show taught us to read, count, and plenty of life lessons. The great Jim Henson helped create the Muppets and all our Sesame Street friends. So a movie was inevitable. Follow that Bird is brought to you by the letter ‘B’. For the innocent 6 year old star of the movie Big Bird.

I didn’t see Follow that Bird in 1985, but I was very young when I saw it in school. After rewatching it years later, I found myself smiling all over again. Much like The Muppet Movie, Follow that Bird is done in the style of a road movie. When a bird social worker is determined to place Big Bird with a bird family, Big Bird is sadly taken away from his real family. I forgot just how diverse Sesame Street was and not just for the monsters, grouches, and animals. Sesame Street is a bit bigger, but there’s a bigger world out there.

When Big Bird’s family turns out to be a bunch of dodos, he hits the road back to Sesame Street. Meeting friendly countryside kids, truckers, and some sleazy carnival owners. Everyone on Sesame Street follow that bird in special cars just to get him back. Mr. Snuffleupagus misses his best friend, Oscar is grouchy, Super Grover suits up, Bert & Ernie take a biplane, and Cookie Monster eats anything he can. With light hearted songs, celebrity cameos, and even a Kermit cameo, Follow that Bird warms your heart.

10. Follow that Bird

Big Bird follows some kids

Speed, I am Speed

Cars may be low on gas, but it deserves more credit than its reputation may suggest. Pixar was on a major winning streak with its first 6 movies. All that changed when Cars came driving in. It was nominated for Best Animated Feature, but it lost to the dancing penguin movie. Cars asks the question, what if there was a world of living vehicles? Even at 11 years old I had to question how childish the idea sounded. I liked cars as much as the next kid, but I mostly went to see it out of obligation to Pixar. The concept wasn’t entirely new. Since there had been anthropomorphic animated cars in the past. The biggest difference was putting their eyes on the windshield instead of the headlights.

Not to mention how suspiciously similar its story was to the 80’s film Doc Hollywood. Despite how the idea sounded, Pixar head John Lasseter was passionate about the project. Since he was a car enthusiast who was inspired by the famous highway Route 66. After putting so much work into human characters for The Incredibles, Cars featured no humans whatsoever. It may seem like a downgrade, but people forget how beautiful the computer animation in Cars is. Just like they forget that the story is still teaching a sincere lesson. Cars may be a lesser effort from Disney & Pixar, but that doesn’t make it any less entertaining or nostalgic…

14. Cars

Mater chats with Lightning McQueen

Cars is shown ahead of the short One Man Band. A spirited musical competition between French street performers competing for a girl’s gold coin. After giving toys, bugs, monsters, fish, and superheroes emotions, Pixar was tasked with bringing life to emotionless hunks of metal. I know people can be sentimental about cars, but it’s not exactly the same as Toy Story. Cars is about… cars that have faces and live in a world that’s not too dissimilar from our own. Except that everything is built like a car stop where garages are houses, gas stations are diners, and NASCAR is a major sporting event. Clouds have tire treads and bugs are cars for some reason. The thought of an all car world opens up a lot of questions. Like how anything can be picked up with tires? Especially when you factor in trucks, planes, trains, boats, and other vehicles that are shown to be alive. It’s better not to think about it too hard.

The animation may only be for cars, but that doesn’t make the metallic sheen, reflections, and weight any less impressive. Not to mention the landscapes that are seen on the road. I’m still not much of a sports guy and I’ve never got into NASCAR, but the idea of following an athletic race car is a clever one. Lightning McQueen is a self absorbed rookie race car who loves attention and working alone. His red paint job is eye catching and his catchphrases are memorable. From “Speed, I am speed” to “Kachow!” Owen Wilson’s distinct voice is well suited for a race car. Lightning’s biggest competition is longtime racer Strip “The King” Weathers voiced by real life driver Richard Petty. In fact, several figures from the racing world make voice cameos alongside the mostly respectable cast. Even Jay Leno shows up as Jay Limo and not Arnold Schwarzenegger is seen as a Humvee. Get used to the car puns, because there’s a lot of those. Along with some surprisingly risque jokes.

Lightning’s other competition is Chick Hicks. The obnoxious main villain willing to cheat in order to win the race. A fitting race car for Michael Keaton. When the first race is too close to call, Lighting loses his entire pit crew except for his loyal semi-truck driver Mack. Another more prominent character for John Ratzenberger to voice. A living Pizza Planet truck can be seen in a crowd shot. Lightning wants nothing more than to be famous and be sponsored by the Dinoco gas company from Toy Story. McQueen’s arrogance gets him lost on the highway after four pimpmobiles mess with Mack. Lightning follows the wrong truck and inadvertently wrecks the hidden little community of Radiator Springs. The rundown town itself doesn’t exist, but it is based on places that exist on Route 66.

Radiator Springs is filled with all kinds of colorful car characters of all makes and models. Mater is the most tolerable Pixar sidekick. Even if Larry the Cable Guy is basically doing his hillbilly standup routine, Mater still get some of the best jokes. Mater is a rusty tow truck who forms another of Pixar’s core unlikely buddy duos. Since Lightning is a sleek race car who wants to get away from his Rust-eze sponsors. Their friendship isn’t exactly deep, but they do have some nice bonding moments. Like tipping tractor cows, avoiding a bull combine, and learning to drive backwards. Mater also mentions a ghostlight, but more of that can be seen in the tie-in short Mater and the Ghostlight.

The town’s old fashioned judge Doc Hudson orders Lightning out, but his mind is changed and he instead has him fix the road he destroyed. Paul Newman very appropriately voices Doc. Secretly a famous race car winner of 3 Piston Cups who’s left his old life behind after a fateful crash. He comes around later on and even teaches Lightning how to turn on dirt after challenging him to a race. Lightning’s main love interest is town attorney who runs a Cozy Cone motel Sally Carrera. A Porsche who teaches Lightning how to slow down and enjoy life. Sally is Bonnie Hunt’s biggest Pixar role to date and the main source of heart in the movie. The closest thing to a tear worthy moment is Sally reminiscing on what the town used to look like before the Interstate came along. Lightning comes to love the town himself and it makes him a better car because of it.

Other Radiator Springs residents include old fashioned police car Sheriff. 50’s Motorama Flo voiced by Jenifer Lewis, who runs a 50’s gas diner. Her lowrider detailer boyfriend Ramone who could only be voiced by the hispanic Cheech Marin. Hippie VW Bus Filmore and military surplus Jeep Sarge with the voices of George Carlin and Paul Dooley respectively. Tony Shalhoub as Italian Fiat 500 tire shop owner and Ferrari enthusiast Luigi. Who’s partnered with his aspiring pitstop forklift Guido. There’s also delusional curio owner 20’s Ford Model T. Lizzie and kind hearted old fashioned fire truck Red. Voiced by the late animator Joe Ranft. Who sadly passed away in a car accident before Cars was completed. After helping to restore the town, reality sets in when the press discovers where Lightning is.

McQueen’s life changing journey begins to affect his performance, but Doc & company show up in California to act as his pit crew. The final race is a high octane climax that gives Lightning a chance to show off what Radiator Springs has taught him. The race ends tragically for Strip when Chick cheats, but Lightning stops short of the finish line. Choosing instead to push Strip across the finish line. I’m not crazy about sports movies that end in loss, but I get what they’re trying to say here. Chick wins the cup and is promptly booed off stage. In the end, Lightning turns down Dinoco’s generous offer, but honors his agreement to let Mater fly in a fancy helicopter.

An extended credits sequence then shows Radiator Springs thriving again. With multiple comical afterthoughts centered around the town. Including a funny meta joke about all the characters John Ratzenberger has voiced for Pixar up to that point. As shown in car themed movie parodies of Toy Story, Monsters, Inc., and A Bug’s Life. Followed by an after-credits scene about the increasingly lost couple Minny and Van. Randy Newman returns to score Cars, but it’s really songs like “(Get Your Kicks on) Route 66” and “Life is a Highway” that stand out the most. Cars became an immediate financial giant for Pixar. Toy commercials were everywhere and I don’t blame them for seeing the potential in the car universe. Cars fits Pixar’s formula and comes close enough to the finish line to succeed.

15. Cars

Lightning races

Followed by: Cars 2

The Griswold’s Are Going to Walley World

National Lampoon’s Vacation should be a fun family outing, but not when the Griswold’s are involved. After the success of Animal House, humor magazine National Lampoon decided to adapt a short story by John Hughes. Just make Harold Ramis the director and Chevy Chase the star, and you’ve got the recipe for a hilarious 80’s comedy. Appropriately set to the tune of “Holiday Road,” National Lampoon’s Vacation focuses on the Griswold family. The vacation in question is a trip to Walley World. A perfectly legal take on Disneyland.

Chase plays the cheerful (borderline psychotic) patriarch that just wants to spend more time with his family before it’s too late. Beverly D’Angelo plays his attractive wife Ellen who spends most of the movie arguing with her husband about his questionable decisions. 80’s “it kid” Anthony Michael Hall and Dana Barron play son Rusty and daughter Audrey respectfully. Rusty just wants to please his father while Audrey is mostly concerned with being cool. As is the case with every road movie, Vacation is more about the journey than the destination.

It’s a nightmare that sees them getting robbed, dealing with their country cousins (specifically Cousin Eddie), inadvertently causing the death of their Aunt and dog, crashing their truckster in the desert, and finally making it to Walley World… which is closed. All the while Clark fantasizes about Christie Brinkley driving by in a red convertible. What really makes Vacation so funny is its R rated humor. It may seem family friendly, but Vacation is filled with things like Clark going on profane tirades, topless shots of Ellen, or Clark holding a guard at gunpoint. Scenes like that are what make National Lampoon’s Vacation one of the very best road trip comedies.

1. vacation

The Griswold’s hit the road

Followed by: National Lampoon’s European Vacation

The Rainbow Connection

The Muppet Movie is the first movie to star everyone’s favorite celebrity puppet troupe. Everyone loves the Muppets and I am no exception. Like most kids growing up, I enjoyed watching Sesame Street & the Muppets (mainly the movies). Jim Henson is of course the creator of everything Muppet. He’s the father of puppetry. As his Muppets wowed viewers with their songs, sketch comedy, self-aware humor, and celebrity guest appearances. The success of The Muppet Show made a movie inevitable. The Muppet Movie was released in 1979 after their third season. Kermit the Frog is just a dreamer living in the swamps. Until a talent agent hears his muppetational singing voice and tells him to pursue show business. The Muppet Movie is done in the style of a road movie. As Kermit sets off to Hollywood all the while avoiding a businessman who wants his frog legs. Along the way meeting some familiar faces for the first time. Fozzy Bear working as a stand-up comedian, Gonzo working as a plumber, Dr. Teeth and The Electric Mayhem managed by Scooter, and everyone else. Even Big Bird shows up and Sweetums tries to catch up with them. But the most important encounter is between Kermit and the love of his life Miss Piggy. My favorite frog-pig couple. The Muppet Movie is filled with their trademark humor, several late 70’s celebrities, and wonderful songs. Like “Movin’ Right Along” or my personal favorite “The Rainbow Connection.” It never fails to make me happy, just like The Muppet Movie.


The Muppets hit the road

Followed by: The Great Muppet Caper

What a Lovely Day

Mad Max: Fury Road reignited a dead franchise in spectacular fashion. Ever since Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome came out 30 years ago, it seemed like the series was long over with. George Miller stuck mostly with directing family friendly films like Babe: Pig in the City & Happy Feet, Mel Gibson was slowly losing it, and most blockbusters were filled with CGI. So no one was ever expecting to see any sort of continuation. The idea for a fourth film was actually in “development hell” for a long time. George Miller lost the rights, but gained them back. Mel Gibson was definitely out due to age and an unwillingness to return. Real life war got in the way, Happy Feet almost made the movie animated, and several actors were in consideration to play the new Max Rockatansky. Eventually Mad Max: Fury Road did find footing and it began filming in 2011. Not releasing until 2015. Coming as a shock to just about everyone, Mad Max: Fury Road received widespread critical acclaim, several Oscar wins/nominations, and even the label of “greatest action movie ever made…”


Max Rockatansky keeps watch

Mad Max: Fury Road is either a sequel or a reboot depending on how you look at it. Max Rockatansky is now played by gruff grumbler Tom Hardy. He’s built for action and makes a fine replacement for Mel Gibson, but even though his name is in the title, Max is arguably not the star of the movie. Max continues to roam the Australian wasteland as a man with no name who just wants to escape his past. His and most everyone else’s attire is much more grey and tan. Max gets captured by War Boys (sick young men with white skin) and is imprisoned in the Citadel. A mountainous civilization run by the ruthless Immortan Joe. Who has long blonde hair, white skin, and wears a skull mask that acts as a breathing apparatus. He’s also played by the same actor who played the villain in the original Mad Max. Max is left out of commision most of the time acting as a “blood bag” for a War Boy named Nux. As I said before, the real star of the movie is arguably Imperator Furiosa. The strong willed war captain who turns against Immortan Joe. She has a shaved head, war paint, and a robotic arm. Her general badass appearance and Charlize Theron’s performance helped make her one of the best action heroine’s of the decade. She helps to free Immortan Joe’s five wives from enslavement. In hopes of taking them to a safe haven called the “Green Place.” All wives are played by semi-familiar supermodels (most notably Rosie Huntington-Whiteley in her second and final acting role). They help to bring a surprising amount of female empowerment to the movie. The biggest achievement in Mad Max: Fury Road is definitely its action. The even more impractical vehicles (one with a guitar player) take part in some truly astounding car chases. There’s explosions, sandstorms, and a whole lot jumping from vehicle to vehicle. Even in a time with mostly CGI, Mad Max: Fury Road uses good ol’ fashion stunt work. Earning Mad Max: Fury Road a total of 10 Oscar nominations. Winning the most Oscars in 2015, for Best Costume Design, Production Design, Makeup and Hairstyling, Film Editing, Sound Editing, and Sound Mixing. It was even nominated for Best Picture. A rare feat for an action movie, let alone the fourth installment in a franchise. Mad Max: Fury Road is a furious spectacle of pure road rage.


Max and Furiosa take aim

Preceded by: Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome

Tomorrow-morrow Land

Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome is the weakest installment in Mel Gibson’s run as Max Rockatansky. While Mad Max was just getting started and Mad Max 2 was a huge step up, Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome makes some odd choices. Maybe George Miller working with another director has something to do with it. Max continues to to roam the desolate Australian road, when he encounters another problem he has to help solve. Once again centering around fuel. Only this time the fuel is pig sh*t (that they like to keep reminding us of). One of the best decisions made for the sequel is the casting of Tina Turner as the villain Aunty Entity. She’s already a wild rockstar that she fits right in. While the weakest decision made was the inclusion of lost boy children in the second act. They’re not always the best actors and it doesn’t help that Max spends most of his time with them. The safe haven plot is also underwhelming. The most memorable part of the movie is in the title. Thunderdome is a gladiatorial cagelike dome where fighters duel to the death using a series of weapons. The phrase “welcome to Thunderdome” has made its way into pop culture. It’s a shame that it’s only a small part of the movie. Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome is fun but it can use a little more grit.


Max Rockatansky takes aim

Preceded by: Mad Max 2 & Followed by: Mad Max: Fury Road

The Road Warrior

Mad Max 2 (known by most as The Road Warrior) is the gritty fast-paced road adventure everyone was waiting for. Mad Max 2 takes place some time after Max Rockatansky went mad in Mad Max. Society has officially collapsed and there’s nothing left but the baron post-apocalyptic Australian outback. Oil is now more precious than anything else. As everyone left in the world roams the deserts in highly impractical cars and trucks. The now “Mad” Max rides alone with nothing but a dog and sawed off shotgun to keep him company. He now dresses in a much more tattered black leather outfit with noticeably grey temples in his hair. Mel Gibson proves himself to be a much more formidable action hero this time around. Director George Miller takes the sequel into much bigger territory. While also maintaining a simple story that centers on the retrieval of gas. Mad Max 2 introduces all of the franchises most iconic motifs. Max is now a nameless loner who reluctantly helps those in need. In this case, he helps a town oppressed by an evil warlord named The Humungus. A humongous figure in an iron mask. Most of the characters have descriptive names like that. Max gets help from the Gyro Captain, the Warrior Woman, and the Feral Kid. The overall look of the people has become iconic as well. Most everyone wears very 80’s looking punk black bondage type outfits with spikes and padding. But Mad Max 2 most importantly amps up the action with impressively complex car chases. Which are especially impressive considering the lack of special effects available at the time. Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior is a rare action sequel that far exceeds the original in every way possible.


Max Rockatansky searches the wasteland

Preceded by: Mad Max & Followed by: Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome