Road trip horror movies capture the terrifying idea of crammed cars and murders. The routes or itineraries may differ, but one thing is certain: these lengthy, lonely stretches of asphalt and concrete can lead to disastrous consequences.
The open road isn’t always a sign of new liberty and unlimited opportunities. In many horror road trip movies, it leads directly to death. Unsuspecting drivers and passengers in horror road trip movies should consider themselves fortunate if their only experiences on the road are lousy food and boredom. Multiple people cramped into a car, strangers and the unknown around every bend in the road, a lack of knowledge and familiarity with the world beyond your windshield – road journeys may be frightening. It’s no surprise, however, that so many genre directors have turned to the pavement for inspiration and execution in their horror films.
The following 13 road trip horror films demonstrate that the open road can sometimes be a path straight to hell. These films are filled with murderous hitchhikers, cannibalistic locals, crazy truckers, and vicious serial killers. This will make you think twice before succumbing to wanderlust. Each one will very certainly send viewers to their deaths. If you are planning a road trip, we advise you not to watch these movies before going.
Please join us as we strap up, open the sunroof, and take a look at the best horror movie road trips! We can assure you that your head will be banging and eating aspirins as Smarties at the end of the list.
House of 1000 Corpses (2003)
Four buddies take the road in the hopes of finding enough cool things to compile a book about unusual roadside attractions. The Museum of Monsters and Madmen, managed by a genuine clown, is one of their stops. After Captain Spaulding assigns them to investigate a local tale, a series of terrible decisions, mutilations, torture, cannibalism, death, and insanity ensues.
What you will learn from the movie – Don’t trust the creepy clown who sells chicken at a petrol station. Also, don’t pick up hitchhikers.
Jeepers Creepers (2001)
Spoiler alert: This movie contains an especially unique monster. Siblings Trish and Darry are driving along a country road on their way home for spring break when an aggressive tailgater in an old truck approaches them. Later, they witness the truck’s scary driver tossing what appears to be a body into a pit. The Creeper pursues them and drives them off the road, after which they return to inspect the hole! That’s how you end up being pursued by a winged monster in a trenchcoat who wants to stitch your body parts into his lovely tapestry of body parts.
What you will learn from the movie – Sometimes, it’s best to look straight ahead at the road, mind your own dang business, and keep driving.
The Vanishing (1988) – Dutch language; The Vanishing (1993) – remake
George Sluizer’s 1988 film The Vanishing, which Hollywood poorly recreated in 1993, is soaked in dread as a man feverishly seeks for his missing fiancée, boasting one of the best twist endings of all time.
Rex and Saskia, a young Dutch couple, are traveling through France when they halt at a rest stop. Saskia enters the shop to purchase beverages but never returns. It’s the start of a long and terrible trip for Rex, who can’t comprehend Saskia’s death. What distinguishes The Vanishing is its picture of the man who, we are made to assume, caused Saskia pain. There is no sense of “whodunit,” but rather, the ambiguity is in the “why” and “what.” As Rex’s quest yields only a dead end, he will have to turn to a man who claims to know exactly what happened because he was the one who caused it.
The terrifying aspect of this one is the banality of it all.
What you will learn from the movie – Don’t put your trust in anyone, and remember that a promise of free jewelry will result in a face full of chloroform. Equally important is you might never be able to view The Dude from The Big Lebowski in the same manner again.
Jeff and Amy are on a road trip when they narrowly avoid colliding with a beat-up truck. Jeff exchanges words with the driver at a petrol station down the road, and the Jeep eventually dies. A large passing truck stops to help, driving Amy to a local diner and phone. Jeff then discovers that his car died as a result of someone tampering with the battery connections. Then he is unable to locate Amy at the diner. She is missing. He finds the trucker, but he claims they’ve never met. So, where in the world is Amy? This nail-biting road trip film has a lot of Roman Polanski’s Frantic in it, as well as some very surprising twists.
What you will learn from the movie – Getting into a large rig with a random trucker sounds like a lot of fun, but PLEASE don’t do it.
The Hills Have Eyes (1977, 2006)
Both the 1977 original and the 2006 remake are terrifying — and either will make you want to save up for a plane ticket. An RV transporting a perfect suburban family on vacation blows a tire on a lonely desert road, stranding them while someone runs for aid. That’s bad enough, but it’s even worse when the family realizes they’re being hunted by a bizarre tribe of radioactive cannibal mutants with a plan that would make you do a technicolor yawn. Even the infant and the two dogs are not spared from a protracted and horrific death.
What you will learn from the movie – From the original, if a strange gas station guy urges you to stay on the main road, listen to him. Don’t listen to the strange gas station guy who tells you to take a secret desert shortcut from the remake.
Death Proof (2007)
Many Tarantino fans consider this to be his worst film, but we disagree. This classic grindhouse film is fantastic. The first half is not a road trip film per se, but the second half is about a group of female film industry professionals who take a break from filming on location in Tennessee to go bombing around in a yellow 1972 Mustang. A lunatic passionate about killing ladies in car accidents using a specially customized death-proof stunt car meet them on their death-defying test drive. The following is the most badass practical car chase in the last 25 years.
What you will learn from the movie – If someone’s ride does not have a seat belt, it’s best to hail a cab.
Joy Ride (2001)
Pranksters get their just deserts when a psychopathic truck driver notices their immature use of a CB radio. Lewis cashes in his plane ticket home after finishing his freshman year of college and sets off on a cross-country road trip, picking up his high school crush Vienna at her college on the way home. What a romantic gesture. But first, he has to go to jail to pick up his brother Fuller. How could Lewis have known that a harmless and brutal trick he and Fuller played on a trucker with the CB radio handle Rusty Nail would entangle them in a fight for their lives?
What you will learn from the movie – On the road, a man can become lonely. Don’t taunt him, or someone’s skull will be ripped in half at the mouth.
The Hitcher (1986)
People used to hitchhike years ago, before Uber. Yes, you read that right. People got into a car with a total stranger. The Hitcher is a guilty-pleasure thriller from the 1980s that functions on a scale of growing implausibility. After giving a stranger a ride in the rain on a West Texas highway, Halsey is cruelly plagued by Ryder, a murderous man-shaped demon intent to punish the unfortunate boy until one of them is dead or insane.
The film goes off the rails along the way. Rutger Hauer’s terrifying performance more than makes up for the film’s unintentional absurdity.
What you will learn from the movie – Don’t pick up hitchhikers, like ever. Even if you feel sleepy, avoid hitchhikers. Coffee was invented to combat sleepiness!
The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974)
If you haven’t seen this seminal horror film, make it a point to do it while sober – and possibly during daylight hours. Is it the film’s grimy, low-budget 1970s vibe that makes it so terrifying? Perhaps it’s the maniac in a human-face mask wielding a chainsaw. It all starts with a simple road trip in a VW bus to investigate a grave robbery. After one hitchhiker, it quickly transforms into a surreal horror display of stunning violence and never-ending screams. The eerie dinner scene will haunt you, and the closing scene, with Leatherface doing his frustration dance with a whirling, exhaust-spewing chainsaw, is exquisite.
What you will learn from the movie – Before embarking on any road journey, go to Google Maps, activate satellite view, and plot your route. If you come upon anything that appears to be a “long, bleak, barren length of the road” in the desert, take a detour or pack a rifle.
Midnight Ride (1990)
In this 1990 thriller, Mark Hamill is unforgettable as the psychotic villain. His diabolical chuckle will serve him well in his upcoming role as The Joker in the animated DC universe. The film begins with an unhappy lady leaving her officer husband because she believes he loves his work more than she does. She soon meets Hamill’s character, a deceptively innocuous hitchhiker on her way to a new life. The passenger eventually displays his true, homicidal tendencies.
There aren’t many rational choices here, but it’s evident Hamill is having a great time being the bad guy. Although Dudikoff is most known for his action and martial arts roles, he spends most of his time here as the spree killer’s punching bag.
What you will learn from the movie – It’s a big blatant ‘NO’ when it comes to picking up hitchhikers. Also, Mark Hamill showed that he would be perfect as Joker’s voice.
Say Yes (2001)
- South Korean title? – check
- Romantic-sounding title? – check
- Cute lead cast? – check
Synopsis: In this deadly South Korean suspense, an unwitting couple makes a regrettable decision. What? Yes, you heard it right. Jung-Hyun and his wife Yoon-hee take a weekend getaway to celebrate the publication of the former’s manuscript. They pick up a weird man named “M,” who needs a ride along the road. The traveler, as expected, intends to cause harm to anyone who lends him a ride.
What you will learn from the movie – We might sound like a broken record here, but the lesson is the same. Don’t pick up hitchhikers who insist on playing games.
Jamie Lee Curtis is undoubtedly still the first name that springs to mind when someone mentions “Scream Queen.” Her parts in Halloween, Prom Queen, The Fog, and Terror Train are well-known.
Even die-hard horror enthusiasts may have overlooked Roadgames. Curtis is a hitchhiker who, together with a truck driver, becomes entangled in a cat-and-mouse game with a serial killer across the Australian outback. Though Roadgames appears to be another slasher film, it is a suspense thriller. In spirit, it’s less Friday the 13th and more Alfred Hitchcock. Road Games will not deceive anyone into thinking it is a classic. However, it is a well-shot, well-acted thriller that is unexpectedly effective. It’s a bit of a forgotten treasure in Curtis’ oeuvre.
What you will learn from the movie – If you are a hitchhiker and someone tells you to inform your family that you are OK, you should do that.
Duel is the ultimate road trip thriller. This is simply ‘Jaws’ on the road, only, in this case, it is a tanker truck instead of a killer shark. Duel is considered a minor masterpiece in its sub-genre. It’s as suspenseful as it is straightforward. On a lonesome roadway, straight-laced salesman David Mann passes a beat-up Peterbilt tanker truck. Unfortunately, the unidentified driver takes it personally and terrorizes David for the duration of his business trip. From then on, Duel is a constant cat-and-mouse hunt that never stops. Sometimes the most basic premise is the best.
It also doesn’t hurt that Steven Spielberg directed this masterpiece. Spielberg provides no motivation – not even a glance of the truck driver – adds to the suspense. The truck, its driver invisible, becomes the inanimate monster with a sinister motive to ruin this pleasant day for this electronics salesperson. What starts as a series of provocative driving maneuvers quickly escalates into vicious car vs. truck battles.
What you will learn from the movie – On a road trip, take time to take in the views. Don’t ever use your road trip to challenge other vehicles, especially tanker trucks.
The best horror road trip movies are about evil and ambiguous characters. A road trip can be exciting – until a chainsaw-wielding lunatic or a vengeful trucker enters the picture. Then your fun road trip is as good as over. Most of these scenarios are fictional, but there is a chance, let’s say about 10%, for it to happen.
To avoid these situations where you could find yourself in your personal road trip horror movies, you can plan your trip ahead. Use our Way app to locate the best parking spots along your charted way.