Top 12 Road Trip Horror Movies

These films will make you want to fly this Holiday Weekend—or stay home all together!

The long Thanksgiving Weekend is a great chance to catch up with family and relax—unless the traffic kills you first. Sure, planes and trains come with their own set of aggravations and anxieties, but navigating the highways can be especially perilous as danger is plentiful. However you venture out to feast on these most-traveled of days, it pays to practice extreme caution, and take heed: Road trips can be hell. Let the following films serve as a warning—or a survival guide. Good luck.

 

Joy Ride (2001)

Director: John Dahl

Writers: Clay Tarver, J.J. Abrams

Stars: Matthew Kimbrough, Leelee Sobieski, Steve Zahn |

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Outside of towns and big cities, long distance truckers rule the long lonely stretches of highway. There’re a hardened, nomadic breed accustomed to a life of solitude and internal contemplations. One thing about these rugged souls you should know is: They don’t like being made fun of. Take the story of Lewis, Venna, and Fuller, a happy-go lucky trio of twenty-something tripping cross-country, as an example. When Fuller buys an old CB radio for the sole purpose of antagonizing semi-drivers, he might as well be poking bears with sticks while dipped in honey. “Rusty Nail” is an especially humorless trucker with a nasty bite and a serious need for payback. One thing Rusty really can’t tolerate: A cock-tease. If you’re going to be on the highways this Thanksgiving, don’t provoke the truckers.

 

Dead End (2001)

Directors: Jean-Baptiste Andrea, Fabrice Canepa

Writers: Jean-Baptiste Andrea, Fabrice Canepa

Stars: Ray Wise, Lin Shaye, Mick Cain |

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Events take a disturbing turn for the Harrington family on their way to Grandmother’s house for the Holidays. After a near head-on collision on the snowy highway, the clan is plagued by ghostly visions and dogged by a sinister black sedan. The journey feels as though it’s stretching into eternity as the family begins to unravel emotionally and mentally. If you’re going to be on snowy roads this holiday weekend, please be extra careful.

 

Jeepers Creepers (2001)

Director: Victor Salva

Writer: Victor Salva

Stars: Gina Philips, Justin Long, Jonathan Breck |

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A brother and sister on their way home for the Holidays are enjoying an idyllic drive though the Midwest—until that are beset upon by an imposing hulk driving a souped-up, fortified pick-up truck. Road-rage and curiosity lead the duo to stick their noses where they didn’t belong; best intensions have devastating consequences. If you’re going to be driving through the Midwest, and you cross paths with someone you suspect is a decades old serial killer, call the cops and then keep on driving. It also couldn’t hurt to make sure this isn’t the 23-day period that comes every 23 years—when it feeds.

 

The Vanishing (1988 or 1993)

Director: George Sluizer

Writers: Tim Krabbé (novel), Tim Krabbé (screenplay), 1 more credit »

Stars: Bernard-Pierre Donnadieu, Gene Bervoets, Johanna ter Steege |

And:

Director: George Sluizer

Writers: Tim Krabbé (novel), Todd Graff (screenplay)

Stars: Jeff Bridges, Kiefer Sutherland, Nancy Travis |

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A gas station or truck-stop can seem like a welcome oasis for weary travelers out on the unforgiving highways; they’re places to rest, refuel, and comingle with other intrepid trippers. But what if you stop with your significant other, he or she heads off to the restroom—and never returns? Not only would this ruin your Holiday, it would eat away at you: The questions and the uncertainty. It might put you into such a weakened state that you’d be easy prey for a cunning sociopath conducting unnerving and amoral philosophical experiments. If you’re going to be on the road with your significant other this Holiday weekend, don’t lose each other in the bathrooms.

 

Vacancy (2007)

Director: Nimród Antal

Writer: Mark L. Smith

Stars: Kate Beckinsale, Luke Wilson, Frank Whaley |

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If you break down while driving to Thanksgiving dinner and need to spend the night at an inexpensive motel, try to make sure it isn’t one manufacturing snuff films using their guests as unwitting participants. Always be willing to spend the extra bucks to stay at a reputable chain—especially if they have room service. Hell, you might even end up having a better time than you would have sitting between your Uncle Pancho and Aunt Gertrude.

 

Wolf Creek (2005)

Director: Greg Mclean

Writer: Greg Mclean

Stars: Nathan Phillips, Cassandra Magrath, Kestie Morassi |

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If you’re driving through the dry desert and decide to stop at a colorful watering hole, never (for the love of God) disrespect the locals. You’ll only set yourself up to be followed by a devious psychopath determined to disable your vehicle before he tows you off into the middle of nowhere where he’ll drug you and toss you down a mineshaft. If you do find yourself crippled and stranded in hostile territory this weekend, best to just sleep in the car—and pray for morning.

 

Calvaire (2004)

Director: Fabrice Du Welz

Writers: Fabrice Du Welz, Romain Protat

Stars: Laurent Lucas, Brigitte Lahaie, Gigi Coursigny |

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The life of a traveling troubadour is bittersweet. Take the story of Marc Stevens, a man who makes a living singing syrupy pop ballads for immobile geriatrics—and the Holidays are prime time for a man in his profession. When his van/house breaks down near a remote hamlet in the Belgium Alps, he’s all too happy to accept the kindness of strangers—and perhaps too willing to overlook some extremely troubling behaviors. If you do find yourself sheltered by an unfamiliar host this Holiday Weekend, and he does something odd like, oh—blows up your car instead of fixing it, don’t try and reason with him. Just. Fucking. Run. Marc sure wishes he had stayed back with that sexy nurse at the retirement home.

 

Children of the Corn (1984)

Director: Fritz Kiersch

Writers:Stephen King (short story), George Goldsmith (screenplay)

Stars:Peter Horton, Linda Hamilton, R.G. Armstrong |

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If you’re driving through Nebraska this Holiday season, stay the hell away from the town of Gatlin. Don’t go anywhere near it. In fact, don’t even drive through the state of Nebraska this weekend. If you live in Nebraska, go to another state for Thanksgiving. Just leave those creepy Gatlin kids and their hideous Corn God where they are! If, in spite of this warning, you do find yourself amongst the pre-pubescent death-cult, invoke the name of “He Who Walks Behind the Rows”—and get out of Dodge.

 

Natural Born Killers (1994)

Director: Oliver Stone

Writers: Quentin Tarantino (story), David Veloz (screenplay)

Stars: Woody Harrelson, Juliette Lewis, Tom Sizemore |

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Mickey and Mallory Knox prove that the dangers of traveling aren’t limited to single stop-light towns or over-stressed truckers. You could always end up crossing paths with a couple on a killing spree. If you do, your best hope is to feed them copious amounts of psychedelic mushrooms before befuddle them with a story about scorpions and turtles. If that doesn’t work, make a break for it during one of their frequent make-out sessions.

 

Wrong Turn (2003)

Director: Rob Schmidt

Writer: Alan B. McElroy

Stars: Eliza Dushku, Jeremy Sisto, Emmanuelle Chriqui |

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Repeat after me: Stay off the back roads. Stay off the back roads. Stay off the back roads. Stay off the back roads. Stay off the back roads. Stay off the back roads. Oh yeah, and don’t hide in the trees either!

 

Splinter (2008)

Director: Toby Wilkins

Writers: Ian Shorr, Kai Barry, 1 more credit »

Stars: Shea Whigham, Jill Wagner, Paulo Costanzo |

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Now here’s a movie that proves even the road-kill might end up murdering you while you’re out driving this Holiday weekend. Or worse: it might infect your body with some sea-urchin disease that will have your moving around in jerky-spasms like a ghost in some J-Horror flick. If your hand gets infected, you’ll have to chop that sucker clean off—but then you’ll also have to worry about it chasing you around like Thing from The Adams Family. Lesson to learn: Don’t touch road kill. And if you needed me or this movie to tell you this: What the hell is wrong with you!

 

Wind Chill (2007)

Director: Gregory Jacobs

Writers: Joe Gangemi, Steven Katz

Stars: Emily Blunt, Ashton Holmes, Martin Donovan |

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This one is especially important for all you collage women as you scour ride-share boards for a lift home this Holiday break. Wind Chill offers advice on quite a few potential perils that could befall a susceptible coed: Make sure the stranger you’re getting into the car with isn’t actually the guy who’s been stalking you. Stay off of snowy roads and never ever take the “scenic” route. Do your best to avoid haunted stretches of roadway. Finally, and most importantly: Don’t get into a conversation about Friedrich Nietzsche’s theory of Eternal Recurrence because you’ll surely end up in a time-loop paradox. Seems pretty basic, right?

What movies make you most afraid to hit the highways? Let me know in the comments section.

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5 Comments on this post.

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  • Lee Vervoort
    26 November 2014 at 12:27 pm - Reply

    Seriously? DUEL wasn’t on the list?

  • Amy
    28 November 2014 at 8:52 pm - Reply

    My only criticism: Joy Ride doesn’t star Matthew Kimbrough; that’s the late Paul Walker.

  • Josh Millican
    29 November 2014 at 12:48 am - Reply

    It sure is Paul Walker. Not sure how that happened; I pull my info straight from IMDB. Sorry about that. Thanks for reading!

    Josh

  • Andreas Jensen
    13 August 2015 at 7:05 pm - Reply

    Good list, thanks 🙂

  • Doug Jones
    7 August 2016 at 7:31 pm - Reply

    Great list. Have seen all but Calvaire. DUEL also belongs here.

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