Traveling or living in an RV, or recreational vehicle, is becoming a popular pastime again. RV’ers were once referred to as “Tin Can Tourists” by a reporter, and the term stuck for decades. The trailers being referred to resembled the shape of a canned ham. I couldn’t say if the name was meant to be derogatory, but it is one that is worn with pride by members of the group.
Today, more people are taking to RV’s to travel or use as primary residences. There are no property taxes, you can move practically anywhere and there are so many to choose from.
Hollywood has not left out the RV; several notable movies feature them. Although there are a lot of films that feature nefarious or questionable people in RV’s, or the unfair term, “trailer trash,” most people who live in RV’s are decent, hardworking people.
If you own an RV or use an RV hire, these movies will make you laugh and proud that you own your own “spare home.” If you don’t, you might be inspired to rent or buy one. If you know someone who owns one, you might give one or two of these movies as a gift.
This 2006 movie from Columbia Studios featured Robin Williams as a burnt out corporate type whose family has drifted apart. He seizes the opportunity to boost his career and save his family by renting an RV for an impromptu cross-country trip. The problem is, that he knows nothing about RV’ing. Enter Jeff Daniels, whose RV family is one you’ll remember fondly forever.
Want an interesting factoid? Jeff Daniels really does own and travel in a 40-foot long motorhome, or Class A RV.
The Long, Long Trailer
Ask anyone about a movie that features RV life and you’ll hear this title first. In 1953, Hollywood made a bold move to feature an Airstream trailer as a honeymoon suite for Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz.
The initial plan is to save money by traveling across country with their home in tow; a sound financial idea. But the couple knows nothing about RV’s or trailers; learning the hard way while providing laughs that resound today. This is the one movie that seems to define RV living.
Traveling in a Class A RV, or motorhome, is a great way to see the country. When two British tourists rent one in 2011 and head for Area 51, their lives change forever when they pick up a hitchhiker. The hitchhiker just happens to be an alien from another planet. Throw in kidnapping of a young woman, a cross-country chase and a culture clash that has to be seen to be believed, and laughs will ensue.
Panic In Year Zero
Of all the cold war films, this one has remained my favorite since I first saw it as a child. It was made in 1962, during tense times between the Soviet Union and America. Ray Milland, a magnificent actor, is the head of a family that sets out on a camping trip, travel trailer in tow. While they are on the road, they hear Los Angeles being wiped off the face of the earth by a nuclear explosion. What ensues is an eerily accurate description of the initial breakdown of law and order, survival and the eventual restoration of civilization. The type of trailer shown in the film is highly popular among collectors.
Lost in America
In 1985, yuppies everywhere laughed hysterically at this comedy. RV’ing had been on the decline since the end of the 60’s. A fed up advertising agent sees his life going nowhere; he quits and convinces his wife to join him in a gypsy lifestyle in a Winnebago, one of the first popular motorhomes. Hilarity follows; you’ll enjoy this film every time you watch it.
Is there any part Jack Nicholson can’t play? In this 2002 movie, he plays a retired insurance executive whose life is fairly rote. He and his wife planned to see the country in an RV- unfortunately, she dies and he’s on his own for the first time in decades.
Through the RV, we see him change, see incredible scenery and learn that families aren’t always traditional. There are no murders, blood or violence in this film. It’s wonderful.
I first saw this film when I was stationed at Lackland AFB in San Antonio, TX. The thought of basic trainees finishing their own training was unique, to say the least. Two slackers whose lives are going nowhere decide to join the Army. They have problems with authority, motivation, respect and more.
To impress two female MP’s, they steal an RV from the base. It’s no ordinary RV- it’s been modified to be a weapon in disguise. With Bill Murray at the wheel, anything can happen, and it does in this film.
Race With The Devil
Renting RV’s for road trip vacations was becoming popular again in the 70’s. Four friends decide to take a vacation and see the sights, camping in out of the way spots. Unfortunately, they witness a human sacrifice during a satanic ritual.
The RV becomes their shelter, home and escape vehicle with an ending that still leaves me unwilling to open overhead cabinets in motorhomes today. Although made in 1975, it’s still pretty scary.
Star Wars was a phenomenon. It only followed that Mel Brooks would make a spoof movie of it in 1987 that is one of the funniest space movies of all time. Lone Starr drives/pilots a Winnebago spacecraft; that’s only one of the tongue-in-cheek props.
Winnebagos really do go everywhere, don’t they? That was part of the advertising in the 80’s for the real motorhome.
Jurassic Park 2
Last, but certainly not least, is the travel trailer RV in Jurassic Park 2. Just imagine; a trailer that has enough space for everyone and everything. Electronics, surgery, TV, stove and beds. It looked as though it could take anything- except for a pair of angry T-Rexes.
These movies can be purchased, rented or viewed online at various sites. For those who do not travel or live in an RV, bad things don’t always happen. Then again, most of the things in the movies come from RV owner’s experiences. Except for the dinosaurs.
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