Essential Art House Road Movies

A commedia all’italiana classic arrives on Blu-ray via Criterion next week. Dino Risi’s Il sorpasso finds an unlikely duo — the young, shy Roberto (Jean-Louis Trintignant) and the older, freewheeling Bruno (Vittorio Gassman) — on a madcap road trip through Rome, Lazio, and Tuscany. The odd couple’s adventures veer from comedy to tragedy as themes of love, masculinity, repression, and self-discovery are explored. The influential film is a striking portrait of the struggles of modern life in Italy during the 1960s, using the road as a metaphor for discovery and expansion — not only in the case of Roberto and Bruno, but also the national identity. Here are other 10 other art house road films that journey down similar paths.


La strada

La strada (“the road” in Italian) bears all the visual trademarks of Federico Fellini’s oeuvre: the waif, the carnival, the sea, the vastness of the landscape. The director once described the film as “a complete catalogue of [his] entire mythological world, a dangerous representation of [his] identity that was undertaken with no precedent whatsoever.” It was the movie the launched Fellini to international stardom, marked his turn away from neorealism, and precipitated a nervous breakdown. A brutish strongman and the servile woman who assists his circus act (breaking a chain with his hulking chest) travel from town to town in a rickety caravan. They embark on an odyssey of cruelty, innocence, loneliness, and desire that belongs to its maker as much as the characters.