In the United States, RVs prove the adventurer’s go-to vehicle. Whether a journey up the coast or a trek through the West, when conquering miles and checking out the scenery, there’s no need to rough it. Instead, RVs make any stop a new home on the road. Naturally, RVs have fit into the American fascination. Here’s three movies that play on American’s love of exploring the frontier with RVs.
1. The Long, Long Trailer (1953)
“The Long, Long Trailer,” one of the first, if not the premiere, movie to showcase RV life, features the beloved comic duo Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz. Though it made its début in the 1950s, the honeymooners’ RV experience remains relevant to those living full-time in an RV today. Lucille’s character, Tacy, convinces her husband Nicky (Desi) post-marriage to start their lives on wheels rather than invest in a new home. When the brochure advertisement proves misleading, Nicky only finds enthusiasm for the plan when he spots the largest trailer on the lot.
Naturally, this movie’s full of the acting couple’s usual hijinks as the complications of fresh marriage and novice trailer life merge. For example, Tacy decides to take a RV ritual to the extreme and take a rock from every stop with her. Unfortunately, Tacy’s chooses gigantic keepsakes, and as the two travel up and down a steep mountain, the rocks nearly end their marriage with a true cliffhanger situation. Full of little disasters, the film captures the nuances of life in an RV and the joy of adventure, whether in trailer camp camaraderie, or simply learning to cook a meal without breaking all the dishes.
2. Lost in America (1985)
“Lost in America” is the quintessential yuppie film in which a couple shucks the modern, corporate world to look for meaning on the open road. In “Lost in America,” married couple David Howard, played by Albert Brookes, convinces wife Linda Howard, played by Julie Hagerty, to ditch their corporate Los Angeles lives for the America devoid of concrete and skyscrapers.
After quitting their jobs, selling their home, and liquidating their assets, David and Linda set up in a giant thirty foot Winnebago for their trek across the continental United States to “touch Indians, see mountains..” and live à la “Easy Rider.” However, after Linda loses their “nest egg” savings at a casino, the couple faces the problem of how to rebuild in a Safford, Arizona trailer camp, resorting to minimum wage jobs. Not soon after, they set their Winnebago up the East Coast to rejoin the Yuppie race.
3. About Schmidt (2002)
An RV favorite, “About Schmidt” follows Jack Nicholson’s character, Warren Schmidt, a fresh retiree bored with life and devoid of a true identity. The Nebraskan ex-assistant vice president at an insurance firms heads out in a thirty-five foot Winnebago Adventurer, as late film-critic Roger Ebert describes, “not…on a journey to find himself, because there is no one to find.” Bought for his retirement, the Winnebago brings strange events as he travels to Colorado for his estranged daughter’s marriage. The events show both a fear and a desire to find human connection and a spark for life. Classic moments include Schmidt parking his RV as if it’s a sporty coupe.
There’s a reason these movies all find both a huge cult and critical acclaim. It’s the dual sense of lost-and-found these RVs enable, and perhaps a deeply sown need for that Manifest Destiny. Either way, these movies are nothing without their giant RVs to lead the way.