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There’s nothing like the power of female friendship in a girls’ trip movie. It’s the kind of dynamic that always passes the trials and tribulations that any relationship has to endure. No matter how many fights, disagreements, or boys that get in the way, the friendship always comes out on top. Over time, cinema has successfully showcased many depictions of the strong bond between women, and eventually, a pattern emerged; movies where girls go on trips together.
Whether they are going on a much-needed vacation or running from the law, they always stick together. This pattern dates back to the Golden Age of cinema all the way to the present with the release of 80 For Brady, starring Jane Fonda, Lily Tomlin, Sally Field, and Rita Moreno. Every generation has been privy to at least one girls’ trip movie that speaks to the culture of that time while remaining a classic for years to come.
Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953)
The early days of film were not very kind to women. It was extremely rare to have more than one female in a lead role, let alone two or more of them going on a trip together. If there was a leading lady, she was almost always paired up with a male counterpart. That is until the fifties, specifically, Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, starring Marilyn Monroe and Jane Russell. Lorelei Lee (Monroe) and Dorothy Shaw (Russell) are musical performers on a cruise across the Atlantic, where they encounter several male suitors vying for their affection.
The cruise is a setting for the two inseparable friends to reflect on what they want in a relationship and make some important decisions about their future. The ship also serves as a symbol of glamour, wealth, and luxury, which is in contrast to the more down-to-earth and relatable nature of Lorelei and Dorothy’s friendship. Despite Lorelei performing “Diamonds are a Girl’s Best Friend” on the ship’s grand staircase, no material item or man would ever get between the genuine bond between her and Dorothy.
As generations passed, the appetite for these kinds of movies only grew. People who came of age in the ‘70s and ‘80s had an onslaught of seeing women travel together on screen. In 1988, director Garry Marshall explored the woes of a bi-coastal friendship in the movie Beaches. It follows the lifelong friendship of CC (Bette Midler) and Hillary (Barbara Hershey) and how adulthood and different paths of life can test even the strongest bond.
Beaches explores the ups and downs of their friendship, including jealousy, competition, and, ultimately, forgiveness and acceptance. They use the backdrop of vacationing in their hometown of Atlantic City and visiting each other in New York and Los Angeles to depict their devotion to the friendship no matter how much has separated them. Beaches reminded audiences how important it is to show how dynamics can change as you grow up.
Thelma and Louise (1991)
The early’s ‘90s introduced the pinnacle of girls’ trip movies and defined the meaning of ride or die with Thelma and Louise. In Ridley Scott’s 1991 film a weekend away turns two best friends into fugitives after Louise (Susan Sarandon) guns down a man who is assaulting Thelma (Geena Davis). They drive through the desert with the plan to avoid the law by escaping to Mexico. As the pressure from the law intensifies, the two friends make a series of desperate decisions and eventually have to make the ultimate sacrifice for one another.
Thelma and Louise was one of the first more accurate portrayals of the ins and outs of a complex female dynamic. Through all the challenges and adversity they are faced with, the friendship between them is unshakable. They don’t always like each other, they don’t always agree, but they will always protect and support one another. The film is not only a testament to the two title characters but also a story of female empowerment and the strength that comes when surrounded by true friends.
Boys on the Side (1995)
Whoopi Goldberg, Drew Barrymore and Mary-Louise Parker star in the 1995 comedy-drama film Boys on the Side. Jane (Goldberg) is moving from New York to LA and responds to an ad from Robin (Parker) offering a ride across the country. On the way, they stop in Pittsburgh to meet Robin’s friend Holly (Barrymore) and help her escape an abusive relationship.
As all three continue to California together, they share their struggles and secrets, and become a source of emotional support for each other. The movie includes an outdated portrayal of queerness and HIV, but the message that female friendship can be a powerful force for healing and growth is timeless. Holly, Robin, and Jane all come from different backgrounds and have to face their own personal tragedies, but they are able to find common ground and resilience within each other.
The First Wives Club (1996)
Hollywood’s negative perception of middle-aged women was challenged with Hugh Wilson’s 1996 classic The First Wives Club. The film centers around the friendship of three women, Elise (Goldie Hawn), Brenda (Better Midler), and Annie (Diane Keaton), who reunite after decades of estrangement due to the death of their old friend. The three ladies have all been left by their husbands for younger women and find solace in each other as they navigate their newfound single status. Together, they form the ‘First Wives Club’ and seek revenge on their ex-husbands by plotting to ruin their lives and careers.
Along the way, the women bond over their shared experiences and help each other regain confidence and independence. The years the women spent apart never diminished their chemistry, it helped them realize that they have a lifelong bond that transcends age and time. Hawn, Midler, and Keaton carried the movie with so much lightness and humour, especially with their performance of “You Don’t Own Me,” that no one could ever argue that watching a story about women over forty is boring.
Romy and Michele’s High School Reunion (1997)
The 1990s produced so many movies about female friendship, but none of them are as fun and iconic as Romy and Michele’s High School Reunion. Mira Sorvino and Lisa Kudrow play Romy and Michele, respectively, two dim yet vibrant girls who only want to hang out with each other. When they find out it’s time for their ten-year high school reunion, the girls take a road trip back home to Arizona to try and prove to their former bullies that they are thriving, when in reality, neither of them have done much since graduation.
The friendship between Romy and Michele is one to aspire to; they understand each other on such a deep level that they basically speak their own language. No matter how silly they are, what outfit they put on, or lie they tell, they can always count on the other to support them. Kudrow and Sorvino had perfect chemistry and comedic timing to portray the special and spirited relationship. The story is shrouded in bubblegum-pink hues and the question of who really invented the Post-It, but at its core, it’s about two very strong-willed women walking hand-in-hand on the journey to self-discovery.
How Stella Got Her Groove Back (1998)
Even though the 90s had an uptick in movies centered around female friendships, there was still a considerable lack of diversity in the representation. One film that made a splash in that regard was How Stella Got Her Groove Back. The movie follows Stella (Angela Bassett), who on the surface has everything; a successful career and a good relationship with her son, but she’s longing for more in life which sends her into a midlife crisis of sorts. Her best friend, Delilah (Whoopi Goldberg), convinces Stella to take herself on a hard-earned trip to a fancy resort in Jamaica to relax and recharge.
Little does Stella know that Delilah will surprise her there. Even though the film is more about Stella realizing the importance of living life to the fullest rather than friendship, Delilah is an instrumental part of that process. She serves as a sounding board for Stella’s complaints and concerns about life, and encourages her to embrace change and take risks to find her happiness. Stella and Delilah provide a positive representation of Black female friendship, where they love and uplift each other no matter what.
Britney Spears’ first and only endeavor into the film industry was with the ultimate girly-girl road trip movie, Crossroads. It marked the beginning of a new crop of girls’ trip movies for the millennial generation. The plot of the movie centers around three childhood friends, Lucy (Spears), Kit (Zoe Saldana), and Mimi (Taryn Manning), who reunite after many years apart and embark on a cross-country road trip to Los Angeles to find their dreams and to reconnect with their past.
Together they tackle a potentially homicidal maniac, karaoke in dive bars, estranged mothers, and cheating boyfriends. Though Crossroads leans into the melodramatic kitsch of the early 2000s, it highlights the importance of having a support system of friends to rely on during difficult times, and brought us the iconic ballad, “I’m Not a Girl, Not Yet a Woman.”
The Sweetest Thing (2002)
In the same year Crossroads was released, a more salacious and risqué take on the girl’s road trip movie came out called The Sweetest Thing. The rom-com revolves around Christina (Cameron Diaz), a carefree woman who is not looking for a serious relationship. When she meets Peter (Thomas Jane), she starts to reconsider her views on love and needs to let him know.
Christina and her best friend Courtney (Christina Applegate) drive across California to track down Peter. On the way, they get involved in a series of misadventures (many of which are too inappropriate to describe in detail). The most charming aspect of their friendship is their ability to share the ugliest and most vulnerable events in their life with each other. They have an unbridled trust and understanding that only women share.
The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 2 (2008)
Most of the films on this list have content for adults’ eyes only. Younger girls struggle with friendship, life choices and self-discovery just as much as any age group. That’s why the The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants movies became a staple to kids growing up in the early aughts. Best friends Lena (Alexis Bledel), Bridget (Blake Lively), Carmen (America Ferrera), and Tibby (Amber Tamblyn) spend the majority of the two movies apart but stay connected through a magical pair of jeans that fit all of them perfectly.
Life has taken all four girls in very different directions, and as they grow up, they start to have less and less in common. They believe the only thing keeping them in touch is the jeans, so when they go missing in Greece, all four girls reunite to save their friendship and rekindle their bond on a picturesque Grecian vacation. They never find the jeans again, but they don’t need them anymore because they are reminded that their unique friendship is strong enough to survive without the magic of the pants.
Girls Trip (2017)
There is arguably no better girls’ trip movie than the aptly titled 2017 comedy Girls Trip. It’s a long overdue depiction of a group of women of color having carefree fun and being downright hilarious. Regina Hall plays Ryan, a successful author and motivational speaker, who invites her estranged college best friends, Lisa (Jada Pinkett Smith), Dina (Tiffany Haddish) and Sasha (Queen Latifah), to join her as VIP guests at the annual Essence Festival in New Orleans.
The four friends, who call themselves the “Flossy Posse,” quickly fall back into their old dynamic but soon discover that their lives have changed significantly in the years since they last saw each other. The women go on some wildly comedic adventures, including a night of partying, a visit to a strip club, and a crazy night in a hotel room. Through the funny and chaotic moments, the friends still have unresolved issues and past traumas that surface during their trip and cause a fight. Like any strong bond, they are able to overcome their problems and be there for each other on a deeper level than before. Lucky for us, we will get to see the Flossy Posse reunite in the upcoming Girls Trip 2.
Rough Night (2017)
In classic Hollywood fashion, a white-washed version of Girls Trip was released in the same year. Though Rough Night has a different trajectory, you can’t help but draw a comparison. Scarlett Johansson leads an ensemble of, you guessed it, old college friends who reunite for a trip. It’s Jess’ (Johansson) bachelorette party, and her besties are pulling out all the stops for an epic weekend at a beach house in Miami.
Things turn dark when the group accidentally kills a stripper they hired for the party. They panic and try to cover up the crime, and in doing so, hilarity and chaos ensues. The group’s (including Kate McKinnon, Zoë Kravitz, Jillian Bell and Ilana Glazer) dynamic is initially one of excitement and nostalgia, but as the stakes get higher, the friends begin to reveal their true feelings about each other. Once they are absolved of the crime, the tension lowers, and they can see how deeply they all love each other and not to take that for granted.
Mad Max: Fury Road (2015)
As the movie-going audience started to include more Generation Z folks, the formulaic approach to girls’ trip movies had to be turned on its head. The George Miller reboot Mad Max: Fury Road is an out-of-the-box representation of women traveling together for a greater purpose. In a post-apocalyptic desert wasteland, Max (Tom Hardy) teams up with Imperator Furiosa (Charlize Theron) in a high-octane pursuit to overthrow the tyrannical ruler Immortan Joe.
Travelling with Furiosa and Max are “The Wives,” Joe’s concubines who wish to escape him. Each of the wives has their own unique characteristics and strengths that are explored throughout the movie, and their journey alongside Furiosa is crucial to the fight against Joe’s rule. Fury Road is an inimitable addition to this list as it showcases empowered women working together to combat oppression and fight for freedom.
Finally, a road trip film that Twitter users can enjoy. The A24 dark comedy starts off when Zola (Taylour Paige) meets Stefani (Riley Keough), followed by the narration, “Y’all wanna hear a story about why me and this b**** here fell out?” While the girls aren’t necessarily friends, they have a common goal of chasing the bag. Stefani convinces Zola to come with her to Miami for the weekend to dance at the strip clubs there and make bank.
Things quickly spiral out of control once Zola realizes she’s expected to do a lot more than strip. She spends the entirety of the weekend trying to leave but is stranded and under the dangerous control of Stefani’s pimp. Luckily, the women come out unscathed, and Zola gives Stefani the silent treatment all the way home. While there is no real bond or camaraderie between the women, they need each other to overpower the men. Because the film revolves around social media, is sex-positive, and features some extremely modern-day characters, Zola is the perfect Gen-Z girls’ trip movie.
Barb and Star Go to Vista Del Mar (2021)
Barb and Star Go to Vista Del Mar is a colorfully exaggerated parody of the very topic at hand. Kristen Wiig and Annie Mumolo star as the titular characters who leave their reserved Nebraskan town for the first time ever to vacation in the fictional Florida town of Vista Del Mar. Once there, they befriend a number of eccentric locals and take part in some wacky excursions.
Meanwhile, a nefarious villain named (also Wiig) hatches a plan to destroy Vista Del Mar, and Barb and Star find themselves caught up in her scheme and must save the town and their new friends. A combination of Barb and Star’s culottes and devoted teamwork are responsible for saving Vista Del Mar from destruction. The two best friends ride an inflatable banana off into the sunset and will forever reminisce on their Floridian adventures. Beyond the absurdity, Barb and Star Go to Vista Del Mar is really full of heart, and it’s a hilarious tribute to all of the best girls’ trip movies of the past.
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