Ridiculously Bad 80s Movies & How they Inspired me to Travel

As a kid I was addicted to television–I’m talking like that cowboy kid on Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. I know I wore out at least one VCR and four VHS tapes during the whole of the 80s. My obsession was compounded with my father’s purchase of a satellite dish. I watched the same movies over and over so much so that I could rattle off every line. The films I saw as a kid were highly inappropriate and taught me about things I had no business knowing, but they also ignited my curiosity for places outside of my West Texas bubble. No matter how silly it sounds, I have Burt Reynolds, Chevy Chase, and Harrison Ford to thank for helping transition my obsession for television into one of travel.

The Cannonball Run

Back in 1981, I was seven-years old, Burt Reynolds was the hottest thing around, Farrah Fawcett never wore a bra, and I watched The Cannon Ball Run every chance I got. Like most 80s movies, the plot is simple: an eccentric group of characters race from New York to LA trying to avoid arrest in an attempt to win $1 million. With actors like Dom DeLuise, Sammy Davis Jr., Jackie Chan, Roger Moore (yes, James Bond is in this movie), and Dean Martin, The Cannonball Run is gloriously cheesy. I blame this movie for my fixation on fast driving and road trips, as well as the countless wasted hours trying to get Farrah’s hair.

National Lampoon’s European Vacation

Before there was Eurotrip there was European Vacation. All right, so it isn’t the best movie of the National Lampoon’s franchise. Hell, it’s not even the second best. I’d rank them as follows: Christmas Vacation, Vacation, Vegas Vacation, and European Vacation. But in 1985 when the movie came out, it was the first exposure I had to Europe. I was hooked. At the time it seemed like such a far-off land, one that I’d never visit. Keep in mind, this was a time where a travel agent was needed instead of European travel deals delivered directly to your inbox. I dreamed of winning a game show like the Griswolds. I simply couldn’t imagine my piggy bank ever being full enough.

Rewatching this movie after having been to Europe makes me love it more. Every single cultural stereotype is there–French, German, English, and even American. And just like all the movies from the National Lampoon’s franchise, there are a million quotes worth repeating. I can’t count how many times in my life I’ve uttered the words, “Hey, look kids! There’s Big Ben and there’s Parliament!

 

Raiders of the Lost Ark

In 1981 when I wasn’t watching The Cannonball Run, I was glued to the non-stop action in Raiders of the Lost Ark.  Ok, perhaps the hot Harrison Ford in that brown floppy hat might have had something to do with my fixation. Nonetheless, Steven Spielberg’s movie follows archaeologist Dr. Indiana Jones {hello, Harrison} in his attempt to find the Ark of the Covenant before Hitler’s agents. From Nepal to Cairo, Indy escapes from various close calls in his quest for the Ark.

I’d heard of Egypt from church, but I seriously doubt I made the connection that Cairo is actually in Egypt. I’m pretty sure I’d never heard of Nepal, so those places might as well have been made-up lands from Spielberg’s imagination. Make believe or not, I wanted to go where Indy went. I imagined non-stop adventure, lots of khaki clothes, sand, and people that looked nothing like me. If I were told in 1981 that in 2013 I’d visit Petra just like Indiana Jones, I’d think them crazy.

Even now after all the places I’ve seen and things I’ve done, I am bewildered. So, thank you, Burt Reynolds, Chevy Chase, and Harrison Ford. Had I not spent the better half of the 80s enamored with your cheesy movies, I might not have the passport stamps and memories I have today, but most importantly, I wouldn’t have the awesome quotes.

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25 Comments
  • Anita Mac
    June 24, 2013

    Funny how movies inspire us! For me, it was the Man from Snowy River…no doubt due to my Australian connection and love of horses! It is still high on my bucket list to do the Man From Snowy River ride. Must be getting myself back to Australia one of these days!

    • Leah Walker
      June 25, 2013

      I can’t remember ever seeing that movie. It was probably far too wholesome for my warped, young mind.

  • Jeff @ Go Travelzing
    June 24, 2013

    Good choices. Vacation is one of my favorite movies of all time. I will have to disagree with you that Christmas is better than European. In Christmas they did not go anywhere so it is not really a Vacation :). Plus European was in Europe so it would win just because of that. I watch those movies anytime they are on TV.

    • Leah Walker
      June 25, 2013

      Technically, it was Christmas vacation from school, so it counts in my book. But, European does get bonus points for being in Europe, but did it have Cousin Eddie? I can’t remember. Randy Quaid makes the Vacation movies.

  • Becky Padmore
    June 24, 2013

    I agree with all of these and especially the Harrison Ford crush 😉

    • Leah Walker
      June 25, 2013

      Yep, he sure was a hottie and he’s aged quite well. 🙂

  • @mrsoaroundworld
    June 24, 2013

    I need to watch these movies 🙂 and I will, promise! For me Letters to Juliet will always be my travel movie!

    • Leah Walker
      June 25, 2013

      Oh, I’m sure you’ll hate them, Ana. They’re lowbrow at best.

  • So glad to see we aren’t the only ones traveling the world saying “Hey, look kids! There’s Big Ben and there’s Parliament!”And now we actually have kids to say it to!

    • Leah Walker
      June 25, 2013

      I don’t know a single person in my age group or older that’s never heard that phrase and can tell you where it came from. It’s awesome and full of great quotes.

  • fotoeins | Henry
    June 25, 2013

    Leah: deffo “European Vacation”, though it doesn’t get as nipply out in the summer. Or does it? 😉 I love how this theme could be unexpectedly inspirational.

    • Leah Walker
      June 25, 2013

      Haha…good one, Henry. There are so many great movies that inspire me to travel. I just wanted to take a stab at some of the unheralded ones. 🙂

  • Lance Wiedower
    June 25, 2013

    The most important Burt Reynolds movie was Smoky and the Bandit. It really made me want to get in a truck, drive to Texarkana and steal a load of Coors banquet beer to deliver to Atlanta. That kicks ass!

    • Leah Walker
      June 25, 2013

      Hell, yes, Smoky and the Bandit was the BEST Burt Reynolds movie. No argument from me.

  • Andrew
    June 26, 2013

    I was having a discussion about Cannonball Run recently. I know the movie, but have never seen it. Need to put that on my acquire list.
    I get frustrated with languages occasionally and hear myself wanting to shout into a crowd, “Does anyone speak English? Or even ancient greek?” from the Last Crusade. Thought my ancient greek is lacking. I like the idea of following the red lines of travel on the overhead map. Wish flights went that quick, but without the Temple of Doom issues.

    • Leah Walker
      June 26, 2013

      That’s a great quote, Andrew, and one I’d forgotten. I need to rewatch that movie ASAP. I think if I heard someone ask that in a crowd, I might go over and make friends with said person. I figure anyone with a sense of humor like that must be ok.

  • gregory urbano
    June 26, 2013

    my vote is with the raiders of the lost ark, that was an adventurous movie!

  • Tawny of Captain and Clark
    June 27, 2013

    I love the idea behind this post. You had some movies on there that I definitely wasn’t expecting. For me, the wildcard was the Disney movie, “Cheetah.” That’s what inspired me to want to go to Africa in the first place. That trip is when I met Chris and well, the rest is history 😉

  • Traveling Ted
    June 29, 2013

    No wonder you wanted to wear my hat at TBEX 🙂

    • Leah Walker
      June 29, 2013

      Yep…I was giving you the eye all night, Indy.

  • Wait a minute…they did a European Vacation? How did I not know this????

    • Leah Walker
      July 1, 2013

      Shut up! You are not serious with that statement.

  • lola dimarco
    July 2, 2013

    love this post. too funny. so many travel movies inspire me to want to go places!! like Under the Tuscan Sun or Amelie… oh don’t get me started!

  • Loz in Transit
    July 10, 2013

    Leah none of these movies are “ridiculously bad”. Haha! In fact they’re all classics, I’d have been proud to watch and be inspired by them.
    The ultimate travel movies for me are the Richard Linklater “Before…” trilogy: ‘Before Sunrise’ (Vienna), ‘Before Sunset’ (Paris). In fact the latest instalment ‘Before Midnight’ might convince you to go to Greece earlier afterall.

    • Leah Walker
      July 26, 2013

      Oh, bad is sometimes soooo good. I loved these movies so much, but when I look back at them I shake my head. Ahhh…the 80s! Having just come back from Vienna, I must see Before Sunrise.

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