The term "road movie" is a loose one because almost any film, narrative or otherwise, can be interpreted as a journey. Likewise, many narrative films follow characters from place to place. Elements of the road movie appeared in classical-era films, but the term first circulated to describe a group of New American films of the late 1960s and early 1970s that were very much about being "on the road." Appropriately enough, the genre since then has traveled in many directions.
The road movie is a unique yet essential genre of American cinema, dramatizing a fascination with mobility. Exploring the very theme of exploration, the road movie reinvents the classic literary journey narrative, drawing inspiration from Homer's Odyssey , the wanderings of biblical prophets, and the epic travels of Miguel de Cervantes (1547–1616), Mark Twain (1835–1910), and Walt Whitman (1819–1892). More direct and recent literary influences are John Steinbeck (1902–1968) and Jack Kerouac (1922–1969). Road movies feature characters on the move, often outsiders who cross geographic borders but also transgress moral boundaries. With their reflexive focus on the interplay between automobile and camera technology, road movies mobilize a dynamic cinematic spectacle of movement and speed. Road movies celebrate journeys rather than destinations.