Stagecoach (1939)
Badlands (1973)
My Own Private Idaho (1991)
Barking Water (2009)
Stagecoach (1939)
Badlands (1973)

Film Studies

Cinematic Journeys:
The Road Movie in American Culture

On the Road
4 Tuesdays, June 4 to June 25, 2024, 6:30 to 9:30 pm  
Instructor: Amy Corbin, Ph.D., Muhlenberg College

Road movies have a distinct relationship to American culture: traveling in one’s own vehicle through sparsely settled lands recalls the national mythology of pioneers charting their own destinies. In this course, we’ll trace how the road movie develops as a genre that expresses the possibilities of freedom from social constraints, of finding one’s identity, and of connecting with others. 

In the classic western Stagecoach  (1939), a frontier journey represents the development of American national identity, as eight white characters from different backgrounds are forced to travel together in a cramped stagecoach and ultimately are united by the threat of an Apache attack. In Badlands  (1973), it’s clear that the liberating possibilities of travel have been replaced by fruitless attempts to live a countercultural existence: a young couple runs away from societal disapproval, only to be destroyed by their anti-social ways. The seminal New Queer Cinema film, My Own Private Idaho  (1991) also focuses on young people outside of mainstream society, traveling across states and through different spaces that illustrate queer subcultures, and the class divides of America. Traveling has a healing effect in our final film, Barking Water  (2009), in which a woman drives her dying former lover back to his home in the Seminole Nation of Oklahoma.  

Together, we’ll examine the common threads and diverse possibilities of the travel story, leading us to consider why film may be the ideal medium in which to tell stories of physical, psychological, and social journeys. 

Course Information

$100 for members, $140 for non-members


  • Tuesday, June 4 · 6:30 pm
  • Tuesday, June 11 · 6:30 pm
  • Tuesday, June 18 · 6:30 pm
  • Tuesday, June 25 · 6:30 pm