Two - Lane Blacktop

Director: Monte Hellman
Screenwriters: Will Corry, Rudolph Wurlitzer

Institute History

  • 1989 Sundance Film Festival


This legendary film, unavailable for years, from the equally legendary director (and USFF jury member) Monte Hellman, is arguably the last word in the “road movie” genre. With its script by Rudy Wirlitzer and Will Corry, it might be described as Hellman’s version of Waiting For God staged as a drag race across space in stopwatch time: rich in metaphors, allegories and archetypes.

Two-Lane Blacktop gets into high gear when a cross-country race begins, pitting a trio identified only by The Driver (country rocker James Taylor), The Mechanic (Beach Boy Dennis Wilson) and The Girl (Laurie Bird) against G.T.O. (Warren Oates). Fast en route to nowhere, the film chronicles their specific encounters their individual—and internal—races, and their meetings in roadside hamburger stands and tank-town bars. As they travel across the American landscape, each character damned. The Driver and The Mechanic can relate, ultimately, only to their cars; G.T.O. only to fantasies about what he once was; and The Girl only to the momentary fulfillment whomever she is pretending to be.

The film finds Hellman (often described as the thinking-man’s Sar Peckinpah) in full command of his considerable artistic energies. The objective nihilism and draw-your-own-conclusion style of his earlier films, The Shooting and Ride the Whirlwind, are supplemented here by humor, action and fine, disciplined technique. Two-Laned Blacktop may be like trying to tell a stranger about rock ‘n’ roll, but in its own smart way, its a masterpiece. Our special thanks to Universal Pictures for striking a new 35mm print of this previously unavailable film.

Screening Details

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