This clip from the film Forrest Gump (1994) stands to give a different view on traveling the road when compared to other road movies. The clip shows Tom Hanks as the movie’s protagonist, Forrest Gump, running along the road near Monument Valley, Utah. Behind him is a large group of followers, bent on accompanying Forrest for the duration of his run. Forrest mentions that he has been running for over three years, and his running is meant to “put the past [him] before [he] can move on.” Forrest stops his run to announce that he is going home, ending his long journey.
Forrest’s run is for the same reason that many people in the 1950’s took the trip out west on Route 66: escape. They tried to break away from society’s restrictions and the responsibilities that awaited them back at home. To them, the open road meant pure freedom. It meant doing anything they want. Forrest’s case is so interesting because he already could do anything he wants. By this point in the film, Forrest is beyond wealthy, has nothing but free time, and is not encumbered by familial responsibilities or anything else that stops people from leaving their homes. He can make this journey with no consequences. In fact, he goes on this run right after he loses his only responsibility, namely the love of his life, Jenny. He takes this run because he is not burdened.
However, he does still share in the freedom of the open road. He finds the landscape beautiful and shares stories of the people he meets along the way. He is even reunited with Jenny as a result of the fame he obtains from the run. Forrest’s run, therefore, becomes reminiscent of traveling on the road during the 1930’s, when the open road represented an opportunity to get ahead in life. Forrest does this, but his gains are less about finances and more about life-fulfillment.
The fact that Forrest makes this journey by running is itself impressive. In Roy Eyerman and Orver Lofgren’s, “Romancing the Road: Road Movies and Images of Mobility,” they mention that “Without a car, one loses control and can easily be victimized by the hostile environs, social and natural.” Forrest has more than enough money to buy a car and take the trip several times over, but he chooses to run. His choice allows him to interact with and get close to many people along the way, leading up to his having a band of loyal followers. He actually gains control of his environment and shatters the “stranded hero” idea because he will never be without travel means. Forrest Gump provides a wonderful contrast to the usual views of the road, even though this scene takes up a very short amount of time compared to the rest of the film.