“All Aboard”: Top Ten Bus-Related Moments in the Movies

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Taking public transportation on the bus in everyday life is essential for workers worldwide as we need to make that daily grinding trek to the workplace, shopping malls, school, doctor’s appointment or whatever our destination may be at the moment. In particular, there is a love/hate relationship with buses as it presents all sort of social challenges: anxiety, chattiness, impatience, friendliness, kindness, anti-socialism, invasive behavior, alienation, nervousness, sense of unity, etc.

Well in the world of movies the bus-related experience can be more colorful and adventurous for the imagination at heart. Thus, it brings up this prolonged thought: what is your favorite or memorable moments dealing with buses on the big screen? Does it compare adequately to the triumphs or tragedies that overshadow or downplay your dealings with real-life bus-related interaction?

In “All Aboard”: Top Ten Bus-Related Moments in the Movies we will look at a handful of selected scenes, moments or overall themes pertaining to busing storylines in film that are either comical, courageous, inspired or steeped in sorrow and remorse.

So fasten your seatbelts folks and let’s take an erratic ride on the buses in cinema. And remember…no time to fuss over missing bus schedules.

The cinematic selections for “All Aboard”: Top Ten Bus-Related Moments in the Movies are (in alphabetical order):

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1.) The Big Bus (1976)

WHY ENJOY THE RIDE: There was no real moment per se that one can pinpoint about the disaster spoof flick The Big Bus where a nuclear-powered bus played an important part in the grand silliness that involved around some of Hollywood’s big name B-listers in movies and television. Furiously nutty, The Big Bus told of the Denver-bound super-sized bus carrying an animated cast of personalities. Naturally, the disasters that occurred during the lengthy bus ride highlighted by the wacky shenanigans of a has-been driver leading the way were the movie’s thriving pulse. Ultimately, The Big Bus was a campy joyride and not a bad romp as far as frivolous farces is concerned in the mid-1970’s.

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2.) Bus Stop (1956)

WHY ENJOY THE RIDE: The bus bound for Montana in Joshua Logan’s Bus Stop was the psychological instrument for the silent torment of cafe singer Cherie (Marilyn Monroe) trying to dodge the possessive affections of impulsive and clueless rodeo cowboy Bo Decker (Don Murray) determined to force his object of affection to live on his ranch. Thankfully, the scheduled emergency bus stop at Grace’s Diner causes a delay in weary Cherie’s kidnapping to Bo’s dusty homestead. However, the pesky Bo is determined to lasso Cherie’s elusive heart. And so the desperate Cherie is hampered by an equally desperate Bo destined to round up his hesitant honeybun as if she was cattle on his Montana spread. The moments at Grace’s Diner caps off the bus-related strife of a twosome on the verge of lovelorn indifference.

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3.) The Fugitive (1993)

WHY ENJOY THE RIDE: The riveting bus moment in The Fugitive was basically the set up for wrongly accused Dr. Richard Kimble’s (Harrison Ford) daring escape only to be hunted down by U.S. Marshal Gerard (Tommy Lee Jones in his Oscar-winning role) and his crew. Kimble, who was falsely charged with murdering his lovely wife (Selma Ward). benefited from commotion on the inmate bus when a train eventually causes a major collision thus springing free a shackled Kimble as well as a few of his other imprisoned passengers. Kimble must dodge the clutches of the stone-faced Gerard while track down the one-armed man that was responsible for the killing of his late spouse. The banged up bus was the start of an adventurous odyssey that highlighted Kimble’s and Gerard’s cat-and-mouse movements.

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4.) Get on the Bus (1996)

WHY ENJOY THE RIDE: Filmmaker Spike Lee’s inspiring and perceptive Get on the Bus is probably one of the director’s most overlooked and underrated films in his arsenal of social-minded cinema. The narrative focuses on the bus-traveling exploits of an array of African-American men from all walks of life coming together from around the country to attend the highly-publicized Million Man March in Washington, DC. Lee uses the bus as a symbolic vessel to bond brothers-in-arms on an empowering journey to embrace responsibility, identity and spiritual foundation regarding their families, communities and sense of self-worth and self-discovery. The lengthy bus ride pits these black men together with clashing ideologies and life experiences. The overall film is a grand bus-related moment onto itself. In today’s cynical climate more men–not just African-American manhood–need to Get on the Bus and get it together to examine their psychological truths.

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5.) A League of Their Own (1992)

WHY ENJOY THE RIDE: Now why would anyone not expect a series of fun-natured bus scenes in a hardball dramedy about a nostalgic all-female professional baseball league? Director Penny Marshall’s spry sports gem A League of Their Own was a feminine fastball that entertained enthusiastic audiences in movie theaters back in 1992. So what was the key bus moments in League? Just pick one…a little chubby child of one of the women ballplayers named Stillwell causing havoc on the bus during a road trip? How about drunken lout Rockford Peaches manager Jimmy Duggan (Tom Hanks) blindly kissing the team’s house aide only to humorously realize that the lips he smooched belonged to a Wizard of Oz Wicked Witch look-a-like? Perhaps tough-talking Peach Mae (Madonna) teaching an illiterate teammate to read a steamy romantic novel was worth the smirk?  Any moment on the bus with these base-on-balls babes certainly scored a giddy run.

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6.) Magical Mystery Tour (1967)

WHY ENJOY THE RIDE: The Beatles’ Magical Mystery Tour was viewed upon by many as the legendary British band’s least critically favored or successful film. Nevertheless, The Beatles’s other films that featured playful scenes with trains, sleds, bicycles and submarines did not have uniquely strange, joyous bus trips with an assortment of odd-looking folks along for the raucous ride as they explored the scenic countryside. Overall, Magical Mystery Tour was gleefully bizarre, self-indulgent, free-spirited and frothy. Look, who could resist a random psychedelic bus journey with the bouncy Beatles and company? I Am the Walrus indeed! 

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7.) Midnight Cowboy (1969)

WHY ENJOY THE RIDE: Perhaps the most tender and telling tale of the unconventional friendship between Midnight Cowboy’s golden-haired country boy escort Joe Buck (Jon Voight) and unctuous and crippled hustler Enrico “Ratso” Rizzo (Dustin Hoffman) is the stirring climatic scene in the film involving the mandatory bus ride to sunny-drenched Miami from frigid and drab New York. The desperate Joe Buck had just killed an elderly “client” (Barnard Hughes) to fund a bus trip to the Sunshine State to get the drastically sick Ratso away from the urban grime so that he can fulfill his dream of heading south where sunshine and wealthy widows run amok. Joe accomplishes his goal to transport the physically deteriorating Ratso…er, Rico…in crossing the state line to Florida while leaving behind the seedy auspices of his miserable Big Apple existence. Sadly, the Greyhound bus trip ends for Rico Rizzo as he quietly slips into death during the uncomfortable bus travel next to another lost man that  finally became a trusted brother instead of an arranged studly meal ticket.

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8.) Speed (1994)

WHY ENJOY THE RIDE: The adrenaline-induced rush that was Jan de Bont’s big budget kinetic actioner Speed presented a wild premise that was so preposterous yet suspenseful and impacting that the box office lit up as convincingly as a hardware store full of bright flashlights. The premise involved a disgruntled ex-cop turned mad bomber Howard Payne (the late Dennis Hopper) exacting revenge on society by planting a bomb on a city bus that requires the massive vehicle to maintain a speed of over 50 mph otherwise it will explode thus killing all the passengers on board. It will take heroic hotshot cop Jack Traven (Keanu Reeves) and pretty plucky bus driver Annie (Sandra Bullock) to keep the calm of the commuters in order as madman Payne dictates the rules of the soon-to-be explosive bus en route to demanding a whopping payoff. Everything about Speed’s moments were imaginative edge-of-your-seat tension as the physical and psychological confines of de Bont’s ominous wired bus kept audiences riveted and revved up.

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9.) Superman (1978)

WHY ENJOY THE RIDE: Yes, the bus-related moment in 1978’s Superman was not what one would call memorable but it was one of the many action sequences that kept the Man of Steel (the late Christopher Reeve) busy as he tried to restore order to the chaos created by twisted arch enemy Lex Luthor (Gene Hackman). The school bus rescue off an unsteady bridge by Superman was dutifully thrilling as he prevented the panicking children on board from meeting an untimely watery death below.  As the endangered bus leaned over the edge of the shaky bridge good ole’ mighty Superman was able to lift the edge of the school bus in flight to safety. No harm or foul for the Caped One as his trademark heroics was all in a day’s work on his adopted planet Earth.

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10.) The Sweet Hereafter (1997)

WHY ENJOY THE RIDE: Canadian filmmaker Atom Egoyan’s emotionally affecting melodrama The Sweet Hereafter had a sobering impact on an entire town in the aftermath of a tragic bus accident. The haunting character study of mass despair and the lingering psychological pain was consciously realized. The bus-related tragedy left on the fatigued psyche of the town’s disillusionment was stark and shocking. Poignant, reflective and mentally gripping, Egoyan’s The Sweet Hereafter is definitely a busload of heartache and piercing indignation.

–Frank Ochieng