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‘Back to the Future’ Fans Should Know About Bob Gale’s ‘Interstate 60’

No one knew how to advertise this one back in 2002, so it faded into obscurity and has remained there ever since.
By  · Published on March 28th, 2020

Welcome to The Prime Sublime, a weekly column dedicated to the underseen and underloved films buried beneath page after page of far more popular fare on Amazon’s Prime Video collection. We’re not just cherry-picking obscure titles, though, as these are movies that we find beautiful in their own, often unique ways. You might even say we think they’re sublime…

“Sublime /səˈblīm/: of such excellence, grandeur, or beauty as to inspire great admiration or awe.”

Given that Rob and I are two of the most esoteric members of the FSR team, this column has focused on obscure genre movies that were made by filmmakers who are only known in niche cult circles. Interstate 60, however, is a curious case. The film fits the bill in terms of being an unknown oddity, but it shouldn’t be so overlooked, simply because it was helmed by Back to the Future scribe Bob Gale, and features an impressive which includes Kurt Russell, Gary Oldman, James Marsden, and Amy Smart.

Of course, a film’s quality and its star power are two different things. While I do think the names attached to Interstate 60 should have brought more attention to the film throughout the years, it should be more known because it’s a delightful gem that will make your smile, think, and enrich your soul.

What’s it about?

Interstate 60 follows Neal Oliver (Marsden), a student who is feeling uncertain about his future. He wants to become an artist, but his overbearing father wants him to pursue a law degree. With some big life decisions to make, Neal decides to take a road trip down a mystical interstate after meeting a half-leprechaun (Oldman), who grants him one wish. The leprechaun has a history of being a trickster, but he takes a shine to Neal because the student wishes for an answer that will enable him to make the right decision about his future.

Like all good road movies, though, Interstate 60 is all about the adventure and not the destination. The highway puts him into contact with some interesting people and takes him to some bizarre places. For example, there’s a town full of lawyers who spend their days suing each other. There’s another place, sheriffed by Russell’s character, where all of the inhabitants are addicted to a drug that causes them to party 24/7. Neal also meets a hitchhiking lady who travels the roads, looking for the perfect lover.

Neal is also in pursuit of true, everlasting love. The universe keeps giving him signs that he’s destined to be with a billboard model (Smart), who initially appears in his dreams before he comes into contact with her. However, if he wants to find his potential soulmate and complete his journey, he must overcome the episodes of the road and hope that he doesn’t run into the killer who stalks the highways.

What makes it sublime?

Interstate 60 is a strange movie that doesn’t quite fit into any category, but that’s what makes it so wonderful. Gale was inspired by The Twilight Zone, Gulliver’s Travels, and Alice In Wonderland while creating the movie, only this journey into the unknown, while fantastical, is rooted in the familiarity of the road movie. With Oldman’s leprechaun character and the highway itself, Gale came up with his own great American folktale, and it’s one that’s full of engaging life lessons.

In addition to boasting a fun cast of quirky characters and unusual situations, Interstate 60 is a life-affirming movie that’s designed to make people feel good. While there is a dark undercurrent to the film at times, it’s mostly lighthearted and funny. Some viewers might actually think it’s too cookie-cutter considering some of the ideas and themes it plays with, but the core concept of Interstate 60 is about chasing one’s dreams. The film encourages viewers to pursue theirs too.

All of the best road and fantasy movies take viewers on a journey, and Interstate 60 is no different. It’s the type of movie that will make you want to abandon your responsibilities and take to the road in search of deeper meaning and adventure. Granted, that’s not possible for most of us because of jobs, family duties, etc., so movies like this are the next best thing. If I had to compare Interstate 60 to anything, it would be a warm hug.

The movie also scores extra points for blasting Transmatic’s “Blind Spot” during the opening credits. It’s one of the best rock songs of the 2000s, and hearing the track any movie (it appears in three), makes that film automatically better. Furthermore, if you look through the song’s YouTube comments section, you’ll read a lot of positive opinions about Interstate 60. Hardly anyone’s seen the movie, but those who have remember it forever.

And in conclusion…

Gale came up with the idea for Back to the Future, so you know he’s the real deal when it comes to imaginative storytelling. Interstate 60 might not have had the same impact on pop culture as Marty McFly’s adventures, but it’s a movie that offers a similar type of thrill.

Interstate 60 was also doomed from the start and never had a chance to find an audience, so spreading the word about it now is better late than never. At the time, Fireworks (the studio that produced the movie) was in financial trouble and couldn’t secure any big distribution deals for the film. No one knew how to market the movie either due to how weird it is.

That said, Gale got to make the movie he wanted to make, and talented creators having the ultimate creative freedom makes movies better. A movie from the guy who wrote Back to the Future that managed to avoid studio interference? How can you say no to that?

Want more sublime Prime finds? Of course you do.

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Kieran is a Contributor to the website you're currently reading. He also loves the movie Varsity Blues.