The Best Travel Movies To Satisfy Your Wanderlust

Cover image for Best Travel Movies featuring a house from Hobbiton. A small house with grass on the roof.

They say a good movie can make us feel inspired, educated, and even become more positive. A good travel movie, however, can help you escape to destinations you’ve always dreamt of, or were curious about. Travel movies may feature A-list, Hollywood actors but the location is always the star! With this in mind, I’ve put together a list of the best travel movies that will surely satisfy your wanderlust!

Whether it’s the breathtaking landscapes, exotic cities, or unfamiliar cultures, travel movies can inspire us in different ways. How many of you have seen a movie and thought “I need to visit that place!”

When The Beach was released, all the way back in the year 2000, I remember being totally confused whilst watching the movie. What was this travelling lifestyle that Richard (Leo) was living? What were these amazing places he was looking for? Since then I’ve travelled to Thailand, visited the islands, and explored many, many countries. I’m not saying that I did all that on the back of a movie, but it’s fair to say that it really piqued my interest in travel all those years ago.

Travel movies are the perfect way to escape when travelling isn’t an option. Even when we do travel, movies are a great way to spend your downtime when everything becomes a bit full-on and you need a little break.

I’ve asked some of my fellow travel bloggers to help with this list of their favourite travel movies. Movies that may have inspired them to travel to certain destinations or influenced them in another way. Watch a few of them yourself and see if you’ll be inspired by, not just the amazing location, but the great acting that accompanies these movies.

Eat Pray Love

Recommended by Haley of Haley Blackall.

Movie poster for the movie Eat Pray Love
Watch the trailer on IMDB.

Eat Pray Love follows 34-year-old Elizabeth Gilbert (masterfully portrayed by Julia Roberts) as she finds herself through a self-discovery trip around the world. 

Leaving her long-time home in New York City, she embarks on travel that will change her forever. Spiritually, mentally, and physically. Starting her trip in the romantic capital of the world Rome, Italy, she peruses the quaint alleyways finding charming shops and dining solo in the most picturesque squares of the city. After making friends with locals, she decided to move on.

She arrives in a hectic New Delhi, India’s capital city, looking for peace and serenity at a local ashram. After struggling with quieting her mind, she eventually finds happiness in the most unlikely places. Liz Gilbert spends a spiritual 3 months in India.

On the last leg of her journey, she finds herself in the lush paradise of Bali, Indonesia. Holing up in Ubud, the spiritual capital of the island and one of the most Instagrammable places in Bali, she spends time in her bamboo home and visits spiritual healers trying to find her path. There she meets a mysterious stranger.

All in all, this movie is incredibly inspirational for any solo female traveller who wishes to live out their dreams of travelling the world and leaving their less than optimal life behind them. It was the first movie to ever ignite the travel bug in me. I’ve visited every place depicted in the movie, and was not disappointed!

The Loneliest Planet

Recommended by Emily from Wander-Lush.

Movie poster for the movie The Loneliest Planet
Watch the trailer on IMDB.

The Greater Caucasus is the Holy Grail for many hikers. A sublime mountain setting with picture-perfect scenery, idyllic villages, and relatively quiet trails. This landscape in the country of Georgia is the backdrop for The Loneliest Planet, a gripping and slightly offbeat travel film that is guaranteed to put the Caucasus region on your bucket list.

Released in 2012, the movie is based on a short story. It follows a young couple, Alex (played by Gael Garcia Bernal) and Nica (played by Hani Furstenberg), as they embark on an epic trek through a remote mountain pass. A local guide, played by Georgian actor Bidzina Gujabidze, shepherds them.

The scenery is the real star of this film. The dialogue is extremely sparse and the plot very simple, placing the viewer’s attention firmly on the mountains. Most of the film focuses on the scenery and the director does an excellent job of making you feel immersed in the landscape. The tension rises when the trio encounters a group of local shepherds, leading to a sequence of events that has Alex and Nica pondering the future of their relationship.

I traveled to Georgia for the first time after watching this and spent a lot of time in the mountains portrayed in the film. The Loneliest Planet perfectly captures the solitude and beauty of the Greater Caucasus, a big part of the reason I eventually decided to make Georgia my home.

A Good Year

Recommended by Elisa from France Bucket List.

Movie poster for A Good Year
Watch the trailer on IMDB.

A Good Year (2006) is one of my favorite films set in Provence. This film perfectly pictures the peaceful atmosphere of the hilltop villages of Provence, in Southern France. Surrounded by countryside or lavender fields.

Based on the novel by Peter Mayle, A Good Year is about a failed English banker (Russell Crowe) who inherits his uncle’s country house in Provence. This house brings him many good memories because this is the place where he used to spend all the summers with his uncle when he was a kid.

However, he needs money, so he travels to Provence one last time, ready for a quick sale.

What seems an easy business will change when he meets Christie (Abbie Cornish). She claims to be his uncle’s disappeared daughter and the rightful heir of the house.

A Good Year has an entertaining plot (there’s a love story too) and unique decors of places I know well. The movie was shot in some of the most beautiful villages of Provence (French locations were filmed at some of the most beautiful hilltop villages of Provence (Bonnieux, Cucuron, and Gordes in Vaucluse), and also in the cities of Marseille and Avignon.

The Motorcycle Diaries

Recommended by Carley from Home to Havana.

Movie poster for The Motorcycle Diaries
Watch the trailer on IMDB.

Based on the travel diaries of Ernesto “Che” Guevara, The Motorcycle Diaries is one of the great travel stories of the Americas, transformed in 2004 into one of the great road trip movies of all time.

Starring Gael Garcia Bernal as Guevara, Motorcycle Diaries begins in Guevara’s hometown of Buenos Aires, Argentina, following the future revolutionary and his travel companion via motorcycle from the tip of the continent through the Andes Mountains and beyond. Featuring snowcapped mountains in Patagonia, Machu Picchu, tropical rainforest, and much more, the trip is both a love story to the people and places of South America and a hilarious calamity of errors of two young travelers.

Despite its focus on South America, Motorcycle Diaries remains a Cuba-focused movie in many ways and is a must-see before visiting Havana. As viewers watch how Guevara’s travels impacted him and shaped him, his future as a leader of the Cuban revolution is more and more undeniable.

Motorcycle Diaries inspires travel through the Americas. But perhaps more than a particular location that stands apart after watching the movie, it inspires exploration. So much of Guevara’s experience is based on meeting and knowing people during his travels and takes readers back to the importance of going deeper than tourism to have a true encounter with a place.

Tracks

Recommended by Jürgen & Martina from PlacesofJuma.

Movie poster for Tracks
Watch the trailer on IMDB.

The film Tracks is set in 1975 and tells the story of young Robyn Davidson (Mia Wasikowska), who moves from the Australian city of Brisbane to the small town of Alice Springs.

In her story, she questions modern society and wants to find herself. To do so, she plans a very special adventure. Accompanied only by camels and her dog Diggity, she wants to walk 3,200 kilometres through the Australian desert to the Indian Ocean. She saves money for two years and plans everything necessary to start the journey. For example, she worked for a camel trader for several months to get to know the animals better.

During the trip Robyn is on her own, only sporadically she has company from the photographer Rick Smolan, who takes photos of Robyn for the planned travel article. She feels the writing is more of a necessary evil to finance her trip. Not to give anything else away, you’d better watch the film about her 9-month trip for yourself.

I loved that the film is based on a true story! In addition, the landscape images are also impressive, so that the film “Tracks” also left a lasting impression on me. Although I was not in Australia, I have planned a trip to the Sahara soon after.

Crazy Rich Asians

Recommended by Shannon from Traveling Teacher Girl.

Movie poster for Crazy Rich Asians
Watch the trailer on IMDB.

Crazy Rich Asians will instantly transport you to the colorful streets of Singapore. This movie is about a New York City-based couple who travel together to Singapore for a friend’s wedding. The main character Rachel Chu is instantly immersed in the grand and exorbitant lifestyle of the family and friends of her boyfriend Nick Young.

I love this movie because you get to see several major attractions of the city of Singapore, like the Marina Bay Sands, which is Singapore’s most iconic hotel. You will also see the Merlion Statue which represents Singapore’s beginnings as a fishing village and is one of Singapore’s most popular tourist attractions. You’ll also see a Singapore Hawker Stand/Food Market, some of which are well-known in Singapore for having the cheapest Michelin-starred restaurants in the world. Then there’s the Gardens by the Bay which is a 250-acre showcase of plant and garden artistry located in downtown Singapore.

Another fun highlight of this movie is getting to see a first-class suite in a fictional airline loosely modeled off of the Singapore Airlines Suites. In addition, the movie features a scene in Changi Airport, which is consistently voted the best airport in the world.

Notting Hill

Recommended by Mal from Raw Mal Roams.

Movie poster for Notting Hill
Watch the trailer on IMDB.

Notting Hill is an old-time classic directed by Roger Michell and the highest-earning British film of all time! It is also an excellent movie to fall in love with London if you haven’t visited yet.

Notting Hill is a romantic comedy that tells the story of an American actress Anna Scott (Julia Roberts), who visits a book store in London where she meets a handsome bookseller, William (Hugh Grant). The couple meets again on the streets of London, where William accidentally spills an orange juice on Anna, and the duo ends up going to William’s place.

This romance is certainly not easy with Anna’s fame and a boyfriend back in America. Can the couple stay together despite all odds? You’ll have to watch the film to find out. 

The film was shot in Notting Hill area in London. Today it is a trendy neighbourhood, home to the super Instagrammable pastel-coloured raw of houses, top-notch restaurants, famous events, and excellent theatres. Notting Hill is where some British celebrities live, including Robbie William, Simon Cowell and Stella McCartney. Many of the locations mentioned in the film exist in real life, including the travel book shop that can be found on 13 Blenheim Crescent. 

If you haven’t been yet, I guarantee you that Notting Hill will inspire you to visit London and its areas. I love to watch it on my travels when I miss my UK home.

Shackleton’s Antarctic Adventure

Recommended by Alison from Exploration Solo.

Movie poster for Shackleton’s Antarctic Adventure
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I can still vividly recall sitting in the IMAX theatre surrounded by yellow photos and grainy videos, completely absorbed in the story of Shackleton and his men.

It was a spur-of-the-moment suggestion from a friend to grab a ticket while visiting the Museum of Science in Boston. Forty minutes later, I didn’t want to leave. 

Hearing Kevin Spacey narrate how Shackleton and his 26 crew members, so excited to be the first to trek across Antarctica on foot, became legends for surviving months in the desolate area was enthralling.

The story was told using footage from the original expedition photographer and film of Antarctica taken more recently.

If you’re not familiar with the story, their ship became trapped in the ice and was slowly crushed. The crew had to salvage what they could and abandon ship. 

But the film was more than just a survival and rescue tale. It was a story about Antarctica itself, a land almost completely untouched by man.

The beauty of nothing but ice and water was something I thought about often. It was 16 years later, but I finally made the trip to Antarctica myself.  While my expectations were high, it still managed to overdeliver. The chance to be one of the few to see those endless, pristine views is something I’ll always remember.  

The Way

Recommended by Roxanne from Faraway Worlds.

Movie poster for The Way
Watch the trailer on IMDB.

A lovely and poignant film, The Way is set on the route of the Camino de Santiago. The route starts in France, at the foot of the Pyrenees, and continues across Northern Spain to the Portuguese coast. It’s a beautiful part of the country, with most travellers there to walk the pilgrimage.

The Way tells the story of an American father (Martin Sheen) who goes to Europe to retrieve the body of his son, who died while walking the Camino de Santiago and ends up completing the pilgrimage himself.

I really enjoyed the slow unfolding of the story and the sense that the viewer was on the pilgrimage with the characters. The Camino route and small towns were a joy to see on screen and gave a sense of the place and the healing, spiritual nature of the walk. It also gives a wonderful insight into the sense of camaraderie that comes from walking the pilgrimage.

After watching this film, I did feel the urge to travel to Spain and to walk a pilgrimage like the Camino myself. A couple of years later, during a long-term trip to Europe, my husband and I spent a wonderful month travelling through Northern Spain, although we didn’t walk the Camino.

Before Sunrise

Recommended by Gizelle from Vienna.

Movie poster for Before Sunrise
Watch the trailer on IMDB.

Walking around Vienna is one of my favourite things to do when I want to pass the time. And at times, I visit the places shown in the Julie Delphy and Ethan Hawke movie, Before Sunrise.

The movie used a minimalistic approach where the characters Jessie (Hawke) and Celine (Delphy) were simply walking and at times taking the bim around the city, talking about anything under the sun. The two meet at the train and strike up a conversation, Jessie out of curiosity asks Celine to go with her around Vienna before he catches his flight back to the US. She agreed.

While it showcases different beautiful spots in Vienna, and a peek of everyday life, the pair talked mostly about their contrasting views on many facets but showed their attraction to each other despite the differences. The movie ended at the train station without them exchanging contact details but promising each other to go meet at the same place. 

Before Sunrise was well-received and prompted two sequels following the lives of Jessie and Celine, in Paris and later in Greece. I have visited most of the streets, cafés, and spots shown in the movie through the years in honor of the film. To this day, I would recall the lovers walking around if I happen to be at the area where the movie was filmed. 

Before Sunset

Recommended by Ania from The Travelling Twins.

Movie poster for Before Sunset
Watch the trailer on IMDB.

Julie Delpy and Ethan Hawke star in Before Sunset (2004), the follow-up to Before Sunrise (1995). The two meet again nine years later after they had an amazing night of conversation in Vienna

Jesse arrives in Paris, his last stop on tour promoting his new book about the enchanting meeting in Vienna. Celine comes to the reading and meets Jess after nine years, and again these two have time only until the Sunset when Jess needs to catch his flight to New York.

We slowly follow two lovers on their wander through Paris, listening to their stories. This time Celine and Jesse are no longer young and fresh students eager to discover the world but rather adults who have experienced a lot in life. We can feel how they are growing up together as friends as they share their experiences with each other to their life stories

The film is set during a single day, as evening falls on Paris – the City of Love, where their chance encounter has sparked a touching story.

Before Sunset is not the typical travel movie, but it’s enchanting, and it shows Paris in such a way that you want to go there, hoping to find love.

Lost In Translation

Recommended by Emma from Emma Jane Explores.

Movie poster for Lost In Translation
Watch the trailer on IMDB.

Japan is one of my favourite travel destinations in the world and Lost in Translation definitely inspired me to visit Tokyo after watching the film.

Made in 2003, Lost in Translation stars Bill Murray and a then-17-year-old Scarlett Johansson as two Americans in Tokyo. One an aging film star in town to promote Suntory whisky and one a young woman recently married who is in the city because of her husband’s job. Both are uncertain about their relationships with their spouses and form a bond, eventually venturing out of the hotel together to explore Tokyo

Lost In Translation is a poignant and wistful affair but is beautifully shot and truly captures the intriguing-ness of Japan where life is so different. The performances from Scarlett Johansson and Bill Murray are wonderfully nuanced and the film deservingly won Best Writing for director and creator Sofia Coppola at the Oscars with nominations for Best Actor, Best Picture and Best Director also levelled at the film.   

The film features some of Tokyo’s most incredible places such as the Shibuya Crossing and the stunning Park Hyatt Tokyo in Shinjuku. After seeing the madness of the pedestrian scrambling to cross the road in Shibuya I was absolutely hooked on the idea of visiting Tokyo. The Shibuya Crossing is still one of my favourite things to watch any time I find myself back in the city. 

Under the Tuscan Sun

Recommended by Jiayi of The Diary of a Nomad.

Movie poster for Under the Tuscan Sun
Watch the trailer on IMDB.

“Under the Tuscan Sun” is a 2003 romance/drama movie that will make you fall in love with Tuscany, Italy. Directed by Audrey Wells, this movie stars Diane Lane, Sandra Oh, and Raoul Bova (a famous Italian actor).

The movie takes place in Cortona, a charming little hilltop town in Tuscany, Italy. It follows the story of Frances, an American writer who recently got divorced and kicked out of her apartment. Her life was a mess, and she was pressured by her friend to go on a trip to Italy to regain her energy.

Little did Frances know that when she arrived in Tuscany, she fell in love with a villa in Cortona, and decided to buy it on the spot. The movie then follows her journey of finding herself in Italy, where she learns a new language, makes new friends, and ultimately tries to find happiness again.

I loved this movie because it’s very much a feel-good film that leaves behind a very inspiring message: to take chances in life and to step outside your comfort zone – you never know where that path may lead you.

As you can imagine, this movie also features the many beautiful landscapes of Tuscany, and after watching it, I ended up visiting Cortona, the town where the film is set. It turns out that it is truly one of Europe’s best hidden gems, and a worthy stop on any trip to Italy for those who enjoy discovering off-the-beaten-path.

The Beach

Recommended by Nesrine from Words Inspiration.

Movie poster for The Beach, one of the best travel movies
Watch the trailer on IMDB.

Released in 2000, The Beach is a must-see if you need to travel by proxy! In the film, young Leonardo DiCaprio plays Richard, a backpacker arriving in Thailand on vacation. In desperate need of wanderlust, he’s told about a paradise island where a community lives in perfect harmony with nature. He decides to go there with 2 friends, and that’s how he discovers Koh Phi Phi Island and Maya Beach. 

The film had a huge impact on the island as it revealed to the whole world the existence of this paradise on earth, and attracted tons of tourists. While it used to be accessible to everyone, the downside is that Maya Beach has been closed because fauna and flora were too damaged by mass tourism.

Fun fact – if you travel to Koh Phi Phi, you’ll see the movie on every restaurant and bar screen! The DVD is also available on every corner! 

For my part, when I first saw the film, I was in awe of the beautiful landscape, but I thought it was a bit weird. But then, during my first trips, I could really feel what Richard went through. Don’t worry, I didn’t go crazy, but I felt like I was losing my mind sometimes (just a little) because of the euphoria of discovering new places and the desire to see more and more.

The Secret Life of Walter Mitty

Recommended by Margarita from The Wildlife Diaries.

Movie poster for The Secret Life of Walter Mitty
Watch the trailer on IMDB.

Walter Mitty (Ben Stiller) is a daydreamer who’s been at the same job for 16 years and never travelled far from home. But when the magazine he works for announces its last printed edition, Walter discovers that the negative for the cover image is missing and the whereabouts of the magazine’s famous photographer Sean O’Connell (Sean Penn) are unknown. Following some obscure clues, Walter decides to travel to Greenland to track Sean down and his journey turns into a non-stop adventure that is wilder than any of his daydreams.

This film is ultimately about stepping out of your comfort zone, embracing the spirit of adventure, and hitting the road without a set itinerary. But even more so, it is about going on a quest. And this is why I love this film.

Travelling on a quest is altogether different from taking a beach vacation. My quest is to see and, when possible, photograph all 40 species of wild cats in their natural habitat. That’s 40 instances of sheer luck, of being in the right place at the right time and never having any guarantees of encountering the animal.

For me, it is one of the last scenes of the film that captures just how special that encounter with a wild animal can be. We see Sean O’Connell concealed with his camera among snow-covered rocks on a mountainside deep in the Karakoram mountain range, waiting for the snow leopard to step into the view. But when the cat does appear, Sean doesn’t take the shot, saying: “If I like the moment I don’t like to have the distraction of the camera, I just want to stay in it”. In turn, the moment stays with you, often becoming one of the greatest hits of your life. 

Thelma & Louise

Recommended by Helen from Helen on her Holidays.

Movie poster for Thelma & Louise
Watch the trailer on IMDB.

Thelma & Louise (1991) is one of the best road trip movies, and a buddy movie, directed by Ridley Scott. Thelma (Geena Davis) and her friend Louise (Susan Sarandon) are taking a fun weekend out of town, but on their way to the mountains, something terrible happens, and they end up on the run. Instead of heading for the mountains, they take Louise’s 1966 Ford Thunderbird convertible for the Mexican border.

Thelma & Louise was praised by critics on its release and was nominated for six Academy Awards, including Best Actress nods for both Geena Davis and Susan Sarandon. Callie Khouri, who came up with the idea for the film and wrote the screenplay, won both an Oscar and a Golden Globe. There’s a superb supporting cast, including Harvey Keitel as the police detective that tries to bring them in, Michael Madsen as Louise’s boyfriend, and Brad Pitt as a young (and extremely handsome) hitchhiker.

Thelma & Louise travel through some amazing scenery on their way from Arkansas to the Grand Canyon (even though most of the film was actually filmed in California and Utah). For me watching it in the UK really shows off the vast size of the USA, and the desert scenes for me are just incredible – the emptiness, the huge skies, the feeling of possibility. It was a big reason for me wanting to visit the Grand Canyon on my first trip to America, and I even made us do the 10-hour drive from Las Vegas so we’d get to see more of the desert. 

Into The Wild

Recommended by Alexander and Cynthia from Travel your Memories.

Movie poster for Into The Wild
Watch the trailer on IMDB.

Into the Wild is a movie from 2007 that tells the story of a high school student (Christopher McCandless) who leaves behind his possessions and family to hitchhike to Alaska to live in the wilderness. During his journey, he meets characters who teach him life lessons.

The film is set in Oregon, Alaska, Arizona, and South Dakota, USA. Anza Borrego Desert State Park. The movie is based on a true story. The story has been published in a book by Jon Krakauer. Highly recommended if you want to read the story in all details. The writer has made the same journey as Christopher McCandless to realize a book as detailed as possible

This film is special because it shows you that material things in life don’t give you happiness in life Also, it shows that only can find happiness for yourself. In our opinion, the most beautiful statement of the main character during the film is: “if you want something in life, just grab it”. This is exactly what is the most difficult thing for many of us, stepping out of our comfort zone. This film makes you think about your current situation.

We have not yet visited the locations of the film but would love to do so. Movies like Into the Wild introduced us to backpacking and freedom. For us, there is nothing better in the world than the freedom to make decisions for yourself what you want. Into the Wild inspires you to do this and live your own life and not a life that anyone else expects of you. The movie shows that materiality is not everything in life.

Casablanca

Recommended by Martha from May Cause Wanderlust.

Movie poster for Casablanca
Watch the trailer on IMDB.

Casablanca is one of those movies that is often remembered most for its famous lines: ‘Play it again, Sam’ is one. ‘This could be the beginning of a beautiful friendship’ is another.  And, my favourite: ‘Of all the gin joints in all the towns in all the world, she walks into mine.’

But, as good as those lines are, the movie is even better!  Released in 1942 and set during World War II, it tells the story of an international crowd holed up in Casablanca, Morocco, impatiently whiling their time away in Rick’s Cafe, a cocktail bar. Most people are hoping to avoid the war and are waiting for permission to sail to America, but they have to navigate the Nazis and corrupt French officials in order to do that.  In the midst of all that tension, two lovers reunite – but their meeting is bittersweet (no spoilers!). 

Humphrey Bogart plays Rick, the jaded gin joint owner, and Ingrid Bergman is his lost love.  The movie won Best Picture, Best Director and Best Screenplay at the Oscars and remains an icon of classic Hollywood cinema.

It created such a mystique around Casablanca that I had to go there when I went backpacking in Morocco.  However, the Casablanca I found was very different from the movie – perhaps not surprising given I was on a student budget, staying in an ancient hostel in the middle of the old Medina and I didn’t spend much time in swanky cocktail bars!  Anyway, I’m glad I got to experience a more real, authentic Casablanca, not the glamourised movie version.

Y Tu Mamá También

Recommended by Shelley of Travel Mexico Solo.

Movie poster for Y Tu Mamá También
Watch the trailer on IMDB.

Need some Mexico wanderlust? Look no further than Y Tu Mamá También (And Your Mom Also).
This coming-of-age tale takes place in Mexico, with many scenes filmed on one of the best beaches in Oaxaca, Mexico! If you want to see it in real life, head to Bahia De Cacaluta (Cacaluta Bay) in Huatulco, about two hours from popular Puerto Escondido, Mexico.

The movie isn’t really about a beautiful beach, though. Rather, it centers around two teenage boys — played by two of Mexico’s most famous actors, Geal Garcia Bernal and Diego Luna — and a somewhat older woman in her late-20s (played by Maribel Verdú from Spain), who go on a road trip together.
There is a lot of dialogue in the film, which takes place in Mexico, in the year 1999. The three discuss their “old life” so-to-speak, as the entire country is about to turn a new leaf. 

In 2000, Mexican voters ousted the political party that held dictator-like power for more than 70 years, the Institutional Revolutionary Party (called the PRI in Mexico), and President Vincente Fox took over.
No one knew what having a new government meant after generations of PRI rule. The film’s characters deal all with the impending change in their own ways, including sex, drugs, and hitting the open road to better understand themselves and their country.

Y Tu Mamá También was directed by Alfonso Cuarón, a two-time Oscar-winning director from Mexico City. His first won for Gravity in 2013, and then for Roma in 2018 — a cinematic homage to the complexities of life in 1970s Mexico City, which is on Netflix.

The Lord of the Rings

Recommended by Tom & Zi from Craving Adventure.

Movie poster for Lord of the Rings
Watch the trailer on IMDB.

Almost everyone knows the Lord of the Rings movies, and almost everyone also knows that the movies were entirely filmed in New Zealand. Whether you like the Lord of the Rings movies or not, you can’t deny that the sweeping sceneries in the movies look absolutely stunning. You know, those fly-over helicopter shots of seemingly endless grassy plains and massive snowy mountain peaks.

While the story in the movies; a fantasy story about an unlikely protagonist going on a quest to face an almost certain death in hopes of defeating a great evil, has nothing to do with New Zealand itself, it was the scenery in the movie that inspired me to travel to New Zealand, and the real thing certainly did not disappoint.

And while the movies initially inspired me to visit New Zealand, watching them again after visiting only makes the urge to visit again bigger. This is largely fuelled by so many of the locations being so recognizable in the movies, like Mt. Ngauruhoe which was used for Mount Doom in the movies, or the fields around Twizel on the South Island, which were used for the massive battle of the Pelennor Fields.

Seeing these places in the movies now reminds me of visiting these places in New Zealand and instantly brings up memories of the unbelievable beauty of this country.

In Bruges

Recommended by Dean and Laynni from Routinely Nomadic.

Movie poster for In Bruges
Watch the trailer on IMDB.

A magnificent example of black humour, In Bruges walks a very fine line between comedy and drama. Despite featuring a lot of violence and some pretty disturbing scenes, it still has plenty of laugh-out-loud moments and witty comments that you’ll find yourself quoting years later.

Set in Bruges, Belgium (rather obviously), the basic storyline follows a pair of Irish hitmen hiding out after messing up their last job. Brendan Gleeson’s Ken is a smart, logical father figure that plays the perfect foil to Colin Farrell’s hilariously uncouth and somewhat idiotic Ray, who is completely unwilling to appreciate Bruges, “a fairytale town”. Meanwhile, Ralph Fiennes steals the show as magnetic mob boss, Harry Waters.

While Bruges had already made it onto our shortlist of European cities we wanted to visit, seeing the movie fast-tracked it to the front of the queue. And the city was just as impressive as we had hoped, plus we had a great time wandering around locations from the movie, throwing around all our favourite quotes.

“Was he going on to you about the alcoves?”

So, if you like dark humour and don’t mind some cursing (ok, a lot of cursing), then In Bruges is the perfect travel movie to both entertain and inspire.

Vicky Cristina Barcelona

Recommended by Tom from Travel Past 50.

Movie poster for Vicky Cristina Barcelona
Watch the trailer on IMDB.

There’s nothing like a seductive location to lend interest to whatever is going on with a film’s characters. And, it’s difficult to find a more seductive urban location for Vicky Cristina Barcelona than the Barcelona of Miro and Gaudi.

So, if you can stand the irritating neuroses of Woody Allen’s stock characters, you might enjoy the light dip into the Catalan capital, especially if you can ignore the inconsistencies obvious to anyone who actually knows anything about Spain.

Let’s forget that the Spanish actors Javier Bardem (from the Canary Islands) and Penélope Cruz (from Madrid) are said to be Catalan artists, even though neither of them speaks, or seems to know, one word of the Catalan language. At least they are Spanish.

The other lead actor Rebecca Hall (Vicky) is allegedly getting a master’s degree in “Catalan Studies” although she speaks not one word of Catalan or even Castilian Spanish. Scarlett Johansson (Cristina) oddly has a Spanish spelling to her character’s name, but no other pretensions of knowing anything else about her surroundings.

When you pile on that the film’s soundtrack of Spanish music is anchored by the Andalusian flamenco guitarist Paco de Lucia and also prominently features the anthemic Memories of the Alhambra by Francisco Tárrega, the Barcelona setting seems even stranger. At least Tárrega, the father of classical Spanish guitar, was from Villareal, which is somewhere near Barcelona.

But none of this is readily apparent to those who have only a superficial understanding of Spain. Take four extraordinary attractive actors, and put them in an attractive environment, and you’ve got an entertaining movie in a beautiful setting–incongruities aside

The Bucket List

Recommended by Pam from The Directionally Challenged Traveler.

Movie poster for The Bucket List
Watch the trailer on IMDB.

One of the best travel movies is one that inspires you to visit somewhere incredible. It doesn’t necessarily matter where it is, as long as it’s special to you. The Bucket List, starring Morgan Freeman and Jack Nicholson, inspires people to live the life they’ve always wanted. 

Freeman and Nicholson make an unlikely duo both coming from different backgrounds, but both have a diagnosis of terminal cancer. The diagnosis makes them re-evaluate their life and all the things they hoped to accomplish and see before they die.

From going on an African safari to skydiving, the men travel the world experiencing life. While many of the items on the list are travel-related, there are some that do not require a plane ride. 

It’s impossible to not feel inspired after watching this movie. Once the movie is over, it’s hard to not pick up a pen and paper and begin writing your own bucket list. Whether it’s scuba diving the Great Barrier Reef or planning a trip to Antarctica, this movie will inspire you to make goals and a plan to achieve them.

The stunning filmography, great acting, and overall inspiration make The Bucket List one of the best travel movies.

The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel

Recommended by Ladona from Walking The Parks.

Movie poster for The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel
Watch the trailer on IMDB.

The story of The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel finds 7 British retirees moving to India to enjoy a life of luxury in an Indian Palace, only to discover they have been sold a dream and the promised hotel is rather run down and sad. Although the movie is a great comedy, stars like Judi Dench, Maggie Smith and Ronald Pickup excel at sharing tender moments as they highlight the cultural differences in a very human way.

The lives of the 7 strangers quickly become intertwined with each other and with the locals. My favorite storyline is when Evelyn takes a job in an Indian Call Center teaching English. Well, you can only imagine where that story goes as lessons are learned on both sides.

The cinematography is stunning, following the characters through the streets, to the markets, and into the heart of India. You’ll feel the excitement and energy of the land.

The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel will more likely heighten your wanderlust than satisfy. As Douglas (Bill Nighy) responds to the question “What do you see here?” with “…the light, colors, smiles” you have to nod your head in agreement and wistfully plan your trip to India. It’s definitely on my bucket list!

Indiana Jones

Recommended by Debbie from World Adventurists.

Movie poster for Indiana Jones
Watch the trailer on IMDB.

The Indiana Jones series of adventure movies follows Dr. Henry Walton “Indiana” Jones Jr., a professor of archaeology, through whip-cracking adventures to places like Egypt, China, Peru, India, and Nepal, in search of secret treasure.

The excitement began in 1981 with the film Raiders of the Lost Ark, where Indiana Jones encounters the Nazis while trying to recover the Ark of the Covenant, a sacred religious artifact with the power to conquer the world. 

In 1984, in The Temple of Doom (a prequel), Indiana Jones finds himself in a poor Indian village, where a sacred stone and all their children were stolen from them. What happened to them?

In 1989 in The Last Crusade, Indiana Jones learns that his father disappeared while searching for the Holy Grail. His father’s journal arrives in the mail, and he takes off in search of his father and the Holy Grail.

In 2008’s Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, Indiana Jones finds himself captured and forced to search through a secret US warehouse for a mummified corpse. He finds out that a fellow archaeologist discovered a crystal skull in Peru and disappeared.

The fifth installment is set to be released in 2022.

Lead by none other than Harrison Ford, each movie keeps you at the edge of your seat, as you fanaticize about exploring these incredible destinations around the world. My love and desire to visit places like Egypt was born in part from Indiana Jones. These movies never fail to get me inspired and planning my next adventures.

Lawrence of Arabia

Recommended by Tom from Travel Past 50.

Movie poster for Lawrence of Arabia
Watch the trailer on IMDB.

Lawrence of Arabia, a classic 1960s style epic, is widely regarded among the best movies ever made. (It’s number five on the American Film Institute’s list of greatest movies.) As for its status as a “travel movie,” it certainly features stunning landscapes of the desert of Wadi Rum, Jordan that could make one want to see them in person.

Indeed, the desert itself is almost a character in the film. Its stunning photography opens its desert imagery in spectacular fashion with an opening shot of a pure bright red sky at dawn that is dramatically familiar to anyone who has ever been in an expansive desert either at dawn or at sunset.

The movie is worth the nearly four-hour runtime. Lawrence was an extraordinary man, and the brooding, enigmatic Peter O’Toole, in his first movie role, plays him subtly and expansively at once. The terrific supporting cast includes the stars Alec Guinness and Anthony Quinn as major Arab figures–casting that seems today a bit strange. At least an actual Egyptian, Omar Sharif, also has a role as an Arab leader…before he became a star playing the Russian Dr. Zhivago a year later.

We have visited Wadi Rum, and the landscape is every bit as beautiful as portrayed in the film. For best views, arrange to stay overnight in the desert with the Bedouin residents. It’s easily arranged.

Did These Movies Satisfy Your Wanderlust?

More importantly, did any of these movies inspire you to travel?

Did you want to visit New Zealand after watching Lord of The Rings or Bali after Eat Pray Love? Then you’ve just been inspired by a great travel movie. Even if the movie wasn’t truly about the location.

I still love watching The Beach every so often. It may not have won any Oscars but, after a recent trip to Thailand, it was the best travel movie I could watch in that moment! Although I am glad I didn’t have to swim to the islands in Thailand as they did in the movie!!

While I do love watching movies, I have to admit that I haven’t been able to see every single one of the titles on this list. They’re definitely going to be watched though. There are, of course, many other travel-related movies out there but I think there are enough here to get you through for the time being.

I hope you enjoyed this collaboration post to bring you the best travel movies to watch. If you have any other suggestions then drop me a message or just let me know in the comments below.

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