The movies to watch when you want to travel but can’t
Since most of us can’t travel, why not escape through movies? After all, there’s not much else to do at the moment.
Take a trip around the world from the comfort of your living room with these 30 movies.
Comedians Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon play fictionalized versions of themselves in this hilarious, and often poignant, 2010 road trip film from acclaimed director Michael Winterbottom. The Trip highlights some of the best restaurants and scenic views from the English countryside. For an extended vacation, follow this movie with The Trip to Italy, The Trip to Spain, and The Trip to Greece.
The Darjeeling Limited
Owen Wilson, Adrien Brody, and Jason Schwartzman play brothers who travel across India aboard the Darjeeling Limited train in Wes Anderson’s fifth feature film. Typical of the director’s distinctive style, the movie is rich with colour and stunning visuals, so much so that you’ll wish you could retrace the brothers’ steps—and you can!
Into the Wild
Have you ever gotten the itch to throw everything away and travel across the country on your own? For most of us it’s just a fantasy, something we think about after a difficult week at the office, but for Christopher McCandless it was a reality. In 1990, the university graduate donated his college savings ($24,000) to charity and took off for remote Alaska, encountering many interesting people and adventures along the way. In the end, however, Into the Wild serves as a cautionary tale about the dangers of the wilderness.
Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy play young travellers who meet on a train in Europe and spend the night exploring beautiful Vienna together before going their separate ways. Written and directed by Richard Linklater, Before Sunrise shows how memorable, yet fleeting, certain moments during travel can be.
The Grand Budapest Hotel
Arguably Wes Anderson’s strongest offering, The Grand Budapest Hotel is everything you’ve come to expect from the singular filmmaker—stunning visuals, a precise colour palette, deadpan delivery, Bill Murray, etc.—with an extra dose of heart. The film takes place in a town called Lutz in the fictional Eastern European country of Zubrowka and was filmed in various locations throughout Germany.
The Hundred-Foot Journey
The Kadam family flees to Europe after their Mumbai restaurant is burned to the ground by an angry mob. They settle in a small town in France and open up a new restaurant directly across the street from the Michelin-starred Le Saule Pleureur, run by the stern Madame Mallory (Helen Mirren). Fair warning: The Hundred-Foot Journey is guaranteed to make you hungry, just as it will make you want to travel.
The Secret Life of Walter Mitty
We all daydream from time to time to make the day go by faster, but Walter Mitty, a negative assets manager at Life magazine, has a particularly vivid imagination, sailing off to locations around the world, such as Nuuk, Greenland; Skógar, Iceland; and the Himalayas. Ben Stiller directed and plays the titular role in this underappreciated gem.
Lost in Translation
In his best role to date, Bill Murray plays aging movie star Bob Harris, who forms an unlikely friendship with a young woman (Scarlett Johansson) in Tokyo. Directed by Sofia Coppola, Lost in Translation shows the other, lonelier side of travel.
Colin Farrell plays the role of the reluctant traveller to perfection in this bloody funny crime-comedy from Martin McDonagh about a pair of hitmen who hide out in Bruges after a botched job. It may be a “fairytale town,” with “all those canals and bridges and cobbled streets and those churches,” but all Ray (Farrell) wants to do is go home.
National Lampoon’s Vacation
If you’ve ever gone on a road trip with your family, you can relate to this movie. Led by Clark (Chevy Chase), the Griswolds head out on a cross-country adventure to visit the Walley World theme park, only to encounter one bump in the road after another. Vacation was based on a short story called “Vacation ’58” that John Hughes wrote for National Lampoon.
Catch Me If You Can
Leonardo DiCaprio plays well-travelled con artist Frank Abagnale in this 2002 classic crime caper from Steven Spielberg, co-starring Tom Hanks as the FBI agent in pursuit of the criminal. “Where are you going, Frank? Someplace exotic? Just tell me where you’re going.”
Planes, Trains and Automobiles
This 1987 John Hughes classic, starring Steve Martin and John Candy as a pair of unwitting travel companions, is the ultimate disaster road trip movie, where everything that can go wrong does go wrong: cancelled flights, obtuse car rental workers, driving the wrong way on the highway and nearly getting killed. Planes, Trains and Automobiles will make you think twice about your desire to take a vacation.
Thelma and Louise
What starts as a simple weekend getaway for best friends Thelma Dickinson and Louise Sawyer soon turns into an escape from the law. Viewed as controversial at the time for its depiction of men, Thelma and Louise has since come to be recognized as a groundbreaking film about female friendship. Although that famous final scene is supposed to take place at the Grand Canyon in Arizona, it was actually shot at Dead Horse Point State Park in Utah.
Up in the Air
George Clooney’s character, Ryan Bingham, a corporate downsizing expert, does enough travelling for all of us in this critically acclaimed 2009 film from director Jason Reitman. Anna Kendrick shines as Bingham’s protégé, the ambitious, but naïve, Natalie Keener. Up in the Air proves that, though travelling can be fun, the peripatetic lifestyle comes at a cost.
Midnight in Paris
For many, the allure of Paris is its rich history. Screenwriter Gil Pender (Owen Wilson) gets to experience that history firsthand when he mysteriously travels back in time every midnight to the 1920s, where he gets to hang out in bars and cafes with famous figures like F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway, Josephine Baker, and Pablo Picasso. Midnight in Paris is every art lover’s fantasy.
Danny Boyle’s 2000 adventure film about a young traveller (Leonardo DiCaprio) who discovers a remote, picturesque Thailand beach inspired so many tourists to seek out the area (Maya Bay on Ko Phi Phi Leh island) for themselves that it had to be shut down temporarily in 2018 to prevent further environmental damage.
While the world of Harry Potter may be fantasy, the filming locations were very real: from King’s Cross Station in London, where Harry and the other students catch the Hogwarts Express; to Loch Shiel in Scotland, which serves as The Great Lake near Hogwarts Castle; and the Cliffs of Moher in County Clare, Ireland, seen briefly in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince.
The Lord of the Rings
Perhaps no movie has done more for tourism than The Lord of the Rings film series, which was famously shot in locations throughout director Peter Jackson’s beautiful home country of New Zealand, including the Waikato town of Matamata, which serves as the serene Shire region of Middle-earth.
The Talented Mr. Ripley
The village of Positano and various locations throughout the islands of Ischia and Procida near Naples serve as stand-ins for the fictional seaside town of Mongibello in this 1999 adaptation of Patricia Highsmith’s classic psychological thriller. Matt Damon plays the title role, con artist Tom Ripley.
Things indeed go sideways when two friends embark on a trip through California’s wine country before one of them is set to get married. The Oscar-winning film led to an increase in tourism in the Santa Ynez Valley and is even credited with reshaping the region’s wine industry more than a decade later by popularizing pinot noir.
Little Miss Sunshine
A heroin-snorting, foul-mouthed grandfather; a gay, suicidal Proust scholar; a Nietzsche-reading teen who vows not to speak until he fulfills his goal of becoming a fighter pilot; a chubby, bespectacled girl obsessed with being in a beauty pageant; a struggling motivational speaker; and the emotionally exhausted mother who holds them all together. You know, your average cast of characters in a family road trip movie. Little Miss Sunshine takes you on a journey full of ups and downs, but leaves you smiling in the end.
Paris, Texas is not your average road movie in that it’s not so much about going somewhere as it is about getting lost. After wandering out of the desert, a man reconnects with his young son and embarks on a journey through the American Southwest to find his wife. Character actor Harry Dean Stanton is mesmerizing as vagabond Travis Henderson.
Reese Witherspoon was nominated for an Oscar for her performance as Cheryl Strayed, a woman who decides to hike 1,100 miles of the Pacific Crest Trail in an effort to find herself. Directed by Jean-Marc Vallée and written by Nick Hornby, Wild shows the power of nature in overcoming tragedy.
Emilio Estevez wrote and directed this largely overlooked gem about a father (Estevez’s real-life dad, Martin Sheen) who decides to attempt the Santiago de Compostela pilgrimage in Spain after his estranged son dies on the very same journey. Aside from Sheen and a few main actors, the other people seen in the film are real pilgrims.
Roman Holiday was the first American film shot entirely in Italy, and the first starring role for Audrey Hepburn, playing a royal princess who strikes out on her own to explore the historic city, with the help of American reporter Joe Bradley (Gregory Peck). For many, this classic 1953 romantic comedy is where the Italian vacation fantasy began.
Vicky Cristina Barcelona
The capital of Catalonia features prominently in this 2008 Woody Allen film about a pair of American friends who fall for the same man during their summer holiday in Spain. Penélope Cruz, who took home the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress, steals the show in this one as the fiery ex-girlfriend.
After learning that he has an aggressive form of cancer, a young man from Toronto decides to hop on his motorcycle and take a road trip across Canada, stopping off at some of the country’s most beautiful landmarks along the way. One Week will make you fall in love with the Great White North.
An executive from an oil company in Houston is sent to a quaint village in Scotland to try and buy the land for a refinery, but he ends up falling in love with the town, and its simple way of life, instead. Roger Ebert gave Local Hero four stars, calling it “a loving, funny, understated portrait of a small Scottish town.”
Forgetting Sarah Marshall
Peter looks to move on from his ex-girlfriend, TV star Sarah Marshall, by taking a trip to Hawaii, only to find out that she’s staying at the same resort. Forgetting Sarah Marshall is the perfect movie to put on if you need a vacation from your real-life worries.
This critically acclaimed 2011 comedy-drama from Finnish filmmaker Aki Kaurismäki tells the touching story of an aging shoemaker (André Wilms) who leads a simple life in the port city of Le Havre, until his wife becomes ill and he meets a young immigrant from Africa. Le Havre shows the other, less glamorous—but still beautiful—side of France.
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