Movies have the power to make you laugh, cry, and transport you to exotic destinations both real and make-believe. Whether you are looking for vacation inspiration or to get lost in a good story, these travel movies will satisfy your inner wanderlust.
- The Darjeeling Limited (2007)
Complete with vibrant imagery, peculiar characters, and a plot that seamlessly transitions from whimsical to mournful and back again, this story follows three estranged brothers on a hectic trip across India. In the beginning, the trip’s itinerary is strictly dictated by Owen Wilson’s character as the brothers lug their baggage (both literally and metaphorically) across the country in a forced attempt at brotherly bonding. Plot twists allow our protagonists to form sincere connections with each other as they confront and let go of past dysfunction.
2. Paris, Texas (1984)
This artistic film opens with an all but catatonic Travis Henderson (Harry Dean Stanton) wandering alone in the desert. From there, the viewer slowly pieces together the events that led to the main character’s dissociative state as they simultaneously feel the ripple effect of his many losses. Wim Wender showcases his ability to perfectly marry emotion with scenery. He pairs desolation with barren landscapes and attempted redemption with inspired neon backdrops. More than just a melancholic modern cowboy story, this film captures the true essence of Americana.
3. Lost in Translation (2003)
Lost in Translation is a film that is relatable to vagabonds and homebodies alike. As much as it is about two Americans in Tokyo, it is also about the sometimes pervasive loneliness that one can feel even when surrounded by millions of people. You will enjoy the background of Japanese nightlife and culture as much the storyline itself. Wryly funny and heart-breakingly sincere, this movie remains one of Sofia Coppola’s greatest successes.
4. Into the Wild (2007)
No travel film captures the true vagabond spirit more than the story of Chris McCandless’s ill-fated venture to Alaska. Based on a true story, the privileged protagonist begins his travels by ridding himself of all worldly possessions. He hitches a ride with a bohemian couple and works for a criminal on a farm before finally making his way to Alaska. His epic journey will have you itching to simplify your life and hit the road yourself in true “Alexander Supertramp” fashion.
5. Tracks (2014)
This film’s heroine is so inspirational and brave that it is hard to believe that Robyn Davidson was indeed a real person. Mia Wasikowska does an amazing job portraying the woman who hiked across the Australian desert with only a few camels and her dog as companions. Despite its minimal dialog, the movie manages to capture and keep the audience’s attention as they watch Davidson conquer the desert down under.
6. Before Sunrise (1995)
This movie is the first of a trilogy that follows two young travelers who share just one perfect night together. With some of the Vienna’s most famous landmarks as the dreamy background, this is the quintessential romance movie for those who wander as well as those who wish to. The intense intimacy between the two main characters is enough to make even the most steel hearted spectator swoon. The sequels are just as delightful as the first film. In them, viewers are treated to glimpses of each character’s life years later as they reunite under familiar time constraints.
7. Samsara (2012)
For those of you who are unfamiliar with this film’s title, samsara describes the cyclical nature of reincarnation in Hinduism. This documentary cleverly explores the words meaning with powerful imagery a dramatic musical score and absolutely no dialogue. It is a thought provoking film whose imagery will stay with you long after the credits roll.
8. Maidentrip (2014)
This documentary is compiled primarily of footage filmed by 14-year-old Laura Dekker herself as she attempts to be the youngest person to sail around the world solo. Once becoming acquainted with Dekker you won’t doubt her abilities to make the trip alone. She is as mature and sure of herself as she is a normal teen discovering her identity. Her two year journey is awe-inspiring making this film one that you don’t want to miss.
9. Nowhere in Africa (2001)
To escape Nazi Germany, a Jewish doctor moves his upper class family to Kenya and later Nairobi. While the daughter adapts quickly by becoming close friends with the family’s cook, her mother struggles to adjust to their new life. This movie showcases the transformative power of travel as it highlights the struggles that one may face when trying to adapt to another culture.
10. Thelma & Louise (1991)
This movie is the ultimate American road trip movie from the vintage convertible to the picturesque scenery. The story starts with two friends on an innocent fishing trip that turns into a high speed chase as they head to the border of Mexico. Not only is this a great travel movie, it is also a landmark feminist film that everyone should see.
11. Everything is Illuminated (2005)
This dark comedy follows Jonathan Safran Foer, played by Elijah Wood, as he travels across the Ukraine in search of the woman who had saved his grandfather’s life during the holocaust. His unconventional guides consist of a self-proclaimed blind driver and his energetic grandson, Alex, who narrates the film. Alex’s humorous obsession with American pop culture combined with his confusing use of the English language are in stark contrast with Jonathan’s more conservative demeanor. The film, which is ultimately about forgiveness, also contains beautiful dramatic flashes of countryside.
12. Wild (2014)
Based on the best-selling memoir with the same title, Wild tells the tale of a woman who embarks on a solo trek through the wilderness. The protagonist, played by Reese Witherspoon, finds herself stuck in a pattern of self-destructive behavior following the death of her mother. Despite not being an experienced hiker, she decides to take on the Pacific Crest Trail. The movie and the book have since inspired women from all over the country to follow in her literal footsteps.
13. Midnight in Paris (2001)
Owen Wilson perfectly portrays Gil Pender the unfulfilled writer who is on vacation in Paris with his fiancé (Rachel McAdams). Feeling disconnected from his fiancé and from modern life in general, Gil begins to take midnight strolls around Paris. During these walks, he is transported back in time to Paris during the Jazz age. This movie explores the feeling of nostalgia that one can have for a period of time that he/she has never actually experienced. It also has some truly romantic shots of the city that will prove that no matter what decade it is, Paris is still…well, Paris.
14. The Beach (2000)
The Beach is the perfect early 2000’s travel movie. A spiky haired Leonardo DiCaprio plays a restless American backpacker who arrives in Thailand looking for adventure. He and a couple of new friends find a map of a secret beach that is promised to be a tourist free paradise. Once they make it to the beach, they soon discover that everything is not as perfect as seems.
15. Out of Africa (1985)
This movie stars Meryl Streep as a wealthy Danish woman named Karen Blixen who purposefully enters a loveless marriage as a means to establish a cattle farm in East Africa. When she follows her new husband to the country in 1913, she finds that he has used her money to start a coffee farm instead. This is the first sign of her ultimately doomed marriage. This movie also features Robert Redford as a big game hunter who becomes close with Streep’s character. Despite her many misfortunes, this movie is really about Karen Blixen’s ultimate love of Africa. The cinematography reflects this with long shots of hazy dreamlike landscape.
16. The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert (1994)
This Australian dramedy takes you on a fabulous road trip aboard a tour bus named Priscilla across the outback. The trip begins with Tick (who also goes by Mitzi Del Bra) inviting two fellow drag performers on a journey to the center of the country for a gig. What Tick’s friends don’t know is that the real reason for the journey is more complicated than just a job opportunity. The trio is forced to contend with more than just the harsh natural environment along their journey as they face violence, bigotry, and vandalism before ultimately reaching their destination.
17. L’Auberge Espagnole (2002)
This movie follows French graduate student Xavier (Romain Duris) as he moves to Spain for a year as part of a school program. He lives with an ecclectic group of Western Europeans in a student apartment, and the experience changes his life. This movie is part one of a trilogy referred to as The Spanish Apartment Trilogy.
18. Little Miss Sunshine (2006)
Little Miss Sunshine follows the dysfunctional Hoover family as they pile into their iconic yellow Volkswagon bus and head to California in support of the youngest member of the clan, Olive (Abigail Breslyn). Olive is meant to compete in “The Little Miss Sunshine” beauty pageant with the help of her coach (John Malkovitch) who also happens to be her heroin addicted grandfather. With plenty of hilarious mishaps along the way, this movie is the ultimate indie travel comedy.
19. The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956)
Dr. Ben McKenna (James Stewart), along with his wife (Doris Day) and son, travel to Morocco for a vacation. After witnessing a public murder at a Marrakesh market, the McKenna’s son is kidnapped as part of a larger assassination plot. The two must travel to London and risk their lives in an effort to rescue their son, Hank. This Hitchcock thriller is an epic one that was filmed on location making it a great travel film.
20. In the Mood for Love (2000)
Wong Kar-wai’s masterpiece, In The Mood for Love, is hailed as one of the most beautiful films ever created. The slow burn romantic drama takes place in Hong Kong in the 1960’s. The plot consists of two couples who move into the same apartment building around the same time. Chow Mo-Wa, a journalist, and Su Li-zhen, a secretary, discover that their spouses are having an affair with eachother. They become close friends throughout the film, and eventually develop feelings for one another. Kar-wai’s recreation of Hong Kong from decades past allows you to not only travel to the city, but also back in time in this must watch movie.
21. In Bruges (2008)
Two Irish assasins Ray (Colin Farrell) and Ken (Brendan Gleeson) hide in Bruges, Belgium after making a mistake on their last job. Ray despises the city and it’s ancient architecture, while Ken finds it to be enchanting and tranquil. The longer they stay in Bruges, the more bizarre their encounters with other people become.
22. Amelie (2001)
This French romantic comedy stars Audrey Tautou as a waitress who lives in Montemarte. As she struggles to make connections with other people, she begins to secretly attempt to improve the lives of everyone around her. The colorful shots of her neighborhood portray Paris as a pop art fantasy which is a fun contrast to the usual romantic subdued Paris we are used to seeing in film.
23. Whale Rider (2002)
This film highlights Maori culture in New Zealand. The plot is centered around the 12-year-old granddaughter of the tribe’s cheif. Her name is Pai (Keisha Castle-Hughes), and her twin brother was chosen to be their grandfather’s successor before his untimely death. Pai enlists the help of several family members to win over her traditional grandfather and become the first female cheif of the tribe. Everything about this film is well done. The story as well as the scenery are sure to inspire you.
24. The Motorcycle Diaries (2004)
No matter how you feel about his politics, you will enjoy this movie about Che Guevara and the travels that inspired his legacy. In 1952 Guevara and his friend Alberto Granado traveled by motorcycle across South America. The views of the continent are as enticing as the thrill of the adventure itself.
25. The Way (2010)
American doctor, Tom (Martin Sheen), must travel abroad to collect his son Daniel’s body who died while attempting the pilgrimage to the Cathedral de Santiago. Once he arrives he is drawn to make the pilgrimage himself. He uses his son’s gear and brings along his ashes in this emotional flick. This movie will definitely persuade you to hike the Camino yourself.
26. Call Me By Your Name (2017)
This coming of age film is set in Northern Italy in the 1980’s. It chronicles the relationship between 17 year old Elio and the 24 year old intern that moves in to their house at his father’s behest. Their connection is not immediate, but what begins as a timid friendship soon becomes a romantic affair. Every scene in this film portrays an idyllic Italy from the charming countryside to Elio’s picturesque house itself.
27. Wristcutters A Love Story (2006)
This dark comedy takes you on road trip through a sort of purgatory. In a world where everything is bland and partially broken, the misfit cast still manages to forge meaningful friendships and even have a little fun. Though the film is somewhat fantastical (the car the characters drive has a literal black hole in the floorboard), the basic storyline of three people on a road trip where they find more than they bargained for makes this a classic travel movie with an admittedly dark twist.
28. Monsoon Wedding (2001)
This independent romantic comedy is not only a wonderful glimpse of today’s Indian culture, but also just a fantastic film in it’s own right. The film follows the Verma family as they organize a lavish wedding for their daughter Aditi (Vasundhara Das). Aditi is to have an arranged marraige to Hemant Rai (Parvin Dabas). The movie depicts the many obstacles that come with having such a traditional ceremony in a modern world, but in the end the movie is a celebration of family.
29. Two Days in Paris (2007)
Two days in Paris follows American Jack and his French girlfriend, Marion, as they spend two days visiting her family and friends in France. The viewer learns that this is the last stop the couple is taking on a European vacation. It also becomes quickly apparent that their relationship is on the rocks, and Marion’s eccentric family and handsome former lovers aren’t helping the situation. This movie is sweet and funny and wonderfully Parisian. A must watch for all Francophiles.
30. Roma (2018)
Alfonso Cuarón’s black and white memory of 1970’s Mexico City is beautifully rendered in this celebrated film. The story is mostly devastating, as Cuarón depicts the tragic events that continuously befall two entangled families.
31. The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (2013)
Walter Mitty (Ben Stiller), works a seemingly boring office job at Life magazine. To escape his mundane life, Walter lives out his wildest fantasies in the imaginary world in his head. Most of his daydream scenarios revolve around him doing something heroic. Somehow Walter loses a potential cover photo for the magazine shot by elusive photographer, Sean O’Connell (Sean Penn). He resolves to be the hero he has always aspired to be by traveling to Greenland as he traces O’Connell’s footsteps in a real life epic adventure. The cinematography is this film is like no other, making almost every shot a sight you would expect to see on the cover of Life magazine.
32. Easy Rider (1969)
This travel movie is all about sex, drugs, and rock n’ roll. Peter Fonda and Dennis Hooper wrote and starred in the film that became a counter culture classic. Fonda and Hooper play two rugged bikers who take a wad of cash earned from a drug deal across the country from California to New Orleans for Mardi Gras.
33. Away We Go (2009)
Bert (John Krasinski) and Verona (Maya Rudolph) are a couple in their thirties who are trying to decide where to raise their unborn child. Both characters are self employed and able to travel at will, so they do. They visit various family members across the country before finally deciding to settle down in the place where Verona was raised. This is a heart-warming film that the whole family can enjoy.
34. Carol (2015)
The film begins with a chance encounter between a young photographer named Therese and an older wealthy woman named Carol who is in the midst of a bitter divorce. The two become unexpected friends, and Carol invites Therese on a spur of the moment road trip to escape the stress of her ongoing custody battle. The two women begin a secret affair that poses a serious threat to Carol’s ability to gain custody of her child. This stylish film set in the 1950’s is a powerful love story that will also inspire your next road trip.
35. Dr. Zhivago (1965)
This movie is famous for its emotion provoking cinematography and for good reason. The chilling snow covered sets provide the perfect juxtaposition to the heated romantic plot of the film. By the time the closing credits roll you will find yourself bundled up on the couch feeling as though you yourself have lived and loved in beautiful Russia.
36. The Talented Mr. Ripley (1999)
Not just a jealous and murderous tale about a few young and beautiful expats, The Talented Mr. Ripley is also a love letter to magnificent Italy. For most of the preppy American characters money is no issue, so the story plays out in some of the most luxurious locations that Italy has to offer. A lifestyle so enviable that it is worth killing for.
37. North by Northwest (1959)
This late 1950’s Hitchcock thriller is led by Cary Grant who plays an advertising executive named Roger Thornhill. When Thornhill is mistaken for a mysterious character named George Kaplan, it sets him on a head spinning escapade involving travel, romance, and a secret intelligence agency. Though this film is most famous for it’s scene where Grant is chased by a low flying crop duster, the final scene where he scales Mount Rushmore is just as memorable.
38. Sideways (2004)
Failed writer, Miles, takes his old friend and former tv soap star, Jack, on a trip to wine country to celebrate his impending nuptials. While Miles is actually interested in fine wine, Jack’s only concern is to have one last fling before he settles down for good.
39. On the Road (2012)
Based on Jack Kerouac’s debut novel with the same title, On The Road is a movie about self discovery. A young writer travels across the country with a couple of free spirited friends that he has just met in order to escape the conservative confines of his hometown. In line with traditional Beat Generation tales, the journey is filled with marijuana, jazz, and poetry.
40. 7 Years in Tibet (1997)
Austrian Heinrich Harrer (Brad Pitt) is attempting to summit a peak in British India when World War II breaks out and he is taken in by the British as a prisoner of war. He and a friend escape through the Himalayas before settling in Tibet. There, Harrer befriends the young Dalai Lama and the two become almost inseparable as Harrer waits out the war. It is only when the threat of Chinese invasion becomes serious that Harrer returns home to his now estranged family.
41. Vicky Cristina Barcelona (2008)
Two American friends travel to Spain together for the Summer. When they meet local artist Juan, they are lured into a love triangle that eventually includes his suicidal ex-wife. Beautiful Barcelona acts as the perfect backdrop for this steamy romantic drama.
42. Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (1997)
Based on the novel by Hunter S. Thompson, this movie follows journalist, Raoul Duke (Johnny Depp) and his attorney (Dr. Gonzo) as they travel in a drug induced haze across the desert to Nevada. Once there, events become increasingly surreal as the film’s protagonists go on an all out bender blurring the lines between fact and fiction.
43. Baraka (1992)
Filmed in 24 countries across 6 continents, this documentary provides a narrative through its striking imagery alone. The film’s director, Ron Fricke, refers to the film as “a guided mediation on humanity.” Fricke perfects his signature style which is later reflected in the sibling documentary, Samsara.
44. Manhattan (1979)
While Woody Allen pays homage to his favorite city in many films, none are as arresting as his black and white masterpiece, Manhattan. If you can get past the cringey relationship between Allen’s 42-year-old character and his 17-year-old girlfriend played by Mariel Hemingway, you will be rewarded with a magnificent montage of New York City sites. Thanks to its talented cast (including Meryl Streep and Diane Keaton) and phenomenal soundtrack, this film will make you fall in love with the greatest city in the world.
45. Hideous Kinky (1998)
Naive mother of two, Julia, moves to Morroco to escape the confinements of her more traditional life in England. Julia’s daughters’ more conservative natures clash with their mother’s more carefree sensibilities as they struggle to make ends meet in their new home.
46. Funny Face (1957)
Dick (Fred Astaire) is a fashion photographer for Quality magazine, and Jo (Audrey Hepburn) is a bookstore employee uninterested in fashion. When Dick’s boss tasks him with finding the new face of Quality magazine, he finds Jo. Despite finding the modeling industry to be shallow, Jo agrees to model as a means to travel to Paris to attend a lecture of her favorite modern philosopher. Ultimately, Dick and Jo fall in love in this classic musical.
47. Almost Famous (2000)
Inspired by his rebellious older sister, teenage William Miller wants to be a rock journalist. When the popular band Stillwater reluctantly agrees to let him tour with them as research for a Rolling Stone article, Miller hits the road with the band and their groupies. This movie is a coming of age story, a road trip film, and a love letter to the 70’s rolled into one.
48. Mid Sommar (2019)
Stylishly creepy, Mid Sommar tells the tale of a group of friends who travel to Sweden to experience a small community’s fabled midsummer festival. Initially it seems as though the community is a sort of paradise, but the longer they stay the stranger things become. This movie is an anxiety inducing thriller that answers the question “What’s the worst that could happen?”
49. Una Noche (2012)
Raúl and Elio are best friends who live in Havana. After Raúl is accused of attacking a tourist, he and Elio plan to escape to Miami on a handmade raft. This movie highlights the confusing combination of beauty and poverty that is Cuba. Lucy Mulloy spent years researching before writing and directing the film which has an undeniable authenticity that may come from the cast which is comprised of locals instead of trained actors.
50. Two for the Road (1967)
This late 60s British comedy is about a married couple who embark a road trip to Southern France that stirs up old memories. Starring Albert Finney and Audrey Hepburn the story is told over a twelve year period using flashbacks to show how the couple’s relationship has evolved over the years.