We all know that movies are a great way to escape reality and travel to new places without leaving your couch. But we also know that it’s infinitely better to get out and really explore those places on your own. Here are 10 movies that do an amazing job of capturing the beauty of the world, the excitement of travel, and will make you want to get out there see it all for yourself.
Wild is a fantastic travel movie on several levels. Not only is it a gorgeously filmed love letter to the Pacific Crest Trail and the jaw-dropping beauty of the western United States, it’s also an homage to powerful women and free spirits everywhere. As you join the main character Cheryl on her gruelling trek from the Mojave Desert to the Bridge of the Gods between Washington and Oregon, it makes you want to strap on a pair of boots yourself and hit the trail to see what you’re really made of.
The Darjeeling Limited (2007)
Everything that Wes Anderson touches turns perfectly picturesque and tantalizing, but the Darjeeling Limited is especially profound in its loving and enchanting depiction of chaotic and colourful India. With the romance of train travel, the delicacy of the Indian musical score, and the indescribable beauty of the passing countryside, this film is an incredible ode to an incredible country.
Jiro Dreams of Sushi (2011)
es, most of this documentary takes place in an underground subway station. But travel is about more than pretty places–travel is about people, culture, food, sharing, risk-taking, and learning. And Jiro Dreams of Sushi is about all of this and more. This close-up look at the art of sushi and the power of food and family in Japanese culture is enchanting in its heady mix of tender craftsmanship and tough love. Never has Japan seemed so exotically foreign and so intimately universal.
The Motorcycle Diaries (2004)
Before Che Guevara was a polarizing revolutionary and bereted poster-child (t-shirt child?) for the communist movement, he was, like many of us, a wandering 20-something looking for answers on the road. This cinematic re-telling of a true story is a classic road trip movie, full of wrong turns, unexpected discoveries, and really, really attractive actors. As Che and his friend travel across South America on the back of the motorcycle, it’s impossible not to fall in love with each country they cross through and each culture they encounter. It’s the kind of broke, broken-down freedom that we all long to experience while we’re young.
The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (2013)
I recently travelled to Iceland, and I heard a whole lot of people talking about the “Walter Mitty peninsula.” At the time I was confused, as this is nowhere on any map of Iceland, but now that I’ve seen the movie, oh boy is it understandable. Once you get over the fact that it’s an Adam Sandler movie, you’ll see that the main character of Walter Mitty is actually the incredible and otherworldly landscapes of Western Iceland. If this movie doesn’t convince you that Iceland is a fairy-land that you have to visit before you die, nothing will.
The Beach (2000)
This 2000 film starring a wide-eyed baby DiCaprio is a little dated, but it’s premise about a legendary pristine beach is still the stuff gap year dreams are made of. The movie explores many aspects of Thailand–the stunning nature, the seedy cities, and the dark reality of consumer culture and irresponsible tourism are all present. But the star of the show is really the Beach itself–Koh Phi Phi’s Maya Bay, a breathtaking beacon of blinding white sand, sparkling turquoise waters, and verdant limestone karsts that will continue to call your name no matter how bad things get for little Leo.
Into the Wild (2007)
To die would be an awfully big adventure. Yes, this one has a sad ending. But for all the brutality of an Alaskan winter, the message of this movie shines clear: not all those who wander are lost, and there’s a part of humanity that you will never truly discover unless you head into the wild. As you watch Alexander Supertramp commune with nature, hitch-hiking his way through impossibly beautiful landscapes and living off the land, his eyes sparkling with tears at the confounding beauty of a grizzly bear in her natural habitat, it is you are reminded of how much beauty there is in the world if you are willing to get out there and find it.
Before Sunrise (1995)
Who hasn’t fantasized about meeting their soul mate on a train in Europe? This subtly beautiful film about love and travel is dedicated to just one night in Vienna, as American traveller Jesse and his new French acquaintance Céline wander the city and talk to each other about life, philosophy, and simple get-to-know you banalities, quietly falling in love under the Austrian stars. Recommended for romantics and realists alike, this movie is a moving and distinctly un-cheesy masterpiece of human interest.
Paris, Je T’Aime (2006)
This unique movie is made up of short films, all directed by different people, with the city of Paris as their only common thread. From first dates to childhood bullying to vampires, this movie has it all. It’s impossible not to fall in love with the diverse streets of Paris through the eyes of all of the amazingly different directors who all find something irresistibly enchanting about the City of Lights.
This is another classic road trip movie–with a twist. A New York chef who has fallen from grace after a high-end restaurant meltdown buys a food truck and hits the road, wandering through the different cultures and cuisines of the United States. Eat first, or you’ll be salivating through all one hour and 55 minutes of this charming foodie film.
With this arsenal of movies, even the ultimate homebody will come down with some serious wanderlust. I mean, I love Netflix as much as the next guy, but nothing compares to getting out there and experiencing the world for yourself–all the tastes, smells, touches, and emotions of travel are something that the cinema can never truly give you.
Do you have any life-changing travel movies? Mad that we missed your fav? Let us know in the comments.