Let’s face it, movies are a form of escapism.
Travel movies specifically offer a vicarious escape from the mundane realities of our lives. We can step out of our day-to-day realities and transport ourselves to some of the most beautiful and exotic locations in the world, experiencing all the excitement and adventure that comes with travel. Travel movies also inspire people to see the world and experience different cultures first-hand.
On top of that, travel movies also provide a welcome respite from the constant bombardment of negative news stories. They allow us to dream about faraway places and imagine what it would be like to explore them for ourselves. At a time when more and more people are forced to stay home rather than travel, travel movies are more popular than ever. Thank goodness for Hollywood!
But in my experience, the best travel movies can inspire us to get up off the sofa and make these travel experiences a reality. For example, watching The Beach with Leonardo DiCaprio as a university student first got me dreaming of traveling to Thailand. Sigur Ros’ Heima always made me want to visit Iceland. Seeing this far off lands got me dreaming of new possibilities and set my mind on a path to discover ways to make them a reality.
Here’s my shortlist of movies that make you want to travel (plus two documentaries that I felt deserved mention). Enjoy!
Best Movies That Make You Want to Travel
Travel and change of place impart new vigor to the mind.Seneca
Each movie made it on this list because of the nature of their plot and the themes involved, and not necessarily because I think they’re the best films (though I enjoy most of them, but for different reasons).
Into the Wild (2007)
Plot Summary: A boy gives up his possessions, donates all his money to charity, hitchhikes to Alaska, and lives in the wilderness. The journey that unfolds introduces him to a number of characters along the way and ultimately changes his life.
Memorable Quote: “When you want something in life, you just gotta reach out and grab it.”
IMDB Score: 8.1/10
Lost in Translation (2003)
An aging movie star meets a trouble newlywed while they’re both traveling in Tokyo for business. Together they form an unlikely bond after meeting in the hotel bar, and an adventure unfolds under the bright lights of Tokyo.
Memorable Quote: “Let’s never come here again because it would never be as much fun.”
IMDB Score: 7.7/10
Before Sunrise (1995)
Plot Summary: After a chance encounter on a train in Europe, an American tourist and French student strike up a connection and decide as strangers to spend a full day together in Vienna before the boy flies out the next day.
Memorable Quote: “I believe if there’s any kind of God it wouldn’t be in any of us, not you or me but just this little space in between. If there’s any kind of magic in this world it must be in the attempt of understanding someone sharing something. I know, it’s almost impossible to succeed but who cares really? The answer must be in the attempt.”
IMDB Score: 8.1/10
The Beach (2000)
Plot Summary: A young traveler finds a map in his Bangkok hostel after being told of a legendary beach paradise from a mad Scotsman backpacker. He sets out on an adventure to find the secret island community.
“And me? I still believe in paradise. But now at least I know it’s not some place you can look for. Because it’s not where you go. It’s how you feel for a moment in your life when you’re a part of something. And if you find that moment…it lasts forever.”
“The only downer is, everyone’s got the same idea. We all travel thousands of miles just to watch TV and check in to somewhere with all the comforts of home, and you gotta ask yourself, what is the point of that?”
IMDB Score: 6.7/10
Before Sunset (2004)
Plot Summary: Set nine years after Before Sunrise (1995), an American man and French woman who fell in love after meeting up a train now meet up again in Paris years later. They catch up and have a series of deep conversations about life, love and happiness.
Memorable Quote: “You can never replace anyone because everyone is made up of such beautiful specific details.”
IMDB Score: 8.0/10
The Darjeeling Limited (2007)
Plot Summary: In the year following the accidental death of their father, three quirky brothers take a train trip across India. A strange adventure ensues.
Memorable Quote: “I wonder if the three of us would’ve been friends in real life. Not as brothers, but as people.”
IMDB Score: 7.2/10
The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (2013)
Plot Summary: An overworked magazine executive daydreams of a fantasy world every day as a form of escapism. When he faces the threat of losing his job, he goes on an epic adventure to the edge of the world in an attempt to save his reputation.
Memorable Quote: “Beautiful things don’t ask for attention.”
IMDB Score: 7.3/10
Plot Summary: An Israeli backpacker meets a guide in Bolivia, who tells tales of lost tribes, uncharted adventures and gold in the Amazon. The two embark on an expedition along with two others that eventually leaves them stranded in a hellish jungle environment with seemingly no escape.
Memorable Quote: “I told my parents I’d be back in a year, but I don’t think I’m ever going back.”
IMDB Score: 6.7/10
Catch Me if You Can (2002)
Plot Summary: A
A senior FBI agent pursues a con artist who forged millions of dollars’ worth of checks and posed as a pilot, a pediatrician, and a prosecutor. A paternal cat and mouse adventure unfolds.
Memorable Quote: “Two little mice fell in a bucket of cream. The first mouse quickly gave up and drowned. The second mouse, wouldn’t quit. He struggled so hard that eventually he churned that cream into butter and crawled out. Gentlemen, as of this moment, I am that second mouse.”
IMDB Score: 8.1/10
The Motorcycle Diaries (2004)
Plot Summary: A medical student postpones his last semester to take a nearly 10,000 km motorcycle trip across South America with a friend. Their quest takes them on an unexpected journey, introduces them to many interesting people and ultimately changes their lives.
Memorable Quote: “How is it possible to feel nostalgia for a world I never knew?”
IMDB Score: 7.8/10
Plot Summary: Amélie, an isolated child, creates her own fantastical world and dreams of love and beauty. As a young lady, she is primarily focused on serving others, but goes through a series of learning experiences that ultimately makes her more assertive and introduces her the beauty of the world.
Memorable Quote: “We pass the time of day to forget how time passes.”
IMDB Score: 8.3/10
Seven Years in Tibet (1997)
A famed Austrian goes on a journey to the Himalayas, leaving his wife and child behind. A war breaks out he is captured and imprisoned in a prisoner-of-war camp. He escapes to Tibet where he befriends the teenage Dalai Lama and observes the escalation of the Tibetan-Chinese conflict.
Memorable Quote: “We have a saying in Tibet: If a problem can be solved there is no use worrying about it. If it can’t be solved, worrying will do no good.”
IMDB Score: 7.1/10
Before Midnight (2013)
Set nine years after Before Sunset (2004), the final part of the trilogy sees the couple now living in Paris with twin daughters. They spend the summer vacation in Greece and the hardships of their relationship are unraveled.
“If you want love, then this is it. This is real life. It’s not perfect but it’s real.”
Like sunlight, sunset, we appear, we disappear. We are so important to some, but we are just passing through.
IMDB Score: 7.9/10
Midnight in Paris (2011)
Plot Summary: A couple travels to Paris with their parents. After a disagreement, the man begins taking midnight walks around the city and finds the ultimate inspiration for his novel. As he becomes closer with the city, he slowly becomes more distant from his wife.
Memorable Quote: “We all fear death and question our place in the universe. The artist’s job is not to succumb to despair, but to find an antidote for the emptiness of existence.”
IMDB Score: 7.7/10
Plot Summary: A woman’s life becomes more reckless after a broken marriage and the death of her mother. She makes a rash decision to hike the Pacific Crest Trail alone. Driven by determination, she fights to stay sane and forge on with the adventure that ultimately heals her.
Memorable Quote: “I’ve always been someone’s daughter or mother or wife. I never got to be in the driver’s seat of my own life.”
IMDB Score: 7.1/10
The Bucket List (2007)
Plot Summary: Two men with terminal illnesses form an unlikely bond after sharing a hospital room together. Together, they go on a journey to do all things they always wanted to do before they die. They journey teaches them lots about life, love and happiness.
Memorable Quote: “Even now I cannot understand the measure of a life, but I can tell you this. I know that when he died, his eyes were closed and his heart was open. And I’m pretty sure he was happy with his final resting place, because he was buried on the mountain. And that was against the law.”
IMDB Score: 7.4/10
Plot Summary: A young woman goes on a long voyage across the deserts of West Australia with four camels and a dog, discovering herself in the process.
Memorable Quote: “Like any journey, it’s not what you carry but what you leave behind.”
IMDB Score: 7.2/10
Eat Pray Love (2010)
Plot Summary: A career woman finds herself lost and confused after a divorce and risks everything to go on a journey of self-discovery around the world.
Memorable Quote: “If you’re brave enough to leave behind everything familiar and comforting, which can be anything from your house to bitter, old resentments, and set out on a truth-seeking journey, either externally or internally, and if you are truly willing to regard everything that happens to you on that journey as a clue and if you accept everyone you meet along the way as a teacher and if you are prepared, most of all, to face and forgive some very difficult realities about yourself, then the truth will not be withheld from you.”
IMDB Score: 5.8/10
Planet Earth II (2016)
Ok, this one’s not a movie, but it still deserves a place on this list. If you like this, check out the original BBC Planet Earth and Life series.
Plot Summary: David Attenborough narrates this breathtaking documentary series showcasing life across the various regions of our planet.
IMDB Score: 9.5/10
Sigur Ros: Heima (2007)
Also not a movie, but made its way onto this list as it was the documentary that put Iceland on the map for me as one of the places I just knew I had to visit. I achieved my dream in 2016!
Plot Summary: The band Sigur Ros returns to Iceland to play a free series of unannounced concerts across the country, and the country’s beautiful landscapes are featured in between.
IMDB Score: 8.5/10
The Epilogue: Movies That Make You Want to Travel
Travel movies can get you thinking differently about your life and goals. They can inspire you to build a life you don’t need to escape from in the first place.
Whether you’re dreaming of far-flung destinations or just want to vicariously experience someone else’s travels, these movies are sure to inspire your wanderlust. So what are you waiting for? Pack your bags and get ready to explore some of the most amazing places on earth.
What’s your favorite travel movie? Have any other movies you’d add to the list? Leave a comment below and let us know!
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