#Movies & TV
The 9 Best Travel Movies of All Time
by Reannon Muth
From Lost in Translation to Into the Wild, here’s a film list to feed your wanderlust for those times when a vacation just can’t get here fast enough.
Anyone suffering from a bad case of travel addiction can tell you that there’s nothing worse than sludging through those weeks and months in between fixes—er, trips. The “real world” often feels routine, monotonous and achingly dull in comparison to travel. While the simplest solution would be to wheel your roller bag to the nearest airport and book the next flight to Portugal, bank account balances and work responsibilities can sometimes make that plan an impossibility. Instead, here are nine of the best travel movies; perfect for surviving those times when your heart is screaming “Travel!”, but your brain is screaming “Pay the rent!”
1. Lost in Translation
When to Watch: While preparing for a trip to Asia
Though the 2003 indie Lost in Translation had several big names attached to it, including actors Bill Murray and Scarlett Johansson, the biggest star in this academy-award winning film was its setting: Tokyo, Japan. Filmed nearly entirely in Japan’s buzzing, flashy capital—in the business and entertainment districts of Shinjuku and Shibuya—the movie brings to realistic light a city not often featured in American films. Anyone who has ever traveled or lived in Asia will relate well to the culture shock and loneliness Murray and Johannson’s characters experience while navigating a large, unfamiliar city solo.
2. The Secret Life of Walter Mitty
When to Watch: When you’re feeling apprehensive about traveling
Ben Stiller plays play-it-safe daydreamer Walter Mitty in the 2013 film The Secret Life of Walter Mitty. Tired of his ho-hum existance, Walter throws caution to the wind and embarks on an adventurous mission to Greenland, Iceland and the Himalayas. If Iceland wasn’t on your radar as being a fun travel destination before, it will be after watching this movie. The majority of the film’s scenes were filmed in several of Iceland’s colorful fishing villages and glacial lagoons, making it the first time Iceland has played a leading role in a big-budget Hollywood film.
Location: The Pacific Crest Trail in California and Oregon
When to Watch:Before a big backpacking trip
Though hardcore backpackers have criticized the film for focusing more on the main character’s inner journey through grief and addiction and less on the mechanics of hiking the Pacific Crest trail, what the film lacks in mountaineering details, it makes up for in brilliant cinematography. Shots of lake-side sunsets, snowy mountain tops and empty-as-far-as-the-eye-can-see desert valleys are so vivid, you could watch the movie with the sound off and still enjoy it. The movie—which is based on a popular memoir—will have you itching to lace up your hiking boots and embark on a self-healing hiking adventure of your own.
4. The Bourne Identity
When to Watch: After returning home from a European vacation
Though waking up on a fishing boat off the coast of Europe with no recollection of who you are or how you got there might sound like every traveler’s worst nightmare, the first film in the Bourne franchise is so terrifically shot and edge-of-your-seat exciting that it’s worth viewing for the vicarious adventure thrills alone. The traveler in you may not relate to having amnesia or being a secret spy-slash-hitman, but you’ll likely relate to the feeling of being lost, confused and thoroughly misunderstood in a foreign country.
5. Eat, Pray, Love
Locations: Italy, India and Indonesia
When to Watch: After a big breakup
Though most would agree that the book was better than the movie, Eat, Pray, Love deserves a mention on this list purely for the fact that the scenes in Indonesia alone will make you want to trade in your job for a bicycle, harem pants and the green rice fields of Bali. It’s a great movie to watch after a breakup, as Julia Robert’s infectious smile and the story’s optimistic message is the almost-better-than-ice cream remedy for heartbreak. Almost.
6. Into the Wild
When to Watch: When you’re feeling like no one understands your intense desire to travel
If family and friends have told you were crazy for wanting to throw away a college degree and a promising career in favor of a crinkly map, a beat up VW bus and the open road, then this film is for you. Though the story is a sad one, most travel lovers will be able to relate to the feeling of wanting to escape societal preassures and embrace the untethered freedom of the unpredictable wilderness.
7. View from the Top
Locations:Airports and airplanes
When to Watch: For those days when you dream of quitting your desk job and becoming a flight attendant
While View from the Top is not a great movie—and even its star Gweneth Paltrow reportedly admitted it was “horrible”—if you take the film for what it is, a cheesy, feel-good film about the life of a small town flight attendant—it can be an entertaining watch. Flight attendant wannabes and aviation geeks alike will enjoy getting a (somewhat?) realistic, behind-the-scenes look at flight attendant training and what glimpse into the idolized life of a “waitress in the sky.”
8. The Indiana Jones films
Locations: Jordan, India, Nepal, Peru, Egypt and China (to name a few!)
When to Watch: When you’re craving an epic adventure
Although the Indiana Jones franchise is completely over-the-top and unrealistic, that’s part of the fun. Indiana’s adventures, which take him from treasure hunts in Peru to elephant rides in India, will awaken your inner child’s sense of wonder and spirit for adventure. Though some of the film series’ iconic scenes were filmed in real world locations—like the “lost city” of Petra in Jordan—many of the shots were captured in film studios or in more film-friendly locales like Hawaii. But hey, nobody said the movies were realistic!
9. 500 Days of Summer
Location: Los Angeles
When to Watch: Before a trip to Los Angeles
Though not a travel film in the traditional sense, 500 Days of Summer, starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt and the ultimate quirky girl, Zooey Deschanel, is a beautifully-scripted film about new love and heartbreak set in downtown LA and the Silver Lake district of Los Angeles. Watching the film, you may not recognize LA at first, as the characters live a very urban city existence, riding the public bus, picnicking in city parks and sipping champagne on apartment rooftops, but that’s part about what makes this movie special. 500 Days of Summer allows visitors and locals alike to see a side of the City of Angels they may have never known existed.