There are as many travel movies out there as there are destinations. My DVD collection is pretty extensive, and when I’m not traveling I usually pop one in to help slay my wanderlust. Here are 15 of my favorite travel movies I think every traveler should see.
1. The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel
This movie had me at Judi Dench, Maggie Smith, and Bill Nighy. Following a group of British retirees as they move to India looking for a life of leisure. The movie is heartwarming and hilarious as this amazing cast of characters discovers how to hit restart on life and love can be found where you least expect it.
I feel the film perfectly captures a visitor’s reaction in India; You either love it or hate it. With a culture so different you either embrace the chaos or it runs you down. Here’s a tip, just go with the flow!
2. Roman Holiday
Audrey Hepburn, in her American debut, nails it as a sheltered princess who falls in love with an American newsman in Rome. Not only did this movie win 3 Academy Awards – Best Actress in a Leading Role, Best Costume Design and Best Writing – it is the gold standard of the modern romantic comedy.
I’m a sucker for classic films and all things Audrey Hepburn. I dream of that day when I ride around Rome on a Vespa with a tall dark stranger. My boyfriend is going to be so upset! (Hi Hunny!)
3. Midnight in Paris
I watch this movie a few month ago on my way home from Peru. I don’t know why it took me so long to watch it! Directed by Woody Allen, this film makes you long for years gone by.
Owen Wilson plays writer, GIl Pender, a screenwriter on vacation with his fiancee, played by Rachel McAdams. While wandering the streets of Paris he is transported back in time to the 1920s at midnight each night. Meeting Cole Porter, Scott Fitzgerald and Josephine Baker, to name a few, sets him on a course that will change his life forever.
4. The Bucket List
Jack Nicholson is one of my favorite actors. When I first heard about this movie I was a little unsure, but ended up being pleasantly surprised. Nicholson plays billionare Edward Cole, who ends up sharing a hospital room with Carter Chambers played by Morgan Freeman. These unlikely friends find common ground and end up taking a “Kick the Bucket” Trip together.
This movie further solidifies why I travel now and don’t wait until later. You never know when you’re time here on Earth will come to an end, so don’t wait until later to do the things that you truly want to do.
5. Euro Trip
Judge me all you want for this one, but this classic early 2000s movie is the experience we all wish we had in Europe during college. No? Just me? Oh, well. This movie brings me back to college and reminds me of late nights hanging out with friends.
The main character Scotty, finds out his girlfriend Fiona is cheating on him with the BEST Matt Damon cameo ever! Under the ridiculous advice of his best friend Cooper, they travel to Germany to find Scotty’s pen pal Mieke. During the trip, chaos ensues, they get lost, run into all kinds of interesting people and have the ultimate trip around Europe.
Please note: This movie is extremely inappropriate and will probably offend you if you take it seriously.
6. Seven Years in Tibet
Seven Years in Tibet is based on the true story of Austrian mountain climber Heinrich Harrer. When a climb goes wrong Harrer ends up in a British Interment camp in India. After his escape he crosses the Himalaya and ends up in Lhasato, Tibet, meeting and becoming friends with the Dalai Lama.
This movie shows that self transformation is possible in us all. I think this is one of Brad Pitt’s most underrated films. Clocking in at just over 2 hours, it’s a film, but worth the watch. If you don’t want to visit the Himalayas afterwards, I’ll be shocked.
7. The Secret Life of Walter Mitty
Ben Stiller has come a long way since I first saw him as a kid in Heavy Weights. When Walter Mitty ended my heart was full and I was ready for a new adventure.
Walter is a mild mannered photo developer for Life magazine who goes on amazing journeys in his imagination. He embarks on a real life adventure after discovering his job and that of his co-workers is at risk. This adventure takes Walter across the planet and helps him discover who he truly is.
I still haven’t decided if I like this movie or not. As a hiker I know how to be safe in the back country. When books and subsequent movies, like Wild, come out I worry that people will follow suit and go off into the wilderness, like Cheryl Strayed did, with little to no survival knowledge.
That being said, Cheryl’s story of a life that fell apart and was healed by the power of the natural world, perseverance and strength, inspires me to no end. Reese Witherspoon is phenomenal in this film and shows such raw and honest emotion. This is a movie that I would recommend to anyone who feels that have lost their way.
9. The Darjeeling Limited
If you thought this list would end without a Wes Anderson movie, think again. We’re back in India for this comical, but emotional train ride. 3 brothers who haven’t spoken in a year, since the death of their father, reunite for a journey of self discovery and spiritual healing.
Like any Wes Anderson movie, there are moments of awkwardness, truth, and of course excellent cameos from Natalie Portman, Camilla Rutherford, Irrfan Khan and Bill Murray. The stunning visuals of India are what really make this movie a must see. Our trio of main characters stop at many gorgeous temples and villages along their journey. Each vibrant color in their surroundings is perfectly captured.
10. Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark
Does anyone else hear the Indiana Jones theme song in their heads while on an epic adventure? Good! I knew I wasn’t the only one. This movie isn’t just great travel inspiration, it’s one of the the iconic movies of all time. I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve seen a hat like Indy’s in a market while traveling and talked myself out of buying it!
The first of the Indiana Jones Trilogy (yes, you heard me, trilogy!) introduces us to our fearless adventurer and takes us halfway around the world. From the Himalayas to the Sahara dessert adventure – or complete chaos – is found behind every turn. This movie is the reason I fell in love with Egyptology. Thanks Indy!
11. Planes, Trains and Automobiles
Neal Page (Steve Martin) struggles to get home for Thanksgiving with the most obnoxious travel companion, a shower curtain ring salesman named Del Griffith (John Candy).
This 1980s classic trip gone wrong story is every travelers nightmare. I’ve been stuck in an airport trying to get home for Thanksgiving and I’ll tell you it’s not a good time.
I grew up watching John Candy movies. My Dad thinks he’s one of the funniest guys who ever lived. With Steve Martin along side him this movie is pure genius. Their chemistry is hard to come by and will keep you laughing the entire.
12. Into the Wild
I very rarely enjoy a movie more then a book, but in the case of Into the Wild I like the movie more.
Christopher McCandless, played by Emile Hirsch, abandons his life of privilege, Emory University education, and donates his life saves to hitchhike around the U.S. eventually ending up in the wilds of Alaska. He meets a cast of characters along the way, each of which shapes and enriches his life.
What truly makes this film is the music. The soundtrack is actually the debut solo studio album by Pearl Jam front man Eddie Vedder. Not only does the music pair beautifully with the visuals, it is an excellent addition to any road trip.
13. Lost in Translation
Lost in Translation was nominated for 4 Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Actor for Bill Murray, and Best Director for Sofia Coppola; Coppola won for Best Original Screenplay.
Taking place in Tokyo, Bill Murray plays Bob Harris, an aging American movie star filming a whisky commercial in the midst of a midlife crisis. Scarlet Johansson plays Charlotte a young women left at the hotel by her photographer husband. Bob and Charlotte connect over their strained and disillusioned relationships with their significant others.
Not the most upbeat film on the list, but I think it goes to show you that human connection can be found in the most interesting places, exactly when we need it.
14. The Lord of the Rings Trilogy
I realize this is 3 movies, but you can’t just have 1 of these movies on the list because you need them all to complete this epic story. Filmed throughout New Zaeland, where you can still visit the set of Hobbiton, the landscapes shown will take your breath away.
A Hobbit named Frodo Baggins goes on a journey to destroy a mysterious ring. Joined by 3 other hobbits, an elf, a dwarf, a wizard and 2 men, Frodo learns about the world, himself and the strength of others.
This link above is for the 3 film extended edition pack. The extended editions are much longer then the already long cinema release, but have so much more heart and tons of extras. I challenge you to spend a Saturday watching all 3 films!
15. Hector and the Search for Happiness
While all of the movies on this list have a special place in my heart for one reason or another, Hector and the Search for Happiness is by far my favorite.
I can’t tell you much about this movie for fear of giving it away. The hilarious, Simon Pegg plays Hector, a psychiatrist living in London who becomes bored with life. He buys a ticket to Shanghai to go in search of what happiness is. This search takes him around the globe where he has a plethora of misadventures.
This film resonates with me because not too long ago I feel like I was Hector. I’m happy to report we came to the same conclusions.