As someone who loves to travel, there’s something extra special about watching travel movies. I’m an enormous movie buff. I’ll watch almost any kind of movie, and even if it’s rubbish, find something to enjoy about it. As soon as I watch a really good travel movie, I want to head into my bedroom, get my backpack out, fill it up with clothes and head to the airport. Being inspired to travel by watching amazing travel movies is one of life’s great pleasures.
Here is a list of my 13 favourite travel movies of all time. Apart from the common travel theme running through them all, they all have other concepts and ideas that conjures up an incredible sense of wanderlust whenever I watch them. The idea that it’s never too late to travel, it will change your life immeasurably, you’ll meet amazing people along the way, and that we should use every day we have to live life to the fullest, are so powerful they inspired me to sell everything I owned and set off on a nomadic adventure with my wife and son.
So if you’re at home looking for travel inspiration, on the road with time to kill, or are just looking for a great movie to watch, check out these travel movies. You won’t be disappointed. But if you are watching these from home, don’t just let your travel experiences end in front of the TV. Because no matter how good the movie was, it’s always much, much better when you get out there and experience it all for yourself.
(Please note, if you click a link and rent or buy one of these videos, I make a small commission that helps fund my travels. It doesn’t cost you any extra, but it sure helps us!)
Top 13 travel movies I’ve watched
The Secret Life Of Walter Mitty is one of my favourite movies of any sort, let alone travel movies. Ben Stiller plays Walter Mitty, a guy who gets lost in his own world most of the time. When his job is threatened, he decide it’s time to put those daydreams into action. The great bit is his adventures are better than anything he could have imagined, which is how it is in the real world as well.
Lost In Translation is about an ageing, washed up actor in Tokyo (Bill Murray), who meets a beautiful young American (Scarlett Johansson) in Tokyo who’s husband is a workaholic photographer. They form an unlikely friendship and head out into the streets of Tokyo, meeting people, experiencing the culture, and getting into some hilarious adventures. It opens their eyes to life’s many possibilities when you think there isn’t much left.
Vicky Cristina Barcelona is set in the amazing city of Barcelona where two friends, soon-to-be-married Vicki (Rebecca Hall) and free-spirit Christina (Scarlett Johansson), decide to spend a summer. Javier Barden plays a flamboyant artist, and Penelope Cruz plays his crazy ex-wife, and the four become amorously entangled with hilarious and chaotic consequences.
If you’ve got kids like we do, or just love animated movies, then Up is for you. Carl, a retired balloon salesman who loves to dream big, and Russell, an eight-year-old who’s never been further than his back yard, accidentally set off on an adventure together when Carl decides to tie thousands of balloons to his house. They meet some fantastic characters along the way, get stuck in the wilds of the jungle, and learn plenty about themselves along the way, which is exactly what happens when you hit the road for an extended period of time.
The Beach is one of the first travel movies I watched, and from the momentI watched it I dreamed of hitting the beautiful beaches of Thailand. Leonardo DiCaprio heads to Bangkok and is told about a secret island paradise by an absolute mad man (Robert Carlyle)! He sets off in search, and what he finds is adventure, love, friendship, and a little danger as well. It shouldn’t put you off travelling and adventure seeking, but perhaps think twice before chasing the ideal getaway told to you by people who really should be in a a lunatic asylum.
How often have you been asked what you’d do if you only had six months to live? The Bucket List explores that exact question when Carter (Morgan Freeman) and Edward (Jack Nicholson) meet in a hospital bed, and the prognosis for each isn’t good. Edward is incredibly wealthy, but doesn’t have any friends, so talks Carter into compiling a combined bucket list that they would complete before their time is up. The movie is all about using the time we have to do everything we want to do in life, and after all, it’s rare that we actually know how much time we have left until we die, right?
In Eat Pray Love, Liz (Julia Roberts) decides to take a year off from work to travel the world after a painful divorce. Like many first time travellers, she steps out of her comfort zone in the desire to change her life for the better. Exploring the amazing food of Italy, the spirituality of India, and finding balance and love in Bali, this true story is inspiring for anyone who needs a break from the world to see what possibilities are out there.
Imagine what could happen in a single day in a beautiful city? Is it possible to find your soulmate and fall in love? That’s exactly what happens to Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy in Before Sunrise. After sharing a day together in Vienna discussing all sorts of philosophical topics, they discover that despite coming from very different places and backgrounds, they share a magical bond.
Part travel movie, part love story, part history lesson, Midnight in Paris is a wonderful way to explore the modern day and historical City of Light. Gil (Owen Wilson) is a dreamer who sets out to explore Paris’ streets alone, while his wife Inez (Rachel McAdams) would rather spend her time experiencing the finer things the city has to offer with her parents. Needless to say Gil stumbles across the most incredible adventure imaginable, discover the hidden magic he was searching for. But will anyone will believe him?
I just can’t get enough of well-written, well-acted English movies, and The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel ticks all the right boxes. When a group of retirees struggling for money meet at retirement resort in India, friendships form and romances flourish. It’s funny, witty, charming and very clever, and you’ll enjoy this movie from the first minute to the last. While the real India and that portrayed in the movie aren’t quite the same (at least in our experience), it does show that it’s never too late to make a fresh beginning and explore the world.
National Lampoon’s Vacation is an all-time classic. Chevy Chase takes his family (the Griswalds) on the ultimate trans-America road trip, heading west bound for Wally World. With a cast including Eugene Levy, John Candy, Anthony Michael-Hall, Brian Doyle-Murray and Randy Quaid, it’s non-stop hilarity all the way through.
While not a ‘travel movie’ in the strictest sense of the phrase, Sideways is credited with significantly increasing tourism to California’s Santa Ynez Valley wine region immediately after its release, along with global pinot noir sales. It’s the story about wine snob/wannabe author Miles (Paul Giamatti) and his old college friend Jack (Thomas Haden Church), who head off on a trip through the Santa Ynez Valley wine region before Jack’s marriage. They soon find themselves knee deep in wine, women and mid-life crises, and they don’t know if they’ll get back to the wedding in Los Angeles.
A Good Year stars Russell Crowe as a high flying, successful investment expert with just one problem – he doesn’t have any time for anything else. Sound familiar? Are you or someone you know like this? I know people like this. He inherits a vineyard in France where he grew up as a child from his uncle who recently passed away, and flies over to sell it as quickly as possible before moving back to his busy life. Instead he falls in love with the place, as well as a local French woman. Great to watch if you love romantic movies, or want to get brownie points with your girlfriend/wife.