Films That Inspire Travel

09 OCT 2017
by: Cheryl Peress | posted in: Globetrotting, Travel, Bucket List, Europe, Africa | comments: 0
Film has a magical way of transporting us to worlds unknown. Whether it's a sweeping panoramic vista of a beach, mountain or desert, the grit and grime of a bustling metropolis, an intimate café or a lavish hotel scene - cinematography has the ability to capture the essence of a place, highlighting all of our five senses.

So it's no wonder that movies over the decades have succeeded in the inspiration of travel. Below we list many favorites spanning all seven continents that have swept us away and opened our eyes to the delights, rigors, and excitement of travel.

United States

Lipan point - Grand Canyon, United States, Films inspiring travel
Lipan point - Grand Canyon, Arizona

Easy Rider (1969)

Director: Dennis Hopper

Actors: Peter Fonda, Dennis Hopper, Jack Nicholson

Synopsis: Two bikers score some drugs, make money selling them and set out cross-country in search of America

Where it takes us: California to New Orleans


Thelma and Louise (1991)

Director: Ridley Scott

Actors: Susan Sarandon, Geena Davis, Harvey Keitel, Brad Pitt

Synopsis: Two friends set out on a weekend getaway to escape their boring lives at home. Things turn awry and the dynamic duo soon find themselves on the run from the law

Where it takes us: Oklahoma to Mexico ending at the Grand Canyon


Sideways (2004)

Director: Alexander Payne

Actors: Paul Giamatti, Thomas Haden Church, Virginia Madsen

Synopsis: Jack and Miles, friends approaching middle age, set off on a week-long wine tasting trip. Drowning in Malbec and Pinot Noir, the two come to grips with the reality of their lives

Where it takes us: California wine country


Into the Wild (2007)

Director: Sean Penn

Actors: Emile Hirsch, Vince Vaughn, Catherine Keener

Synopsis: After graduating from college, Christopher McCandless abandons his possessions and life savings and hitchhikes to Alaska to live in the wild

Where it takes us: Alaskan wilderness


Central America

Bahías de Huatulco, Oaxaca, Films inspiring travel
Oaxaca, Mexico

Y Tu Mama Tambien (2001)

Director: Alfonso Cuarón

Actors: Maribel Verdú, Gael García Bernal, Daniel Giménez Cacho

Synopsis: A coming of age story of two teenage boys who learn about life, friendship and sex when they take a road trip with an older, unhappily married woman

Where it takes us: Mexico


Sin Nombre (2009)

Director: Cary Joji Fukunaga

Actors: Paulina Gaitan, Marco Antonio Aguirre, Leonardo Alonso

Synopsis: A Honduran teenager, Sayra, and a Mexican gangster, Casper, unite as they make their journey across the American border

Where it takes us: Honduras and Mexico


South America

Peruvian Andes, Films inspire travel
Peruvian Andes

Romancing the Stone (1984)

Director: Robert Zemeckis

Actors: Michael Douglas, Kathleen Turner, Danny DeVito

Synopsis: A romance adventure writer goes to Colombia to find her sister who is being held captive by a criminal arts dealer. A map leads her on a wild search of a hidden treasure

Where it takes us: Colombian countryside and Cartagena


Touching the Void (2003)

Director: Kevin Macdonald

Actors: Simon Yates, Joe Simpson, Brendan Mackey

Synopsis: The true story of two mountaineers, Joe Simpson and Simon Yates, and their treacherous journey up the west face of Siula Grande in the Peruvian Andes in 1985

Where it takes us: Peruvian Andes


The Motorcycle Diaries (2004)

Director: Walter Salles

Actors: Gael García Bernal, Rodrigo De la Serna, Mía Maestro

Synopsis: The reenactment of the motorcycle road trip by Ernesto “Che” Guevara and Alberto Granado through Latin America in 1952. The two cover more than 8000 kilometers through stunning scenery in the Andes, the Amazon, and the Atacama Desert

Where it takes us: Through South America, starting in Buenos Aires, Argentina



Eiffel Tower, Paris France, Inspiring travel
Eiffel Tower - Paris, France

Doctor Zhivago (1965)

Director: David Lean

Actors: Omar Sharif, Julie Christie, Geraldine Chaplin

Synopsis: Set in Russia, the story follows the life of a Russian physician during the First World War and then the Russian Revolution

Where it takes us: Russia


Don’t Look Now (1973)

Director: Nicolas Roeg

Actors: Julie Christie, Donald Sutherland, Hilary Mason

Synopsis: A married couple finds themselves in Venice after the recent death of their daughter. There they are haunted by a series of mysterious occurrences

Where it takes us: Venice, Italy


Murder on the Orient Express (1974)

Director: Sidney Lumet

Actors: Albert Finney, Lauren Bacall, Ingrid Bergman

Synopsis: An Agatha Christie thriller with an all-star cast set on the Orient Express in December 1935. After a disappearance and then murder, detective Hercule Poirot is called on to solve the mystery

Where it takes us: On board a train


Before Sunrise (1995)

Director: Richard Linklater

Actors: Ethan Hawke, Julie Delpy

Synopsis: A man and woman meet on a train in Europe, spend an evening together in Vienna, and then fall in love only to depart and move on in separate ways

Where it takes us: Vienna, Austria


Midnight in Paris (2011)

Director: Woody Allen

Actors: Owen Wilson, Rachel McAdams, Kathy Bates

Synopsis: A romantic comedy set in Paris with flashbacks to the 1920s heyday of this magical city

Where it takes us: Paris, France


The Way (2011)

Director: Emilio Estevez

Actors: Martin Sheen, Emilio Estevez

Synopsis: A father continues on the pilgrimage of "El Camino de Santiago" in tribute to his son who previously died while traveling the sacred path

Where it takes us: France and northern Spain



African Bushman, Kalahari Desert, films inspiring travel
African Bushman, Kalahari Desert

Lawrence of Arabia (1962)

Director: David Lean

Actors: Peter O'Toole, Alec Guinness, Anthony Quinn

Synopsis: The story of T.E. Lawrence, an English officer who led Arab tribes against the Turks during World War I

Where it takes us: The Arabian Desert


The Gods Must Be Crazy (1980)

Director: Jamie Uys

Actors: N!xau, Marius Weyers, Sandra Prinsloo

Synopsis: A traveling Bushman encounters an empty Coke bottle that lands in the middle of his village. At first a gift, it soon becomes a matter of contention for which everyone fights over. The Bushman then travels on a quest to the ends of the earth to give it back to the gods

Where it takes us: South Africa and the Kalahari Desert


Out of Africa (1985)

Director: Sydney Pollack

Actors: Meryl Streep, Robert Redford, Klaus Maria Brandauer

Synopsis: A Danish baroness is abandoned by her husband on a colonial-era Kenyan plantation. She soon falls for a big game hunter with whom she has a passionate love affair

Where it takes us: Nairobi, Kenya and on safari



Great Wall of China, film inspiring travel
Great Wall of China

The Year of Living Dangerously (1983)

Director: Peter Weir

Actors: Mel Gibson, Sigourney Weaver, Linda Hunt

Synopsis: A period political thriller amidst the turmoil of Indonesia during the rule of President Sukarno. Mel Gibson plays Guy Hamilton, an Australian reporter who is aided by dwarf Billy Kwan, played by Linda Hunt in drag

Where it takes us: Jakarta, Indonesia


The Last Emperor (1987)

Director: Bernardo Bertolucci

Actors: John Lone, Joan Chen, Peter O'Toole

Synopsis: The true story of Aisin-Gioro Pu Yi, the final Emperor of China from 1908-1967, told in flashback

Where it takes us: China


Seven Years in Tibet (1997)

Director: Jean-Jacques Annaud

Actors: Brad Pitt, David Thewlis, BD Wong

Synopsis: The true story of Heinrich Harrer, an Austrian mountain climber who escapes from a British camp in India, travels through the Himalayas to Tibet and becomes friends with the Dalai Lama.

Where it takes us: Tibet and the Himalayas

The Beach (2000)

Director: Danny Boyle

Actors: Leonardo DiCaprio, Daniel York

Synopsis: After finding a map in Thailand that purports to lead to a pristine beach paradise, Richard sets out to find it

Where it takes us: Thailand beaches


Lost in Translation (2003)

Director: Sofia Coppola

Actors: Bill Murray, Scarlett Johansson

Synopsis: Set mainly in a Tokyo hotel, Bob, a faded movie star on assignment for a commercial, meets Charlotte, a bored photographer’s wife. They bond as they share their bewilderment and confusion in the bustling city

Where it takes us: Tokyo, Japan


Darjeeling Limited (2007)

Director: Wes Anderson

Actors: Owen Wilson, Adrien Brody, Jason Schwartzman

Synopsis: Three brothers travel across the vast and exotic landscapes of India by train in an attempt to reconnect with each other after their father’s funeral

Where it takes us: India by rail


Australia and New Zealand

Gisborne, New Zealand - Films Inspiring Travel
Gisborne, New Zealand

Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert (1994)

Director: Stephan Elliott

Actors: Hugo Weaving, Guy Pearce, Terence Stamp

Synopsis: A threesome consisting of two drag queens and a transsexual woman venture into the Australian outback to perform their cabaret style act with Priscilla, a retrofitted school bus that doubles as their home and dressing room

Where it takes us: Australian Desert


Lord of the Rings (2001, 2002, 2003)

Director: Peter Jackson

Actors: Elijah Wood, Ian McKellen, Orlando Bloom

Synopsis: A trilogy about a Hobbit and his eight companions who embark on a journey to destroy One Ring and save Middle Earth from the Dark Lord Sauron

Where it takes us: New Zealand

Whale Rider (2002)

Director: Niki Caro

Actors: Keisha Castle-Hughes, Rawiri Paratene, Vicky Haughton

Synopsis: A young Maori girl, Pai, fights to gain the recognition of her grandfather, a devout Whangara tribesman

Where it takes us: New Zealand coast and countryside



Antarctica, End of the world, Films inspiring travel

Encounters at the End of the World (2007)

Director: Werner Herzog

Actors: Werner Herzog, Scott Rowland, Stefan Pashov

Synopsis: A visually stunning exploration by Werner Herzog as he travels to the tiny Antarctic community of McMurdo Station. He captures the essence of the continent’s beauty while at the same time delves into the isolated lives of the people who live there

Where it takes us: Antarctica


This article was written by Cheryl Peress
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