15 Great Movies That Make You Want To Travel

Ben Stiller in a still from The Secret Life of Walter Mitty

Each and every person has an element of escapism in them, whether their deserved distraction from the monotonous grey matter of day to day life is travelling, reading, blogging, shopping, undertaking sports, attending gigs, poetry, meditation or losing yourself in cinema (which subsequently results in writing articles on the internet), we all have the same common urge to surround our lives with passion, intrigue and excitement.

A large number of us choose to travel, whether that is in the form of a luxury tourist holiday in the sun, or nomadic backpacking around the globe with no revenue, bed, or concerns about when you will return. This overwhelming sense of wanderlust and desire for adventure can be a healthy form of life diversion to participate in.

Travelling and cinema can so often go hand in hand, as production companies’ scout the globe looking for suitable locations that offer vast landscapes, hypnotic climate and weather conditions, beautiful architecture, vibrant culture or stunning city backdrops to best accommodate a picture.

Whichever requirement and approach is on cinematic display, films can frequently induce an uncontrollable impulse to travel to certain destinations, allowing you to see the vivid and mesmerising visuals and unique cultural elements previously witnessed on a screen. Here are the 15 best films that can instil you with wanderlust and inspire travel.


15. Sans Soleil (1983)

Sans Soleil

The mind-bending arthouse piece “Sans Soleil” was directed by Frenchman Chris Marker, best known for writing the equally complex science fiction thriller “12 Monkeys”, as well as being an accomplished filmmaker, poet, novelist, editor, and photographer.

Here, using breath-taking images from spectacular filming locations such as San Francisco, Iceland, Hungary, France, and most notably, Japan and the African countries of Guinea-Bissau and Cape Verde, “Sans Soleil” is a peculiar yet rapturous account of travel, communication and philosophy, as well as celebrating the art of filmmaking itself.

Difficult to isolate as a particular genre, this experimental documentary turned intricate, non-linear travelogue explores the composite nature of human thought and perception of memory through the aid of a world traveller’s recollections and personally written letters, whilst adding an amount of specifically fictionalised content.

It combines narration by an unknown woman and portrayals of striking imagery from around the world on screen, images which were either filmed by Chris Marker himself, or borrowed from already existing visual documentation.

A director that throughout his career did not only challenge film audiences and himself but philosophers and theorists with regards to time, memory and the advancement of human life, “Sans Soleil” was unquestionably his finest work.

An avant-garde piece of cinema outlining the opposite ends of the spectrum with regards to human survival, utilising Japan as its rich end, and the small African countries as its poor, its visceral display of human nature and the vast contrasts of lifestyles and visuals can undeniably provide a lust for exploration.


14. Y Tu Mama Tambien (2001)

Y tu Mama Tambien

A coming of age road trip fuelled by sex and drugs, the Oscar nominated “Y Tu Mama Tambien” written and directed by Alfonso Cuaron predominantly focuses on friendship, self-discovery and life lessons as it follows two carefree friends, Julio and Tenoch, portrayed by Gael Bernal and Diego Luna respectively, and an attractive older woman, Luisa, played by Maribel Verdu, as they embark on a journey across Mexico, with the elusive, secretive and entirely fictional beach known as Boca del Cielo as their destination.

Filmed in both Mexico City and the state of Oaxaca, “Y Tu Mama Tambien” is initially set against the backdrop of a revolutionised Mexico in 1999, as it depicts not only Mexico’s intriguing inner city life, but the highly contrasting harmonious countryside, full of vast, beautiful landscapes outside of its built up city centres, flawlessly capturing its acres of sun-soaked, contouring scenery and exquisite golden beaches.

A somewhat South American twist on “The Graduate”, “Y Tu Mama Tambien” translates to “And Your Mother Too” in English, written by Alfonso Cuaron and his brother Carlos’, their exceptional script tackles not only love, lust, discovery, and adventure but the poverty-stricken country’s political problems which continue to serve as a damaging factor to Mexico and their enriched and vibrant country full of vivid cultural traditions and surroundings, a visually arresting country that must be witnessed by all travellers.


13. The Beach (2000)


Based on the highly talented novelist turned screenwriter Alex Garland’s debut novel of the same name, Danny Boyle’s adaption of “The Beach” served as the first of many collaborations between the pair.

Surprisingly selecting a youthful Leonardo DiCaprio as its lead who was looking to leave behind his dough eyed romantic typecasting of the 1990’s, here as the wayward soul Richard, a mid-20’s man bored with everyday life who yearns for excitement and adventure, as he attempts to lose himself whilst simultaneously trying to find himself travelling through Thailand.

“The Beach” begins with Richard aimlessly wandering the streets of Bangkok’s seedy nightlife in search of intriguing unfamiliarity and the unique exploits that Thailand’s culture has to offer.

It’s this desire to leave the beaten track and experience travelling not outlined in any guidebooks or on publicised tours that eventually results in him acquiring a map to a secluded island, an island that’s astounding beauty and serenity are only matched by its underlying dangers and social complexities.

Whilst “The Beach” eventually descends considerably downhill in the chaotic second half thanks to moments of pure terror involving shark attacks, drug farms and machine gun wielding locals that will make audiences dream of their home comforts, its the relaxing depiction of clear blue waters, palm trees, alluring golden sands and an untroubled life on a secluded paradise in the films first half that is truly mesmerising.

As we see the new found residents of the idyllic island live in harmony far away from civilisation, a tranquil existence that is enough to make anyone consider leaving their day job and seeking a similar adventure.


12. Vicky Cristina Barcelona (2008)


Writer and director Woody Allen has never been a stranger to using breath-taking cityscapes from around the globe as suitable milieus to a large number of his films, previously using noteworthy locations such as Rome, Manhattan, and Paris amongst many others, here choosing to make faultless use of the Catalonian city of Barcelona to expertly craft his romantic drama “Vicky Cristina Barcelona”.

Following two close friends, the titular Vicky and Cristina, portrayed by Scarlett Johannsson and Rebecca Hall, as they embark on a holiday to the spellbinding Spanish city of Barcelona, the pair become enamoured by not only the fascinating city but Javier Bardem’s alluring free spirit, a celebrated and talented painter named Juan Antonio, in turn, the pair are consequently dragged into the turbulent relationship he shares with his ex-wife when she reappears in his life.

Whilst the story principally focuses on the captivating yet strange love triangle at the extraordinary pieces heart, Woody Allen perfectly displays the beauty, passion and magic of its European location, most remarkably capturing the stunning architecture of Antoni Gaudi, whilst taking audiences to several beautiful sections of the city including Las Ramblas and the iconic Tibidabo amusement park. Barcelona is undoubtedly one of the most absorbing cities in the world.


11. The Bucket List (2007)

The Bucket List

Named after what many would consider their sole drive to explore the world, the idea of a bucket list in to compile and complete a collection of sought after accomplishments to attain during ones time on this mortal coil that is humanity.

A desired wish list of items to experience before you ‘kick the bucket’, they generally comprise of trying everything once, achieving success in both home and working life, monumental feats and travelling to a number of destinations around the globe that appeal to each particular person. Whilst everyone’s bucket list will be vastly dissimilar, the notion and practice of each is the same.

Whilst Rob Reiner’s comedy-drama received highly divisive reviews, “The Bucket List” starring Hollywood royalty, Morgan Freeman and Jack Nicholson as a pair of terminally ill cancer patients, perfectly eradicates any illusion that our time on this earth isn’t limited, sending the message that we should consume every moment we are granted to its fullest before it is too late.

The majority of the film’s negative reviews come from its often insensitive approach towards the forthcoming end of a life, and the inability and implausibility to manage what the pair did in their dying months, most notably panned by Roger Ebert, who was himself a cancer sufferer.

Irrespective of opinion, its fundamental message is constantly present and it should urge everyone to fashion their own bucket list and successively relish every living moment, as the film illustrates the comedy duo visit The Taj Mahal in India, The Great Wall of China, The North Pole, The Pyramids of Giza, and go on an African safari, several international locations which feature heavily on countless bucket lists.