While there are plenty of “travel” movies focusing on vacations gone bad, self-discovery and roughing it when you’d rather not, a rare few feature stunning vistas, exotic locales or strange cultures that exemplify the best of what travel is all about. Here are 10 of my favorite travel films that may just inspire you to ditch that annual trip to the beach next summer and instead book a trip to someplace more exciting.
10. Lost In Translation (2003)
Featuring Scarlett Johansson and Bill Murray, the unbilled star in this cast is the city of Tokyo. Filmed on location at the Park Hyatt Hotel, the flick boasts sweeping urban views of the city itself as well as the Kanto Plain all the way to Mount Fuji. For those fascinated with East Asian culture, Tokyo is typically a much-sought-after notch in the tourism belt. Lost in Translation gives viewers great insight into what to expect when visiting the city.
9. Into The Wild (2007)
The true story of Emory University graduate Christopher McCandless’ adventures in remote Alaska, this is an adaptation of the fine book by Jon Krakauer. It is the Alaska scenery, however, that truly leaves an impression, with the types of images that inspire ecotourism. Wildlife moving in herds, the natural topography and plant life and the true sense of isolation combine to provide a sense of just how majestic — albeit rustic — life can be in America’s largest state.
8. Easy Rider (1969)
Starring Peter Fonda and Dennis Hopper along with Jack Nicholson, this classic takes viewers on a motorcycle road trip from Los Angeles to New Orleans during the tumultuous late 1960s. With iconic scenery of the American Southwest, events such as Mardi Gras and a setting of the open road serving as the backdrop, it’s no wonder Easy Rider is still seen as such a significant film.
7. Sideways (2004)
This film set in California’s Santa Barbara wine country highlights a picturesque part of the United States known as much for its scenery and atmosphere as its award-winning wine. An Oscar-winning screenplay adaption of the book by the same name, Sideways may just motivate you to visit the region yourself — even if you have no interest in wine.
6. Lawrence of Arabia (1962)
Featuring the legendary Peter O’Toole, the filming of Lawrence of Arabia spanned three continents in order to capture the variety of desert adventures viewers remember from this famous flick. Included in the mix were the picturesque red cliffs of the famous Wadi Rum, Jordan, known today for its rock climbing and dark-sky stargazing opportunities. Various locations in both Morocco and Spain were also used in the movie’s production.
5. Out of Africa (1985)
Based loosely on the true-life story of Danish-born author Karen Blixen’s adventures while living in Kenya, this multiple-award-winning movie celebrates the rugged landscape of the African continent. Africa is a popular tourist destination today for safaris, birding vacations and more, and the movie uses this same wild setting to tell the story of Blixen’s doomed coffee plantation and complicated love life, which takes place in the early 20th century amidst the local tribal culture.
4. The English Patient (1996)
With striking scenery filmed in both Tunisia and Italy, The English Patient details the elements of a tragic love story during the cultural chaos of World War II. Ancient cave drawings, expansive sand dunes and the beauty of Italy all play a major role in this film, as do Ralph Fiennes, Juliette Binoche, Kristin Scott Thomas and Willem Dafoe.
3. Rabbit-Proof Fence (2002)
The rugged beauty of the Australian Outback takes center stage in Rabbit-Proof Fence, a movie set in early 1930s Australia when a controversial political practice allowed the removal of certain children from their Aboriginal mothers. It follows the true story of three girls who escape imprisonment and walk more than 1,000 miles home, evading authorities and using the 3,000-mile-long “rabbit-proof fence” as their navigational guide.
2. Under the Tuscan Sun (2003)
Love the Tuscan countryside? Then this movie will make you want to travel there all over again. Featuring sun-drenched scenes and the cultural adjustments of an American learning to live on Italian time, some of the film’s funniest moments involve the main character’s renovation efforts in an old Tuscan farm villa.
1. Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)
Many people don’t automatically identify this as a travel-oriented movie, but some of the great scenery in this film shot on various locations in Tunisia is enough to inspire a yearning to visit that North African country. This classic flick starring Harrison Ford tracks an archaeologist’s efforts to find antiquity’s lost Ark of the Covenant. The story takes place amidst the drama of World War II as the Indiana Jones character has to compete against the Nazis in order to solve the case. Watching Jones battle the bad guys in these scenic locales, it’s hard not to find yourself wishing you were there to enjoy the view.