travel movies

With weeks left to go before lockdown lifts, and probably several months more before we’re able to safely travel again, now more than ever, we’re compelled to use our imagination to satisfy our wanderlust. We do this by living vicariously through the characters we read about in travel books and watch in living colour on our TV screens. Available on Amazon Prime, Netflix, and Showmax, here are our favourite travel movies, beautiful and timeless, and set against a spectacular backdrop of exotic locations, cultures, and language.

Travel to Veracruz, Mexico in ‘Romancing the Stone’ (1984)

A dowdy romantic-adventure writer Joan Wilder (Kathleen Turner) is hurled into a real-life adventure in the Colombian jungle when she learns that her sister is being held prisoner by evil art dealers. In order to save her, Wilder needs to deliver a treasure map to her captors. A brash mercenary and soldier of fortune, Jack T. Colton, help her out and together they search for her sister and the priceless gem located in the map. Although the story setting is Columbia, ‘Romancing the Stone’ is filmed in Veracruz, Mexico and the scenery makes for a stunning backdrop to this hilarious, yet romantic adventure romp.

Director: Robert Zemeckis | Starring: Kathleen Turner, Michael Douglas, Danny DeVito, Zack Norman, Alfonso Arau, Manuel Ojeda

Travel to Nairobi, Kenya in ‘Out of Africa’ (1985)

The winner of seven Academy Awards, ‘Out of Africa’ is drawn from the life and writings of Danish author Isak Dinesen, who during the time that the film’s events occurred was known by her married name, Karen Blixen-Flecke. In 1914, Karen’s husband Baron Bor Blixen-Flecke relocates the couple to a coffee plantation in Nairobi but promptly leaves Karen to her own devices to return to his womanizing and drinking. In the meantime, Karen meets and falls in love with the aloof and handsome hunter Denys Finch Hatton. The film’s perfectly measured pace is offset by David Watkin’s stunning location photography.

Director: Sydney Pollack | Starring: Meryl Streep, Robert Redford, Klaus Maria Brandauer, Michael Kitchen, Malick Bowens, Suzanna Hamilton

Travel to Alice Springs, Australia in ‘The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert’ (1994)

The usually menacing British actor Terence Stamp does a complete turnaround as Bernadette, an aging transsexual who tours the backwaters of Australia with her stage partners, Mitzi (Hugo Weaving) and Adam/Felicia (Guy Pearce). When Mitzi and Felicia get an offer to perform in the remote town of Alice Springs at a casino, Bernadette decides to tag along and the threesome ventures into the outback with Priscilla, a lavender-coloured school bus. Along the way, they encounter strange, unforgettable characters, incidents of homophobia, and the barren beauty of the Australian wilderness.

Director: Stephan Elliott | Starring: Terence Stamp, Hugo Weaving, Guy Pearce, Bill Hunter, Sarah Chadwick, Mark Holmes

Travel to Vienna, Austria in ‘Before Sunrise’ (1995)

‘Before Sunrise’ tells the story of a young man and woman who meet on a train and impulsively decide to get off at Vienna, the capital of Austria. With only one night together before they have to go their separate ways, the two spend their time exploring the cobbled streets, historic architecture, and sweeping parks of this beautiful European city, getting to know each other and living out their night of terminal romance.

Director: Richard Linklater | Starring: Ethan Hawke, Julie Delpy

Travel to Positano, Italy in ‘The Talented Mr. Ripley’ (1999)

Tom Ripley is a bright and charismatic sociopath with a talent for impersonating other people, forging handwriting, and running second-rate scams. After being mistaken for a Princeton student, Tom is sent by a shipping tycoon to Italy to persuade his son, Dickie Greenleaf, to return to New York City. Dickie is living a carefree life on the Italian coast with his father’s money and his beautiful girlfriend, Marge. As Ripley and Dickie become friends, Tom finds himself both attracted to Dickie and envious of his life of pleasure.

Director: Anthony Minghella | Starring: Matt Damon, Gwyneth Paltrow, Jude Law, Cate Blanchett, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Jack Davenport

Travel to Montmartre, Paris in ‘Amélie’ (2001)

Amélie Poulain is a young woman who had a decidedly unusual childhood; misdiagnosed with an unusual heart condition, Amélie didn’t attend school with other children, but spent most of her time in her room, where she developed a keen imagination and an active fantasy life. Despite losing her mother at a young age and having a father who keeps his distance, Amélie grows into a healthy and beautiful young woman who decides to change the world by changing the lives of the people she knows. Amélie is a charming and romantic comedy-fantasy set in the famous Parisian village of Montmartre.

Director: Jean-Pierre Jeunet | Starring: Audrey Tautou, Mathieu Kassovitz, Serge Merlin

Travel to Tokyo, Japan in ‘Lost in Translation’ (2003)

Bob Harris is a well-known American actor whose career has gone into a tailspin; needing work, he takes a very large fee to appear in a commercial for Japanese whiskey to be shot in Tokyo. Feeling no small degree of culture shock in Japan, Bob spends most of his non-working hours at his hotel, where he meets Charlotte with whom he shares much bemusement and confusion over the sights and sounds of Tokyo. ‘Lost in Translation’ is a comedy drama that tells a story of love and friendship blooming under unlikely circumstances, while also taking viewers on a whirlwind tour of contemporary Japan.

Director: Sofia Coppola | Starring: Bill Murray, Scarlett Johansson, Giovanni Ribisi, Anna Faris, Akiko Takeshita, Catherine Lambert

Travel across India on ‘The Darjeeling Limited’ (2007)

‘The Darjeeling Limited’ is an emotional comedy-drama about estranged brothers Francis, Peter, and Jack who reunite for a trip across the vibrant and sensual landscape of India in a train called the Darjeeling Limited. The siblings have not spoken in over a year, ever since their father passed away. Francis is recovering from a motorcycle accident, Peter cannot cope with his wife’s pregnancy, and Jack cannot get over his ex-lover. The brothers fall into old patterns of behaviour as Francis reveals the real reason for the reunion: to visit their mother in a Himalayan convent.

Director: Wes Anderson | Starring: Owen Wilson, Adrien Brody, Jason Schwartzman, Amara Karan, Wallace Wolodarsky

Travel to Barcelona, Spain in ‘Vicky, Christina, Barcelona’ (2008)

Two friends, Vicky and Christina, go on a summer holiday in Barcelona, Spain where they meet and become enamoured with a handsome painter, blissfully unaware that his ex-wife, with whom he has a tempestuous relationship, is about to re-enter the picture. Vicky is straight-laced and about to be married. Cristina is a sexually adventurous free spirit. When they all become amorously entangled, both comedic and harrowing results ensue, with the city of Barcelona setting the enchanting and smoulderingly sexy scene.

Director: Woody Allen | Starring: Javier Bardem, Penelope Cruz, Scarlett Johansson, Patricia Clarkson, Rebecca Hall, Chris Messina

Travel to Rome, India, and Bali with ‘Eat, Pray, Love’ (2010)

Liz Gilbert had everything a modern woman is supposed to dream of having – a successful career, a beautiful home, a loving partner – yet like so many others, she found herself lost, confused, and searching for what she really wanted in life. Newly divorced and at a crossroads, Gilbert steps out of her comfort zone, risking everything to change her life, embarking on a journey around the world that becomes a quest for self-discovery. In her travels, she discovers the true pleasure of nourishment by eating in Italy; the power of prayer in India; and the inner peace and balance of true love in Bali. ‘Eat, Pray, Love’ is based on the real-life story about much-loved author, Elizabeth Gilbert.

Director: Ryan Murphy | Starring: Julia Roberts, James Franco, Richard Jenkins, Viola Davis, Billy Crudup, Javier Bardem

Travel to Kazakhstan in ‘Midnight in Paris’ (2011)

(Just kidding…it’s Paris)

Gil Pender (Owen Wilson) is a screenwriter and aspiring novelist. Vacationing in Paris with his fiancée (Rachel McAdams), who is rich but a total cretin, he has taken to touring the city alone, particularly at night. On one such late-night excursion, Gil encounters a group of strange yet familiar revellers, who sweep him along, apparently back in time, for a night with some of the Jazz Age’s icons of art and literature. The more time Gil spends with these cultural heroes of the past, the more dissatisfied he becomes with the present.

Director: Woody Allen | Starring: Owen Wilson, Marion Cotillard, Rachel McAdams, Kathy Bates, Carla Bruni, Adrien Brody

Travel to Khempur, India in ‘The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel’ (2012)

The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel follows a group of British retirees who decide to “outsource” their retirement to less expensive and seemingly exotic India. Enticed by advertisements for the newly restored Marigold Hotel and bolstered with visions of a life of leisure, they arrive to find the palace a shell of its former self. Though the new environment is less luxurious than imagined, they are forever transformed by their shared experiences, discovering that life and love can begin again when you let go of the past.

Director: John Madden | Starring: Tom Wilkinson, Maggie Smith, Judi Dench, Bill Nighy, Dev Patel, Celia Imrie