Travel Movies to Inspire Wanderlust and Adventure

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Travel Movies to Inspire Wanderlust and Adventure

When it comes to travel movies, there’s something for everyone: comedies, dramas, historical epics, sci-fi, documentaries, and romances are just some of the genres that might ignite your wanderlust. We love watching movies, especially on planes; anyone who has taken an intercontinental flight can probably appreciate the value of a great movie to watch to pass the time! We thought it would be fun to come up with a list of the best travel movies that have inspired us to look at new places to visit and maybe even add new items to our bucket list.

There are many definitions of what makes a good travel movie, and everyone has their own set of requirements. For us, we love stories that capture the beauty or mystery of a place and inspire us to learn more or want to plan a visit. While some of these movies might be obvious picks, others might be a little more surprising to you!

Whether it’s a classic road trip movie or a film that showcases the beautiful landscapes of far off lands, we hope this list of our top travel movies (in alphabetical order) will help to inspire wanderlust and adventure—or make your next flight feel a little shorter!

Antarctica: A Year on Ice

IMDB Description:

A visually stunning chronicle of what it is like to live in Antarctica for a full year, including winters isolated from the rest of the world, and enduring months of darkness in the coldest place on Earth.

Why it’s on our list of travel movies:

This documentary details what it’s like to live and work in Antarctica. Following a group of people who “winter over” on the continent, you get a first-hand look at what it’s like to live in a place that is remote, cold, and dark for much of their stay. This movie shares some fascinating stories from real people who work there, and you’ll be amazed by the stunning scenery that makes you feel like you’re right there with them. It’s a must see for anyone who loves penguins… or snow.

Movie Trailer

IMDB Description:

In Bolivia, Butch Cassidy (now calling himself James Blackthorn) pines for one last sight of home, an adventure that aligns him with a young robber and makes the duo a target for gangs and lawmen alike.

Why it’s on our list of travel movies:

Blackthorn is kind of a sequel to Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, but you won’t need to have seen that movie to enjoy this one. The story is based on actual rumors that Butch Cassidy lived into old age in Bolivia, but the real star of the movie is Bolivia and the scenery of La Paz, Uyuni, and Potosí. Salar de Uyuni was the highlight of our trip to Bolivia in 2016, so seeing the salt flats showcased prominently in this movie was really cool. If you like westerns or beautiful landscapes then add this to your list!

Movie Trailer
Borat

IMDB Description:

Kazakh TV talking head Borat is dispatched to the United States to report on the greatest country in the world.

Why it’s on our list of travel movies:

Borat (or, the official name; Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan) is a crude and offensive movie that pulls no punches, but it’s hard not to laugh and enjoy the ride! Borat travels around the United States uncovering awkward stereotypes and hilarity along the way. It’s Sacha Baron Cohen at his best.

Movie Trailer
The Bucket List

IMDB Description:

Two terminally ill men escape from a cancer ward and head off on a road trip with a wish list of to-dos before they die.

Why it’s on our list of travel movies:

I actually found this movie to be kind of depressing, but it does a great job of emphasizing the fact that our time is limited and we need to make the most of it. We don’t need to cross off all of our bucket list items, but you’re never too old (or too sick) to make a good solid run at as many adventures as possible. To borrow a line from the Shawshank Redemption: “Get busy living or get busy dying.”

Movie Trailer
Dumb and Dumber

IMDB Description:

The cross-country adventures of two good-hearted but incredibly stupid friends.

Why it’s on our list of travel movies:

The hilarious tale of lost luggage and a limo driver who is determined to re-connect with a woman he met at the airport. Dumb and Dumber is a great road trip movie, and it has some classic quotes that never get old. The video below re-envisions the movie as a cliché Oscar drama- it isn’t the official trailer. The official trailer gives away some of the funniest parts, so we preferred this one. It’s also a hilarious parody of overly-serious movie trailers.

Movie Trailer
Elizabethtown

IMDB Description:

During a hometown memorial for his Kentucky-born father, a young man begins an unexpected romance with a too-good-to-be-true stewardess.

Why it’s on our list of travel movies:

There’s a lot of travel in this movie: the two main characters meet on a plane where one is a flight attendant, but it’s not until the end of the movie that you’ll really see how deeply the travel theme runs. This romantic comedy is a nice look at love, loss, mistakes, and letting yourself take a chance to turn things around. It will be a tear jerker for some, but it’s been a favorite movie of ours for a long time.

Movie Trailer
Everest

IMDB Description:

A climbing expedition on Mt. Everest is devastated by a severe snow storm.

Why it’s on our list of travel movies:

Climbing Mt. Everest is one of the ultimate bucket list items for a lot of travelers. It’s definitely not on our bucket list, but this movie gets you about as close to being there as possible without having to train for one of the greatest physical challenges you can undertake. This movie is based on real events from a 1996 Everest expedition, so if you don’t like spoilers we recommend not looking up those details. Excellent special effects and great acting.

Movie Trailer

IMDB Description:

Guilt-stricken after a job gone wrong, hitman Ray and his partner await orders from their ruthless boss in Bruges, Belgium, the last place in the world Ray wants to be.

Why it’s on our list of travel movies:

If you like dark comedies full of interesting (and hilarious) dialogue, great acting, and beautiful locations, this movie is for you. The movie follows Ray and Ken, two hired hitmen who are sent to Bruges. Ray’s distaste for Bruges is hilarious, especially because Ken loves it. If you have visited Bruges you’ll immediately recognize landmarks from around the city, and if you haven’t been before you won’t waste any time adding it to your list. It looks like a fairytale- and once you see the movie, you’ll know exactly what we mean.

Movie Trailer
Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade

IMDB Description:

When Dr. Henry Jones Sr. suddenly goes missing while pursuing the Holy Grail, eminent archaeologist Indiana Jones must follow in his father’s footsteps and stop the Nazis.

Why it’s on our list of travel movies:

The Indiana Jones movies are always fun to watch if you like history and travel. They’ve featured a lot of UNESCO sites (which we love to visit when we travel), and the Last Crusade showcases Petra in Jordan- one of the UNESCO sites we hope to visit someday. All of the Indy movies are good, but we liked this one the most.

Movie Trailer
Into the Wild

IMDB Description:

After graduating from Emory University, top student and athlete Christopher McCandless abandons his possessions, gives his entire $24,000 savings account to charity and hitchhikes to Alaska to live in the wilderness. Along the way, Christopher encounters a series of characters that shape his life.

Why it’s on our list of travel movies:

Based on the true story, this movie documents the story of Christopher McCandless, who disappears without a trace just after his college graduation. After giving away his possessions, McCandless sets out on a long journey that takes him throughout the United States as he makes his way toward Alaska. Although he’s in part seeking a life of solitude and a chance to live alone in nature, the movie documents the connections he makes with others on the road. It’s an interesting story that may leave you inspired to see the USA and appreciative of the people who help you on your journeys.

Movie Trailer
Land Ho!

IMDB Description:

A pair of former brothers-in-law embark on a road trip through Iceland.

Why it’s on our list of travel movies:

You’re never too old for adventure! We loved this story of two retirees seeking adventure through travel in a foreign land. Iceland is also one of our all-time favorite places, so we especially enjoyed the visual tour that this movie provides. Land Ho is funny, lighthearted, and full of incredible scenes of a gorgeous country. We genuinely loved watching Colin and Mitch as they desperately try to get in touch with their younger selves.

Movie Trailer
The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring

IMDB Description:

A meek Hobbit from the Shire and eight companions set out on a journey to destroy the powerful One Ring and save Middle Earth from the Dark Lord Sauron.

Why it’s on our list of travel movies:

The Lord of the Rings movies are an incredible showcase of the country they were filmed in: New Zealand. We love the adventurous spirit of these movies- getting out and seeing the world while also making the most of the time you have. You can’t really pick one out of the series, although the first one might be the best as it captures a lot of spirit and excitement that comes with traveling to a new place and seeking new adventure. You’ll be plotting ways to get to New Zealand before the first film is over!

Movie Trailer
Lost in Translation

IMDB Description:

A faded movie star and a neglected young woman form an unlikely bond after crossing paths in Tokyo.

Why it’s on our list of travel movies:

There’s a reason why travelers often form close bonds with the people they meet: life can be lonely on the road. This movie does a great job exploring that concept as the unlikeliest of friends lean on each other to fend off loneliness against Tokyo’s splendid backdrop. Anyone who has ever traveled alone will relate to these themes, but the movie itself will be enjoyable for just about everyone.

Movie Trailer
National Lampoon’s Vacation

IMDB Description:

The Griswold family’s cross-country drive to the Walley World theme park proves to be much more arduous than they ever anticipated.

Why it’s on our list of travel movies:

This is the classic family road trip movie. It launched a franchise of “Vacation” travel movies (some great, others not so much), but this one is my favorite. We’ve taken a lot of road trips in our lives, but none have been as complicated or as full of issues as what the poor Griswold family faces on their quest to visit Walley World.

Movie Trailer
O Brother, Where Art Thou?

IMDB Description:

In the deep south during the 1930s, three escaped convicts search for hidden treasure while a relentless lawman pursues them.

Why it’s on our list of travel movies:

This is a fun movie loosely based on Homer’s epic poem The Odyssey, which is one of the original adventure and travel stories. Instead of 1200 BC, the story takes place in Great Depression-era 1930s America. If you’re familiar with Homer’s Odyssey you’ll love seeing the similarities (a Cyclops, Ulysses/Odysseus, blind fortune tellers, hero thought to be dead, suitors courting the hero’s wife, people turned into animals, and more).

Movie Trailer
Planes, Trains and Automobiles

IMDB Description:

A man must struggle to travel home for Thanksgiving with an obnoxious slob of a shower curtain ring salesman as his only companion.

Why it’s on our list of travel movies:

Travel during the holidays can be uniquely challenging (i.e. a huge pain), so when you mix in flight delays, rental car mishaps, hotel problems, and other stressful situations it can be even more of a horror show. Luckily, this movie makes those situations hilarious as two strangers keep encountering each other on the same route home to Chicago. We watch this every year on Thanksgiving- it’s one of our favorite traditions.

Movie Trailer
The Secret Life of Walter Mitty

IMDB Description:

When his job along with that of his co-worker are threatened, Walter takes action in the real world embarking on a global journey that turns into an adventure more extraordinary than anything he could have ever imagined.

Why it’s on our list of travel movies:

Day dreams turn into reality for a guy who felt like his life was ordinary and uneventful. This movie has a little bit of everything, although the best scenes were the ones filmed in Iceland and Greenland. As Walter follows clues to locate a missing photo negative, his personal journey leads him to corners of the world most of us only dream of seeing- much less during one trip.

Movie Trailer
The Way

IMDB Description:

A father heads overseas to recover the body of his estranged son who died while traveling the “El camino de Santiago,” and decides to take the pilgrimage himself.

Why it’s on our list of travel movies:

This movie is an incredible story about a grieving father who decided to walk the Camino de Santiago, also called The Way of Saint James. With no preparation and a deep desire to spend his walk alone, Thomas Avery finds a way to balance a very personal journey with the often unwanted company of others making the trek to Spain. It’s scenic, sad, and inspiring all at once.

Movie Trailer
The Way Back

IMDB Description:

Siberian gulag escapees travel 4,000 miles by foot to freedom in India.

Why it’s on our list of travel movies:

The Way Back is loosely based on the memoirs of a former Polish prisoner of war Slawomir Rawicz, who wrote of his escape from a Soviet Gulag near Lake Baikal. The 4,000 mile walk to freedom covered parts of Siberia, Mongolia, the Gobi Desert, the Himalayas and India during World War II. You’ll be captivated by the scenery!

Movie Trailer
Under the Tuscan Sun

IMDB Description:

A writer impulsively buys a villa in Tuscany in order to change her life.

Why it’s on our list of travel movies:

Have you ever wanted to make a huge change in your life? This film follows the story of a divorced woman who buys a Tuscan villa on a whim. It’s a great tale about second chances, creating your own future, and relying on the kindness of others- and the Tuscan backdrop is unbeatable. You’ll be wondering if you should buy a one-way ticket to Italy before the final credits roll.

Movie Trailer
Up in the Air

IMDB Description:

Ryan Bingham enjoys living out of a suitcase for his job traveling around the country firing people, but finds that lifestyle threatened by the presence of a potential love interest and a new hire.

Why it’s on our list of travel movies:

Have you ever felt like your home is on an airplane? Frequent flyer Ryan Bingham does- his job requires him to spend most of his time flying to worksites to lay people off, and he’s on track to become one of the only people in the world to earn 10 million airline miles. Life isn’t without its lessons, though, and through encounters with colleagues and family Ryan takes a long look at his life through a different lens. The story is great, but the constant sense of movement through all of the flights and continuous travel is what makes this movie relatable to lots of us who love to be on the road- or simply tolerate the travel required to get to our destination.

Movie Trailer

 

Honorable Mention

We’d be remiss if we didn’t include a few of these other popular travel movies. They’re not as high on our list as the ones above, but they’re great to watch if you want to be inspired to travel or enjoy seeing other parts of the world.

In alphabetical order:

  • Beavis and Butt-Head Do America. Okay, so maybe this isn’t exactly a “classic” by anyone’s standards, but it’s still fun to watch! The story takes them to popular American tourist locations like the Grand Canyon, Yellowstone National Park, Petrified Forest National Park, and Washington, DC.
  • Before Sunrise. A wonderful showcase of Paris. Before Sunrise (and to a lesser extent, the two sequels) focuses on the impact of short-term travel relationships.
  • Seven Years in Tibet. Based on a true story, this movie features some of the incredible scenery around Tibet and surrounding areas. Excellent acting as well.
  • Sideways. A week-long road trip through California’s beautiful wine country. Since we often travel to visit wine regions around the world, this movie put us right in our element. A must-watch for oenophiles! (wine lovers).
  • Wild. Filmed along the Pacific Crest Trail in Oregon and Washington, this movie shows just how life-changing and therapeutic solo travel can be.

Dishonorable Mention

The Wizard of Oz. Everyone has seen this movie, right? While it may indeed be a classic, we feel like they get the moral of the story completely wrong. At the end of the movie (spoiler alert!), Dorothy is asked what she learned. After a movie full of adventure, seeing new places, and making new friends and travel companions, her answer? “If I ever go looking for my heart’s desire again, I won’t look any further than my own back yard.” So the moral is to stay in your house and never look for excitement beyond the boundaries of your back yard? While this fits with the whole “there’s no place like home” concept (something that certainly rings true even for seasoned travelers) we felt like they missed an opportunity to embrace the fact that she had an exciting trip and that she grew from the experience. Plus, the best way to know that there’s no place like home is to explore the world!

There are a lot of factors that go into a great travel movie, and certain themes might be more inspiring than others. What travel movies would you include on your list? Let us know in the comments!
 



Travel Movies to Inspire Wanderlust and Adventure

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