What movie should I watch? The criteria for my ‘Best Travel Movies’ list includes:
- Wide-angle, sweeping shots of intriguing destinations,
- Backstories that deliver glimpses of local culture and, of course,
- Riveting plots that take the characters (and me) to the ends of the earth.
See if you agree with my picks for favorite travel movies below:
Favorite Travel Movies: Romancing the Stone
When I think of my favorite travel movies, the first one that comes to mind is Romancing the Stone. Faint-hearted romance novelist Joan Wilder (Kathleen Turner) leaves the comfy confines of her NYC apartment and her cat Romeo, after her sis calls in an SOS from Cartagena, Columbia. The diminutive writer who sobs at her own romantic conjuring is out of Kleenex, and toilet paper (sound familiar?) overpacks her blue Samsonite suitcase (this is the 1980s) and naively heads south.
Traveler in trouble and on foot
Over her head in trouble and on foot in the jungle, paths cross with fortune hunter Jack Colton (Michael Douglas) and the mystery, romance and hilarity begin. Jack teaches her how to pack light by throwing her Samsonite over a cliff and uses his machete to hack off the heels of her Italian pumps, all the while keeping the bad guys at bay with a pump-action shotgun. Adventure travel seems to enliven Joan, and soon she is swinging across chasms on jungle vines and riding mudslides down steep mountain slopes. She’s become “UNSTOPPABLE Joan.”
Travel Movies on Netflix: Lawrence of Arabia
I watched this best travel movie on Netflix before I journeyed to Jordan in 2016. Screenwriters based the epic historical drama on the life of T. E. Lawrence. The British diplomat and army officer is known for his role in the Arab Revolt during World War I. The gallant guy propelled the Ottomans with an army of Bedouin tribesmen in Greater Syria, the area later divided into Syria, Lebanon, Jordan and Palestine/Israel. (As an aside, troops from both sides battled the Spanish flu as they fought each other in October 1918.)
The vast desert of Wadi Rum is one of the stars of this film
The 1962 British film stars Peter O’Toole in the title role, Alec Guinness as Prince Faisal and the vast sweeping deserts of Wadi Rum in Jordan. Other filming locations include Imperial Sand Dunes Recreation Area, Glamis, California, USA near Yuma, AZ and Seville, Spain. Learn more about my Jordan Journey here.
What movie should I watch? The African Queen
Humphrey Bogart wins his only Oscar for his portrayal of soused riverboat captainOr maybe I’m putting it on my favorite travel movies list because two of my fave actors star in this 1951 adventure film. Humphrey Bogart won his only Oscar for his portrayal of soused riverboat captain Charlie Allnutt. And he won it big time: the Academy Award for Best Actor. Katharine Hepburn portrays Rose Sayer; the snobbish teetotaler turned (spoiler alert) machete-wielding heroine. The two are caught in the crossfires of WWI (again?) After German imperial troops burn the mission and beat her brother, the goody-two-shoes vows to sink a substantial German warship, the Louisa. The brother, Reverend Sayer, dies of fever–could it be the Spanish flu? This best travel movie is adapted from a novel by C. S. Forester, also entitled The African Queen. Maybe I’ll buy the book on Amazon to learn if the fever from which Reverend Sayer dies is the Spanish flu. (Remember it was sweeping the world during WWI.) Or perhaps it was another fever-producing disease like malaria. I took Malaria pills both times that I served in Africa.
Favorite Travel Movies: Amélie
Filmed in the “City of Lights,” Amélie takes you on a veritable tour of Paris with scenes filmed at places such as Grand escalier de Montmartre, Basilique du Sacré-Coeur and Cathédrale Notre Dame de Paris. I watch this movie to study my French before I leave on trips to France, because, well, the film is in French with English subtitles. When I get really good, I turn the subtitles off. Confession: I don’t ever get all that good, but I keep trying. Je continue d’essayer.
Camera work delivers a sense of place
This film is not about a traveler, but rather a citizen of Paris. She’s adorable, she enunciates so I can understand most of her words, and she takes us on a magical tour of her favorite hangouts. The camera work delivers a sense of place, something us travel bloggers strive to do with words.
French actor Audrey Justine Tautou plays Amélie, a mischievous but anonymous helper to the interesting characters in her neighborhood. The 2001 movie is a worldwide smash hit with five Academy Award nominations. Premier called it “The Feel Good Movie of the Year.” When you watch it, you’ll understand why this is one of the best travel movies on Amazon Prime. Vous aussi vous comprendrez.
IMDb Rating: 8.3 STARS Amélie is one of the few travel movies on Netflix. | BUY the DVD on AMAZON NOW
Best Travel Movies: The Way
I have a love-hate relationship with this film. I love it because I believe it is a good portrayal of what it is like to walk the 500-mile Camino Frances from St Jean Pied de Port to Santiago in northern Spain. I hate it because so many Americans also loved the film and then decided to walk the route themselves.
When I started walking Camino routes in Spain in 2005, less than 700 Americans registered at the pilgrim office at the end of their journey that year. Last year, in 2019, that number grew over ten times to 7,382. I blame the movie.
Once The Way, which is the Anglicized name for Camino de Santiago, or Way of St. James, came out in 2010, the proverbial cat was out of the bag. Even Martin Sheen said at the 2011 opening in London, “It’s not something Americans do. Few Americans would meditate for six weeks on a long walk. But frankly, they should try it.” Sheen stars in one of my favorite travel movies, The Way. His son Emilio Estevez directed, produced and wrote the film script for this inspirational comedy-drama.
“Our film is pro-people, pro-life; not anti-anything. It invites you to grab a backpack and jump on the screen with us,” continued Sheen as reported by the Independent Catholic News in February 2011.
Some critics say that the film is a Hollywood version of the Camino, but I find that most people who say this to me have never walked the Camino. I, too, was worried about Hollywoodization before I saw the film, but I found the depiction to be quite realistic.
Yes, people gather for evening meals around a large table, drink wine and debate. Yes, you meet some odd characters. Yes, after walking with them for days, you come to love their oddities.
For the most part, I believe Estevez captured the struggles, the comradery and the mysticism found on the Camino de Santiago. Check out one of my favorite travel movies on Amazon Prime, and you, too, will be hoisting a backpack and jumping onto the screen with the people you meet in this story.
IMDb Rating: 7.4 STARS | BUY DVD ON AMAZON – I did!
Best Travel Movies: Under the Tuscan Sun
This best travel movie is about a writer (bonus points for us travel bloggers) who buys a villa in Cortona in the province of Arezzo, in Tuscany, Italy. Parts of the movie were actually filmed there, under the Tuscan sun, of course. You may have heard of Cortona when several US universities recalled students from study abroad programs there due to the Coronavirus in 2020.
The 2003 romantic comedy-drama film stars Diane Lane, who received a Golden Globe Award nomination for her performance. The story is based on Frances Mayes’ 1996 memoir, also entitled Under the Tuscan Sun. I enjoyed reading the book when I was traveling to Italy. When I worked for corporate America, I took May holidays to Tuscany or Umbria … for five years in a row, for heaven’s sake! I loved the region so much, and I couldn’t stop returning to Italy. Finally, I decided there were other places in the world to see, so I resolved to travel elsewhere. Alas, it felt like a divorce, which is part of this film’s storyline.
IMDb Rating: 6.7 STARS – Under the Tuscan Sun is one of the few travel movies on Netflix. | BUY THE DVD HERE
The Secret Life of Walter Mitty
This combo Comedy – Fantasy – Favorite Travel movie was filmed in Iceland, Greenland and the Time-Life Building in NYC.
When I asked ‘What movie should I watch?’ many readers told me this is one of their favorite travel movies. I watched The Secret Life of Walter Mitty last night as it is one of the travel movies on Amazon Prime. “Stop dreaming. Start living.” states the movie’s tagline. OK!
IMDb Rating: 7.3 STARS | Named Outstanding Location Feature Film by Location Managers Guild International Awards (2014.)
Life of Pi
Life of Pi is a movie that I’ve wanted to see for a long time. Probably since my adventure to India in 2014. I particularly am eager to experience the scenes filmed at the popular hill station of Munnar in Kerala, which I visited. The tea fields are something I’d never seen the likes of before…or since. So this favorite travel movie should bring back amazing feelings.
As is common in the travel industry, UNSTOPPABLE Stacey was provided with accommodations, meals, and other compensation for the trips that she mentioned in this article. While it has not influenced this review, the Arizona travel writer believes in full disclosure of all potential conflicts of interest.
In addition, this blog, UNSTOPPABLE Stacey Travel, contains affiliate links. If you make a purchase through these links, she will earn a commission at no extra cost to you. These commissions help reduce the ever-increasing costs of keeping this travel blog active. Thanks for reading.
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21 thoughts on “What Movie Should I Watch? Here are 8 Best Travel Movies”
Thanks for the picks, and the connections. I recommend “Mully.” Interesting documentary on a wealthy Kenyan who gives it all up to serve orphans, and grow a drought ridden community into a thriving agriculture hub.
Thanks for that recommendation of “Mully,” Dena. Do you know where we can view it? Netflix or Amazon Prime or?
I found it on Amazon Prime
Thanks for the tip, Dena!
I love Amelie. It is a charming movie. Apropos for the time would be Catch Me If You Can. Although it has references to travel it also pertains to other things going on in our lives today.
Oh Cori, thanks so much for the recommendation of Catch Me If You Can. I think I’ve only seen it on an airplane – and you know how distracting that can be! Need to watch it again. I LOVE “Amelie,” too! She is darling
Very interesting write up! I do love watching films (especially based on truth or a good story line) and have only seen one of your recommended favorite travel movies. Looks like some enjoyment ahead during the quarantine.
Yep, “virtual travel” will have to scratch the travel bug itch for now! Thank for your comment. Which one have you seen, if you don’t mind devulging? Do you have any recommendations?
My favorite film that takes you away is Only You with Marida Tomei and Robert Downey Jr with incredible scenery throughout Italy. Midnight in Paris has a 5 minute opening montage of Paris that will make you fall in love with the city.
oooh! Thanks for reminding us of that opening montage in Midnight in Paris! I think this is the second “vote” for Only You. I’ll have to do a follow-up blog post with additional “Best Travel Movies.”
I recommend “Into The Wild”. Inspiring story and incredible landscapes of Alaska. Please do watch it if you haven’t already.
Great suggestion, Harsha! Thanks for your comment. I’ll add it to my next “Best Travel Movies” list which I will post here with a mention of you. So “SUBSCRIBE” below — to be sure not to miss it!
Some of my picks: Enchanted April, Out of Africa, Midnight in Paris, Auberge Espagnol, Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, Il Postino, Chocolat, Like Water for Chocolate and Cinema Paradiso.
Great suggestions, Lisa! And some I’ve not seen so thanks for the suggestions. I’ll add them to an upcoming post for Best Travel Movies. Virtual travel scratches the travel bug itch…
Loving these recommendations! Midnight in Paris and Catch me if You Can are two of my favorites. I also adore the Darjeeling Limited and Grand Budapest Hotel 🙂
Thanks for those great recommendations Mary. I think we have the makings of another best travel movies post!
Great article! I love your insight into these epic travel flicks. Reminds me that I need to go back and watch a few – and this is a great time for that!
Wonderful you’ve walked and written about the Camino! That film inspired me to one day walk the Camino myself, but I haven’t gotten around to it just yet. I plan to one day though!
I love the Richard Linklater series that starts with Before Sunrise. I enjoyed the film even before I met my Aussie wife of 15 years in a hostel in Bruges, but I can especially relate to that entire series now. And the third film, Before Midnight, is probably the best of three.
Thanks so much for the movie suggestions, Alex. I have not seen that servies – maybe tonight!
So excited to know that you will walk Camino someday. Please feel free to pick my brain when you get ready to do it. In the meantime, check out my book, Spiritual and Walking Guide: Leon to Santiago Buen Camino!
CONGRATS TO OUR WINNER of the “8 Best Travel Movies” INSTAGRAM COUNTDOWN!
The winner is @sarawbowyer –Sara Bowyer! Thanks to all who played – I hope you had fun! Sara gets a DVD of her choice of the 8 Best Travel Movies above. Sara, simply leave a comment below and tell us which one you’d like.
Congrats! And thanks to all who played.
Yes!!! Thank you! I pick Walter Mitty since I have not seen it before!!
Congrats, Sara! I’ll get that DVD of Mitty to you as soon as possible. I think I have your address around here somewhere 🙂
Thanks so much for playing our Instagram contest. For those of you who missed the COUNTDOWN contest, follow me on Instagram, so you don’t miss the next one. https://www.instagram.com/unstoppablestacey