My Top 10 Favorite Travel Movies (Fiction)

It’s not always possible to hop on a plane and explore a new destination, so sometimes traveling from the comfort of your couch is the next best thing. Here are my top 10 travel movies to inspire or satiate that longing to travel the world.

10. Tracks (2013)

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Travels to: Australia

Stars: Mia Wasikowska, Adam Driver

Best travel quote: “I am well aware of the hardship I will be facing. I am the first to admit I’m remarkably unqualified for such a hazardous undertaking. But this is precisely the point of my journey. I’d like to think an ordinary person is capable of anything.” – Robyn Davidson

Tracks is the true story of Robyn Davidson, played by Mia Wasikowska in the film. In 1977 Davidson set out to cross the Australian outback with only four camels and a dog. Her epic adventure was documented in a photo series published in National Geographic. Tracks is another great, inspiring example of female solo travel, showing that not all great journeys are undertaken by men as many history books would lead one to believe.

 

9. Chef (2014)

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Travels to: California, Florida, Louisiana, Texas

Stars: Jon Favreau, Sofia Vergara, John Leguizamo

Best travel quote: “I may not do everything great in my life, but I’m good at this. I manage to touch people’s lives with what I do and I want to share this with you.” – Carl

Travel lesson learned: Take chances even if it seems scary.

Chef is the best feel good movie I’ve seen in recent memory. Jon Favreau plays Carl, a chef stuck working in a restaurant that stifles his creativity. At the same time, he is going through a divorce that is hard on his young son. Carl walks out on his job and decides to go to Florida to get a food truck and bring it back to Los Angeles. His son comes with him and together along with Carl’s longtime sous chef, Martin. What follows is a feel good journey about family, life and food. Plus, the soundtrack is amazing.

8. Under the Tuscan Sun (2003)

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Travels to: Italy

Stars: Diane Lane, Sandra Oh

Best travel quote: “Any arbitrary turning along the way and I would be elsewhere; I would be different.” – Francis

Travel lesson learned: Frances meets an Italian guy and gets in his car fifteen minutes later. It turns out okay, but don’t get in the cars of strange men. This should be a given.

As always, the book is better than the movie. Actually, the movie is very, very loosely based on the book. In spite of this, Under the Tuscan Sun takes you on a journey through Italy’s Tuscany. When many people think of their dream vacation they think of places like Italy: beautiful landscapes, amazing food, open markets and medieval architecture. This film will take you there through the eyes of Frances, a writer and recent divorcee played by Diane Lane. While on a vacation to Tuscany given to her by friends to cheer her up, she finds a run-down house in a Tuscan village. On a whim, she decides to buy it. Under the Tuscan Sun follows one woman’s journey to find herself after her life falls apart, showing that travel has the power to put someone back together. It will inspire you to take your life into your own hands and see that life is too short to be sad or regretful.

7. Into the Wild (2007)

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Travels to: Alaska, California, South Dakota, Mexico

Stars: Emile Hirsch, Marcia Gay Harden, Catherine Keener, Jena Malone

Best travel quote: “I will miss you too, but you are wrong if you think that the joy of life comes principally from the joy of human relationships. God’s place is all around us, it is in everything and in anything we can experience. People just need to change the way they look at things.” – Chris McCandless

Travel lesson learned: Know your poisonous plants before eating.

In 1992 the real life Christopher McCandless sets out to create a life for himself in the wild of Denali National Park. Emile Hirsch plays McCandless in this critically praised film, and successfully pays tribute to the tragic end of McCandless’s adventures. Two years before entering Denali, McCandless graduates from Emory University, destroys all of his credit cards and IDs, gets rid of most of his money and sets off on a grand adventure. He travels the west before going to Alaska and ultimately becoming stuck in his converted bus/home and accidentally eats a poisonous plant, leading to his untimely demise. What makes the film so great is that McCandless kept a detailed journal of his route to self-realization so the story is not just a dramatization but McCandless’s actual thoughts come to life. The Christopher McCandless story is an inspirational tale of exploration and finding yourself in this wild world

 

6. On the Road (2012)

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Travels to: California, Colorado, New York, Louisiana, Mexico, Iowa, North Carolina

Stars: Garrett Hedlund, Sam Riley, Kristen Stewart, Amy Adams

Best travel quote: “The only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars.” – Sal Paradise

Travel lesson learned: Don’t hitchhike. Too many murdery stories start with hitchhiking.

On the Road is my favorite book because it is such a pure exploration of the importance of being introspective while traveling. People scoff at the idea of “finding oneself” but it is not something to be discredited. The newest film version of On the Road brings to live the rich characters of the classic beat novel. In a post-WWII America, the main character, Sal Paradise, played by Sam Riley, is a writer who feels stifled in his urban east coast existence and yearns to go west. Along the way he meets “the mad ones”, particularly Dean Moriarty, played by Garrett Hedlund, a charismatic lost soul hell bent on finding the meaning of life. Together they travel around the country doing drugs, sleeping around and generally grabbing life by the horns.

5. Slumdog Millionaire (2008)

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Travels to: India

Stars: Dev Patel, Freida Pinto, Madhur Mittal, Anil Kapoor

Best travel quote: “No, but maybe it’s written, no?” – Jamal Malik

Travel lesson learned: Don’t get involved with Indian gangs, ok?

Slumdog Millionaire is probably the most unconventional movie on this list. It doesn’t follow anyone that is traveling and it doesn’t describe some journey by rail, air or car. It’s the story of one young man’s difficult journey through life in Mumbai, India. Jamal, played by the mega-talented Dev Patel, is a contestant on India’s version of “Who Wants to be a Millionaire?”. He advances to the final round and is accused of cheating and through flashbacks he tells us the story of how he came to know each and every answer. Slumdog Millionaire doesn’t sugarcoat India and instead the reality of the slums is crystal clear. “How could seeing a bunch of dirty children in unsanitary conditions make me want to travel?”, one might ask. But this movie is a reminder that travel is more than the world famous landmarks and that life doesn’t start once our plane lands at our destination. In one scene a young Jamal is beaten by his boss in front of an American couple and Jamal says: “You wanted to see the real India? Here it is!” The Americans respond by doing what Americans are stereotypically wont to do, throw money at him. Well, they hand it to him, but you get the picture. Slumdog Millionaire is a beautiful reminder that we should be conscious of the lives beneath our travel stories. Plus, if you’re like me, you see beauty in the chaos that is a place like Mumbai. It didn’t win Best Picture at the Academy Awards for no reason.

4. Amelie (2001)

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Travels to: Paris, France

Stars: Audrey Tautou, Mathieu Kassovitz

Best travel quote: “Amelie has a strange feeling of absolute harmony. It’s a perfect moment. A soft light, a scent in the air, the quiet murmur of the city. A surge of love, an urge to help mankind overcomes her.” – Narrator

Travel lesson learned:

Paris, France. Name a city more iconic. It is the first place many people think of when proposed the question “If you could go anywhere, where would you go?” Romance, food, style, architecture and passion – Paris has it all. I myself have never even come close to Paris, but, believe me, it is in the top five on the bucket list. Amelie takes you to Paris, though not just visually. Through the story of Amelie, a café girl played by Audrey Tautou, in a strange way you are left feeling…French. Amelie decides that she will do good unto others and makes it her mission. It is easy to absorb oneself in the eccentric characters of the café regulars, the people in Amelie’s life, the fabulous soundtrack and the Parisian colors. Amelie is a whimsical view into the life of Paris.

3. The Motorcycle Diaries (2004)

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Travels to: Argentina, Chile, Peru, Venezuela

Stars: Gael Garcia Bernal, Rodrigo de la Serna, Mercedes Moran, Mia Maestro

Best travel quote: “Wandering around our America has changed me more than I thought. I am not me anymore. At least I’m not the same me I was.” – Ernesto Guevara de la Serna

Travel lesson learned: Make sure your mode of transportation is sturdy and bring some money to buy food.

The Motorcycle Diaries is a gorgeous movie, and not just because of Gael Garcia Bernal’s eyes and bone structure. It is based on the real life memoir of a 23-year-old Che Guevara, from a time before he was the communist revolutionary of our history books. It’s 1952 and Guevara and his friend Alberto Granado (Rodrigo de la Serna) set out on a vintage motorcycle from Buenos Aires, aiming to travel up the South American coast to Venezuela. Naturally, with the motorbike being so old and the pair seemingly financially unprepared, they run into many obstacles along the way. But they also run into experiences that will shape Guevara into the man that history remembers. He talks to people, hears their stories and the unfair ways in which the working class is being treated. The cinematography is absolutely gorgeous, and if the views of Patagonia and the Andes don’t make you want to hop on a plane straight away I don’t know what will. The Motorcycle Diaries is an epic journey that will inspire you. As Guevara says in the film: “How is it possible to feel nostalgia for a world I never knew?”

2. Before Sunrise (1995)

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Travels to: Austria

Stars: Ethan Hawke, Julie Delpy

Best travel quote: “If there’s any kind of magic in this world… it must be in the attempt of understanding someone, sharing something. I know it’s almost impossible to succeed… but who cares, really? The answer must be in the attempt.” – Celine

Travel lesson learned: If you meet the love of your life abroad, GET HER NUMBER.

This film follows Jesse, an American played by Ethan Hawke and Celine, a Frenchwoman played by Julie Delpy. The two meet on a train and Jesse decides to take a chance and asks her to disembark the train in Vienna and kill time with him before his flight back to America in the morning. She agrees and they wander the city talking about life and love. This film is minimalistic and is mostly the two characters walking and talking, so the scenery takes a backseat to the formation of the two character’s relationship. In spite of this, there is one important reason why this film is so high up on my travel movie list. Travel isn’t only about seeing sights and eating awesome food, even though these are some of the best things about it. Travel is also about meeting new people and exchanging new ideas, thoughts and feelings with them. This doesn’t mean you have to fall in love during your travels, that’s for sure – though, let’s be honest, what could be more romantic? Meet people, keep an open mind and you just might meet someone who will impact your life forever.

1. Eat Pray Love (2010)

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Travels to: New York, Italy, India, Indonesia

Stars: Julia Roberts, Javier Bardem, Richard Jenkins, James Franco

Best travel quote: “In the end, I’ve come to believe in something I call “The Physics of the Quest.” A force in nature governed by laws as real as the laws of gravity. The rule of Quest Physics goes something like this: If you’re brave enough to leave behind everything familiar and comforting, which can be anything from your house to bitter, old resentments, and set out on a truth-seeking journey, either externally or internally, and if you are truly willing to regard everything that happens to you on that journey as a clue and if you accept everyone you meet along the way as a teacher and if you are prepared, most of all, to face and forgive some very difficult realities about yourself, then the truth will not be withheld from you.” – Liz Gilbert

Travel lesson learned: It’s good to find balance, but don’t forget the beauty of chaos.

I have seen Eat Pray Love too many times to count. I cry, I laugh, I cry some more (I get super emotional at happy things, you guys). For me, the film so beautifully captures everything I love about traveling. Eat, Pray, Love sees the main character, Liz Gilbert (played by Julia Roberts), go through the highs and lows of living abroad. The film is based on the non-fiction memoir of Elizabeth Gilbert, who, after divorcing her husband, takes a year off and lives for four months in Rome (the “eat” portion), four months in India (“pray”, as Liz goes to find her spirituality) and Indonesia to find balance, but as the “love” part of the title suggests an unexpected turn comes her way. The film is funny, romantic and inspiring. Liz is a sort of role model for me, not only because of the traveling. She knew she was unhappy in her life and did something about instead of wallowing in misery. She is entirely self-aware, setting out goals for herself within her travels and dedicating herself to them even when the going gets tough. One of the things I respect most about her is that she does everything alone! She doesn’t feel the need, nor let anyone convince her that she needs, a man to take her around the world. She is independent, goal oriented and brave. This movie is a must see for any travel-obsessed feminist. Actually, this movie is a must see for everyone and that is why it is my number one favorite travel movie. Also, because Javier Bardem.

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