July 22, 2024

Adventure Destinations League

Navigating Travel Wonders

15 Movies That Will Inspire You to Travel

It’s a hard truth to accept: You can’t constantly be on vacation, jetting off to far-flung lands all the time. Thankfully, it’s easier than ever to virtually transport yourself through the many streaming services available these days.

To help bridge the gap until your next adventure—or to get the juices flowing if you don’t know where to go next—we pulled together some recommendations from our staff for the best movies that had us searching for flights as soon as the credits rolled. Hopefully, they’ll inspire you to travel, too.

“Aftersun” (2022)

Vacation nostalgia cuts deep in this coming-of-age film. Now an adult, Sophie reflects back on a holiday she took with her father—a single dad played by Paul Mescal—20 years earlier at a Turkish resort. This film earned Mescal an Oscar nomination for best actor, and rightfully so. You’ll never listen to David Bowie and Queen’s “Under Pressure” the same way again after watching him dance to it at the resort on the final night of their trip.

“The Darjeeling Limited” (2007)

Set in India, this Wes Anderson flick has all the romanticism of a bygone era of travel—with the opulent train cars, adventures, and misadventures (including acquiring poisonous snakes at a local market, falling in love with train attendants, and joining a sacred Indian funeral). It will make you believe in the transformative and thrilling experience of just moving through a place, taking it in, and letting that movement heal you.

A café on a street corner in Paris with a red awning and red chairs

Film lovers should stop into the Montmartre restaurant where Amélie works as a waitress, Café des 2 Moulins.

Photo by Gilmanshin/Shutterstock

“Amélie” (2001)

This whimsical comedy about a Parisian waitress (and set to an enchanting Yann Tiersen soundtrack) will make you want to move to Montmartre and spend your days skipping stones on the Canal Saint-Martin. As Amélie (Audrey Tautou) makes her way through Paris, nudging her neighbors and family toward their own happiness, she finds love along the way, too.

>> See more: The 15 Best Movies Set in Paris You Can Stream Right Now

“Seven Wonders of the World” (1956)

  • Watch now: Kanopy (free with a public library card or university login)
  • Genre: Adventure

Around the World in 80 Days (with David Niven as Phileas Fogg) wasn’t the only great travel movie to come out in 1956: The Cinerama epic Seven Wonders of the World, starring Lowell Thomas as the mellifluous guide to Rio de Janeiro, Athens, New York, and more, also made its debut that year. Unseen theatrically since the early 1970s, this digitally remastered version from its original camera negatives is now available on Kanopy, an on-demand streaming video platform for public and academic libraries.

“Y Tu Mamá También” (2001)

Two teen boys (played by Diego Luna and Gael García Bernal) convince an older woman (Maribel Verdú) to join them on an impromptu road trip to a mystical Mexican beach. The fictitious Boca del Cielo (“Heaven’s Mouth”) was filmed at Oaxaca’s Bahia Cacaluta, which is as remote and untouched as the movie makes it seem. (To access it, you either have to hike in or take a boat.) If you want to see more of Mexico through the point of view of writer-director Alfonso Cuarón, his 2018 film Roma is loosely based on his 1970s middle-class upbringing in Mexico City.

A row of colorful, Danish-style buildings including a windmill

The Danish-inspired Solvang and the surrounding Santa Ynez Valley provided a picturesque backdrop for Alexander Payne’s ode to oenophiles, Sideways.

Photo by fox_lei/Shutterstock

“Sideways” (2004)

A wine geek and his philandering friend mix pinot noir and midlife malaise on a road trip through California’s Santa Ynez Valley wine country near Santa Barbara. After this now-classic movie debuted, tourism in the region boomed and pinot producers multiplied. If you go, stay at the Inn at Mattei’s Tavern, Auberge Resorts Collection, which opened in 2023 in a converted stagecoach stop and tavern.

“The Descendants” (2011)

If you’ve only ever been to the Hawaiian islands of O‘ahu or Maui, The Descendants will inspire you to travel deeper. Shots of Kaua‘i’s raw, jagged cliffs and almost acid-green vegetation are bound to mesmerize you. If you go, make time to hike the Kalalau Trail and have kalua pork at Tahiti Nui, a legendary spot for live music and mai tais in Hanalei, which is featured in the film.

“All About My Mother” (1999)

An Oscar-winning film by Pedro Almodóvar, All About My Mother is a vibrant portrayal of women in Barcelona and beautifully captures the attitude of the Spanish city. Just try watching it and not immediately book a flight to go see every Gaudí site and eat as much tortilla española as possible.

“The Endless Summer” (1966)

This 1966 documentary that follows two California surfers on a trip to catch waves around the world will tap into your surfer-girl (or boy) fantasies. In fact, after watching it, one former AFAR editor, Jen Murphy, signed up for a week-long surf camp on the North Shore of Hawai‘i.

A large marble disk depicting a face of an old man, against a pink wall, with old blue door at left

Fans of Roman Holiday must make a pilgrimage to the Mouth of Truth, an ancient Roman marble mask found at the Santa Maria in Cosmedin church.

Courtesy of Matthew TenBruggencate/Unsplash

“Roman Holiday” (1953)

In her major debut U.S. performance, Audrey Hepburn shines as Ann, a sheltered princess who falls for a rakish newspaperman, Joe Bradley, while on a tour of Europe’s capital cities. Drama ensues when Joe (played by Gregory Peck) realizes he can profit financially by becoming close with the princess and enlists his photographer friend to take photos of them to sell to tabloids. Come for the sparkle between the costars, and stay for the dizzying shots of Rome: Although the film was shot on location, doing so meant a greater expense than anticipated—so the film ended up in black and white instead of color.
>> See more: 12 Movies Set in Rome to Stream Right Now

“Tracks” (2013)

Based on the true story of Robyn Davidson’s 1,700-mile camel ride through the Australian desert, Tracks will help you pluck up the courage for any adventure you can think of. Davidson, played by Mia Wasikowska, sets a course from Alice Springs, in the Northern Territory, to the Indian Ocean, and along the way meets National Geographic photographer Rick Smolan (Adam Driver) and engages with local Aboriginal people, during which she learns about sacred customs and ancient traditions. While you may not want to undertake the trip in quite the same way—with four dromedaries and a dog—the Outback setting will certainly draw you in.

“Before Sunrise” (1995)

Cinematic proof that love can pop up anywhere. By the final Vienna train station scene, you’ll be rooting for Jesse (Ethan Hawke) and Céline (Julie Delpy) even if they’ve only known each other for one day. The film is actually part of a trilogy: Before Sunset (2004) and Before Midnight (2013) follow the pair into the future as they reconnect in Paris nine years later and go on vacation in Greece with their children, respectively.

A bar with a grand piano and a colorful painting, with floor-to-ceiling windows looking out on the Tokyo skyline at night

Relive the magic of Lost in Translation at the Park Hyatt Tokyo’s New York Bar, where Scarlett Johansson and Bill Murray share a drink in the movie.

Courtesy of Park Hyatt Tokyo

“Lost in Translation” (2003)

Written and directed by Sofia Coppola, Lost in Translation walks a line between comedy and drama, light and dark. With bustling Tokyo as its backdrop, the film stars Scarlett Johansson as Charlotte, a young wife on location with her photographer husband, and Bill Murray as Bob Harris, a past-his-prime movie star bored in his own marriage. In between Bob’s commitments shooting an ad for Suntory whiskey, the two gallivant around the city, singing karaoke at Karaoke-Kan in Shibuya and eating sushi in Daikanyama. Made most famous by the film, perhaps, is the sleek, sky-high New York Bar at the Park Hyatt Tokyo. (Note that the hotel is set to close for year-long renovations in May.) Though some of the scenes around Japanese culture are dialed up for comedic effect, the film’s theme of existential ennui will ring true for most.

>> See more: 12 Movies Set in Tokyo to Stream Right Now

“Into the Wild” (2007)

Based on the true story of Christopher McCandless, Into the Wild is about a young man who gave up his worldly possessions to hitchhike across North America and eventually live in Alaska’s wilderness. It’s a great example of how much there is to discover in our own backyards, and it also embodies the AFAR ethos of traveling to learn something new about a place, see a side you never knew about, and test your own boundaries in the process.

“The Motorcycle Diaries” (2004)

Gael García Bernal plays a young Ernesto “Che” Guevera on his iconic road trip across South America in the 1950s before he became the famous Marxist revolutionary. This movie will not only spark wanderlust but it will also light a fire under anyone seeking their life’s calling.

Lyndsey Matthews contributed reporting to this article, which originally appeared online in 2015; it was most recently updated on March 6, 2024, to include current information.