It's like a holiday, but from your bedroom
A great travel film is one where the destination is as important a character as the stars on screen.
Just because we can’t travel right now, doesn’t mean we can’t dream about it. That’s where these cinema beauties come in. Embark on a (virtual) overseas holiday, dive into some of the world’s most picturesque locations, and do it alongside some of our favourite Hollywood stars.
What are you waiting for? Pack your bags, grab your passport, let’s go!
Belgium – In Bruges
Who knew a film centred around a pair of failed hitmen could create such a sense of wanderlust? Ken (played by Brendan Gleeson) is most of us on holidays, wanting to see as many of the cultural sights as we can squeeze in. But it is Ray (Colin Farrell) with his constant complaining about the city, that truly makes us take in his surroundings and notice how truly picturesque Bruges, Belgium is.
While the film wasn’t a box office smash, in the years since its release, In Bruges has created a small boom in tourism for the city, making one of the most well-preserved medieval cities in all of Europe a must-visit bucket list destination.
Rome – Roman Holiday
There is so much to love about this quirky, comical black and white classic. Audrey Hepburn (then a relatively unknown actress) plays a princess who wants to shed her royal obligations while visiting the Italian city, Gregory Peck is an American journalist who becomes her tour guide.
Their tour of Rome proves the perfect backdrop for the romantic comedy, while also showcasing all the beautiful splendour Rome has to offer. From the Spanish Steps to the Bocca Della Verita, a tour of the Colosseum, and a Vespa ride through the city’s traffic-filled streets, this 1953 classic showcases the Eternal City in all its beauty.
Italy – The Talented Mr Ripley
While we’re in Italy, we can’t go past the picturesque locations featured throughout the 1999 psychological thriller The Talented My Ripley. The film’s cast is stacked with stars, including Matt Damon, Jude Law, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Gwyneth Paltrow, and Cate Blanchett so the fact that the scenery stands out says a lot. From the canals of Venice to the streets of Rome, the art-deco design of Palermo in Sicily and the islands surrounding Naples, Mr Ripley really takes you on a trip. But it is surely the scenes along the Amalfi Coast that win it for us.
Vienna – Before Sunrise
Join a baby-faced Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy as they spend a night wandering the cobblestone streets of Vienna after meeting on a train. Director Richard Linklater managed to turn the stroll-and-talk in an absolute artform throughout this slow-paced film, taking in all the wonders Vienna has to offer – so much so that the city itself could be described as a third party in this budding romance.
It’s easy to fall in love with the Austrian capital as the pair jump on trams and Ferris wheels along the banks of the Danube. After Before Sunrise make sure you dive into the rest of the trilogy, Before Sunset and Before Midnight. Even with almost a decade between each instalment, the nightscapes of Paris and Greece are glorious to behold.
Thailand – The Beach
We won’t miss an opportunity to talk about ‘90s-early-2000s Leo DiCaprio filmography, and with its gorgeous setting, The Beach is right at home on this wanderlust-packed list.
Richard (AKA Leo) finds himself roaming from one Thai hostel to another, until a fellow traveller lets him in on a little secret – a hard-to-reach island, with white sands, clear water, and hardly any foot traffic. Sounds like the ultimate paradise right? Well, you’ll have to watch the film to find out the rest, but the crystal-clear waters of Ko Phi Phi Leh alone make The Beach exceptional viewing.
Japan – Spirited Away
We know it’s animated, but hear us out. Studio Ghibli, and especially the works of Hayao Miyazaki, have helped bring the beauty of Japanese animation to a more global audience. After its 2001 release, Spirited Away became the most successful film in Japanese history, as well as the first, and to date, only hand-drawn, non-English-language animated film to win the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature.
Through beautiful animation, Spirited Away tells the story of Chihiro Ogino (Hiiragi), a 10-year-old girl who, while moving to a new neighbourhood, enters the world of Kami (spirits of Japanese Shinto folklore).
Japan – Lost In Translation
We’re heading to the Japanese capital for this Sofia Coppola film. Lost In Translation is such a vivid look at Tokyo that we won’t blame you if in a few weeks you actually start believing you travelled there yourself. From Shibuya Crossing and its neon-streaked streets to the Akihabara neighbourhood, shabu-shabu restaurants and karaoke booths, this funny and heartbreaking tale is sure to take you away.
China – Chunking Express
Chungking Express is one of the defining movies of ‘90s Hong Kong cinema. Directed by Wong Kar-wai and shot by Australian Christopher Doyle, the film is a tour-de-force of space and time, chronicling love, longing, and loneliness in the Chinese city.
Since the movie’s release, it has earned global recognition and a cult following – promoted by Quentin Tarantino, cited by Barry Jenkins as one of his influences for Moonlight, as well as Sofia Coppola’s previously mentioned Lost in Translation.
In many ways, the film is a time capsule, capturing the magic within the sprawling metropolis of a vintage Hong Kong. From the infamous Chungking Mansions, to the late-night snack bar Midnight Express and the Graham Street Market, this is Wong Kar-wai’s love letter to Hong Kong.
America – Little Miss Sunshine
America is a mecca of cinema so we are pretty spoiled for choice when it comes to films that showcase all the vastly different parts of it. Thanks to the vastness of North America, we think a little light-hearted road film is a great choice. As far as dysfunctional family holidays go, this one is a doozy, but you can’t help but fall in love with the Hoover’s as we join them on their road trip from Arizona to California for their daughter Olive’s beauty pageant – in an old, yellow Volkswagen Kombi van no less. There’s humour and nostalgia aplenty, and by the end of it, you’ll be filled with the warm and fuzzies for sure.
India – The Darjeeling Limited
Wes Anderson’s hyper-stylized, fantastical film style is the lens we are visiting India – or as Anderson himself describes it, ‘mythical India’ – thanks to The Darjeeling Limited. Unfolding against the bustling backdrop of contemporary India, the film follows the story of three brothers who embark on a train journey after the death of their father. The cramped train takes them, and us, through the open vast countryside of Rajasthan in North India as we explore all the colours and chaos of the Indian city.
Paris – Midnight In Paris
Travel overseas and back in time and space, thanks to Woody Allen’s comedic fantasy Midnight In Paris. Visit 1920s Paris alongside Owen Wilson and party with Fitzgerald, share a drink with Hemingway, and explore all the beauty the City of Light has to offer. This film is truly Allen’s tribute to the Golden Age of Paris, a declaration of love in the pouring rain, which is pretty darn fitting.
Italy– Call Me By Your Name
We’ve already hit some of the more well-worn Italian tourist cities, but consider Luca Guadagnino’s Call Be By Your Name a starter guide to the Italian countryside life. Sure, most people probably get swept up by the growing romance between the film’s stars Elio (Timothee Chalamet) and Oliver (Armie Hammer), but for us, what really has us entranced is the gorgeous, sun-soaked setting the film takes place in. “Somewhere in Northern Italy” is the only clue we’ll get for the whole film, but in reality Call Me By Your Name was filmed in Lombardy – mostly the town on Crema, around an hour from Milan – and the beauty of the Italian countryside and architecture on display will transport you there in no time.
London – A Hard Day’s Night
We could’ve picked so many films to showcase the English capital, but this one is just so much fun. Sure, large chunks of Richard Lester’s iconic pop movie take place inside a BBC television studio, but when The Beatles get out and about, this is a London movie through and through. From a sprint through Marylebone Station pursued by crazed fans to an evening spent at Les Ambassadeurs Club in Mayfair, or a stroll down by the Thames, A Hard Day’s Night sure is a different way to spend a day in London.
New Zealand – Hunt For The Wilderpeople
New Zealand’s landscapes are well-known on the silver screen. The Lord of the Ringsfilms showed off the majestic mountainous scenery so well they sparked a huge tourism boom, but we are turning our heads to the work of Oscar-winner Taika Waititi, in particular Hunt For The Wilderpeople.
The adorable comedy-drama sees a grumpy foster uncle indulging a city kid’s adventures in the wilderness, turning into a gripping adventure. Filmed largely in the North Island’s Auckland region, where beaches, rainforest and vineyards surround New Zealand’s biggest city, the scenery is truly jaw-dropping.
Alaska – Into The Wild
Based on the true story of Christopher McCandless, Into The Wild is as inspiring and thought-provoking as it is tragic, ss the recent college graduate steps out on his own, backpacking around the US until he finds himself in the Alaskan wilderness.
We don’t want to give away too much of the plot, but the surroundings are sure to take your breath away. Feast your eyes on peaceful Lake Tahoe, camp at Beard’s Hollow, kayak down the Colorado River, and run with wild horses, a true adventure.
Australia – The Adventures of Priscilla Queen of the Desert
Now that we’ve travelled far and wide, we cannot ignore the beauty that is right on our own doorstep, so let’s take a fiercely fabulous road trip through our own countryside. Hop in Priscilla and travel across the picturesque Australian outback, from Sydney to Alice Springs, on this larger-than-life adventure. Breaking the hyper-masculine mould of Australian cinema throughout the ‘80s, this colourful and deeply moving film is a joy to watch again and again.
Australia – Tracks
Standing in for real-life writer Robyn Davidson, Mia Wasikowska travels across the breathtaking landscape of Western Australia with only four camels and a beloved dog for company. Her occasional human visitors include a photographer for National Geographic (played by Adam Driver), an Indigenous elder named Mr Eddy who guides her through sacred lands, and various tourists who come to look at the so-called Camel Lady.
And that completes our travel film world tour. What films have inspired you to plan a holiday?