42 Travel Movies to Watch Before the World Opens
While we’re waiting to get back to the days where we’re grabbing our bags from the conveyor belt in a country new to our eyes, then fighting our way through the slew of insisting and aggressive taxi drivers to run to the other side of the highway to catch the Uber driver who asked us to meet him there because taxi drivers told him they’d kill him if they see him at the airport again, we can have time to live vicariously through the adventurous folks on our smart screens. Right?
If you’re looking for love, laughs, drama, and something incredible to sink our teeth into, we got you!
Me and my kid, DJ, decided to compile a list of our favorite travel movies and documentaries. Yeah, it’ll remind you of the good times you had and maybe of the trips you were forced to cancel, but they may also inspire new ideas and hopefully new journeys.
No, man. Alaska, Alaska. I’m gonna be all the way out there, all the way fucking out there. Just on my own. You know, no fucking watch, no map, no axe, no nothing. No nothing. Just be out there. Just be out there in it. You know, big mountains, rivers, sky, game. Just be out there in it, you know? In the wild.
-Christopher McCandless, Into The Wild
1. Hector and the Search for Happiness
Disillusioned with the tedium of his existence, psychiatrist Hector confesses to his girlfriend that he feels he is a fraud for dispensing recommendations to patients who never seem to improve or get any happier. He considers breaking out of his lackluster routine. Summoning up some courage, Hector gives his starved curiosity free rein and embarks on an international quest to find the right formula to bring him joy and vitality.
2. The Secret Life of Walter Mitty
A Life Magazine photographer is sent off on a mission to travel the world in hopes to capture the perfect picture.
“Fifty years from now, when you’re looking back at your life, don’t you want to be able to say you had the guts to get in the car?”
-Sam Witwicky, Transformers
3. On the Road
A writer and a westerner travel across the country searching for a new experience.
Due to a dead mother and recent divorce, Cheryl Strayed decides to clear her mind and hike on a daring trail.
5. Eat Pray Love
Liz Gilbert thought she had everything she wanted in life: a home, a husband and a successful career. Now newly divorced and facing a turning point, she finds that she is confused about what is important to her. Daring to step out of her comfort zone, Liz embarks on a quest of self-discovery that takes her to Italy, India and Bali.
6. National Lampoon’s Vacation
Accompanied by their children, Clark Griswold and his wife, Ellen, are driving from Illinois to a California amusement park. As Clark increasingly fixates on a beautiful woman driving a sports car, the Griswolds deal with car problems and the death of a family member. They reach Los Angeles, but, when Clark worries that the trip is being derailed again, he acts impulsively to get his family to the park.
7. Under the Tuscan Sun
When Frances Mayes learns her husband is cheating on her from a writer whom she gave a bad review, her life is turned upside down. In an attempt to bring her out of a deep depression, her best friend, Patti, encourages Frances to take a tour of Italy.
8. A Room with a View
In this British drama based on the novel by E.M. Forster, Lucy Honeychurch, a young Englishwoman, is touring Italy with her older cousin. At a hotel in Florence, Lucy meets the charming and free-spirited George Emerson.
9. 2 Days in Paris
A European vacation was intended to repair the tattered relationship between American Jack and French native Marion. But, by the time they arrive in Paris to visit Marion’s family, it is clear the trip is not going well.
Recently divorced mom Lauren and widowed dad Jim let their friends push them into a blind date, which goes disastrously wrong. Unsurprisingly, neither wants to see the other ever again. However, fate intervenes when both Jim and Lauren, unbeknown to each other, purchase one-half of the same vacation package at a South African resort.
“I would rather have 30 minutes of ‘wonderful’ than a lifetime of ‘nothing special.’”
-Shelby, Steel Magnolias
11. Cairo Time
With some time off from her job as a magazine editor, New Yorker Juliette decides to share a holiday with her husband, who works for the United Nations. Upon arriving in Cairo, however, she finds he’s stuck in Gaza, and he sends his former bodyguard, Tareq — now relocated back in Cairo to work at his family business — to act as her guide around the city.
12. Certified Copy
While touring Tuscany, Italy, promoting his new book, English author James meets French store owner Elle, and the two hit it off, deciding to spend a free day together. They travel to a nearby town, get coffee, visit a museum and pretend to be recently married in what turns out to be a popular wedding destination.
13. Martha, Meet Frank, Daniel and Laurence
Bored with her job at a Minneapolis car rental agency, restless Martha impetuously takes a trip to London. On her adventure Martha encounters three Englishmen who — coincidentally — all know each other.
14. Before Sunrise
On his way to Vienna, American Jesse meets Celine, a student returning to Paris. After long conversations forge a surprising connection between them, Jesse convinces Celine to get off the train with him in Vienna. Since his flight to the U.S. departs the next morning and he has no money for lodging, they wander the city together, taking in the experiences of Vienna and each other. As the night progresses, their bond makes separating in the morning a difficult choice.
15. Before Sunset
A sequel to “Before Sunrise,” this film starts nine years later as Jesse travels across Europe giving readings from a book he wrote about the night he spent in Vienna with Celine. After his reading in Paris, Celine finds him, and they spend part of the day together before Jesse has to again leave for a flight. They are both in relationships now, and Jesse has a son, but as their strong feelings for each other start to return, both confess a longing for more.
16. Before Midnight
On the last night of their idyllic Greek vacation, longtime lovers Jesse and Celine reminisce about their lives together and what different choices might have brought.
17. The Sheltering Sky
A couple take a trip to North Africa in an attempt to patch up their crumbling marriage, with disastrous results. After infidelities on both sides, the husband is struck down by a fatal disease, and his wife must draw upon all her reserves of strength to survive the emotional crisis.
18. Bon Voyage, Charlie Brown (And Don’t Come Back!)
Charlie Brown heads to Europe as an exchange student in this animated movie based on the “Peanuts” comic strip. Along for the ride are Snoopy, Woodstock, Peppermint Patty, Marcie and Linus. In London, Snoopy and Woodstock test out their tennis skills at Wimbledon before the gang heads off to France. Charlie has an invitation to stay at the chateau of a mysterious baron. But when they arrive on a dark and stormy night, it soon becomes clear that their adventure has only begun.
19. The Darjeeling Limited
Estranged brothers Francis, Peter, and Jack reunite for a train trip across India. The siblings have not spoken in over a year, ever since their father passed away. Francis reveals the real reason for the reunion: to visit their mother in a Himalayan convent.
“Film as dream, film as music. No art passes our conscience in the way film does, and goes directly to our feelings, deep down into the dark rooms of our souls.”
― Ingmar Bergman
20. Crazy Rich Asians
Rachel Chu is happy to accompany her longtime boyfriend, Nick, to his best friend’s wedding in Singapore. She’s also surprised to learn that Nick’s family is extremely wealthy and he’s considered one of the country’s most eligible bachelors. Thrust into the spotlight, Rachel must now contend with jealous socialites, quirky relatives and something far, far worse — Nick’s disapproving mother.
21. Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Los Ark
Epic tale in which an intrepid archaeologist tries to beat a band of Nazis to a unique religious relic which is central to their plans for world domination. Battling against a snake phobia and a vengeful ex-girlfriend, Indiana Jones is in constant peril, making hair’s-breadth escapes at every turn in this celebration of the innocent adventure movies of an earlier era.
22. Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade
The intrepid explorer Indiana Jones sets out to rescue his father, a medievalist who has vanished while searching for the Holy Grail. Following clues in the old man’s notebook, Indy arrives in Venice, where he enlists the help of a beautiful academic, but they are not the only ones who are on the trail, and some sinister old enemies soon come out of the woodwork.
23. Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom
Adventure sequel. Intrepid archaeologist Indiana Jones, on the trail of fortune and glory in Old Shanghai, is ricocheted into a dangerous adventure in India. With his faithful companion Short Round and nightclub singer Willie Scott, Indie goes in search of the magical Sankara stone, and uncovers an ancient evil which threatens all who come into contact with it.
24. Crocodile Dundee
A New York reporter heads to Australia to interview the living legend Mike Dundee. When she finally locates him, she is so taken with him that she brings him back with her to New York.
“For in dreams we enter a world that is entirely our own. Let them swim in the deepest ocean, or glide over the highest cloud.”
-Dumbledore, Harry Potter
25. The Trip
Food critic Steve Coogan and traveling companion Rob Brydon trade delicious barbs and clever remarks as they tour various eateries in northern England.
26. The Trip to Spain
Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon reunite to take their wit and appetites on a coast-to-coast road trip through picturesque Spain.
After he is dumped at the altar, a former child star’s best friend takes him on a backpacking trek in the remote mountains of Oregon.
28. Lost in Translation
A lonely, aging movie star named Bob Harris and a conflicted newlywed, Charlotte , meet in Tokyo. Bob is there to film a Japanese whiskey commercial; Charlotte is accompanying her celebrity-photographer husband. Strangers in a foreign land, the two find escape, distraction and understanding amidst the bright Tokyo lights after a chance meeting in the quiet lull of the hotel bar. They form a bond that is as unlikely as it is heartfelt and meaningful.
29. The Water Diviner
Four years after the Battle of Gallipoli, Australian farmer Joshua Connor (Russell Crowe) travels to Turkey to find his three sons, who never returned home from the war. When he arrives in Istanbul, he meets others who have also suffered losses.
30. Searching for Sugar Man
Though he faded into obscurity in the U.S., an early ’70s musician known as Rodriguez became a huge hit in South Africa and was widely rumored to have died. Two obsessed fans set out to learn the man’s true fate.
In Congo, a young peasant dreams of a better future for his loved ones. His only wealth lies in the strength of his arms, the bushland around him and his strong will. As he sets out on dangerous and exhausting adventures to trade the fruit of his work, he discovers the value of his effort and the price he must pay for his dreams.
32. In Search of Israeli Cuisine
The Israel-born, award-winning chef of Zahav, Michael Solomonov, offers up a tour of 70 plus diverse cultures of Israel through food. Over the past 30 years, Israel has gone from having no fine food to a food scene that is world renowned. Solomonov visits the vibrant restaurants of Tel Aviv, must-experience Jerusalem destinations and organic kitchens off the beaten track, sampling from remarkable food traditions as diverse as Moroccan, Persian, Lebanese, French, Italian and Russian.
After her controlling husband dies, an elderly woman embarks on a trip to fulfill her longtime dream of climbing a mountain in the Scottish Highlands.
34. Teddy Bear
A 38-year-old bodybuilder takes a trip to Thailand to find a woman to marry.
A busy doctor plans to spend her annual vacation fulfilling her long-held dream of sailing from Gibraltar to the small island of Ascension in the Atlantic. But everything changes when she sees a damaged, overloaded boat full of refugees nearby. Knowing that at least a hundred people could drown, she begins to organize to help them but slowly begins to fear that it will be impossible to do so.
36. The Way
An American father travels to France to retrieve the body of his estranged son, who died while attempting the pilgrimage to Spain’s Santiago de Compostela. He resolves to take the journey himself, in an effort to understand both himself and his son.
To live would be an awfully big adventure.
-Peter Pan, Peter Pan
37. The Endless Summer
Documentary filmmaker Bruce Brown, himself a competition-level surfer, follows surfers Michael Hynson and Robert August on an around-the-world surfing adventure. With Brown’s wry, sardonic narration and a twangy, guitar-driven instrumental soundtrack by The Sandals playing over the silent footage, Mike and Rob leave their California home to visit Hawaii, Australia, South Africa and other secluded surfing spots in a search for the surfer’s holy grail that Brown dubs “The Perfect Wave.”
38. Fire at Sea
Shot on the Sicilian island of Lampedusa during the European migrant crisis, and sets the migrants’ dangerous Mediterranean crossing against a background of the ordinary life of the islanders.
39. Expedition Happiness
A filmmaker and his musician girlfriend attempt an epic road trip with their dog, traveling across North America in a refurbished school bus.
A surfing adventure across 15 countries gives a young boy from Kauai an opportunity to widen his horizons and gain a deeper understanding of life.
41. Encounters at the End of the World
Acclaimed filmmaker Werner Herzog travels to Antarctica, where he finds a desolate, beautiful landscape, largely untouched by human hands, and a group of truly unique people who risk their lives to study it. Centered at McMurdo Station, the United States’ largest Antarctic research center, Herzog explores the minds of the scientists willing to abandon civilization and endure volatile conditions to learn more about the continent’s wildlife and awe-inspiring natural wonders.
42. An Affair to Remember
A man and a woman have a romance while on a cruise from Europe to New York. Despite being engaged to other people, both agree to reunite at the top of the Empire State Building in six months. However, an unfortunate accident keeps her from the reunion, and he fears that she has married or does not love him anymore.
Go. See. Cry. Laugh!
*Some films may have switched streaming services or may no longer be there. Good luck!*