Movies to Inspire Travel

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Every once in a while, we all like to escape. That’s why we travel in the first place, isn’t it?

Reading a good book or watching a good movie can also be classified as escapism — escapism that doesn’t require you to leave your home, or even put clothes on if you don’t want to.

Movies — with their exotic backdrops and intriguing characters — can act as a pull to a specific destination or region of the world. Whether classics like “Roman Holiday” or “Out of Africa,” or newer films like “Under the Tuscan Sun” and “Eat Pray Love,” movies often inspire travel.

Here are some movies that, over the years, have inspired me — in different ways and for different reasons — to travel.

7 movies to inspire you to travel

Amelie — Paris

Who doesn’t love this quirky French love story, with its vibrant colors and heartbreakingly beautiful score? It ranks up there with my favorite movies, even though I don’t speak a word of French. “Amelie” is set in a somewhat whimsical, nostalgic version of Montmartre, an area of Paris. Even though the movie doesn’t depict true modern Parisian life, it still always reminds me to keep Paris on my list.

Australia — The Outback and Darwin

I liked this Baz Lurhmann-directed romance a lot more than the critics did, apparently. But perhaps it was because I had just finished reading Bruce Chatwin’s “The Songlines” before watching it for the first time. I was all up-to-date on my Aboriginal history and culture, and felt like I had a pretty good grasp on certain themes that pervaded the movie. I think I would have enjoyed it regardless, though. “Australia” has an epic feel to it, with just a twinge of “magic” thrown in, like every good Lurhmann film. Even though I’d been to Australia the same year that I saw it, this movie made me want to experience the gritty Outback, and the port city of Darwin.

Eat Pray Love — Italy and Indonesia

If you’ve read my review of this Julia Roberts film, you’ll know that I was less than impressed by the movie as a whole. It lacked passion. It lacked characters that I liked. But what “Eat Pray Love” did not lack was vibrant settings that made ME want to move to Rome to get fat on pizza and Italian phrases, or to soak up the beauty in Bali. It’s impossible to say that this movie won’t inspire people to travel, because I think it will.

Lord of the Rings — New Zealand

Okay, so I know you can’t really go to Middle-Earth. But you CAN go to New Zealand, which starred as Middle-Earth in Peter Jackson’s “Lord of the Rings” trilogy. These films are really to blame for me being bitten by the travel bug. Seeing them made me want to go to New Zealand more than I had ever wanted anything in my entire life. Whether it was the rolling green hills of the Shire or the tussocked plains of Rohan, I wanted to see the real thing. I know I wasn’t alone, either, as there’s a pretty healthy “Lord of the Rings” tourism market in New Zealand to this day.

Mamma Mia! — Greece

Do I hold “Mammi Mia” up there as one of the greatest films of all time? Of course not. I saw it for the first time as a sing-along in New Zealand, and will never forget the enthusiastic crowd belting out “Dancing Queen” and other ABBA songs as they gyrated in the aisles and bounced around inflated beach balls. I will also never forget the amazing coastal panoramas, or the little Greek towns that were just as much the stars of the movie as Amanda Seyfried and Meryl Streep. This movie made me ache for Greece.

Mary Kate and Ashley movies — major world cities

I can’t lie to you. When I was younger, I was a big fan of Mary Kate and Ashley Olsen. I watched almost all of their movies – some multiple times – from the early “detective” days right into the formulaic teenage romps. I grew older as they did, and so it was almost like I was going on new adventures right along with them. Toward my teenage years, MK and A began going abroad to make movies – to places like London and Sydney and Paris and Rome. Sure, the movies were campy and the plots predictable and dumb. But I envied their travels, and vowed that someday I would see all the cool places that they did.

The Motorcycle Diaries — South America

Here’s another foreign film that has always been sort of inspiring to me. “The Motorcycle Diaries” tells the story of a young Ernesto Guevara (who would eventually become the infamous ‘Che’ Guevara) and his friend Alberto Granado as they journey up the west coast of South America on the back of a motorbike. This is a road movie by definition, and has all the trappings of one — it begins light and fun, but the characters become moved and changed by the things they experience on the road. Do I want to roadtrip by motorbike across South America? No. Do I want to volunteer at a leper colony? Not really. But the spirit of this film is infectious, and some of the locales — like Machu Picchu, for example — are simply stunning. If I had never seen this movie, I probably would have never been inspired to add South America to my bucket list.

What movies have inspired YOU to travel? What are they, and what about them caught your attention?


"It's a dangerous business, going out your door. You step onto the road, and, if you don't keep your feet, there's no telling where you might get swept off to." - JRR Tolkien

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57 Comments on “Movies to Inspire Travel

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  1. Agree on Lord of the Rings — I want to visit Hobbitland. The latest installment of Harry Potter also makes me want to travel to wherever it is that they shot some of those scenes in. Very pretty.

      I’ll have to do a post sometime soon on Hobbiton. It’s a really cool place to visit!

      For HP, I believe that would be in Glen Coe and the gorgeous Scottish Highlands! Probably the most beautiful place on this earth, and one of the most underrated.

        If it’s underrated though, that probably means it’s not crawling with tourists! Sounds like my kind of place…

    1. I really liked Mamma Mia and it makes me want to go to Greece!
    2. I am shameless about my love for Mary Kate and Ashley. I have literally seen all their movies. I watched “Our Lips Are Sealed” in preparation for my trip Down Under. But Winning London is probably my favorite because I did Model UN in high school.

      Mamma Mia is such a fun movie. And seeing it for the first time as a sing-a-long was great.

      I’m glad I’m not alone in my love for MK and A! Haha. “Winning London” was always one of my favorite, too, but I have no good reason as to why. Though, basically all of those international ones made me want to go somewhere new.

    Good picks! Also, A Far Off Place and Out of Africa for African travel! In my opinion, the ONLY reason to see Eat Pray Love and Mamma Mia was for the pretty landscapes (the other facets of both movies were terrible!).

      I haven’t seen either A Far Off Place or Out of Africa, but I can definitely understand how they’d inspire travel to Africa!

    Even though I had been to Hawaii as a kid, watching LOST made me want to return soooo bad. And in 2006, I returned! Just stepping off the plane, I felt like I was stepping onto the set because they used EVERYTHING on Oahu in that show. Just loved it all so much!

    (and I am from LA, where the whole city is a set but for some reason, Hawaii just felt even more special!)

      Awesome! TV shows can definitely have the same effect. I can’t wait to go to Oahu in February and see all the LOST filming sites!

    Under a Tuscan Sun.. Tuscany just jumps alive when I watch it.

      I only saw it once a long time ago, but I remember thinking all the scenery was amazing.

    Amelie is one of my favourite movies of all time! When we lived in Paris we were only a couple of blocks from the real bar that was filmed as the Deux Moulins, which was such a spin-out. Such a great film – makes me tear up every time!

      I love, love, LOVE Amelie. And that’s really cool that you guys lived right there!

    I can happily say that I’ve seen all of those movies and you are correct! They all feature such beautiful places. I would add Angels and Demons to the list–after I saw that, I REALLY wanted to see Rome!

      Glad you enjoyed the list, Lauren! I haven’t seen Angels and Demons. But, if it stars Rome, I should probably add it to my Netflix list!

    Motorcycle Diaries is one of my fave movies ever!!! I also loved Vicky Christina Barcelona. Made me fall in love with Barcelone BAD.

      It’s such a good movie, isn’t it? It makes me wish I spoke Spanish better. Haha. I haven’t seen Vicky Christina, but I may have to check it out now!

    It’s not entirely based around there, but what about “Love Actually – London” ? Especially this time of the year when it’s all cristmassy! haha

      I absolutely adore that movie, Dan! In fact, I just watched it a couple of weeks ago! It always gets me in the Christmas spirit.

    Great list here! Many of my favorites are included.

    I’d also add Lost in Translation — that scene when they’re hanging out and dancing to Phoenix’s Too Young is one of my favorite travel images EVER.

    And also…The Hangover. 😉

      You WOULD include the Hangover, Kate. 😉 Haha. Glad you liked the list!

    Amelie is one of my favourites, too, but there is so much more to “Movie Paris” – Charade, for example, may come from another era (it features Audrey Hepburn and Cary Grant, to refresh your memory) but feels remarkably fresh, and for those who like their movies a little rougher, “The Bourne Identity” offers some nice Parisian scenes as well. Actually, you can read all about those and many, many more in a book called Paris Movie Walks. (Okay, it’s MY book, but that does not mean that it would not make a great Christmas present.)

      The “Bourne” series stars some pretty awesome cities. I’ve never seen Charade, but I may have to look for it now!

    Not gonna lie about my love of Mary-Kate and Ashley’s Paris movie (don’t remember the name). Who doesn’t want to go to Paris and be swept away by cute and funny French boys! My friend and I used to watch it all the time! haha. I haven’t seen any of their others though, and I definitely want to see Ameilie, I have heard so many good things about it!

      Passport to Paris! Hahaha. I know my MK and A, believe me! For a while, their movies were just about the only things my sister and I would watch.

      You should definitely see Amelie! Such a great movie.

    Thhis is a good list, I’ve seen them all except for Amelie. I’m gonna check it out since Paris is where I am gonna be starting.

      If you like quirky, foreign romantic comedies with good soundtracks, you’ll love Amelie!

    Eat, Pray, Love was playing on my flight to San Francisco Friday night, so I got to watch it while physically travelling, do I get extra points for that? Anyway, I was excited to see what all the hype was about. While I agree the movie wasn’t a grand slam, I have been thinking about Bali ever since, so yeah it worked!

      I’ve been thinking about learning Italian ever since! I would love to just up and move to Italy for a few months like she did. If only we were all rich!

    We agree with Andi – Vicky Christina Barcelona is a great movie to fall in love with Barcelona, you should watch it! Amelie is our favorite Paris movie too, although ‘Paris Je t’aime’ has some beautiful Paris stories as well, watch it if you can.

      “Paris Je T’aime” has been on my “must-watch” list forever. In fact, my roommate even has a copy. So I guess I really should watch it!

    I agree with Globetrottergirls, Vicky Christina Barcelona is a fantastic film and everyone I know who has seen it now had a burning desire to visit this city, some of my friends have already done that – I’ll soon follow suit.

    The Beach based on the book of the same name by Alex Garland surely inspired quite a lot of travelers to embark on a trip to Thailand.

    Before Sunrise – Vienna

    I too was not impressed with Eat Pray Love, it was quite superficial.

      Some great suggestions, Ira! I know The Beach was huge for Thailand tourism. I’ve still never seen it though…

    Paris, Je’Taime is another great film that highlights the City of Lights! I didn’t love every single montage but it was definitely a unique way of showcasing a city in film. And I completely agree about the LOTR selection! I want to visit New Zealand so badly after seeing the amazing landscape!

      Somebody else suggested Paris, Je’Taime, too. And I’m glad you agree about LOTR! If you ever have the chance to get to NZ, I could give you tons of tips on how to insert some Middle-Earth fun into your trip!

    Great picks! I totally agree with you about Australia. Even though I lived there for 8 months, I didn’t see much, and now have a longing to visit the Outback. The Motorcycle Diaries definitely encourages me to get off the beaten path in South America like Che… and the scenes from Eat, Pray, Love in Indonesia had me jonesing for Bali again. Totally agree with @Andi, Vicky Christina Barcelona makes Spain seem so romantic, I can’t wait to go!

    I think The Art of Travel is one of the all time greats for inspiring people to travel. I wrote about it on my blog a couple weeks ago. It is playing on HULU now for anyone that has not seen it.

      I’ve never seen it, but I might have to go check it out!

    I also pick the motorcycle diaries, lost in translation, city of God (brazil) and into the wild.

      I actually haven’t seen the last two you mentioned… but it sound like a great list to me!

    Awesome list and great additions! I’d like to add Map for Saturday. I saw it after going on a 6 month backpacking trip. Wrong move on my part. It made me want to pack my bags and start walking again!

      I’ve never seen A Map for Saturday, but I’ve heard really good things! I’m sure it would be a bad idea on my part, too… haha. These days, it doesn’t take much to make me want to hit the road!

    Amanda! I just love looking through your blog! Another great travel movie to add to the list is “The Way” it has some BEAUTIFUL scenery of the Camino de Santiago pilgrammage trail in Spain. After watching this movie I concluded someday I have to do it myself!

      Aww, thanks Denise! I always love when you leave comments/post on my Facebook page! It’s nice to actually “know” the commenter sometimes. 🙂

      And I haven’t seen “The Way,” but I do remember hearing that it was very good! I’ll have to see if it’s on Netflix…

    I loved The Tourist because it showed Venice to its best advantage.

    Definitely Hideous Kinky… it made me want to go to Morocco so bad! Also Braveheart (Scotland), Memoirs of a Geisha (Japan), Beyond Borders (Vietnam, Africa), The Lover (Historical Saigon), The Painted Veil (rural China), Anna and the King (Siam/Thailand), and Hanna (Finland, Morocco).

      Totally agree with Memoirs of a Geisha making me want to go to Japan!

    I travelled to tuscany alone after seeing movie ‘under tuscan sun’. a must watch for single divorced woman.

      I think a lot of women were inspired to do the same thing. 🙂

    Have you ever seen Yes Man? That film changed my life and inspired me to travel. Although it doesn’t habe much to do with travel, it’s all about getting out of your comfort zone.

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