A good movie can deliver an emotional punch, start or fuel a conversation, and inspire action. In the travel world, movies often inspire people to get up and go see the places they see on screen, or even reevaluate the role of travel in their lives. For me, Crocodile Dundee was a big inspiration. It drew me to Australia and even to international travel in a larger sense.
What travel movies inspire the most wanderlust? To find out, I asked a handful of frequent travelers to share the movies that sparked (or still spark) wanderlust in them. Here’s what they had to say…
“All the Indiana Jones movies but especially The Last Crusade. When I saw Petra on screen back in the early 90s, I knew I would go there eventually even though at the time I had no idea where it was or where Jordan was! I finally went in 2000 and it blew my mind! I love all things James Bond and have been inspired to go numerous places but most notable the 1980 film For Your Eyes Only with the final scene taking place at Meteora, Greece. I had to see it for myself and finally did some 5-6 years ago! Braveheart, my favorite movie, made me wanted to explore Scotland and the highlands. To this day, when I go to Scotland all I do is repeat Braveheart lines over and over and take it all in. An underrated nature destination.”
—Lee Abbamonte, leeabbamonte.com
“I bet I’m taking this in an entirely unexpected direction, but three of the (many) films that truly inspired me to travel all fall under the genre of cheesy romantic comedy—two even star Adam Sandler. First, The Wedding Singer—specifically the moment Drew Barrymore’s character flies first class to Vegas and her awful husband keeps her from the window seat. 50 First Dates was another, in that it really made me want to visit Hawaii. Even so, I was still on the fence about Hawaii until I saw Forgetting Sarah Marshall. I’ve since visited Oahu more times than I can remember.”
—Zach Honig, The Points Guy + zachhonig + @ZachHonig + the “Miles Away” podcast
“Well, I LOVED the Lord of the Rings movie so visiting the Hobbiton set in New Zealand was a huge smile-inducer for me. I made a point of checking out the Tahiti Nui restaurant last night I was on Kauai as I quite enjoyed The Descendants. And Barb and I have twice been to Hitching Post II in Buellton, where part of Sideways was filmed. It’s a slightly dark but utterly wonderful movie; quirky and fun and engaging, and it displays the beauty of the Santa Barbara region so nicely.
—Jim Byers, jimbyerstravel1
“The Goonies. As a kid watching this film, I was blown away by the fantasy of it all—pirate ships, lush scenery and beautiful seascapes. As an adult, I still feel the same excitement watching the movie. But now I’ve had an opportunity to travel to Oregon and visit the locations, including Astoria, highlighted in the movie. It’s a beautiful part of the country, and visiting still has me dreaming of adventure.
Roman Holiday. This classic has it all: a dashing leading man and a lovely young woman, yearning for freedom from a far too regimented lifestyle—all set against the backdrop of Rome. The first time I saw Roman Holiday, I knew I had to visit this historic city. Rome is as much a character as Gregory Peck and Audrey Hepburn, simultaneously showing off its magnificent historic sites and is secret charms. I’ve visited Rome many times since seeing this film, and I’ve yet to take a scooter through the city, but it’s on my list.
Wild. Watching Cheryl Strayed’s adventures along the Pacific Crest Trail is inspiring. The adventurer in me yearns to dedicate time to the simple joys of an impactful hike like this one. While my schedule generally limits me to day hikes for now, my husband and I are planning for longer trips in the future. I recently took a river cruise to Oregon and had my first chance to see the PCT. We took a short hike on it, and I can’t wait to get back.
—Colleen McDaniel, Senior Executive Editor of Cruise Critic
“While I’m not a huge Ben Stiller fan, the remake of The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (2013) is brilliant and inspires travel on many levels. Not only is the scenery of Greenland, Iceland and the Himalayas the kind of gorgeous wanderlust porn that makes even seasoned travelers drool, but there are so many solid travel messages, from the need to get beyond your comfort zone to ‘travel has the power to make us better people.’
“Most people don’t think of it as a travel movie, but The Wizard of Oz is possibly the most popular ‘journey story’ ever put on screen. Smalltown girl gets caught up in a whirlwind situation that lands her some place that is 180 degrees from what she’s used to. She has to learn the culture, approach people she doesn’t know, make friends and rely on the kindness of strangers, all while admiring the jaw-dropping views of foreign lands. Despite the message at the end about never needing to go beyond her own backyard, you just know Dorothy saves up and goes backpacking in Europe the next summer.
“Often the best travel happens when you have a quest—which makes the Lord of the Rings trilogy automatically qualify as a travel movie. It’s a road trip without the wheels (and is a way better story than Kerouac’s overrated ‘On the Road’), and it exemplifies the reason for quest travel: that, often, the thing you find isn’t the thing you were looking for.”
—Spud Hilton, SpudHilton.com + @SpudHilton
“Midnight in Paris, Eat Pray Love, Notting Hill, The Red Violin, Mission Impossible: Fallout (because his cliffhanger scenes are filmed in Preikestolen (Pulpit Rock) near where my Norwegian relatives live and it’s so beautiful there. I also love the STARZ show Outlander and imagine it’s great for Scotland tourism.”
—Kendra Thornton, owner of Royal Travel & Tours
“Eat, Pray, Love isn’t the most original choice, but I wouldn’t have my career in travel without it inspiring me to get started. I enjoyed the book, but the movie brought the destinations to life. There are two quotes that sparked my wanderlust and turned me into a full-time traveler: ‘There’s a wonderful old Italian joke about a poor man who goes to church every day and prays before the statue of a great saint, “Dear saint-please, please, please…give me the grace to win the lottery.” This lament goes on for months. Finally the exasperated statue come to life, looks down at the begging man and says in weary disgust, “My son-please, please, please…buy a ticket.”‘ In the beginnings of my solo travels, whenever I would be hesitant to book a ticket, or go alone, I would think of this quote. You cannot have the adventures and all of the wonderful experiences of travel if you don’t book the ticket. I often receive emails or messages from women who are afraid to travel solo, to have that experience they are desperately seeking. I always promise, the hardest and scariest part is just booking the ticket. After you hit ‘confirm’ on your flights, the hard part is over.
“As someone who loves to get off the beaten path and travel like a local, I am often surrounded by people and places vastly different than I am. Like the late Anthony Bourdain, this is one of the things I love most about travel—connecting with those who are different than I am. Each person I have met on my travels has taught me something that I have carried with me. They have taught me lessons that could never be learned in a class room, lessons on tolerance, patience, culture, and humanity. That’s why I find this quote to be one of the most inspiring of all. It helps me look at everyone I meet as a teacher, here to make me the best version of myself, while I curiously explore the world in which we live. ‘If you are brave enough to leave behind everything familiar and comforting (which can be anything from your house to your 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 truth will not be withheld from you.’ Or so I’ve come to believe.
“Up in the Air. Often times travel (especially airport travel) can exhaust you, it can be stressful, and make for some unenjoyable experiences if you allow it. But for some of us, airports, airplanes and hotel rooms are where we feel the most at home. Up In The Air is unbelievably relatable for frequent travelers. ‘All the things you probably hate about traveling—the recycled air, the artificial lighting, the digital juice dispensers, the cheap sushi—are warm reminders that I’m home.’ Although frequent travel isn’t for everyone, this movie always reminds me that there is a small group of us, where an airport and hotel feels like home. Although the movie touches on what the main character misses out on in exchange for travel (a family), it also shows he loves to travel and loves to be up in the air. For me, airports are incredible when I think of how they link the entire world together and they feel like home. Not everyone can relate to someone who travels nearly full-time, and Up in the Air always reminds me that frequent travel can be worn like a badge of honor, instead of a burden. It reminds the viewer of the fun in tracking frequent flier status and lifetime miles, visiting airport lounges, and having preferred status with hotels and airlines. There may not be many who understand the travel lifestyle, but for aviation and travel geeks, an airport can feel like home and this movie reminds you that you aren’t alone in your lifestyle choices!”
—Valerie Joy Wilson, trustedtravelgirl.com
“As someone who enjoys using my loyalty program benefits, the movie Up in the Air certainly comes to mind. However, Out of Africa is a personal favorite. I travel often around Africa, and this film really captures some of the inspiring scenery and personalities that surround you when you visit various regions of the continent.”
—Ramsey Qubein, ramseyq.com + @DailyTravelTips
“Cars 2. I have three kids so, these days, the oft-rare chance I get to watch a film means I’m watching an animated one! Cars 2 brings back the revving characters we fell in love with in the first Cars movie and sends them on an international adventure, as Lightning McQueen seeks to win the World Grand Prix. The destinations they visit—Tokyo, Paris, the Italian Riviera, and London—come alive in classic Pixar color, including food, city streets and famous landmarks. The film makes me wish I was at each stop, cheering McQueen on. Or better yet, behind the wheel!
Up in the Air. This movie reminds me that I’m not alone in loving plane travel, visiting random places and collecting air miles. But the film also, and poignantly, reminds me that constantly being on the road is an escape of sorts, in fact. The thrill of going from place to place, from airport to airport, is fun to pursue. But, as many frequent fliers and road warriors know, coming home to family and friends you love can mean a lot more. That said, when’s my next flight?
The Pink Panther Strikes Again. No one can refute the fact that Peter Sellers is the greatest comic mind that ever lived. No wonder, then, that I’ve seen the complete Pink Panther franchise multiple times over the years, with The Pink Panther Strikes Again standing out as my favorite. Between belly laughs, as Inspector Clouseau fumbles his way through yet another successful investigation, the viewer travels to many of my favorite European destinations, like Paris, London and Bavaria, and events, like Munich’s Oktoberfest. Two scenes in particular—Clouseau’s initial interrogation and his accidental removal of the antagonist’s wrong tooth—always have me laughing all the way to the airport!”
—Gabe Saglie, travelzoo.com
“The Lilo & Stitch movies always make me think of Hawaii and Hawaii is a happy place to travel to. The Way and Wild because I want to do an epic trek like the Camino. Or across Tasmania. Or even Hadrian’s Wall.”
—Charles McCool, McCool Travel
“Baraka and Samsara.”
—Ian Livingston, iantlivingston.com (+ JohnnyJet.com)
And of course: Have your own favorite favorite travel movie? Share it in the comments!