Long bus rides, flight stopovers, or lazy Sunday afternoons are the perfect time for a good book. You don’t feel like reading? Go for a movie! If you are into traveling you will find hundreds of movies to choose from. To make your decision easier, I have listed some of the most successful and/or touching ones out there. Have a look at the 30 best travel movies (in my opinion) and get inspired!
Oh and just in case you are looking for some movies and documentaries just for and about digital nomads, check out the linked post! These are my absolute favorites!
Table of Contents
The 30 Best Travel Movies
1. The Beach
We all want to travel to Koh Phi Phi and find the solitary beach paradise, where Leonardo DiCaprio tried to find his luck in the year 2000. Although the characters loved their hidden paradise more than anything, they ended up destroying it. Most backpackers have seen the movie or read the book at some point and are very fascinated by the stunning beaches, parties, and the lifestyle in general. Great movie about the expectations and realities of travel.
2. Into The Wild
An elite student, who recently graduated, donates all of his savings to a charity and hitchhikes through the USA to Alaska, to live in the wild. The movie is based on a real-life story and many people can identify with the main character Christopher McCandless who seeks more from life and wants to make new experiences. But be prepared the search ends really sad. One of the best travel movies, especially when it comes to road trips.
3. The Darjeeling Limited
Three brothers attempt to get closer again after their father’s death. They start a trip through India during which they grieve, fight, and eventually bond again. The emotional ride of the adventure comedy-drama also features some fantastic pictures of India and shows the beauty of this country.
4. The Bucket List
Two terminally ill men decide to leave the hospital behind and start an epic road trip to tick off all of the things they’ve always wanted to do and see. Sounds a bit schmaltzy? I’m not going to lie, it is! But it also reminds us to focus on the important things in life and appreciate our health and all of the opportunities we have.
5. The Motorcycle Diaries
Definitely one of the best travel movies out there. The Motorcycle Diaries tells the story of young Che Guevara who explores South America before becoming one of the most famous revolutionaries of all time. You get to see some amazing images of deserts and rainforests, but also the poor and unequal parts of the countries. It pictures the story of triumph and sadness that will leave you with an undeniable desire for freedom and adventure.
Since I lived in Australia for almost 2 years and lost part of my heart to the beautiful country, I love seeing movies with incredible landscapes. You might criticize the lack of originality of this movie but the stunning backdrop surely makes up for it.
7. Eat, Pray, Love
Julia Roberts’s character has everything most women dream of – a great career, a husband, and a house. Yet she feels like something is missing. She is confused and lost when she starts a trip of self-discovery. That leads her to Italy, India, and Indonesia, where she finally finds her inner peace and balance. Probably something many travelers can relate to.
Yes, the storyline isn’t the most ambitious one and yes, the movie shows a lot of stereotypes about Europe. But many who traveled around the continent will be able to relate to the situations and find them pretty funny. A nice little movie to see some of the most popular sites in Europe.
There are not too many internationally acknowledged movies out there that are set in Denmark. If you are looking for something that triggers your travel desire for smaller countries, go for this one! The rather immature main character William is traveling through Europe and ends up in the Danish capital, where his father was born. He soon meets the youthful Effy and the two start a romance/drama/adventure trip through the city.
10. In Bruges
Ever considered traveling to Bruges? After watching this movie, you will! The gorgeous scenery takes you back in time. The witty dialogue of the two hiding hitmen, combined with crime thriller elements and dark comedy makes sure that this movie won’t get boring. Not your usual travel movie, but a great showcase for Belgium.
11. Seven Years in Tibet
This movie is based on the real story of Austrian mountaineer Heinrich Harrer who arrives in Tibet during World War II. He gets introduced to the 14th Dalai Lama and becomes his tutor and close friend. To see his expectations and the reality of this nation and culture is very interesting and fascinating to watch.
12. The Way
Definitely one of the best travel movies out there. And one of the most emotional ones. The character played by Martin Sheen travels to the famous “ El Camino de Santiago” to recover the body of his estranged son, who died on the way. He ends up doing the pilgrimage himself and realizes why his son loved traveling so much. Be prepared to cry!
13. Take Me Home
Thom is jobless and broke in New York City when he decides to drive his illegal taxicab around the streets. That’s when businesswoman Claire jumps in, who just received a call that her estranged father is in the hospital. The two end up driving all the way to California to see him. A very enjoyable cross-country trip that turns into a romantic comedy.
14. Up in the Air
If you are a traveler by choice you will, of course, love your lifestyle. But that doesn’t mean that there are no downsides. The movie shows how a businessman portrayed by George Clooney spends much of his time in the air as he travels around the States for his job and how much he loves the fame coming with it. Until he realizes that he is missing out on the normal life people around him have. A movie that many frequent flyers or long-term travelers can relate to.
15. A Good Year
London-based investment broker Russell Crowe inherits his uncle’s vineyard in Provence and plans to sell it. But after returning to the beautiful countryside, where he spent most of his childhood, he soon enjoys the laid-back lifestyle. Wonderful pictures that make you want to pack your bag and travel to the next available vineyard.
16. Under the Tuscan Sun
To be honest: The storyline of this movie isn’t very deep. The main character is struggling with writing her latest book when her husband suddenly files for divorce. To escape her messed up life, she goes to Italy, where she meets someone new and everything works out well. But the beauty of Tuscany makes up for everything. Wonderful backdrops awaken your desire to move to a tiny Italian town, too, where you can drink great wine and eat delicious food all day.
17. Secret Life of Walter Mitty
And again something that many people, frequent travelers or not, can relate to: Walter Mitty hates his job. When it gets too threatened, he escapes into a world of daydreams, which take him on a global journey full of adventures. The stunning scenes from around the world (especially Iceland) are better than any dream can possibly be and make you want to visit them straight away.
18. Nowhere in Africa
Being German (and the movie is in German), there is no way for me to get around this movie. It tells the story of a German Jewish family who moves to Kenya to escape the Nazi regime. Whereas the wife struggles with their new home, their five-year-old daughter immediately falls in love with rural life. The story is based on an autobiographical novel and even won an Academy Award for best foreign language film. For me definitely one of the best travel movies!
This adventure film is based on a true story that happened in 1996 causing the death of eight mountaineers. A violent storm strikes Mount Everest when two commercial expeditions started their final ascent. The admittedly lack of emotion is compensated by spectacular cinematography (it was shot in Nepal and Italy).
20. Whale Rider
A beautiful movie that, according to some, might be responsible for an increase in New Zealand’s conservation efforts and whale-watching industry. It is about a little girl who fights for her grandfather’s acceptance. It gives some very interesting insights into the Maori culture and their modern lifestyle.
21. Thelma and Louise
There is a reason why this film got six Academy Award nominations – one of the best travel movies (or road trip movies) of all time. After killing a man, the two friends escape from the police and make their way through America’s Southwest. Besides the tragic ending, the movie shows adventure and friendship at its best, combined with great landscape shots that awaken your desire for a road trip.
22. Midnight in Paris
And another movie about France (they seem to turn out great every time). An American played by Owen Wilson accidentally finds himself in the 1920s Jazz Age of Paris where he meets some of the most famous people of this time. It might play too many clichés of Paris, but it is still a very sweet romantic comedy that you have to see.
23. Vicky Christina Barcelona
The world needs more movies set in Spain! Just like this romantic comedy-drama, which tells the story of two friends on their holiday in Barcelona, an attractive man, and his crazy ex. So we’ve got love, friendship, jealousy, and passion combined with the magic of this beautiful Spanish city. Great watch!
This biographical survival drama shows a great performance by Reese Witherspoon. The death of her mother sends the main character into a deep depression, that comes with drug addiction and anonymous sex, which eventually destroys her marriage. She starts a journey of self-discovery and healing when she hikes the 1,100-mile Pacific Crest Trail without any hiking experience.
25. A Map For Saturday
Everyone, who considers long-term-traveling and doesn’t have much experience, should watch this movie. It doesn’t only give tons of information about many countries around the world, but also shows the preparation involved, the anxiety, friendships and romances along the way, and the ups and down. Every traveler will be able to relate to the different emotions and experiences shown in the movie. This one is very far on top of the list of the best travel movies out there.
26. Lost in Translation
The characters of Bill Murray and Scarlett Johansson meet in a hotel in Japan, and both struggle with their marriages. They become friends and start to explore vivid Tokyo. The romantic comedy-drama shows real-life struggles many people can relate to, and gives some great insights into Tokyo’s fascinating culture.
Here we go again: Another young woman walks all alone for hundreds of miles through the middle of nowhere. But this time, she is accompanied by a dog and four camels, and the hike is set in Australia. Might sound a bit strange, but the cinematography is truly gorgeous and the performance of the main character is outstanding.
28. Kon Tiki
This historical drama tells the real-life story of Thor Heyerdahl. The adventurer started his Kon-Tiki expedition in 1947 to prove his theory that South Americans settled on Polynesian islands in pre-Columbian times. Although this is not your typical travel movie with stunning landscapes, it tells an epic true story in an exciting and entertaining way that brings out the adventurer in all of us.
29. Stand By Me
Again, maybe not be one of the best travel movies by classical means. But I remember seeing this sweet movie as a very young child. It got me thinking for a long time. It was different. I think for the first time I was confronted with feelings of adventure and independence, friendship and responsibility. Maybe that was the starting point for my desire to explore and travel. Who knows. Definitely worth watching.
30. Gringo Trails
This documentary doesn’t only show the beauty of traveling, but also the negative impact of mass tourism. You get to see stunning footage from Bolivia, Mali, Bhutan, and Thailand. On the other side, it shows the dramatic impact of this industry, and the complex relationships between travelers and locals and gives examples of sustainable alternatives.
Of course, these are just a few of the best travel movies out there. I don’t think I need to mention movies like Indiana Jones, Crocodile Dundee, Lord of the Rings, James Bond, or even Jason Bourne. They all make you want to become a spy, to be super rich, or a snake wrestler or they simply leave us speechless with great cinematography.
Grab Some Popcorn!
There are countless movies out there that attempt to show you great scenes from faraway countries and trigger your longing to travel. But the last 30 movies are definitely some of the best travel movies you can watch. I hope I could give you inspiration so the next time you have a few spare hours, you know what to do and how to satisfy your desire for adventure.
For the very unlikely case, you still need some more motivation, head over to the 50+ most inspiring travel and digital nomad quotes out there.
How many movies on this list have you seen? Or maybe you have another great travel movie that is well worth watching? Let me know in the comment section below!