So we’ve already covered the top travel reads to spark your wanderlust. Next in our inspiration series comes the top travel films. Give one of these a watch and get inspired to plan your future travels.
These films will make you laugh and cry, they’ll make you feel both inspired and heartbroken, but most of all we’ve picked them because they all speak to us about the magic of travel. Its ability to change us, to help lift us out of terrible situations, help us learn to appreciate the simple things around us, motivate us to challenge ourselves by trying something new, and the deep connections that we make with others when we’re on the road.
1. The Secret Life of Walter Mitty
Top locations: Greenland, Iceland, the Himalayas
Watch it if: You feel a bit lost
After watching it you’ll: Feel inspired to travel to those places you never thought you’d go
If you’ve ever felt stuck in a rut – whether it’s in your job or just your life in general – you'll no doubt relate to the central character in this film, played by comedy veteran Ben Stiller. Walter Mitty, a middle-aged employee of Life magazine, travels to the farthest reaches of the world - including Greenland and the Himalayas - in order to find meaning in his life. Along the way, he finds himself in situations his everyday life would never have permitted. Yes, it’s a bit of a cliched story about getting out there and exploring the world to find yourself, but the emotions it draws out are universal, and no doubt you’ll be inspired by the adventures he has. The landscape shots of the places Walter travels are enough to make you want to set out on your very own expedition to the Arctic right away.
2. Eat Pray Love
Top locations: Italy, India, Indonesia
Watch it if: You want some solo female travel inspiration
After watching it you’ll: Want to embark on your own solo travel journey
If you haven’t heard of this film or the book it was based on, you’ve likely been living under a rock! This is the film that made women everywhere decide to pack up their things and just do it – travel the world and experience love, friendship, food and spirituality – all by themselves. Julia Roberts plays Elizabeth Gilbert, the woman who wrote the book the film was adapted from. Gilbert found herself wanting more out of her life and set off to Italy, India and Bali to find herself. Along the way she eats a lot of pasta, learns some extraordinary life lessons and falls in love (yes, this is a chick flick after all).
3. The Motorcycle Diaries
Top locations: South America
Watch it if: You want to learn about a real-life travel story
After watching it you’ll: Feel you understand both a man and a continent far more intimately than you did before
In 1952, two friends set out on a 8,000km motorcycle trip from Buenos Aires across the South American continent. They were biochemist Alberto Granado and his companion Ernesto Guevara de la Serna. The latter was the man who would later become known as Che Guevara, the Marxist revolutionary. This film documents this trip that was so monumental in shaping Guevara’s ideology by exposing him to the social struggles of the South American people. Historical significance notwithstanding, it’s also a touching film about the eye-opening nature of travel, the challenges you face in life, and friendship. It will inspire you to travel to South America and see it through your own eyes.
4. P.S. I Love You
Top locations: Ireland
Watch it if: You want to travel to overcome heartbreak or loss
After watching it you’ll: Want to book a trip to Ireland right away
We’re not sure how much money Ireland’s Tourism Board spent in 2007, but we’re guessing they didn’t need a large budget, because this film was practically an advert for travel to the Emerald Isle. The story will make you cry – a lot - but the shots of Ireland and the soundtrack stick with you long after the film ends. They beautifully capture the magic of a place where no matter what grief you're suffering will make you want to smile. Although it's not a film about travel - it's more about relationships and overcoming loss - it does a great job of showcasing the colours, the music, the people and the magic of Ireland, and for this reason we highly recommend. Keep tissues handy - you will almost certainly need them!
5. Into the Wild
Top locations: North America
Watch it if: You want to think about the meaning of life
After watching it you’ll: Contemplate what it means to be happy
Starring Emile Hirsch and a young Kristen Stewart, this film took all the best elements of John Krakaeur’s book about the true story of Christopher McCandless and turned it into a beautiful ode to the need for self-discovery through adventure. In spite of the tragic outcome there are many moments of happiness in this movie, with the film making you question what we really need to be happy in life. McCandless graduates university and gives up all his worldly possessions before venturing into the wilds of Alaska, where he eventually meets his fate. Before he does, however, he meets some extraordinary people and has some incredible encounters, ultimately realising that happiness is best when shared.
6. The Way
Top locations: Spain
Watch it if: You’re considering a walking holiday or pilgrimage
After watching it you’ll: Feel like going on your own journey of self-reflection and discovery
This emotional film is a tribute to the pilgrimage route the Camino de Santiago (The Way of St. James). Protagonist Dr. Thomas Avery, played by Martin Sheen, decides to embark on the epic journey after travelling to the place his son Daniel (played by Sheen’s real-life son Emilio Estevez) perished. During the course of the pilgrimage, Thomas meets others walking the same trail, all of whom are doing it for different reasons. It's a classic story about how a physical journey can act as a metaphor for the internal journey the modern-day pilgrims undergo. It's as much about Thomas understanding his son and coming to terms with his grief as it is about the physical exercise he's undertaking. Ultimately, the film is about the search for greater meaning in one’s life, and about the distinct but overlapping journeys of individuals.
Top locations: North America
Watch it if: You’re not sure you can do something
After watching it you’ll: Know you can do it
Often our most adventurous travels are inspired by periods of great loss or suffering. Wild, and the book the film was adapted from, is based on the true story of Cheryl Strayed, who set off to conquer the Pacific Crest Trail with absolutely no hiking experience, in the wake of the death of her mother and a spiral into drug and sex addiction. Even if you’re not into the great outdoors, the moral of this story is an inspiring one, and serves as a great reminder that sometimes we just need to get out of our comfort zone to find ourselves and meaning in our lives.
8. The Darjeeling Limited
Top locations: India
Watch it if: You're planning a trip to India
After watching it you’ll: Feel more connected to the people around you
This is a film about three brothers who all experience and deal with their grief over the death of their father in different ways. They come together for a train trip across India, the country serving as a backdrop for the three of them to sort out their differences and overcome the tragic loss they’ve suffered. There’s plenty of comic relief from the intensity of emotion that each of the brothers are suffering, but at it's heart this is a contemplative film that will make you think about how shared travel experiences can both bring people together and push them apart.
9. Easy Rider
Top locations: The American southwest
Watch it if: You want to relive the travels of your younger years
After watching it you’ll: Realise you’re never too old for an adventure
This film from 1969 is an older one, but it definitely warrants inclusion on this list. The adventures of the two main characters will have you yearning for the open road, and probably thinking back on all those adventures you had when you were young and crazy! It’s never too late to go on an adventure though … Keep an eye out for a younger Jack Nicholson in a supporting role.
10. Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark
Top locations: Egypt
Watch it if: You’re a history nut who loves adventure
After watching it you’ll: Want to go discover some buried treasure of your own
Okay, so it’s not technically a travel film, but who hasn’t watched this movie and immediately felt a compulsion to travel to Egypt and discover some buried treasure of their own? Plus it's got a young Harrison Ford at his very best. It's worth a rewatch if you haven't seen it in years - maybe you can share it with your kids or grandkids if they haven't seen it before. An oldie but definitely a goodie.
We hope these travel films will inspire you to get out there and explore the world. The first step towards that is having an obligation-free chat to one of our expert travel consultants, who can help you with every aspect of the process and help you plan your dream adventure. Find your nearest World Travellers store here.