There are travels that have inspired films and then there are travel films that inspire you to go out on your own adventure: in fact, it seems to be a pretty cyclical relationship. Capturing a country’s sights and sounds in moving picture is one of the best ways to instil the prospective traveller with a sense of adventure.[related_articles]58841,58494[/related_articles]
Telling incredible stories, capturing the most stunning landscapes or simply showing you what else is out there: these films will have you running to the nearest airport to book a one-way ticket on the next flight leaving the ground.
#1 Into the Wild
Despite its grim conclusion, Into the Wild is firmly anchored in the hearts of travellers everywhere. The film follows the true story of Christopher McCandless who abandons his conventional life after graduation and ventures across North America. Free from the strictures of society, his travels allow him to find himself while traversing some of the most beautiful landscapes in America. Encapsulating the feeling of adventure, freedom and spontaneity that comes with chucking a change of clothes into a backpack and simply setting off, Into the Wild is the one of the classic go-to travel films.
#2 Midnight in Paris
If you’re of the school of thought that Paris is the most magical city in the world, likelihood is that Midnight in Paris is already among your favourite travel films. Almost anything shot on location in the City of Light would make the most hardened traveller weak at the knees, but Woody Allen’s 2011 release captures the Paris we all dream of visiting.
As anyone who’s already visited will know, the modern day city is a far cry from the gold-bathed, Insta-ready streets of Allen’s movie – and you certainly don’t find yourself transported back to the ’20s at midnight. Still, if the prospect of hanging out with Hemingway, drinking with Dalì and meeting Picasso’s mistress doesn’t have you booking a flight to Paris CDG, nothing will.
#3 Lost in Translation
If you’ve ever dreamed of deriving an income off obscure Japanese commercials, who better than Bill Murray to show you how. Sofia Coppola’s beloved 2003 release, Lost in Translation, shows how planting yourself in an alien culture can help you to find friendship, as well as a few home truths about yourself.
Bob and Charlotte’s equal confusion over their surroundings leads to a joint effort in poorly navigating Japanese culture. From the bizarre to the touching, the unlikely pair’s foray through Tokyo portrays travel, however unintended, as an irresistible path towards new experiences and exciting new perspectives. Just remember to leave the hotel bar at some point!
#4 La Grande Bellezza
Roman Holiday normally wins the top spot for the best movie set in Rome, even among travel films, but Paolo Sorrentino’s 2013 film, La Grande Bellezza (The Great Beauty) is a worthy rival. Featuring stunning cinematography that captures Italy’s capital at its finest, the film is as much a character portrait of the city as it is of its lead, the ageing socialite Jep Gambardella. And what better place to set a film based on memory and the past than one of the most historic sites in all of Europe? Wild parties, idyllic scenery and an aural stream of gorgeous Italian: not only is La Grande Bellezza of Palme d’Or-contending quality, it’ll also have you jumping on the nearest Vespa to Roma.
#5 Frances Ha
Forget Manhattan, Noah Baumbach’s 2013 movie Frances Ha is the new golden standard for black and white movies set in New York. With cage elevators, play fights in Central Park and pirouettes over pedestrian crossings, the joy in this movie does well to distract you from the central struggles of being young and broke in New York City.
The buzz of the bright lights and the big city are infectious while Baumbach’s use of black and white does for New York what Allen’s gold-draped lighting does for Paris: airbrush out all the nastiness and make the place picture perfect. We’ll take a one way ticket to JFK, please.
#6 Bombay Beach
If you’re an aspiring doco-maker and love to travel, listen up: this film is for you. Director Alma Har’el’s debut won Best Documentary at the 2011 Tribeca Film Festival and for good reason.
Venturing out to Bombay Beach, an old resort built during the ’50s developing boom and since abandoned, Har’el paints a portrait of the motley crew of characters inhabiting it. Seen through her lens, Bombay Beach is brought alive with a soundtrack from Beirut’s Zach Condon and choreographed sequences evoking the daydreams of her subjects. The combination of a landscape so hauntingly beautiful and people so surprisingly esoteric will make you want to grab your camera, hitchhike to the nearest ghost town and start shooting.
#7 On the Road
Based on Jack Kerouac’s highly influential 1957 novel of the same name, On the Road calls on a stellar travelling pedigree in its portrayal of tearaway youth. Set when all you needed was a couple of dollars, a pen and a functioning thumb to flag down passing cars, On the Road is a distillation of what it’s like to be young, rebellious and drunk on the prospect of the unknown.
Whatever you think of Kerouac’s novel, it’s difficult not to be enchanted by the vintage cars and clothes featured in the film. The young characters’ experiences and the chronicles that follow will inspire you to load your camera up with 35mm, chuck a notepad in your backpack and get going.
If schlepping across the desert of our very own continent-sized country with a bunch of camels is a thought you find appealing, you’re not alone. Based on the true story of Robyn Davidson’s 2700km trek across Australia, Tracks has all the hallmarks of the young, spirited traveller. A sense of adventure, an iron will and some shaky camel training knowledge see Mia Wasikowska, playing Robyn, take on the impossible feat of walking from Alice Springs to the coast of Western Australia.
Throw in a National Geographic photographer, played by Adam Driver, and you’ve got a legendary tale waiting to happen. If you do take inspiration from Davidson’s story, though, do yourself a favour and make the return journey by plane!
Rachel Wilson is a writer from the UK whose work has appeared online at The Guardian, TheVine, The Vagenda and more. She loves films, photography, books, music and travel – especially if any of the above are in French. You can find her @rmiwilson on Twitter and Instagram.