If social distancing at home has left you feeling claustrophobic in your surroundings, we suggest looking to the silver screen for a mental vacation. To that end, we’ve put together a list of our favorite films to take you on a virtual journey to past trips and adventures. Restless would-be travelers can find a cinematic escape to the deserts of Jordan, the rivers of Montana, and the nightlife of the French Riviera. Read on for the 10 best movies to go on a virtual adventure around the world, without ever leaving the sanctity of your couch. Trust us; you’ll want to add these films to your Netflix queue. Read on and happy (virtual) travels!
Roman Holiday (1953)
What’s not to love about this black-and-white classic? It’s got Audrey Hepburn, it’s got Gregory Peck, it’s set in Rome; there’s a quirky, comical love story. Hepburn plays a princess in town for a goodwill tour, Peck a journalist for an American news bureau who misses his big interview with HRH. When he helps a young, seemingly drunk woman one night and lets her sleep it off in his apartment, he realizes he may have the scoop of his career as the next day’s news reports say the princess has canceled her engagements due to illness. And then he pieces the two together. What follows is a grand romp, with Peck playing the regular joe and local guide to the princess, who just wants to shed the royal obligations and enjoy a little freedom for a change. Their tour of Rome proves the perfect catalyst for their budding romance, and it’s impossible not to have the same effect on the audience.
The Endless Summer (1966)
“Catch a wave and you’re sitting on top of the world,” sang the Beach Boys; and if ever a film embodied that mindset, it’s Bruce Brown’s 1966 surfer documentary. Brown shadowed buddies Robert August and Mike Hynson on a round-the-world surfing trip, filming their travels to places like Hawaii, New Zealand, and South Africa as they crested waves and met like-minded surf obsessives. The film’s impact on surf culture and tourism was huge, thanks in no small part to Brown’s cinematography, as well as the subjects’ ability to make riding those impossibly large waves seem effortless.
Into the Wild (2007)
Based on a true story, this movie follows Christopher McCandless as he tries to shed his material life and get in touch with real life and nature. After graduating from college, Christopher sets out on a road trip through the USA before ending up in Alaska. Much of the story is based on second-hand accounts, yet the movie is a poignant reminder that we all could simplify our lives a little bit and just enjoy living. It reminds us that travel is not about what we carry with us but about what we carry inside.
Dirty Rotten Scoundrels (1988)
The movie that transports us to a favorite travel spot is Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, a 1988 comedy starring Steve Martin and Michael Caine as highfalutin con men on the French Riviera. It was filmed in Antibes, Cannes, Beaulieu-sur-Mer, Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat, Nice, and Villefranche-sur-Mer.
We’re partial to Goodfellas because of a memorable Goodfellas NYC tour we joined, which is a mix of real-life spots (from the book) and filming locations. Visiting filming locations gives you a whole new appreciation of a given movie. And New York is one big film set in many ways. Most of the major events in the story took place in and around Ozone Park, which is one of the most interesting neighborhoods in New York.
Murder on the Orient Express (1974)
While the 2017 remake of Murder on the Orient Express was pretty to look at, you simply can’t beat the 1974 original. The mystery boasts an excellent ensemble cast led by Albert Finney as Agatha Christie’s iconic Belgian detective Hercule Poirot. He’s minding his own business on the long-distance train when a fellow passenger is murdered in the middle of the night. Poirot agrees to investigate the murder, along with the train’s first-class compartment full of characters, ranging from a Russian princess to a gorgeous young countess. Throw in the snowy Yugoslavian countryside, and train travel has never looked so glamorous. (Minus the murder, of course.)
Thelma & Louise (1991)
Thelma & Louise reinvented the concept of the buddy movie by putting two women on the road, escaping good-for-nothing men and setting off on an adventure of their own making. For the first time, women were at the center of the picaresque. Ultimately, Thelma and Louise don’t get their happy ending, but the best coda is knowing their movie paved the way for countless other women to hit the road on their own.
Before Sunrise (1995)
Richard Linklater turned the stroll-and-talk into an art form in his slow-cinema trilogy. It all began with this quiet, lovely indie, which features a baby-faced Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy flirting and philosophizing as they wander the cobblestone streets of Vienna after hours. The city becomes the third character in the romance, just as Paris would nine years later in Before Sunset, and Messenia, Greece, nine years after that in Before Midnight. All three movies are a testament to travel’s power to realign your perception of your own life.
The Beach (2000)
Released in 2000, the movie follows Alex Garland’s novel about young backpackers who set out to find paradise but end up destroying it, and it had us drooling over Thailand. Those beaches, those parties, those people. It seemed wonderful. Backpackers in Asia are always reading the book, and the movie plays in all the guesthouses. It says something about our hopes for the road: we want to find our own idyllic, romantic paradise. The one we all think won’t be destroyed, but will. The movie has a different ending, characters, and storyline than the book, but the theme is the same. It is a great reflection of the hopes and realities of travel.
A Map for Saturday (2007)
This documentary follows Brook Silva Braga as he prepares for his year-long trip around the world. He films the entire trip and it is one of the best movies about long-term travel. It captures the anxiety before your trip, the worry of your friends and family, the ups and downs, the fleeting romances, deep friendships, and stresses of the road like no other movie ever has.