Looking for Travel Inspiration? To the Movies!

When I was young and growing up, my world was a small one.  I never went abroad as a child as my parents were never that well off, and for my mother especially, she had a couple of bad experiences (including a coach holiday to Italy that she once described as torturous!), and so for me, adventure was limited to places like Brean Sands, Rhyl and Brixham.  Hey, don’t knock it, I had a wonderful time as a child.

For me, though, adventure abroad was something I only saw on film and in television, and its just one of many ways people find inspiration to pack a bag and fly to somewhere special and inviting.  Here I’ve brought together two of my fondest loves; Film and Travel to present to you 10, nay 11 movies that I think are well worth a look if you’re looking for inspiration for where to travel.

1) Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade


The third in the trilogy in which Harrison Ford plays the eponymous hero is one of the best, and takes us from Utah to Venice to Austria/Berlin and finally to Jordan.  The cinematography has always been the hallmark of all three of the original trilogy, and it certainly doesn’t fail to ignite a sense of adventure.  The cavernous valleys of Petra is the highlight, and its why its on my own bucket list.  All of the Indy films are great for travel inspiration though, as are the Star Wars films.

2) Lost in Translation


Nothing quite encapsulates the fish-out-of-water theme so well as being in a metropolis, surrounded by people who don’t speak your language.  Its reminiscent of that holiday you had, when you met that girl, and nothing really happened, but you both knew it would be something that you’d think about for years to come.  There is an eerie sense of loneliness in the lead characters which is amplified by Toyko’s neon landscape, which is why you feel their connection so strongly.  See also Black Rain for a late 80’s buddy cop take on Japan, also one of my favourites.

3) The Motorcycle Diaries


Charting the travel experiences of Che Guevara and his friend through South America, with such great iconic visuals such as visiting Machu Picchu and the Peruvian Amazon, its hard to deny your sense of wanderlust.  It inspired me to explore part of Vietnam by motorbike as well.

4) The Beach


Based on the Alex Garland novel, the Beach follows the journey of Richard, a backpacker in Thailand, trying to find a legendary beach untouched by tourism – a true paradise.  Visually stunning throughout, thanks to Danny Boyle’s direction, it invokes that desire to take a diversion from the tourist trail and find something unique.

5) XXX


A strange choice you might think, but actually XXX is almost exclusively set in Prague in the Czech Republic.  It is a beautiful old city, and its architecture and riverside are showcased in a number of chases within the film.  It is a film with many faults.  The plot is weak, the dialogue also weak, and the acting is questionable, but as an advertisement for Prague, its a solid choice.  It’s also, nowhere near as bad as XXX-2 with Ice Cube.  At least this one had Asia Argento and Marton Csokas in supporting roles.

6) The Secret Life of Walter Mitty


If there’s a film that screams at you: “Its not too late to try something amazing.” Its this film.  Ben Stiller plays the underachieving Walter, who takes a leap of faith and goes on a world-hopping adventure to save his and his co-worker’s job.  It’s not a great script but the visuals and the music are amazing.  If you want to take the plunge and travel the world but are afraid to, then this film might be one you need to watch.

7) In Bruges


Brendan Gleeson (Ken) and Colin Farrell (Ray) are laying low in the Belgian city after a hit went bad, awaiting further instructions from their boss, Harry.  In the meantime, they’re free to enjoy all that Bruges has to offer, and for Ray, that doesn’t appear to be much.  It shows off Bruges beautiful buildings and canals, even if Ray isn’t enamored with it, and it seems to be a city filled with charming little pubs and tourists attractions.  If you don’t want to go to too far from the UK, you could do a lot worse that visit Bruges.

8) The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring


The story of the fellowship who journey to Mount Doom to destroy the One Ring is littered with perfect examples of why New Zealand is a beautiful country filled with diverse landscapes.  You can actually visit the set of the Shire, where the Hobbits live, and the New Zealand tourist board are very proud of their connection to the film that Wellington Airport is littered with characters and backdrops from Peter Jackson’s epic.  So its hard to remove the association if you do go to visit.

9) Slumdog Millionaire


The second of Danny Boyle’s films in this list is centred around Jamal, a call centre operative who has made it as a contestant on India’s version of ‘Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?’  As he answers some difficult questions correctly, he is arrested overnight on suspicion of cheating before completing his run on the show, and asked to account for himself.  The story then focuses on how Jamal has come to know the answers through accounts of his life story.  The film itself is well directed and paints a colourful canvas of life growing up in the slums of Mumbai.  Its a great story and fun to watch, but it also shows you India in the raw.  See also Life of Pi for some incredible visuals of French Colonial India at the beginning of the film.

10) Once Upon a Time in Mexico


From the opening scene with the Mariachi walking through the town square to the end with the parade through the city, it painted a vivid vista of Mexican life and culture. It came with a great soundtrack too.  Robert Rodrigez’s homage to the Mexican Western genre was over the top, but we’d expect nothing less, and Johnny Depp’s CIA antihero was a marvelous addition.  Mexico is as picturesque as that movie would have you believe as well.  See Desperado, El Mariachi and From Dusk Til Dawn for more.

11) The Water Diviner


One I saw recently, stars Russell Crowe as an Australian farmer who travels to Turkey to discover what happened to the three sons who went off to fight the Turks at Gallipoli.  It shows an account of the aftermath, during the reclamation of fallen troops from the infamous campaign to hold the Dardanelles straits, he arrives in Istanbul unable to get a permit to visit Canakkale, and befriends a Turkish war widow and her son at the hotel she works.  It shows both sides of the conflict, which is nice, and some incredible, picturesque landscapes as well.

Some other films worthy of mention include the original Bourne Trilogy, and the James Bond movies, for their diversity in locations, and how they’re used.  Inception gave a great view of Paris, Manhattan and Mombassa among its various locations.  There are too many films to mention that bring to life the American Road Trip, but the first Hangover Movie is a good example.  City of God, in much the same as way as slumdog, gives you a no-holds-barred view of life growing up in Rio De Janeiro, but if you want to see a more modern view, then Fast and Furious 5 is good as well. Then there’s Lawrence of Arabia, South Pacific, Doctor Zhivago, Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon, Dances with Wolves, Hidalgo, The Last King of Scotland…., et cetera.

Whatever it is within a movie that makes you take a breath and say, that looks beautiful, I really wish I was there right now.  Let that be your reason to book your flights.



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