Make some popcorn and dim the lights… here are 20+ travel movies that will inspire you to go globetrotting, if not through their travel based stories, by their amazing scenery. These films and documentaries were crowd-sourced from a group of avid travellers with varying interests and range from the adventurous to the romantic. These travel movies showcase dozens of destinations that will surely spark your wanderlust.
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Nature and Adventure Travel Movies
The Way (2011)
When Daniel dies trekking the El Camino De Santiago, his father Tom travels to France to recover his body. It is there Tom is inspired to complete the journey his son could not.
Tracks is based on the true story of Robyn Davidson’s 9-month trek across Australian deserts. The film was adapted from Davidson’s memoir detailing her 1977 adventure, walking across 2700km (1700mi) from Alice Springs to the Indian Ocean accompanied by her dog and four camels. You probably won’t feel compelled to follow in her footsteps, but you will admire her courage and the amazing Australian outback.
The Beach (2000)
A young traveller sets out to find a mysterious Thai beach and finds a troubled paradise. A secret community of travellers inhabits the island alongside Thai cannabis farmers, until it’s not so secret anymore.
Traveller tip: The amazing island scenery in The Beach was filmed in Maya Bay, on Phi Phi Leh, an island of Thailand.
Based on author, Cheryl Strayed’s memoir, the film chronicles her solo hike along 1,100 miles of the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT). The book/movie raised the popularity of the trail so much, the PCT Association had to revamp their hiking permit system in 2015 to cap the number of long-distance hikers per day.
Traveller tip: Wild was filmed in and around Portland Oregon including Smith Rock State Park, Crater Lake and Lassen Volcanic National Park.
Kon-Tiki is based on the true story of explorer Thor Heyerdahl’s crossing of the Pacific Ocean on a balsawood raft. The Norwegian adventurer wanted to prove the possibility of pre-Columbian migration between South America and Polynesia. It won’t make you want to make you hop the next raft across an expanse of ocean, but it will make you appreciate cruise ships and air travel.
Even if you don’t go for the romantic plot about an English aristocrat falling for an Aussie stockman in the sprawling outback, you can’t help but be enamoured by the stunning landscapes of my homeland.
Romance and Self Discovery Travel Movies
Under the Tuscan Sun (2003)
An American divorcee impulsively buys a villa in the most adorable Tuscan town and sets out to revive her renovator’s delight, along her life.
Traveller tip: Under the Tuscan sun was mostly filmed around the town of Cortona, near Arezzo in Tuscany, and in the hills around Tuoro sul Trasimeno on Lake Trasimene in Umbria. There are two Villas Bramasole – the actual one the author, Frances Mayes, bought and renovated and a second used for the film.
A mysterious woman and her daughter move into a small French village and ruffle feathers by not conforming to the townsfolk’s rigid values.
Traveller tip: Scenes were filmed around the medieval village of Flavigny-sur-Ozerain in the Burgundy region of France and on the Rue De L’ancienne Poste in Beynac-et-Cazenac in Dordogne.
Before Sunrise (1995)
An American tourist, and French student meet on a train travelling from Budapest to Vienna. They spend a day together and develop a bond that makes the thought of their pending separation, more and more difficult.
Midnight in Paris (2011)
Screenwriter Gil, journeys to Paris with his fiancée and her family. On an evening walk, Gil finds himself in the 1920s — his romantic image of Paris’ hey-day. Geographic travel and time travel in one!
Eat, Pray, Love (2010)
Frustrated with her loss of enthusiasm for her life, Elizabeth Gilbert makes a journey of self-discovery that takes her to Italy, India and Indonesia.
The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel (2011)
A group of British retirees travel to India where they find their new home is not as it was promised, but as my favourite quote from the movie says: “Everything will be alright in the end. If it is not alright, it is not the end.
Traveller tip: The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel is actually Ravla Khempur, an equestrian hotel that was originally a palace. It is located in the village of Kemphur in the Rajasthani countryside.
Hector’s Search For Happiness (2014)
Psychiatrist Hector embarks on a quest to research the secret of happiness. This film hits four continents – North America, Europe, Asia and Africa.
Outstanding Travel Documentaries
Antarctica: A Year on Ice (2013)
The story of a year spent living in the coldest, driest place on earth. Contains must-see timelapse footage of the remote southern continent. I know someone who spent a year in Antarctica, who said this is the closest they’ve seen to capturing their lived experience.
180 Degrees South: Conquerors of the Useless (2010)
Jeff Johnson sets out to retrace the 1968 journey of his heroes Yvon Chouinard and Douglas Tompkins (founders of Patagonia and Northface respectively) to Patagonia, Chile.
Long Way Round (2004)
Actors Ewan McGregor and Charley Boorman make a 31,000km (19,000 mile) journey on motorbikes across Europe and Asia, flying to Alaska and continuing to New York.
Waste Land (2010)
Waste Land follows artist Vik Muniz to the world’s largest garbage dump located in Brazil, where he photographs catadores who make a living by picking through the garbage to find recyclable materials. Huffington Post called this “The Slumdog Millionaire of documentaries: an inspiring, deeply moving crowd pleaser.”
The Art of Flight (2011)
A Red Bull sponsored documentary combining adrenalin pumping, freestyle snowboarding and breathtaking scenery.
The Swiss Family Robinson (1960)
A shipwrecked family make a fantastic life for themselves on a deserted island. A whimsical, kid-friendly version of Tom Hanks’ Cast Away.
Traveller tip: The original 1960, Swiss Family Robinson flick was filmed on the island of Tobago in the Caribbean.
The Sound of Music (1965)
This award-winning musical is a favourite among young and old featuring stunning footage of Austria. You won’t be able to resist those opening shots of Salzburg’s stunning Lake District, the Salzkammergut.
Travel TV shows
Men in Kilts (2021)
Road trip through Scotland’s incredible landscapes, heritage and culture with Outlander cast members Sam Heughan and Graham McTavish as your guides in Men in Kilts.
Joanna Lumley’s Nile (2010)
British model, actress and presenter, Joanna Lumley (you might know her as Patsy in Ab Fab), has hosted quite a few travel series now and they are all worthy of your attention. My favourite to date is her trip down the Nile, travelling 4000 miles from the mouth of the River in the Mediterranean to its source, in this 4-episode mini-series.
Mekong River with Sue Perkins (2014)
Comedian, actress and presenter, Sue Perkins, follows the Mekong River through Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos and China. Having spent some time on various parts of the Mekong myself, this only made me long to return.
An Idiot Abroad (2010-2013)
An Idiot Abroad is a comedic documentary following Karl Pilkington, a simple British homebody, as his colleagues Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant send him out to travel the world. The three seasons were filmed from 2010-2013 and has an accompanying book and podcast. Watch the trailer here.
Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown
I would be remiss if I did not include at least one Anthony Bourdain travel tv show on this list, although they all deserve a spot. Foodies and adventurers alike will appreciate Bourdain’s globetrotting. As unfiltered as An Idiot Abroad but with a completely different point of view.
If you have a favourite travel movie, documentary or tv show, please share it with us in the comments below.
Peace, love & inspiring travel,