I’m living in the restless in-between, when adventures and new places feel both distant in the past and far-off in the future. While nothing cures that melancholy like booking a flight, the next best thing to satisfy that wanderlust craving is to queue up a series of travel-themed movies. While your wallet and commitments demand that you stay a homebody, your spirit can travel the world with characters who set the bar for jet-setting. (Okay, and a few who are the opposite of #goals.) You can take in the same sights and scenery without the overpriced souvenirs.
Perhaps the more honest title of this piece would be “11 Travel Movies That Are a Much Cheaper Alternative to the Vacation I Want to Go On But My Wallet and Calendar Won’t Allow.”
Unfortunately, that just doesn’t have quite the same ring (or, frankly, SEO value) to it. Still, you might just catch a glimpse of the next place on your travel bucket list—here’s hoping these movies inspire your next adventure!
For Girls’ Night
The Holiday (2006)
Letters to Juliet (2010)
Monte Carlo (2011)
The best movie romances are never just about the love story, which is why these three romantic dramedies are winners. In The Holiday, Kate Winslet and Cameron Diaz switch their London and Los Angeles homes for two weeks over their Christmas holidays. In Letters to Juliet, Amanda Seyfried discovers a lost love letter while in Italy and seeks to reunite the lovers. And in Monte Carlo, Selena Gomez travels with Leighton Meester and Katie Cassidy to France, but their trip goes south (literally) when she’s mistaken for an heiress and must go to Monaco.
Stepping outside your comfort zone with a new stamp in your passport is a surefire way to learn more about yourself and what you’re passionate about, and these characters prioritize finding themselves over finding romantic flings. Plus, the settings in these movies could spark wanderlust in anyone. Los Angeles palm trees? Snowy British cottages? Rolling hills of Italian wineries? Blue Mediterranean waters? Yikes, I think I booked a flight just by writing that sentence!
(P.S. If Letters to Juliet makes you realize you love the look of an Italian wedding, check out this recent post about a real Italian wedding.)
For Action and Thrills
North by Northwest (1959)
Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)
The Bourne Identity (2002)
Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation (2015)
What says adventure like racing against the clock? You can join Cary Grant driving through New York, taking the train to Chicago and flying to Mount Rushmore after he’s framed for a crime. Or consider teaming up with Indiana Jones as he outruns Nazis from South America to Nepal to Cairo. Europe more your style? Both Jason Bourne and Ethan Hunt are fighting assassins all over the continent. Because these spies and fugitives are doing their best to blend in, each scene gives a flavor of each locale — with a few larger-than-life stunts added to the mix.
The best part may be that any vacation of yours will be less stressful than theirs — or that if you like these movies, almost all have sequels to help you extend your trip.
For a Laugh
Planes, Trains and Automobiles (1987)
Traveling mishaps! Tourist fashion! Driving the wrong way on the highway! Steve Martin is stuck with John Candy on a cross-country trip trying to get home for Thanksgiving in Planes, Trains and Automobiles, and Melissa McCarthy is stuck in a series of bad sweaters while trying to save the world. There are two ways you can watch these movies:
- Before you leave on a trip to make almost any troubles you have on your trip seem like small potatoes.
- Once you return from your trip to make almost any troubles you had on your trip seem like small potatoes.
All three of these comedy stars are at their funniest in a life-threatening espionage mission from Paris to Rome to Budapest and a roundabout journey from New York to Chicago. While no trip ever sticks 100% to the itinerary, your lost luggage, phone or even (gasp!) passport can’t compare to these laughing-so-hard-you’re-crying adventures.
For a Little Song and Dance
On the Town (1949)
Funny Face (1957)
I’m a sucker for a good musical, and these classics bring music to the excitement of visiting a new place. In On the Town, Gene Kelly, Frank Sinatra and Jules Munshin are sailors with 24 hours on leave in New York City, and in Funny Face, photographer Fred Astaire and bookish Audrey Hepburn are shooting fashion photography in Paris for the first time.
While a few moments feel outdated today (like a bizarre dance number in the American Museum of Natural History), these movies’ spirits never will. Who needs sleep when you’re in a city that never sleeps? If your original agenda doesn’t work out, who’s going to stop you from finding a new adventure? I especially feel for Sinatra’s character who wants to see all of the sights in just a day. (Alas, his guidebook is outdated — he should have read Kristin’s guide to find the best spots.) Be sure to add “New York, New York” and “Bonjour, Paris!” to your playlists when you visit these cities.
For Travel Tunes
Actually, on second thought, how about a full playlist? Check out this Spotify playlist with some of the best music from each of these movies to provide the soundtrack as you prep for your next adventure:
And learn more about all of these best movies about travel (and how to watch them) on Letterboxd. (Just click on each film’s page to see available ways to watch.)