10 must-see movies for travel inspiration

Estimated reading time: 4 minutes

Finding inspiration for travel on the big screen

Growing up, my travel world was limited to family vacations in Florida, and road trips Alabama to visit relatives each Thanksgiving and Christmas. Though these trips were fun and full of memories, they didn’t exactly inspire me to travel. I wasn’t officially bitten by the travel bug until I was seven years old when I made my first international trip—a journey from the English countryside to Vulgaria in a floating, flying car named Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.

I asked my parents if we could take our summer vacation in Vulgaria and see the castle instead of our normal trip to Panama City Beach. I explained that the evil Baron Bomburst and the Child Catcher had been captured and that Vulgaria was now completely safe for children. Though I was disappointed to learn that Vulgaria was a fictional place in a movie, the desire to visit strange and foreign lands had been ignited.

Ever since, I have found, and continue to find, inspiration for my travels from the movies. Here is my list of 10 must-see movies for travel inspiration.

1. Around the World in 80 Days
Based on the Jules Verne novel, Around the World in 80 Days was originally made in 1956 starring David Niven and Cantinflas, and was remade in 2004 starring Jackie Chan and Steve Coogan. Set in 1872, both the original and the remake follow the exploits of Phileas Fogg and his sidekick, Passepartout, as they set out to circumnavigate the globe in 80 days in order to win a wager. Their journey allows them to experience a variety of cultures as they travel through London, Paris, Turkey, India, China, and the United States.

2. The Bucket List
Jack Nicholson portrays a terminally ill billionaire who meets a terminally ill auto mechanic, Morgan Freeman, while sharing a hospital room. Together they embark on an around the world adventure in an effort to do all the things they’ve always wanted to do before they kick the bucket. This movie not only inspires travel but also provides motivation to make a pursue your own bucket list.

3. Wild Hogs
Wild Hogs is a comedy about four suburban friends going through a midlife crisis who venture from Cincinnati to the west coast on motorcycles in pursuit of adventure. While in New Mexico, they encounter a “real” biker gang that humiliates them and steals one of their bikes. Mayhem ensues as they try to get the bike back. The open road scenery, particularly out west, will have you longing to take a road trip.

4. James Bond  
There are a lot of films in the James Bond franchise. “Which one?” you ask. “All of them!” I say.  Before the opening credits, almost every Bond film opens with a thrilling chase scene in an exotic location where Agent 007 wraps up his latest mission. After the movie’s introductory theme song, Bond transverses the globe pursuing bad guys and saving the world from certain destruction. The cinematography is spectacular and locations leave you wanting to see more and more of the world. Did I mention Ian Fleming who also wrote Chitty Chitty Bang Bang created the James Bond character?

Viewfinder Tip: You can search for movies about a particular destination using the advanced search feature on IMDB.com

5. Vacation
National Lampoon’s Vacation is a classic comedy where Clark Griswold, played by Chevy Chase, takes his family on a road trip from Chicago to California. Though nothing goes as planned, Clark remains undeterred in his quest to get his family to Wally World in Los Angeles, even if that means breaking a few laws. In spite of all of the Griswold’s setbacks, Clark’s determination to complete the journey is inspirational. In the sequel, National Lampoon’s European Vacation, the Griswold family encounters similar mishaps, like knocking over Stonehenge, as they trip through England, France, Germany, and Italy.

6. Sideways
Paul Giamatti and Thomas Haden Church star as Miles and Jack, two friends who road trip from San Diego to California’s wine country before Jack takes the big trip down the isle in matrimony. Miles, an avid oenophile, envisions them playing golf, touring wineries, and sampling fine wines. Jack is just looking to have one last sexual fling before he gets married. If you’re a wine enthusiast like me, this comedy/drama will definitely inspire a visit wine country.

7. Eat Pray Love
Julia Roberts portrays Liz Gilbert, a recently divorced woman who decides to step out of her comfort zone to regain her appetite for life. Her quest to “find herself” takes her to Italy, India, and Bali. The scenery alone will have you adding destinations to your bucket list, and her journey will inspire you to break with the old routine, take a risk, and experience something new.

8. Endless Summer
Talk about an epic adventure! In this 1966 documentary, two surfer friends circle the globe in pursuit of the perfect wave. Even if you’re not a surfing fan, you’ll love seeing beaches around the world. Filming locations include California, Hawaii, Ghana, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Tahiti, Nigeria, and Senegal.

9. Without a Paddle
Without a Paddle is a fish-out-of-water comedy about three childhood friends from Philadelphia who reunite at the funeral of a fourth friend, ten years after they graduated from high school. To honor their lost friend, they decide fulfill their childhood fantasy of finding the stolen loot of famed high-jacker D.B. Cooper in the Oregon wilderness. The beautiful mountains, rivers, and wildlife will excite the nature lover in you and motivate you to get out into the woods.

10. Long Way Round
Actor Ewan McGregor of Star Wars and Moulin Rouge fame, and his actor friend, Charlie Boorman, travel from London to New York City on motorcycles. By taking the long way around the globe they travel through numerous countries in Europe and Asia before flying to Alaska and continuing their journey through Canada and the United States. Technically Long Way Round is a documentary series, but if you’re a travel nut and binge watch it like I did, it plays like one long inspirational movie.

Which movies have inspired your travels? 

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