Best 20 movies about travel: The films that make us want to visit spectacular destinations

Before many of us had the opportunity to see the world through our own eyes, we saw it illuminated on the silver screen, stories framed against a backdrop of faraway lands, real and imagined, from hills that almost seemed alive in Salzburg to the meadows of New Zealand's Middle Earth and a lovers' rendezvous atop the Empire State Building.

However, the best travel films don't just offer us a sense of place, they capture the power and transformative nature of a journey and more often than not, inspire us to set out to discover for ourselves what lies beyond the horizon.

As we settle into a period during which we are armchair voyagers once again, these movies remind us of the beauty that is out there waiting, and give us reasons to go back again.


Roman Holiday, 1953

THE PLOT Ann, a runaway princess, explores Rome with an ambitious ex-pat reporter called Joe who is keen to sell her story and secure a ticket home.

WHY YOU SHOULD WATCH Roman Holiday took a lot of the dramatic action out of the studio and on to the streets of Rome showing the appeal of exotic foreign locations to cinemagoers. It also introduced world audiences to Audrey Hepburn.

THE BEST TRAVEL SCENE Joe (played by Gregory Peck) places his hand in the Mouth of Truth which stands near a church in Rome's Piazza della Bocca della Verita and pretends it's been bitten. It was an on-set practical joke played on Hepburn but director William Wyler kept the scene in the film, as her genuine reaction was the best take.

WHERE TO WATCH Google Play, iTunes, YouTube


Sideways, 2004

In this promotional photo released by Fox Searchlight Pictures, actors Paul Giamatti, left, and Thomas Haden Church appear in a scene from

THE PLOT A divorced wine connoisseur and his womanising best friend, Jack, head out on a road trip to Santa Barbara County wine country the week before Jack's wedding.


WHY YOU SHOULD WATCH One for true wine lovers, Sideways is a celebration of wine, wine culture and California's wine country, but also takes a surprisingly deep look at middle-age disappointment. The now famous line "If anyone orders merlot, I'm leaving. I am NOT drinking any f---ing merlot", is said to have slowed sales of the variety. Watch it with your favourite drop.

THE BEST TRAVEL SCENE The split screen montage at the beginning of the film is a little dated, but cheerfully captures the experience of a day out in wine country.

WHERE TO WATCH Google Play, iTunes, YouTube


The Endless Summer, 1966

The Endless Summer poster for obit

THE PLOT Two surfers from California travel the world in this documentary directed by Bruce Brown.

WHY YOU SHOULD WATCH A cult classic, The Endless Summer captures the spirit of the surf scene in the 1960s. It's also an intrepid film, with its subjects travelling from Senegal to Tahiti in search of new breaks.

THE BEST TRAVEL SCENE Carrying longboards, the surfers trek across a field of endless sand dunes to find the perfect wave at Cape Saint Francis in South Africa.

WHERE TO WATCH Google Play, YouTube


The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, 1994


THE PLOT Three drag queens drive a pink bus from Sydney to Alice Springs to star in a show.

WHY YOU SHOULD WATCH Shot largely in Broken Hill, it juxtaposes the natural beauty of the Australian desert with the glitz of the drag scene, Priscilla is an ambitious film with a witty script that confronts queer-phobia.

THE BEST TRAVEL SCENE Wearing work boots and full showgirl regalia, the three performers climb to the top of Kings Canyon in the film's triumphant finale.

WHERE TO WATCH Foxtel Go, Google Play, YouTube


Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, 1989

THE PLOT The third Indiana Jones film sees everyone's favourite archaeologist set out to rescue his father – and find the Holy Grail.

WHY YOU SHOULD WATCH The Indiana Jones trilogy has always been a nostalgic treat, from the stunning desert scenes shot in Tunisia for Raiders of the Lost Ark to the rope-bridge showdown filmed in Sri Lanka in Temple of Doom. But it's the incredible sense of adventure and fun that makes this a great escape from the day-to-day mundanity.

THE BEST TRAVEL SCENE The triumphant charge on horseback from the Treasury in Petra, Jordan into the sunset.

WHERE TO WATCH Netflix, Stan, Foxtel Go, Google Play, iTunes, YouTube


Mamma Mia!, 2008

COLIN FIRTH (Harry) and AMANDA SEYFRIED (Sophie) in Mamma Mia! SMH METRO

Photo: Peter Mountain

THE PLOT Young bride Sophie invites three men, each of whom were at one time her mother's lover, to her wedding in the Greek Islands determined to find out which one is her father.

WHY YOU SHOULD WATCH Let's not over think it – Mamma Mia! is the film version of the musical adaption of a bunch of pop songs by Abba. The real reason to watch is for the Greek Island of Skopelos, eye-candy of the first order, and because it's carefree fun.

THE BEST TRAVEL SCENE Nothing beats Meryl Streep's dive bomb off the dock after singing Dancing Queen.

WHERE TO WATCH Netflix, Google Play, iTunes, YouTube


The Sound of Music, 1965

Julie Andrews in a scene from the film The Sound of Music. SHD TELEVISION MAGAZINE (NO CAPTION INFORMATION PROVIDED)

THE PLOT A novice nun called Maria, who has a penchant for bursting into song, is sent by her Salzburg convent to look after seven children. She marries their widower father and together, the family flee to Switzerland.

WHY YOU SHOULD WATCH With its earworm lyrics, panoramic scenery and PG rating, The Sound of Music is the first film many of us were exposed to from a young age, showcasing majestic mountain landscapes. There's an innocence to the film despite the looming threat the family faces, and ultimately it's their journey through the mountains that saves them from life under the Nazis.

THE BEST TRAVEL SCENE The opening sequence, in which Maria sings in a meadow with the snow-capped Alps in the background.

WHERE TO WATCH Foxtel Go, Disney+, Google Play, iTunes, YouTube


Free Solo, 2018

THE PLOT A documentary about rock climber Alex Honnold, who attempts to climb the foreboding El Capitan in Yosemite National Park, California without a rope.

WHY YOU SHOULD WATCH It's rare for a movie to leave you genuinely enthralled and gets your pulse racing, but Free Solo, which won the Academy Award for Best Documentary in 2019 will take you up onto the cliff face and spark lively debate about the ethics behind the filmmaking process. A story of personal ambition and pushing the edge of physical achievement, it's also elegantly filmed and crafted.

THE BEST TRAVEL SCENE The final, tense climb up El Capitan is so gut-wrenching members of the crew can't watch.

WHERE TO WATCH Disney+, Google Play, iTunes, YouTube


The Darjeeling Limited, 2007

THE PLOT Three brothers go on a train journey across India in search of spiritual fulfilment after the death of their father.

WHY YOU SHOULD WATCH Director Wes Anderson has long captured the style and feel of travel in his films, but The Darjeeling Limited is a sobering journey that deals with grief through a journey.

THE BEST TRAVEL SCENE The brothers make a run for a departing train, having to dump their father's monogrammed luggage – and emotional baggage – to get aboard.

WHERE TO WATCH Google Play, iTunes, YouTube


The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, 2013

ps-msmovie-23 CAP: The Secret Life of Walter Mitty is at cinemas now.

Photo: Maddison Sharples

THE PLOT Walter, a reclusive photo editor with an overactive imagination, sets out to find a missing photograph for the final cover of Life magazine.

WHY YOU SHOULD WATCH The Secret Life of Walter Mitty is about finding the courage to take journeys we've always wanted to take, but haven't had the courage to do so. It shows the audience it's never too late to choose your own adventure.

THE BEST TRAVEL SCENE Walter's freeing skateboard ride down the empty, mountainous roads of Greenland, or in this case, Iceland, where the film was shot.

WHERE TO WATCH Google Play, iTunes, YouTube


Lost in Translation, 2003

Quality: Original. Film Title: Lost In Translation. Bill Murray Copyright: © 2003 Universal Studios. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

THE PLOT Two privileged strangers at a crossroads in their life form a friendship while staying at a Tokyo hotel.

WHY YOU SHOULD WATCH Few movies adequately portray the sense of isolation one can experience in another culture and how much self reflection can benefit the soul. Sofia Coppola's movie isn't so much about a place, but a sentimental nod to how someone you meet on the road can shape your journey.

THE BEST TRAVEL SCENE Charlotte and Bob's crazy night out in Tokyo with her Japanese friends, complete with being chased by a man with a gun and karaoke in Shibuya.

WHERE TO WATCH Netflix, Foxtel Go, Google Play, iTunes, YouTube


The Beach, 2000

Picture supplied for publicity purposes 2000 by Twentieth Century Fox Film Distribution. Photograph by Peter Mountain. Picture shows a scene from the film The Beach, starring Leonardo DiCaprio.

WHY YOU SHOULD WATCH Despite the film not quite living up to Alex Garland's gripping dystopian read (and permanently scarring Koh Pi Pi), The Beach captures the pre-Instagram era of backpacking in south-east Asia, from the streets of Bangkok to the Gulf of Thailand, showing paradise comes at a price.

THE PLOT Three backpackers – Richard, Etienne and Francoise – go in search of a commune hidden on an island in the Gulf of Thailand, only to discover it's not quite the paradise they hoped for.

THE BEST TRAVEL SCENE When the backpackers emerge to the empty shores of the idyllic Maya Bay beach for the first time.

WHERE TO WATCH Google Play & iTunes, YouTube


In Bruges, 2008

THE PLOT Two Irish hitmen hide out in Bruges after a botched kill.

WHY YOU SHOULD WATCH Unlike most travel films, this dark comedy doesn't pull any punches about the main protagonist's dislike of the destination and the type of traveller attracted to its "fairytale" qualities. However, despite being constantly mocked throughout the film, the city of Bruges still manages to shine.

THE BEST TRAVEL SCENE The hitmen, a sulky Ray and the more enthusiastic Ken, go sightseeing on a canal tour to keep up appearances.

WHERE TO WATCH Stan, Google Play, iTunes, YouTube


Amelie, 2001

Still from the movie

THE PLOT A lonely young woman finds pleasure in helping others in Paris.

WHY YOU SHOULD WATCH Lighthearted and full of whimsy, Amelie's rose-coloured take on Paris is enough to fill the cup of any Francophile, but is also a much needed reminder of the power of kindness.

THE BEST TRAVEL SCENE Amelie's elaborate treasure hunt for her love interest Nino, which takes place around Sacre-Coeur in Montmartre.

WHERE TO WATCH SBS On Demand, Google Play, iTunes, YouTube


The Motorcycle Diaries, 2004

THE PLOT Medical student Ernesto 'Che' Guevara and his best friend, Alberto, set out on a motorcycle trip across South America in 1952.

WHY YOU SHOULD WATCH Visually stunning, the film skilfully contrasts the privilege of those who travel for pleasure against those forced to relocate because of political turbulence and social inequality.

THE BEST TRAVEL SCENE Shot on location in Chile, Peru and Argentina, the film showcases Valparaiso and the Andes, but it's the empty ruins of Machu Picchu that fill you with a sense of awe.

WHERE TO WATCH SBS On Demand, Google Play, iTunes, YouTube


Before Sunrise, 1995

Julie Delpy and Ethan Hawke in Before Sunrise.

THE PLOT A young American man meets a French student on a train and convinces her to hop off and explore Vienna with him.

WHY YOU SHOULD WATCH A classic of the grunge era directed by Richard Linklater, it shows the importance of taking a chance when you travel and the value of a killer cliffhanger. Don't miss the equally beguiling sequels, Before Sunset, set in Paris nine years later, and Before Midnight, set in Greece nine years after that.

THE BEST TRAVEL SCENE The couple's first kiss at the top of the historic Prater Ferris Wheel in Vienna.

WHERE TO WATCH Foxtel Go, Google Play, iTunes, YouTube


Under the Tuscan Sun, 2003

THE PLOT An American writer heads to Italy to recover from her traumatic divorce, and spontaneously buys a villa in Tuscany.

WHY YOU SHOULD WATCH Based on the best-selling memoir by Frances Mayes, the book was a global phenomenon that kicked off a celebration of all things Tuscan. While the movie offers an often cringeworthy take on Italian culture, it does capture the beauty of the countryside while indulging the dream of living abroad.

THE BEST TRAVEL SCENE Mayes' impromptu trip to the Amalfi Coast with a potential love interest.

WHERE TO WATCH Google Play, iTunes, YouTube


The Way, 2010

THE PLOT A bereaved father finishes his son's journey along the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage route, befriending four strangers.

WHY YOU SHOULD WATCH Adored by all those who have walked the Camino de Santiago from St Jean Pied de Port in France to Santiago in Spain (and all those that plan to do it), The Way captures the spirit of pilgrimage and sense of community that develops along the famous route.

THE BEST TRAVEL SCENE Overtaken by cyclists at Alto del Perdon summit, Joost a Dutchman, exclaims "You can do this on a bike?!"



Into the Wild, 2007

Film review Emile Hirsch in Into the Wild

THE PLOT An idealistic college graduate shuns the material trappings of society and begins to drift across America in search of self-fulfilment.

WHY YOU SHOULD WATCH Based on a true story the book by Jon Kra, Into the Wild is a compelling, if unsettling film about travelling on different terms, as well as the brutal reality of trying to make it in the wild alone.

THE BEST TRAVEL SCENE While Alaskan scenery is stunning, it's Christopher's paddle through the rapids and down the Colorado River into Mexico that steals the show.

WHERE TO WATCH Netflix, Google Play, iTunes, YouTube


The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, 2012

Esprit Notification Judi Dench as Evelyn in The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel 011-EMH_10746.jpg

THE PLOT A group of aged pensioners retire to an affordable, but dilapidated retirement palace in India.

WHY YOU SHOULD WATCH Shot on location in Rajasthan and Udaipur, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel delivers the energy and chaos of any good trip to India, while also proving not all adventures have to happen when you're young.

THE BEST TRAVEL SCENE The group's authentic and overwhelming arrival in India, complete with crazy traffic, incredible colour and a cacophony of noise.

WHERE TO WATCH Foxtel Go, iTunes



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