With little knowledge on when the coronavirus situation will improve and how long it will be before we can safely hit the road again, we’ve all had to postpone our travel plans indefinitely. While it is certainly the right thing to do, it’s hard not to dream and fantasize about all the places we could visit and the new destinations we want to explore.
In an effort to satisfy some of that pent-up wanderlust, we surveyed Wanderu’s team of travel experts on their favorite travel-themed movies and came up with a list of 15 movies that will allow you to continue to wander the globe without having to leave your house.
For the record, we focused only on flicks that are light-hearted and positive because we are already dealing with too much distress as it is. Apologies to all Liam Neeson fans out there.
So, throw the popcorn in the microwave, pop open a bottle of wine, and #LetsWanderu vicariously with the help of these wanderlust-fueled classics:
Under the Tuscan Sun
Credit: Touchstone Pictures
In case you couldn’t tell from the title, this feel-good romantic comedy will transport you to the heart of Italy’s most picturesque region, Tuscany.
Under the Tuscan Sun tells the story of recent divorcee Frances who goes on an organized tour of Italy and ends up staying there permanently after she impulsively decides to buy an old villa in the Tuscan countryside. (Don’t you just love it when life works out that way?) As she begins to renovate her new home and rebuild her life, Frances slowly finds the fulfillment she’s been looking for with the help of her neighbors, some new friends, and the obligatory Italian lover.
While Diane Lane is an absolute joy as the happiness-seeking heroine, the true star of the movie is the magnificent Italian scenery that immerses you effortlessly into the action and makes you feel like you are right next to Frances as she is taking a stroll through the eclectic markets of Florence or riding down the gorgeous hillside roads of Positano.
Under the Tuscan Sun is the perfect choice for a Saturday afternoon movie that will warm your heart, leave you feeling hopeful, and most importantly, inspire you to plan your own Italian adventure. Just make sure your bank account can handle the possibility of you buying an old house on a whim, because apparently that’s a thing that people do.
Eat Pray Love
Credit: Columbia Pictures
Based on the famous memoir of the same name, Eat Pray Love tells the story of Liz Gilbert, a newly divorced woman at a crossroads in her life who embarks on a journey around the world as a quest for self-discovery. Sounds like she should’ve made friends with Frances from Under the Tuscan Sun and traveled together.
Starring the always radiant Julia Roberts, Eat Pray Love will take you on a journey to Italy’s Rome and Naples, then transport you to India for a visit of Delhi and Pataudi, and ultimately bring you to the gorgeous island of Bali.
Filmed entirely on location, the movie is the perfect escape from the four walls of your living room, offering a front-row seat to a number of absolutely spectacular settings, including the Pataudi Palace in India and the famous Padang Padang Beach in Bali.
Credit: Fox Searchlight Pictures
If there’s one thing that unites all major streaming services these days, it’s the original content starring or featuring Reese Witherspoon, a.k.a. the busiest woman in Hollywood. So naturally, we couldn’t make a list of travel-themed movies and not include her Oscar-nominated turn as Cheryl Strayed in the critically acclaimed film Wild.
Based on the eponymous bestselling memoir, Wild tells the story of a woman (Cheryl) who is driven to the edge by the loss of her mother and the dissolution of her marriage. To halt her downward spiral and put her life back together, Cheryl embarks on an adventure to hike the Pacific Crest Trail – one of the longest and toughest through-trails in the U.S. – all by herself.
While the story and the performances certainly deserve the rave reviews they received when the film came out in 2014, what makes this cinematic experience a quarantined traveler’s haven is the fact that Wild was shot 100% on location with 60% of those locations in wilderness, parks and national park areas.
The Pacific Crest Trail is a national scenic trail that is 2,660 miles long and runs through California, Oregon and Washington state. It’s estimated that it would take the average hiker about four to six months to get through the entire thing. With the help of Wild (and the incredible work done by the location scouts and cinematographers behind the production), you can get a taste of that in just about two hours without leaving our home.
Some of the key locations to look out for as you watch the movie include the Mojave Desert in California and a plethora of Oregon’s natural wonders such as Mount Hood, Crater Lake, Smith Rock State Park, Paulina Lake, and the Oregon Badlands.
A Good Year
Credit: Twentieth Century Fox
If you swap Tuscany for Provence and then replace Diane Lane with Russell Crowe, you will get A Good Year – an invigorating tale of self discovery in the style of Under the Tuscan Sun. Normally, such comparisons come with negative connotations, but in this case A Good Year is just as enjoyable and brings a ton of visual escapades of its own.
Russell Crowe plays arrogant financier Max Skinner whose main goal in life is to make money. That is until he inherits a property from his late uncle in the Provence region of France. While Max is initially looking to cash out with a quick sale, he soon starts to realize that his newly acquired land might be the key to finding out what is actually important in life – a simple way of living, good friends, and good wine.
As you can guess, one of the most endearing features of A Good Year is the location where it is set. Filmed in the Luberon region of Provence, the movie offers lavish shots of the area’s hilltop villages, fruit orchards and sprawling lavender fields.
The house that Max inherits in the movie is actually a working vineyard called Chateau la Canorgue and it’s located about a mile from the town of Bonnieux. All scenes in and around the house are filmed on location, including the garden and gorgeous vineyards.
The tiny, but stunning, village of Cucuron also makes an appearance in the movie. Look out for it in the scene where Max and Fanny (Marion Cotillard) have their first date.
If you have never been to the south of France, this movie is the perfect appetizer because it gives you just the right taste of what to expect when you eventually get there.
Credit: Columbia Pictures
The Tourist tells the story of math teacher Frank Tupelo (Johnny Depp) who meets a beautiful stranger named Elise (Angelina Jolie) on his way to Venice during an impromptu trip to mend a broken heart. Rather than relax and recover, Frank is dragged by Elise into a dangerous game of cat and mouse in which various people are out to get him for no apparent reason.
What The Tourist may lack in storytelling prowess it certainly more than makes up for with generous sweeping shots of gorgeous Venice. It’s fair to say that the iconic Italian town is the third main character in the film (and the fourth is Ms. Jolie’s out-of-this-world designer couture) because its gorgeous landscape perfectly complements everything that happens on the screen.
Some of the key Venice locations to look out for as you watch The Tourist include:
Santa Lucia Station – the central station is the first Venice location featured in the film. This is where Elise approaches Frank on a motorboat and offers him a ride to his hotel.
Rialto Market – this iconic Venetian market is featured in the chase scene where Frank is walking across the roofs of various houses before jumping down to escape his chasers.
Peggy Guggenheim Collection – the famous art museum’s terrace moonlights as the outdoor seating area for the restaurant where Frank and Elise grab dinner shortly after arriving in town.
Venice is not the only famous European city on display in The Tourist. The movie actually opens up in Paris where Elise is enjoying a cup of coffee at Place Colette, one of the most iconic squares in the French capital located close to the Louvre museum.
Again, the critics might not be raving about this movie but it’s totally worth watching just for the breathtaking displays of beautiful Venice… and the gorgeous Angelina Jolie.
Lost in Translation
Credit: Focus Features
If you are currently craving a trip to Japan, Lost in Translation is the movie to watch for some temporary wanderlust satisfaction. Sofia Coppola’s dramedy tells the story of Bob (Bill Murray) and Charlotte (Scarlett Johansson) – two Americans in Tokyo. Bob is a movie star shooting a whiskey commercial, and Charlotte is a young woman who feels neglected by her workaholic husband who is on assignment in Japan. After the two cross paths, they form an unlikely friendship and begin exploring Tokyo together, leading them to discover a new meaning and faith in life.
The movie will take you on a rollercoaster journey through the city’s loudest and most colorful districts – Shinjuku and Shibuya. The neon-lit facades that you see on multiple occasions in the movie are located near the entrance to Shinjuku’s famous entertainment district, Kabikucho. The Shibuya district is represented by iconic destinations like the Karaoke Kan bar that Bob and Charlotte visit with their friends, and the Ichikan sushi restaurant where the two dine.
Filmed almost entirely on location, Lost in Translation is like a love letter to the Japanese megapolis, and it’s the perfect way to “visit” Tokyo from the comfort of your own home.
Credit: Twentieth Century Fox
If you are looking for a travel-themed drama with Leonardo DiCaprio that doesn’t end up with him at the bottom of the ocean, then The Beach is the film for you. In this Danny Boyle-directed visual treat, Leo plays Richard, a young American backpacker who travels to Thailand in search of a mystical paradise on a remote island. Once he arrives at the island, though, he quickly finds out the beauty of the place is only on the surface.
The movie was filmed on location at Thailand’s Phi Phi Leh Island near Phuket. The island’s gorgeous main beach, Hat Maya, served as the stand-in for the beach referenced in the film’s title. The film came out in 2000, four years before the area was damaged by the tsunami of 2004, so you’re getting a glimpse of what the island originally looked like (except for the extra palms that the production crew notoriously brought in). Fortunately, the island has now largely recovered from the disaster.
One of the most famous scenes from the movie (and one that the girls from TLC would not approve of) involves the three main characters jumping from a cliff into the basin of a beautiful waterfall. The waterfall in question is Haeo Suwat Falls in Thailand’s Khao Yai National Park.
While The Beach was not a critical darling, it’s a fun and thrilling way to spend a couple of hours while basking in the beauty of the Thai wilderness.
Call Me by Your Name
Credit: Sony Pictures Classics
Set in Italy’s Lombardy region in 1983, Call Me by Your Name is a coming-of-age romantic drama that follows 17-year-old Elio Perlman as he spends his summer vacation at his family’s villa. He meets Oliver, a doctoral student working for his father, and the two embark on an unexpected summer romance that will change their lives forever.
Filmed entirely on location, Call Me by Your Name will take you on a relaxing journey across the sun-drenched splendor of the Lombardy region. The house that stands in for the Perlman family villa is located in the village of Moscazzano. In real life, the estate is not open to the public, so the movie offers a truly unique glimpse into the fine life of upper middle class families in the area.
Throughout the movie, Elio and Oliver visit several locations that perfectly exemplify the gorgeous landscapes and relaxing vibes of the Lombardy region. One of those places is the town of Crema. It is featured several times throughout the movies but most famously in the scene toward the beginning when Oliver asks what it is that people do around here. It takes place at Crema’s Piazza del Duomo right in front of the Crema Cathedral (pictured above).
Other notable locations featured in the movie include Lake Garda near the famous ruins of an ancient Roman villa collectively known as Grottoes of Catullus, as well as Fontanile Quarantina, a quiet nature reserve near the Capralba village. The latter is Elio’s special place where he goes to read and where he takes Oliver.
If your planned trip to the Lombardy region has been affected by the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, give Call Me by Your Name a chance for a front-row look at the region’s unique nature and numerous hidden gems.
Crazy Rich Asians
Credit: Warner Bros. Pictures
If you haven’t already seen Crazy Rich Asians, then you at least must have heard about the rave reviews it received when it came out in 2018. The film is about Rachel Chu, a Chinese-American Economics professor, who finds out that the man she has been dating, Nick Young, is part of the wealthiest family of Singapore. On a trip to his home country to celebrate his best friend’s wedding, Rachel discovers that Nick’s family does not approve of their relationship.
Crazy Rich Asians swept through 2018 with a bang earning praise from both critics and audiences alike because of its engaging storyline, witty humor, and awesome performances. Filmed largely on location in Singapore, the movie comes with one particularly great added bonus – the opportunity to “visit” first-hand some key locations and learn more about Singaporean culture.
Some of the key locations to look out for include:
Newton Food Center – As soon as Rachel and Nick arrive in Singapore, their friends take them to Newton Food Center – an open air food court where you can taste some of the best dishes that Asian cuisine has to offer. In fact, what Nick tells Rachel is actually true – this is the only place where street food vendors can get Michelin stars.
Gardens by the Bay – this is where the big wedding reception in the film takes place. In real life, this beautiful waterfront garden installation features more than 1.5 million plants from all over the world.
Sentosa Island – once the boys leave the giant party boat for Colin’s bachelor party, this is where they hang out. The island is home to some of the best beaches in Singapore and offers several attractions, including the Singapore Butterfly and Insect Kingdom and a Universal Studios amusement park.
Cheong Fatt Tze Mansion – this is where Rachel meets Nick’s mother for their infamous Mahjong game. This location is actually on Malaysia’s Penang island and it’s one of the most iconic hotels in the country. Its gorgeous architecture and incredible history have earned it the prestigious UNESCO Conservation & Heritage Award.
With its stunning locations, amazing fashion, and exhilarating comedy, Crazy Rich Asians is certainly a feast for all senses, so make sure you check it out if you’re craving a quick escape to Southeast Asia.
Credit: Universal Pictures
Yes, we know – Notting Hill isn’t exactly a travel-themed movie. But to be fair, the main female character is on a work trip to England and the main male character owns a travel book shop, and that’s good enough of an excuse for us to sneak some London flair in here.
There are so many movies that you can choose from if you’re looking for a quick cinematic trip to London – Love Actually, Bridget Jones’s Diary, Closer – but none of them immerse you in the actual location as much as Notting Hill does. That makes sense given the fact that the movie itself is named after the London neighborhood in which the majority of action takes place.
The best thing about Notting Hill is that it was filmed almost entirely on location, so you know you are in for a hefty dose of authentic London scenery while following Will (Hugh Grant) and Anna (Julia Roberts) as they look for love.
Some of the most iconic locations to look out for include:
The Portobello Road Market – featured extensively in the film’s opening sequence, this world-famous market is located in the heart of Notting Hill and it’s full of a diverse bunch of cool little shops selling one-of-a-kind antiques.
Rosmead Gardens – this is the private garden that Will and Anna break into in the middle of the night. The movie actually gives you an exclusive sneak peek into the gardens, as access to them has remained private to this day.
Kenwood House – this is the majestic period house that was the set for the fictional movie that Anna is filming in London. Kenwood House is normally open to the public and it makes for a wonderful day trip from the city center.
Credit: Universal Pictures
Who doesn’t love Meryl Streep? Who doesn’t love ABBA’s music? Who doesn’t love gorgeous landscapes of remote Greek islands? Now mix them all up and you get a cinematic getaway to the Mediterranean with a fabulous soundtrack. This movie adaptation of the record-breaking jukebox musical is the ultimate preview of that Greek vacation you’ve been dreaming of but never actually went through with.
The main setting for Mamma Mia! is the island of Skopelos. The island’s Kastani beach is featured in multiple scenes, including the one where Tanya (Christine Baranski) sings Does Your Mother Know and the scene with Sophie (Amanda Seyfried) and Sky (Dominic Cooper) performing their duet of Lay All Your Love on Me.
Skopelos is also where Villa Donna is supposed to be located (the island is renamed Kalokairi in the movie). Even though the actual scenes taking place at the villa were filmed on a soundstage, the island still serves as the backdrop for scenes taking place around the villa. The cliff where Sophie, Bill (Stellan Skarsgård), Harry (Colin Firth) and Sam (Pierce Brosnan) sing Our Last Summer before jumping in the water and the church where the wedding at the end of the movie takes place are both real locations found on Skopelos Island.
Other key Greek locations that you should look out for while watching Mamma Mia! include the island of Skiathos, most notably represented by the pier from which everyone takes the boat to get to the fictional Kalokairi island, and the Pelion peninsula where the iconic Dancing Queen sequence was filmed.
America’s West Coast famously boasts some incredibly beautiful destinations. While Reese Witherspoon’s character in Wild sets out on exploring the Pacific Northwest, the ladies of Wine Country head to the heart of California’s Napa Valley.
Wine Country is the story of a group of women who travel together to Napa Valley to celebrate their friend’s 50th birthday. They talk, they fight, they question their life choices, and they drink wine – pretty much everything that we all do with our best friends. And while all that’s happening, you are able to remotely visit some of the best places around California’s famous wine region.
The film was mostly shot on location in Napa Valley, offering a glimpse at downtown Calistoga and spectacular views of several actual wineries located in the picturesque towns of Napa and St. Helena.
So, open a bottle of your favorite wine (red, white or rosé – we don’t discriminate) and settle in front of the TV for an almost two-hour tour of America’s most famous wine region in the company of several comedy queens, including Amy Poehler, Maya Rudolph and Rachel Dratch.
Credit: Fox Searchlight Pictures
If Wine Country wasn’t enough to get your wine-focused wanderlust satisfied (or if you’re just looking for another movie for bottle #2), look no further than Sideways.
This Oscar-winning comedy follows struggling writer and wine enthusiast Miles (Paul Giamatti) as he takes his friend Jack (Thomas Haden Church) on a trip to Southern California’s wine country for a last single-guy bonding experience. On their journey, they meet and spark romances with Stephanie (Sandra Oh) and her friend Maya (Virginia Madsen). Everything’s fun and casual until the women find out that Jack is getting married and all comedic hell breaks loose.
While Wine Country explores NoCal’s wine region, Sideways will take you on a tour of California’s southern and central vineyard towns, specifically Santa Barbara, Santa Maria and San Luis Obispo. You will be treated to sweeping views and beautiful green rows of vines with California’s vast mountain ranges in the background.
One of the most famous locations in the movie is the windmill motel where Miles and Jack stay. This is an actual hotel in Buellton, a town located about 44 miles north of Santa Barbara. Known at the time as the Days Inn Buellton, the place has since been renamed to Sideways Inn. Wonder why…
Credit: Columbia Pictures
Here’s another romantic drama to add to your watchlist. Before Sunrise stars Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy as the main protagonists, Jesse and Celine, who meet on the train and embark on an evening of wandering the streets of Vienna together and experiencing everything the city has to offer. There’s one caveat – Jesse has to catch a flight back to the U.S. in the morning.
If you’ve ever dreamed of exploring Vienna, Before Sunrise is basically a walking tour of the Austrian capital. Even though it came out 25 years ago, the movie features some of the city’s most iconic locations that you can still visit to this day, including:
Zollamtssteg Bridge – the film made this bridge so popular that it’s now also known as the Before Sunrise bridge.
Maria-Theresien-Platz – this is one of Vienna’s most famous public squares joining the city’s Natural History Museum and Art History Museum. Needless to say, either museum’s architecture is a true feast for the eyes.
Riesenradplatz – this is where you will find Vienna’s world-famous Ferris wheel. Fun fact: in some parts of the world, Ferris wheels are called Viennese wheels because of this iconic point of interest.
Statue of Erzherzog Albrecht – In a city that has so many great statues, this is one of the standouts and is very easy to locate on Albertinaplatz.
If you end up enjoying Before Sunrise, keep in mind that it’s actually a part of a trilogy, and there are two more movies with the same characters in different European locations. The second one, Before Sunset, takes place in Paris, and the third one, Before Midnight, will transport you to Greece.
Credit: Universal Pictures
Alright, alright – here’s one for the action/crime fans out there. Be warned, though – this one isn’t for the faint of heart.
As the title suggests, this film takes place in the Belgian city of Bruges. It tells the story of two Irish hit men, Ray (Colin Farrell) and Ken (Brendan Gleeson), who travel to Bruges to hide from their boss (Ralph Fiennes) after a particularly difficult job. Ray hates the medieval city while Ken finds joy and peace in its enchanting beauty.
In Bruges was appropriately filmed on location, so while all the (often gut wrenching) action is happening, you get to experience the town’s historic canals, famous cobbled streets and medieval buildings.
The hotel where the two main characters stay is the Relais Bourgondisch Cruyce – a famous local staple that Lonely Planet has described as “the very epitome of a Bruges experience.”
Several key scenes in the movie take place at the Belfry of Bruges – one of the city’s signature landmarks. It is a medieval bell tower that is 272 feet tall and its top story offers sweeping views of the city and surrounding areas. In Bruges will also treat you to a visit to the famous Groeninge Museum, as well as another local favorite – the Church of Our Lady.
When it came out in 2008, In Bruges was received with overwhelmingly positive reviews, scoring an Oscar nomination for Best Original Screenplay and a Golden Globe nomination for Best Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy. For his role as Ray, Colin Farrell also won the Golden Globe for Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy.
In today’s streaming world of a-la-carte entertainment, it’s easy to find something to watch at any time. But if you’re in the mood for a film that will transport you from your living room couch to a foreign land, any one of the titles above will do the trick, we promise.
For most of these titles, you need to either have a monthly subscription or pay to rent the film. We understand that in these tough economic times, people may want to cut down on unnecessary costs where entertainment is concerned. That’s why we also put together this guide to seven streaming services that are absolutely free. Their travel-themed content might not be the best but there are a ton of other titles that will grab your interest.