Here’s the cure for festive fatigue and the January blues. Some temporary escapism via your armchair with my guide to some of the coolest travel films ever made, arranged by continent. I guarantee watching one will ease the humdrum of winter, and might even inspire your next adventure. Bon voyage! PS I’ll update the list as I discover others.
The Darjeeling Limited, 2007. Three estranged brothers, played by Jason Schwartzman, Adrien Brody and Owen Wilson, decide it’s time to take a bonding trip on a colourful train ride across India. Directed by Wes Anderson.
Octopussy, 1983. James Bond must head to India to discover who murdered special agent 009. Starring Roger Moore.
Dev Patel and Rooney Mara star in a movie about a man (Patel) in search of the family he lost as a child in Kolkata.
The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, 2011
Dame Judi Dench, Maggie Smith, and Bill Nighy star as retirees who decide to put up their feet in India for an unconventional experience in their twilight years.
2 days in Paris, 2007
Marion (Julie Delpy) and Jack (Adam Goldberg) try to rekindle their relationship with a visit to Paris, home of Marion’s parents – and several of her ex-boyfriends. It’s hilarious throughout and Delpy is brilliant because she also wrote, directed and edited the film, as well as composing the soundtrack.
Roman Holiday, 1953
Take a trip back in time to Rome, circa 1953, where a princess (Audrey Hepburn) is trying to stay incognito. After she’s befriended by an American reporter (Gregory Peck), he realises her identity, but keeps his a secret in an attempt to get a scoop.
Before Sunrise, 1995
A train to Vienna is the romantic setting for this cult drama starring Julie Delpy and Ethan Hawke. After meeting on the journey, they spend the night walking around the city together.
In Bruges, 2008
Black comedy in which two Irish hitmen (Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson) are ordered into hiding by their boss (Ralph Fiennes) after accidentally killing a boy while on a job to kill a priest during confession.
The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, 2014
Walter (Ben Stiller) has come to accept his monotonous life developing photos for LIFE magazine, finding respite in his imagination. That all changes when he tasked with a real adventure: taking the perfect photo for the zine’s final print issue which takes him to Iceland among other places.
The Trip, 2011
British cinema’s answer to Sideways, possibly more hilarious, set in the English countryside, with two sequels in Italy and Spain.
Black Mountain Poets, 2015
Alice Lowe and Dolly Wells star as sisters on the run in south Wales who resort to posing as a pair of famous beat poets at a retreat in the Black Mountains.
Into the wild
Christopher McCandless, a bright young American college graduate horrifies his parents by sending his $24,000 law school fund to Oxfam, abandoning all his possessions and hiking off into the wilderness to re-engagement with nature, unsullied by money or the career rat-race.
When her mother dies, a woman (Reese Witherspoon) goes on an unexpected epic trek across Pacific Crest Trail to push herself into a new future, and make peace with herself.
Moonrise Kingdom, 2012
The story of a pre-teen, star-crossed first love unfolds on the banks of an East Coast summer camp in the 1960s. Directed by Wes Anderson.
Paul Giamatti and Thomas Haden Church star in the ultimate wino-dude bonding movie that put Santa Ynez, California on the map.
The Motorcycle Diaries, 2004
Just before finishing medical school, pre-revolutionary Ernesto “Che” Guevara and his pal Alberto travel from Brazil to Peru by motorcycle. Directed by Walter Salles.
The Rum Diary, 2011
This adaptation of Hunter S. Thompson’s iconic novel sees journalist Paul Kemp (Johnny Depp) travel to Puerto Rico to escape the ho-hum life of New York City.
The Lost City of Z, 2016
Explorer Percy Fawcett had a compulsion to travel, undertaking hugely risky journeys in the Amazon to prove his theories about a disappeared civilisation – theories that were ridiculed by his contemporaries in the early 20th century. James Gray’s film stars Charlie Hunnam as Fawcett, Sienna Miller as his wife, and Robert Pattinson as his right hand man, who helps him navigate the rainforest as dangers unfold.
The psychological benefits of travel are at the heart of this drama that explores the links between Wales and Argentina. A Cardiff couple travel to Patagonia where they are guided by a Welsh-Argentine guide (Matthew Rhys).
Out of Africa, 1985
Robert Redford and Meryl Streep play star-crossed lovers in 1930s Africa.
The English Patient, 1996
When a soldier (Ralph Fiennes) is found in the Sahara desert with no recollection of his identity, he must try to remember his past in the midst of WWII with the help of a nurse (Juliette Binoche).
Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark, 1981
Harrison Ford in one of his most iconic roles ever: adventurer-archeologist, Indiana Jones. In the first film of the franchise, we follow Dr. Jones on a hunt for the Ark of the Covenant. Directed by Steven Spielberg.
Australia & New Zealand
Tracks stars a young Mia Wasikowska as Robyn Davidson, who spent nine months trekking across the Australian desert on camels.
This is my favourite travel film ever and is based on a true story and Louis de Bernieres’ book, Red Dog, about a dog who became well known for for his lone wanders around the Pilbara region of Western Australia.
Hunt for the Wilder People
A national manhunt is ordered for a rebellious teenager and his foster uncle who go missing in the wild New Zealand bush.
Adventures at Sea
Life of Pi, 2012
Adapted from the bestselling novel, a shipwrecked boy must navigate the seas on a raft he shares with a tiger, directed by Ang Lee.
The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou, 2004
A washed up celebrity ocean explorer à la Jacques Cousteau (played by Bill Murray) sets out for one last adventure to prove himself. Directed by Wes Anderson.
I hope you enjoyed this guide to the coolest travel films. What country did you armchair travel to? Let me know if I missed a film you think should be considered for this list!