I can watch any of these movies over and over and never get sick of them. Nothing beats a travel flick to get the Wanderlust going. It inspires and motivates you to pack your bag and head out to a new destination. I have a travel obsession and the films below only fan the flames; Watching any of these films, I feel the instant urge to explore the world.
You can rent or watch any of these movies through Amazon Prime Video, which is my preferred way to watch films. Most movies mentioned here are free to watch and cheap to rent if you have a Prime Subscription.
In no particular order, 30 Best Action, Adventure, Romance, and Travel Films That Inspire Wanderlust
Ridley Scott is known for some significant seat of the pants movies like Alien, Gladiator, and Blade Runner. But I think one of his best is “A Good Year.” It’s a vastly underrated movie. I don’t know how many bottles of wine I’ve cracked open every time I’ve watched it, but needless to say, It’s my favorite travel movie of all time. It’s got it all, a classic tale of a man making a difficult choice – money or life?
The plot: “After a while of no contact with his Uncle Henry, wealthy banker, Max Skinner discovers that Henry has kicked the bucket with no will, so Max legitimately inherits the château and vineyard in Provence that Henry owns. Max goes to Provence with the intent of selling the property. He spends a couple of days there and starts to fall in love with the place.” The film features amazing cinematography that showcases the scenery of Provence, France that inspired me to visit the amazing place.
It was a toss-up between A Good Year and The Motorcycle Diaries as my favorite travel movie. The Motorcycle Diaries is an adaptation of the journal that Ernesto “Che” Guevara de la Serna wrote about his travels in South America with his friend, Alberto Granado when he was 23 years old. Che happens to be one of my heroes, so this movie is understandably held in high regards on my list.
It’s a tale of two parallel lives that eventually diverge with each man’s destiny becoming clearer at the finish. This movie also inspired me to build a Motorcycle :)
During a spontaneous trip to Europe, Frank Tupelo, a math teacher, finds himself in a weird situation when a sexy stranger, Elise Ward, joins him on his trip. Somehow this all leads to a spy movie intrigue where the villains think that Frank is Elise Ward’s lover Alexander Pearce. There’s amazing scenery here, from the rooftops and canals of Venice to some random Cafe in Paris.
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The Bourne films are a series defined by its breakneck action sequences and insane car chases. Jason Bourne, having lost his memories, must figure out what the heck is going on. It is an adventure that will take him to some of the most beautiful locations in Europe. Watching the locations of these films make me want to pack up my backpack and go.
As a constituent of an occupation that he is assured, Xavier, a financial student in his twenties, signs on to a European exchange program to increase working information of the Spanish dialect. Promising that they’ll keep close, he says goodbye to his girlfriend, then heads to Barcelona. Xavier is soon pushed into an interesting social mixture with flatmates when he moves into a loft.
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There’s an Italian, an anti-social English girl, a kid from Denmark, a chick from Belgium, a German and a girl from Tarragona all go along with him in a progression of experiences that serve as a start living. It’s followed by three other movies, Russian Dolls and Chinese Puzzle.
I couldn’t help but wonder what would have happened if I was in Chris’ shoes out there in the wild, being a backcountry backpacker myself. Would I have stayed on the bus or venture out to find civilization?
Based on a true story and a book of the same name by Jon Krakauer. Graduating from University, top understudy Christopher McCandless threw away his belongings and dropped 24k to a charity then changed his name to Alexander Supertramp. He then drove and hitchhiked his way to Alaska to live in the wild.
Along the way, he meets an assortment of characters who influenced to shape his life. It may not necessarily qualify as a travel flick but in a way it indeed. It’s the way that Chris is fleeing from the expectations of the norm, searching for things about yourself, the things that make up travel; the wanderlust. As it is, Chris is essentially on a voyage, and he has a lot of soul-searching into the wild.
7. Before Sunrise (Series)
One of three films (Sequels: Before Sunset & Before Midnight). This film focuses on dialog and substance over style. It’s romance flick between a young American and a French student. A chance meeting on a train prompts Jesse to spontaneously propose that Celine puts off her arrival in France and sets out with him to Vienna.
Over the span of their 14-hour conversation/relationship, the two share in their appreciation for the unrehearsed and their love for spontaneity as they go further in a meeting of their hearts and minds. This is how I think travel should be, unscripted, unadulterated, spontaneous, and go with the flow.
8. Seven Years in Tibet
When this movie came out, I watched it over and over. There’s just something very inspiring about a man’s journey from being stubbornly proud to the point of arrogance, and his transformation to a humble man, at least that’s what I thought of it. The fantastic cinematography instills a lot of wanderlust too.
9. Up in The Air
I consider this movie something of a dark comedy. Here’s a guy who spends his life chasing airline rewards and points but never actually enjoying the fruits of his labors. It’s like climbing the corporate ladder only to realize later that you’re too old to do anything cool after you’ve amassed all the wealth in the world.
A lot of people can draw parallels to the main protagonist of this movie, Ryan Bingham, who is a corporate downsizing expert life on the road is threatened from reaching a million frequent flier miles after meeting a woman.
10. The Talented Mr Ripley
To be youthful and cheerful in the midst of the blue waters and an untainted scene of sun-doused Italy in the late 1950s; that is la dolce vita Tom Ripley longs for, and Dickie Greenleaf lives. Ripley was hired by Dickie’s dad to convince him to go back to the U.S. The scenery and place of this film are superb. It makes me want to live a life that Dickie lives.
11. One Week
If you had one week to live, what would you do? This film explores the age-old question of what you would do, given the amount of time left for you in the world. Ben Tyler is struck down by a severe illness, giving him only one week to live. Ignoring the advice of doctors, he impulsively buys a vintage motorcycle and heads west on a journey across Canada. A beautifully produced film that portrays the sights of the stunning country, Canada.
12. Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World
The film takes place during the Napoleonic Wars. Captain “Lucky Jack” Aubrey of HMS Surprise is to chase and sink a French Privateer in South America. There’s cool scenery in the Galápagos Islands that makes you want to sail and explore there.
13. Letters to Juliet
It’s one of those movies whereas a guy; your girlfriend will drag you along, kicking and screaming, to watch it with her. The movie itself is very passable, but there’s no denying the scenery and cinematography in this film will inspire you to travel. Panned scenes from the Tuscan countryside is awe-inspiring. It inspired me to drive around Europe with the intent of driving around Tuscany.
14. Lost in Translation
Who doesn’t love Bill Murray? The dude’s hilarious! Here he plays a famous Hollywood actor who is hired to make a whiskey commercial in Tokyo where he meets a neglected girl and they strangely bond. It’s an excellent film that captures the dislocation of travel; it gives you a perspective of your life back home, the poignancy of meeting someone new, and the beautiful portrayal of a neon-lit Tokyo.
15. The Secret Life of Walter Mitty
The Secret Life of Walter Mitty is a daydreaming movie. Walter Mitty, makes up stories in his head where travels to different countries and exotic locales looking for a photo negative from a photographer who works for Life magazine. The movie has beautiful scenes of the Icelandic countryside, which makes me want to go on a trip there.
16. Stealing Beauty
Lucy is a 19-year-old American who’s visiting a villa built on a hill. She was there four years ago when she met a young Italian who kissed her, and they corresponded for a while. She’s also there to uncover the mystery of her birth and who her birth father is. She gathered most of her clues from the diary of her late mother which is filled with poems that suggest Lucy was conceived in that villa. Lucy wants to find out if her father is the Italian war corresponded with her mother or the dying English playwright or the sculpture artist.
17. Lord of the Rings (Trilogy)
While not really about travel. The gorgeous New Zealand settings used in this movie showcases its otherworldly landscapes. Dreamy landscapes and amazing high-definition scenes make me want to don my backpack and the one ring to rule them all.
I should include the Hobbit Series as well as it’s part of the whole story. In fact, it’s Bilbo Baggin’s wanderlust that tipped the whole thing to an adventure.
18. The English Patient
“The English Patient” is an epic tale of love and loss; of ownership, belonging and the bars erected to it. It unites the stories of five people: Hungarian Count Laszlo de Almasy, mistaken as English by a British Army medical unit in Italy after professing to have forgotten his identity; Hana, Almasy’s Canadian nurse; Katherine Clifton, his erstwhile lover; Kip, a Sikh sapper, and Caravaggio, an ex-spy and thief.
While the setting of the film was in Italy and Egypt, the film shows amazing desert-scapes of Tunisia.
19. Midnight in Paris
An American writer visiting Paris with his fiancee and her parents somehow get transported back to the roaring 20s after midnight. This film captures the beauty of Paris and its rich history where the writer meets Ernest Hemingway, Pablo Picasso, F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald and Gertrude Stein. It confers travel as a magical experience.
20. City of God
Brazil, 1960’s, City of God. The movie doesn’t show Brazil at its finest, but it does show a more realistic but gritty outlook on parts of Rio that you won’t see in tabloids. It’s a tale of revenge, crime, and redemption.
21. The Kite Runner
The Kite Runner is a story of a friendship between two boys in Afghanistan in the 1970s before the Communists and before the Taliban. Life was hard enough then even without all the wars and politics that came later. Amir is a shy boy who was the only son of a wealthy business person, and Hassan was the son of a servant of a lower class social caste.
Amir and Hassan were friends even though the social differences were a team in the most significant event in town – a kite flying. At a moment of victory, there was an aggression against Hassan which changes the relationship between the two boys forever.
22. The way
The Way features the beautiful Pyrenees and Basque country where pilgrims trek for about 800km making their way across northern Spain to the tomb of Saint James in Santiago de Compostela. Pilgrims have walked the Camino de Santiago for over millennia.
In the movie, four of these pilgrims find themselves meeting by chance. The story unfolds mainly around the main character, Tom, who’s completing the journey started by his son who died in a storm in the Camino de Santiago. During his journey, he meets a jovial and chubby Dutchman, a Canadian woman who’s trying to ease off anger built up in an abusive marriage; and an Irish author who talks constantly.
23. The Rum Diary
If you like traveling to an exotic location without needing a passport, a trip to Puerto Rico is probably the trip for you. This movie is an adaptation of Hunter S. Thompson’s first novel, and it makes the island look beautiful but full of debauchery. The film is a glimpse at a great artist on the cusp of recognizing his talent.
24. Under the Tuscan Sun
Cool flick to escape to Italy and enjoy its golden countryside. The moral of the story isn’t necessarily to find love but instead finding happiness being by yourself. San Francisco writer Frances Mayes goes on a ten-day trip to Tuscany. There she is captivated by the beautiful Italian countryside and then impulsively buys an aging villa. Meeting new friends and immersed in the local scene, she finds herself fascinated by a life full of surprises, laughter, restoring her belief in second chances.
25. Vicky Christina Barcelona
Excellent cinematography and the location is remarkable. This is a film about youth, self-discovery, and the anything-goes spontaneity that Americans feel when far from their homeland. Overseas we escape the tyranny of local conventions and habits ingrained in mind: Such is the promise and result of travel.
26. Eat Pray Love
At a crossroads after a divorce, the protagonist takes a year-long sabbatical from work and steps comfort zone to change her life. She goes to travel to various exotic locations eating and praying her way through Italy, Bali, and India. It shows that there is magic in letting go and seeing the world.
27. Lawrence of Arabia
Set in WW1 in the turbulent middle east, T.E.Lawrence endeavors to unite the Arabs to topple their Ottoman Turkish rulers. He begins as a mapmaker for the British in Cairo. From the first scenes, you can feel the unprecedented WILL of this man. He blazes himself with matches saying to his confidante “the trap is not to brain that it harms.” He is sent to keep an eye on King Feisal, and he soon finds that he relates more to the Bedouins than with his kindred Brits.
28. Paris can Wait
Tuscan Sun’s Diane Lane seems to be at it again. This time she’s at a crossroads in her life. Married to a dull husband, Alec Baldwin, and finds herself being accompanied by his friend on the way to Paris. The trip turned out to be an adventure and life-changing event all along the fantastic picturesque Provence and southern France. It’s a witty romantic comedy that has you lusting for life and any movie with scenery like this will always cultivate your wanderlust.
A book to movie adaptation. Cheryl Strayed, driven to the edge by the loss of her mother and the dissolution of her marriage has driven her into a headlong dive into self-destruction. She then decided to halt her downward spiral and goes on to hike the Pacific Crest Trail with a heavy backpack and no outdoors experience.
A woman’s solo trek across the massive Australian outback. A great adventure and a massive undertaking, accompanied only by her dog and four camels to satisfy her craving for solitude. The character suffers from a serious wanderlust and tries to quench it by embarking on her solo trip across the desert from Alice Springs towards the Indian Ocean.
WHAT’S YOUR FAVORITE WANDERLUST MOVIES?
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