At this point in time, most of us are bored with the dreary weather. And I’m not sure about you, but all I want to do is snuggle up under my duvet with my rescue furbies and hibernate. (Second to packing my stuff and flying to the tropics.) What better time, though, to throw on a great travel flick and feed that inner wanderluster. Amiright? Welcome to “Global Debauchery’s Best Travel Movies of All Time!”
I’ll have you know I did a lot of research on this post. And what I found was that almost all the travel movie lists I saw went something like this: Eat Pray Love, Thelma & Louise, In Bruges, Midnight in Paris, Lost in Translation, The Motorcycle Diaries… It was the same formula over and over and over. This went on for twenty pages of my Google search.
To be clear, there’s nothing wrong with the standard lists, per se; I’m just not a big Julia Roberts fan and I didn’t think Eat Pray Love was all that fantastic. (The movie, not the book. Loved the book.) A note that I haven’t actually seen Lost in Translation or The Motorcycle Diaries. They’re just also standard and I can’t put them on my list because… I haven’t seen them. (These two I’ve heard are good.)
Now that we have that out of the way, let’s do Global Debauchery’s top travel movie list, shall we? I’m doing a whole different one, because that’s what I do. The universe needs it. I’m going to start with my personal favorites off the typical lists, the ones that I can’t live without, but then… I’m putting some new ideas into the blogosphere, ideas that have that certain “Global Debauchery je ne sais quoi.”
Some on the list may not be typically considered “travel movies,” but they’re heavily location-based, which I also love. Also, some of the “featured locations” may not actually be the real locations. They just did a really good job imitating it. Click on any of these links or thumbnails to download should you feel so inclined and enjoy!
Best Travel Movies Of All Time: The Basics
Most folks already know what most of these movies are about, right? So, no need to summarize the plots.
Also includes: most of the United States and Mexico. I was addicted to this movie when it came out, but now I sometimes watch and think… he sounds a little whiny, doesn’t he? And there’s always the point that John McCandless clearly underestimated the Alaskan wilderness like an idiot. Nevertheless, still might be one of my favs.
Also includes: Minnesota and Portland. This was a truly lovely film. I can’t watch it on repeat only because portions of it are super depressing. The book is good, too; I’d recommend.
Also includes: Nothing. (It’s all Thailand, I think.) Wow. The best movie everrr when it came out, and it came out when I was pretty much the same age Leonardo DiCaprio was in the film, so… super inspiring for me. I just realized it’s based on a book… almost twenty years later. Downside is it’s so old now that portions of it seem antiquated, but I still love it.
Also includes: Greenland, Nepal, and New York, though most of the movie is filmed in Iceland. This was so cute when it came out, and just plain fun. (Ben Stiller is a generally fun guy.) Amazing landscape shots of Iceland.
Specifically includes: London, Paris, Amsterdam, Berlin, a lot. Okay, so it’s a bad comedy with a few actually funny parts (the first time you watch it). The only part I truly still think is funny anymore is “Scotty Doesn’t Know,” with an amusing cameo. But it made a lot of travel movie lists.
Specifically includes: The Camino de Santiago. This is the only one I’m not sure if your average person would be familiar with. I didn’t know about it forever, but that’s not saying much. A man’s son passes away on the Camino de Santiago, so he goes to retrieve his body and ends up making the pilgrimage with his son’s ashes. He makes new friends and learns the meaning of life. It’s a pleasant, feel-good movie.
Best Travel Movies Of All Time: Thriller Flicks
The horror movies come first on Global Debauchery’s Best Travel Movies of All Time (after the basics). So many to choose from! Most of them are bad, but that doesn’t mean they’re not classics. And, anyway, that’s why I love them.
Also includes: New York. If we judged favorite movies by how many times I’ve watched them, this one might win for me. When it came out, I watched it a bagilliondy times, and now, it basically plays on loop in the background on my telework days. I just don’t get sick of it. Matt Damon and Jude Law are in it before they were kind of douche-y in real life. It’s one of the few roles Gwyneth Paltrow doesn’t bother me in and, best of all, Philip Seymour Hoffman is in it. If you haven’t seen it, you must.
Actually not Bratislava itself. Also includes: Amsterdam. Hahaha! How could we forget this little gem? It was the talk of the town when it came out and, as bad as it actually is, I just love it. Can’t help myself. The “gimme my two dollars” kids are hilarious. They have, like, three other Hostels now, (I may or may not have watched those, too.)
Also includes: Moscow, I think. Youngsters go on a dark tourism day trip to Chernobyl? What could possibly go wrong? Oh, and count me in. Plus, I’ve always wanted to go to Pripyat. Just seems like an excellently creepy photo shoot location. This is on the list because it can periodically play on loop in the background, too.
Best Travel Movies Of All Time: Documentaries
Anyone who knows me knows all about my documentary obsession. Extra points if they include gorgeous locations.
Also includes: Other fabulous rock climbing locations all over the world. This documentary pretty much has it all—sports, art, traveling, tragedy, and a heart-warming success story. It covers a rock climbing team attempting to conquer one of the most difficult climbs in the world.
Also includes: Just Iceland. You can watch this little guy on Netflix. An eerie murder mystery, Out of Thin Air makes you question everything you think you know, and what it even means to “remember” something. The perfect combination of crime, documentary, foreign lands, and I don’t think it’s all that well-known stateside.
Also includes: New York… sort of. Watch the Netflix version, as it’s hands-down better than the Hulu version. (To be fair, I was entertained by both.) A young entrepreneur takes social media by storm, determined to plan a luxury music festival in the Bahamas for the Millenial elite. But things make a turn for the worse and disaster ensues.
Best Travel Movies of All Time: The Dramas!
I enjoy a good drama every now and then, too. Particularly if they’re… “beautiful.” I have a minor in literature and love the classics; maybe explains why. (Not to mention a bachelor’s in art.)
BRIDESHEAD REVISITED, Featuring England
Also includes: Italy and Morocco. This was another movie I watched over and over on loop, and I still break it out periodically. There’s also a book, if you’re interested. It’s basically a complex love story that involves navigating the world of the aristocracy. It’s just really beautiful. Beautiful settings, beautiful wardrobe, beautiful characters. Highly recommend.
CALL ME BY YOUR NAME, Featuring Italy
Also includes: Switzerland. Awe. Such a lovely movie. Gorgeously done, it’s a coming-of-age story where a teenage boy explores his sexuality. Timothee Chalamet is amazing in it (and so young!). Great settings, strong acting, plus it’s based in the 80’s so you get to enjoy some Psychedelic Furs and relive your poor clothing choices.
BROKEDOWN PALACE, Featuring Thailand
Also includes: Just Thailand. The #AP4L always makes fun of it, but for those of us who grew up in the “My So-Called Life” era, it’s a real gem. Look, I even linked the entire series of “My So-Called Life” for you! Talk about a throwback, right? For my Millenial readers, that series was everything to us Gen Xers. But this isn’t about that, it’s about Brokedown Palace. Two friends go to Thailand for graduation and get caught up in a tourist scam!
THE DANISH GIRL, Featuring Denmark
Also includes: France and Germany. Another well-done movie with beautiful settings and costumes and art and ballet. It’s a love story about a transgender artist back in the olden days. Based on a true story! Eddie Redmayne is excellent in it, and it has Matthias Shoenaerts. (Who doesn’t love him?) I always like Alicia Vikander, too.
Best Travel Movies Of All Time: Quirky Films
I mean… would Global Debauchery even be what it is if it wasn’t quirky?
THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL, Featuring Budapest
Also includes: Actually Germany, not Hungary. Oh, Wes Anderson, how we love you and every movie you’ve ever made. …Like, ever. Typical of Wes Anderson films, a super quirky, almost musical film in an amazing setting. A hotel bellboy becomes close friends with a famous concierge and gets involved in all sorts of misadventures on his behalf.
Forrest Gump, Featuring Alabama
Also includes: Vietnam, New York City, most of the United States. I’m really not sure why Forrest Gump doesn’t show up on more travel movie lists. It’s a total classic and he adventures all over the place. I recently caught it airing on some channel or another and I promise you it has not lost its excellence over the years. It’s still funny and sweet and charming.
MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS, Featuring Istanbul
Also includes: …It’s a moving train on the Orient Express line. Not sure I can specifically narrow it down, other than it leaves from Istanbul. This is the newest version of the famous Agatha Christie novel, with everyone’s favorite detective, Hercule Poirot. Someone’s is murdered on a fancy, old-timey train line and Poirot steps up to solve the crime! Stars a huge, well-known cast in some fun roles.
Best Travel Movies Of All Time: Hilarious Comedies
In between my crime documentaries,I do like to laugh. Just sayin’.
WHISKEY TANGO FOXTROT, Featuring Afghanistan
Also includes: New York City. Love a good Tina Fey film, and this one touches on some funny cultural differences. The background? A middle-aged journalist decides her life has become stagnant and routine and takes on a journalism assignment in Afghanistan to spice things up. Margot Robbie is in it, too. Everyone likes her, amiright?
Spy, Featuring… A Few Places
Also includes: Varna (Bulgaria), Paris, Rome, Budapest. Omg, I love this movie. It’s like Office Space or The Other Guys where I still laugh every time I watch it. (I actually need to buy this one myself.) Melissa McCarthy plays a CIA agent who gets her very first international assignment. Also stars Rose Byrne, Jude Law, and Jason Statham, who are all absolutely hilarious. A must watch.
THE BIG YEAR, Featuring Lots of North America
Also includes: It’s all over the U.S. and Canada. I feel like this movie didn’t get much press when it came out, but it’s definitely a pleasant, cute watch if you haven’t seen it before. Jack Black takes up bird-watching and sets out to complete “a Big Year,” where you track down every bird in the Audubon manual in a single year. Steve Martin, Owen Wilson, and Rashida Jones are also in it.
Best Travel Movies Of All Time: Action
When it comes to action and adventure, I mostly favor spy movies. I also always end up completely engrossed in war movies for some reason, even though they’re not at all my go-to. (Platoon, Jarhead, and The Hurt Locker are some of my favorite movies.) At any rate…
Point Break, Featuring A Bunch of Spots
Includes: The U.S., France, Switzerland, Italy, Venezuela. Yes, this would be the new one, not the old—and far better—Point Break (though I’ve linked that here as well since everyone should own it). The new one is pretty terrible all-in-all, but I do really love all the landscapes and settings and graphics and, of course, the extreme sports. You can’t beat it, truly.
SPY GAME, Featuring Beirut
Also includes: Berlin, somewhere in China. Another film I watched on repeat for the longest time. Has Brad Pitt in it, as well as Robert Redford. Robert Redford plays the unbending old-timer CIA agent and Brad Pitt is the young, emotional hot agent who can’t be tamed. Contains fun twists and turns and even a little history to research afterwards.
OUR KIND OF TRAITOR, Featuring Morocco
Also includes: London, Paris, somewhere in Switzerland. Ewan McGregor is a bored poetry professor who takes a Morocco vacation with his high-powered attorney wife. He meets Stellan Skarsgard—with all his crazy charisma—and, before he knows it, finds himself swept up in a huge mess involving the Russian mafia and MI6.
Sort-of Best Travel movies… That I just Happen to Really Like
I feel like I really want these on the list, but if some of the ones above aren’t traditionally classified as “travel movies,” these ones definitely aren’t. I still love them, though, so they’re worth mentioning in some capacity.
- Atomic Blonde, featuring Berlin. Love everything about this movie.
- Memoirs of a Geisha, featuring Kyoto. Gorgeous film.
- The Constant Gardener, featuring Kenya. Amazing landscapes.
- A Perfect Day, featuring Spain. Supposed to be the former Yugoslavia, but it’s actually Spain. Lesser-know, I think, but fun.
So, what are some of your favs? Am I missing any unusual, great travel movies here? Comment away and let me know!
Love fun, wanderlust-y lists? Then read my travel quotes one, too!