Where in the world am I? Melbourne.
Let’s be honest. When we’re not travelling, we’re watching movies.
Everybody loves movies. It’s like a TV show but without the long-term commitment. It’s like a book, when you can’t be bothered reading one. It immerses you in foreign cultures and countries from the couch in your own home. For some, movies allow you to escape reality for 2 hours. For others, they are enriching explorations of the human race’s greatest questions and qualms.
Travel movies are like travel planning sessions without the need to lift a finger. It’s adventure and laziness all rolled into one. Whether you are currently travelling, planning travel or fresh off the back of a great trip here are 6 life-changing films that will make you wish you weren’t at home, like they do for me on a regular basis.
#6 The Bucket List (2007)
Two men are on their death bed. Edward (Jack Nicholson) is a rich, stubborn, impulsive and arrogant businessman. Carter (Morgan Freeman) is a measured, working class mechanic and lifelong family man. After the unlikely two befriend one another sharing a hospital room, Ed takes the two on a round-the-world journey on his private jet to cross items off their Bucket List: “a list of things to do before you kick the bucket.”
The film highlights the importance of living life to the fullest in the face of all obstacles. It also works off of an importance concept in the travel movie genre: the idea that being in one place is confining, and staying in that one place is, for many people, the breeding place of regret. This dilemma is faced by nearly every protagonist on this list.
(2007 is, by pure coincidence, going to be a very popular number in this list.)
#5 Long Way Down (2007)
Not a good start to begin a countdown about movies with a series. But trust me when I say it is worth it. In this short series, actors Ewan McGregor and Charley Boorman ride motorcycles from the top of Scotland to the bottom of South Africa in one long transcontinental roadtrip, taking in the sights and sounds of the countless cultures that traverse the Afro-Eurasian landmass.
With a specific focus on Africa, this is travel-bait at its finest, and any viewer is bound to put Africa on their travel bucket list. This is more than just a city-to-city road-trip, it is a buddy movie made in real life, following two best mates as they hurl themselves through the unknown with abandon and adventure. A masterpiece in its own right.
#4 The Darjeeling Limited (2007)
Wes Anderson’s filmography is impressive. From Bottle Rocket (1998) to The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014), the guy is a crafter of brilliant cinema. And it is my belief that The Darjeeling Limited is his masterpiece. 3 estranged brothers reunite in India a year after last seeing each other at their father’s funeral. This peculiarly light story of family, separation and miscommunication is set to the backdrop of India’s West Bengal region (and Nepal, briefly). The story will make you laugh, think and want to book an indefinite trip to India, pronto!
“A: I want us be become brothers again like we used to be and for us to find ourselves and bond with each other.
B: I want us to make this trip a spiritual journey where each of us seek the unknown, and we learn about it.
C: I want us to be completely open and say yes to everything even if it’s shocking and painful. Can we agree to that?”
-Francis (Owen Wilson)
#3 The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (2013)
“Ground Control to Major Tom? Can you hear me Major Tom?”
Walter Mitty lives a stereotypical regretful life, single and working an office job. That is until he is thrust into a cross-continental adventure in pursuit of a photo negative for the front cover of LIFE magazine’s final issue, after which he and his peers lose their jobs.
Initally, his adventures are but sporadic moments of distraction. But quickly, he is leaping from a helicopter into icy seas, longboarding down a long and winding road, and climbing rocky mountains.
The Secret Life of Walter Mitty is the fantasy manifest: literally walking out the front door of your office building in the middle of the day, getting on a plane and flying to parts unknown on a whim. Mitty opens the floodgates for your now endless longing to see Iceland and Greenland.
His magazine’s motto is, itself, a perfect summary of the nature of travel itself:
“To see the world, things dangerous to come to, to see behind walls, draw closer, to find each other, and to feel. That is the purpose of LIFE.”
#2 The Way (2011)
Directed by Emilio Estevez (star of The Breakfast Club and The Mighty Ducks movies) and starring his father Martin Sheen, The Way is a heart-warming story of loss, life and regret. Successful, ageing and stuck in his ways, ophthalmologist Thomas Avery is the least adventurous person you could conjure… until his son dies in the French Pyrenees, walking the ‘Camino de Santiago’ or ‘The Way of St. James’: a spiritual pilgimage. Determined to finish the walk to honour his son, Tom journeys onward with the ashes of his son in-hand.
This is a specific adventure kind of travel film. It is not inspiration to do just any travel, this will inspire you to want to, at some point in your life, walk The Way to overcome a personal obstacle, find God or lose weight (the aim of one character in the film). This is true for many peregrinos (pilgims), as the Camino saw an unprecedented and consistent spike in popularity after the film’s release in 2011.
While it was not hard to narrow the countdown to these 6 films, it would be wrong if I did not mention some other classics—films that have inspired me to travel to places
- Lord of the Rings (2001-2003). Speaks for itself. Go to New Zealand.
- On the Road (2012). Based on Jack Kerouac’s classic novel of the same name, it follows Sal Paradise on his cross country travels across the US between 1947 and 1950. It combines 1940’s American nostalgia and a series of truly epic American road-trips.
- The Kite Runner (2007). Two unlikely best friends from Kabul are driven apart by the Soviet invasion of Afganistan. This bittersweet tale of loyalty, betrayal and enduring friendship highlights a truly unique corner of the world by sharing its
- Diarios de Motocicleta/The Motorcycle Diaries (2004). This biopic is based on the memoir of Ernesto “Che” Guevara and his voyage across South America on his motorbike with close friend Alberto Granado. It puts a spotlight on the beauty of the vast and rugged continent.
- Thelma and Louise (1991). Another great American road-trip involving two best friends on the run from the law. On the road and off, it highlights the US landscape in a very romantic way.
#1 Home Is For The Heartless (2012)
This travel rockumentary is the most inspiring travel film I have ever come across and is without a doubt my favourite film. I’m going to go ahead and call it a must-see. A 5-piece band from Byron Bay embark on a world tour from Australia to Europe, Central and South America and Asia. Instead of adopting the standard method of doing as many consecutive dates in the smallest amount of time, the band decides to make it their mission to experience the places they go to and film it all, every step of the way. Do not be put off by the music. This is the closest to The Endless Summer we will see in our generation.
“One of the best things about being home is having the time to reflect on what you’ve just done and looking back at the places you’ve been, the people you’ve met and being able to take it all in. It’s not until you actually stop moving that you have got the chance to sit back and reflect on the experiences and the things you have done. Being home is the ultimate perspective.”
—Parkway Drive vocalist Winston McCall
Did I get it right? What did I miss? Let me know!
Travel to learn.