Films, like travel, allow us to pause the drudgery of everyday life in exchange for a new storyline. So naturally, there are some REALLY great movies about traveling out there that show just how transformative a road trip or experiencing a new culture can be. If you want to simultaneously sit on your couch but also go on a trip, boy have we got the list of travel movies for you. So fire up those fleece blankets and hit up the pizza man, we’ve got your night covered.
To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything!
Q: What is better than a road trip?
A: A road trip with three drag queens, hunty!
Wesley Snipes, Patrick Swayze and John Leguizamo are some of the last people you would expect to put on some cha-cha heels and tuck, but somehow, these three all-stars make killer queens. Set in mid-1990s New York City, To Wong Foo is not only about the journey to Los Angeles, it also pokes and prods at gender roles and queerdom throughout the story. Watching three “ladies” get into a whirlwind of adventures in small town America, where men in dresses aren’t something you see every day, makes some great entertainment. If you’re looking for a campy comedy to lift your spirits and make you long for the open road, definitely put this one in your queue.
If you’re looking for a movie with a plot or a narrator, you’d best skip this one. If you’re looking to be floored with beautiful 70mm imagery filmed in over 25 countries, watch Samsara. Make no mistake though, this is not Planet Earth or a neatly wrapped travel television series. Samsara shows you life in the demilitarized zone, Buddhist rituals, a peek into life in the American south, dancing prisoners in Cebu City, the Kilauea Volcano in Hawaii and so many more places. This rare and random insight can be funny, strange, sad or downright awe-inducing, but it provides a beautiful perspective into the world’s many places, cultures, castes and terrain. Watch this film and travel the world without changing out of your comfy pants.
Fans of classic movies might be familiar with the works of Ingmar Berman, the director also responsible for The Seventh Seal, Smiles of a Summer Night and Scenes from a Marriage. His 1957 film, Wild Strawberries is another one of the most notable works that helped solidify him as a true cinematic legend. In this movie, the unsavory lead character Isak Borg, an elderly physician in Sweden must travel from Stockholm to Lund to receive his golden doctorate degree. He is joined by his son’s unhappy pregnant wife—not exactly the dream team of road trips. During the journey to Lund the two encounter a variety of characters and places that make this movie wonderfully melancholy and introspective. Even though it’s in black and white, the audience can also get a glimpse of what summers are like in the Swedish countryside, brimming with flowers and foliage. Wild Strawberries is a masterpiece that exemplifies the impact travel can have on one’s mind, regardless of age.
*The full movie is available above, via YouTube
You don’t have to be a kid to watch a good cartoon. Spirited Away (along with every other Hayao Miyazaki movie) tugs on the heartstrings of many adults (singer Ariana Grande even got a tattoo from the film on her arm). The story follows a ten-year-old girl who goes on a journey into the spirit world in order to save herself and her parents from malevolent mystical forces. Kids can enjoy this flick too if you’ve been tasked with finding a movie that isn’t completely annoying but also appropriate for half-pints. Spirited Away is a less concrete example of a travel movie, but still captures the excitement, anxieties and adventure of any trip into the unknown.
Lost in Translation
If you’ve ever dated a successful musician, artist, photographer or anyone of a certain clout then you know that unsavory feeling of living in someone else’s shadow. In Lost in Translation, Scarlett Johansson and Bill Murray both perfectly portray the melancholy realness of being in an unfulfilling relationship and feeling generally unsatisfied with life. After meeting by chance in a swanky Tokyo hotel, the two go on various adventures throughout the city, despite their differences in age and lifestyle. The mood is what one would expect from director Sophia Coppola: dark and pensive punctuated by moments of surreal humor and silliness. Lost in Translation will pull on your heartstrings and bump up Japan to the top of your bucket list.
What are YOUR favorite travel-related movies that aren’t Britney Spears’ Crossroads? Send us your underrated favs and we’ll give you a shout-out on part two of our travel movies series.