Looking for some great travel movies? We share some of our favorite adventure films.
Any list of the top travel movies is going to be a bit controversial. After all, opinions about what make the best travel movies are as diverse as the people watching.
However, there are some wanderlust movies that are so iconic that it’s hard to argue about their inclusion on our list.
The Best Travel Movies
Each of these movies is on our list for a different reason. Some bring back memories of carefree summer vacations, while others have characters that visit remote and undiscovered lands. Some of these movies are all about adventure, while others are more introspective, and about the inner journey. Still, others show off the filmmaker’s video editing capabilities, and their gorgeous cinematography.
The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (2013)
The Secret Life of Walter Mitty stars Ben Stiller as Walter. He spends his days daydreaming about an exciting existence, but spends day-after-day developing photos for Life magazine. His life turns around when he takes the chance to travel the world to find the perfect photo for the magazine’s final print issue.
It’s a funny and inspiring adventure movie, full of gorgeous scenery and grand adventures.
Where to watch. Stream: HBO Now, HBO Max. Buy or rent: YouTube, iTunes.
Hector and the Search for Happiness (2014)
Equally touching and funny, Hector and the Search for Happiness stars Simon Pegg as a middle aged psychiatrist who travels the world in his search for happiness.
One NSFW word of caution: You may find yourself saying: “I want happiness” in an over-the-top French accent over and over.
Lost in Translation is a movie that I’ve watched over and over. It perfectly captures that sense of disconnect that I feel when I first visit a new destination where the language and customs are so different from my own.
Starring Bill Murray and a young Scarlett Johansson, Lost in Translation was directed by Sofia Coppola. The movie follows the relationship of an aging movie star (Murray) and a lonely, adrift young woman (Johansson) against the backdrop of Tokyo, Japan.
Where to watch. Stream: Crave, Starz. Rent or Buy: Amazon, YouTube.
Under the Tuscan Sun (2003)
Starring Diane Lane, Under the Tuscan Sun tells the story of a midlife woman who finds romance and a new purpose while renovating a run-town Italian villa. It’s equal parts romance, self discovery, wonderful food, and views of the stunning Tuscan landscape.
Based on the bestselling book by novelist Elizabeth Gilbert, Eat, Pray, Love follows Gilbert’s (Julia Roberts) journey of self discovery as she travels the globe.
Where to watch. Stream on Starz. Rent or buy on Amazon, YouTube, Microsoft.
In Bruges (2008)
Love it or hate it, the movie In Bruges captures the charms of Bruges, Belgium perfectly. It’s a grittier choice than many of the movies on this list as it follows the adventures of hit men Ray (Colin Farrell) and Ken (Brendan Gleeson) as they await new orders in Bruges however you can’t fault the Belgium ambience.
Where to watch. Stream on AMC+. Rent or buy: YouTube, Google, iTunes, Amazon.
Based on the real-live adventure of author Cheryl Strayed, Wild stars Reese Witherspoon. An inexperienced hiker, Strayed decided to walk the challenging Pacific Crest Trail to face her inner demons, and comes to the end of the hike with a newfound clarity about her life.
Where to watch. Stream: Disney+. Rent or buy: iTunes
Into the Wild (2007)
Into the Wild is a real-life true story of the journey of Christopher McCandless, who disappeared while exploring the wilderness in Alaska.
Because of the sad ending, I resisted seeing this for a couple of years, thinking it would be a sad movie to watch. Surprisingly, I found Christopher’s journey to be inspiring and uplifting. The scenery is gorgeous as well.
Where to watch. Rent or Buy: iTunes, YouTube, Amazon.
The Way (2010)
I’ve always wanted to walk the Camino de Santiago in Spain. This movie stars Martin Sheen, who undertakes the walk as a pilgrimage of sorts to his recently deceased son. It’s a sad premise, but the movie is ultimately a perfect showcase for the gorgeous Camino de Santiago journey.
Where to watch. Stream: Amazon Prime. Rent of Buy: YouTube, Amazon, iTunes.
Tracks tells the real life story of Robyn Davidson, who spent nine months trekking across the Australian desert on camels. Starring Mia Wasikowska and Adam Driver, the movie is an inspiration for solo travelers in challenging terrain.
Where to watch. Stream: Amazon Prime. Rent or buy: YouTube, Cineplex.
Before Sunrise (1995) – Before Sunset (2004) – Before Midnight (2013)
I’ll watch anything starring the talented Ethan Hawke. That said, these movies hold their own as is.
I watched these out of order, seeing Before Sunset before the original, Before Sunrise. I think it was a mistake as the original was my favorite. The movie stars a very young Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy flirting and talking philosophy among the charming streets of Vienna, Austria after hours.
There’s a lot of dialogue and relationship talk here, so this might not be the trilogy for you if you’re craving action and excitement.
Where to watch. Stream: Hoopla. Rent or buy: Amazon, YouTube, iTunes.
Out of Africa (1985)
Starring Meryl Streep and Robert Redford, Out of Africa is one of those iconic travel movies. The scenery is stunning, and Streep’s performance is wonderful. The movie itself won best picture and best cinematography the year it was relieased. The movie tells of the story of Danish author Karen Blixen, who moved to Africa to build a new life for herself.
Where to watch. Rent or buy: Amazon, YouTube, iTunes.
The Beach (2000)
Based on Alex Garland’s book of the same name, this movie tells the story of twenty-something Richard (Leonardo DiCaprio), who is in search of a lost paradise away from the backpacker trail. He finds a strange map, and makes his way to a hidden island.
The Beach was filmed on Maya Beach on Thailand’s Koh Phi Phi Le (or Ko Phi Phi Leh). After the film came out, the beach was overrun by visitors.
When we visited in 2003, once pristine Maya Bay was still beautiful, but covered in a film of oil from boats ferrying visitors like us to the island. It’s since been closed to allow it to recover, and is open in a limited capacity.
Where to watch. Stream on Disney+. Rent or buy: Amazon, YouTube, iTunes.
Roman Holiday (1953)
Starring Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Pick, this black-and-white classic is set in Rome. It’s a fun, quirky, love story where a princess (Hepburn) meets a reporter (Peck), and they spend a day exploring 1950’s Rome.
Where to watch. Rent or buy: Amazon, YouTube, iTunes, Microsoft Store.
Up in the Air (2009)
If you love airports and flying, then this is the movie for you. There’s not a lot of great scenery here, or adventures across the country though. It stars George Clooney as Ryan, who travels the USA firing people for other companies. He’s about to reach his life’s goal of a million frequent flyer miles, when technology threatens to make his travels obsolete.
Where to watch. Stream: FuboTV. Rent or Buy: Amazon, YouTube, iTunes, Microsoft Store.
The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel (2011)
A handful of older Brits decide to retire in the Marigold Hotel in Jaipur, India, rather than in sterile retirement homes back in the UK.
There’s a great cast with Judi Dench, Celia Imrie, and Bill Nighy, who struggle with day-to-day life in India.
Where to watch. Stream: Roku. Rent or Buy: Amazon, YouTube, iTunes, Microsoft Store.
Lawrence of Arabia (1962)
Starring a young Peter O’Toole, this epic historical drama based on the life of T. E. Lawrence, follows the plight of a British soldier who unites nomadic Arabian tribes to band against the Turks in the first World War. Set against the backdrop of the Arabian Desert, it’s a beautifully shot film and is often considered one of the best movies of all time. Whether you agree with the premise though is up to you.
Where to watch. Stream: Amazon Video. Rent or Buy: Apple TV, Google Play, YouTube
The Best Road Trip Movies
The road trip is gold for adventure, fun, and great scenery. These flicks run the gamut from funny road trip movies to more serious explorations of culture and living conditions on the road.
If you’re a fan of California wine country, this is the travel movie for you. It’s the story of two middle aged men on a road trip through wine country.
Where to watch. Stream on Disney+, Crave, Starz. Rent or Buy: Amazon, YouTube, iTunes, Microsoft Store.
Planes, Trains, and Automobiles (1987)
Starring John Candy and Steve Martin, this is one of the all time classic road trip comedy movies. Trying to get home during a freak snowstorm, control freak Neil Page (Martin), keeps encountering bumbling and talkative Del (Candy). Out of necessity, the two pair up to try to get home on a cross country road trip from New York to Chicago.
I’ve watched this with the kids (beware the R rating if you have little kids), and they thought it was hilarious. Our favorite quote: “Those aren’t pillows!”
Where to watch. Rent or buy: Amazon, YouTube, iTunes.
Definitely the raunchiest of the movies on this list, the R rated Eurotrip is still one of our favorite travel movies. Crossing 8 countries while trying to get the girl of his dreams, a group of friends travel Europe together one summer vacation and fall into one funnier predicament after another. It’s light and fun however there are some iconic shots across Europe in there as well as a few places you likely won’t find on the beaten path. Also one of the most wrong and catchy (and funny once you’ve watched the movie) songs you’ll ever hear in a movie (Scotty doesn’t know.)
Where to watch. Rent or Buy: Apple TV, Google Play, YouTube
National Lampoon’s Vacation (1983)
One of the best movies about family vacations, this 1980s classic starts Chevy Chase as bumbling, but well-meaning Clark Griswold. It’s an over-the-top spoof of the classic American road trip, that incidentally takes them through the Grand Canyon and Death Valley.
Where to watch. Stream: Starz, Crave. Rent or Buy: Amazon, YouTube, iTunes, Microsoft Store.
The Motorcycle Diaries (2004)
The Motorcycle Diaries is based on the journals of Che Guevara, leader of the Cuban Revolution. Starring Gael García Bernal, the movie shows Che and his pal Alberto Granado on a road trip from the Andes to Machu Picchu and other South American Landmarks.
Where to watch. Rent or Buy: Amazon, YouTube, iTunes, Microsoft Store.
Best Travel Movies on Netflix
Choosing the best travel movies on Netflix can be a bit tricky, since Netflix is constantly changing the movies in their catalogue and they can vary from country to country. That said, here are our picks for the best travel movies on Netflix right now.
Seven Years in Tibet (1997)
Brad Pitt is the lead in this epic film based on a true story. Pitt plays egocentric Austrian mountain climber, Heinrich Harrer, who escapes from a WWII prisoner of war camp in India. He makes his way to refuge in the sacred land of Tibet, where he meets the young Dalai Lama.
Where to watch. Stream: Netflix.
Holiday in the Wild (2019)
Ok, I’m fully aware of the incongruity of putting a fun, escapist movie like Holiday in the Wild directly after a classic like Seven Years in Tibet. That said, Holiday in the Wild is both a fun movie, and chock full of absolutely stunning images of South Africa and Zambia landscapes and wildlife.
The movie stars Rob Lowe and Kristin Davis (who played Charlotte York Goldenblatt in Sex in the City). Davis plays a woman who is Jilted by her husband on the eve of embarking on an African safari. She chooses to travel to Africa alone, where she meets Lowe, who plays an elephant conservationist.
IMDB rating: 6.1
Where to watch. Stream: Netflix.
Wine Country (2019)
Another lighthearted romp, Wine Country is produced and directed by Amy Poehler, with a great cast that includes Poehler herself, Maya Rudolph, Kristen Wiig, and Melissa McCarthy.
It’s set in a girls-only vacation to Napa Valley, where a group of longtime friends reunite and revisit past choices.