Posted April 14, 2020

15 Movies to Watch When Your Wanderlust is Hitting Hard


Give in to your wanderlust and lose yourself in one of these best-loved travel movies. Photo credit: Rowan Heuvel on Unsplash

True, the best way to slake wanderlust is to actually go somewhere. No arguments here. But if that’s not in the cards? A well-chosen movie can scratch the itch. So here’s what to watch when your wanderlust is hitting hard, whether you’re in the mood for romance or soul-searching, Italy or India, magical realism or sly British humor…

If you’re in the mood for: Romance

Before Sunrise / Before Sunset / Before Midnight
What if. This is the question that haunts Linklater’s sublime trilogy, and to an extent, it’s a question — the question — that haunts all of us: What if we had dinner with that stranger on the train? What if we spent the night, or even spent a lifetime, together in Paris? What if we reunited in Vienna, a decade later? The answers might be unknowable, but the questions themselves are a sort of treasure.

This way to endless possible outcomes in Before Sunrise / Before Sunset / Before Midnight. Photo credit: H Fall on Unsplash

In this magical realism version of Paris, Audrey Tautou sees the beauty in everything, from garden gnomes to the streets of Montmartre, and her random acts of enchantment awaken our own inner-optimists. (Real talk? This is a good time for a jolt of optimism.)

Amélie will have you seeing the world around you with fresh eyes . Photo credit: Léonard Cotte on Unsplash

Romancing the Stone
It is unlikely your next vacation will involve a treasure map, a pit of hungry crocodiles, or the smuggling of precious gems. Yet this throwback inspires the kind of “adventure romance” that you dreamt of as a kid.

Join Joan and Jack on a whimsical and thrilling adventure in Romancing the Stone. Photo credit: Ricardo Gomez Angel on Unsplash

Under the Tuscan Sun
The ultimate travel fantasy: you love a place so much that you say, Screw it, why don’t I just live here?! Who among us can’t relate to spontaneously buying an Italian villa (because of course), then bumping into a local antiques dealer who is, somehow, even more gorgeous than the Tuscan scenery. Absurdist fantasy? Maybe, but it’s one that’s hard to top.

Roman Holiday
When Audrey Hepburn tastes her first gelato on the Spanish Steps, it’s scientifically impossible to not fall in love with both her and the city. The Trevi Fountain? The Palazzo Colonna? The Pantheon? Yep, they’re all accounted for, and nearly 70 years after its premiere, this remains the most charming introduction to Rome.

Go on a virtual vacation to Rome circa 1953 in the classic romantic comedy, Roman Holiday. Photo credit: Christopher Czermak on Unsplash

In the Mood for: Quirky Road Trip

Because real life is not an Instagram post, and the most fulfilling adventures are ones filled with nuance, reflection, and even honest notes of melancholy. And wine. Lots and lots of wine.

Get a satisfying taste of Santa Ynez Valley wine country in Sideways. Photo credit: Belyay on iStock

The Trip
You know how you have a certain banter with your very best friend — plenty of inside jokes — that cracks both of you up? And you know how it’s even funnier on a road trip? We get this in spades from Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon, who ooze the kind of idiosyncratic British humor that makes you long for a trip to northern England.

What’s a travel story without food? Chef, or rather Jon Favreau’s food truck “El Jefe,” delivers the culinary goods, serving up authentically prepared yuca, plantains, and Cubano pork sandwiches — all supervised by real-life LA food truck impresario Roy Choi.

Join Chef on his quest across the country to rediscover his passion for cooking. Photo credit: Pgiam on iStock

Little Miss Sunshine
Who wouldn’t want to go on a road trip with a suicidal genius, an f-bomb dropping grandfather, a Nietzsche-reading teenager who took a vow of silence, and an adorable seven-year-old who dreams of winning a beauty pageant? Like the most memorable road trips, the film works not despite of the dysfunction, but because of it.

In the mood for: Soul Searching

The platonic form of cinematic wanderlust. With apologies to Eat, Pray, Love, this is the pitch-perfect film for evoking that glorious freedom of strapping on a backpack, lacing up your hiking boots, trusting your wits and guts and craving for the unknown, and kissing your day-to-day goodbye.

If you’re missing the great outdoors, Wild will deliver it to you in spades. Photo credit: Robert Crum on iStock.jpg

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
You don’t need a trip to Belize to fuel your wanderlust; sometimes all it takes is a train ride to Montauk, or, with some ethically questionable medical procedures, a journey into your own memories. It’s a reminder that the most sneaky-rewarding travels — and memories — can be close to home.

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind reminds us that some of our greatest adventures live in our memories. Photo credit: Clay LeConey on Unsplash

Out of Africa
This 2 hour and 40 minute love letter to Africa — packed with lush endless plains, migrations of wildebeests, and possibly cinema’s most iconic shampooing scene — will give goosebumps from the opening line, “I had a farm in Africa, at the foot of the Ngong Hills.”

Leave the bustling city behind and escape to Out of Africa. Photo credit: Henrik Hansen on Unsplash

In the mood for: Unlikely Bonding in Unlikely Places

Darjeeling Limited
Fun fact: Wes Anderson spent three months shooting on location in India, using an actual train that rumbled across the Thar desert. And it shows. The sensory overload of purples, ruby reds, and yellows both bewilders and inspires the estranged trio of brothers… just like a trip to India should.

Take in the dizzying sights of India in Darjeeling Limited. Photo credit: Claire K on Unsplash

Lost in Translation
Has there ever been a better depiction of culture shock? Tokyo’s disorienting neon lights, karaoke bars, and arcades do to the viewer what they do to the traveler — they nudge you to think, reflect, and discover shared connections in unexpected places.

Lost In Translation will challenge you to open your eyes (and heart) to the unlikely bonds that travel can forge. Photo credit: Andre Benz on Unsplash

Show us a man who doesn’t tear up in the first 20 minutes of Up, and we will show you a man without a heart. Whether you’re a wide-eyed, chubby, eight-year-old “Wilderness Explorer” or a 78-year-old grouch, Up is the perfect travel escape for all of us who, from time to time, like to keep our heads in the clouds.