The Best Travel Movies

By Nomadic Matt | Published May 30th, 2008

Travel movies are the best movies for those who are nomadic at heart. They inspire us to get out on the road, stay on the road, or visit a particular place. They get us excited about new cultures and whet our appetite for that upcoming trip. Essentially, they rock our world. Here are the best travel movies out there that will have you jumping on the next plane:

The Beach
the beach movie
Released in 2000, the movie follows Alex Garland’s novel about young backpackers who set out to find paradise but end up destroying it, and it had me drooling over Thailand. Those beaches, those parties, those people. It seemed wonderful. Backpackers in Asia are always reading the book, and the movie plays in all the guesthouses. It says something about our hopes for the road- we want to find our own idyllic, romantic paradise. The one we all think won’t be destroyed, but will. The movie has a different ending, characters, and storyline than the book, but the theme is the same. It is a great reflection on the hopes and realities of travel. [Buy this movie on Amazon.]

The Motorcycle Diaries
the motorcycle diaries
Set in South America, this movie follows the life of Che Guevara from doctor to revolutionary. Starring Gael Garcia Bernal, this poignant tale features amazing images of South America, from the deserts to the rain forest. It shows the heart breaking poverty of the time period too. Beautifully cast and directed, this movie will make you want to jump on a motorcycle and explore the continent. Even if you do not agree with the politics of the movie, its acting is first rate, and this movie transcends the politics of the man it follows. It was critically acclaimed for a reason. [Buy this movie on Amazon.]

Any Indiana Jones
indiana jones
Indy made everyone an archaeologist and an adventure seeker. From Egypt to India, Indy showed us the world and the mythology of ancient cultures. The movie brought out the adventurer in me and helped foster a love for history. It also did wonders for Petra, Jordan. Who didn’t want to see the city after watching the Last Crusade!? Despite the lackluster fourth installment, these movies not only remain some of the best of all time, but some of the best in travel. [Buy this movie on Amazon.]

Thelma and Louise
thelma and louise
Released in 1991, this tragic story stars Susan Sarandon and Geena Davis as two women driving across the American Southwest in search of adventure and friendship while escaping the law. The movie is stunningly acted, winning many accolades, and also features breathtaking shots of the American west that will make you want to get in your car and see the country… unless gas prices keep rising, then we’ll just have to settle for this movie. [Buy this movie on Amazon.]

Lawrence of Arabia
lawrence of arabia
Released in 1962, this Peter O’Toole classic is set during World War One and follows a British soldier’s interaction with nomadic tribes. O’Toole is T.E. Lawrence who unites Arabian tribes against the Turks. With stunning images of the desert, you’ll soon be wanting to lead your own expedition through the desert, though probably not for war. Lawrence may remain a controversial figure, but there’s no controversy that this is a great film set in an amazing place. [Buy this movie on Amazon.]

Priscilla, Queen of the Desert
priscilla, queen of the desert
A movie about Australian drag queens that take a road trip across the desert in order to perform at a lip syncing show. It’s funny, it’s heartwarming, it won a bunch of awards. The stars get shocking reactions as they wander across the outback towards their show, stopping often along the way. Most importantly, it highlights two of the best things about Australia: the outback and awesome accents. [Buy this movie on Amazon.]

A Good Year
russell crowe in a good year
Made in 2006 and starring Russell Crowe, this movie features him as an uptight banker who finds his soul again when returns to his uncle’s vineyard. All he wants to do is sell it and make some money, but soon the countryside and a pretty French girl have him changing his tune. (French girls always have you changing your tune!) It’s a great movie for the wine lover, and along with Under The Tuscan Sun, will have you heading off to the nearest vineyard before the credits finish. [Buy this movie on Amazon.]

Eurotrip
eurotrip
A silly movie about backpacking in Europe, this movie will nonetheless have you wanting to see all the places they filmed. The movie takes you across Europe in a whirlwind of stereotypes, but it’s pretty funny, and anyone who has roamed Europe can probably relate to a few of the situations. The script isn’t great, and some of the situations are goofy, but it does a good job of sending you across Europe and features a very memorable appearance by Matt Damon. [Buy this movie on Amazon.]

Seven Years in Tibet
seen years in tibet movie
This movie is about a German mountaineer Heinrich Harrer and his time with the Dalai Lama. Released in 1997 and starring Brad Pitt, it takes a good look at Tibetan culture on the eve of the Chinese invasion. You get an outsider’s perspective on this remote nation and of the ruler who now lives in exile in India. It is a very interesting movie, even if it’s not 100% historically accurate. [Buy this movie on Amazon.]

For even more great travel movies, check out part two of my list.

If you want any of these movies, please purchase through the links above! It helps support this website!

comments 50 Comments

Erica

After having watched The Beach, I dreamed about backpacking in Thailand. Well, I still do… sometimes.

The Motorcycle Diaries always makes me wanna travel to South America.

Since I saw my first Indiana Jones movie when I was 9 I can’t get enough of them. Am also a big fan of Thelma and Louise. The first time I watched it, I decided I’d make a road trip across the US someday.

Have only seen Priscilla once, but I love it, it’s such a feel-good movie!

Saw A Good Year a few months ago,
Crowe is one of my favorite actors so I knew I’d love this one. The movie truly gives a brilliant picture of Tuscany.

Still need to watch seven years in tibet and the lawrence of arabia.
Don’t really understand how you can include Eurotrip though :)

Dorian

Sounds like you need to start doin all those things you’ve been planning for so long!

Christy

Love love love The Beach & Motorcycle Diaries, both of which are on my favorite list.

travelphilippines

i just watched the beach a few weeks ago as i was really desperate about going to thailand hehe.

backpacking philippines and asia

if you’ve seen the lastest indiana jones movie, they used pyramid of chichen itza from mexico in Peru

such a mix up :(

Nomadic Matt

@anon #1: Both good movies.

@Erica: Because I like Eurotrip and it is good at showing you all the cities.

@Anon #2: Never say Elizabethtown. What’s it about?

@all: great selections. Keep them coming

stevo

All great films. What about the Vacation series?

Lawrence was WWI not WWII, sorry for the nitpick.

Eva

Cool list. Woot for Thelma and Louise!

I also love love love Before Sunrise/Before Sunset and Roman Holiday (chick flicks + travel? my dream combo!), and Stand By Me I’d argue could be a travel movie, too.

Domina

good choice of movies. indie 4 and motorcycle diaries were definitly inspriational for me!

Anthony

Hey man, I forget to drop by! But I agree with Motorcycle Diaries. I haven’t seen all of it, but enough of it to get me going. Later man!

Tanya

Don’t forget Planes, Trains and Automobiles! It has travel built right into the title :-)

Haha, I’m sitting in a hostel in Berlin and watching Eurotrip now.

Just total awesomeness.

sansrid

I have to see many of them in the list. I actually googled and reached here because i was inspired with two movies.
1. Into the wild
2. The art of Travel.

Jason

i loved into the wild and the art of travel! if you liked those two movies, you will LOVE a movie titled Last Stop for Paul

matt

hey, i agree with a few of these movies like motorcycle diaries which is unbelievable and the beach but no so much many of the rest-different folks different strokes i suppose. i was wondering why into the wild wasnt in there?

Nate

The Art Of Travel is a movie that should definately be on this list. Anyone who has not seen this really should. It is very inspiring and the ending is priceless.

john

i just watched The Art of Travel. While inspiring, it was more along the lines of a B movie…but entertaining.

could add Y Tu Mama Tambien to the list also

Barry Smedley

My wife and I have just completed 20 years of world travel. To celebrate and to share this experience we have completed a series of DVD’s based on our personal experiences & the many people we have met, many of who have become our dearest friends

The first 10 countries are now available on Amazon.com, simply enter Travel with Barry & Corinne DVD’s. We have produced an introductory DVD about ourselves entitled “Around the World to find Happiness.” Also available from Amazon.

Love to hear from others with a passion for travel!

Zeba

The Beach remains my most favorite movie till date. That movie just inspires me to travel in a way nothing else can…loved this post. Going to watch The Motorcycle Diaries now…will keep a tab on your blog. Keep writing! :)

Adam

I’m sorry guys and gals, but Into the Wild is absolutely one of the worst movies I’ve ever had the nauseating displeasure to watch. I totally, totally hated it. This is strange because I love travel, adventure, survival, Alaska, and all the things that the movie could have been. But it sucked. Really sucked.

The Beach – totally love it. Motorcycle Diaries – beautiful. Y Tu Mama Tambien really belongs on this list, it’s great. Broken English is sort of a travel movie, and decent. Vicky Christina Barcelona – excellent. Lost In Translation – totally love it. Maybe Jeremiah Johnson (sort of?) or Broken Flowers (sort of?)? I’m sure there are a lot more I can’t think of right now, but good list!

Zeba

So I watched The Motorcycle Diaries and I loved it! I’m now downloading all the movies on this list. You’re pretty awesome. ^_^

Oooh, good list. I haven’t seen a few of these so looks like I’ll be renting some DVDs this weekend! Though my favorite travel movie of all time is Under the Tuscan Sun. Am also excited for the movie version of Eat, Pray, Love. Shit, I’m such a girl.

Seth Hosko

One of my favorite travel movies is L’auberge Espagnole. Just as essential
if not more than The Beach.

I am surprised you missed Into The Wild, Lost in Translation, The Sheltering sky, or a travel movie par excellence, Pixars excellent animation movie Up.

Cody

I can’t believe no one mentioned “A Map For Saturday”

NomadicMatt

I have a whole post dedicated to that movie that’s why. I love that movie. It’s amazing.

Dave

Does anyone know the filming location of Elizabetown where Drew and Claire meet to watch the sunrise? I would LOVE to visit that place.

I agree…Elizabethtown is a great movie that inspires me to go on road trips. I’m a romantic, so I love the ending too.

Ado

Last Stop for Paul made me want to book the next ticket to a new place. Way more than the Beach or Art of Travel did.

Agreed. L’Auberge Espagnole is as close to a film about authentic hostel life as you can find, except that it takes place in an apartment.

How about Under the Tuscan Sun?

NomadicMatt

It’s in the second list!

Cenk

Good choices. But as other commenters said, Into the Wild should be in the list.
Also another movie can be Transamerica.

NomadicMatt

Into the Wild is on the second list! It is now one of my favorite movies!

Aditya

Watch ‘The Way Back’… One of the most beautiful travel movies, though a little slow paced..love it

NomadicMatt

I’ll add it to my list. Thanks for the tip.

I have a few that Im not sure I saw in the comments here, forgive me I I repeat any. These are some of my favourites.

Outsourced (2006)- After his entire department is outsourced, an American novelty products salesman (Hamilton) heads to India to train his replacement.

Dreaming Lhasa (2005)-A Tibetan travels to Dharamsala to make a film about the exile community, and to escape her crumbling personal life back in New York City. Great soundtrack. (if you liked 7 years in tibet you will like this one)

Baraka (1992)- An incredible film. Its beautiful cultural scences from around the world set to music. No plot, no words. Not hollywood.

Cant think of anymore right now, maybe I’ll come back…

NomadicMatt

I recently saw Outsourced. It was a good movie.

Nice moves, i was very inspired with the motorcycle diaries!

Nik

Definetely see 180 Degrees South, by Woodshed Films. It’s amazing, great soundtrack as well.

I think Wild America is a good film, maybe for a younger audience?

Tammy

Great suggestions! The Motorcycle Diaries is one of my all-time favorite movies, along with Into the Wild.

Jeanne Bartlett

Looking for the name of an amazing film set in Barcelona. Don”t remember the plot or the actors, but it involves a chase through Barcelona and a really spaced out girl living with someone in Gaudi’s apartment. Beautiful interior shots. Also, a young couple fighting for custody of a child and a female translator. Sounds confused, I know. Loved it but am beginning to think I’m the only one who ever saw it!

An ever growing list – there’s some great ones on here (I especially like Seven years in Tibet… and of course the Indiana series)… though I had trouble with the Beach. The concept was great… but I watched it when it first came out while visiting Thailand, and the images they portrayed of obnoxious tourists partying and ignoring culture was a sad awakening to where I was. I wanted different too.

Phil Schifley

You lost me at Eurotrip. Yeesh, this list was written by somebody with myopic taste. How do you have zero movies in Africa? And the Beach is the best beach movie you could find? What a clunker. This list makes me think you’ve never left your house and only seen people travel in movies and TV.

NomadicMatt

You’re totally right. My taste in movies definitely means I’ve never left my house. The two are totally related. Also, see list #2. Out of Africa and Nowhere in Africa are two great movies.

Carolina Flores

I would totally add Midnight in Paris, makes me wanna go there every time I watch it :)

Completely with you with Lord of the Rings!

I would also add “A Map for Saturday” – low budget but interesting footage of shoestring travel!

ian

I’ve watched The Beach among your list. I think it was shot in Phuket. Nice movie that definitely promoted beach as an ideal place to travel.

NomadicMatt

It was shot in Maya Beach on Ko Phi Phi!

Some travel movies are deeply motivational.

I loved the scenery in the movie so much, I booked my plane tickets for just a few months later… I kind of cooled down since then…

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