Whether it’s real or not, the setting for a movie is one of the most important elements in filmmaking. This not only applies to where the movie’s story is located, but also where the movie is actually filmed. Of course, the relation between these two aspects can be mutual or dissonant depending on the setting to begin with. For instance, if the movie takes place in a fictional location that has no real-life counterpart a filmmaker might look for someplace that’s as close to the fictional setting as possible in real life and film the movie there. Yet even if they managed to film in the movie’s real-life location, the way a filmmaker portrays that place may not reflect what it’s actually like.
But regardless of the setting’s realism, the movie itself has to be good too. With that said, the way a movie portrays a certain setting may be so inspiring to us as viewers that we feel compelled to actually travel to that place. This kind of inspiration especially comes to light when we’re children, and so we’ll most likely want to go the places shown in the movies we see at that age as opposed to when we’re older. To demonstrate, let’s take a look at the locations from movies that came out from the mid-90s to the early 2000s which inspired those who grew up seeing them to travel to those places.
25 Twilight - Forks
Before the successful Twilight franchise came along with its best-selling novels and movie adaptations, no one had ever heard of Forks, Washington, before. A small town that is located along the northwestern coastline facing the Pacific Ocean, it’s not necessarily the place itself that attracts thousands of Twilight fans here every year but what fictionally happened. After all, this was where an ordinary young woman became the center of several supernatural conflicts between attractive but dangerous monsters that were depicted in a sympathetic light. Namely, vampires and werewolves because two members from each race harbored romantic feelings for her.
24 High School Musical - East High School
Before Camp Rock, there was High School Musical. Spawning two sequels, a spinoff movie, and live stage adaptations, this movie was enormously popular for those who saw the movie when it aired or on DVD. It not only had memorable characters and songs, but also a distinct setting: East High School. While the film supposedly took place in Albuquerque, New Mexico, the actual school where a majority of the movie was shot is located in Salt Lake City, Utah. Though it doesn’t have students breaking out into song at random intervals, this school does have notable alumni like Roseanne Barr.
23 Legally Blonde - Harvard Law
Although some movies are easy to judge based on their posters alone, others aren’t. For instance, Legally Blonde looked like it wasn’t going to be a great movie based on its appearance and plot which was about a preppy college student who goes to law school. Yet this film turned out to be better than people thought, and created a character that inspired young women everywhere to take on tasks that seem impossible. In fact, it wouldn’t be surprising if this film got more young women to apply for Harvard Law despite how tricky it actually is to get in.
22 Ratatouille - Paris
Though Pixar is known for its wide array of adorable films that are also touching on an emotional level, one of the more surprisingly interesting entries was Ratatouille. What seemed like a cute story about a lost rat in Paris, France, that wants to be a chef turned out to be more heartfelt and relatable than expected. Plus, it showed both the beauty and the griminess that exist in the city of Paris making the setting more relatable in turn. We don’t need to visit places like the Eiffel Tower to enjoy Paris, because a nice restaurant is good enough.
21 The Princess Diaries - San Francisco
While Anne Hathaway has certainly become a famous actress for starring in a number of successful movies for several years now, most of us who grew up in the early 2000s were probably first introduced to her through The Princess Diaries. While it is a basic rags-to-riches tale at its core, the movie did a good job at giving us a relatable character who discovers her true royal heritage and learns to accept it. The movie also showcased many parts of San Francisco, where a majority of the story took place, making the city quite appealing as well.
20 What a Girl Wants - London
Back when Amanda Bynes was popular in the early 2000s, one of the more well-known films she starred in was What a Girl Wants. Much like Princess Diaries, it’s about a young woman who discovers something about her family that she never knew. Only this time, she actually travels to somewhere that’s completely different from her own home in America to get answers which happens to be London, England. While the movie’s portrayal of the city and British people in general may seem cliche in retrospect, it certainly made the place worth checking out to find our own happiness.
19 Camp Rock - The Camp
Regardless if we liked them or not, the Jonas Brothers were a part of many young lives. Apart from making cameos on Disney Channel shows like Hannah Montana, they also appeared in Made-for-TV movies such as Camp Rock. Set a fictional summer camp where everyone sings and plays music all day long, the movie tells the story of a young would-be artist (played by Demi Lovato) trying to fit in while forming a relationship with the troubled lead singer of a boy band. Even if the story wasn’t the most original in retrospect, the camp sounded cool.
18 The Lizzie McGuire Movie - Rome
For those of us who grew up watching Lizzie McGuire on either the Disney Channel or the former ABC block known as One Saturday Morning (later called ABC Kids), which featured many shows from the Disney Channel on Saturday mornings, The Lizzie McGuire Movie felt like a film that had to be seen. Focused on a graduation trip to Rome, Italy, that comes with unexpected drama and hi-jinx, this movie was probably the first time many young viewers saw this ancient yet popular city. In turn, they may have been inspired to go there once they acquired enough money.
17 New York Minute - New York City
While the Olsen Twins Mary-Kate and Ashley are more known for their multiple film roles in major releases and Straight-to-Video ones back when they were children, they did one last feature film together before they seemingly dropped off the face of the earth called New York Minute back in 2004. In it, they play as two sisters who wind up going on a series of misadventures in New York City. Though their escapades, we got to see the many facets of the Big Apple from the glamorous parts to the dingy ones which looked fun to explore.
16 Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants - Greece and Mexico
As far as coming-of-age stories go, Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants is one of the more popular ones. Based on a series of young adult novels published in the early 2000s, the movie revolved around a group of friends who carry around a set of jeans that fit them all despite their different body-types as they travel to various places around the world during one summer. These included exotic locations such as Greece and Mexico, where the two girls who traveled there sparked brief romances with local guys they met making these places appealing to young people.
15 The Hunger Games - The Capitol
Set in the post-apocalyptic future of America, The Hunger Games books and subsequent movie adaptations not only gave us an intriguing but disturbing premise but also a relatable yet strong lead heroine. Among the in-world locations, though, the one that stood out to most people was the Capitol where the super rich and corrupt people that run the Districts live. Even if we’re not supposed to sympathize with them, the splendor of their clothes is difficult to ignore. This same splendor is reflected in the Capitol’s buildings, making it an alluring place to visit if it was real.
14 The Lord of the Rings - Middle Earth
For generations, fans of The Lord of the Rings books and movies have been entranced by its setting simply known as Middle Earth. This in turn has inspired further adaptations such as The Hobbit trilogy, which expanded upon the original book’s premise with additional lore taken from J. R. R. Tolkien’s Middle Earth encyclopedia The Silmarillion, and now Amazon Prime is planning a Lord of the Rings TV series that will supposedly take place between the events in The Hobbit and the main trilogy. So what makes Middle Earth so great in the first place? Well, it’s complex yet understandable.
13 Harry Potter - Hogwarts
While Lord of the Rings could be argued as being more “Nerdy” due to its hardcore fantasy elements, Harry Potter appeals to just about anyone regardless if they’re a nerd or not. With that said, these popular books and movies were arguably relatable to nerds since the titular protagonist fits the stereotype physically. Still, this is another multi-generational franchise that gave us a relatable fantasy of receiving a letter and attending the illustrious Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. A place that seems to exist and not exist in reality, it would be hard not to find it appealing.
12 Avatar - Pandora
With stunning visuals and a simple plot, James Cameron’s Avatar not only pioneered the modern use of 3D in movies (after the trend's first incarnation in the 80s didn’t fare well in the end) but also it became the highest-selling film of all time. As sequels are in the works, it’s clear this movie had quite the lasting impact on people. Though arguably its main draw is the setting: the tropical moon of Pandora, where the entire movie takes place. In fact, this setting was so popular a theme park was created just to recapture it in real life.
11 Up - South America
Now whereas Ratatouille became more heartfelt as it went along, Up hits the viewer with a man’s entire life-story in the first few minutes of the movie that is both happy and sad. This in turn makes us relate to his plight to fulfill a childhood dream of bringing his literal home to the top of a majestic waterfall in South America. It gave those of us with an adventurous spirit a place to find with its unexpected surprises in the form of an exotic bird thought to be extinct and an eccentric pilot’s army of literal talking dogs.
10 Summer Catch - Cape Cod
As far as baseball movies are concerned, Summer Catch is nothing spectacular but it is notable for taking place in Cape Cod, Massachusetts, since there aren’t many films that take place there. Starring Freddie Prinze, Jr., at the height of his popularity, the movie focuses on a young baseball player who’s trying to make it into the minor leagues while balancing his growing affection for a young woman (played by a younger Jessica Biel). While it doesn’t take much advantage of its location due to its baseball-centered plot, the movie could have inspired someone to check out Cape Cod.
9 Save the Last Dance - Chicago
Though movies about dancing in its various forms are nothing new, given the popularity of such films like Footloose and Flashdance, what makes Save the Last Dance stand out isn’t so much its plot but the fact that it features an interracial couple. Now this may not seem like a big deal, but even back in the early 2000s there weren’t that many movies in general where the two romantic leads were of different ethnicities from each other. Additionally, this film takes place in Chicago which is an appealing city despite its darker aspects that the movie does partially address.
8 Crossroads (2002) - Los Angeles
Whether we loved Britney Spears’ music or not, it’s clear that she wasn’t cut out for acting as the 2002 movie Crossroads was her first and only major film. Yet some of her co-stars, such as Zoe Saldana, went on to have pretty successful film careers after this movie. While the plot is pretty simple, about three best friends who go on a crazy road trip together, it does stand out for having realistic characters and trying to tackle tough issues in the process. It’s also another road trip film that makes California (specifically Los Angeles) the main destination.
7 A Walk to Remember - North Carolina
Regardless of how we feel about Nicholas Sparks as a writer, he has undeniably written many successful romance novels that have also been adapted into popular movies. Though the one that’s nostalgic for many of us who grew up in the early 2000s was A Walk to Remember. What started as a simple romance between two socially awkward teens became more emotional with its gut-wrenching twist. It also utilized certain elements of its setting, which was a small town in North Carolina, such as its close-knit community and rolling hills full of trees that looked pretty in autumn.
6 Lost in Translation - Tokyo
Though Scarlett Johansson is known these days for her continuous role as Black Widow in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, she’s also a prominent actress who’s starred in many critically acclaimed movies. One such example happened early in her career with the surprise hit Lost in Translation. In it, she co-starred alongside Bill Murray as they played two people at low points in their lives who find themselves in Tokyo, Japan, where they form a mutual bond. The film not only showcased many aspects of Japanese culture, but it also made the city alluring and unique in a good way.
5 Garden State - New Jersey
Made on a relatively small budget, Garden State was an exceptionally huge hit at the time of its release and is still revered as one of Natalie Portman’s better films. Co-starring with Zach Braff of Scrubs fame, who was also the film’s director and writer, Portman and Braff play as quirky individuals that have significant flaws to overcome in an unnamed town in New Jersey. Like A Walk to Remember, it also showcases the close-knit community aspect that’s in more rural parts of New Jersey but it adds a level of quirkiness with a subplot involving a quarry.
4 The Notebook - South Carolina
Another popular movie that’s based on a Nicholas Sparks novel, this one took the tear-jerking elements of A Walk to Remember and ramped them up to the next level that made us fall in love with not just the two leads but also the setting itself. Cutting between 1940s South Carolina and the present day (which was 2004 at the time of the film’s release), it presented a place that had a romantic southernly charm which remained consistent throughout the movie. Nowhere is this best exemplified than in the above scene where the leads have their memorable boat-ride.
3 Brokeback Mountain - Wyoming
When most of us are teens, our hormone-driven emotions are all over the place and we don’t know what to make of them. So naturally, we experiment with different ways of releasing those emotions which was often done through entertainment in the romantic genre. One such example is Brokeback Mountain, where two attractive cowboys find out they like each other more than just friends. Plus, this film made its setting of Wyoming look pretty with its sweeping majestic mountains and swaths of pine trees. So even if one isn’t necessarily looking for romance in Wyoming, it seemed worth visiting.
2 Aquamarine - The Beach
As much as we liked The Little Mermaid as children, Aquamarine gave us the closest thing to a live-action version of it (though there is a Disney remake of The Little Mermaid in the works). Based on a teen book of the same name, the Aquamarine plot was about two best friends having to take care of a mermaid (played by Sara Paxton) that washes up in their beachside town. Though it’s unclear where this town is located, let alone the town’s beach where many scenes from the movie happen, any excuse to go to a beach is good enough.
1 Pride & Prejudice - Pemberley
For those who are more literary-minded but still enjoy the romance genre, Jane Austen books such as Pride and Prejudice were a good fit. There have even been a number of movies adapted from her works, with one of the more famous ones being the 2005 Pride & Prejudice film starring Keira Knightley following her success in such films like Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl. Considered to be one of the better adaptations of Austen’s works, it certainly made the English countryside look romantic and decadent. Though in particular, the Pemberley estate where Darcy lives.
Resources: cleveland.com, bustle.com, imdb.com