Movies have been captivating audiences for decades, closing in on the century mark, as one of the most popular forms of entertainment ever created. Movies have withstood the test of time as they cover every type of genre, able to satisfy the liking of every person. Cinema covers everything from comedies to action, adventure, drama, romance and so much more. Although not considered a genre, there is a category that gets very little attention, but deserves much more love – the travel movie.
Some of the best movies are centered around the world of travel with many of them included among the all-time greats. It’s simple to see why these movies resonate with audiences, considering traveling the world is a concept we can all relate to. Everyone has had an itch at some point in their lives to drop what they’re doing and take off on the trip of a lifetime to fulfill a lifelong dream. These trips often result in hilarious journeys, self-discovery, or profound life-changing experiences. Seeing it all unfold on screen can be powerful and uplifting.
Here are the twenty-five quintessential travel movies we all need to see.
25 Away We Go
Starring everyone’s favorite TV character from the Office, John Krasinski plays the role of an expectant father in this light-hearted film about family and travel. The main characters, a couple with a baby on the way, decide to embark on a road trip across the United States and parts of Canada to look for the perfect place to call home once their child arrives.
It’s a great film with an emphasis on the importance of family while exploring cities like Montreal, Madison, Tucson, Phoenix and Miami, each one getting a nice glimpse of screen time and showing the world what they have to offer.
24 Before Sunrise Trilogy
The trilogy is composed of the films Before Sunrise, Before Sunset and Before Midnight and is based on a man and woman who met while on a train in Europe in the first movie. The trilogy takes place over the course of several decades with each film telling the story of how the pair happen to find one another in different cities years apart.
The trilogy takes viewers through beautiful shots of Vienna, France, and Greece, which each location playing a significant role in their respective movies.
23 Due Date
In this hilarious comedy starring Robert Downey, Jr. and Zach Galifianakis, the duo are a knockout combo delivering the laughs as they travel across the United States, from Atlanta to Los Angeles, in a race against time to ensure Downey’s character witnesses the birth of his child. The pair makes for a great team as they travel by car, stopping along the way in different states, getting into constant, hysterical trouble.
Although this isn’t a travel move in the most typical sense, the entire movie’s premise is based on a road trip, so it should count.
22 Eat Pray Love
Eat Pray Love is probably one of the most quintessential travel movies as it embodies everything about travel that we all know and love. Everyone, deep down, has an innate desire to go on this life-changing journey around the world in search of finding oneself and that’s exactly what Julia Roberts’ character does in this film after a heartbreaking divorce.
As IMDB aptly details her journey, “she discovers the true pleasure of nourishment by eating in Italy, the power of prayer in India, and, finally and unexpectedly, the inner peace and balance of true love in Bali.”
In this emotional comedy, Orlando Bloom’s character goes on an epic road trip, although it is not the basis of the movie. The film is more centered on the love story that is unfolding, but the trip that his character takes toward the end of the film is the climactic finale that adds an emotional punch to an already solid movie.
In honor of his recently deceased father, Bloom’s character journeys through America’s Midwest, passing through great locations like Memphis, Tennessee and Louisville, Kentucky, even stopping to visit the motel where Martin Luther King passed away.
20 Forrest Gump
Forrest Gump is one of the most popular movies of all time, often being ranked as one of the best films ever made. The movie isn’t a straight-up travel movie, but the main character, Gump, played by Tom Hanks, does his fair share of making his way around the world in this spellbinding tale of history that takes audiences everywhere.
Gump’s storytelling is unique and engaging, detailing his life in Vietnam as a soldier, a war hero in Washington DC, his life back home in Alabama, and an infamous run across the entire country.
19 Into the Wild
Into the Wild is a film based on the profound true story of Christopher McCandless, played by Emile Hirsch. McCandless decides to give up all his material possessions, including his money and venture across the country by foot, mostly hitchhiking to the wilderness of Alaska. The movie details his incredible journey and eventual time in the cold backwoods of the state. His journey shapes his very essence and his decision to live amongst nature for the rest of his days is one that will haunt viewers.
18 Little Miss Sunshine
With a fantastic ensemble cast, including Steve Carell, this funny movie about an entirely dysfunctional family on a cross-country journey to California is one not to be missed. The family of losers, rejects and letdowns decide to jump into their VW bus and take a trip across country so that the daughter of the group can enter and compete in the Little Miss Sunshine Pageant.
Throughout the trip, with much of it taking place on the road, at rest stops, motels and small towns along the way, the family becomes closer, despite their quirky differences and oddities.
17 Lost in Translation
Starring Bill Murray and Scarlett Johansson, this movie tells the story of an unhappy, past his prime movie star and a young recently married college graduate in Tokyo. For different reasons, these two from America have traveled to Japan and find themselves alone in the foreign city, eventually forming a forbidden bond because of their eventual need to go back to their normal lives in the US.
The movie highlights the beauty of Japan, which serves as a backdrop to this touching and funny love story.
16 National Lampoon’s Vacation
The first film in a series of National Lampoon’s, this hilarious film joins our list as a must-see travel movie with the Griswold’s family vacation representing the essence of why we travel. The family takes a road trip across the country to visit Walley World, a theme park, with far too many hilarious mishaps along the way.
Starring Chevy Chase, National Lampoon’s Vacation is often seen as the movie that started the cross-country road trip comedy sub-genre. It certainly left its mark on the world of cinema, cited as one of the funniest movies of all time on just about any list of comedies.
15 One Week
Recently finding out that he has very little time to live because of his cancer diagnosis, the protagonist of One Week, Ben Tyler, decides to drop his routine life and live it to the fullest. He embarks on a cross-country road trip through the beautiful country of Canada.
He purchases a used, old motorcycle and takes off from Toronto to British Columbia, stopping along the way at many of the country’s famous landmarks, all while searching for the meaning of life. Canada is certainly painted in a different light than most are used to, making it a country anyone will want to visit after their viewing of One Week.
14 Out of Africa
Out of Africa stars two of the best actors of any generation with Meryl Streep and Robert Redford headlining. The movie is a love story that is set in Africa after Streep’s character journeys halfway across the world to Kenya where she eventually finds love in the form of Redford. The movie does a fantastic job of highlighting the beauty of Africa along with its rich culture and fascinating people.
13 Seven Years in Tibet
Another fantastic actor joins our list with Brad Pitt starring in 1997’s Seven Years in Tibet. The movie follows the true story of the journey that Austrian mountaineer Heinrich Harrer took across the cold mountain ranges of India, eventually ending up in Tibet.
It is here that Harrer meets and forms a spiritual bond with the Dalai Lama, making for one of the more unique, yet profound and interesting partnerships in history.
12 The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel
The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel is a film centered on a trip to the great country of India. Focused on the lives of seven British people, all elderly, they each book a trip to India, with their own reasons for going, some looking for love, others for money and even cheap, affordable surgery.
The Britons arrive only to find that the hotel they booked doesn’t match their expectations. As they spend more time getting to know India, the hotel becomes a place of wonder, only adding to their love of the country.
11 The Bucket List
The Bucket List stars Morgan Freeman and Jack Nicholson, two of the best actors of the last half-century, each with their own impressive filmography. They team up to deliver a heartfelt comedy about the human desire to accomplish as much as possible before our time is up.
Both characters meet in a hospital during their last days, each terminally ill and decide, on a whim, to fulfill all of the items they had on their bucket list, but never got around to doing. The long to-do list takes them on a journey around the world, while forming an inspirational friendship.
10 The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Benjamin Button isn’t a movie based solely on the act of travel, but the main character makes his way around the world in a series of interesting and out of this world events and experiences. The movie focuses on the fictional story of a man who was born with a condition that makes him appear to be elderly as an infant and young as an old man, essentially living his life in reverse.
Starring Brad Pitt, the film takes audiences on a fantastic journey of a man who lived a profound life and got to see the world, despite his peculiar condition.
9 The Motorcycle Diaries
The film chronicles the epic journey the real life Che Guevara took as a young man prior to becoming the world-famous figure he is known as today. As a young man, he and his best friend take a trip on their motorcycle across the South American continent starting in Buenos Aires, Argentina and working their way north to Venezuela, with the intent of fulfilling a dream of seeing their homeland as they have always wanted to.
In this profound and often harsh movie, Guevara finds his eventual true calling through the travels he experienced as a young man.
8 The Secret Life of Walter Mitty
Although The Secret Life of Walter Mitty isn’t set in reality with many of the adventures being farfetched fantasies, the movie still does a wonderful job highlighting the beauty and joys of travel.
Ben Stiller plays the main character who is about to be laid off from the job he has held for sixteen years. He decides to go on a larger than life journey, trekking across the globe to live out the dreams he has had for the past two decades.
The Secret Life of Walter Mitty will make anyone feel the urge to jump on a plane and head for their dream destination on a whim.
7 Thelma and Louise
The names Thelma and Louise have become synonymous with bandits on the run and this movie put them on the map. Although this isn’t technically a movie about travel, the two titular characters are always on the run, moving from state to state within the country by car, so in a sense, travel is at the very core of this action adventure.
The movie highlights small towns throughout the west while giving audiences some depth when it comes to friendships even in the face of adversity. The movie stars Susan Sarandon and introduces the world to a very young Brad Pitt.
6 Under the Tuscan Sun
Before Eat Pray Love became everyone’s favorite travel movie, there was Diane Lane’s Under the Tuscan Sun. With a very similar plot to Julia Roberts’ now-classic, Tuscan Sun’s star also sets out on a journey of self-discovery after a painful divorce by traveling halfway around the world to Tuscany, where she purchases a rundown villa. Here, she finds a renewed lease on life through the beauty of her new environment, new acquaintances and love.
The only animated movie to make our list is Disney Pixar’s classic Up. Not to be underestimated as a mere children’s movie, Up stands tall with the rest of the films on our list and in many cases can be argued as one of the very best.
Centered on the film's star, Carl, an elderly man who just lost his wife, he sets out on the journey of a lifetime, from his home in the city to Paradise Falls in South America. Carl travels across the world by lifting his home in the air with millions of balloons and finds adventure throughout the way, giving his life renewed meaning and vigor, even in his twilight years.
4 Up in the Air
The movie isn’t about travel, but more about the life of a man who lives his life in solitude, as a professional who fires people. His career takes him across the country from company to company, willing to pay him to axe employees who are about to be unemployed.
The movie paints a harsh reality for those about to be laid off while showing the life of a man who spends most of his life in airports and on a plane up in the air. Along the way, he unexpectedly finds new comfort in friends, family and new love.
3 Vicky Cristina Barcelona
Woody Allen takes audiences on a trip to Spain, where he introduces us to the magnificent and beautiful world of Barcelona. Although the movie centers on the love life of two friends, Vicky and Cristina, along with the unique paths they take while on vacation in the city, Barcelona is just as big a character in the film. It’s even showcased in the title, playing one of the three stars of Allen’s new classic.
Reese Witherspoon stars in Wild, a movie about the true-life story of the profound journey taken by Cheryl Strayed. Cheryl decides to embark on a one-thousand-mile trek through the Pacific Crest Trail with no experience whatsoever as a hiker.
The journey proves to be the most difficult experience of her life as she soon finds herself in a fight for her life in the unrelenting and unforgiving desert and wild forests of the West. The irony in the film is often seen, with such a beautiful backdrop often being such a dangerous place.
1 Y Tu Mama Tambien
Y Tu Mama Tambien is considered a classic in Latin cinema, with Mexico often being the star of a film centered on love, friendship and the joys of traveling. Two young men and a woman set out on a trip across Mexico with their sights set on the country’s most beautiful beach. Along the way, the three form a bond with the road trip serving as a means to push them all out of apathy and into action to take on what they want out of life.