The Best Travel Movies to Inspire Wanderlust

I absolutely love movies! They serve as an amazing escape and it’s easy to see why so many have turned to them when the world gets tough. During the world wars many sought refuge in hiding out in the theatres and now as we deal with the current covid-19 pandemic we do so in our homes. What better way to escape, then to watch movies/ shows from amazing places around the world? 

When planning a trip half the fun for me is hyping myself up for it! I fuel my wanderlust by watching movies set in certain eras and destinations to get me excited for the trip. And now as it is still uncertain when we will be able to travel again here is a list of my favorite movies/ shows to help you travel without leaving your couch.

This list could go on for ages since there hundreds of great movies are set in each of these places. This list is just a few of my favorites that always get me inspired. Without further delay, here is my ultimate wanderlust movie list: 

United Kingdom

England

Harry Potter– If you know me, Harry Potter is my greatest obsession, so of course it’s going first on my list. If you live under a rock the films follow the lives of a young wizard, Harry Potter, and his friends Hermione Granger and Ron Weasley. All who are students at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Lots of locations throughout England were used.

For more Harry Potter filming locations in England check out my Ultimate Harry Potter Guide to the UK

Downton Abbey– This BBC historical, 6 season, drama follows the lives of the Crawely Family and their servants in their English country home during the early 1900’s. This show really gives a feel for what life looked like during the Edwardian era.

The Holiday– A charming Christmas favorite where two recently single ladies (Cameron Diaz & Kate Winslet) decide to swap homes to take a vacation from their guy troubles. Diaz finds herself in a cozy English village, while Winslet takes on Diaz’s Hollywood lifestyle.

Notting Hill– William (Hugh Grant) a London book shop owner’s life gets chaotic when he falls in love with an American actress (Julia Roberts)

The Theory of Everything– The life story of Stephan Hawking starting as he finishes his doctorate at Cambridge University.

Pride & Prejudice, Sense & Sensibility– You can’t go wrong with a classic Jane Austen film (or book). All set in the early 1800’s.  

Bridget Jones Diary– Another Hugh Grant rom-com set in London. Quirky Bridget Jones decides its time to take control of her life, starting with keeping a diary.

Sweeny Todd– After being wrongfully accused of a crime, Barber Sweeny Todd (Johnny Depp) returns to the streets of Victorian era London for revenge blade in hand for this dark musical.

Love Actually– Follows the lives of 9 different characters who’s stories intertwines while examining the one thing that connects us all: love.

Paddington Bear- After an earthquake destroys Paddington’s home in the Peruvian rain-forest, he makes his way to London in search of a new home. I instantly fell in love with the neighborhood featured in this flim, Primrose Hill, and was even was able to see it for myself this past Autumn and I’m happy to say it’s just as charming in person.

James Bond– All of the Bond films are set in England. Shaken not stirred.

Dracula– a modern twist to the classic horror tale. It’s even filmed in Whitby which was the original inspiration for the author, Bram Stoker after staying in the city in 1890. I’m huge horror fan so this show was right up my alley especially after visiting the town of Whitby recently I totally see how Stoker got inspired.

The Crown– Honestly the first thing I think of when I think of Britain (besides Harry Potter) is the Queen. Which is why this historical drama on the life of Elizabeth II is perfect.

The Tudors– This 4 season historical drama follows Henry VIII’s early reign.  

Scotland

Outlander– As soon as we booked our trip to Scotland I started researching for shows to watch and came across this gem. This series follows Claire Randall, a British Army nurse in World War II. While enjoying a second honeymoon in Scotland with her husband Frank, Claire mysterious time travels back to the year 1743. This shows does an amazing job of capturing the Scottish culture and showing off the country’s beauty.

Brave Heart– Follows the life of William Wallace leading the Scots into the first battle of Independence against the King Edward I of England.

Brave– The story follows Merida, a tomboyish daughter of the Scottish King Fergus and her mother Queen Elinor. Merida’s rebelliousness of Scottish tradition causes chaos, so what’s a girl to do but seek the help of a witch that causes further chaos?

James Bond: Skyfall– James Bond is on yet another mission but this time the spectacular Scottish Highlands in Glen Etive are featured as Bond’s ancestral home.

Loch Ness- Honestly the first thing that pops in my head when I think of Scotland is the Loch Ness Monster, so it seems fitting to include this film featuring Patrick Dempsey as an anthropologist to debunk  the Loch Ness Monster legend.

Rob Roy– Based on the actual folk story, Robert Roy MacGregor an outlaw who becomes a sort of Robin Hood hero.

Mary, Queen of Scots– Retells the story of Mary Queen of Scots and her trials as queen, as well as her cousin rival with Queen Elizabeth.

Ireland

Game of Thrones- Set in medieval times, several powerful families playing a deadly game for control of the Seven Kingdoms of Westeros, and to sit atop the Iron Throne. The show’s locations are from around the world but the scene in particular of the dark hedges (season 2 I believe) is worthy enough to include it here.

Leap Year Follows Anna (Amy Adams) who’s frustrated that her boyfriend has not yet proposed, so she jumps on the opportunity of the Celtic tradition of the women popping the question on a leap year.

 Darby O’Gill and the Little People– In this Disney Live- action movie it follows an older man and his adventure with leprechauns. Its meant for kids but the Irish folklore figures, such as banshees actually makes it pretty scary.

P.S. I Love You– If you’re in the mood to bawl your eyes out this is the movie for you. It tells the story of Holly (Hilary Swank), whose husband dies of an illness. Knowing how hard she will take it he plans ahead and begins having letters sent to her from beyond the grave.

United States of America

South West

Thelma & Louise– One of my all time favorite movies is about two ladies who are tried of the mundane of their lives decide to take a road trip together. Things take a turn for the worst when Louise shoots a man at bar who tried to rape Thelma.

Cars– Disney animated film set in world with cars as the main character. Everytime I take trip through Route 66 I think of this movie.

For more on Route 66 check out my Route 66 Road Trip Guide 

 Westworld Westworld, a theme park for rich looking to live out their fantasies through robot hosts set in the wild west.

Forest Gump– The beloved story of Forest Gump, a slow witted boy but never let that get in his way. Ok, so the majority of the film is set in the American South, but the one scene of Forest running across the country in monument valley is why I included it here. They even named that iconic road he runs across Forest Gump Point.

California

Los Angeles

What are the movies without the birthplace of them?

La La Land– Cannot help but think of this movie now every time I go to LA. Such an iconic film following two people trying to make it in Hollywood brought together by their common dreams.

Hollywood– A new (2020) Netflix series set in, you guessed it, Hollywood in the post world war II era following aspiring actors and filmmakers, that will do almost anything to make their showbiz dreams come true. 

Clueless– Popular and shallow Cher is at the top of Beverley Hills High School social ladder but realizes she’s clueless when it comes to love.

90210– Both the 1990’s and the 2010’s versions depict what life is like to live in the sought after area code of high-schoolers.

Pretty Women–  While on a business trip in L.A., Edward (Richard Gere) picks up a hooker, Vivian (Julia Roberts)

San Francisco

Northern California might not be as well-known for its cinematography like its Southern California counterpart, but that doesn’t mean it hasn’t had its fair share of movie magic. And although I may be a little biased since I call the Bay Area home, Northern CA is every bit as beautiful as the South.

Wild– Such an amazing true story by Cheryl Strayed. I read this book when during a transitional period in my life and it inspire me so much. Cheryl Strayed (Reese Witherspoon) makes a decision to make a change in downward spiral and get herself together again. She makes the spontaneous decision to hike the Pacific Crest Trail, one of the country’s toughest and longest trails.

Full House A sweet family sitcom that follows the lives of the Tanner who causally live in one of the Iconic Painted Ladies across from Alamo Park.

Always be my Maybe– A recent Netflix Comedy starring Ally Wong

Princess Diaries– High-schooler Mia, suddenly learns she’s a real life princess when her grandmother comes back into her life. She needs to go from awkward, clumsy teenage, to polish and regal quick. But can I just say when Mia is learning to drive on those SF hills I felt that.  

Pursuit of Happiness- This film shows a different aspect of the city very real issue of homelessness. The story follows a single father who have just been evicted with no where to go.

New York 

Taxi Driver– Travis (Robert De Niro) who suffers from insomnia takes a job in MYC as a taxi driver.

Breakfast Tiffany’s- This classic based on Truman Capote’s novel, is the story of a young lady living in NYC who meets a young man who moves next door to her.

Sex in the City-  About the fabouls Carrie Bradshaw who works as a sex columnist and her three best friends as they navigate the city as single ladies.

Friends– aka the best sitcom ever made. Follows a group of friends as they navigate life in the city as 20 somethings.

Home Alone 2- In the sequel much like the first film,  Kevin McCallister finds himself alone for the holidays, but this time hes running around the streets of NYC. Since watching this movie as a kid, its been my dream to visit the city during Christmas ever since. Anyone else?

Italy

Under the Tuscan Sun- When Frances learns of her husbands affair she decides to cheer herself up with a tour of Italy.

Roman Holiday- Another Audrey Hepburn classic where she plays European princess Ann, who is trying to find an escape from hectic regal schedule.

Letters to Julia– In this slightly cheesy romantic comedy, Sophie (Amanda Seyfried) visits Verona with aloof fiance.  

Eat, Pray & Love- Probably on every travel movie list but still had to include it because it is the perfect movie to inspire you to travel. It follows Liz Gilbert, who goes through somewhat of midlife crisis and decides to take a trip of self-discovery as she travels to Italy, India, and Bali.

The Tourist- Math teacher Frank (Johnny Depp) somehow finds himself mistaken for a criminal along side Elise (Angelina Jolie).

Angels & Demons- Symbologist Robert Langdon discovers the resurgence of the Illuminati, he travels to Rome to warn the Vatican.

Gladiator- Set in Roman times, the story follows a once powerful general turned common gladiator.

France

Amélie- a comedy about a young women living in Paris, who secretly orchestrates the lives of people around her. Shot in over 80 Parisian locations!

Paris, I love you– explores the different aspects of love and all the emotions that it provokes.

Ratatouille- In this Disney animation Remy, a rat, dreams of becoming a chef. When he pairs up with a human his dreams start to come true.

Midnight in Paris- Gil, an american screen writer, while on vacation in Paris he suddenly gets taken back in time to the 1920’s where he mingles with iconic figures of the age.

Chocolat– Vianne opens an unusual chocolate shop where she is able to perceive her customers exact desires with her own chocolate recipes.

New Zealand 

The Lord of Rings Triology– the epic adventure of Frodo Baggins, a hobbit who has inherited a powerful ring which the future of civilization will end unless it is destroyed. This epic story line is definitely matched with unreal landscapes featured through out this series.

The Chronicles of Narnia-  Four English siblings are sent to a country house where they will be safe during world war II. One day the youngest sibling finds a wardrobe that transports her to a magical world called Narnia.

Germany

Carbet- This musical is set in Berlin during the 1930’s. It follows Sally (Liza Minnelli) a singer who gets herself entangled in love triangle.

Beerfest- Two American brothers travel to Germany during Oktoberfest where they end up playing a secret, centuries old beer game competition. Not going to lie, this one is a bit silly but still a fun watch.

Iceland 

The secret Life of Walter Mitty– Walter Mitty (Ben Stiller) begins to day dream of adventure to escape his monotonous 9-5 job at a magazine company.

Vikings- Follows the rise and fall of the Viking Legend Ragnar Lothbrok. The Vikings were very well traveled. They made their living off of raiding weaker countries and the history channel TV series does an amazing job at depicting it. In its fifth season the character Floki goes off on a Northern which he believes is Asgard. Aka the place of the gods in Norse mythology. In reality, Floki discovers Iceland, a place that will go on to become very important in their Norse culture.

Greece

Mamma Mia- Sophie is about to get married at her mother’s hotel in the Greek islands, but there’s just one thing missing. She doesn’t know who her dad is to walk her down the isle. With 3 prospects, she secretly invites all three of her mom’s past boyfriends to find out.

Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants- I have to be honest, it was because of this movie that first made me want to travel to Greece at just 8 years old. After many summers spent together four best friends go their separate ways for a summer.

Troy- Based on the “Iliad”, this epic story portrays the battle of the ancient kingdoms of Sparta and Troy.

My life in Ruins- Georgia, a travel guide, feels she’s been stuck in a rut. But, as she leads a group of tourists through her native land of Greece, she starts see the world in a new light.

300- Set in the year 480 B.C. the story follows the battle Persia and Greece.

Portugal 

The Invisible Circus- Phoebe, after learning her sister has dead in Portugal, she decides to leave home and retrace her sisters footsteps.

Porto- Two expats living in the city of Porto, Portugal find love. Years after they’ve gone their separate ways they can’t seem to forget each other.

Spain 

Vicky Christina Barcelona– Vicky and Cristina travel to spend a summer in Spain to spend the holiday at their friends Barcelona home.

Pan’s Labyrinth- Set in the year 1944 and the ally Nazi solider are sent to a remote forest to clear out the rebels. When the step daughter of the captain arrive she begins to get drawn into Pan’s Labyrinth, a magical world beneath the forest.

Austria

Sound of Music- The classic film based on the real life Von Trapp Family singers. One of the best known music groups preceding World War II.

Japan

Memoirs of a Geisha- Set in the 1920’s, 9 year old Chiyo gets sold to a geisha where she is forced into servitude.

China

Mulan- In order to save her elder father from having to serve again in the Imperial Army, Mulan disguises herself as man to fight in his place.

Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon- During the Qing Dynasty, a warrior gives his sword to his lover to keep it safe but it’s stolen. The chase ensue to get it back.

Tropical

Sometimes you just want to escape to tropical island am I right? Although its not always possible for some these movies will take you to paradise in an instance.

Moana Moana answers the Ocean’s call to find the Demigod Maui to relieve her home of their curse he set upon it.

50 first datesThis romantic comedy set in the Hawaiian Island stars Drew Barrymore, a women who suffers from an anmesia that resets her memory every 24 hour. When Adam Sandler falls for her, he promises to try to make her fall in love with him each day.

Pirates of the Carribean-  Based on the Disneyland rides, follows eccentric pirate Jack Sparrow and his adventures. Between the five installments so far, what islands haven’t they used? They’ve filmed on the islands of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Tortuga, Dominica, the Bahamas, Singapore, Molokai, Puerto Rico, and even England.

Castaway– After being stranded on desert island, Chuck learns how to survive on the island. It was shot on Monuriki, part of the Mamanuca archipelago off Viti Levu, Fiji

Jaws- Jaws is always a summer must for me and my family. In the New England town of Amity Island the people of the town soon realizes they have a killer in their waters. Jaws was filmed in Martha’s vineyard

The BeachAfter travelling to Thailand Richard finds a strange map that people say leads to a secluded beach paradise. This film was shot on Kho Phi Phi Le, a small island just off Phuket.

Jurrassic Park- A Dinosaur theme park full of real life dinosuars, what could go wrong? This film was shot on the Hawaiian Island of Kaui, to serve as the gorgeous prehistoric backdrop.

And that about does it! If you feel that there is a movie I left out that really sparks your wanderlust, please feel free to comment what it is below and I’d love to add it! Hopefully these films keep your adventurous spirit alive while we all take a break. Stay safe and healthy out there & happy watching!

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