Top 10 Travel Movies To Get You Going

by T-roy on January 7, 2010 · 114 comments

Have you ever watched travel movies, and while the credits were rolling up, thought to yourself “I so want to travel there now?”  Movies are a great way to inspire, motivate and bring to light unique places in the world.

To be honest though, a Top 10 list is a joke and almost impossible to do.  I know some will be mad at this list (you didn’t have Indian Jones anywhere, what the hell you bastard!

Which is why I added to to the Honorable Mentions), others confused (Why is City of God on this list?) and maybe, just maybe, a few will agree but for the record there is no perfect list.  For me though, after I watched these travel movies, I wanted to book a flight the next day and head there, so maybe you will too.

So to keep it civil and fair, if you have a movie to add, please do so in the comments section.  I know I couldn’t fit them all in but would love to hear your favorites, or even your Top 10 list as well.

Drumroll please…

10) The Beach

The Beach

Ok I know, some of you will stop reading right now just because of this one but you have to admit when you first watched it, it made you want to look for Daffy in Thailand.

It’s been overused and abused by the backpacking community as the staple for what backpackers should do, and if you have traveled more then a few months, odds are you have seen The Beach in your hostels at least 10x.

That being said, it’s still a good movie and made me want to see Phi Phi Island in person one day (which I did and loved it!).

After receiving a not-so-secret map to a secluded island from a stoned-out loony (Robert Carlyle, full of dark portent and spittle), Richard sets out to find the hidden paradise with a young French couple (Virginie Ledoyen, Guillaume Canet).

What they find is a tropical commune existing in delicate balance with Thai pot farmers, and before long–as always–there’s trouble in paradise. There’s trouble in the movie, too, as DiCaprio is reduced to histrionics when the plot turns into a muddled mix of Lord of the Flies and Apocalypse Now, with shark attacks tossed in for shallow tension. -Jeff Shannon

9) City of God

City of God

This movie doesn’t show the traveler the perfect beaches of Brazil, or the famous sites.

What it does do is show you the struggles of real life in one of the most dangerous cities in the world, Rio de Janerio, Brazil.

The whole movie is in Portuguese, but you don’t even notice having to read the subtitles because it grabs you from the start and never lets go.

It will make you think twice about traveling to Rio, but at the same time it will make you want to see it that much more.

Celebrated with worldwide acclaim, this powerful true story of crime and redemption has won numerous prestigious awards around the globe! The streets of the world’s most notorious slum, Rio de Janeiro’s “City of God,” are a place where combat photographers fear to tread, police rarely go, and residents are lucky if they live to the age of 20.

In the midst of the oppressive crime and violence, a frail and scared young boy will grow up to discover that he can view the harsh realities of his surroundings with a different eye: the eye of an artist. In the face of impossible odds, his brave ambition to become a professional photographer becomes a window into his world … and ultimately his way out! —

8) Shanghai Kiss

Shanghai Kiss

This one doesn’t get much attention but I found it worthy because I think too many people can relate to it.

Mid-life crises, unexpected trip to China, and bang next thing you know it’s life changing.

It’s filled with lots of cultural interactions from East meets West, and after watching it you’ll want to see China too.

Be sure to pay extra attention to the taxi scene because you will encounter this in your travels at some point.

Set in two dichotomous worlds, Shanghai Kiss tells the story of a Chinese-American actor who doesn’t quite fit in anywhere. In his hometown, he’s considered a foreigner even though he’s American. And in his family’s native China, his mannerisms make him stick out in sea of familiar faces.

Ken Leung (The Sopranos) does a wonderful job portraying Liam Liu, a complicated young man whose flirtation with the teenage Adelaide (Hayden Panettiere, Heroes) is reminiscent of Timothy Hutton’s cautious infatuation with the Natalie Portman character in 1996′s Beautiful Girls. – Jae-Ha Kim

7)  Eurotrip


Who doesn’t love this movie?

I mean it has everything: funny one-liners, covers most of Europe, highlights all the unique things about each country (the drinking of Absinthe in Amsterdam was priceless!) to why we travel in the first place… to score and get laid!

This movie will have you laughing, and make you want to buy a one-way ticket to Europe to see for yourself why “Scotty doesn’t know…”

Eurotrip views the Old World as a goofy parade of soccer hooligans, horny camera saleswomen, and pawing lechers reeking of cologne.

After being dumped by his girlfriend, Scotty (Scott Mechlowicz) discovers that the German e-mail correspondent he thought was a guy is actually a hot girl–so naturally he jets off to Europe to find her, joined by his friends Cooper (Jacob Pitts), Jamie (Travis Wester), and Jenny (Michelle Trachtenburg, trying to leap into sexier roles after her adolescent characters in Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Harriet the Spy). – Bret Fetzer

6) Lost in Translation

Lost in Translation

Written by Fancies Ford Coppla’s daughter, Sofia Coppola, this movie throws you right in the middle of modern day Japan from a perspective of someone who knows nothing about its ways.

You will feel just as lost as Bill Murray was but at the same time totally ok with it.

If you want the feeling of being in a new country and not understanding anything… this movie is the one!

Like a good dream, Sofia Coppola’s Lost in Translation envelops you with an aura of fantastic light, moody sound, head-turning love, and a feeling of deja  vu, even though you’ve probably never been to this neon-fused version of Tokyo. Certainly Bob Harris has not. The 50-ish actor has signed on for big money shooting whiskey ads instead of doing something good for his career or his long-distance family.

Jetlagged, helplessly lost with his Japanese-speaking director, and out of sync with the metropolis, Harris (Bill Murray, never better) befriends the married but lovelorn 25-year-old Charlotte (played with heaps of poise by 18-year-old Scarlett Johansson). Even before her photographer husband all but abandons her, she is adrift like Harris but in a total entrapment of youth. – Doug Thomas

5) Slumdog Millionaire

Slumdog Millionaire

Director Danny Boyle must know something about movies that involve exotic locations and traveling (he also directed “The Beach”, see #10).

The plot, the acting, the travels through India and the soundtrack all make this movie awesome!  Never mind all the awards Slumdog Millionaire won because this means little to a backpacker…

we want to know what it’s like to live in India and this movie delivers on that in a new way.

Jamal Malik (Dev Patel) is just one question away from winning a fortune on India’s version of “Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?”

But how has this uneducated young man from the slums succeeded in providing correct responses to questions that have stumped countless scholars before him?

And will he ultimately win it all or lose everything, including his true love?

4) Under the Tuscan Sun

Under the Tuscan Sun

This one is for you ladies out there!

Getting a divorce, buying a shamrock villa in Italy and learning to cook has never looked so good until after you have watched this beautiful movie.

It’s the romantic idea all women have, and makes you want to put your corporate life behind and just soak up another cultural.

Based on the #1 New York Times best-selling book, Under The Tuscan Sun follows San Francisco writer Frances Mayes (Lane) to Italy as a good friend offers her a special gift — 10 days in Tuscany.

Once there, she is captivated by its beauty and warmth, and impulsively buys an aging, but very charming, villa.

Fully embracing new friends and local color, she finds herself immersed in a life-changing adventure filled with enough unexpected surprises, laughter, friendship, and romance to restore her new home — and her belief in second chances. —

3) Into the Wild

Into the Wild

A must see and an obvious choice!

It’s what most backpackers dream of doing one day, and although the guy took his travels to the extreme, it has inspired many people to let go and see the world in a new way.

If you want the feeling of leaving everything behind in search of proving to yourself that you can see the world, consider Into the Wild your #1 movie.

This is the true story of Christopher McCandless (Emile Hirsch).

Freshly graduated from college with a promising future ahead, McCandless instead walked out of his privileged life and into the wild in search of adventure.

What happened to him on the way transformed this young wanderer into an enduring symbol for countless people — a fearless risk-taker who wrestled with the precarious balance between man and nature. —

2) The Motorcycle Diaries

The Motorcycle Diaries

If you haven’t seen this movie… shame on you!

It’s all in Spanish but who cares, as who doesn’t want to take a motorcycle trip across a continent with your best friend, living from town to town, using your wits to get by and in the process you learn a valuable lesson in life.

Oh, plus start a military coup, win a revolution, and become an icon for sticking it to the man.  Yeah, you’ll be pumped after this movie.

The beauty of the South American landscape and of Gael Garcia Bernal (Y Tu Mama Tambien, Bad Education) gives The Motorcycle Diaries a charisma that is decidedly apolitical. But this portrait of the young Che Guevara (later to become a militant revolutionary) is half buddy-movie, half social commentary–and while that may seem an unholy hybrid, under the guidance of Brazillian director Walter Salles (Central Station) the movie is quietly passionate.

Guevara and his friend Alberto Granado (Rodrigo de la Serna, a lusty and engaging actor) set off from Buenos Aires, hoping to circumnavigate the continent on a leaky motorcycle. They end up travelling more by foot, hitchhiking, and raft, but their experience of the land and the people affects them profoundly. No movie could affect an audience the same way, but The Motorcycle Diaries gives a soulful glimpse of an awakening social conscience, and that’s worth experiencing. – Bret Fetzer

1) Outsourced


And the #1 pick is another movie that most people don’t know about, but Outsourced covers everything.

Love in a foreign country, forgetting your Western ways, adopting local customs, finding yourself at the end of the road and knowing what you want.

If you watch this movie and don’t want to see India, then sorry my friend you are a lost soul.

There are so many things about this movie that people can learn from when traveling.

I found it to be beyond inspiring!

Todd Anderson (Josh Hamilton-Kicking and Screaming, The Bourne Identity) gets the bad news from his boss: his job has been outsourced. Adding insult to injury, Todd must travel to India to train his own replacement.

Through a series of hilarious misadventures, this charming, critically acclaimed romantic comedy reminds us that sometimes getting lost is the best way to find yourself. —

~~ Honorable Mentions ~~

If you have a movie to add, please do so in the comments section.  I know I couldn’t fit them all in, but would love to hear your favorite, or even your Top 10 list as well.


Photo Credit:  Cover photo of DVD’s

About the Author:

is the author of 30 posts on Go Backpacking.

T-roy is taking an extended holiday from being responsible. Quitting his 6-figure salary job that was killing him with 12hr work days, he decided that this wasn't the life. He moved to Thailand and spent 3 months living a humble backpackers life and loved the experience so much he kept going. He now resides in Medellin, Colombia doing photography work while running his own travel blog:

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Categories: Features, Reviews
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foggodyssey August 23, 2010 at 8:21 pm

I added it to the follow-up list, as you recommended it. It was a little dark for me at times but i did enjoy it. It had some funny parts in it for sure!


foggodyssey August 23, 2010 at 8:23 pm

Ralf: Thanks and adding to my follow-up list (check it out at the link below). I got to finally watch it a few months ago and LOVED it!!! You will be seeing more movies like this I think in the future with so many people able to actually do things like this on a budget, without having to have $20 million dollars to do it.


foggodyssey August 23, 2010 at 8:27 pm

Will check this out for sure, can't believe I never looked at the list yet. Thanks!


GlobalButterfly August 23, 2010 at 10:12 pm

Jajajajaja, si es cierto! Adoro Che!!!!!!!!!! ;-)

In a message dated 8/23/2010 4:04:11 P.M. Eastern Daylight Time,

foggodyssey wrote, in response to GlobalButterfly:

Yeah, something told me that you would like this movie best of all. Che
is lucky he still isn't alive because you would be stalking him if so!
jajajaja :)

Link to comment:


Aaron September 13, 2010 at 2:26 am

A flick to DEFINITELY add: THE ART OF TRAVEL. It will become your number 1.


Aaron September 13, 2010 at 2:30 am

Nevermind, it’s in your followup list. GOOD CHOICE!


Aaron September 13, 2010 at 3:02 am

OH!, also, you should put up 180 Degrees South! Fantastic flick about a man’s journey to Patagonia!


Stephen November 21, 2010 at 6:23 pm

Into the Wild is a fantastic movie and an even better book! I will have to check out Outsourced next.


JB December 24, 2010 at 3:33 am

I just watched the movie, The Fall. It is not a movie about travel, but I can’t imagine anyone watching that visual masterpiece, shot all around the world, and not wanting to travel. Check out the locations used at:


Born Traveler January 8, 2011 at 5:07 pm

If you wanna watch a great travel film go to and watch “The Art of Travel” for FREE! The movie is really well done! It’s also on netflix and itunes! (But at least on HULU its for free!)


Ismael-17-Norway January 8, 2011 at 11:39 pm

A Good Year deserves to be on the list. a good movie that will leave you with feelings no man can describe.


Bucabook February 16, 2011 at 12:13 am
Chelsea March 12, 2011 at 8:16 am

I would add “The Art of Travel”, which I recently just saw for the first time. I’m still running off the inspiration to seek adventure through travels from it! Also, “Eat Pray Love”…this movie meant a lot to me personally and inspired my first trip I ever took on my own.


Dave March 12, 2011 at 3:05 pm

I liked The Art of Travel too….Brooke Burns helped :)


Emma-jae April 1, 2011 at 5:35 pm

Love this, also stealing beauty needs a mention here =) Amelie too.


Anonymous July 8, 2011 at 3:32 pm

Into the wild made me thinking about my Round the World Trip….now i’m at the planning stage ;)


Dave July 9, 2011 at 9:59 pm

Congrats on your upcoming RTW trip! Whenever it happens, I’m sure it’ll change your life for the better.


Indy Afandi July 23, 2011 at 11:19 am

you should put 127 Hours and The Way on your list :)


Dave July 24, 2011 at 3:39 am

I just saw 127 Hours a few weeks ago, though I was already familiar with the story. Not sure I’d call that a travel movie. The Way looks cool, appears it hasn’t even been released in the US yet….

“An American father travels to France to recover the body of his estranged son who died while traveling “El camino de Santiago” from France to Santiago de Compostela (Spain).”


Mel Lifshitz August 18, 2011 at 1:54 pm

This inspires me to make my own list.  Nice list, btw.


Lusso Bags August 27, 2011 at 5:02 am

Gotta love Outsourced, and now the follow-up comedy series :)


Zhian Soriano September 29, 2011 at 9:26 am

I love the list. Slumdog* is the only movie I’ve watched that is why I got to download all in the list. Anyways, you can also try to put “A Map for Saturday” in the list. Although it is a documentary movie film (^_^).


Dave September 29, 2011 at 10:52 am

Awesome! Lots of good movies on the list, and Slumdog was one of my favorites. I’ve also seen A Map for Saturday…I think Troy mentioned that in a follow-up post he did here:

Reply October 18, 2011 at 6:00 am

What about Koyaanisqatsi? This montage film with scenes from across the globe was probably THE movie that inspired me to go travelling and experience difference cultures, sites and places.


ChrisAnnan October 26, 2011 at 12:29 pm

Transsiberian, i want to go to Russia


Dave October 26, 2011 at 3:23 pm

Good suggestion Chris — I saw that movie earlier this year (and liked it).


Zi Zi Bright December 25, 2011 at 1:13 pm

Am blogging about my upcoming trip to Timbuktu… you need a good Africa Movie.

I love “The Gods Must Be Crazy”


Andy February 11, 2012 at 12:31 am

Definitely gotta add 180? South!!! Super inspiring film about travels to Patagonia…makes you want to drop everything and go NOW.


shubham March 5, 2012 at 2:24 pm

seriously an awesome list…..dowloaded most of all….
my favourites are:-
1.) Into the wild
2.) The Motorcycle Diaries
3.) The Beach
4.) 127 Hours
5.) The Art Of Travel.
rest of the lost will watch very soon.
i just love travelling….i am from india n covering whole india these days….n then one day for sure will go for world tour.
Travelling is a religion and a message to all travellers just plan voyages n attempt them..theres nothing else…cheers.


Greg March 27, 2012 at 10:46 pm

I would have added Mountains of the Moon, which tells the story of the search for the source of the Nile during the time of Queen Victoria.


Talyn Sherer May 15, 2012 at 10:10 pm

Great list I love all those videos. Here is mine as well:


Jeremy Branham May 22, 2012 at 10:21 am

I do have one to add but am embarrassed to list it because it is a romantic comedy. Not only that, I love the music in the film. So I will risk losing my man card and admit to loving The Holiday. I love the scenes in England and even the stories in the movie. There are even some great scenes in LA as well.

Probably not one to inspire most people but it’s one that always inspires me to travel.


Stuart September 11, 2012 at 7:20 am

Jeremy, I see your ‘The Holiday’ and raise you with my embarrassing film favourite… Hudson Hawk. OK, so it is widely considered a record flop but I do love the stupid humour, a swaggering Bruce Willis and the delectable Andie MacDowell….. and the Italian backdrop is fairly awesome and makes me want to go there.


Anna August 30, 2012 at 8:34 am

I just want to suggest also “The sheltering sky” and maybe “out of africa”…

I’m so addicted with travel movies atm ;P


NEIL September 12, 2012 at 8:10 pm



Hongkongsyl September 16, 2012 at 1:59 am

A favourite inspirational travel film (and bit of chick flick) Shirley Valentine! Location: Greece….. Hilarious


Scott Summer September 19, 2012 at 9:06 am

The Beach is one of the top list. Here are the others;
1. Bridget Jones Diary2 by Rene Zelweeger
Location: Krabi, Thailand & London, UK
2. Monte Carlo by Selena Gomez
Location: Paris, France & Monte Carlo, Monaco
3. Lizzie Mcguire by Hilary Duff
Location: Rome, Italy
4. Jumper By Hans Christiansen
Location: mostly in Rome, Italy and other part of the world
5. Mr. Bean’s Holiday by Rowan Atkinson
Location: Paris, France & Cannes, France
6. Darkest Hour
Location: Moscow, Russia
7. Pink Panther
Location: Paris, France
8. View from the Top by Gweneth Paltrow
Location: USA & Paris, France
9. Eat, Pray, Love by Julia Roberts
Location: New York USA, Rome Italy, India, & Bali Indonesia
10. Tomb Raider by ANgeline Jolie
Location: Siem Reap, Cambodia
11. Friends with Benefits by Justin Timberlake
Location: New York, USA
12. The Tourist by Angeline Jolie & Johnny Depp
Location: Paris, France & Venice, Italy
13. The Karate Kid 2011 by Jadeth Smith
Location: Beijing, China


Scott Summer September 19, 2012 at 9:11 am

14. AFter the Sunset by Pierce Brosnan & Salma Hayek
Location: The Bahamas & the Carribean
15. Push by Chris Evans
Location: Bangkok, Thailand
16. The Origin of Chunli
Location: Bangkok, Thailand


Cezaris September 19, 2012 at 9:43 am

I personally think that the best movies to watch before you go to a journey to a specific country are documentaries. Dramatisations does not show you real people and situations are, well, made more dramatic. Then again true life is also dramatic, but frequently in different aspects than fictional stories.

A good source for documentaries about most countries is .


Sherri November 24, 2012 at 6:52 pm

What about The Bucket List?! Surely worthy a top 10?


Michael Hoyt November 26, 2012 at 1:00 pm

After watching Seven years in Tibet I wanted to book a ticket to Tibet!


Bali December 29, 2012 at 10:29 pm

worst list i have ever seen- you must not travel at all


J1 January 13, 2013 at 1:49 am

One film you guys haven’t mentioned which captures the backpacker vibe well is City of Ghosts. It’s shot in Cambodia. Decent film, not mind-blowing, but worth seeing if you’re nostalgic for your southeast Asian travels. It did give me that feeling, the feeling I had when I was there. I’m going back soon and fuckin’ psyched !


J1 January 13, 2013 at 1:52 am

Oh yeah, another one. Saint Jack with Ben Gazarra. Shot in Singapore in the late 70s. Cool flick.


stephanie ann January 13, 2013 at 8:59 pm

Definitely forgetting EAT, PRAY, LOVE. that movie has inspired me the most.


Falana August 26, 2013 at 8:50 pm

How about movies that make you want to stay home. I compiled a list called ‘Tourist Traps’. Art imitates and movies are not far from the truth.

1. Taken
2. Chernobyl Diaries
3. Hostel
4, Turistas
5. The Reef
6. Train
7. Wolf Creek
8. The Hills Have Eyes
9. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre
10. The Descent
11. Wrong Turn
12. Psycho


Alex Cardo September 24, 2013 at 1:46 pm

When I visited Thailand for a first time, I’ve never seen the movie “The Beach”. After I’ve seen this movie in my “Home Theatre”, I visited Krabi Province in Thailand, including Koh Phi Phi Islands! Yes! One of this movies has impressed me too much!


Girc November 9, 2013 at 4:54 am

Samsara Samsara and again Samsara…. you drop your jaw and it stays that way all the way! :)


Sebastian November 14, 2013 at 1:33 pm

When it comes to having fun and experiencing sexual adventures Euro Trip is definitely a very funny movie that makes you want to go to Europe…especially to Amsterdam ;-)

Into the wild is an amazing movie that goes really deep. It is a big inspiration for everybody who wants to step out of his or her comfort zone and who wants to experience adventures. At least it was a big inspiration for me.

Life is short….start living!


ian | going places January 26, 2014 at 3:13 pm

Don’t the James Bond movies, most of it are travel movies shoot in different countries.


John Armstrong February 18, 2014 at 11:16 pm

Awesome. I obviously love travel movies and I’m excited that your number one choice I haven’t seen. Now if I can pull myself away from House of Cards…


Peter Taylor March 10, 2014 at 10:13 am

I am not sure that “City of God” will get you going. Rio is not portrayed as a nice place at all, but I agree, the movie is fascinating.
“Euro Trip” is still hilarious in 2014.
I guess “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty” would make the list nowadays, it has some great scenes.


Monnette May 20, 2014 at 3:49 am

Good to know that there are also others who think that Bucket List and Eat, Pray, Love should be on this list.


butthurtburt July 6, 2014 at 3:04 pm

Now that I think about it, the movies that inspire me to hit the road are the following:
1.) Motorcycle Diaries (South America)
2.) Into the Wild (USA)
3.) The Beach (Thailand)
4.) Before Sunrise/Before Sunset (Europe)
5.) L’auberge espagnole (Spain)
6.) The Darjeeling Limited (India)
7.) 24 Hours/Slumdog (Grand Canyon)/(India)
8.) A Room with a View (Italy and UK)
9.) A Good Rain Knows When to Come (a Korean-Chinese movie) (China)
10.) Wong Kar-wai movies
-In The Mood for Love (Hongkong, Singapore, Cambodia)
-So Happy Together (Argentina, Iguazu Falls, Ushuaia)
11.) *many East Asian epic movies
12.) *many Vietnam war movies


Shaun August 6, 2014 at 10:31 am

Great list! Still stands today!


Traveling Ted August 6, 2014 at 10:31 am

Great list. I will have to check out Outsourced. I like watching historical movies that take place in foreign countries. I just watched Gandhi this weekend and really made me want to visit India. Other favorites include Killing Fields, Bridge Over the River Kwai, Good Morning Vietnam, El Salvador, and Hotel Rwanda. Even though these movies are all about depressing moments in history, it is safe now to travel in all of these countries now.


elaine schoch August 14, 2014 at 12:24 pm

Great list of movies! I must admit A Good Year is one of my all time favs. Going to France this week and will be doing a re-watch tonight.


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