If, like many Americans, a vacation abroad is no longer an option, reading travel books and watching movies that were filmed around the world can provide a healthy escape to some of your favorite places. Here’s my list of go-to wanderlust-inducing movies to help get you through a summer without travel.
Films Featuring North And South America
Nothing says summertime like a cross-country road trip with your friends. For a look at some of the most beautiful scenery in the U.S., check out classic road trip flicks like Easy Rider, which takes you on a trippy ride from Los Angeles to New Orleans, or Thelma and Louise, which was largely filmed in Los Angeles, Colorado and Utah—its dramatic finale was actually filmed in Dead Horse Point State Park in Moab, not at the Grand Canyon, as is a common misconception. For something a little deeper, To Wong Foo Thanks For Everything, Julie Newmar, starring Patrick Swayze, Wesley Snipes and John Leguizamo, tells the story of three drag queens and all the intolerance and acceptance they encounter on their drive from New York to Los Angeles.
For a scenic tour of South America, try The Motorcycle Diaries, which follows Ernesto “Che” Guevara’s adventures alongside Alberto Granado as the two friends traveled through Argentina, Chile, Peru, Colombia and Venezuela in their twenties.
Movies Starring Australia and New Zealand
Sydney and other parts of New South Wales are featured prominently in Mission Impossible II, while The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, stars Hugo Weaving, Guy Pearce and Terence Stamp as three drag queens traveling from Sydney to Alice Springs, making friends and enemies as they cross the Australian Outback in their bus—the soundtrack is magnificent and I dare you not to sing along. For another look at the Outback, try Tracks, based on the book by Robyn Davidson, who trekked solo from Alice Springs to the Western Australia coast with nothing but her camels and later wrote about it for National Geographic.
While many movies have been made in New Zealand, perhaps the most well known are The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit series. The films flaunt some of the most beautiful scenery in the North and South Islands, most of which can be visited. For a behind-the-scenes look, fans can also tour the Hobbiton Movie Set in Matamata or stop by Peter Jackson’s WETA Cave Workshop and production studio in Wellington.
Films Featuring Africa, Asia and the Middle East
Out of Africa, based on the memoir by Danish author Karen Blixen, shows off the beautiful scenery of Kenya’s Ngong Hills, where Meryl Streep and Robert Redford stage their ill-fated love affair. If dramas aren’t your thing, check out Long Way Down, a 10-part documentary highlighting Ewan McGregor and Charlie Boorman’s motorcycle journey from John o’Groats, Scotland, to Cape Town, South Africa, meeting people, tasting local food, and encountering phenomenal scenery along the way—their other documentary Long Way Round is also worth watching.
For a look at stunning cities and locales in Southeast Asia, watch Crazy Rich Asians, which features popular tourist stomping grounds like Marina Bay Sands, Gardens by the Bay, The Raffles Hotel, the Newton Food Centre, Sentosa Island and Chinatown in Singapore, as well as several sites in Langkawi, Penang and Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia. Get a sense of Bali’s peaceful rice paddies and traditional way of life in Eat, Pray, Love, which was filmed in Ubud and Padang Padang Beach, as well as Delhi and Pataudi in India (and Rome and Naples in Italy). If all else fails, put on an Indiana Jones movie, as these were filmed in Jordan, Tunisia, Sri Lanka, and Macau, as well as Europe, Hawaii and parts of the American Southwest.
Movies Filmed In Europe
If you’re dreaming about visiting beautiful beaches in the Mediterranean, throw yourself a Mamma Mia marathon. The original was filmed on the Greek Islands of Skopelos and Skiathos, as well as other parts of Greece, while the sequel, Mamma Mia 2: Here We Go Again, was mostly filmed on the island of Vis in Croatia.
Yearning for a stroll along the romantic streets of Paris? Tag along with Owen Wilson’s character in Midnight in Paris as he hits the town with some of his favorite literary and artistic heroes from the 1920s. If you’re in the mood for a family friendly musical romp through Salzburg, Austria, saddle up for The Sound of Music. For a good laugh, follow along as the Griswolds make their way around the U.K., France, Germany and Italy in National Lampoon’s European Vacation, one of the greatest travel comedies of all time. If all else fails, put on a James Bond movie—any James Bond movie—and get lost in the multitude of scenic locations as the suave secret agent saves the world.