Are you spending more time at home due to the coronavirus pandemic? If so, maybe a couple of travel-related movies might help you better cope with this difficult time in your life and in the entire world. While you will certainly find other things to do in your home, watching an uplifting movie might take your mind off the lack of outdoor activities and the constant gloomy news on television and online. All of these modern era films are available for a fee or free with a trial or paid subscription on streaming video sites like Amazon Prime, Google Play, iTunes, YouTube and many others.
Interested in watching movie about Paris featuring more than 80 enchanting locations? Amélie (2001) is a feel good, romantic comedy about a French waitress (Audrey Tautou) who works in a quintessential Parisian café. Despite growing up without school friends and losing her mother at an early age, she finds her job in the lively Montmartre area and lives alone in an apartment nearby. She discovers a hidden treasure left behind by a young boy who previously lived there. After tracking down the boy and seeing his happiness, she sets out to try to instill happiness into other people she knows. The film directed by Jean-Pierre Jeunet (City of Lost Children, Alien Resurrection) was a big hit and won Best Film in the European Film Awards. Amélie is also listed among the BBC’s 100 Greatest Films of the 21st Century and one of the most successful French movies ever in the U.S.
Eat Pray Love
Largely panned by critics but a box office success, Eat Pray Love (2010) is based upon the 2006 memoir of American author Elizabeth Gilbert. Starring Julia Roberts in the lead role, Eat Pray Love chronicles Gilbert’s solo journey around the world after a painful divorce. Seeking solace in a year long excursion after leaving what seemed like a successful life and career, she visits Italy, India and Bali to find a balance in her mind, body and spirit. The film also stars James Franco, Richard Jenkins, Viola Davis, Javier Bardem, Billy Crudup and Hadi Subiyanto. The romantic drama was directed by American director, producer and screenwriter Ryan Matthews, who has achieved great success in television, with hits like Nip/Tuck, American Horror Story, Glee, 9-1-1 and 9-1-1: Lone Star. Eat Pray Love currently has a 36 percent rating from Rotten Tomatoes and 5.8/10 on IMDb yet still earned nearly $205 million.
Love it or hate it, Forrest Gump (1994) is one of the best-known and most popular travel-related movies in the entire world. Starring Tom Hanks as the titular character, the film covers three decades of his life while showcasing some of the most important people and events in American history. This includes Forrest playing football for Bear Bryant at the University of Alabama, serving during the Vietnam War, appearing on the Dick Cavett Show with John Lennon and meeting then President Richard Nixon. While the story takes place mainly in Alabama, the travel-related movie features several other American towns and locations. Among the best known are the popular Blue Ridge Parkway, Biltmore Estate in North Carolina, Monument Valley in Utah, Glacier National Park and of course, the Lincoln Memorial in Washington D.C. Described as a magical realism, comedy-drama, Forrest Gump also stars Robin Wright, Gary Sinise, Mykelti Williamson and Sally Field. Despite some poor reviews, with descriptions like “overly sentimental” and “glib, shallow and monotonous”, Forrest Gump earned $677,945,399 worldwide. It also earned six Oscars at the 67th Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Actor for Tom Hanks, Best Director for Robert Zemeckis. Forrest Gump is also listed No. 3 among the 100 Movies to Watch Before You Die by IMDb.
Into The Wild
A travel movie in every imaginable sense, Into the Wild (2007) is as inspiring as it can be discouraging. Primarily set in the desolate wilderness of Alaska, the film is a biographical adventure drama starring Emile Hirsch as Christopher McCandless. A scholar-athlete from Atlanta’s Emory University, McCandless leaves his comfortable lifestyle and wealthy parents to live a nomadic lifestyle, while working occasionally and trekking across the Western United States. He eventually makes it to Denali National Park, famous for its namesake mountain, the highest in North America. An independent film with a budget of $20 million, the movie features several well known actors and actresses. Oscar-winning actress Marcia Gay Harden stars as Chris McCandless’ mother and acclaimed actor William Hurt as his father. Directed by Sean Penn, Into the Wild also stars Jena Malone, Hal Holbrook, Kristen Stewart, Vince Vaughn and Zach Galifianakis. Receiving a consensus of positive reviews, the film received two Oscar nominations and won the Golden Globe for Best Original Song – Motion Picture.
A biographical drama released in 2016, Lion depicts the journey of Indian-born Australian Saroo Brierley who is accidentally separated at age five. Based upon Brierley’s 2013 non-fiction book A Long Way Home, the film stars Dev Patel in the lead role. However it begins when the young protagonist at age five gets separated from his brother after falling asleep on a freight train in Khandwa, India. Upon waking up, he discovers the train is moving and is unable to get off until it arrives days later in Calcutta, a distance of about 1,578 km or 980 miles. Unable to get back home, he ends up homeless before sent to an orphanage. He is adopted by an Australian couple and eventually makes it to Melbourne to study. He finds a girlfriend (Rooney Mara) but is driven to return to his home village to find his mother. Lion also stars Sunny Pawar as young Saroo, David Wenham as his adopted father and Nicole Kidman as his adopted mother. Lion was a critical and financial success, having earned $140 million worldwide. Nominated for six Oscars, including Best Picture at the 89th Academy Awards, Lion also won several Australian Academy of Cinema Arts Awards, including Best Film, Best Direction for Garth Davis and acting awards for Pawar, Patel and Kidman.
Lost In Translation
One of the best movies to depict life in Tokyo, Lost in Translation is a 2003 comedy-drama starring Bill Murray and Scarlett Johansson. This travel-inspired movie revolves around an aging American actor in Tokyo to make a whiskey commercial and a newlywed whose husband (Giovanni Ribisi) is on assignment. A chance meeting connects the two at their hotel and they begin a close friendship while absorbing the culture clash that surrounds them. The film also co-stars Akiko Takeshita, Catherine Lambert and Anna Faris. Japan’s capital and largest city is captured on film with all of its excitement and glittering neon. Several well known spots were shot on location in Tokyo, like Park Hyatt Tokyo and the vibrant Shinjuku and Shibuya neighborhoods. Several other scenes were shot in Kyoto, near Mount Fuji and onboard the shinkansen (bullet train). Lost in Translation was a box office success, earning $119.77 million off a budget of just $4 million. It was also a critical success, aside from a few lukewarm reviews from some Japanese critics. However, the comedy-drama film earned a number of movie awards. Director Sofia Coppola won an Academy Award for Best Screenplay at the 76th Academy Awards and the film was nominated for three other Oscars. Bill Murray and Scarlett Johansson both won acting awards at the British Academy Awards and Murray and Coppola also earned Golden Globe Awards.
The Bucket List
Despite receiving mixed reviews from movie critics, The Bucket List (2007) is still a fun travel movie to watch for a few laughs or three. Starring Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman as two terminally ill men who want to cross off as many destinations off their wish list before they die or in slang, “kick the bucket”. First meeting each other in a hospital, both actors have been diagnosed with terminal lung cancer. During their treatment, they become friends and decide to put together a bucket list of places they want to visit. The pair travel to places as varied as the North Pole and Taj Mahal in India, as well as the Great Wall of China and the Great Pyramid, among others. This buddy flick was a great success at the box office, earning $175.4 million off a budget of $45 million. Directed by acclaimed director Rob Reiner (When Harry Met Sally, A Few Good Men) The Bucket List co-stars Sean Hayes, Beverly Todd and Rob Morrow.
The Last Emperor
Described as an “elegant travel brochure”, The Last Emperor (1987) is a cinematic masterpiece despite not doing exceptionally well at the box office. As the title suggests, the biographical film depicts the life of Puyi, the last Emperor of China who began his first reign when he was just 2 years, 10 months old. The first western film authorized by the People’s Republic of China to film in Beijing’s Forbidden City, the film stars John Lone, Joan Chen, Peter O’Toole and Victor Wong in lead roles. The Last Emperor covers nearly 60 years of the life of Puyi and features several locations in China, including Changchun Railway Station in Changchun, Beijing’s Summer Palace and most importantly the iconic Forbidden City. The epic 3 hour 39 minute film earned just 44 million worldwide, which barely covered its production cost of 23.8 million. However, it was a massive, critical success, winning nine Oscars at the 60th Academy Awards, including Best Picture and Best Director for Bernardo Bertolucci. The Last Emperor also won several other major awards, like Best Film and Director at the 45th Golden Globes and the BAFTA Award for Best Film.
Under The Tuscan Sun
While romance may be difficult when social distancing is trending, this travel movie may still inspire a bit of snuggling when the time is right. It might even inspire a romantic getaway when life finally gets back to normal. Based upon a 1996 memoir by Frances Mayes, Under the Tuscan Sun (2003) stars Diane Lane in one of the world’s most romantic destinations: the breathtaking Tuscany region of Italy. After discovering that her husband has been cheating on her, Frances Mayes decides to take a vacation to Tuscany at the urging of her friend Frances (Sandra Oh). Captivated by its historic culture and sheer natural beauty, she purchases and then restores an abandoned 16th century villa in Cortona. In addition to several locations in Cortona, Under the Tuscan Sun was filmed in Florence, Positano, Rome and Siena, in addition to scenes in San Francisco. Directed by the late Audrey Wells, the travel-based movie also stars Lindsey Duncan and Raoul Bova and was both a box office and critical success.
Released in late 2014, Wild is one of the most inspiring travel-related movies to come out in the last decade. An autobiographical drama starring Reese Witherspoon, Wild is based upon the life experience and stirring memoir by author Cheryl Strayed. Initially set in Minnesota, the protagonist had a close relationship with her mother (Laura Dern). After her mother’s sudden death from cancer, Strayed’s life went into a tailspin, leading to her divorce and a severe drug problem with heroin. Seeking to start a new life, she heads to California to embark upon a months-long journey along 1,110 miles of the famous Pacific Crest Trail. Directed by Jean-Marc Vallée (Dallas Buyers Club, Big Little Lies), opened to widespread acclaim and Reese Witherspoon and Laura Dern both received Academy Award nominations. The film features more than 50 captivating locations, including California’s Mojave Desert and Crater Lake and Mount Hood in Oregon.
About The Author:
Randy Yagi is an award-winning freelance writer who has covered national/international travel for CBS Local and all things San Francisco for CBS San Francisco. His stories have also appeared in the Daily Meal, Examiner.com, CBS Radio and Radio.com, among others. He is a Media Fellow of Stanford University.