What inspires you to travel? Most of us would probably say Instagram before we’d say Netflix. But it’s never just one thing, is it? Our lasting desire to hit the road is borne from a collection of images, flavors, sounds, and shared moments. It’s that time you snuck into Temple of Doom when you were supposed to be watching The Neverending Story. It’s the faded pictures of your grandparents’ photo albums, waving from in front of Old Faithful. It’s the stories you hear, the Instagrams you follow, and the slivers of the wider world that sneak into your daily life.
Movies are a big part of those daily lives. As such, they’ve inspired many of us to finally live out our travel dreams and go on our own adventures.
Our team loves movies that inspire travel. So we put together a list of our favorite travel-themed movies on Netflix right now. Of course, it should go without saying, this list will constantly be evolving as Netflix rotates its streaming library. So some hardcore classics like the Indiana Jones series or Plains, Trains and Automobiles are missing. This is the best of the best of what’s availible right now.
Let these travel movies be your guide and inspire your next adventure.
Up In The Air (2009)
It’s hard not to love a good George Clooney movie. Add in a mentorship with Anna Kendrick about the ins-and-outs of traveling the country (to fire people) and you’ve got travel cinema gold. Jason Reitman’s glance into corporate America and the domestic airports that shuttle workers around the country is an emotionally deft and often hilarious look at life on the road.
Before Midnight (2013)
Richard Linklater rounded off his Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy vagabonding lovers “Before” series with a trip to a Greek Island. Jesse and Celine — who met traipsing across Europe in their 20s — are now all grown up with kids and marital issues stemming from the classic life, love, and work malaise. The dialogue-driven film is a wonderful exploration of relationships against the idyllic backdrop of rural Greece.
You’ll want to wander those streets and eat next to those azure seas. Though you’ll probably want to leave the arguments behind.
Moonrise Kingdom (2012)
Wes Anderson’s Moonrise Kingdom reveals everyone’s favorite nebbish filmmaker in full-on teenage whimsy mode. Two young lovers strike out on an adventure with a map, a few supplies, and a lust for life. Pesky adults pursue. Capers explode around our traveling heroes as they find life and love on the open road in a very Wes Anderson fashion.
It’s the type of grand adventure that we fantasized about in our pre-teen dreams.
Into The Wild (2007)
Your love or hate of this film probably depends on how you feel about the film’s subject, Chris McCandless. On the one hand, McCandless struck out on an adventure to eschew the doldrums of modern life in the Alaskan wilderness. On the other hand, his woeful underestimation of the wilds and unpreparedness is maddening and cost him his life. Still, the man gets a lot of points for living a life uncommon when so many don’t.
On The Road (2012)
The mad ones are on full display here. Strife, loss, and self-indulgence drive the lust to wander in this adaption of the seminal Kerouac novel. As with all adaptations, it’ll never satisfy everyone. But it does expose how a life where you need to travel is … just … messy sometimes.
Loved ones will be lost and gained in equal measure while traveling, and the film truly captures the propulsive energy that drives some of us to seek out the open road.
The Endless Summer (1966)
The ultimate 60s surfer film is streaming right now. Yes, it’s dated. It’s also a historical look into what surfing was like back in the 60s and the crazy kids who’d cross the entire earth looking for the best breaks. This is the perfect travel movie to put on when you need to cure some jet lag. It’s a relaxing and sometimes hypnotic film that a little cannabis will 100 percent make more enjoyable.
Tropic Thunder (2008)
War comedy/parody/travel movie? Yes, please. At the heart of this film is a story about a bunch of actors traveling to Southeast Asia and having a ridiculous time. There’s really no way not to have fun watching this movie while also being enticed to book a plane ticket to Vietnam, Thailand, or Hawaii (where the movie was actually filmed).
The Trip To Italy (2014)
Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon’s second edition of the “Trip” series sees the comedians galavanting around Italy. They eat amazing food, sing-a-long to Alanis Morissette, and make each other (and us) laugh at every turn. It’s the perfect combination of food, travel, comedy, and companionship.
The Trip To Spain (2016)
The third installment of the Coogan and Brydon’s series is also streaming on Netflix. This time the duo are driving the winding roads of Spain while eating at some of the most iconic restaurants in the world. This entry is as fun and enticing as ever and we can’t wait to see where these two go next.
To Wong Foo, Thanks For Everything! Julie Newmar (1995)
To Wong Foo is a classic road movie. Three gay drag queens traveling across America get stuck in a small town and help broaden the minds of the locals. It’s an old concept done well. The film also has a fascinating history via Hollywood in the early 90s and was a big win for the gay community in the industry.
All of that aside, the film is about how travel fosters acceptance — an important lesson for would be vagabonds.
Patricia Highsmith stories always carry with them a sense of adventure. While this love story doesn’t reach the far-flung travel heights of The Two Faces of January or The Talented Mr. Ripley per se, there’s still a little road movie tucked away in the second act. Carol and Therese’s fleeing cross-country adds a road trip dimension to the film that deepens their relationship by putting them in a car together. It’s the power of that time spent in close quarters that can make or break a relationship and Carol pulls the dynamic off wonderfully.
Midnight In Paris (2011)
There are so many aspects of Midnight in Paris that just work. Corey Stoll as Hemingway is spot on. Michael Shannon’s know-nothing-know-it-all is someone we’ve all encountered while on the road. Paris has rarely looked better on film. And, Owen Wilson’s babbling nebbish Gil travels through time to the party with the infamous Lost Generation. Delights all around.
The Fundamentals Of Caring (2016)
Paul Rudd is at his most charming and charismatic here. He plays a newly trained caregiver to a distant teenager with muscular dystrophy named Trevor. After some ice breaking, the two set out on a trip to see some of the most boring roadside attractions middle America has to offer. If you’re feeling down, this one will pick you up.
Plus… it’s Paul Rudd. That dude is always a ray of sunshine.
We’re not crying! You’re crying! Dev Patel plays Saroo, a boy who was separated from his older brother while stealing coal from trains to trade for milk. Saroo takes a nap on the wrong train and ends up in Calcutta, where he’s put in an orphanage and eventually adopted by an Australian family. 20 years later, an Indian dish sparks Saroo’s memory about his life before he got lost.
He eventually decides to find his mother and brother in India. Tears ensue.
The Way Back (2010)
Based on a “true” story that was most certainly made up, The Way Back is still an epic adventure tale of survival across a huge cross-section of Asia. A ragtag group of gulag prisoners escape Siberia and head towards freedom in India. The journey is insanely arduous and violent. Still, they press on and on and on. Peter Weir’s filming of the forest, mountains, plains, desserts, and tea fields around India is striking and will light a fire in you to travel to that corner of the world.
The Hateful Eight (2015)
Tarantino’s western is a quintessential road movie. A stagecoach picks up a rabble of passengers much like a bus. Those passengers end up a roadhouse which is the 1800s version of a hostel. Violence and monologuing ensue because… it’s Quentin Tarantino we’re talking about here. Yet, even with its quirks, the film is most notable for its sense of time, place, and adventure.
Every character is a traveler, crisscrossing along that dusty highway of life … and monologuing in sublime 70mm.
Kill Bill Vol. 1 & 2 (2003, 2004)
The Kill Bill series is a loving homage to the Kung Fu cinema of Hong Kong and the Kurosawa classics with a good mix of western revenge thrown in. It’s also a globetrotting adventure film that takes the vengeful Bride from Southern California to Japan to the deserts of the American Southwest to Mexico to the Shaolin mountains of China.
A globetrotting fable with a nice slice of revenge.
A balding and very sweaty Matthew McConaughey mining for gold in Indonesia shouldn’t be this fun to watch, yet he is. The film was shot in Thailand and calls you to tropic adventure, with a solid lesson intertwined about exploitation of local people and resources. That and good old-fashioned 1980s American greed.
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (2016)
We couldn’t make a list of great travel movies and not include a sci-fi flick. The genre, at its core, is about exploration, adventure, and travel. Rogue One is a great call to adventure story that spans a galaxy of planets. Real life analogs in the Maldives, Iceland, Jordan, and Guatemala stand in for various planets — plenty of travel porn to inspire your own adventures.
Yes, this is a kid’s movie, but then again — cough, cough — so is Star Wars. Anyway, Paddington is a traveling bear who leaves the jungles of Peru for a new life of adventure in London. It’s a place he’s spent his life dreaming of one day seeing, so he goes post haste.
We can all learn a lesson there. Follow your travel dreams. Don’t be afraid of the unknown. Live that life.
EDITOR’S PICK: David Brent: Life on the Road (2016)
The Brentmaster General is back and as awkward as ever. This time, David Brent (Ricky Gervais) is on a music tour — funding the trip out of his own pocket, renting a bus completely unnecessarily, and making college kids cringe like crazy.
Why include this as an editor’s pick? Two reasons:
- It explores the loneliness that travel can sometimes induce.
- It hilariously sends up the traveler’s biggest problem: Matching expectations with reality.
Travel is an amazing thing, one of the best things… but this movie reminds us that it’s not always perfect, either.