One of the main reasons that many of us love books and TV is that they transport us away from our surroundings to faraway places where we’re free from boundaries and restrictions. And this is particularly true for travel movies.
There’s something unique and satisfying about being in the most ordinary of places – on the sofa, the train, or in the bath – and losing yourself in the magic of a great travel adventure.
With that said, we’ve put together a list of 25 great travel films that will take you on an adventure.
1. Tracks (2013)
Based on the novel by Robyn Davidson, Tracks is the true story of the author’s 1,700-mile trek across the deserts of West Australia with her four camels and faithful dog in tow.
Starting her journey at Alice Springs in the mid-70s, young Robyn (Mia Wasikowska) has no purpose other than to be alone with her animal companions and eventually reach the Indian Ocean – but she must overcome many obstacles to get there.
Directed by John Curran, Tracks is a tale of perseverance that’s beautiful, painful, and unforgettable.
2. First Man (2018)
First Man is the captivating account of the first human spaceflight to reach the moon, told from Neil Armstrong’s (played by Ryan Gosling) perspective. Armstrong joined NASA in the 1960s, at a time when they were planning a series of dangerous, pioneering space expeditions.
Then, in 1969, after years of training and many risky test runs, the nation waited with bated breath as he and fellow astronauts Michael Collins (Lukas Haas) and Buzz Aldrin (Corey Stoll) embarked on the historic Apollo 11 mission.
Based on the book by James R. Hansen, First Man is nerve-wracking, triumphant, and emotional – a true celebration of human achievement.
3. Little Miss Sunshine (2006)
Abigail Breslin stars as seven-year-old Olive Hoover in this endearing story about a small girl with a big dream.
Olive is sweet, excitable, and unapologetically herself – and she wants to participate in a beauty pageant. So, to get her there, Olive and her eccentric family – including her mute brother (Paul Dano), foul-mouthed grandfather (Alan Arkin), and depressed uncle (Steve Carell) – set off on a cross country road trip in their VW bus.
Little Miss Sunshine is simultaneously sad, funny, and dark. And Olive’s attitude to life is a refreshing reminder of the value of always believing in and being true to yourself.
4. The Motorcycle Diaries (2004)
This Spanish biopic tells the story of Ernesto “Che” Guevera (Gael Garcia Bernal) and Alberto Granado (Rodrigo de la Serna), who take a road trip across South America in 1952. After leaving Buenos Aires on a rickety 1939 Norton 500, named ‘The Rickety One’, the young men travel for eight months by motorcycle, horse, bus, raft, steamship, and hitchhike – covering over 8,700 miles.
The Motorcycle Diaries is an extraordinary account of the real motorcycle trip that shaped Che Guevara into the hero he became. The film world-premiered to a standing ovation at the 2004 Sundance Festival and won BAFTAs for Best Film Music and Best Film Not in the English Language in 2005.
5. Out of Africa (1985)
Out of Africa is an American-British epic romance which is based on the life of Karen Blixen-Finecke – a strong-willed Danish woman who lived on a coffee farm in Kenya for many years. Karen (Meryl Streep) is set on being a dairy farmer, but she moves to Africa with her husband Bror (Klaus Maria Brandauer) and he spends all their money on a coffee plantation instead.
Later, after finding out that Bror has been having an affair, she falls in love with handsome, rugged adventurer, Denys (Robert Redford). Yet, it becomes clear that Denys doesn’t want to be tied down – so Karen is forced to choose between her head and her heart.
Out of Africa won seven academy awards and includes breathtakingly beautiful scenes of Africa that will linger in your mind long after the film is finished.
6. The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (2013)
Walter Mitty (Ben Stiller) is a proficient daydreamer and film developer for Life magazine who lives a dull life. And to escape the boredom, most of his time is spent lost in fantasies involving travel, heroism, and charming encounters with his crush Cheryl (Kristen Wiig).
However, Walter’s chance to have a real adventure finally arrives when work asks him to travel to Scandinavia to take the perfect photo for their final print issue.
With beautiful cinematography and a delicate balance between introspection and humour, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty is the perfect film for anyone looking to break free from monotony.
7. Slumdog Millionaire (2008)
Slumdog Millionaire is a British drama film that tells the story of Jamil Malik (Dev Patel), an orphaned teenager from the slums of Mumbai who becomes a contestant on the show Kaun Banega Crorepati? (the Indian version of Who Wants To Be a Millionaire?). Under pressure, and with the whole nation watching, Jamil is just one question away from winning a life-changing 20 million rupees. However, as the show breaks for the night, he’s arrested on suspicion of cheating.
This high-energy film takes us on an exhilarating ride, as Jamil tries to explain how he came to have all the answers and prove his innocence by telling the story of his life.
Slumdog Millionaire captures the true slums of Mumbai,shining a stark light on poverty in India. But it’s also a story of hope and love that highlights how the experiences we go through shape us into the people we are today.
8. Amélie (2001)
Amélie is a delightful and loveable story about a young waitress in Paris who realises that she has a gift for helping others and so sets out on a mission to do so.
In this stylish, fanciful film, Audrey Tautou goes on an adventure in her own charming city as she attempts to be a matchmaker, guardian angel, and all-around do-gooder for various quirky characters.
Hailed by film critics as ‘the most stylish film ever made’, Amélie has won multiple awards, including the 2002 BAFTA for Best Original Screenplay, and still remains iconic today.
9. Trains, Planes, and Automobiles (1987)
Neal Page (Steve Martin), a Chicago marketing executive, needs to get home for Thanksgiving. Though his journey is far from smooth after a freak snowstorm causes his flight to be rerouted to a faraway city in Kansas.
To make matters worse, he gets stuck with clownish salesman Del Griffith (John Candy) who leads him on a wild goose chase.
Trains, Planes, and Automobiles is zany and hilarious, but it also has plenty of poignant parts to remind us that friendship can be found in the most unlikely places.
10. Baraka (1992)
If you’re looking for a bit of a hidden gem, then Baraka (a Sufi word, which translates to ‘blessing’) is sure not to disappoint. This non-narrative documentary film directed by Ron Fricke is shot in 24 countries and six continents – and is intended to show humanity exactly as it is using no words at all.
Producer Mark Magidson said that “The goal was to reach past language, nationality, religion, and politics, and speak to the inner viewer.”
Shot in magnificent 70mm, Baraka has been described as a ‘masterpiece’. It was premiered at the 2011 International Film Festival and released internationally in 2012.
11. Under The Tuscan Sun (2003)
When San Francisco-based writer, Frances Mayes (Diane Lane), finds out that her husband is filing for divorce so he can marry the women he’s been having an affair with, her life takes an unexpected turn.
Depressed and inspired, Frances – encouraged by her pregnant best friend Patti (Sandra Oh) – heads to Tuscany to get away from it all and ends up buying a dilapidated villa. With the help of various interesting characters – including the lovely Marcello (Raoul Bova) with whom she has a brief, romantic fling – she starts a new life in rural Italy.
Under The Tuscan Sun is a heartwarming, fairytale travel adventure that speaks to the hopeless romantic in all of us.
12. Queen and Slim (2019)
Queen and Slim is a hard-hitting crime thriller that offers a powerful perspective on what it means to be black in America today. Queen (Jodie Turner-Smith) and Slim (Daniel Kaluuya) are on a first date in Ohio when their car gets pulled over by a trigger happy police officer.
Slim ends up shooting the officer in self-defence and the couple goes on the run to escape death or life in prison, should the police catch up with them.
Sometime later, the dashcam footage of the altercation with the police goes viral and Queen and Slim become symbols of pain, grief, and hope across America. Everywhere they go, people help them hide, reiterating the message that no one should ever be shot during a routine traffic stop.
13. Everest (2015)
If you’re looking for suspense, then Everest will have you on the edge of your seat. Inspired by true events, this riveting drama is about a 1996 attempt to reach the summit of the world’s tallest mountain. Tragically, the climbers were faced with one of the fiercest snowstorms ever encountered by mankind, which resulted in eight deaths.
Jason Clarke, Josh Brolin, John Hawkes, Robin Wright, Michael Kelly, Sam Worthington, Keira Knightley, Emily Watson, and Jake Gyllenhaal star in this enthralling adventure.
14. The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel (2011)
Seven eclectic British tourists (Judi Dench, Tom Wilkinson, Bill Nighy, Maggie Smith, Penelope Wilton, Celia Imrie, and Ronald Pickup) arrive in Jaipur, India on holiday in this British comedy-drama. They check in to what they believe is a newly restored hotel – however, it’s not long before it starts to show all its quirks and the friends realise they’re living in less than luxurious conditions.
Based on the philosophy that ‘everything will be alright in the end, and if it’s not alright, it’s not the end’, the friends are forced to let go of expectations and live in the moment. Through their shared experiences, they learn to take risks, embrace second chances, and let love in.
A lighthearted easy watch, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel will take you on a vibrant journey through modern-day India.
15. The World’s Fastest Indian (2005)
Andy Hopkins stars as real-life New Zealander Burt Munro: the man who never let his dreams of youth fade and spent 46 years rebuilding a 1920 Indian motorcycle. Munro then used his motorcycle to set the land speed world record at Utah’s Bonneville Salt Flats in 1967.
Based on a true story, this feel-good movie sends the message that it’s never too late to set goals, chase them fiercely, and accomplish what you want in life.
16. The Bucket List (2007)
Two terminally ill men – car mechanic Carter Carter Chambers (Morgan Freeman) and billionaire Edward Cole (Jack Nicolson) – meet for the first time on the cancer ward in hospital and decide to bust out to make the most of the time they have left.
The pair have two common aims: to tick off as many fun activities as possible before they ‘kick the bucket’ and to come to terms with who they are and what they’ve done in life. Get ready to journey with Carter and Edward as they go skydiving, fly over the North pole, visit the Taj Mahal and the Pyramids of Giza, and ride motorcycles along the Great Wall of China.
The Bucket List is an American comedy-drama that’s guaranteed to tug at your heartstrings and leave you feeling happy, sad, and comforted all at the same time.
17. How Stella Got Her Groove Back (1998)
Forty-something Stella Payne (Angela Bassett) is a highly successful, Californian stockbroker and though she’s happy with her career, she never makes time for a life outside of work. So, when her bright and bubbly New York best friend Delilah (Whoopi Goldberg) persuades her to take a first-class trip to Jamaica, Stella reluctantly agrees.
As she immerses herself in the beauty of the island, Stella meets Winston Shakespeare (Taye Diggs) – a young, gorgeous islander in his 20s – and gets swept up in a passionate holiday romance. But, when its time to return to California, she realises that her feelings for her new man run deeper than she thought.
Unsure what to do, Stella tries to work out how she can manage her responsibilities as a mother and corporate executive, while still fulfilling her desire for love and companionship.
18. Into the Wild (2008)
Into the Wild is a true story about a young American man Chris McCandless (Emile Hirsch) who gives up everything (including his $24,000 savings) to set off on the journey of his life. He has one goal: to reach the Alaskan wilderness.
Along the way, Chris meets a series of interesting characters who each help on his journey of reinvention and self-discovery – until eventually, deep in the wild, he finds a clapped out bus that he decides to call home.
Directed by Sean Penn, Into the Wild is a film about courage, freedom, and happiness (and it will have you reaching for the tissues!).
19. Thelma & Louise (1991)
Thelma (Geena Davis), a bored housewife and Louise (Susan Sarandon), a prudish waitress who works in a coffee shop are two best friends with one particular thing in common: they’re fed up with what they’ve settled for in life.
In an attempt to escape their tedious realities, they head off in Louise’s ’66 T-bird convertible for a quiet girls-only fishing trip. However, during an evening out at a bar, Thelma meets a man who tries to rape her, and their vacation takes an unexpected turn.
At the time of its release, Thelma & Louise was seen as a revolutionary step towards including more women in leading roles in film and challenging impressions of traditional femininity.
20. Back To The Future (1985)
Seventeen-year-old Marty McFly (Michael J Fox) is accidentally sent 30 years into the past to 1955, in a time machine built by quirky scientist Doc Brown (Christopher Lloyd). Once in the past, Marty’s actions end up changing the course of history, so he ends up in a race against time as he attempts to fix the present, escape the past, and send himself back to the future!
This American sci-fi classic made $381.1 million in the year of its release and became the highest-grossing film of 1985 worldwide, so it’s no surprise that two sequels were made in the years that followed. Today, Back To The Future is still regarded by many as one of the greatest movies ever made.
21. Hit The Road: India (2013)
Hit The Road: India is a gripping travel documentary about two friends (from the US and Canada) who journey 2000km from Mumbai to Chennai in a rickshaw over a 12-day period.
They’re tested in multiple ways throughout the film; from monsoon rains and desert heat to run-ins with the police and food sickness. But they also soak in the beauty of jungle tracks, great plains, golden beaches, and magnificent palaces.
The Mumbai Xpress Rickshaw Challenge has been recognised by Lonely Planet as one of the top 10 greatest adventures of 2012.
22. Cast Away (2000)
Tom Hanks stars as FedEx systems engineer Chuck Noland, who has everything you could want in life – a beautiful girlfriend, lots of friends, and success in a well paid job. But what he doesn’t have much of is time. Time controls everything Chuck does and he struggles to live in the moment; that is until his plane crashes.
Chuck ends up stranded on a desert island – completely alone – and has to work out how to survive using the neutral elements and the FedEx packages that begin to wash up on the shore. In one of the packages is a volleyball that he names Wilson – Chuck’s best friend for the next four years.
Absorbing, brutal, and emotionally tense, Cast Away is a story of survival, hope, and resilience.
23. Julie & Julia (2009)
Julie & Julia is an American biographical comedy-drama film based on the true story of writer Julie Powell (Amy Adams) who was inspired to try 524 recipes from Julia Child’s (Meryl Streep) cookbook, Mastering The Art Of French Cooking.
The film flits back and forth between the past and present as viewers get a glimpse into the lives of Julia Child during her time in Paris and Julie Powell in her modern day life in New York, as she cooks her way through Julia’s book.
This is a simple yet beautiful film that’s a joy to watch – and Julia’s passion for Paris and French food is infectious.
24. Up (2009)
If you’re looking for a travel adventure film for all the family, then it’s hard to go wrong with Disney Pixar’s loveable animation, Up.
After his wife Ellie (Elizabeth Docter) dies, 78-year-old balloon salesman Carl Frederickson (Ed Asner) prepares to fulfil a promise that he made to her before she died – and that is, to get to South America. So, Carl ties thousands of coloured balloons to his house and flies away. But soon, he discovers a young stowaway boy scout (Jordan Nagai) on board.
Funny, moving, and visually stunning, Up has themes of love, loss, friendship, and adventure.
25. The Way (2010)
As American doctor Tom (Martin Sheen) travels to France to collect the body of his adult son, with whom he had a complicated relationship; he tries to come to terms with his loss.
Tom’s son died in a storm whilst on an 800km pilgrimage to The Camino de Santiago and, in an attempt to understand him better, Tom decides to embark on the pilgrimage himself, armed with his son’s backpack and guidebook. Though it’s not long before he realises that he won’t be alone on his journey, as he meets other pilgrims who’re all searching for greater meaning in life.
Profound, powerful, and life-affirming, The Way is a film about what it means to become part of something bigger than yourself.
We hope that the selection of films above shows that it’s possible to embark on an unforgettable journey from the most ordinary of places – such as your sofa!
If you enjoyed this article, then you might want to check out our list of 15 adventures you can enjoy without leaving your home, which has plenty more ideas for ways you can take your mind to an interesting new place without having to be there physically.
Or to turn your travel dreams into a reality, why not check out the travel section of our website? Here, you’ll find inspiration for everything from days out in the UK and far flung holiday destinations, to how to travel on a budget.
What’s your favourite travel movie? Have you seen any of the movies above? We’d love to hear from you! Join the conversation on the Rest Less community forum, or leave a comment below.