There's nothing that makes me want to travel more than hearing other people's stories and luckily, there are about a million films out there waiting to tell them. I've come up with a list of my favourite films about travelling, including a number of utterly hopeless travellers who I relate to on a personal level below. Check it all out after the jump.
DIRTY DANCING 2: HAVANA NIGHTS
Just kidding. I actually liked this film once. God, what an unnecessary waste of Diego Luna and money.
THE DARJEELING LIMITED
"I WANT US TO BE COMPLETELY OPEN AND SAY YES TO EVERYTHING, EVEN IF IT'S SHOCKING AND PAINFUL. CAN WE AGREE TO THAT?"
It took a long time for me to fall in love with this film, but now I can't stop thinking about it. This poignant film about three estranged brothers takes its viewers to India, which is drop dead gorgeous with an Anderson-esque colour scheme and full of rattling chaos. Adrien Brody's character is full of important life lessons about travelling: don't expect an itinerary to give you catharsis, travel to learn about yourself rather than to escape and the best experiences are sometimes the most unexpected. Take me to India, please.
LOST IN TRANSLATION
"LET'S PROMISE TO NEVER COME BACK HERE AGAIN. IT WOULDN'T BE AS FUN."
Anybody who knows me knows Tokyo is probably my favourite place in the entire world. Sophia Coppola has never made a film more relatable or as beautiful as Lost in Translation and the idea of feeling utterly displaced is a pretty universal one, both emotionally and physically. Having been to Tokyo myself, Sophia Coppola perfectly captures the truth of the city's dizzying and incomprehensible beauty in completely unexpected shots - a taxi emerging from a tunnel washed by neon blinking lights, or a gigantic digital dinosaur walking across a building front in Shibuya. And please, like I'd forget Scarlett Johansson's spontaneous trip to Kyoto which is just one of the best scenes ever. (Alone in Kyoto will forever feature on my writing playlist.) Sometimes the film flitters between awe and flat out exoticism which can be a little uncomfortable, but there's an incredible amount of love for Japan in there despite both characters' initial reservations. Lost in Translation is a testament to the secret and utterly private relationship you can have with a city, or maybe with a certain Bill Murray. One can only hope.
WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE
"DON'T GO. I'LL EAT YOU UP. I LOVE YOU SO."
I'm a little bit in love with pretty much any film Spike Jonze creates. His dark, adult adaptation of Where the Wild Things Are is all about escapism (something most desperate travellers are familiar with). A boy called Max runs away from his home life and becomes king of a place unlike any he's ever known before, however through the magic of allegory and clever filmmaking, you begin to realise that your life follows you wherever you go - for the better and for the worse. Maybe some people might see that as a slightly depressing thought, but it's one that I think is just so important; there are always going to be things you can't leave behind.
"MY FRIENDS ON THE MAINLAND THINK JUST BECAUSE I LIVE IN HAWAII, I LIVE IN PARADISE. LIKE A PERMANENT VACATION. WE'RE ALL JUST OUT HERE SIPPING MAI TAIS, SHAKING OUR HIPS, AND CATCHING WAVES. ARE THEY INSANE?"
Alexander Payne's last two films are hyper-sensitive to their surroundings; the more recent Nebraska explores the eternally dead end beauty of rural America whereas The Descendants contrasts Hawaii's easy beauty with the raw trials of the King family. I love both, but I fucking adore The Descendants. Maybe the word travel is a somewhat generous word here - Matt King and his family's journey to Oahu is one that certainly is eye opening - but the beautiful setting is at once stunning and claustrophobic as he travels through a world he's utterly conflicted by. There's a distinctly Hawaiian sensibility about the whole film that's both appealing and not at all overwhelming despite the drama: the traditional soundtrack and the sombre ritualistic final scene is just so private and hard hitting. After chatting to somebody born and raised in Hawaii, it's great to hear that Alexander Payne managed to get the little details right - even down to the businessmen in batik shirts and flip flops.
LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE
"I'M MADLY IN LOVE WITH YOU. AND IT'S NOT BECAUSE OF YOUR BRAINS OR YOUR PERSONALITY. IT'S BECAUSE YOU'RE BEAUTIFUL. INSIDE AND OUT."
This is a slightly more low-key film: the Little Miss Sunshine crew don't set out to see places as exciting as India or Japan. However it is a reminder that even a cross country road trip can be life changing. Not only is this film hilarious, but it's got so much heart (as well as stunning moments of darkness lurking just below the surface) with one of the best surprise twists at the end of the film. It's a film that's not about travelling so much as it is about a family reconnecting, with all the faulty pit stops, terrible yellow buses and waffles a la mode obstacles along the way.
"HIT HIM AGAIN, SMITTY!"
This was actually the first Audrey Hepburn film I ever saw. It's still so much fun to watch, minding the weird old school sexism. Even though it's all in black and white, we get to see a fun, free side of Rome separate from the holiness it's more or less renowned for. Riding a moped through the streets in a breezy skirt is way up there on my bucket list. Sometimes being in a new place can inspire you to take more risks or do things you'd be too nervous to do at home, like cutting your hair crazy short or getting into a massive bar fight. Like all holidays however, they're glorious and then they unfortunately end with a heavy dose of reality. In any case, the experience is what matters most - even if we wish it could last forever.
Miyazaki was going to pop up at some point, but it was all a matter of which film was going to be part of this list. I ended up choosing Spirited Away because I personally feel like it's got the strongest cultural sensibility, maybe aside from Totoro. More than that though, it's about a girl being thrown headlong into a brave new world, trying to reconcile her past with her present. And Chihiro rises to the occasion with absolute grace, kindness and selflessness.
THE SECRET LIFE OF WALTER MITTY
"TO SEE THE WORLD, THINGS DANGEROUS TO COME TO, TO SEE BEHIND WALLS, DRAW CLOSER, TO FIND EACH OTHER, AND TO FEEL."
So pretentious. So much heart. This is a film that divides a lot of people, but it's one that leaves you itching for a journey. Ben Stiller's passion project takes conservative Walter Mitty out of his comfort zone and throws him headlong into a global goose chase in pursuit of Life Magazine's cover photo. The film is absolutely gorgeous and you can feel Walter Mitty's exhilaration every step of the way: the wind in your hair as he skateboards through Iceland, the chill of water as he plunges into the Arctic Ocean and the quiet joy of an understated homecoming.
Y TU MAMA TAMBIEN
"PLAY WITH BABIES AND YOU'LL END UP WASHING DIAPERS!"
Jokes about Dirty Dancing 2 aside, this is a film where Diego Luna actually shines. This Mexican coming of age film by director darling Alfonso Cuaron follows two teenage boys who've duped a widower into going on a road trip with them. The sexual tension practically drips off this story and it's hilarious as well, with no small dosage of gorgeous cinematography (as expected of the guy who brought Gravity to life). As Luisa says, "Life is like the surf, so give yourself away like the sea." Pour yourself into your journeys and the people around you, you have everything to lose and absolutely everything to gain.
'HE SAYS IT'S TIME TO LET GO. EVERYTHING'S GONNA BE ALRIGHT!' 'HOW DO YOU KNOW? HOW DO YOU KNOW SOMETHING BAD ISN'T GONNA HAPPEN?' 'I DON'T!'
This might be a bit of an odd one on the list, but this film is just so god damn evocative. Marlin, an overprotective father, has closed himself off completely to new experiences and is obsessed with making sure his son does the same. After traversing Australian waters to get all the way to Sydney (P. Sherman, 42 Wallaby Way, Sydney!), your senses are just overwhelmed by the vividly realised ocean and poignant meetings with strangers before he reunites with his son a worldlier man - um - fish. The big wide world is out there, all you need to do is leap out, trust in yourself and be open to beauty wherever it comes from (even if it takes you a little while to understand that). And no matter the places you go, family and friendship will always come above all else. Brb, fulfilling a childhood dream and checking how much a scuba license costs.
Freelance lifestyle writer and elderly puppy cuddler. Based in London/Hong Kong, scribbling at Give Me Chills. Give me a shout at firstname.lastname@example.org.