Not so long ago, just five months ago, traveling was a thing.
People packed their bags, booked their flights, traded one week worth of work pay for memories of a lifetime, and live for planes and places just to appease the wanderlust gods. But with the pandemic hanging over our heads and the world’s borders remaining closed (can you imagine that forecast for travel to normalize will be in 2022?!), we have to find ways to satiate our longing for the great beyond.
Watching beautiful travel films is the closest we can get to traveling. It makes for the best virtual culture tripping and sightseeing and great storytelling all together. We’ve rounded up films with great sceneries and locations (no made-up backdrop and backlots), so you can be whisked away from the sofa as you click play.
Midnight in Paris (2003)
Gil (Owen Wilson), an esteemed Hollywood scriptwriter struggling to make ends meet, finds himself wandering the city in the 1920s after one too many bottles of wine. He gets to hold small, endearing conversations with different staple people of their time, from Fitzgerald, Stein, and Hemingway to Dali and Bunuel, and Adriana (Marion Cotillard), a beautiful flapper girl.
An ode to the “Années folles (crazy years)” or the Roaring Twenties in France, Woody Allen (sigh) does not only juxtapose Paris’ modern-day intricacies with its past elements and what makes it such a sight to see, but also delves deep into what comes between the people and the City of Love.
Lost in Translation (2003)
Two separate characters, one a washed-up artist, the other a neglected wife, grapple with solitude at unfamiliar hotel rooms overlooking Tokyo. Veering away from a typical meet-cute, Bill (Bill Murray) and Charlotte’s (Scarlett Johannson) stories intertwine inside an elevator, a restaurant, a late-night arcade, a karaoke bar, and quiet spaces through lopsided grins and groggy eyes.
Lost in Translation, a film directed by Sofia Coppola, portrays lives behind the windows and shared loneliness amid the glitzy, ever-glowing, neon-lit streets of Shibuya and Shinjuku, and the vast, vivid city that never sleeps.
Angels and Demons (2009)
Based on a book by Dan Brown, Ron Howard’s Angels and Demons explores every conspiracy theorist’s favorite antithesis—Christianity and the Illuminati. Symbologist Robert Langdon (Tom Hanks) takes matters into his own hands by deciphering clues after being warned of the Illuminati’s plot to destroy the Vatican City using a stolen antimatter.
Italy has always been a great movie location eyed by filmmakers for its architecture and preserved history (Lombardy in Call Me by Your Name, Sicily in The Godfather, and Venice in The Tourist), but Angels and Demons elevates your tour around Rome and Italy with looming conspiracies and a fictional exposé of the Church’s dark truths. In this movie, you can see Saint Peter’s Basilica, Castel Sant’ Angelo, the Pantheon, and the Sistine Chapel in a new light.
Grand Budapest Hotel (2014)
After being framed for a murder he did not commit, Monsieur Gustave H. (Ralph Fiennes), concierge of the prestigious Grand Budapest Hotel, befriends the newly hired bellhop Zero Moustafa (Tony Revolori).
Shot on location at the Görlitzer Warenhaus Department Store in Görlitz, Germany, the film takes you from this fictional hotel to the very heart of a fictional spa town in the fictional Republic of Zubrowska. The movie’s aesthetically pleasing saturated color palette of pale pinks and reds bleeds against a backdrop of war-torn Germany in the ’30s, exploring friendship and loyalty in the wake of fascism and frantic chaos.
The rule of thumb in the film industry is that, if a movie is directed by Wes Anderson, it’s eye candy. His films are more often than not social commentaries and dark comedies wrapped in obscure color theories, perfect symmetry, age-old kitsch, uncanny voice-overs, and a disregard for linear narratives.