10 Vacations Inspired by Oscar-Winning Movies
Great movies can transport you to another world. Filmgoers can escape to Middle Earth in the Lord of the Rings, experience the romance of wartime Morocco in Casablanca, or immerse themselves in the life of a Mafia family in The Godfather. But cinematic journeys don’t have to be restricted to the screen. Travelers can bring their favorite movies to life when they visit the places where famous films were filmed or set.
We’ve combed through the long list of Oscar-winning movies to put together these suggestions for 10 film-inspired vacations you can take.
Oscar audiences were shocked when it turned out Moonlight, Barry Jenkins’ universally acclaimed film about a young gay man growing up in a rough neighborhood in Miami in the 1980s, was the real Best Picture winner, not La La Land as originally announced. Moonlight shows a side of the Florida city that tourists rarely see and “makes great use of Miami’s vivid colors to build a dreamlike atmosphere,” Calvin Iverson, the PR manager for Travel Pirates, a site that helps people find the best travel deals, told The Cheat Sheet
To get a birds-eye view of the Miami skyline and palm trees, Iverson suggests hopping on the Metrorail, which makes a brief appearance in the film. Then, head to Virginia Key Beach, where several pivotal scenes in the movie were filmed. Finish your tour with a meal at Jimmy’s Eastside Diner in the Little River neighborhood, where the film’s third act is set.
2. La La Land
Destination: Los Angeles
Despite a Best Picture fake-out, La La Land still managed to take home six of the 14 awards for which it was nominated, including Best Director for Damien Chazelle and Best Actress for Emma Stone. Los Angeles is a character itself in this romantic ode to Hollywood’s golden age, and many key scenes were filmed at famous spots around the city.
Griffith Observatory is the site of one of the movie’s most memorable dance sequences. (Film buffs will also recognize the 1935 building from Rebel Without a Cause). But it’s not the only stop of your La La Land tour of Los Angeles.
“While you’re in the area, catch a great view of the city from ‘Cathy’s Corner,’ [pictured above] just off Mt. Hollywood Drive in Griffith Park, where Mia and Sebastian tap dance and sing ‘A Lovely Night,”’ Iverson said. “Then head over to Hermosa Beach for another two-for-one: stroll down Hermosa Pier, where Sebastian sings ‘City of Stars,’ and catch a jazz show at The Lighthouse Cafe, where Sebastian introduces Mia to his favorite music.”
3. The Last Emperor
Destination: The Forbidden City
Bernardo Bertolucci’s The Last Emperor swept the Oscars in 1987, winning all nine awards for which it was nominated, including Best Picture and Best Director. The movie tells the story of Puyi, the last emperor of China, from his ascension to the throne as a small child to his death during China’s Cultural Revolution.
Bertolucci was the first Western director allowed to film in the Forbidden City, the home of China’s rulers for centuries and completely off-limits to most outsiders for most of its history. Today, Beijing’s Forbidden City is one of the world’s most-visited tourist attractions, and it’s a must-see for any first-time visitor to China. You’ll need at least a day to explore the entire sprawling complex, according to Lonely Planet, and might want to make multiple visits if you’re a real history buff.
4. Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest
Yes, the second installment of the long-running Pirates of the Caribbean franchise is an Oscar-winning film. It took home the statuette for Best Visual Effects at the 79th Academy Awards and was nominated in three other categories.
Many scenes in the film were filmed on the Caribbean island of Dominica. The island is less developed than many of its neighbors, making it the perfect destination for someone who doesn’t want to spend their vacation cloistered in a resort. You can visit Hampstead Beach on the island’s north coast, where some scenes were shot, as well as the Indian River and Titou Gorge. The Guardian has a rundown of the island’s history and Pirates filming locations.
5. March of the Penguins
March of the Penguins won the 2005 Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature. The movie depicts the journey of a colony of emperor penguins from the ocean to their winter breeding ground and back again. The family-friendly flick was a huge hit upon its release and is the second-highest-grossing documentary of all time.
If you want to get a glimpse of emperor penguins in the wild, you’ll need to book a polar cruise or tour. Several companies offer tours, including Antarctic Logistics and Expeditions, which has two penguin-focused trips. The nine-day Emperors and Explorers tour flies you to the Gould Bay Emperor Penguin Colony and lets you march with the penguins yourself. You’ll camp on the ice and have plenty of opportunities for up-close bird watching. This once-in-a-lifetime trip costs $73,500 and the next departure is in November 2017.
6. The Lord of the Rings
Destination: New Zealand
The three films in Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings garnered 17 Academy Awards, including Best Picture and Best Director for The Return of the King. But New Zealand may have been an even bigger winner. Tourism to the island country spiked as Hobbit-obsessed fans clamored to get a glimpse of the spots that played Middle Earth on screen.
Lord of the Rings tourism is still going strong in New Zealand. While you can book single- or multi-day tours that will take you to various filming locations, self-guided tours to the Hobbiton village set and other key sites are another option.
“Matamata, a town in the Waikato Region of New Zealand’s North Island, is where Hobbiton was created,” Iverson explained. “The volcanic region of Mt Ruapehu became Mount Doom, where Sauron forged The Ring. Queenstown, a town renowned for its adventure sports, was the setting for several scenes including the Eregion Hills and the Pillars of Argonath.” New Zealand Tourism has outlined several other potential itineraries for your trip to Middle Earth.
7. Lost in Translation
Sofia Coppola won Best Original Screenplay Oscar for Lost In Translation, her moody, stylish look at Americans staying in a Tokyo hotel. (The movie was nominated in three other categories, including Best Picture.) Provided budget isn’t an object, it’s easy enough for fans of the film to recreate Bob (Bill Murray) and Charlotte’s (Scarlett Johansson) visit to Japan, though hopefully with a bit less ennui.
The first step is to book a room at the luxury Park Hyatt Toyko, where much of the move takes place, though with rooms costing as much as $1,000 a night, it’s not for the budget-conscious. Fortunately, anyone can visit the top-floor New York Bar, which has stunning views of the Tokyo skyline. Round out your visit by taking in the masses of pedestrians at Shibuya Crossing and then head to the nearby Karaoke-Kan, where Bill Murray’s character belted out a version of Roxy Music’s “More Than This.”
Toronto stood in for Boston in many scenes in 2016’s Best Picture winner Spotlight. But a few Boston landmarks did make an appearance in the movie, which tells the story of the real-life Boston Globe journalists who exposed numerous cases of child sex abuse committed by Catholic priests and the Archdiocese’s efforts to cover up the crimes.
Fenway Park, the Boston Public Library, and the Old State House all make appearances in the film, and are essential stops on any Boston tour. You can also visit Union Park in the South End neighborhood, where journalist Sacha Pfeiffer (Rachel McAdams) has an important conversation with a source. Then, stop into the South End Buttery, the site of another meeting between Pfeiffer and a source. Make sure to pick up a copy of the Boston Globe to read along with your coffee.
Boston is a great place to visit at any time of year, but you’ll find the best deals during the winter months, Iverson said.
Casablanca, which won three Academy Awards, including Best Picture, often tops lists of the best films ever made. But the story of the love triangle between jaded American bar owner Rick, resistance leader Victor, and his wife Ilsa, wasn’t actually filmed in Morocco. Most of the movie was shot at the Warner Brothers Studio in Burbank, California.
Still, film enthusiasts can recreate some of the magic of the movie on a trip to the actual city of Casablanca. “On top of the art deco architecture and old stone medina alleys, travelers can find museums, palaces, and the second largest mosque in the world, Hassan II Mosque,” Iverson said. Great dining and nightlife are other big draws in this North African metropolis. Even better, airfares to Morocco can be surprisingly affordable, with round-trip flights from East Coast cities available for as little as $531, Iverson said.
10. Mutiny on the Bounty
Destination: Pitcairn Island
In the 1935 Best Picture winner Mutiny on the Bounty, Clark Gable plays Fletcher Christian, who led a famous insurrection on a British Naval ship in 1789 and eventually took refuge on a remote island in the Pacific. It’s a swashbuckling story from another time, but the past lives on at Pitcairn Island, which is still inhabited by a few dozen of Christian’s descendants.
Getting to the remote Pitcairn Island is an adventure in itself. It’s inaccessible by air, so you’ll have to book passage on the shipping vessel that occasionally serves the island, take one of the cruises that sometimes call at Pitcairn, or sail there yourself. The island isn’t exactly rich with tourist amenities, but its isolation is part of the charm, aside from taking in the stunning landscape and ocean views, you can dive to see the wreck of the Bounty, check out ancient petroglyphs, and swim in a tidal pool.