Whether you’re looking for relaxation, adventure, or a chance to broaden your horizons, the settings of the following 10 films will inspire you to take a vacation.
1. Midnight in Paris
Woody Allen’s tribute to the City of Lights sees an idealist dreamer of a writer, played by Owen Wilson doing his best Woody Allen impression, visiting Paris with his spoiled fiancée and accidentally discovering a magic taxi cab that can take him back in time to the 1920s, when Paris was arguably at its best. Wilson’s character falls into the happening literary circles of the era, hanging out with Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald, and Gertrude Stein. Marion Cotillard plays the whimsical and unhinged muse to Picasso that Wilson falls for, and who also helps him understand his own romanticized but unrealistic ideas about the past. Seeing Paris at its best, as filmed in delicious detail by Allen, is enough to make any literature lover start packing his or her bags.
2. Vicky Cristina Barcelona
The second entry on this list is another film from Allen, who in recent years has been paying homage to various European locations after spending much of his career focusing on New York City. This movie is full of extremely attractive people (Scarlett Johansson, Penelope Cruz, Javier Bardem) engaging in witty dialogue and having passionate affairs in the beautiful Spanish countryside and the exciting city of Barcelona. It is also a look into the friendship of two women who on the surface couldn’t be any different but have remained best friends for many years and decide to travel to Spain together for the summer. The New York Times describes the movie as being “bathed in light so lusciously golden and honeyed that you might be tempted to lick the screen.” You also might be tempted to head off to Barcelona and have a threesome.
3. Thelma & Louise
If staying in the U.S. and taking a road trip is more up your alley, Thelma & Louise could be just the movie to put you in the mood for hitting the road – just make sure you don’t follow the protagonists’ example and get too carried away. Susan Sarandon and Geena Davis star as friends who take off from their suffocating lives as a housewife and a waitress to tear across the desert in a Thunderbird convertible. The two women become fugitives after Louise shoots a man who tries to rape Thelma outside a cowboy bar, and they proceed to have a wild adventure on the lam. Brad Pitt co-stars as a criminal who teaches the women some of his tricks. This movie explores the freedom offered by the American open road, as well as the diverse landscapes the U.S. has to offer.
4. Under the Tuscan Sun
This romantic comedy is based on the memoir of the same name by Frances Mayes. It tells the story of a San Francisco-based writer (Diane Lane) who discovers her husband has been cheating on her. She loses her house to him and his new partner and leans on her lesbian best friend (Sandra Oh) for support. Oh’s character encourages Lane to take a vacation to Tuscany, as she has become pregnant and can’t go on a trip she’d planned with her partner. While on the trip, the writer makes a serendipitous decision to buy a rundown villa in Italy and fix it up herself. The movie portrays Tuscany as so beautiful that it can heal emotional wounds, and Lane’s character can’t stand to leave it.
5. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
Ang Lee’s Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon tells the story of an ancient Chinese martial arts genius and a female warrior he has befriended. The movie was filmed in with the dialogue in Mandarin and using Chinese actors but became a surprise hit in America based on the breathtaking Chinese scenery, the expertly choreographed fight scenes, and the strong performances. Crouching Tiger is one of the most successful foreign films in the U.S., being both a box office and a critical hit, something that’s uncommon for films not in English. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon may make you want to take a trip to see the beautiful Chinese scenery — with deserts, mountains, and bamboo forests — featured in the movie.
6. Lord of the Rings
The beautiful New Zealand settings used in Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings trilogy have proven to be a boon to the country’s tourism industry, as the famous films drew attention to its otherworldly landscapes. The series was filmed back-to-back over eight years in Jackson’s home country, which served as the setting for the fantastic world of Middle Earth. The movies were hugely successful, both critically and at the box office. Travel to New Zealand skyrocketed after the movies came out, as people wanted to see the untouched beauty of the country’s landscapes themselves. The nation has responded by setting up a huge variety of Lord of the Rings-inspired tours that will show you some of the famous settings seen in the movies.
7. Lost in Translation
Lost in Translation is the film that put Scarlett Johansson (and her shapely behind) on the map. Bill Murray plays a washed-up actor who travels to Tokyo to film commercials. While staying in a hotel in the city, Murray’s character runs in to a recently married young college graduate, played by Johansson, and they strike up a platonic friendship. The pair travel around the city, sing karaoke, and talk. The two have a lot in common despite their obvious differences and share a meaningful time together during their trip. The movie explores themes of culture shock and the meaning that is lost in translating between languages. This movie shows some of the discomfort that can come from traveling, but it also reveals how opening up to new things can lead to unexpected experiences that can change your life forever.
8. 28 Days Later
This zombie apocalypse classic is set in Britain and features beautiful scenes of a creepily empty English countryside as the film’s heroes attempt to survive being attacked by humans infected with a virus called Rage. Twenty-eight days after the infection first reaches the human population, a young man awakes from a coma in an abandoned hospital. He teams up with a couple of other non-infected people who didn’t make it when the British government had the healthy members of the population evacuated to mainland Europe, leaving the U.K. quarantined. Just remember that when you make your visit to England, there will actually be people there, which might ruin the stark beauty of the countryside as seen in 28 Days Later – but it also means society is still functioning, so, you know, take the good with the bad.
9. The Secret Life of Walter Mitty
The Secret Life of Walter Mitty is a widely anthologized short story by James Thurber that has resulted in two film adaptations. The most recent, from 2013, was directed by and stars Ben Stiller as the protagonist who cannot seem to distinguish between his daydreams and reality. The film is very loosely based on the story, which has nothing to do with Iceland, but in the movie, Stiller’s character travels to the country in an attempt to track down a missing negative that will serve as the final cover image for the print edition of Life magazine, where he works. The movie features beautiful scenes of the Icelandic countryside and ocean, which might make you want to book a trip to the unique country, perhaps for an escape from the heat during summer months.
10. The Rum Diary
If you desire traveling to an exotic location but don’t want to go through the trouble of getting a passport, a trip to the U.S. Commonwealth of Puerto Rico may be the thing for you. This adaptation of Hunter S. Thompson’s long-unpublished first novel certainly makes the island look beautiful and full of debauchery. The semi-autobiographical novel is about Thompson’s start as a journalist at a small local paper in Puerto Rico, writing about the poverty and corruption of San Juan. The movie is a look at a great artist on the cusp of discovering his voice.
More From Wall St. Cheat Sheet:
- 7 Movies That Inspired Quentin Tarantino
- 6 Reasons to Put Iceland on Your Must-Visit List
- 7 Sunken Cities Around the World
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