As is the case for many of us, my love for travel was first born out of the cinema. Doing this helped me decide where I wanted to travel, as well as helped pass the time while I waited to visit in real life!
Over the years I've watched many movies that were filmed in beautiful locations around the world. I now carry close to my heart my shortlist of favorite "destination movies": those works of art that are filmed in exquisite parts of the planet.
Drama, suspense, comedy, cheesy love stories. Award winners and cheap B-flicks. G-rated to almost X-rated. Yes, there actually is something for everyone here. Listed in no particular order. So choose your favorite, settle in on the sofa and be swept away to a gorgeous locale from the comfort of your own home!
Location: Santorini, Greece
I first saw this movie when I was 15 years old and it changed my life forever. It’s the single first moment I knew I had to travel. Definitely no awards were won for this movie, and sure, there’s some pretty rough acting (Darryl Hannah in her first film ever, and Peter Gallagher). There’s a ton of European beach nudity, and yes, a "thrupple" situation, which at 15 I thought was damn groundbreaking. The biggest draw? The absolutely stunning location of filming: Santorini, Greece.
Anyone who knows me knows how I feel about Santorini. Well… THIS movie is where it all began. (1982, Rated R) Purchase at Amazon Prime.
Life is Beautiful
Location: Arezzo, Tuscany, Italy
This is an extremely powerful movie, and personally it has had a very big impact on me as a parent. So much joy and wonder and love here, and the lengths a parent will go to make sure his child feels safe will no doubt touch you as well.
This brilliant movie won tons of awards, and deservedly so. The incredibly talented Roberto Benigni co-wrote it then won an Oscar for best actor. Watch it till the very end. You will be so glad you did. (1998, Rated PG-13) Rent on Amazon Prime.
The Hundred-Foot Journey
We watched this film as a family one night several years ago. It immediately became one of our family’s ALL-TIME favorites.
It's based on a 2010 novel by Richard C. Morais, which upon release became an immediate best seller. There’s humor, adventure, drama, suspense, and a whole lot of delicious and beautiful FOOD! (2014, Rated PG) Watch on Netflix.
Um, who doesn’t love Meg Ryan? And Kevin Kline? This movie is one of my all-time favorites, travel or not, and I still find myself quoting lines from it on occasion ("O! Beautiful... wish you were here!!").
It’s a wonderfully funny and romantic film set in gorgeous France, and it will likely make you want to 1) consider getting her haircut (which you should not), 2) open a bottle of good wine (you should), and 3) pack up and move there. (1995, Rated PG-13) Watch now.
The Talented Mr. Ripley
A suspense thriller set in the 1950's about a sneaky con artist who befriends some unsuspecting young and wealthy socialites. Terrifyingly well done, and stars Matt Damon, Gwyneth Paltrow, and Jude Law. Fun fact: to prepare for the role, Matt Damon lost 30 pounds. (1999, Rated R) Rent now on Amazon Prime.
Location: Skopelos, Greece
Oh no, here I go again:) Go ahead and sing along to all those ABBA songs you know all the words to (don’t even tell me you don’t).
Indulge yourself in this cheesy and very happy story of familial love as they prepare for their daughter's wedding, and, of course, in the stunning beauty of the Greek Islands. (2008, Rated PG-13) Watch on Amazon Prime.
Vicky Cristina Barcelona
Location: Barcelona, Spain
Scarlett Johansson and Penelope Cruz in the same film? Sexy. In Barcelona? On fire.
This is a great (and sexy) movie set in a city our family holds close to our hearts. Our daughter has spent two summers here - studying abroad and working with the outstanding ALBA organization. Those of you also familiar with Barcelona will recognize many locations in the film.
(2008, PG-13) Watch on Amazon Prime.
Location: Delhi, India
While we're on the subject of wonderfully sweet and predictable romantic wedding comedies, here's another one about an Indian family preparing for their daughter’s wedding. Absolutely beautiful (oh how I wish American weddings were this colorful!!) and loads of celebratory fun. (2001, Rated R) Rent now on Amazon Prime.
Location: Paris, France
If you never bothered to see Ratatouille because you thought it was just a silly cartoon just for kids, think again!
There's something for everyone, and if you enjoy cooking at all you will love this movie. It’s an absolute work of art, and, I believe, an absolute visual gift to the culinary world.
This movie was released shortly after we opened our children's cooking school. The timing could not have been better (thank you so much Disney Pixar!) Because of course… ANYONE can cook! (2007, Rated G) Rent now on Amazon Prime.
Eat Pray Love
This 2017 film (based on the memoir by Elizabeth Gilbert) was a huge hit for a reason. And how lucky was author Elizabeth Gilbert to be played by the amazing Julia Roberts?! She makes everything magical.
There are some real nugget quotes in this movie, the kind you wanna remember. “You need to learn how to select your thoughts just the same way you select your clothes every day. This is a power you can cultivate. If you want to control things in your life so bad, work on the mind. That's the only thing you should be trying to control.” Brilliant. (2017, Rated PG-13) Rent now on Amazon Prime.
Three Days of Glory
Location: Burgundy, France
This wonderful documentary illustrates the huge annual 3-day party held by burgundy growers in France to celebrate their completed harvest. It’s very well done, and so educational. Bonus: there are ties to local (Willamette Valley, Oregon) vineyards, and we know some of the makers of the film! (2018, Unrated) Rent now on Amazon Prime
Y Tu Mamá También
Location: Huatulco, Oaxaca, Mexico
A terrific film about a young married woman and two teenage boys that take a road trip together through rural Mexico. Some people thought a few scenes warranted an X rating due to sex and drug references. The movie is quite moving and thoughtful, and also has some very funny moments. (2001, Rated R) Watch on Netflix.
Location: Rome, Italy
A lot of us were too young to appreciate the wonderful Audrey Hepburn in all her glory, but this romantic comedy brings her back to life amid the gorgeous backdrop of Rome.
Fun fact: This was Audrey's first major role and Gregory Peck (already a huge star) asked that she share top billing because he knew she'd be going places. Of course, he was right - she won an Oscar for Best Actress for her role here as Princess Ann.
Wait, you haven't seen this movie?? Clear your schedule tonight. There are some laugh out loud moments you'll remember always, and this movie, starring Ashton Kutcher and Brittany Murphy, is filmed in some gorgeous settings. (2003, Rated PG-13) Rent now on Amazon Prime.
Lost in Translation
Location: Tokyo, Japan
I saw this drama years ago and thought it was great (and I never hear Roxy Music’s “More Than This” without thinking about it), but was recently inspired to see it again after our return from Tokyo, Japan.
Absolutely gorgeous urban visuals, and this film clearly captures the energy and activity of Tokyo. starring Bill Murray and Scarlett Johannsen. (2003, Rated R) Rent now on Amazon Prime.
National Lampoon’s European Vacation
Endless family fun with the Griswolds. Enough said. (1985, Rated PG-13) Rent now on Amazon Prime.
Yes, I know there are so many more. It was very hard to keep my list this short. What's your favorite destination film? Please share with me - I would love to know.
Happy (virtual) travels!