The 80 Best Travel Movies To Inspire Wanderlust (2020 UPDATE)

Best Travel Movies

If you’re after the best travel movies to cure your wanderlust we have you covered. We’re big-time cinephiles and have a love for all varieties of films. We love watching movies and escaping into another world. It’s one of the first things we do when getting ready before we travel to a new destination.

When we are not traveling we will turn to some epic travel movies that are needed to escape from the craziness of the world. After turning one of these on we find ourselves dreaming of hopping on the next flight out and traveling the world. Here are our favorite travel movies broken down by genre – and yes we’ve seen every one!

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Our Favorite Travel Movies Ever!


Best Travel Movies – Comedy


Eurotrip

Best Travel Movies
Inspiration to travel Europe

Although this is a bit of a raunchy teen comedy, it’s a hilarious one. The movie starts with a short cameo from Matt Damon singing the classic “Scotty Doesn’t Know,” which yes came from this Eurotrip travel movie. After Scotty finds out his girlfriend is cheating on him he takes off to Europe with three friends to track down his long lost German penpal. Along the way they come across European nude beaches, sex dungeons, and crazy European raves. I loved this movie in 2004 and I still love watching and laughing over 15 years later.


My Big Fat Greek Wedding

Inspiration to travel to Greece

Although this movie isn’t technically about traveling, it’s a genuine laugh out loud feel good movie that will have you itching to book your next flight to the Greek Islands. The story follows Mia, a thirty-something single woman seeking a better life. All seems well when you insert John Corbett as the love interest…until he has to meet Mia’s entire very Greek family. 


Crazy Rich Asians

Best Travel Movies
Inspiration to travel to Singapore

New comedy doesn’t get much better than Crazy Rich Asians. Crazy Rich Asians is one of the funniest travel movies I’ve seen in years. What’s even better is that it has an all Asian cast! The story follows a Chinese-American professor who travels to meet her (unbeknownst to her) rich boyfriend’s family in Singapore.

It’s a feel good comedy with many underlying messages in the film. Well worth a watch – especially if you are traveling to Asia any time soon!


The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants

Best Travel Movies
Inspiration to travel to Greece

I haven’t met many American girls that haven’t seen The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants. This film is the story of four friends who share a bond with each other one summer even though they are not with each other. Their bond is formed through a pair of pants that miraculously fits all of their body sizes. Strange and good things happen when they wear the pants in different parts of the world.

I believe it was this film that put the now famous village of Oia in Santorini, Greece on the map. Just watch it and you’ll see why.


The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel (1 & 2)

Inspiration to travel to India

It’s never too late for change. A dynamic group of elderly British strangers come together to retire at a picturesque hotel in India. Upon arrival, they discover that the manager is struggling to fulfill his promises of the hotel. Each individual finds there are joys and hardships in their new life. 


The Darjeeling Limited

Best Travel Movies

Inspiration to travel to India

Wes Anderson is probably one of our favorite directors, and it takes a matter of seconds to realize you’re watching one of his films. This one makes it on to our list of best travel movies as given to it’s awesome setting as three brothers attempt to reconcile and travel across India in a train. 


The Hangover 2

Best Travel Movies

Inspiration to travel to Thailand

Many of you have likely seen the original Hangover. The hilarious movie about four friends who end up having a crazy hangover in Vegas. Well of course they made a second one, which isn’t nearly as good, but does take you around Thailand! It’s a proper bad comedy travel movie.


Midnight in Paris

Best Travel Movies

Inspiration to travel to Paris

Midnight in Paris, is set in…Paris and will give you serious wanderlust to travel to France’s capital. It follows Gil (Owen Wilson) who is a screenwriter who travels back in time each night to the 1920s and meets notable people from the decade.

If you are a romanticist or seeking a nostalgic feeling this travel movie is for you.


Best Travel Movies – Drama


Memoirs of A Geisha

Best Travel Movies

Inspiration to travel to Japan

Memoirs of a Geisha was a contradictory movie in Japan when it was released in 2005 because of its depiction of Geisha and selling their virginity as well as casting Chinese actresses in Japanese films. Nevertheless, I still find it a fascinating movie that gives you glimpse into Geisha culture – the Hollywood entertainment way.

The film, that is based off the book of the same name, follows Sayuri as she navigates her way through life in Gion as a Maiko and Geisha pre-WWII.

This travel movie has a fabulous soundtrack that will transport you to Japan as well as stunning visuals that reel you into pre-war Kyoto. It’s a must-watch before any trip to Japan. I also love to play the soundtrack every time I visit Japan!


The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button

Inspiration to travel to everywhere

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button is one of our favorite movies of all times. David Fincher provides brilliant direction, beautiful cinematography and interesting views on life in this epic film (looking at young Brad Pitt also helps).

Benjamin is a man born in reverse, as he ages backward he watches people he loves die before him, travels the world, and falls in love. Although this movie isn’t technically about traveling it follows Benjamin around the world and has jaw-dropping visuals. This film will leave you with serious wanderlust and thought-provoking lessons.


The Impossible

Best Travel Movies

Inspiration to travel to Southeast Asia

A beautiful true story of a family caught in Thailand during the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami. They are separated during the chaos of the disaster, and must fight their way back to each other. Not all vacations are a dream come true, and your loved ones are ultimately the most important things. 


Up In The Air

Best Travel Movies

Inspiration to travel to US cities

Up in the Air stars Mr. Handsome (George Clooney) as Ryan Bingham. He is a corporate downsizer, or in other words someone who is sent to fire people for large cooperations. It was made in 2009, right after the 2008 financial crisis and although it doesn’t explicitly touch on the crisis it’s one of the few films to even branch into the topic.

Ryan travels a lot for this job and will take you all around the USA with him. Some key cities you’ll see are Omaha, Las Vegas, Miami, and Detroit.


Slumdog Millionaire

Best Travel Movies

Inspiration to travel to India

If there’s a film that will make you want to go to India, Slumdog Millionaire is it. Slumdog Millionaire was nominated for 10 Academy Awards in 2008 and ended up winning 8 – including Best Picture – so you know it’s a good travel movie!

The film tells the story of Jamal Malik, a poor boy from Mumbai and his journey through life in India as he is simultaneously on the hit show, Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?


Lion

Best Travel Movies

Inspiration to travel to India

Lion is another movie starring Dev Patel (slightly older and more handsome). Lion is about a young poor Indian boy that became lost as a child and was adopted by a Western Family ultimately given a chance at a better life.

Flash forward to his older years and he longs to find his birth mother in India and sets out to find her. It’s a tear-jerker, but well worth the tears.


The Way

Best Travel Movies

Inspiration to travel to Spain

A heartwarming film that tells of the story of a father who must recover the body of his son who died in a storm on the Camino de Santiago. The Camino is a famous pilgrimage route in Spain and France that many adventurers take now and this might inspire you to embark on the pilgrimage yourself.


Call Me By Your Name

Best Travel Movies

Inspiration to travel to Italy

Call Me By Your Name is a coming of age romantic drama set in Northern Italy. It stars Timothée Chalamet Armie Hammer as two young men that form a bond one summer.

There are many scenes that will make you appreciate the beauty of young love as well as the Italian countryside and the Italian city of Bergamo.


Lost in Translation

best travel movies

Inspiration to travel to Japan

This movie is about feeling lost in time, place, life, and a foreign city. Charlotte and Bob are two travelers stuck in Tokyo for various reasons and form an unlikely bond. It is a beautiful film with Bill Murray at his best.


The Hundred Foot Journey

Best Travel Movies

Inspiration to travel to France and India

A feel good story about an Indian family who moves to France for a new life. They set up a new restaurant right across the street (one hundred feet) from a competing restaurant. The two restaurant owners feud before finding some mutual ground. Not only will this movie make you want to jump on a plane to France and eat your heart out, but also to India!


Best Travel Movies – Romance


P.S. I Love You

Best Travel Movies

Inspiration to travel to Ireland

If there is a movie that makes we want to book a one way ticket to Ireland it’s P.S. I Love You with Gerard Butler and Hillary Swank.

I loved this movie in 2007 and I still love it now. The movie follows Holly, who receives a letter from her deceased Irish husband, who died young. The movie goes through flashbacks of their time together including when they met in Ireland.

PS I Love You has a fabulous score that will make you feel as if you are running through the Irish countryside. I loved this movie so much I even made it a point to visit some of the filming locations on my first trip to Ireland.


Under the Tucson Sun

Best Travel Movies

Inspiration to travel to Italy

Who hasn’t wanted to run away and buy a villa in the countryside of Florence? I sure did after seeing this movie. Frances, writer and recent divorcee decides to leave her shattering life behind in the US in search of happiness in Italy. She now must rebuild her new house and life under the Tuscan sun. 


Adrift

Best Travel Movies

Inspiration to travel the Pacific Ocean

Based on a true story, Adrift tells the story of a young couple crossing the Pacific Ocean when their plans are shattered by a hurricane. They must then find their way to land with a ruined boat and no radio.

It’s a story of survival that may make you want to sail around the world…or not.


Vicky Cristina Barcelona

Best Travel Movies

Inspiration to travel to Spain

Sometimes I hate to admit my love for Woody Allen films. In Vicky Cristina Barcelona, a group of beautiful people find their way together in Spain. I love this movie cause it will make you want to get on over to Europe and fall in love. 


The Holiday

Best Travel Movies

Inspiration to travel to England and the US

Watch The Holiday around Christmas time and instantly get hooked. This film follows two women in the US and England who house swap and end up finding love in unsuspecting places.


Eat, Pray, Love

Best Travel Movies

Inspiration to travel to Italy, India, and Bali

Eat, Pray, Love is one of those staple movies that makes every “best travel movie” list. Based on the real-life book, Eat Pray Love follows a middle-aged woman having a mid-life crisis and decides to leave it all to eat in Italy, pray in India, and love in Bali. I believe it was this film that really put Bali on the worldwide map!


The Best Travel Movies – Family!


Moana

Best Travel Movies

Inspiration to travel to Polynesia

You’ll be singing sweet Polynesian melodies after watching Disney’s Moana. This 3D film tells the story of Moana, a headstrong woman who wants to break away from her safe Polynesian life and sets out on an adventure in search of Maui, the legendary demigod (voiced by The Rock) to help save her people.

Even though it’s one of the newer Disney films out, it’s one of my all time favorites to watch and dream of traveling to Polynesia.


Forrest Gump

Best Travel Movies

Inspiration to travel everywhere

Chances are you’ve seen the classic movie, Forrest Gump. But did you think of it as a travel movie? Many of locations depicted in this movie take you back to important moments in history around the world.

The story follows Forrest Gump through several decades in his life, many events are historical moments. Gump is a dill witted man with a great heart.


Up

Best Travel Movies

Inspiration to travel to South America

This 2009 Disney film has been stealing the hearts of many of years. I personally think this is one of Disney’s best films. It’s a feel-good movie about an elderly man that fulfills his and his deceased wife dream of traveling to Paradise Falls in South America.

Paradise Falls is made to replicate that of Angel Falls in Venezuela, the tallest waterfall in the world! Along the way he finds new friends, struggles, and a whole appreciation for life.


Cool Runnings

Best Travel Movies

Inspiration to travel to Jamaica and Canada

Chances are you have seen Cool Runnings. And if you haven’t then what on earth are you waiting for? This was one of Disney’s first major sports films and it’s based on the true story of the 1988 Jamaican Bobsled Team. The team finds their way from warm and sunny Jamaica to frigid Calgary to compete in the Olympics. Depending on if you want warmth or cold you’ll either be begging someone to take to Jamaica or Canada!


The Best Travel Movies – Epic


Cloud Atlas

Best Travel Movies

Inspiration to travel everywhere

I feel like this movie needs a special mention. It got highly criticized when it was released but was easily one of my favorite movies of 2012, and of all time. The film has multiple plot lines, across many characters, and many eras. It jumps to different locations around the world and is visually captivating. The theme centers around reincarnation, love, and loss. It’s hard to even give a complete summary of the science fiction film. Be patient, it may take a couple of watches to comprehend the 3-hour movie. It may not be the best travel movie perse, but it’s an all time favorite of ours.


The Lord of The Rings Trilogy

The Lord of The Rings Travel Movies

Inspiration to travel to New Zealand

New Zealand was well known for its natural beauty, but never before had it been highlighted so spectacularly on the big screen as in the Lord of the Rings trilogy.


Lawrence of Arabia

Inspiration to travel to Jordan

An epic classic, this film is a must see before you die. Whether interested in travel or not, Lawrence of Arabia is visually stunning and has a timeless score. It depicts the true story of T. E. Lawrence during his time in the Arabian Peninsula in WWI. Lawrence adapts his western ways and begins to accept and conform to the traditions of the Arabian people. Showing that when you are thrown into new countries and environments, your mindset completely changes. Some of the film was even shot in Wadi Rum in Jordan, and has inspired many visits there – including ours!


The Best Travel Movies – Thriller


The Beach

Best Travel Movies

Inspiration to travel to Thailand

This one gives us such mixed emotions, as it’s a bad movie. That being said it’s a tremendous book (one the best travel books). We’re also big fans of the author Alex Garland and of course Leonardo Dicaprio. The film does a pretty good job of portraying travel the way it used to be not so long ago. No internet, no Instagram, no endless photo-taking and selfie sticks.

It follows Richard, a young man, who travels to Thailand and ends up searching and finding a lost island paradise, but there are some weird things going on here. Take my suggestion and read the book first – movie second.


To Catch a Thief

Best Travel Movies

Inspiration to travel to France

Cary Grant, Grace Kelly, and Alfred Hitchcock in a film set along the French Riveria. It follows a former cat burglar on vacation as an imposter works his way along with them. With authorities in pursuit, he must work to clear his name.


Best Travel Movies – Documentaries


Planet Earth 1 & 2

Inspiration to travel everywhere

There are a number of films that left a lasting impact on me, but the short documentary series Planet Earth changed my life. Upon its release, I was just graduating high school and didn’t have any clue about the world around me. But I was able to watch the Planet Earth Series and see the beauty from all over the globe. It certainly helps that Sir David Attenborough is the narrator of the whole series.


Our Planet

Best Travel Movies

Inspiration to travel everywhere

Our Planet is very similar to Planet Earth, just a little newer and on Netflix, but still narrated by David Attenborough.

Yes, Our Planet is Netflix’s answer to Nature Documentaries and it is stunning. Each episode features different landscapes and environments. I particularly like the Frozen Worlds episode. Our Planet also has a strong message about the role us humans have the planet and how we are straining it. It’s an important travel movie to watch for environmentalists and eco-conscious travelers.


Baraka & Samsara

Best Travel Movies

Inspiration to travel everywhere

These are easy travel movies to put on this list. Baraka and the sequel Samsara are spellbinding through their cinematography shot on 70mm film. There are no words or voice used in the film, but it acts as a snapshot of our world today, all of its magic, grandeur, loss of the individual, and horror. You witness natural wonders, concrete jungles, art, culture, opulence, and poverty all in the span of “one day” through a beautiful edit with an impressive soundtrack and engineering. You don’t watch these films you experience them and they’ll leave an impact on you.


A Map For Saturday

Inspiration to travel everywhere

Are you thinking about backpacking the world, but have never done it? Watch A Map For Saturday first and see how Brooks does it. I’ve never seen a more detailed and truthful film documenting experiences while backpacking. It’s a bit dated, but the same challenges remain the same. He hits the highs and lows during his RTW adventure and shows what it’s like when every day is a Saturday. 


The Endless Summer

Best Travel Movies

Inspiration to travel to Australia, New Zealand, Tahiti, Hawaii, Senegal, Ghana, Nigeria and South Africa

This is “THE” surf film. It’s a classic film that follows a group of surfers as they travel around the world in search of an endless summer and the perfect wave. It serves as a time capsule and manages to capture a real sense of adventure.


Best Travel Movies – Biographies


Catch Me if You Can

Best Travel Movies

Inspiration to travel everywhere

Catch Me If You Can is a great Leo and Tom Hanks movie that is every bit as informative as it is entertaining.

This biographical crime film follows real life Frank Abagnale, who was a professional con artists that eventually conned his way into being a Pan American World Airways pilot and traveling around the world. Oh and he did this all in the 1960s and 70s before he was even 25 years old! https://amzn.to/2RQd3Ww


Best Travel Movies – Adventure


Wild

Best Travel Movies

Inspiration to travel to the Western US

Wild is one of my favorite outdoor adventure movies out there. It’s filled with beautiful scenery of the mountains, amazing life-changing quotes, and a powerful true story.

The movie is based off of real life author, Cheryl Strayed, experiences when she decides to reset her lift by hiking 1,100 on the Pacific Crest Trail. She begins to discover herself along the way. The film pivots between real-time and heartbreaking flashback scenes. The book, Wild, is also a fantastic read. And this is one case where the movie is almost just as good as the book!


Everest

-Best Travel Movies=

Inspiration to travel to Nepal

A story of survival on the world’s most iconic and dangerous mountain. Everest is based on the real events of the 1996 Mount Everest disaster. It does a great job at depicted each character on the expedition and their focus on survival in the Himalayas. If you want the book version of this film, check out Jon Krakauer’s Into Thin Air.


Into The Wild

-Best Travel Movies=

Inspiration to travel to Alaska

Another Krakauer book turned movie is Into the Wild. This travel adventure movie tells the true story of Christopher McCandless, a young man who hiked across North America and into the Alaskan wilderness in 1992. It’s here that he set out to live with minimal supplies and to live off the land. It’s a definite watch for wilderness and adventure junkies with beautiful visuals of Alaska.


The Secret Life of Walter Mitty

Best Travel Movies

Inspiration to travel everywhere!

You’ll find The Secret Life of Walter Mitty listed on every “Best Travel Movie” list. It truly is one of those movies that will fuel your wanderlust as it takes you to some real jaw-dropping locations in the world.

Walter Mitty is your average Joe Schmo who is a daydreaming problem. Eventually, he goes on a scavenger hunt around the world for a photo negative he needs for work, and discovers himself along the way.


The Mummy

Best Travel Movies

Inspiration to travel to Egypt

Before we went to Egypt last year there were a few films I watched to get ready. The Mummy was one of them. I’ve loved this film ever since I was a child, but even watching tomb raiders delve into Ancient Egypt as an adult is entertaining.

This movie is every bit as funny as it is entertaining, with a slight of spookiness as adventurer Rick O’Connell travels to Hamunaptra, the fictional city of the dead, accidentally awaken Imhotep, a cursed high priest that was mummified thousands of years ago.


Togo

Best Travel Movies

Inspiration to travel to Alberta

I just started with Disney + and Togo was one of the first films I put on. If you remember the story of Balto and that film, you’ll be a little familiar with this one. Togo focuses on the same 1925 serum run to Nome in Balto, but on a different dog. Togo, was the true lead dog and hero of the run.

Besides providing incredible entertainment. It helps that it’s filmed in one of the most beautiful places on the planet. That’s right – the Canadian Rockies – where we reside are the star of the show here. Every scene had us going WOW, and then realized it was right around the corner.


Raiders Of The Lost Ark

Best Travel Movies

Inspiration to travel to Tunisia

If you’re making a list of Cameron’s favorite travel movies there’s four on the list that makes his top ten, Raiders of The Lost Ark just may be number one. It’s a fantastic travel movie and if you’ve never seen Harrison Ford as the adventurous Indiana Jones you need to sit yourself down now.

It’s a Stephen Spielberg masterpiece, an iconic score by John Williams, Harrison Ford at his best, exotic locations, and stunning cinematography. Did I mention that he’s fighting Nazis while traveling around the world? One of the ultimate popcorn flicks out there. 


Jungle

Best Travel Movies

Inspiration to travel to Bolivia

Jungle is a true survival story of a young man lost in the heart of the Amazon rainforest and must fight to survive. While you probably don’t want to get lost in the jungle it may inspire you to book a trip to South America!


Inception

best travel movies

Inspiration to travel to Alberta (+ others)

Another film shot in the Canadian Rockies is Inception. Well it isn’t just shot here, but one iconic scene is. Inception will make you want to travel to places like Mombasa, London, and Kananaskis Country.

The film focuses on dreams within dreams. I won’t try to explain it here, you’ll just have to go give it a watch or two (or three).


The Best Road Trip Travel Movies


The Motorcycle Diaries

the motorcycle diaries

Inspiration to travel to South America

Based on the true story of two medical students taking the ultimate road trip around South America. They set out on the journey to help volunteer at the Leper colony along the Amazon. 


The Adventures Of Priscilla, Queen Of Desert

best travel movies

Inspiration to travel to Australia

Be who you are and do things you want to do. This is the queen of Australian films. Literally. Depicting the adventures of two drag queens and a transsexual woman as they travel across the Australian Outback. Showing you parts of Australia you may never get to, Priscilla is sure to bring you laughs and drama. 


National Lampoons Family Vacation

best travel movies

Inspiration to travel to the USA

What a comedic classic, there are so many bits in this film that have been reused and regurgitated in other films. Vacation follows the Griswolds as they make their way across the country on a road trip to Walley World.


Y Tu Mamá También

best travel movies

Inspiration to travel to Mexico

Two teenage boys find themselves on a road trip with an older women in the late 1990s during realistic times in Mexico. This is a great road trip travel movie to watch with a few friends.


Thelma and Louise

*Best Travel Movies

Inspiration to travel to the USA

Thelma and Louise is a great travel road trip movie for the chicks and has even been described as a landmark feminist film. It stars two females who road trip in the Southern US and find themselves in interesting circumstances.


Two For The Road

*Best Travel Movies

Inspiration to travel to Europe

Married early thirty-somethings Joanna and Mark Wallace are making the three-day drive from their home in London to St. Tropez for the unveiling of a house. The two are at a rough stage of their relationship, much of their conversation along the way centered on the possibility of divorce.


Easy Rider

*Best Travel Movies

Inspiration to travel to the US

Easy Rider is an iconic film from the 1960s and came to define an era while welcoming in a new generation of films. The film follows two motorcyclists across the American South and Southwest with money from a cocaine deal. It’s full of gorgeous shots and desert landscapes and captures a hedonistic lifestyle.


Planes, Trains and Automobiles

Travel Movies

Inspiration to travel to the US

A road trip comedy movie at it’s finest. But what could you expect from Steve Martin and John Candy? They share a fun and interesting few days trying to get home for Thanksgiving with the family. John Hughs never fails to disappoint here.


The Best Travel Movies About Africa

We love Africa, so we figured it needed it’s own special section!


The Lion King

Set in the Savannah (Likely Kenya or Tanzania)
best safari movies

I grew up in the 90s, and I can’t think of the animals in Africa without thinking of the Lion King. If you haven’t seen this movie yet, you need to stop reading right this second and get on Amazon, hop on Netflix, or go about your usual way of accessing movies and watch this tonight.

I mean, cmon that opening scene? “NA SEE WANG YA” and Simba’s christening! I can’t even watch the first five minutes without a tear in my eye. This movie about Africa is forever loved and even though it’s animated, it shows the beauty of some of these countries.


Gorillas in the Mist

Set in Rwanda
best safari movies

One of my favorite movies about Africa that is still very relevant today. Seeing the mountain gorillas in Rwanda and Uganda has been high on my list for years (UPDATE: We checked that off this year), but I never knew the full story behind these beautiful creatures.

Meet Dian Fossey, an American primatologist that dedicated her life to studying the mountain gorillas in Rwanda. Gorillas in the Mist, starring the fabulous Sigourney Weaver is an 80’s movie that documents Dian’s struggles and achievements while in Africa.


Beasts of No Nation

No named setting

A Netflix original movie that garnered international recognition and scored many awards this past season. Beasts of No Nation takes place in an unnamed West African country and follows a young boy who loses his family to a brutal war.

He is soon adopted as a child soldier into a rising rebel group. Although the film remains ambiguous about location, it portrays the horrors the military use of children has on young boys lives in Africa. To this day this is not only one of the best movies about Africa on Netflix, but one of the best movies on the whole platform.


The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind

Set in Malawi

I recently saw this pop up on my Netflix suggestions and seeing that is was directed by one of my favorite actors, Chiwetel Ejiofor I knew I had to watch it. Within the first few minutes, I was completely mesmerized as the scenes brought me back to our time in Malawi. 

The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind is based on the book of the same by William Kamkwamba, who is also the main subject of the film. Kamkwamba lives in a rural Malawian village that experiences a great drought. Wanting to save his family and village from starvation and death he devises a plan to build a windmill and power a water pump.


Virunga

Set in the Democratic Republic of Congo
best safari movies

Another Netflix original, this documentary focuses on the conservation of the Virunga National Park in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Or at least that’s how the documentary starts until the filmmakers and park rangers find themselves embroiled in the middle of a civil war.

The film showcases heart-stopping footage as conservationist work to protect the park, which is home to some of the world’s last mountain gorillas.


Hotel Rwanda

Set in Rwanda

Called the “African Schindler’s List” this film is an absolute must watch for just about anyone wanting to watch movies about Africa. It’s deeply saddening to remember that just 20 years ago there was a genocide happening in Rwanda, with the ethnic Tutsi being the victims of the Hutu militia, killing off 20% of the Rwandan population!

This is the true story of Paul Rusesabagina, who saved more than a 1,000 refugees by hiding them in a hotel that he managed.


The Constant Gardener

Set in Kenya

This was in my Netflix queue forever and is now one of my favorite thriller movies set in Africa. Although, I love Ralph Fiennes, I never ever brought myself to watch it. I just recently sat myself down to watch this political thriller and LOVED it.

Rachel Weisz and Ralph Fiennes are an unlikely couple that live and work in Kenya. Tessa (Weisz) is a diehard Amnesty activist who is uncovering big secrets in the pharmaceutical industry. What drew me more in was that this movie was loosely based off a true story in Nigeria.


The English Patient

Set in North Africa

This romantic drama was nominated for 12 Academy Awards in 1996 and features young Ralph Fiennes at his prime. Did I mention I love Ralph Fiennes? Set during WWII, The English Patient tells the story of a widowed nurse caring for a severely burned patient.

This injured man is known only as “The English Patient” for his distinct English Accent and has an interesting life story.


A United Kingdom

Set in Botswana
movies about africa

A United Kingdom is a film based on the true life story of Seretse Khama, heir to the throne of Bechuanaland (now Botswana) and his romance with Ruth Williams Khama, a white English women post WWII. The film follows their courtship and eventual marriage and the hardships they endured because of their racial differences in Bechuanaland and Southern Africa in general.

Seretse Khama went on to become the first president of Botswana and to this day is a well loved figure in Botswana. During his presidency, the country underwent positive social and economic changes. Their son, Ian Khama was even recently the President of Botswana and was also beloved by the country.


Mandela: A Long Walk to Freedom

Set in South Africa

This movie about Africa is based on Mandela’s own autobiography. Long Walk to Freedom lends viewers a deeper understanding of the politics of South Africa.

The movie does a great job at showcasing historical events, but still mixes in a bit of Hollywood to keep viewers engrossed in the story. During our three months in South Africa, we saw images of the anti-apartheid revolutionary everywhere. From statues and important buildings to street names and street art, you can truly see the impact of Mandela.


The Good Lie

Set in Sudan

A feel good movie about a group of Sudanese siblings who escape the brutal Second Sudanese Civil War. These brothers win a lottery to relocated in the United States, and the film follows their integration into American culture and takes audiences on a rollercoaster ride of emotions.


I Dreamed of Africa

Set in Kenya
best safari movies

This film certainly didn’t deserve any academy awards, but it did manage to get me excited about going to Africa. The film tells the true story of Kuki Gallman, an Italian woman who relocates to Africa to run a farm. It’s like Under the Tuscan Sun, but set in Africa.

The film is adapted from Kuki’s autobiography, I Dreamed of Africa, and is heartbreaking at times and uplifting in others.


Half of a Yellow Sun

Set in Nigeria

Half of the Yellow Sun is a Nigerian film that opens viewers eyes to some of the terrifying atrocities of the Nigerian Civil War. Interweaving two love stories, family betrayal, and an undiscovered mystery this film is based off the 2006 novel by African feminist, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.


Casablanca

Set in Morocco

This is one of the many movies we watched in film school and it would be hard for me not to mention it on this “movies about Africa” list. Ranked as one of the greatest American films of all time, this 1942 romance takes place in Casablanca, one of the largest cities in Morocco. Rick and Ilsa are star-crossed lovers during the second world war.


The First Grader

Set in Kenya

If you’re looking for a tear jeacker movie that takes place in Africa I recommend this one. I can’t count the number of times I cried from sadness and joy in The First Grader. Telling the true story of Kimani Maruge, an 84-year-old Kenyan farmer that enrolled in elementary school in 2003, after the Kenyan government granted citizens free universal primary education. Today, Maruge still holds the Guinness World Record for the oldest pupil in primary school.


Madagascar

Set in Madagascar
best safari movies

If you’re looking for an African movie on Netflix, one of the Madagascar films is always bound to be there. With so many serious films on this list, I had to throw this one in! Madagascar 1, 2, and 3 are some of the funniest animated films I have seen and feature some brilliant song and dance scenes ( I Like to Move it Move it). Madagascar tells the story of four zoo animals who escape Central Park and get stranded on the island of…Madagascar! With an all-star comedic cast, you will be laughing your way through this 90-minute film.


Last King of Scotland

Set in Uganda

One of the more critically acclaimed films on this list, The Last King of Scotland is an intense thriller set in 1970’s Uganda. Forrest Whitaker gives a stellar performance as Idi Amin, the third Ugandan president, who was heavily criticized for human rights abuse. The film shows Amin’s harsh ruling from the eyes of his personal physician.


Blood Diamond

Set in Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone went through an atrocious civil war less than 20 years ago. This film, featuring my boy Leo, follows one local fisherman’s gut-wrenching hardship during the conflict. It’s a good African war movie with a compelling storyline. Blood Diamond mostly focuses on just that, a “blood diamond.” Blood diamonds are the harvesting and mining of diamonds in war zones, sold by warlords to intermediaries to finance their wars. The diamonds are then worked into the legal circulation of diamonds through a number of middlemen.

They are still very much an issue in the world. Shame on me, for I knew nothing about blood diamonds or the consequences of buying one before seeing this film and reading another favorite, A Long Way Gone, in 2007. Sadly, even after the Kimberly Process, it is damn near impossible to certify a diamond as conflict-free. The only way to ensure you are an ethical and ecological consumer is to purchase a synthetic stone.


District 9

Set in South Africa

An Alien species makes contact in Johannesburg and must remain there until they can fix their craft. The aliens, “prawns,” are then subjected to living in terrible conditions, ghettos, and face daily discrimination. The film may just seem like your typical Alien film, but District 9 actually holds a much deeper meaning than a bunch of invasive “Prawns.”

The South African director draws on much of South Africa’s apartheid history including the infamous clearing of District Six in Cape Town. The narrative extends to current issues facing South Africa today. It manages to do all of this while making a hugely entertaining alien picture. 


Out of Africa

Set in Kenya
best safari movies

Oh, Merryl Streep and Robert Redford, you both produced one great African safari movie together when you were young. Out of Africa is a film set in colonial Africa and garnered seven Academy Awards including Best Picture. The film follows the life of Karen Blixen, who establishes a coffee plantation in Africa.

This a one of the movies on this list that portrays parts of an African safari and is based off of an autobiographical book of the same name shows Karen’s complicated life in Kenya, with a side twist of a young love affair with Robbie Red.


Queen of Katwe

Set in Uganda

Chess is the escape from poverty for a young Ugandan woman living in Kampala. This movie is based on true events in Africa and tells of a girl defying the odds and her story of becoming a top chess champion. This is a must watch movie about Africa before heading to Uganda!


The Gods Must be Crazy

Set in South Africa

The Gods Must be Crazy is the top South African film of all time. Although the story is set in Botswana, this movie tells the tale of a rural village with little knowledge of the outside world. One day a glass bottle of coke falls from the sky, and the villagers take it as a sign from god. Only a comedy can ensue from there!

There you have it – our favorite travel movies! Which ones would you add to the list?


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2 Comments on “The 80 Best Travel Movies To Inspire Wanderlust (2020 UPDATE)”

  1. So many great movies!

    I would also like to recommend Amelie just because it is such a good movie, and it is set in Paris!😍 And Spring, summer, autumn, winter.. and spring by Kim Ki-Duk. It is a Korean movie, quite slow, but with beautiful scenery! And also The no 1 ladies detective agency. A real feel good movie set in Botswana about a female private detective😊

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