The coronavirus pandemic has been a devastating world event that has led to the deaths of a staggering 4.55 million people across the world, bringing with it economic turmoil and the loss of independent businesses. A sector that has been hit particularly hard is travel, with people restricted to the limits of their own countries, with many planes grounded and covid restrictions making it difficult to take on long-haul trips.
Now that the pandemic is quietening down, the idea of travelling now seems far more viable, with people no longer needing to holiday vicariously through the glowing promise of television programmes and films. So, to inspire your wanderlust and look to broader shores, we’ve been taking a look into the ten films that embrace the spirit and inspiration that comes with travelling, from the intricate beauty of European streets to the vast magnificence of the epic Alaskan wilderness.
As Jon Krakauer writes in Into the Wild, “The core of mans’ spirit comes from new experiences,” so let’s take a dive into the hopeful, joyous world of travelling, where troubles can be forgotten and new friends can be embraced.
The 10 best films that inspire wanderlust:
10. Easy Rider (Dennis Hopper, 1969)
Cinema’s most countercultural road trip, Dennis Hopper’s 1969 film Easy Rider is a hippie romp that would become part of the fabric of the late 20th-century movement. Chronicling a modern American odyssey, perpetuated by the ideals of the bohemian subculture, Easy Rider is one of the 1960s most iconic films and one that would be celebrated for years to come.
Featuring a two-wheeled road trip across America’s dusty wilderness, Peter Fonda, Jack Nicholson and Dennis Hopper solve the world’s problems with their liberal musings whilst absorbing the soundtrack of the 1960s.
9. The Darjeeling Limited (Wes Anderson, 2007)
In just one of many of Wes Anderson’s worldwide ventures, The Darjeeling Limited takes the director’s colourful style to India, following the story of three brothers trying to reconnect with each other following the death of their father.
A charming tale of brotherly companionship, The Darjeeling Limited is elevated by performances from Owen Wilson, Adrien Brody and Jason Schwartzman, amplifying the true moral heart from Anderson’s classic film. Capturing a strange nostalgia for the spirit of travelling, as well as those that we leave behind in our wake, Wes Anderson’s film captures India in vibrant, saturated intensity. For anyone yet to visit, Anderson’s film may just persuade you.
8. Free Solo (Jimmy Chin, Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi, 2018)
Alex Honnold’s attempt to free solo (no ropes) Yosemite’s El Capitan was documented in Free Solo, a film that won the Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature whilst capturing the attention of a quickly-blossoming sport.
Breaking down the psyche of Alex Honnold, the dangerman who was brave enough to take on the challenge, Free Solo is a fascinating examination of human endeavour that also well captures the landscape of California’s Sierra Nevada. Highly deserved of its Best Documentary Feature win, Free Solo may encourage you to travel to the California mountains, though it may not persuade you to take on the death-defying stunt of free climbing.
7. Samsara (Ron Fricke, 2012)
Want pure, orgasmic cinematography? There are fewer films as aesthetically gorgeous as Ron Fricke’s Samsara, a non-narrative documentary, captured by cinematographers Rexal Ford as well as Fricke himself.
Shot in 25 countries over the course of five years, Fricke’s monumental work tries to recreate the entire spectrum of human existence within the framework of the film. Samsara is Fricke’s cinematic meditation on the spirituality that is embedded into the layers of the world, oscillating between the ancient and the modern. If spirituality is your thing, then Samsara may be your new favourite film.
6. 180 Degrees South (Chris Malloy, 2010)
With an innate passion for pure exploration, 180 Degrees South tracks the adventurer Jeff Johnson, retracing the steps of his heroes Yvon Chouinard and Doug Tompkins who journeyed to Patagonia in 1968 in their Ford E-Series Econoline Van.
A sprawling, frenetic documentary, Chris Malloy’s captivating film is suffused with the true essence of travel, exploring the boundaries of human fear and curiosity whilst realising the benefits of the journey over the destination. Covering sea, snow, land and jungle, the efforts of Jeff Johnson to climb Fitz Roy in the Andes is an inspiring ode to ambition, as well as a highly enjoyable film in itself.
5. The Beach (Danny Boyle, 2000)
One of British director Danny Boyle’s earliest career successes, The Beach also featured the arrival of writer Alex Garland who wrote the original novel and would later be responsible for Ex Machina and Annihilation.
Starring Leonardo DiCaprio, The Beach is the dream of an adventurous, love-fueled gap year rolled into the excitement of a two-hour film that accurately captures the freedom and insanity of such wild journeys. Also featuring the likes of Tilda Swinton and Robert Carlyle, The Beach would quickly become a cult classic, as well as the favourite film of budding travellers around the world eager to recapture the beauty and simple pleasures of new experiences.
4. The Endless Summer (Bruce Brown, 1965)
Before you set off on a journey, often it is the sheer pleasure of being as far away from normality as possible that is a major motivation, though when you leave, it is the unexpected clarity of inspiration that lingers.
For such a similar injection of inspiration, look no further than The Endless Summer, one of the most influential surfing movies of all time that documents American surfers Mike Hynson and Robert August as they travel the world during California’s winter. In search of the perfect wave and a summer that never stops giving, Bruce Brown’s film is an ode to exploration, freedom and true personal expression. It’s a joyous ride.
3. The Motorcycle Diaries (Walter Salles, 2004)
With stunning cinematography and an excellent central narrative, Walter Salles’ The Motorcycle Diaries features an awe-inspiring trip across South American by a young, ambitious revolutionary named Che Guevara.
A biographical retelling of the Cuban revolutionary’s young life, The Motorcycle Diaries stars Gael García Bernal and Rodrigo De la Serna and is based primarily on Guevara’s trip diary of the same name. Sharing a tight bond with his friend Alberto Granado, the film is as much a coming of age tale as it is one of adventure, as the two travel across South America and discover the injustices that the destitute face. Such a journey would sow a seed in Che Guevara’s mind that would soon germinate, starting a revolution.
2. Into the Wild (Sean Penn, 2007)
In 1990, a young college graduate from Emory University renounced the materialism of modernity, rejected the wealth of parents, donated his college fund to charity and set out into the wild.
Such is the story for Sean Penn’s great American roundtrip that recounts the real-life tragedy of Christopher McCandless, a man who disappeared from reality and died in the search of true individual freedom. Well-capturing the bohemian essence of the real free spirit, Emile Hirsch inspires a sense of child-like wonder as he experiences the beauty of North America and Alaska. Whilst Into the Wild is really a tale of complicated morality, it also well reflects the joys of cutting yourself off from the rest of the world and embracing the thrills of nature’s simplicities.
1. Before Sunrise (Richard Linklater, 1995)
Whilst Richard Linklater’s classic romance may only explore the limits of Vienna, it is the way in which the director explores such a space, using lead actors Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy, that make it such a joy to watch.
Taking place in a single day, Before Sunrise explores the inner boundaries of the people that exist in the ephemeral moments of fleeting joy. Following a young American man and a French woman who meet in a chance encounter on a train and decide to spend an evening in the Austrian capital together, Linklater’s film perfectly captures the spontaneity of travelling as well the potential for ‘anything to happen’.
Creating contradicting cinematic confines, depicting people both defined by their 24-hour existence yet also refusing to fall victim to time’s ceaseless stride, Linklater’s characters define themselves by the absence of time, living in the pure joy of the moment.