We would generally view a travel movie as something that depicts movement from one place to another. This category is about something different.
The main characters are dislocated, some voluntarily, from their comfort zone. They have to live up to new expectations, unknown challenges and resolve intellectually, mentally and physical obstacles in doing so.
“Amélie is an innocent and naive girl in Paris with her own sense of justice. She decides to help those around her and, along the way, discovers love. (IMDb)”
I see some people call this a travel movie but I have my doubts about including it here. It is more like we, the audience, are invited on a journey into the world of Amélie. It is a lovely film about a young woman finding the meaning of life in the Montmartre district of Paris. What she discovers is her ability to help others out – and at the end of the day – she discovers that she too can fall in love and win her prince. The film is in French and is called “Le fabuleux destin d’Amélie Poulain”. The main character is charmingly played by Audrey Tautou and the movie received five Oscar nominations.
Back to the Future (1985)
“Marty McFly, a 17-year-old high school student, is accidentally sent 30 years into the past in a time-traveling DeLorean invented by his close friend, the maverick scientist Doc Brown. (IMDb)”
Young Marty (played by Michael J. Fox) flies back in time to when his parents were about the age he is now. I’m including it here as a representative of a number of time travel movies. At the time of its release it was seen as quite inventive, it was exciting and funny, but I seriously doubt I would like to see it more than the couple of times I already have. It received one Oscar. The movie’s success led to successors in 1989 and 1990.
Before sunrise (1995)
“A young man and woman meet on a train in Europe, and wind up spending one evening together in Vienna. Unfortunately, both know that this will probably be their only night together. (IMDb)”
Here is a love story, of sorts, starring Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy. It is more worth seeing for the short and hectic relationship they develop than what they actually discover in Vienna. It could have been shot anywhere, however the director decided on Vienna. Not my favourite travel movie, yet it is quite entertaining.
Cast Away (2000)
“A FedEx executive must transform himself physically and emotionally to survive a crash landing on a deserted island. (IMDb)”
This is more up my street with the brilliant Tom Hanks portraying the super-efficient logistics guy becoming the sole survivor of the plane crash – only to find himself washed up on the shore of a desolated island in the tropics. Here he is struggling to survive, way out of his comfort zone and regular life. In a Robinson Crusoe-like setting, Chuck Noland manages to hang on to his life for years. Five Oscar nominations.
Lost in Translation (2003)
“A faded movie star and a neglected young woman form an unlikely bond after crossing paths in Tokyo. (IMDb)”
The two main characters, played by Bill Murray and Scarlett Johansson, are unwillingly stuck in Tokyo, for different reasons. They are intrigued by the culture clash they experience in Japan, but most of all they want something else. That else is not really going home to the U.S., it is more like they’re seeking out something new in their lives. The couple is a mismatch as a couple but they find an understanding as well as something familiar to hold on to in an unfamiliar setting. This is not a movie that teaches you respect for other nationalities, it is almost as if it’s ridiculing some of Japan’s modern aspects. Still, it’s worth seeing and it received one Oscar.
The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel (2011)
“British retirees travel to India to take up residence in what they believe is a newly restored hotel. Less luxurious than advertised, the Marigold Hotel nevertheless slowly begins to charm in unexpected ways. (IMDb)”
This is a delightful and extremely colourful movie. The sounds, smells and noises of India hit hard upon the retirees of England when they invest their pensions in a foreign land. They are not really being mislead, but they are from the beginning very much suspicious of what they discover. Eventually, everything is sorted out. This is great fun to watch, the transformation of these senior citizens into something else than misfits in the Indian society is brilliantly performed by a host of British – and Indian – actors.
The simple criteria I have used to compile my lists are these:
- The plot involves a movement from one place to another, at least for some of the characters in the movie.
- The plot is set somewhere else than what a character is familiar with. He or she is challenged by this fact.
- I must have seen the movie myself and I must have liked it.
All articles in this series of great travel movies:
- Great Travel Movies
- Lone man or woman off to discover the world and him-/herself
- Two or more people off to discover the world and themselves
- Travel movies set in one location, with existential consequences (THIS)
- The ultimate list of great travel movies