We have come to the third list of great travel movies. In the previous article we met the lone wolves travelling the earth’s surface looking for something. The following list deals with a group of people out on the same mission.
Some are on actual escape routes from a life in misery or even facing death, others are merely attempting to regain what was, or perhaps was not.
Around the World in Eighty Days (2004)
It is almost always a disappointment to watch a movie based on a book you have read and enjoyed. Jules Verne’s classic adventure novel from 1873 is priceless. At the Reform club in London Phileas Fogg bets that he can circumnavigate the globe in only 80 days. Of course it is impossible, or? Anyway, with his faithful servant Passepartout we are invited on a journey that few at the time had imagined the likes of. This story was put on screen in 1956 with David Niven as Phileas Fogg. In this most recent adaption Steve Coogan and Jackie Chan plays the main characters. I preferred the 1956 version but they are both fun to watch.
On the Road (2012)
“Young writer Sal Paradise has his life shaken by the arrival of free-spirited Dean Moriarty and his girl, Marylou. As they travel across the country, they encounter a mix of people who each impact their journey indelibly. (IMDb)”
Sam Riley, Garrett Hedlund, and Kristen Stewart play the main characters in this road movie set in the late 1940s. Based on, some would say freely based on, Jack Kerouac’s book by the same name, the movie works perfectly for us who have read the novel, and the rest of you as well. The free-wheelin’ life of these people pre-dates the hippies era by two decades, yet at the same time digs deep into the American consciousness and culture. I loved this film and include here as one of the best travel movies ever.
The Bucket List (2007)
“Two terminally ill men escape from a cancer ward and head off on a road trip with a wish list of to-dos before they die. (IMDb)”
Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman are the two elderly facing death. So different in background, so different in manners, interests and temper. This movie is so thoughtful and the characters so elegantly played that what comes outside the ward may seem irrelevant. But it is not. Their bucket list is so fascinating that it would fit into the bucket lists of many others. Including mine. I mean, the Taj Mahal, Great Wall, Pyramids, Mount Everest, and safari in Tanzania are all great places to visit. This was a box office success, less so among the critics.
The Darjeeling Limited (2007)
“A year after their father’s funeral, three brothers travel across India by train in an attempt to bond with each other. (IMDb)”
Another great movie in my opinion. Set in India, on a train, three brothers are fighting the centrifugal forces of splitting apart – or getting together in the search of their mother. This is fun, this is crazy and this is colourful – as any movie shot in India would be. I loved it. Owen Wilson, Adrien Brody and Jason Schwartzman all perform wonderfully in this rail movie.
The Motorcycle Diaries (2004)
“The dramatization of a motorcycle road trip Che Guevara went on in his youth that showed him his life’s calling. (IMDb)”
Here’s one that scores high on most “great travel movie” lists. Gael García Bernal and Rodrigo De la Serna in the roles of the two main characters perform very well. It is however the journey across the Andes, on a motorcycle, that plays the most important part. It is definitely a road movie, but also a movie about growing up, discovering what life is about in rural South America: Injustice, inequality, and what to do about it. “Diarios de motocicleta” is the original title, indicating it was shot in Spanish – necessary to make this film real. It won an Oscar.
The Way Back (2010)
“Siberian gulag escapees travel 4,000 miles by foot to freedom in India. (IMDb)”
Jim Sturgess, Ed Harris and Colin Farrell are among the actors who give us an insight into the souls and destinies of a group of people escaping certain death in the Gulag camps of Siberia, only to discover more hazards and death on their way south to freedom. The hardships encountered by a group with deep inner conflicts, the obstacles they face walking across deserts and mountains, are vividly portrayed and played out in this film remotely based on a true story. It received an Oscar nomination.
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 will be have to be 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 (THIS)
- Travel movies set in one location, with existential consequences
- The ultimate list of great travel movies