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Inspirational travel movies

Since two of my biggest interests are traveling and movies, one might guess that I’m naturally attracted to films with a touch of travel inspiration. Here are a few of my favorite examples, most of which I have visited the recording site location.

  • Lost In Translation: Bet you didn’t see that one coming? Well, if you ever want to dream about Japanese cities, this is the film. It even got me walking half across Kyoto alone with a bad fever. A movie with fantastic Tokyo settings such as Park Hyatt, Shibuya and eastern Shinjuku. Urban alienation has never been sweeter.
  • Before Sunrise / Before Sunset / Before Midnight: This is a tale in two parts where Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy spend a day in Vienna and Paris, respectively. I like the fact that the films have a real decade between their recordings, so the actors have aged naturally to fit the story.
  • In Bruges: Arguably the only film ever shot in Bruges, it gives a very romantic image of the medieval city.
  • Amelie from Montmartre: If this movie doesn’t make you want to visit Paris, I feel sorry for you.
  • Amelie location in Paris The bar Café des Deux Moulins in Montmartre, known from the Amelie movie.
  • The Secret Life of Walter Mitty: A silly feel-good movie where Ben Stiller’s character daydreams about going on adventures, until he actually finds himself heading straight into one. Amazing views from Iceland and other locations.
  • Le Grand Bleu: Luc Besson’s masterpiece of love, sea and dolphins. Not to mention the scenic locations of Amorgos, Peru and New York. If this movie fails to inspire you into diving, stay away from your tub for safety reasons. Just make sure to go for the long director’s cut version and avoid the modified American version with a happy ending.
  • Collateral: A film where Los Angeles steals the show from Tom Cruise. Shows such as Californication makes me want to get back to LA and casually walk along the Venice pier again, but Collateral gives a completely different view on the city. In the eyes of Michael Mann, the city of angels displays its criminal underbelly in a dark way, similar to his previous work on Heat and Miami Vice. For some visitors it probably feels more familiar due to the fact that most of the movie scenes consists of endless freeways.
  • The Terminal: Aah, the familiar stench of airports. The story is based on Merhan Karimi Nasseri who actually stayed at CDG for 16 years. If you prefer to stay above the airport, try Up in the Air starring George Clooney.
  • Game of Thrones: So it’s a tv series rather than a movie, but the narrow alleys of Dubrovnik will never be the same.
  • Lord of the Rings: A bit hard to avoid this one in this kind of list. I’ve visited some of the sets on the northern island of New Zealand and it was awesome!
  • Gladiator: Visit ancient Rome where it is even more beautiful than reality thanks to clever use of CGI. I remember standing on the ledge inside Colosseum a decade ago, staring down at the center where a lot of blood was spilled two thousand years ago. The HBO series Rome is also good for getting inspired about the ancient city.
  • 1492: I know, it’s not the greatest film in the world, but at least listen to the epic soundtrack by Vangelis and imagine being on a big ship arriving at the Caribbean islands, walking ashore in the steps of Gerard Depardieu.
Sign at airplane Even the airplane commercials are luring you in.

There are also films that you choose to watch just for the location, such as Love Actually where Christmas shopping in London actually seems like a soft breeze, and XXX where Prague is more sinister than usual. The romantic side of Paris is dominating every scene in Midnight In Paris and Moulin Rouge (even though the famous theater lack any giant elephant on the inside – I’ve checked). The atmosphere from the streets of New York comes back to you in lots of contemporary films including Kissing Jessica Stein, Vanilla Sky, Eyes Wide Shut and countless other movies including classics such as Taxi Driver.

Some landmarks are prominently featured in several films. The Ferris wheel in Vienna can be seen in The Third Man (1949), Before Sunrise (1995) and Living Daylights (1987) where characters have long dialogues while riding the wheel.

The three Jason Bourne movies features a lot of locations from Paris, Berlin, Prague, New York, Madrid, London and more. I’ve visited several of them, even though they are quite non-distinctive due to clever editing.

Lord of the Rings location in Wellington Lord of the Rings location in Wellington.

The Bond movies are also generally very good at portraying exotic locations. They are often a bit silly and over the top, but there has been a lot of great locations during the years which fit beautifully in the films. Some of the scenes I’ve followed in the footsteps are the Rio de Janeiro cable car fight in Moonraker, Vienna scenes in Living Daylights (and the Bratislava scenes were also actually shot in Vienna), the many views of San Francisco and Golden Gate bridge in A View To A Kill, the Karnak columns from The Spy Who Loved Me, the silly Las Vegas car chase from Diamonds Are Forever (notice the cowboy), and the “Montenegro” village in Casino Royale (which was actually filmed in Czech Republic).

And then there are always tiny sequences that are excellent but not quite capable of lifting an entire film, such as the lightning-fast trip through Europe in The Rules of Attraction. Even the fake scene from Eurotrip actually made me go to Bratislava, just to check it out and exclaim “Dear sweet mother of God… we’re in Eastern Europe”!


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