I’m often drawn 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 locations.

Sign at airplane Even the airplane commercials are luring you in.
  • Lost In Translation: A melancholic love letter to Tokyo with fantastic settings such as Park Hyatt, Shibuya and eastern Shinjuku. It even got me walking across half of Kyoto alone with a bad fever. Bill Murray and Scarlett Johansson play their lonely characters with dedicated resignation. Urban alienation has never been sweeter.
  • Before Sunrise / Before Sunset / Before Midnight: This is a tale in three parts where Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy spend a day together. The first one is a slow-cinema indie where the new couple roam the cobblestone streets of Vienna. In part two, they meet as adults in Paris. The third installation focus on the middle-aged couple during a crisis in Greece. I like the fact that the films have a real decade between their recordings, so the actors have aged naturally to fit the story. Hopefully there will be a fourth movie soon.
  • 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 will cause many armchair travelers to reach for their passport.
  • In Bruges: Arguably the only film ever shot in Bruges, it gives a very romantic image of the medieval city. Colin Farrell stars as a reluctant hitman, trying to escape from the radar in the cutest city of Belgium.
  • Le fabuleux destin d’Amélie Poulain (Amelie from Montmartre): The movie that made everyone want to visit Paris in 2001. The city has never looked so dreamy and shiny, but it’s a clever trap since the real city certainly is a lot worse for wear. For more of those unreal mirages of Paris, have a look at Woody Allen’s Midnight in Paris.
  • Amelie location in Paris The bar Café des Deux Moulins in Montmartre, known from the Amelie movie.
  • Le Grand Bleu: Luc Besson’s masterpiece of love, sea and dolphins. Not to mention the scenic locations of Amorgos, Peru and even 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 longer director’s cut version and avoid the modified American version.
  • Talented Mr Ripley: Matt Damon, Jude Law and Gwyneth Paltrow travel across Italy during the 1950s, from the beautiful islands of Ischia and Procida to the bustling streets of Rome and Venice.
  • The Beach: A young Leonardo DiCaprio stays in a shady hostel in Bangkok, where he by chance discovers the location of a paradise island. The eponymous beach is actually Maya Bay in Phi Phi Islands. The first half of the movie brings back the feeling of backpacking in the early 2000s to a time-typical soundtrack from Moby.
  • The Terminal: Aah, the familiar stench of airports. The story is based on Merhan Karimi Nasseri who actually stayed at CDG for 16 years.
  • Up In The Air: On the topic of airports, if you’re a big fan of security checks and endless transfers, this movie might be your thing. The pristine George Clooney is cooler than carbonite as he transitions from one location to the next, taking pride in his airline miles as a badge of honor.
  • Lord of the Rings: It’s a bit hard to ignore this one in any kind of traveler list. The tourism of New Zealand must have gone up by several magnitudes since the trilogy was released.
  • Lord of the Rings location in Wellington Lord of the Rings location in Wellington.
  • 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 familiar due to the fact that most of the movie scenes consists of endless freeways.
  • Vicky Cristina Barcelona: Woody Allen’s movies are usually set in New York, but this time he leaves his beloved Manhattan for the trendy Barcelona. Scarlett Johansson and the rest of the cast moves seamlessly across the city from one perfect location to the next, making the movie work as a Catalan tourism advertisement.
  • Into The Wild: The movie is based on the book by Jon Krakauer, telling the true story of Christopher McCandless. The young man decided to exile himself and travel into the wilderness. Despite the movie’s flaws, director Sean Penn manages to evoke strong feelings associated with leaving the civilization behind. The abandoned bus at Stampede Trail outside Denadi National Park in Alaska suddenly turned into a morbid tourist location.

There are also films that you choose to watch just for the location rather than their quality. The romantic side of Paris is dominating every scene in Moulin Rouge (even though the famous theater lacks a giant elephant – I’ve checked). Prague is more sinister than usual in XXX. 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 (filmed on a set in England!) and countless other movies including classics such as Taxi Driver and Breakfast at Tiffany’s. Even though Sofia Coppola failed to do a great followup with Somewhere, it still features some scenes that makes you want to stay at Chateau Marmont in Los Angeles.

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.

The James 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, the Vienna scenes in Living Daylights (the Bratislava scenes in the movie were shot in Vienna), many views of San Francisco and Golden Gate bridge in A View To A Kill, the Panama streets from Quantum of Solace, the Karnak columns from The Spy Who Loved Me, Venice canals from Moonraker, the silly Las Vegas car chase from Diamonds Are Forever and stunning Italian vistas from Casino Royale.

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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