Travel movies: my ultimate list (and something more)


« In times like these, escape is the only way to stay alive and continue dreaming. »  Henri Laborit, In Praise of Escape

Why a travel movie list?

The thing is: I just want to close the year with something that I’ve almost neglected in 2016. Vagabonding. Travels. And it’s not because I haven’t moved away from London. Indeed, this year I visited US and Italy so many times, Boston and NY, Cleveland and Miami, Milan and Sicily, and then Iceland, the Netherlands and Ireland, Portugal, Germany and France, Greece and Poland. But my focus has been content marketing including my new adventure as a public speaker. For this reason, vagabonding needs at least some attention before the year ends.

Then yesterday I watched the movie One Week, after a long research on iTunes, Amazon, Sky, airports’ shops. Found it, by chance. Free. On You Tube. Yes, my passion for vagabonding/travel tales is still indomitable. And it didn’t change a bit, after so many years. So here is a list of movies that always inspired me and that I want to share with the few readers of this blog.

1) Into the Wild (2007)

“Happiness is only real when shared”.

One of the most beautiful, touching, philosophical movies of all times and my number one travel movie. Actually, my number one movie. Oh, you just can’t imagine how much this movie reflects who/how I am, my personality and my values.

It is an adaptation from director Sean Penn of Jon Krakauer’s 1996 book, based on the travels of Chris McCandless across North America and his life spent in the Alaskan wilderness in the early 1990s. It has something in common with One Week: heading to West.

“It should not be denied that being footloose has always exhilarated us. It is associated in our minds with escape from history and oppression and law and irksome obligations. Absolute freedom. And the road has always led west”.

With a fantastic soundtrack from Eddie Vedder.

Watch the Trailer.

Watch Carine McCandless (Chris’ sister) talking atTEDx (warning: spoilers)

2) The Motorcycle Diaries (2004)

This is not a story of heroic feats, or merely the narrative of a cynic; at least I do not mean it to be. It is a glimpse of two lives running parallel for a time, with similar hopes and convergent dreams.”

One of my favourite movies of all time. The true story of two medical students embarking on a long motorcycle trip across South America in order to use their medical training to volunteer for a remote leper colony along the Amazon river. Based on the personal journals of Ernesto Che Guevara and Alberto Granado, the movie highlights freedom, adventure, and personal discovery that is part of the travel experience.

“Che Guevara is an inspiration for every human being who loves freedom”. Nelson Mandela.

Watch the Trailer.

3) Marrakesh Express (1989)

Italian road movie, by director Gabriele Salvatores who won the Oscar in 1991 with Mediterraneo. It is the first instalment of Salvatores’ “escape trilogy”, together with Mediterraneo and Turnè (see next movie for more details).

The plot revolves around a group of ex-high school friends that reunite in their 30s for a long journey together, and has been compared to Lawrence Kasdan’s The Big Chill and Kevin Reynolds’ Fandango. The soundtrack, that contributes to the nostalgic atmosphere of the movie, features original Italian evergreen songs.

About the escape trilogy (in Italian).

Watch the Trailer (in Italian).

4) Mediterraneo (1991)

Winner of an Oscar in 1991, is the third and last movie of Salvatores’ “Escape Trilogy”. It’s about war, friendships, it’s about people living their life in this beautiful planet. The film is set during World War II, and regards a group of Italian soldiers who become stranded on a Greek island and are left behind by the war. Enjoying the stars and the deep blue sea.

Mediterraneo is a key film to understand Salvatores. Its opening epigram announce that “escape in these times in the only means of surviving and continuing to dream” (a citation from Henry Laborit, a French biologist). Thus this job as Salvatores’ early cinema is dedicated to those who are escaping from society, defined as the only means of maintaining one’s identity and ability to dream.

About the escape trilogy (in Italian).

Watch the Trailer (in Italian).

5) Lost in Translation (2003)

The movie takes you into the heart of chaotic Tokyo. Bill Murray and Scarlett Johansson play two characters adrift in their hotel… at least, until they cut loose and explore Tokyo. They are suffering from a self-imposed confinement and that bonds them together. Together, they escape into Tokyo with its nonstop energy.

My favourite quote: “The most terrifying day of your life is the day the first one is born. Your life, as you know it… is gone. Never to return. But they learn how to walk, and they learn how to talk… and you want to be with them. And they turn out to be the most delightful people you will ever meet in your life.”

Watch the Trailer.

6) Up in the Air (2009)

“To know me, you have to fly with me. Sit down. I’m the aisle, you’re the window. Trapped”.

The story is centred on corporate “downsizer” Ryan Bingham (George Clooney) and his travels. The film follows his isolated life and philosophies and the people he meets along the way.

Dave & Deb write: “This movie is a film of contrasts. While it makes you love the idea of travel, it shows the emptiness that the life of a vagabond can lead if you don’t stay grounded with your family and friends. I cannot go through airport security anymore without thinking of George Clooney”.

Watch the Trailer.

7) The last Samurai (2003)

OK, I really need to explain this. Well, I simply hate Tom Cruise and his films, but…

You might think this movie is about war and Japan, but it’s not. This is a special movie and this quote says it all: “This marks the longest I’ve stayed in one place since I left the farm at 17. There is so much here I will never understand. (…) But there is indeed something spiritual in this place. And though it may forever be obscure to me, I cannot but be aware of its power. I do know that it is here that I’ve known my first untroubled sleep in many years”.

The Last Samurai is about a retired officer of the United States 7th Cavalry Regiment, whose personal and emotional conflicts bring him into contact with samurai warriors in the wake of the Meiji Restoration in 19th Century Japan. The film’s plot was inspired by the 1877 Satsuma Rebellion led by Saigō Takamori, and the westernization of Japan by foreign powers.

My favourite quotes.

  • “You believe a man can change his destiny? I think a man does what he can, until his destiny is revealed”.
  • “This marks the longest I’ve stayed in one place since I left the farm at 17. There is so much here I will never understand. I’ve never been a church going man, and what I’ve seen on the field of battle has led me to question God’s purpose. But there is indeed something spiritual in this place. And though it may forever be obscure to me, I cannot but be aware of its power. I do know that it is here that I’ve known my first untroubled sleep in many years”.
  • “And so the days of the Samurai had ended. Nations, like men, it is sometimes said, have their own destiny. As for the American Captain, no one knows what became of him. Some say that he died of his wounds. Others, that he returned to his own country. But I like to think he may have at last found some small measure of peace, that we all seek, and few of us ever find”.

Watch the Trailer.

8) One Week (2008)

This movie is about Ben, who has been diagnosed with cancer. Requiring immediate treatment, he instead decides to take a motorcycle trip from Toronto across Canada to Vancouver Island. Along the way, he meets several people that help him reevaluate his relationship with his fiancée Samantha, his job, and his dream of becoming a writer.

It has something in common with movie number 1 (Into the Wild): heading to West.

Watch the Trailer.

9) Seven Years in Tibet (1997)

The movie is based on the 1952 book of the same name written by Austrian mountaineer Heinrich Harrer. He heads out to conquer a Himalayan mountain in 1939. After getting captured and sent to a prison camp, he ends up breaking out with another man and sneaking into the holy Tibetan city of Lhasa. He is introduced to the Dalai Lama, who is still a boy, and becomes one of his tutors. During their time together, Heinrich becomes a close friend to the young spiritual leader. Harrer and his friend stay in the country until the Chinese military campaign in 1950.

Both men are from totally different worlds, yet become great friends and learn from each other. The character starts off as a selfish prick, but slowly changes his view of life when confronted with new experiences in a very foreign land. It’s a good movie that shows you how travel adventures can transform your life.

Watch the Trailer.

10) Thelma & Louise (1991)

is the feel-good story of two girlfriends who decide to abandon their boring lives for an adventure-packed road trip in a classic ’66 Thunderbird. housewife Thelma (Geena Davis) joins her friend Louise (Susan Sarandon), an independent waitress, on a short fishing trip. However, their trip becomes a flight from the law when Louise shoots and kills a man who tries to rape Thelma at a bar. Louise decides to flee to Mexico, and Thelma joins her.

Watch the Trailer.

Oh. Almost forgot. One more thing. Here is the list of the lists. Here are other 5 travel movie lists found on the web. Enjoy. Happy 2017. Happy travels. Happy vagabonding.



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