Best Travel Movies

In addition to my list of the best travel books I’ve read, I’ve assembled a collection of movies here that fill my chest with a burning desire to explore and travel the entire world.

Mountains of the Moon DVD cover

Mountains of the Moon

Mountains of the Moon (Amazon Link)

This movie left me nearly speechless the first time I saw it. Based on the true story of John Hanning Speke and Captain Sir Richard Francis Burton. A British and Irish explorer exploring the source of the Nile River in Africa (with the help of the Royal Geographical Society). It’s so good, I can’t even tell you here. Beware though: it’s real—honest, gritty, grotesque, and violent. If you know anything about Burton the explorer, he was, I think, the world’s most magnificent explorer, probably ever. Seriously, I can’t even tell you. Read the Wikipedia entry for the Irishman who supposedly spoke nearly 30 languages, discovered Lake Tanganyika for the Europeans, helped discover the source of the Nile, and secretly made a Hajj to Mecca.

But for the fact that his journeys were well documented, we would think it was all fiction because it’s so unbelievable. If you want to catch a glimpse into the mind-blowingly unbelievable adventures of Burton and Speke, this uncommon movie is one of the best I’ve ever seen.

My rating: 5 out of 5 stars.

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

The Secret Life of Walter Mitty DVD cover

The Secret Life of Walter Mitty

The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (Amazon Link)

I was initially very skeptical of this film, having seen the original film with Danny Kaye and feeling that a new and “improved” version couldn’t possibly be better.

I was both right and wrong. It’s not new and improved, but it is an entirely new story. The storyline is literally, completely different than the original so you can’t really compare the two. The only thing they have in common is the name (based on the short story by the New Yorker’s James Thurber). I don’t normally like Ben Stiller that much, since most things I’ve seen are just crappy comedies designed for cheap laughs. This movie, however, is a shockingly different turn and I’m a huge fan. Filmed mostly in Iceland, it’s a gorgeous and inspiring travelogue of a cubicle rat who desires more. Seriously, if you’re the type who’s been shy in embracing travel because it’s hard, or expensive, or scary, please do yourself a favor. Watch this film. I dare you to not be moved.

My rating: 5 out of 5 stars.

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

The Way DVD cover

The Way

The Way (Amazon Link)

This is a fantastic film produced by Emilio Estevez, and starring himself and his father, Martin Sheen. It mainly focuses on the story of a father who makes the pilgrimage on the Camino de Santiago in Spain to honor the life of his son who died while trying the same.

If you have ever had an incurable itch to explore (like Emilio, in this film) or if you haven’t, and hate traveling (like Martin), please watch this film. It’s life changing. It is spiritual. It will make you re-evaluate your life, much like the pilgrims do on the the Camino de Santiago. Seriously, stop reading this and watch it. Then buy a ticket for yourself, and for me, to Spain, and we’ll both go there and walk The Way together.

My rating: 5 out of 5 stars.

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Brooklyn DVD cover

Brooklyn

Brooklyn (Amazon Link)

This movie hit close to home for me, on multiple levels. Not from direct personal experience, but in a familial sense. This is the story of Eilis (pronounced “eigh-lish”), a lovely red-headed girl from County Wexford in Ireland, who comes to the USA on a crappy steam ship, all wide-eyed and exited about making a new life in America. She enters via Ellis Island, and ends up falling in love with and marrying a young Italian man, who is a plumber.

My great-great-grandmother, Bridget, also came to the USA from Ireland, about 50 years earlier. She came, most likely, from County Tipperary, likely boarded a steam ship, and came to some port in New York, then settled down in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. What does that have to do with anything? My wife’s great-grandfather came to the USA from Italy around the same time, and also settled down in Philadelphia. My wife’s father’s family came from Italy, and he was a plumber, and my dad’s mother’s family came from Ireland, so it was kind of like a catching a glimpse of what their lives could have been like.

It’s not a “travel movie” per se, in the sense that the people traveling across the ocean didn’t necessarily choose to, but did so out of necessity. But they certainly traveled very far to find a better life, hoping and praying—but not knowing—that they’d find a better future. That qualifies for me. What an amazing story.

My rating: 4 out of 5 stars.

⭐⭐⭐⭐

Honorable Mention


Disclaimer: this list uses Amazon affiliate links, so if you purchase any of these items, I may get a small commission at no cost to you. For more details, please visit the disclosures page.