The Travel Expert Favourite Travel Movies

My Top Ten Travel Movies

With holiday plans on hold for the moment I got thinking about my favourite travel movies…


While I wish I had lots of trips organised for the coming months, the reality is I will be probably be sitting in watching TV instead. Regardless of the current situation, I want to think about where I will travel to next, and I have already got some ideas for places I would like to see. For inspiration I turn to books, travel blogs and sometimes TV. I thought I might share, some of my favourite travel movies to inspire us to plan our next holiday. 





The Talented Mr Ripley

In late 1950s New York, Tom Ripley, a young underachiever, is sent to Italy to retrieve Dickie Greenleaf, a rich and spoiled millionaire playboy. But when the errand fails, Ripley takes extreme measures and things start to go wrong, but eventually come right for Ripley. It really is a great movie and one, that if you haven’t seen already, is well worth a watch.


It is a great psychological thriller. With my love of Italy, this movie had to make the list. Whilst it starts in Tribeca, New York, the movie soon moves to Italy. There is a fictional resort known as Mongibello where Dickie (Jude Law) idles away the time with Marge (Gwyneth Paltrow) and for this place, two locations were used: the beautiful island of Ischia and its tiny island neighbour Procida.

Both located in the Bay of Naples, they can be accessed by the local ferries from Sorrento and other resorts on the Amalfi Coast. Other locations include Rome, Anzio -about 30 miles south of Rome, Naples and Venice. Palermo also features briefly.  


The top 10 movies to showcase Italy



The Beach

In 2000, Danny Boyle brought us to ‘The Beach’, which despite its dark storyline, probably highlighted Thailand as the tropical paradise ‘must visit’ for many backpackers around the world. With Leonardo DiCaprio playing Richard, who comes into possession of a mysterious map, leading to a solitary beach paradise. With two friends, he sets out to find the beach and island. It’s not long before things start to take a dark turn under the bright sunshine.


The movie was shot mostly on Hat Maya, the main beach of Phi Phi Leh Island, near Phuket, Thailand, amid allegations of ecological vandalism, when imported palms were planted to make the ‘perfect’ beach even more perfect. Naïve traveller Richard (Leonardo DiCaprio) sets out to find the fabled beach from the bustling backpack melee of Khao San Road, downtown Bangkok.


The famous waterfall scene was shot in Haeo Suwat Falls in Khao Yai National Park, Thailand’s second-largest park. You’ll find the waterfall at the end of Thanarat Road in the center of the park. The park itself is about a three-hour drive from Bangkok, or there’s a bus service from Bangkok’s Northern Bus Terminal (Mo Chit) for Pak Chong and Nakhon Ratchasima about every half-hour.

Unfortunately the beach had to close because the reefs in the bay suffered heavy damage from years of ‘overtourism’ with tourists trampling on coral reefs. 

Read: Where to stay in Thailand




Shirley Valentine

Almost thirty years old, Shirley Valentine is still one of the great British comedy dramas as well as being one of the world’s best travel movies. Shirley Valentine tells the story of a woman feeling trapped in a world of domesticity. She is a housewife from Liverpool, who needs a change in her life, before she has another conversation with the walls. When her friend Jane invites Shirley on a trip to a Greek island, Shirley jumps at the chance. When they land however, Jane soon ditches Shirley for a fling, which means Shirley is left to her own devices. Shirley wanders the island, meets a taverna owner, Costas and begins to find the joy in life again.


While the film starts in Liverpool, we are soon transported to the beautiful island of Mykonos in Greece.  With 300 days of sunshine, great nightlife and designer shops, Mykonos attracts a trendy crowd, looking for that perfect Instagam photo with its trademark white-washed hours and thatched windmills.




Only You

Being a true romantic at heart, this is one of my favourite travel movies. Only You, starring Marissa Tomei and Robert Downey Junior is set in Italy again, where else? A genuine romantic comedy telling the story of a young woman, Faith Kovács, whose search for the man she believes to be her soulmate leads her to Italy where she meets her destiny.


Aside from the actors, the Italian location is the star of the movie. Featuring Positano, Rome, Monterigigoni and Venice, this movie highlights the romance and picturesque towns of the Amalfi coast, Tuscany and the capital city of Rome. Girls night in? This is the movie for you. 

The top 10 movies to showcase Italy.



The Motorcycle Diaries

Ok, I know what your thinking and I thought the same! My husband, who rides a motorcycle, came up with this one and made me watch it I was glad I did. The Motorcycle Diaries is a beautiful movie highlighting South America. It tells the true story of the 1952 expedition, initially by motorcycle, across South America by Che Guevara and his friend Alberto Granado. As well as being a road movie, the film is a coming-of-age film and is a biopic taken from the written memoir of 23-year-old Ernesto Guevara. Recognise the name?

You’d be right. Ernesto Guevara would later become the iconic Marxist guerrilla commander and revolutionary Che Guevara who was a major figure in the Cuban Revolution.


Whilst the movie is subtitled and a bit ‘arty’, it shows off the beauty that South America offers from Argentina through Chile, Peru, and Colombia to Venezuela, as the two friends travel 14,000 kilometres on their epic journey. If you haven’t been to Machu Picchu yet, the scenes at Machu Picchu are worth watching several times over. Whilst not everyones cup of tea, it is most definitely deserves a place on this list of travel movies.




The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel

This is one to sit down and watch with your Mum! Another British comedy drama with a fantastic cast including Dame Maggie Smith and Dame Judi Dench. It tells the story of a group of British retirees who travel to India to take up residence in what they believe is a newly restored hotel. On arrival they learn that the hotel is not quite what it purports to be, and is a little less luxurious than advertised. The Marigold Hotel nevertheless slowly begins to charm in unexpected ways.


With great performances and plenty of laughs this is a movie that you and your Mum will thoroughly enjoy. It might even give both of you some food for thoughtm and have you reaching for the credit card and laptop to book the two of you away to some exotic place, for that trip that you both have promised to go on but never have. 



Out of Africa

One of my favourite places in the world is Africa and while I have seen lots of movies set there, I still come back to this one. It might one of the oldest travel movies on this list, but it is one of my favourites. Meryl Streep is fantastic as always, and then there is Robert Redford too… Need I say more?


Based loosely on the memoirs of the Danish author Karen Blixen written in 1937, the story tells of the seventeen years that she spent in Kenya and her life on her coffee plantation. More of a love story than an adaptation, the movie tells of her troubled marriage and her affair with Finch Hatton (Robert Redford).


Set with the backdrop of Kenya, this one will have you looking for that safari you have always promised yourself. If you haven’t seen it, treat yourself. Although over thirty years old, it won seven academy awards including Best picture and Best Director at the time. And did I mention Robert Redford is in it………! 

Read: How to plan the perfect South African road trip

Read: Our luxury safari at Amakala Game Reserve

Read: A safari in Tanzania



Eat, Pray, Love

‘Pretty Woman’ was one of my teenage favourites and ever since, I tend to gravitate towards anything with Julia Roberts in it. Based on the memoirs of the American writer Elizabeth Gilbert, the movie tells the true story of one woman’s travels through Italy, India and Bali. It is one of my favourite travel movies and is the reason I want to visit Bali.


At 31 years old, Elizabeth Gilbert was educated, had a home, a husband, and a successful career as a writer. She was, however, unhappy in her marriage and decided to initiate divorce proceedings. She then had a rebound relationship that did not work out, leaving her devastated and alone.


After finalising her difficult divorce, she spent the next year traveling the world. She spent four months in Italy, eating and enjoying life – thats the EAT bit. She then spent three months in India, finding her spirituality – thats the PRAY bit.  Finally she ended with a year in Bali, Indonesia, looking for “balance” of the two. Needless to say that was the LOVE bit. Take a look, I think you’ll enjoy it. If you fancy reading the book, its terrific too and spent 187 weeks in The New York Times Best Seller List, so it must be good.

Read: Top three Bali holidays from Ireland



The Bucket List

Maybe a strange one on my best travel movies list, but it is a great movie. The Bucket List tells the story of Blue-collar mechanic Carter Chambers (Freeman) and billionaire hospital magnate Edward Cole (Nicholson) who meet for the first time in hospital, after both have been diagnosed with cancer. They become friends as they undergo their respective treatments. 


Carter begins writing a “bucket list,” or things to do before he “kicks the bucket.” After hearing he has less than a year, Carter crumples it up and tosses it on the floor. Edward finds it the next morning. He urges Carter to do everything on the list (suggesting he add things like skydiving), and offers to finance the trip. Carter agrees, despite the protests of his wife.


The pair begin an around-the-world vacation, embarking on race car driving, skydiving, climbing the Pyramids, and going on a lion safari in Africa. They also confide in each other about faith and family. I won’t ruin the movie for you, but it is another a popcorn treat to watch with all the family.




Under The Tuscan Sun

I’ve left one of the best until last, and also because perhaps it is another movie set in Italy! A similar storyline to Eat, Pray, Love, this movie is based once again on the memoirs of a recently divorced writer Frances Maye. It tells her story of being a divorced writer ( Diane Lane ) who buys a villa in Tuscany on a whim, hoping it will lead to a change in her life.


Featuring Positano in parts, but mostly the idyllic Italian village of Cortona, the movie tells a wonderful story of self discovery and new romance. Another one for a cosy night in and if you feel like booking the very same villa, its available to rent on a weekly basis. HERE is the link to Villa Laura.

The top 10 movies to showcase Italy



Bonus Movie: Into the West

Another ‘oldie but goodie’ featuring a young and very handsome Gabriel Byrne, ‘Into The West’ is set in Ireland. I had to include at least one though, right? Touching on Irish folklore and told in almost a fairytale fashion, Into The West tells the story of two traveller boys running away with a horse given to them by their grandfather. Tayto (Rúaidhrí Conroy) and Ossie (Ciarán Fitzgerald), whose father “Papa” Reilly (Gabriel Byrne) was “King of Irish Travellers” until his wife, Mary, died during the birth of their second son, Ossie. The boys’ grandfather (David Kelly) is an old story-telling Traveller, who tells the children Irish folk-tales and legends.


When he is followed by a beautiful white horse called Tír na nÓg (meaning “Land of Eternal Youth” in Irish), from the sea to Dublin, where the boys and their father have now settled in a rather grim tower block, the boys are overwhelmed with the dream of becoming cowboys. The horse is taken from them and they begin their adventure to get their mystical horse back. They escape the poverty of a north Dublin council estate, and ride “Into the West” where they find that Tír na nÓg is not just a horse. The movie takes us on an adventure all across Ireland from the streets of Dublin to the most westerly coast of Clare. A travel movie to watch with the kids perhaps…


Like holidays in Ireland? See more here.


Well thats it! My favourite travel movies shot in some of my favourite places. I’m off to make the popcorn now but if you get a minute, tell me your favourite travel movie in the comments below. I’d love to hear them…..



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