Movies That Inspire Wanderlust

I’ve always loved TV and movies. I grew up memorizing the scripts from commercials, TV shows, and entire movies — I can still recite Disney’s Aladdin word for word today! Through movies, I was able to travel to new, magical worlds I’d never been to before, to mythical places I could never actually visit in real life. As well as providing an escape, movies also inspired me to go to real places all over the world.

Some people love music, some people love books, I love movies and TV. Although I am a book lover, I’m a bigger fan of movies created from the words and stories which line the pages of fantastic books.

I love visiting a place where a film or TV show was shot. When I was in New York, I even went as far as eating a black and white cookie because Jerry Seinfeld ate one in an episode of Seinfeld. (I think it was the episode where he vomited after having not vomited for 13 years…but I still got a cookie!) I’m the prime target audience that advertisers love — I’ll always try something I’ve seen in the movies or on TV.

One of the first movies that inspired me to visit a country was 1993’s The Secret Garden. I completely fell in love with England solely from the shots in the film. More than 20 years after the movie came out, I visited some of the filming locations on a trip around northern England.

As well as searching out filming locations and being awestruck that these places were in a movie/TV show I watched and loved, I’m also influenced to travel to places shown in movies.

This post is for those of you who have been inspired (or are looking for inspiration) to travel from movies, as well as those of you who are fans of visiting filming locations from your favourite films!

Holywood Sign at Dusk

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Amelie – Paris (Montmartre), France

Stairs leading to the street - full of people and cafes in Montmarte, Paris in France.

Amelie is a French romantic comedy about a woman who devotes her time anonymously and secretly brings happiness to those around her. She spends her days traveling all around Montmartre creating schemes and living in her own little creative world. It really shows how magical and incredibly beautiful the people and places in Paris truly are.

Amelie holds a place in my heart as my favourite movie of all time and I fell in love with it the moment it came out in 2001. I watch this film any time I’m feeling down because it’s such a happy story and the cinematography is incredible. The way they highlight the greens and reds with pops of blue just makes it seem so magical.

Movie poster for the French film Amelie

One of the best scenes in the film is when Amelie helps a blind man down the street by describing everything happening around them. My favourite part is her describing the child watching the dog watching the rotating chickens. When she drops the man off at the metro station, the camera zooms in on him as he glows with utter happiness.

I want to walk down the cobbled streets of Montmartre, dipping my hand into sacks of grain and visiting quaint little French café, breaking Crème Brulee with a teaspoon.

Book an Amelie Filming Locations tour here

Coming to America – New York City, United States

New York City at night - Time Square advertisements lit up on both sides of the dark street

Coming in at a close second is Coming to America. This movie’s an older one — it was released in 1988 and stars Eddie Murphy as the prince of a made-up African country. Akeem (Eddie Murphy) visits New York City to fall in love and find a queen.

This movie is truly some of Eddie Murphy’s best work. It might not be on the top of everyone’s wanderlust list, but it certainly made me want to go to New York City. With opening scenes of people ransacking Akeem’s luggage and throwing garbage on the street, it doesn’t show NYC in the brightest light. But it’s a hilarious comedy that includes a few NYC landmarks.

Coming to America Movie Poster

The movie also features a fast food restaurant called McDowell’s. Who wouldn’t want to get a Big Mic Burger? Well, guess what? They’ve opened a real-life McDowell’s Restaurant at 85-07 Queens Boulevard. It’s at the same address as the restaurant in the film! (It used to be a Wendy’s). Spray some Soul Glo in your hair and head down to Queens for some amazing nostalgia.

Bonuses: Seinfeld, Friends, and Elf show so much of NYC that you’ll want to recreate the scenes! I’d love to spend Christmas in NYC acting out the entire Elf movie — including the tasty spaghetti!

When I was in NYC, I was only able to visit the Friends apartment building in Greenwich Village. Next time I’ll be visiting Monk’s Café (Tom’s Restaurant) from Seinfeld and checking out as many other locations as I can.

Book a TV & Movie Locations Tour & Official NBC Studios Tour here.

Lost in Translation – Tokyo, Japan

Dark city street in Tokyo Japan at night. The street is lit up only by signs from businesses along the outside of the street.

Lost in Translation follows the unusual friendship between a lonely, ageing movie star (Bill Murray) and bored newlywed (Scarlett Johansson) trying to find the meaning of her life while staying with her photographer husband in Tokyo. The two characters meet at the hotel they’re both staying at and enrich each other’s lives so much by spending time together.

The movie takes you all around Tokyo, from a serene temple in the Shinjuku district to the vibrant and lively Shibuya where Charlotte (Johansson) and Bob (Murray) hang out with Charlotte’s friend Charlie Brown, running through the city and singing karaoke in pink wigs.

Lost in Translation Movie Poster

Lost in Translation really displays how you can feel in a world so different from your own and how you can encounter the most amazing people and develop the best friendships while traveling.

Some of my favourite scenes and movie quotes come from Lost in Translation. “For relaxing times make it Suntory time.”

Lord of the Rings New Zealand

A tiny hobbit house in the lush green grass with a dirt path with a bridge over a small stream in The Shire in New Zealand
The Shire in New Zealand – credit goes to my friend Chris

Lord of the Rings follows hobbit Frodo Baggins (Elijah Wood) and a group of other mythical beings (such as elves, dwarves and wizards) on a quest to Mount Doom to dispose of a powerful ring that has the potential to destroy the world. Walking through snowy mountains and dangerous caves, the group has to battle evil forces along their way to Mount Doom.

New Zealand is home to the filming location known as Hobbiton. Going here is like visiting the real-life Shire that Frodo and his hobbit friends lived in Lord of the Rings. You can step into the Green Dragon Inn and have some delicious food that will grow hair on your feet!

Lord of the Rings Movie Poster

If you’re really into hiking, you can follow the 19km one-way Tongariro Alpine Crossing on New Zealand’s North Island toward the summit of Mount Doom. It’s actually Mount Ngauruhoe — Mount Doom scenes were filmed on both Mount Tongariro and Mount Ngauruhoe.

Book the Hobbiton Movie Set Guided Tour here

Outlander – Scotland

Clan Fraser stone sitting in the grassy marshy Culloden Battlefield

I lived in Scotland for a few years and feel like it’s my home away from home. Scotland and I have definitely connected on another level. Outlander follows Claire Randall (played by Caitriona Balfe) as she transports herself back in time to the 1743 Scottish Highlands.

I completely fell in love with Scotland again while watching season one. The show takes you all over the Scottish Highlands, from Inverness to Glencoe to Midhope Castle (Lallybroch in the TV show). It really highlights the beauty of Scotland and makes you feel as though you’re a proud Scot fighting for the rebellion.

Jamie and Claire from Outlander standing on a rock looking out into the horizon

Outlander, based on the books by Diana Gabaldon, features real Scottish history and teaches you how things in the beautiful British country once ran. It takes you to the Culloden Moor where Jamie (Sam Heughan) and the other clansmen fight the infamous Battle of Culloden which changed the clan system in Scotland forever.

You can visit so many different filming locations from Outlander on your trip to Scotland and try to find a Jamie of your own! Book your tour here!

The Holiday – England

Quaint village in the Cotswolds in England. Picturesque brick road over a water way leading to British stone houses lined with ivy.

Okay, this is an embarrassing addition to the list because it’s not the greatest movie. It’s definitely my guilty pleasure movie, but I legit love The Holiday. I watch it every December because it’s set at Christmas and combines my two favourite things — England and finding love abroad.

The Holiday is a romantic comedy that follows Iris (Kate Winslet), a depressed English woman who can’t fall out of love with a colleague, and Amanda (Cameron Diaz), an American workaholic who doesn’t have time for a relationship.

The Holiday Movie Poster

Although Cameron Diaz’s acting in this film is atrocious, her surroundings of a blissfully beautiful and snowy Surrey make me crave a visit to wintery England. The film heavily features the cute and quaint English countryside in a love story that allows you to visualize yourself in the same scenario. Falling in love with a dreamy man from another land — doesn’t it sound magical?

Los Angeles is also featured in the movie, but not to the extent that Surrey is. The little village Cameron’s character visits in Surrey is called Shere. It might make you want to go to LA and find your own retired Hollywood screenwriter, Arthur Abbott (Eli Wallach) and get some gumption!

Game of Thrones – Croatia

View of King's Landing in Dubrovnik Croatia from afar - view of the blue water with the city in the background.

Game of Thrones has filming locations all over Europe, but the one that calls out to me the most is Croatia. It might be because I’m a history fan and Dubrovnik is full of history with a real medieval feeling.

Game of Thrones, based on the novels by George R. R. Martin, is a violent and political struggle of families vying for control of the fantasy world of Westeros. It wonderfully emphasizes the beautiful landscapes and historical scenery of Croatia.

Game of Thrones Aftermath Poster

Whether you imagine you’re the Mother of Dragons Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke) or one of the members of the House Stark screaming “Winter is Coming”, you’ll feel like you’ve stepped back in time in Croatia.

You can take several walking tours of the filming locations from Game of Thrones or wander around town and discover them on your own. Dubrovnik’s city walls are featured as the barrier walls of King’s Landing and several streets in the Old Town are also used as filming locations.

Regardless of whether you want to visit a historical, beautiful city or step inside the world of Game of Thrones — Croatia is the place to be.

Book your Game of Thrones Walking Tour here.

Eat Pray Love – Solo Travel

Woman meditating and doing yoga looking out into the forest of Bali
credit: @Jared Rice

Admittedly, I did read the book before watching the film Eat Pray Love, but the film really helps you visualize everything and it inspired me to follow my dreams and travel the world. The story follows author Liz Gilbert on her life-changing journey of self-discovery and learning to truly live for herself. After divorcing her husband, Liz travels to Italy, India, and Indonesia in search of herself and happiness.

Eat Pray Love Movie Poster

This movie really inspired me to not wait around for others before living life. It taught me to travel solo, see the world, be with myself and truly experience the things in life that make me happy. It also shows how cool, lovely and wonderful people are all over the world.

Book your Eat Pray Love Tour in Bali here

An Idiot Abroad – Mexico

A stone statue of an animal face with the pyramid historic building of Chichen Itza in Mexico

I love Karl Pilkington. If there’s one thing I’m grateful for about having lived in Scotland, it’s for introducing this wonderful man into my life. An Idiot Abroad is a comedic documentary that follows Karl as his buddies Stephen Merchant and Ricky Gervais force him to travel the world.

Karl truly despises discomfort and traveling can sometimes be full of agitation. Ricky and Stephen put Karl in shady hotels, make him take weird routes and get him to do all kinds of obscure tasks designed to bring out the worst in him. His journey to Mexico was actually my favourite episode of An Idiot Abroad and really inspired me to visit.

An Idiot Abroad Poster

Karl fell in love with Mexico when he was in pursuit of some Mexican jumping beans. Normally during his travels, he finds himself tormented everywhere he goes and is utterly unhappy from start to finish. But in Mexico, he truly finds blissful happiness. If Mexico can do that to Karl Pilkington, imagine what it could do to you!

Also, I would totally invest in a pair of Pilko-Pants!

Departures – Libya & World Travel

The main gate to the spectacular ruins of Leptis Magna

This one could be classed as cheating since it’s a show about two Canadian men (and their cameraman) who travel the world.

My favourite episode of Departures is when Justin and Scott head to Libya. They visited when dictator Gaddafi was still ruling the country and Libya had kept its doors closed to western tourists for over 20 years, meaning Libya was truly unspoiled by tourism. They actually have all of the Departures episodes on their YouTube channel! So if you want to watch the Libya Departures Episode click here!

During their time in the country, the duo are considered to be journalists and media visitors and they’re led by different locals as they tour the country. My favourite part is when they head to the Sahara Desert and spend a few days with Abdul who calls himself the Chocolate Pirate of the Sahara. (Seriously, he’s my favourite man in all of Libya! If he’s still giving tours of the Sahara Desert, I would go on that tour so fast!)

Departures TV Poster

Watch it and explore the incredible world of Libya. I hope to visit one day when it’s not such a politically dangerous country. I had a co-worker from Libya and he told me he would take me around some time. Is there anything better than being with a local in their own country? It’s truly the best way to travel.

Departures also head to North Korea in season three. And as a dark tourist, I love learning all about North Korea (DPRK). If you’re interested in the country, check out that episode. You can also help North Korean defectors by supporting the non-profit L.I.N.K., (Liberty in North Korea).

Harry Potter – England & Scotland

Steam Train seen in Harry Potter - on the bridge in Scotland on the glenfinnan viaduct

Harry Potter is the story of a boy who learns he is a wizard. The films, based on the book series by J.K. Rowling, follows Harry and his two best friends through the years they’re attending a special school for wizards known as Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. 

Harry Potter has several filming locations across the UK, and there’s also a Warner Brothers Studio tour that lets you fully immerse yourself into the world of Harry Potter.

Visit Platform 9 ¾ at London’s King Cross Station before jetting off to Gloucester for a visit to the stunning Gloucester Cathedral, used in the first film for the bathroom and troll scenes.

Harry Potter Movie Poster

When it’s in public use, the Hogwarts train is called the Jacobite train and takes you through the highlands featured in Outlander. But the train and route are still the same featured in Harry Potter. Onboard, you get to ride over the famous Glenfinnan Viaduct, which is now more famous for being the “Harry Potter Bridge.” While riding this train you can either pretend you’re a wizard on your way to school or think of the history of Scotland featured in Outlander.

Bonus: The Secret Garden. This is a super old film (1993) and may not have inspired others as much as it inspired me. But the wildlife roaming the quiet, lonely moors covered in purple heather perfectly encapsulates how incredibly gorgeous England truly is.

The Simpsons – Portland, Oregon, USA

Portland Oregon Fluorescent Sign

This one might just be for Simpsons fans, as Springfield is meant to be Anytown, USA, but true Simpson fans should head to Portland, Oregon and take a self-guided tour of all the places Matt Groening took inspiration from for his incredible show.

The Simpsons is an animated sitcom that follows the Simpson family and all of the townsfolk of Springfield, USA.

I grew up watching the Simpsons and almost every day use a quote from one of my favourite episodes. I don’t know if I can really pick an all-time favourite episode, but I do have a soft spot for “Lisa’s Date with Density” from season eight. The thing I love about older episodes is that each generally had two storylines. In this particular episode, Lisa develops a crush on school bully Nelson. The subplot is one of the best, focusing on Homer’s telemarketing scam in which he uses a home auto-dialer for tele-panhandling.

The Simpsons DVD

Matt Groening used a lot of place names in Portland as names for his characters and streets. Groening himself lived on a street called Evergreen Terrace, which is where the Simpson family lives. Portland also features streets such as Burnside Street and Montgomery Park, Flanders Street, Kearney Street, Lovejoy Street, Quimby Street, Terwilliger Curves and Van Houten Avenue, just to name a few.

Get yourself a squishee and take your own walking tour of Portland to feel like a Simpson.

Jurassic Park & Lost – Hawaii

Lush green mountains with a stream of water flowing through in Hawaii

Hold onto your butts! A movie about a dinosaur park that goes awry and a TV show about a plane crash might not typically inspire wanderlust, but I assure you the scenes in this film and show will make you want to head to Hawaii.

Although Jurassic Park and Lost take place on a mythical island that doesn’t exist, both were filmed in Hawaii and showcase the incredibly beautiful surroundings of Oahu and Kauai.

Lost, which is about a group of people whose plane crashed on a tropical island full of mysterious, creepy things were filmed in Oahu. If you’re a fan of visiting filming locations, you can visit many of the ones from Lost for free. Mokule’ia Beach on Oahu’s North Shore is the crash site of Flight 815 and several scenes were filmed in the Valley of Lost, which is the Ka’a’awa Valley on Oahu’s Coast.

Jurassic Park Movie Poster

If you’re a bigger fan of Jurassic Park (the original from 1993 based on the novel by Michael Crichton) Billy and the Cloneasaurus…wait no, that was Principal Skinner’s version from the Simpsons. Michael Crichton’s book is called Jurassic Park and the plot follows a group of paleontologists who visit an amusement park full of cloned dinosaurs prior to its public opening.

Not only will you get to admire the lush surroundings of the Hawaiian islands, but you’ll also get to visit the filming locations at Kualoa Ranch in Oahu. You can even take a helicopter tour of the Manawaiopuna Waterfall in Kauai and imagine you’re Ian Malcolm (Jeff Goldblum) on his first visit to the island.

Whether you’re a Lost or Jurassic Park fan, you should head to Hawaii for the natural beauty and to let your imagination run wild.

Ah ah ah! You didn’t say the magic word!

Dennis from Jurassic Park saying "You didn't say the magic word"
Movies That Inspire Travel
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