And the award for best travel movies goes to.... - Brownell Travel

And the award for best travel movies goes to….

best travel movies

Well we couldn’t quite narrow it down for one (though we did round up our 5 favorite travel movies last year), so we talked to movie guru Travel Advisor Marion McDonald. She shares a roundup of movies based on location below.

As a HUGE cinema junkie and a hopeless romantic, many of my travels have been inspired by the movies I have watched throughout my life – a bad case of cinematic wanderlust!  In fact, I would say that is probably why I decided to leave home and spend a year in France at the age of 16.  Some of my all-time favorites which bring destinations to life include:


  • A Good Year – Russell Crowe’s stressed out financier character trades the daily grind of the London Stock Exchange for a more peaceful existence when he finds love and happiness in the arms of Marion Cotillard in beautiful Provence.
  • French Kiss – Adorable Meg Ryan and a down-on-his-luck Frenchman Kevin Kline (accent is pretty authentic!) fall in love as they chase her ex-fiancé from Paris to the French Riviera – pretty magnifique!
  • The Longest Day – What a privilege it was to finally set foot on the Normandy Battlefields where so many of my father’s generation sacrificed their lives for us!  That movie is an absolute MUST for anyone wanting to visit those D Day sites.  It was really touching when my wheelchair bound father was able to revisit this area 52 years later aboard the beautiful Sea Cloud II (Lindblad).


  • Under the Tuscan Sun – I am sure that this true story of Frances Mays’ quest to find herself after a devastating divorce has inspired many people to discover Tuscany and Positano (and possibly cash in their own life savings in search of love and happiness).
  • Letters from Juliet – A 40 year old love affair is rekindled after a scenic road trip from Verona through Tuscany, which is especially poignant when you know that in real life the actors actually met that long ago and were eventually married after a reunion many years later!
  • A Room with a View – This Merchant and Ivory masterpiece brings back the romantic era of travel with Florence as its scenic backdrop.  No wonder Italy is consistently the #1 most requested destination in the world (and being a specialist in that area, I am very grateful!).
  • A Little Romance – As a young teenage girl, I was captivated by this story of two young kids who run away from Paris to Venice on a quest to kiss at sunset under the Ponte dei Sospiri (Bridge of Sighs).  Diane Lane was lucky to grow up and have another chance to star in a romantic film set in Italy (see Under the Tuscan Sun above).


  • Mamma Mia – Set on the lusher Ionian Sea side of Greece, this movie would make anyone want to drop everything and run off to the Med!  I have had the great fortune of traveling to this part of Greece twice.


  • Sound of Music – To this day, Salzburgers are grateful for the huge boost to tourism this 50 year old movie has had (that stunning opening scene high up in the Alps is one of my all time favorites).  I have booked that Sound of Music tour at least twice this summer.


  • Doctor Zhivago – Though it paints a picture of a troubling time in Russia, this David Lean masterpiece is still the #1 reason why that country remains on my personal bucket list, though I don’t know if could handle those painfully cold winters Yuri and Lara endured!  If I ever get there, I will be sure to download the entire soundtrack and pop those earbuds in on the long flight…


  • The English Patient – From the sweeping aerial vistas of the Sahara Desert to the candlelit scenes in the centuries old Tuscan church, this romantic movie almost makes you want to step back into time as a World War II army nurse!
  • Out of Africa – There is no way to measure the impact this one film must have had on safari tourism to East Africa!
  • Lawrence of Arabia – Though it is supposedly set in Saudi Arabia, most of the movie was filmed in Morocco and Andalucia, Spain, and stunning cinematography punctuated by an amazing musical score garnered this epic a Best Picture Oscar!
  • The Spy who Loved Me – Though this James Bond movie is hardly deserving a place alongside these other cinematic heavyweights, I have to admit that it was the single biggest inspiration for my trek to the Great Pyramids of Egypt, and I did indulge in a cheesy nighttime sound and light show, just like 007!


  • The Descendants – Who could resist the combination of George Clooney and that gorgeous scenery on the north shore of Kauai??
  • South Pacific – Though it was supposedly set in French Polynesia, this Rodgers & Hammerstein classic offers stunning scenery set to an incredible score, one of my all time favorite musicals!  I finally lived my dream and got to the real Bali Ha’i when I found myself in an overwater suite at the Four Seasons Bora Bora!


  • Eat, Pray, Love – This is really a triple whammy, also featuring Italy and India, but it really inspires me to get to Bali (or maybe it is just Javier Bardem!).


  • A River Runs Through It – Who wouldn’t be inspired to go try their hand at fly fishing in this gorgeous part of our country (especially if it means you could do it with Brad Pitt!)?

 South America

  • Up! – This beautiful animated Pixar masterpiece really struck a chord with me about putting off our travel dreams, though the old man finally gets a chance to see the world, albeit sadly without his deceased wife.  The animations of the Brazilian jungle and Venezuela’s Angel Falls are stunning and really draw the audience in.  That area has been added to my bucket list!

Outer Space

  • Gravity – As a little girl I dreamed of becoming an astronaut, and this movie, whose creators used groundbreaking techniques to bring space travel to life serves as great inspiration to those who want to experience the new Virgin Galactic product.  I think Sir Richard Branson would quadruple his sales if he could convince George Clooney to come along for the inaugural flight (even if he is off the market now)!