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10 Romantic Travel Movies to Fuel Your Wanderlust

By Chelsea La Near

The best cinema transports us to new places where we can vicariously take part in the characters’ experiences. Movies about travel, where the characters are themselves transported to new places, can give us a double dose of escapism.

Travel, with its sense of excitement and mystery, is an inherently romantic endeavor that translates well to the silver screen. Combine it with romantic love, with its own sense of excitement and mystery, and you get a truly transportive film experience.

The best cinema also often inspires us to seek those new places and experiences for ourselves. At Parlay Vacay, we’ve compiled a list of our favorite romantic travel movies to fuel your wanderlust and inspire your next adventure.


1. Before Sunrise (1995)

This is the first and best film in a trilogy of pretty great romantic travel movies. Julie Delpy and Ethan Hawke give compelling performances as Céline, a French student on her way back to Paris, and Jesse, a traveling American, who meet on a train coming from Budapest. Jesse convinces Céline to hop off of the train in Vienna to spend the next 14 hours with him before he has to fly back the the US in the morning. Whimsical romance ensues as the characters get to know each other wandering through the inarguably romantic streets of the Austrian capital. The minimalist plot relies entirely on the chemistry between the two characters and the magic of their new surroundings. At the end of the film, Céline and Jesse decide not to exchange contact information, but to meet at this exact same place at the same time in 6 months.

This last scene is why the film resonates with me so much as a traveler, and why I consider it among the greatest of all travel movies. It perfectly captures the transience and uncertainty of the meaningful relationships we build along our journeys. We may never see this person again, so best revel in our limited time together. Though the characters do agree to meet again, there's no guarantee that they actually will. In fact, it seems downright improbable, and the viewer gets to decide what their future holds. Of course, sequels proved that Céline and Jesse did reunite. But truthfully, I prefer the ending where they don't.

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2. Y Tu Mamá También (2001)

This coming-of-age road movie from award-winning director Alfonso Cuarón was before its time and has thus aged flawlessly. Julio (Gael García Bernal) and Tenoch (Diego Luna) are two teenage best friends in Mexico City who end up on a road trip with the beautiful 28-year old Louisa, who has recently received some devastating news. An erotic love triangle develops between Louisa and both men, and both men and each other, as they traverse rural Mexico en route to nowhere. Actually, they're trying to find a fabled beach called "Boca de Cielo" (Heaven's Mouth) which the men invented to get Louisa to travel with them. A year after their road trip ended, Julio and Tenoch run into each other in Mexico City and have coffee during which we learn that the two former friends have fallen out of touch. Tenoch relays news about Louisa that gives a new perspective to their adventures together. There will be tears for another travel film about the importance of cherishing our connections and experiences along the way, set against the vibrant and beautiful backdrop of rural Mexico.

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3. The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (2013)

A quintessential travel film with breathtaking scenes from Greenland, Iceland, and the Himalayas that will give you a serious case of wanderlust. Walter Mitty, played by Ben Stiller, is a Life magazine employee who has led an admittedly unremarkable life. His job is to manage the photo negatives taken by his adventurous coworker, the celebrated photojournalist Sean O'Connell (Sean Penn). When the negative that is supposed to be used in the final print edition of Life magazine turns up missing, Walter embarks on the journey of a lifetime to track it down.

The romance between Cheryl (Kristen Wiig), who also works at Life magazine, and Walter is definitely a subplot, but assists in driving Walter's decisions to take chances. She tells him that "life is about courage and going into the unknown." He later imagines her singing "Space Oddity" and sees her face in a murmur of birds during crucial moments of the film. The poignant and positive ending reminds us to appreciate the people around us and all of the things they do to make life happen.


4. Romancing the Stone (1984)

I honestly still don't know how this gem of a romantic comedy adventure works so well, but it does. Joan Wilder (Kathleen Turner) lives a comfortable and at times lonely life as an adventure romance novelist in New York City. After a series of tongue-in-cheek events, she finds herself in Colombia to rescue her kidnapped sister. Suddenly, Joan is caught up in a real-life adventure of her own where she meets the swashbuckling and suave American mercenary, Jack T. Colton (Michael Douglas). En route to accomplishing their respective goals, they wind up on a treasure hunt through the jungle in search of a green diamond.

The exhilarating and unexpected action never lets up as this cinematic thrill takes you through sweeping scenes of the Colombian jungle and drops yous off among the historic stone walls of Cartagena. Kathleen Turner is compelling as a fish-out-of-water city girl turned impressive heroine, and her chemistry with Michael Douglas sparkles with sincere romance. Danny DeVito delights in his element as comedic crook while Manuel Ojeda is genuinely intimidating as the corrupt villain Zolo. This time-capsule worthy travel movie has something for everyone, and is just so fun! Check out the trailer, in which Danny DeVito will tell you exactly nothing about the film.