By: Sarah Stone
The Secret Life of Walter Mitty is one of my favorite films. I saw it shortly after it was released, while on a flight to London—it got stuck in my head for the whole trip, so I watched it again on my flight back to the US.
Then as soon as I got home, I rented it and watched it again. And I got a tattoo inspired by it a few years later.
I’m a huge movie buff and can never choose my absolute favorites (it’s a toss-up between Jurassic Park and 28 Days Later)—but I can for sure compile lists for every mood and goal.
And if your goal is to be inspired to travel—to find courage and go into the unknown—here are 21 recommendations for truly excellent films to check out!
1. Into the Wild
A biographical adventure drama based on a true story, Into the Wild follows Christopher McCandless, who set out on a journey into Alaska after graduating from college in search of a meaningful life and spiritual enlightenment. The film captures McCandless’ encounters and growth as he traverses the wilderness and lives off the grid. The book by Jon Krakauer is fantastic as well.
2. The Grand Budapest Hotel
A whimsical comedy-drama, this film is set in the fictional Grand Budapest Hotel in the Republic of Zubrowka in the 1930s. The story is about Gustave H., a legendary concierge who forms a bond with Zero, a lobby boy, as they get caught up in the theft of a valuable painting and a battle over a family fortune.
3. The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou
I have to constrain this list to just two Wes Anderson films! But they’re all delightful, and The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou is my favorite of the bunch. The movie features a famous oceanographer (based on Jacques Cousteau) who sets out on a mission to seek revenge on the rare jaguar shark that ate his best friend. Along the way, he must deal with his estranged wife, a young pilot who may be his son, and a journalist who joins the crew to write about Zissou’s adventure.
4. The Beach
This psychological adventure set in Thailand follows a young backpacker who sets out to find a perfect, unspoiled beach he read about in a letter from a stranger. He joins a secret community living a seemingly idyllic lifestyle on an island—but of course not everything is as it seems.
5. The Secret Life of Walter Mitty
Comedy-drama—Walter Mitty is a timid, creative man who embarks on a global trek to find a missing film negative belonging to a photographer he admires. Along the way, he faces his fears and transforms into a more confident and adventurous person.
6. The Motorcycle Diaries
The Motorcycle Diaries tells the journey of Ernesto “Che” Guevara and Alberto Granado as they travel throughout South America, from Argentina to Venezuela, in the early 1950s. The film explores their experiences and growth as they encounter the realities of poverty, illness, and discrimination faced by indigenous people.
7. Where’d You Go, Bernadette
A comedy-drama film based on the bestselling novel, this film follows Bernadette Fox, a brilliant but troubled architect who goes missing just before a family trip to Antarctica.
8. In Bruges
A dark comedy crime film set in Belgium, In Bruges is about two hitmen who are sent lay low after a job goes wrong. As they hide out, they must face the consequences of their actions and find meaning and redemption in a type of purgatory.
9. Lost in Translation
A romantic comedy-drama, Lost in Translation follows Bob, a faded movie star, and Charlotte, a young college graduate. They form an unlikely bond and friendship while they both struggle with the disorientation and culture shock of life in Tokyo.
10. Encounters at the End of the World
A documentary directed by Werner Herzog, Encounters at the End of the World explores the beauty of the harsh Antarctic landscape and its impact on those who live and work there.
This movie is about a woman named Fern who, after the death of her husband and the recession of 2008, decides to live as a modern-day nomad and travel the country in a van. Along the way, she meets fellow nomads and forms a close-knit community of travelers.
12. The Talented Mr. Ripley
This psychological thriller features a young man named Tom Ripley who, after being sent to Italy to convince a rich shipbuilder’s son to come home, becomes enamored with the man’s lifestyle and begins to impersonate him. As Tom’s lies start to catch up with him, he must find increasingly dangerous ways to avoid being discovered.
13. Roman Holiday
This classic romantic comedy is about a restless princess who, while on a tour of Europe, decides to take a break from her duties and explore Rome incognito. She meets an American journalist, and together they embark on a journey of adventure and romance.
14. Planes, Trains and Automobiles
A fantastic comedy! Planes, Trains and Automobiles follows Neal, who’s constantly running into misfortune while trying to get home for Thanksgiving. He is forced to travel with loud, obnoxious salesman Del, and the two form an unlikely friendship.
A dark comedy-drama, Sideways is about friends Miles and Jack, who take a road trip to Santa Barbara wine country. Miles, an unpublished writer and wine connoisseur, tries to come to terms with his career and failed marriage while Jack, a washed-up actor, searches for one last fling before his upcoming wedding.
16. Under the Tuscan Sun
Under the Tuscan Sun is a romantic comedy-drama about a writer named Frances who, after a painful divorce, decides to buy a villa in Tuscany and start a new life. She learns to appreciate the simple joys of life and forms wonderful relationships with the people around her.
A biographical disaster movie, this chronicles the true story of the Mount Everest disaster of 1996, in which climbers from two expeditions died while attempting to summit the mountain.
18. The Thing
Set in a remote Antarctic research station, a mysterious and deadly shapeshifting creature terrorizes the crew, who begin to succumb to paranoia and violence. I’ve heard this actually is a popular movie among researchers stationed in Antarctica as well!
19. The English Patient
A historical romance set during World War II, The English Patient tells of the love affair between a nurse and a burned, amnesiac pilot in an Italian monastery. As the nurse cares for the pilot, she learns about his past and the tragic events that led to his injuries.
20. Thelma and Louise
A classic—Thelma and Louise are best friends who set out on a weekend vacation, which turns sour after a violent encounter at a bar. The pair become outlaws and flee toward Mexico, navigating increasingly dangerous situations.
Eurotrip follows a group of friends on a wild adventure through Europe as they try to track down a pen pal after a misunderstanding. It’s a sex comedy, it’s super dumb, and it’s a great Sunday watch.
22. Seven Years in Tibet
Seven Years in Tibet tells the story of Austrian mountaineer Heinrich Harrer, who, after being imprisoned in a British internment camp in India during World War II, escapes and travels to Tibet and becomes friends with the young Dalai Lama.
Want More Inspiration?
Check out these articles from the Frayed Passport community:
12 Best TV Shows Inspiring Travel: Departures, Parts Unknown
Parts Unknown – Anthony Bourdain’s 10 Best Episodes & Lessons on Travel
Roald Dahl’s World Travels and Their Influence on His Writing
About the AuthorAs the managing director of Frayed Passport, my goal is to help you build a lifestyle that lets you travel the world whenever you want and however long you want, and not worry about where your next paycheck will come from. I've been to 20+ countries and five continents, lived for years as a full-time digital nomad, and have worked completely remotely since 2015. If you would like to share your story with our community, or partner with Frayed Passport, get in touch with me at firstname.lastname@example.org!
Featured image by Raimond Klavins on Unsplash