Anyone else bumming you haven’t gotten a new stamp in your passport for awhile? Thanks to a certain worldwide pandemic, now’s not a great time for people who love travel. I canceled what would have been my first ever trips to New York City and France, and I don’t feel confident about rescheduling these canceled vacations anytime soon.
If you’re like me and wish you walking the Seine or touring The Met, I’m here to help with the only happy medium I can find: watching movies that make you feel like you’re on vacation. Whether you were dreaming of the tropics or touring a new town, these are the top picks to give you a taste of the trip you’re missing. Plus, these are mostly feel-good, with a dash of action and thrills, so you can enjoy your evening in. No need to add another downer to your day! Here are 13 movies to make you feel like you took your vacation despite corona.
Your first visit to New York City: Ocean’s Eight (2018)
The site I most wanted to see in New York? The Met. While Ocean’s Eight isn’t a true museum tour, it’s as close as you can get in a movie. Sandra Bullock is planning a jewel heist during the Met Gala, which is as fun and fashionable as it sounds. The plot has as many twists and turns as the building and almost as many superstars as masterpieces (like Awkwafina, Cate Blanchett, Helena Bonham Carter, Anne Hathaway, Mindy Kaling, Sarah Paulson, and Rihanna).
A stay on an island resort: Jurassic Park (1993)
Of all the movies on this list, this one might make you glad you’re staying home. Though the scenery is as gorgeous as you’d expect the Hawaiian islands, the characters of Jurassic Park quickly wish they’d never visited an island where dinosaurs live again. Still scary almost 30 years later, even the special effects of this Spielberg classic have aged well.
An adventure in Iceland: The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (2013)
This dramedy looks like it was made to satisfy all your #wanderlust searches on Instagram. Walter Mitty (Ben Stiller) is a daydreamer whose career and crush on Kristen Wiig will both collapse if he can’t break out of his comfort zone. In this case, it means traveling to Greenland, Iceland, and the Himalayas, as well as finding the courage to live his dreams instead of just imagining them.
Your class trip: The Lizzie McGuire Movie (2003) and Spider-man: Far From Home (2019)
Class trips come with a lot of expectations, and these movies capture the fantasies and transformations we hope will come true when we travel. Singing onstage with a pop star? Saving the world from a super villain? And — scariest of all — having the guts to tell your crush you like her? All on the itinerary for Lizzie McGuire and Peter Parker. They go on the adventures you hope you’d have with some gorgeous views of Rome, Venice, Prague, Berlin, and London.
An African safari: A United Kingdom (2016)
This historical drama tells the true story of an African prince (David Oyelowo) who falls in love with a British citizen (Rosamund Pike) in the 1940s. Their love becomes a scandal, not just because of their different races, but because her homeland is trying to retain control of his country (now Botswana). If you just want to watch animals on the African plains without a compelling story, you can watch the corny Netflix movie Holiday in the Wild, but if you’d prefer a moving story on the African plains, try A United Kingdom.
A cruise: Shall We Dance (1937)
One of the best onscreen pairs ever, Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, dance their way across the sea. Not all of this takes place on the ocean liner, but one of its most memorable scenes is Astaire tap dancing in the engine room of the boat. You’ll also enjoy an all-time favorite Fred and Ginger dance routine on roller skates, plus Ginger’s beautiful gowns at sea and on land.
Your trip Down Under: The Lord of the Rings (2001-03)
Visiting the filming locations of The Lord of the Rings is a whole brand of New Zealand tourism, and once you watch this trilogy, you’ll know why. Mountains, plains, forests, caves and rivers are the backdrop for a group of mythical characters on a quest to destroy the One Ring and defeat evil in Middle Earth. If you fall in love with the scenery, you can check out the prequel Hobbit trilogy (2012-14), too. The storytelling isn’t as strong, but you’ll love the landscapes.
A tour of Paris: Midnight in Paris (2011)
The magic, history and artistry of a new place come alive for Owen Wilson when he visits Paris with his fiancée. At midnight, he travels back to the 1920s to meet some of the most influential creators of the 20th century, including F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald (Tom Hiddleston, Alison Pill), Salvador Dalí (Adrien Brody), and Gertude Stein (Kathy Bates).
A vacation to Singapore: Crazy Rich Asians (2018)
One of the best romantic comedies of the decade stars one of the funniest and most charming casts around. Rachel (Constance Wu) travels to Singapore to meet her boyfriend’s (Henry Golding) family and discovers they’re insanely wealthy and he’s one of the most eligible bachelors around. Their vacation turns into a test of their relationship, but it’s also a tour of some of the country’s most exciting city and tropical locales.
Your takeoff to the skies: Up (2009)
Maybe you had an unusual activity planned this spring and summer. Hot air balloon ride? Helicopter tour? Sky diving? You might remember Up as the movie that made you cry in the first 10 minutes, but it’s also the movie that will most make you feel on top of the world thanks to Carl and Russell’s journey in a balloon-hoisted home. Bonus: You get the South American jungle experience when they land, and it might even make you realize how much fun you can have in your own house.
A hike in the Southwest: Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969)
This trip is on my bucket list! Although I’ve never made it out to hike through the Southwest, I have watched two of the nicest thieves trek the most scenic areas of Colorado, Mexico, New Mexico and Utah. A little bit of comedy, a little bit of action and a whole lot of Paul Newman and Robert Redford make this film as fun as your canceled vacations.
An excursion to Antarctica: Where’d You Go, Bernadette (2019)
Yep, I wanted to hit all seven continents. Unfortunately, Antarctica doesn’t host many film crews, so I’m adding this dramedy even though the Antarctica scenes were filmed in Greenland. You’ll still get the chilly feel of the South Pole, and you’ll probably identify with Bernadette’s many travel concerns after living through a pandemic. But Bernadette’s journey is all about overcoming fear and coming alive — it won’t leave you stuck in your anxieties.
No, canceled vacations are a big bummer, but these 13 movies will help you explore from your very own couch. Find out more about these movies on Letterboxd and make them the soundtrack of your life on Spotify.
What are your favorite movies to make you feel like you’re on vacation? Get more recommendations for travel-themed movies here.