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8 Unexpected Travel Movies You Probably Haven’t Seen Yet

There are the classic travel movies you know about, and then there are the newer and lesser-known travel-centric films that inspire a surprising amount of wanderlust. If you’re stuck at home thinking you’ve seen all the travel movies worth watching and rewatching, think again—here are eight unexpected options, ranging from action-packed blockbusters to indie flicks.

Downhill (2020)

The king and queen of comedy have come together for a vacation movie we can all get behind. Downhill stars Julia Louis-Dreyfus and Will Ferrell on a fictional family trip to the Alps that goes awry and forces them to ask hard questions about their relationship, family, and overall life together.

Charlie’s Angels (2019)

No one asked for a Charlie’s Angels reboot, but the new female-directed action movie is a surprisingly perfect travel movie for its use of many dazzling city landmarks as famous backdrops to fight and chase scenes. The new round of Angels fight bad guys in Hamburg, Germany; Istanbul, Turkey; and Chamonix, France. Anyone who’s seen Hamburg’s Philharmonic, Istanbul’s bazaars, and Chamonix’s apres ski charm will be floored.

Midsommar (2019)

Who says a horror film can’t be a travel movie? Midsommar made waves in 2019 for its haunting depiction of a fictional Swedish town that celebrates midsummer—a time when parts of the region see 24 hours of sunlight per day—with rituals carried out by a pagan cult. Keep in mind that it’s less sunny Swedish scenery and more gore and terror.

The Farewell (2019)

An independent film that racked up rave reviews and accolades in 2019, The Farewell follows a Chinese-American family overseas to visit their grandmother and stage a fake wedding when she’s (unknowingly) diagnosed with a terminal illness. A charming travel movie based on a surprisingly true story, it illustrates the divide—and some surprising similarities—between China and “the West.”

Little Women (2019)

A reboot that actually lives up to the literary classic, writer/director Greta Gerwig’s 2019 version of Little Women takes viewers back in time to both colonial New England and Paris via filming locations travelers still visit today. Concord, Massachusetts—the area where the movie was filmed—is also home to the historic Louisa May Alcott House, where Alcott wrote and set her novel Little Women. But the movie goes beyond the gorgeous New England scenery to 19th-century Paris.

The Trip to Spain (2017)

In a lesser-known movie version of their TV show The Trip, British comedians Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon set out on a culinary journey to Spain as fictional versions of their still-famous selves. The old friends’ witty banter (and many celebrity impressions) color their visits to iconic Spanish historic sites and many mouth-watering restaurants—follow along with your own tapas and wine at home for optimal viewing. (Bonus: A new movie from the duo called The Trip to Greece is due for release in 2020.)

Crazy Rich Asians (2018)

Perhaps a more-expected movie than the others on this list: If you want to truly unwind with a hilarious and effervescent romantic comedy, there are few as over-the-top as Crazy Rich Asians, the 2018 blockbuster based on the novel trilogy by Kevin Kwan. Explore sparkling Singapore by way of a down-to-earth couple attending their first family wedding together, where old money and a new girlfriend clash in a surprisingly tender love story.

The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014)

If you liked Wes Anderson’s The Darjeeling Limited as a travel movie, you’ll love the director’s The Grand Budapest Hotel for its similarly whimsical framing of a far-off, complex place. The film follows hotel staff at a 1930s ski resort as they uncover a murder and a mysterious painting, which fill in the rich cultural history of Eastern Europe with plenty of dark humor.

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SmarterTravel’s Shannon McMahon writes about all things travel. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram.

By Shannon McMahon

Editor Shannon McMahon is always planning her next trip and often writing in her travel journal. Follow her on Twitter @shanmcmahon_ and on Instagram @shanmcmahon.

Shannon joined SmarterTravel in 2015. A former news reporter, she's lived in the south of Spain, spotted elephants in Sri Lanka, gone spelunking in the Caribbean, hiked Jordan's Petra Basin, interviewed Sao Paulo's Michelin-Star chefs, and explored China via bullet train. Travel trends, news oddities, and her visits to up-and-coming destinations are some of her favorite things to write about.

Her stories have also appeared online on USA Today, The Sun, Huffington Post, Business Insider, blog.TripAdvisor.com, Boston.com, and more. Her educational background is in journalism, art history, gender studies, Spanish, and film. She's been quoted as an expert travel source by CNBC, People.com, MarketWatch, The Washington Post, USA Today, and more.

The Handy Item I Always Pack: "Plenty of extra thick hair elastics. They tame my frizzy curls and come in handy in a surprising number of packing and hotel dilemmas."

Ultimate Bucket List Experience: "Climbing (yes, climbing, it's steep!) the Great Wall of China before it's gone."

Travel Motto: "Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness." - Mark Twain

Aisle, Window, or Middle Seat: "Window, of course."

Email Shannon at smcmahon@smartertravel.com.

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