While doing research and compiling a list of top films that will inspire you to travel, explore, change, I stumbled upon this quote by Terry Pratchett. In A Hat Full of Sky, he wrote “Why do you go away? So that you can come back. So that you can see the place you came from with new eyes and extra colors. And the people there see you differently, too. Coming back to where you started is not the same as never leaving.” I wrote about a personal realization of a similar kind a while back. This need for travel, the insatiable desire which turns painful if I am stuck in the same place for too long, was always with me, but crystallized and augmented by these wonderful films that have given me much needed insight into the minds of travelers. These films will definitely make you feel and catch you off guard, but also give the encouragement we sometimes need.
1. The Secret Life of Walter Mitty
Ben Stiller’s crowning achievement as both actor and director epitomizes truth, beauty and life.
Stiller most elegantly navigates through the character’s inner change, walking through a fantastical world that has a few words to say about reality. I could not sing enough praises to The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, for my life was never the same after I saw it. It is not spectacular, in the superficial meaning of the word, but it is spectacular in its subtle, blunt, underrated and awe-inspiring storytelling. The film is based on James Thurber’s short story, which was already adapted for film in 1947. It is an adventurous comedy-drama that speaks of introspection, everyman and the courage necessary to go into the unknown.
2. The Bucket List
Another adventure, comedy, drama mix on my list. The film follows the brilliant friendship and journey of Morgan Freeman and Jack Nicolson’s characters. It is a beautiful reminder of the value of time, and the people we spend it with. Easily the best, most mature carpe diem film since The Dead Poet’s Society, The Bucket List is a movie that will shake you from your one-track mind, inspire you to travel, and teach you how unfair and brilliant life is. At the end, it will leave you on top of Mt. Everest with tears in your eyes and a smile on your face (at least that was my state).
3. The Lord of the Rings Trilogy
The Lord of the Rings films are not just one of the greatest movie trilogies ever filmed, but the quintessence of the epic adventure genre.
It is true that people jokingly describe them as a 10-hour commercial for New Zealand, but that is in no way a bad thing. Peter Jackson will take you from the highest peaks to the lowest valleys and into the depths of the mines of Moria. The sheer grandeur and esthetic pleasure are unparalleled. However, while these films may inspire you to travel, see the world, go on adventure, I personally think they are less about the journey and more about coming home. The ‘coming home’ I speak of is the nostalgia with which Tolkien imbued his books. It does not have to mean literal return from whence you started, but it can be interpreted as the search for home, having it on your mind and finding your peace. It is a fantasy, adventure, drama, fairytale and an homage to the mythical splendor that Tolkien dearly loved. At one time or another, we all dream of a place like the Shire.
4. Howl’s Moving Castle
One of Miyazaki’s crowning achievements, Howl’s Moving Castle is a film that will teach you that taking a journey does not always mean going somewhere.
This movie explores themes of personal journeys, finding strength, lost youth and passion, and finding help along the way. Interestingly enough, the film’s moving castle is the only constant in the story, for all the characters coming and going undertake a change. The castle keeps going and going, rolling over breathtaking, magic infused landscapes and taking the viewers with it. Howl’s Moving Castle is a wonderful mixture of animation, realism, mystery and enchantment.
The other animated feature on the list, nonetheless serious than other entries, is Pixar’s best film (in my personal opinion), Up.
A story about an old man, a boy, and a house, yet, the characters leap off the screen with a feel of realism about them, as if they could be living amongst us. Yes, a flying house, mystical bird, talking dogs, magical land are all foreign to the real world, but the desire, dream, and disappointment of life are far too real. Up tells the story of how life can get in the way of dreams, and how regret and loss can eat out at people, leaving them bitter shells of themselves. On the upside, it leaves us with a hope that the inspiration and beauty of the unknown can change even the hardest hearts.
6. Tracks and 7. Into the Wild
I thought it fitting to put these two stories together, as they are deeply similar and drastically opposite. One sure thing is that these films will inspire you to travel, whatever the reason for it.
Both Tracks and Into the Wild are based on true stories about real people. In search of solitude and a chance to converse with nature, both Robyn Davidson and Alexander Supertramp venture into harsh environments – Australian outback and Alaskan wilderness. Tracks focuses on the wild Australian dessert, its devastating strength paralleled only by its beauty. While Robyn takes her camels and dog to travel in order to connect to her life, family and past, Alex travels to break all connections. His exploration of the simple life and the joyous living off the land in the cold North is motivated by the need to escape. Even though one of these stories ends in tragedy, both of the characters find their answers in the end. If you are looking for a compelling adventurous drama, which is also a biography, any of these two will answer your questions. Nevertheless, be ready for the harsh truths and unadulterated reality.
8. Seven Years in Tibet
The last entry on my list is another film based on real events and people. The film’s main characters are Heinrich Harrer (played by Brad Pitt), an Austrian mountain climber, and the Dalai Lama, the foremost temporal and spiritual leader of Tibet.
In this dramatic biography of war and friendship, the story follows a young man to the highest country in the world, and captures his transformation into a man of beliefs, love and desire for peace. While the film attracted some controversy with its release, it is undoubtedly a beautiful sight for the eyes, even at its most gruesome depictions of war. The characters and the viewers end up being completely taken by these treacherous, snow-covered peaks and the secluded land of peace. This film will inspire you to travel into the great lands scarcely known to the Western world.
Do you agree with my list? Is there a film you would add? Share your thoughts and suggestions below!
*Disclaimer: I do not own any of the photos used in the post.