The Academy Awards are just around the corner, which means it’s just about that time to watch all of the other Academy Award nominees and winners across the years. From 1979 to 2017, here are some of our favorite travel movies (so to speak) to win or get a nomination for Best Picture:
Lion (Nominated, 2017)
Get ready to cry. This 2017 nominee for best picture is one to go see if you’re in the mood for a good sob.
The plot of the movie – a little boy loses his family after falling asleep on a train in India and is subsequently adopted by new parents in Australia, then he uses Google Earth and walks across India to track down his real parents 25 years later – sounds completely implausible. Yet, shockingly this travel story for the modern ages is based on a true story that illustrates the power of love (and Google).
The Grand Budapest Hotel (Nominated, 2015)
The saying goes something like, “It’s not the destination, it’s the journey.” But sometimes the destination is just as important. Wes Anderson’s whimsical film has journeys galore: prison breaks, murders, train rides and chase scenes on skis and motorbikes.
But its real star is the grandiose hotel itself, set in the fictional Eastern European land called Zubrowkto, with its meticulously hand-designed set. And Ralph Fiennes as the purple-suited, legendary concierge M. Gustave is brilliant.
Midnight in Paris (Nominated, 2012)
It’s almost impossible not to fall in love with Paris in Woody Allen’s ode to the City of Lights. The only problem is that the Paris you fall in love with is one that no longer exists. Starring Owen Wilson as a less neurotic version of Woody Allen, Midnight in Parisis beautiful, hilarious and ambitious, seeking to answer the question of why humans are always so unsatisfied in the time in which we live.
The elements of surrealism and cameos by the likes of Ernest Hemingway and Salvador Dali make this, without a doubt, Allen’s best film in the late part of his career.
Slumdog Millionaire (Won, 2009)
On the surface, Slumdog Millionaireis a feel-good underdog story, but it’s also a brilliant love letter to India – the kind of love letter that hurts to read because it’s filled with some painful moments mixed in with all the beauty.
Romance, hope, and all things Bollywood drive the movie, but the fact that it doesn’t shy away from India’s more unpleasant aspects are what make it such a complex and relevant movie.
Little Miss Sunshine (Nominated, 2007)
Just admit it. At some point in your life you wanted to go on a road trip in a VW bus. But after vicariously experiencing the physical and communication breakdowns, freakouts and dead bodies of the Hoover family, you’ll probably be grateful you never lived out that fantasy in real life.
Still, Little Miss Sunshine is heartbreaking, inspiring and straight up hilarious (it’s a lot easier to laugh about pushing a bus from the comfort of your own couch than it is from behind the fender in the midday heat).
Lord of the Rings Trilogy (Won in 2003, nominated in 2001 and 2002)
Peter King’s marathon-length fantasy movies are probably the only films on this list that have actually built an entire travel industry. Thousands of people every year now flock to New Zealand to see the true star of the trilogy: the dramatic scenery.
From the real-life Hobbiton near Matamata on the North Island to guided tours into the countryside to see the landscapes where Gandalf and company journeyed to Middle Earth, there are enough Lord of the Rings destinations to warrant a trip to New Zealand.
Lost in Translation (Nominated, 2004)
If there’s anywhere to get lost in translation, it’s Japan: the world capital of communication breakdowns and culture shock, where even figuring out how to flush the toilet seems impossible.
Bill Murray stars as the quintessential stranger in a strange land, illustrating the essence of what it’s like to go on a solo journey – the fear, the loneliness, falling in love with a place that once seemed so isolating, and the immediate (but fleeting) bonds forged with the people we meet on the road.
Titanic (Won, 1998)
The Titanic is probably the most notorious case of travel disaster in history. But amid the frozen bodies and icebergs straight ahead, James Cameron’s mostly fictional account of what went down on the boat that God himself could most definitely sink, has some great travel tips.
For instance, mix it up with the folks in steerage, because they have the best dance parties. If a beautiful woman asks you to draw her naked, you do it, even if you have no concept of how to use a pencil. And when all hell breaks loose, never let go of the ones you love. But for God’s sake, whatever you do, don’t be that couple at the front of the boat with your arms at your sides, yelling “I’m the king of the world.”
Forrest Gump (Won, 1995)
Forrest Gumpis the ultimate travel film. Forrest lives out more adventures in his 142 minutes of screen time than most of us could live out in a lifetime.
He makes his way from the Vietnam War to China for the ping pong championships, then off to the bayou to become a shrimp boat captain. And let’s not even get started about those three years he spent running back and forth across the continent.
Midnight Express (1979)
We’re kidding, we’re kidding. Midnight Express probably hasn’t inspired anyone to travel. Ever. If anything, the old-school version of Brokedown Palace (or cinematic version of Locked Up Abroad, if you prefer) has scared people into just staying home.
But just because the story of an American traveler thrown in into an Istanbul prison exposes a dark side of travel, doesn’t mean it’s not a compelling two hours of storytelling that might have you questioning your ethics.