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The Best Films About Travel of the Past 30 Years

Posted August 31st, 2009
by TravelInsurance.org Staff

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Traveling can be some of the most rewarding experiences of one’s life. They can also be some of the most difficult and trying. For every time that you had an opportunity to sit beneath the Eifel Tower and enjoy a latte’ and a baggett, there are times when you spend 5 hours on a tarmac waiting to get clearance to take off while the bathrooms are closed due to FAA rules.

Good and bad, traveling is a visceral and wonderful experience. As such traveling is fodder for humor and drama alike… making it the perfect backdrop for a great film. Throughout history there have been a great number of wonderful films about the tribes and tribulations of travel. Here is a list of some of our favorites.

“LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE” 2006

A wonderful tale about one dysfunctional family’s short but epic trip to take young Olive Hoover to the Little Miss Sunshine pageant in California. This film illustrates such an important portion of the coveted family trip in showing how truly and deeply you can get to know one another while traveling together inside of the confines of the family car… or a VW Bus.

“LOST IN TRANSLATION” (2003)

It is likely that this film speaks to you if you’ve ever spent any real portion of time in another country or another culture. There is a disconnect between the sights, sounds, smells, values, interests and ideals of a foreign country. Nowhere is this truer than in the confines of Tokyo Japan. This film is a wonderful lyric singing a song between the odd and mystic relationship building between the two leads (Bill Murray and Scarlet Johansen) as they try to makes heads or tails of this alien land. They find solace in each other and somewhat of a home together in the foggy midst of being strangers in a strange land.

BEFORE SUNRISE (1995) / BEFORE SUNSET (2004)

The thing about sequels is that they’re usually some add-on. The telling of an additional story that never needed to be told in the first place. This is not the case with these two films. In this case the sequel is a wonderfully quixotic bookend to an initially lovely story. Richard Linkelater’s first film was a beautiful masterpiece thanks in large part to earnest dialogue and remarkable chemistry between the leads (Ethan Hawke and Julie Deply). What Linklater captured so perfectly is the whimsical romance that seems to occur when young single people travel abroad. I once met a Norwegian girl in France when I was 20 years old and it was one of the most life affirming nights I’ve ever had. These films remind me of why I loved that time in my life and the travels I took.

“NATIONAL LAMPOONS: VACATION” 1983

Go ahead, sing it. You know you want to. “Holiday Roo-oo-oo-oo-oo-oo-oo-ad.” While this film is full of pratfall humor and physical comedy, and is clearly a gross exaggeration (driving with a dead Aunt on the car), it is the truth of the film that is the heart of its humor. If you’ve ever packed the kids into the old’ family station wagons (if you’re over 30) to drive a thousand miles to see a cartoon at a theme park, then there is no need to tell you why this film is such a classic.

“PLANES, TRAINS AND AUTOMOBILES” 1987

I recall one year when I was 19 and in the military, I tried desperately to make it home for Christmas but the weather was not participating. Starting in Pensacola Florida for a day, I traveled by Taxi to Mobile Alalabama, slept in an Airport terminal and had the fortune of being on the only flight to fly out that day. Whenever I see “Planes, Trains and Automobiles” I remember fondly that trip. It’s funny because at the time it was one of the most horrific experiences of my life but as time has passed I remember it as being a humorous adventure. Much the way that Neal (Steve Martin) begins to smile and laugh as he recalls the previous days spent with Del (John Candy). A quintessential film about the joy and angst of traveling during Thanksgiving, to call it a masterpiece would not be out of bounds. To this day, my family still watches this film each and every Thanksgiving.

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