If armchair travel really is the only option we have to get away at the moment, then what better way to explore the world than on film?
Road Trip America
If you’re craving a hit of America’s vast skies and sprawling landscapes, there are several films whose stories unfold against a backdrop of spectacular canyons, rolling desert and lush green hills. Rain Man – which snaffled an Oscar for Dustin Hoffman – uses a road trip across the States from Cincinnati to Las Vegas to explore the damaged relationship between the Babbit brothers; smooth car-dealer Charlie, and autistic Raymond (Hoffman). It’s a powerful, moving film and a fascinating glimpse of middle America, alongside the brothers’ story. Thelma and Louise is another iconic road movie which makes the most of California and Utah’s spectacular scenery, with two bored housewives embarking on a spontaneous crime spree which, somewhat inevitably (spoiler alert) doesn’t have the happiest of endings.
Plan a road trip across America with Exsus.
After all the recent images of an empty, silent Rome, the sight of Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck whizzing past the Coliseum on a scooter is the kind of life-affirming image we all need. Roman Holiday is impossible not to love; Hepburn as a princess, desperate to escape the formality of royal life, with Peck as the journalist who finds her on the street and treats her to the perfect Roman day out, taking in everything from the Trevi Fountain to the Spanish Steps.
Plan a city break in Rome with ExpertoItaly.
The vast plains of the Masai Mara and the claustrophobia of colonial life in the early 20th century merge together in this beautifully-shot movie of Karen Blixen’s autobiographical novel, Out of Africa. Throw in Robert Redford at his coolly smouldering best, Meryl Streep giving perfect accent, and spectacular aerial shots of the plains and rift valleys, complete with galloping wildebeest – and this is the perfect lockdown escape for safari lovers.
Plan a safari in Kenya with Mahlatini.
Most of us are walking more than ever right now, and this gentle film from Emilio Estevez, starring his father, Martin Sheen, is a fascinating insight into the long-distance walking route, the Camino di Santiago. The Way tells the story of a father who comes to Spain after his son dies on the first day of walking the Camino; as a tribute, he decides to complete the route himself. Martin Sheen’s transition from uptight, grieving parent to more open-minded traveller takes place against a glorious backdrop of the Pyrenees and Galicia.
Plan a trip to the Camino di Santiago with Wexas.
One of the best feelgood films of recent years, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel tells the story of a group of older Brits, looking to retire somewhere a little more exotic than Bexhill-on-Sea. Set in a rather sanitised-looking Jaipur, the palaces and countryside of Rajasthan are depicted in all their intoxicating beauty, with predictably nuanced performances from Judi Dench, Bill Nighy and Maggie Smith. Or, for a more realistic look at life in an Indian city, The Lunchbox is a (partly-subtitled) romantic story of an office worker who is delivered the incorrect lunchbox by one of Mumbai’s tiffin carriers. The note he sends back leads to a slow-burn friendship with an unhappy wife, and the relationship that develops between them is a lovely counterpart to the scenes of crammed commuter trains, drab offices and claustrophobic apartments.
Plan a bespoke trip to India with Transindus.
If you’re longing for a trip to one of Asia’s futuristic mega-cities, Lost In Translation is the perfect reminder of the joys and frustrations of hanging out in a world where cultural mores are wildly different from ours. Bill Murray’s ennuied actor, stuck in the city’s Park Hyatt hotel, is a perfect counterpoint to the chaotic, overwhelming city that surrounds him; a masterclass in quiet bewilderment, with just enough wry humour to keep things moving.
Plan a visit to Tokyo with Inside Japan Tours.
A beachfront taverna, a carafe of rose, and the sea lapping just a few feet away – it’s the kind of scene we’re all craving right now. Fortunately, you can live vicariously through Shirley Valentine – who does (let’s be honest) what we’ve all thought about at some time, and turned a two-week holiday on Mykonos into a life-changing experience. Although the film is 30 years old, Willy Russell’s script and Pauline Collins’ Shirley (plus an ace turn from Joanna Lumley as a high-class call girl) still feel fresh and funny. If there’s anyone left in the country who hasn’t seen Mamma Mia! now would be a good time; an all-signing, all dancing, high-camp Abba-thon, shot on the gorgeous islands of Skopelos and Skiathos.
Plan a trip to Mykonos with Inspired Luxury Escapes, and to Skopelos with GIC The Villa Collection.
Esther Freud’s semi-autobiographical tale about a young mother who moves to Marrakech with her two young daughters in the early 1970’s, Hideous Kinky is a glimpse of the city at the height of its popularity on the infamous ‘hippy trail’. Told from both the mother’s perspective (played by Kate Winslet) and the two young girls, this is a whimsical, intoxicating film that wholly transports you to 1970’s Morocco.
Plan a trip to Morocco with Fleewinter.
A surprise hit, Before Sunrise is a quiet, reflective film, where Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy meet on a train on his last day in Europe. He persuades her to disembark in Vienna, from where he is due to catch his flight back to the US the following day. With no money to rent a room in Vienna, they spend the night exploring the city’s cafes, bridges and canals, but the real beauty of the film is the dialogue between the two characters, and the growing attraction between them.
Plan a romantic weekend in Vienna with Kirker Holidays.
We may all be fantasising about tropical islands and exotic cities, but the furthest most of us may get for a while is a break in the UK. Withnail and I doesn’t perhaps present Cumbria in the most positive light as a weekend getaway, but this booze-soaked, politically incorrect, bittersweet tale of two out-of-work actors slowly going totally off the rails is a riot. To quote Withnail himself, watch with a glass or two of “the finest wines available to humanity”.
Plan a stay in Cumbria with Sykes Holiday Cottages.