For the inveterate armchair traveler, movies provide the perfect dose of escapism, entertainment, and, above all, wanderlust, that is so important during these days of self-isolation. From the search for a perfect beach in Mexico, to Rome in all its black-and-white splendor and present-day glory, here are a few reasons to revisit some of your favorite movies as remotes replace passports for the foreseeable future.
A fairy-tale romance is at the heart of director William Wyler’s 1953 black-and-white classic. Audrey Hepburn plays Princess Ann, who flees her stifling royal duties to take a tour of Europe and see how the other half lives. She encounters an American journalist (Gregory Peck) at the ruins of the Arch of Settimio Severo, and the couple take in all that the Eternal City has to offer: the Trevi Fountain, the Spanish Steps, the Colosseum, Castel Sant’Angelo, Piazza del Popolo, and Piazza Venezia, as well as the infamous scene at the Piazza Bocca della Verità, aka the Mouth of Truth. The film garnered 10 Oscar nominations (Hepburn won for Best Actress) and put Vespa on the map, introducing the stylish Italian motor scooter to international audiences. Perhaps Princess Ann sums it up best as she exclaims, “Rome, by all means, Rome!”
Out of Africa
Take Robert Redford and Meryl Streep, add passion, romance, John Barry’s incredibly moving soundtrack, and epic landscapes, and you have the seven-time Academy Award–winning classic. Set in the early 1900s in British-ruled Kenya, the film is based on Danish author Karen Blixen’s memoir (which she wrote under the pseudonym of Isak Dinesen) about her life as a baroness and coffee plantation owner in Africa and her affair with handsome big-game hunter Denys Finch Hatton. Filmed at the Shaba National Game Reserve and Ngong Dairy in northern Kenya, production designer Stephen Grimes faithfully re-created Blixen’s home and the all-male members-only Muthaiga Country Club. Out of Africa also provides one of the most memorable scenes in cinema, where Redford’s Finch Hatton takes Blixen, portrayed by Streep, on a plane ride over the richly colored landscape of the Masai Mara as the wildebeests migrate below.
Eat Pray Love
The romantic sophistication of Rome, the lush landscapes of Bali, and the spirituality of India all compose the journey in author Elizabeth Gilbert’s 2010 novel turned film. The classic midlife-crisis story of a divorcée (played by Julia Roberts) who uses travel to find herself is ingeniously told in three parts—“Eat” in Rome, “Pray” in India, and “Love” in Bali. Rome finds our heroine expanding her knowledge (and waistline) with the local cuisine (she also hits Naples for world-class pizza) against the backdrop of Piazza Navona cafes and fountains. In the ashrams of India, she masters the art of meditation. Gilbert eventually finds love in Bali (with Felipe, played by Javier Bardem), where the pair shop for silk scarves in the Ubud markets, soak up the ancient culture, and enjoy the pristine beaches of Padang Padang.
Under the Tuscan Sun
Also an adaptation of a best-selling book with Italy and post-divorce angst at the core is this 2003 film. Author Frances Mayes’s story of divorce and writer’s block is solved by an impulsive move to Tuscany, where Frances (played by Diane Lane) purchases and renovates a villa known as Bramasole. Filmed in Cortona, Siena, Florence, Arezzo, and the Amalfi Coast’s picturesque Positano (where she has a fling with a handsome antique dealer), the movie is a lesson in all things Tuscan without the overseas flight. Vineyards, olive trees, incredible vistas (the restoration of her villa is pure design porn), and the pleasures of living la dolce vita await.
Best Exotic Marigold Hotel
A love letter to Jaipur, this romantic comedy tells the tale of seven British retirees allured by a brochure that promises a luxurious life in Rajasthan, in northern India. Actors Judi Dench, Tom Wilkinson, Bill Nighy, and Maggie Smith portray the group (each with his or her own reason for leaving the United Kingdom), while Slumdog Millionaire star Dev Patel plays hotel owner Sonny Kapoor. The Ravla Khempur, a 17th-century royal palace that is now an equestrian hotel and home to Marwari dancing horses, doubles as the cinematic location of the Bet Exotic Marigold . Ready for its close-up, Jaipur’s rose-colored buildings, City Palace, and charismatic markets along with a journey to Udaipur, the “City of Lakes,” will briefly transport you.
The Before Trilogy: Before Sunrise, Before Sunset, and Before Midnight
Filmed over an 18-year period (1995 to 2013, to be exact), director Richard Linklater’s groundbreaking three-part romantic trilogy chronicles lovers who meet by chance in Vienna. Julie Delpy plays Paris University student Céline, Ethan Hawke plays budding writer and American tourist Jesse, and their romance is portrayed against the backdrop of a train and the city sights of Vienna in Before Sunrise; in the local cafes, bookstores, and scenic strolls around Paris in Before Sunset; and finally, in a picture-perfect Greek retreat called Kardamili Pier, and the ruins of the Ancient Theatre of Messini in Before Midnight. As compelling as the love story is, the settings just might be the stars of this trilogy.
Paris Can Wait
In a case of fact mirroring cinematic fiction, filmmaker Eleanor Coppola’s (wife of famed director Francis Ford Coppola) real-life experience became the inspiration for her film. Diane Lane plays the wife of a film studio head (Alec Baldwin) who accompanies her husband to the Cannes Film Festival, only to be dismayed as he leaves unexpectedly for business in Budapest. Instructing her husband’s producing partner (Arnaud Viard) to drive her to Paris, the two embark on a journey through the Provençal countryside in his broken-down Peugeot, stopping for six-course meals along the way. Filmed in Cannes, Bouches-du-Rhône, Lauris, and Cadenet, with a stop in Lyon at the Musée des Tissus, Paris Can Wait is a bucolic travelogue of atmospheric rides through charming French towns (and, yes, they eventually make it to Paris). Make sure you have cheese, chocolates, and a bottle of Bordeaux ready for viewing.
Crazy Rich Asians
Adapted from Kevin Kwan’s best-selling novel of the same name, the film is the juggernaut rom-com story of New Yorker Rachel Chu, who attends a wedding in Singapore with her boyfriend, where she must deal with his wealthy, disapproving family in the process. While the cast and story are entertaining, the real star may be Singapore itself. From the minute the couple land in the multiculturally rich country, the film becomes a travelogue of unique cuisine, Peranakan-style antiques, high-end contemporary interiors, haute couture, and eye-candy settings. An over-the-top wedding ceremony (where the bride walks down the aisle on water) at a 19th-century Gothic convent (Chijmes Hall), followed by a lavish reception on the meticulously manicured Gardens by the Bay, is one of the many highlights of the film.
Y Tu Mamá También
A beautiful virgin beach provides a significant plot point in director Alfonso Cuaron’s 2001 Mexican coming-of-age saga. Told in 1999, the story involves two boys who meet their cousin’s wife at a wedding in Mexico City and embark on the ultimate road trip in search of a fictitious beach called “Boca del Cielo.” The actual coastal lagoon of Playa Cacaluta (located on Huatulco, Oaxaca) is known for its seclusion, beauty, and assorted bird population, and is only accessible by a boat ride from Santa Cruz. As you watch this classic road trip flick about love, friendship, and discovery, soak in the film’s diverse ambiance.
Originally Appeared on Architectural Digest