tokyo street with lights and signs

Transport yourself to the lights of Tokyo in “Lost in Translation.” (Photo: Matteo Colombo / DigitalVision)

Culture + Style

15 Movies and TV Shows That Inspire Wanderlust

You don’t have to leave the house to experience a romantic European getaway or an epic road trip — travel lies inches away on your big (or little) screen. When vacation eludes you and you’re stuck at home, streaming these movies and TV shows will transport you to another time or place, immersing you in vibrant cultures and distant landscapes.

They might even inspire your next vacation.

Lost in Translation (2003)

An aging actor and a young woman form a bond that finds them exploring Tokyo’s nightlife and culture together. The Sophia Coppola comedy-drama is both whimsical and meditative, touching on themes of isolation and culture shock while highlighting some of the metropolis’ best bars, restaurants, hotels and locations, such as the neon lights of Kabukicho in Shinjuku and Shibuya Crossing.

The Motorcycle Diaries (2004)

A road movie, coming-of-age story and biopic all at once, the Gael García Bernal–led film follows a young Che Guevara in 1952 as he travels across South America and takes in the lush sceneries of Bolivia, Chile, Venezuela and Peru. The experience changes the course of his life forever.

Wild (2014)

To heal from the death of her mother and her broken marriage, Cheryl Strayed (played by Reese Witherspoon) walks alone along a 1,100 mile stretch of the Pacific Crest Trail from the Mojave Desert to the Canadian border.

Based on Strayed’s bestselling 2012 memoir, the movie tells a powerful story of rebuilding one’s self after tragedy, with a beautiful backdrop of mountains and deserts.

Paris, je t’aime (2006)

paris eiffel tower
You, too, will love Paris. (Photo: Harald Nachtmann / Moment)

If you aren’t already in love with the French capital, “Paris, je t’aime” will leave you enamored. The star-studded anthology features 18 vignettes about relationships, all set in different neighborhoods in Paris. What better way to virtually explore the City of Love?

Monsoon Wedding (2001)

If you’ve ever been curious about extravagant Indian weddings — and the drama behind pulling one off — this is the movie for you. Set in Delhi, Mira Nair’s acclaimed film features captivating cinematography that highlights India’s vibrant culture.

Y Tu Mamá También (2001)

The steamy Alfonso Cuarón film follows a tangled trio of friends on a road trip in search of sand and sex. While their love triangle is the focus of the plot, the real star is the beautiful Mexican landscape.

The Lord of the Rings Trilogy (2001–2003)

tongariro national park new zealand
New Zealand is a must for lovers of adventure travel and the outdoors. (Photo: Boy_Anupong / Moment)

Middle-earth may be fictional, but the majestic mountains and enchanting valleys of New Zealand, where the entire trilogy and “The Hobbit” prequels were filmed, are very real. If you love the series, a journey to Mordor — Tongariro National Park in real life — should already be on your bucket list.

Master of None (Season 2, 2017)

Only the first two episodes of the second season of “Master of None” are set in Modena, Italy, but they’re the most memorable. In the episodes, filmed in black and white, Aziz Ansari learns to make pasta while visiting some of the city’s finest restaurants. It also pays homage to the 1948 Italian film “Bicycle Thieves.”

Eat, Pray, Love (2010)

This is the quintessential self-discovery movie starring the quintessential rom-com lead, Julia Roberts. Based on Elizabeth Gilbert’s memoir, the film finds Roberts indulging in the delicacies of Italy, having a spiritual awakening in India and looking for love in Bali. It’s a playbook for anyone at a crossroads in their life.

Marco Polo (2014–2016)

Come for the epic battles, stay for the stunning scenery. Inspired by the famed Italian explorer’s time spent with Kublai Khan in East Asia, the Netflix series is set in the 13th century. Though it’s meant to depict Mongolia and China, the series was filmed in the gorgeous, open countrysides of Kazakhstan and Malaysia.

Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown (2013–2018)

The late chef and author left us with many gifts, among them his long-running series “No Reservations” and “Parts Unknown.” While both are incredible and insightful in their explorations of food and culture, the latter digs deeper into the sociopolitical climates in each of the regions he traverses. Revisit the series and make a toast to the legend.

Treme (2010–2013)

The HBO series shines a light on the vibrant, resilient people of post-Katrina New Orleans. Though the show is often heavy in its depiction of the city’s collective trauma, there are also moments of joy. It burrows deeply into NOLA’s rich culture, with an extra emphasis on the music.

Tales by Light (2015–)

maasai man in kenya
National Geographic will inspire you. (Photo: Philip Lee Harvey/Cultura)

What does it take to get the perfect shot? National Geographic’s “Tales by Light” takes viewers behind the lens of a different photographer in each episode, from documenting the animals in Kenya’s Maasai Mara National Reserve to the customs of Australia’s indigenous tribes.

Chef’s Table (2015–)

Don’t watch “Chef’s Table” on an empty stomach. Netflix’s food-focused docuseries will make you salivate over the culinary creations of world-renowned chefs. Each episode profiles a different chef, spotlighting their restaurants in far-flung locales such as Kobarid, Slovenia; Jangseong County, South Korea; and Moscow.

The Fall (2006)

Tarsem Singh’s underrated adventure-fantasy flick, set in 1915, is a visual feast. The plot is simple yet imaginative. An injured stuntman invents an elaborate story from his recovery bed, which he relays to a little girl in an attempt to rope her into stealing opioids for him.

His made-up tale takes them to breathtaking destinations, from the Chand Baori stepwell in India and the Gunung Kawi temple in Indonesia to the Deadvlei clay pan in Namibia and Istanbul’s Hagia Sophia.