December 21, 2010

The 10 Best Travel Movies of All Time

Whether it's a jaunt in the station wagon to see Grandma or a grand European backpacking tour, travel is a ubiquitous element in film. We teamed up with Huffington Post Travel to present an homage to the best of the best travel movies. There's a bit of everything in this list, whether it be the typical family vacation or a more exotic getaway. So, pack your bags, don't forget your passport, and get lost in the Ten Best Travel Movies as determined by the critics.

10. The Darjeeling Limited (2007) - MRQE Metric: 65
This Wes Anderson gem is a colorful and quirky ride through the best of India. Owen Wilson, Adrien Brody and Jason Schwartzman play three very different brothers who are brought together by their father's death. Rallied together by the brother played by Owen Wilson, the trio sets out on a strange journey on a meticulously designed train in the hopes of finding spiritual enlightenment. Their constant bickering leads to them stumbling into strange situation after strange situation, including letting a cobra loose on the train(!). It's all punctuated by Anderson's trademark hipster soundtrack, of course, and everyone learns a valuable lesson about family, but it's the exotic backdrop that makes the film work.

9. Vicky Cristina Barcelona (2008) - MRQE Metric: 74
This sexy Spanish romp is among the best of Woody Allen's last several efforts. Two young women (named Vicky and Cristina, surprise) are living the tourist's high life in—you guessed it—Barcelona. When they both become entangled with a passionate and temperamental artist, a complicated romantic triangle forms. And, this is all before the arrival of the artist's ex-wife, a particularly vivacious Penélope Cruz. The result is a sultry and clever look at the complications that can emerge from vacation flings. Unsurprisingly, the city of Barcelona becomes just as important of a character as the lovelorn stars, and Allen films it with all the attention that he does his leading ladies.

8. Into The Wild (2007) - MRQE Metric: 74
Based on a true story, this Sean Penn directed 2007 release chronicles the life of Christopher McCandless (Emile Hirsch), a favorite son from a well-off family who becomes disenchanted with the trappings of middle class suburbia. Eschewing his identity and donating his personal wealth to charity Christopher sets out into rural Alaska in order to find himself. His travels lead him to forming significant but fleeting connections with people, as Christopher always pushes himself to keep moving. Both Christopher's dedication to going it alone and his lack of knowledge about wilderness survival lead to inevitable tragedy, but it's the portrait of a unique and strong-willed individual that makes Into The Wild a fitting and unforgettable memorial.

7. National Lampoon's Vacation (1983) - MRQE Metric: 74
No matter how miserable your childhood memories of forced family fun are, I guarantee that the ones depicted in National Lampoon's Vacation are worse. The super-comedy franchise of the 1980's starts here, written by the decade's favorite son, John Hughes. The troubles of the Griswolds as they set out on a road trip to a theme park are seemingly endless, but even the most ridiculous complications are humanized. Everyone has been on the family road trip from Hell before, so we all can empathize with Chevy Chase and company's determination to get to Wally World no matter what. There's no escaping it: the Griswolds are us!

6. Easy Rider (1969) - MRQE Metric: 76
This rough and tumble road trip helped to define the cinematic landscape of the 1960’s & 70's. It's also a stark and engrossing look at the emerging American counterculture. Peter Fonda and Dennis Hopper's careers were defined here, playing two bikers seeking Mardi Gras and spiritual enlightenment. It's not all peace and free love here, though, as they come up hard against the old-fashioned and judgmental establishment. All roads lead to tragedy here, though, and all involved are headed for an explosive conclusion. Keep your eyes peeled for a young Jack Nicholson in one of his first memorable roles as a philosopher comrade of the heroes.

5. Before Sunrise (1995) - MRQE Metric: 81
Richard Linklater brings us this dreamy look at a brief encounter between two tourists in Italy. Ethan Hawke and Julie Delphy meet by chance on a train. On a whim and a sense of a mutual and deep connection, the two spend the evening walking around Vienna. They both know from the start that this time spent together can only be brief before real life intrudes. This limitation is also a sort of freedom. Hawke and Delphy feel that they have nothing to lose in this new and beautiful place, so their interactions are filled with unashamed emotional intimacy. Bring your handkerchiefs to this one, folks.

4. Roman Holiday (1953) - MRQE Metric: 82
Rome is for romance in this classic love letter in film form. Audrey Hepburn was born to play the role of a sheltered princess who manages to escape her handlers in order to experience the city on her own terms. She runs into the dashing Gregory Peck, a cunning American reporter who at first shelters Hepburn from the authorities in the hopes of the scoop of the century. Soon, however, his intentions grow more altruistic as the relationship between the two grows deeper. The ending is bittersweet, but there's plenty of fun along the way; adorable scenes of the duo puttering around Rome on a Vespa and frolicking among the fountains have entered the public cinematic consciousness.

3. 127 Hours (2010) - MRQE Metric: 83
Danny Boyle's recent film is a testament to the human spirit, not to mention the human stomach. Another astounding biographical film, 127 Hours follows extreme adventurer Aron Ralston and his dangerous predicament when he becomes trapped in a Utah mountain range. The hours turn into days and, without any means to seek help, Ralston will be forced to make some heart stopping decisions in his quest to survive. James Franco plays Ralston with respect and dedication (Franco received a Golden Globe nomination for his performance; an Oscar nod is equally likely), but it's the truth of Ralston's ordeal, a lone human spirit in the midst of the sublime and treacherous wilderness, that makes this a gem.

2. Up (2009) - MRQE Metric: 90
I hope you kept your handkerchief from Before Sunrise; you'll need it even more here. Pixar has made a name for themselves with their ingenious blend of clever humor and heartwarming sentiment. Never is this mixture more successful than in the 2009 film Up. Audiences were wowed by beautiful vistas that old codger Carl visited in his balloon house and the adventures that followed, but there's more to this than colorful set-pieces and talking dogs. Carl's epic journey, after all, was inspired by the vacation that he and his wife planned for decades but were never able to enjoy together. It's this sense of regret, as well as the film's focus on the strength of the couple's love, that makes Up just as much of an emotional ride as it is a fun one.

1. Mr. Hulot's Holiday (1953) - MRQE Metric: 90
Director Jacques Tati wanted to poke some fun at the inability of 1950's holiday-goers to truly relax and take time off, even while on vacation in supposedly relaxing environments. The result is a French classic, filled with gentle satire and laugh-out-loud slapstick, which still captivates and amuses the audiences of today. Tati himself stars as the titular Monsieur Hulot, who wreaks merry havoc at a seaside resort in his quest for vacation nirvana. Monsieur Hulot's hapless adventures sparked an entire series of films, but none of them can quite compare to this engrossing and hilarious debut; it's a perfect tribute to travel.

1 comment:

  1. Now that is a nice list. I'm traveling next week so i guess i going to buy some dvd's from this list.


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