Have you ever traveled somewhere because you saw it in a movie and just had to go? If you have, you’re far from alone. Ever since movies have existed, they’ve inspired people to travel. Whether it’s stunning landscapes or sets that capture the culture and charm of a city, people have long sought adventure and escape based on settings in films.
Here are ten modern-and classic-era films that make us want to grab our backpacks, put on some good hiking shoes, and head into the Great Outdoors.
Table of Contents
1. Dances With Wolves
This frontier epic, directed and starred in by Kevin Costner, won Best Picture, Best Cinematography, and five other Oscars. Shot in South Dakota and Wyoming, the film features sweeping vistas of the Great Plains, Badlands National Park, and, in the uncut version, Grand Teton National Park. If this movie doesn’t inspire you to see the unspoiled landscapes of the Northern Plains and the Mountain West, maybe nothing can.
2. A River Runs Through It
Based on an autobiographical work by Norman Maclean about his troubled brother (played by a young Brad Pitt), this Best Cinematography winner is also about fly fishing and old-time Montana. Although the story takes place near Missoula, most of the movie was shot in the Paradise Valley, which is just north of Yellowstone National Park. Scenes of crystal-clear trout streams and tall peaks enclosing the valleys have lit many a desire to visit Montana, the “Last Best Place.”
3. The Last of the Mohicans
The classic James Fenimore Cooper story takes place in the Adirondacks, but this colonial epic with Daniel Day Lewis’s famous “I will find you” line to Madeleine Stowe was shot in the highlands of western North Carolina. Rugged mountain vistas, sheer granite cliffs, roaring waterfalls, and a soaring soundtrack have sent many people to Chimney Rock State Park, where the movie’s unforgettable final sequences were filmed, including the final fight at the brink of Hickory Nut Falls.
4. The Lord of the Rings Trilogy (Any of Them)
Tolkien fans reveled in these long-awaited adaptations of their favorite books, but everyone who saw these films gasped at the incredible, otherworldly scenery. Many wondered if it had been conjured by CGI, as it seemed too marvelous to be real, but it wasn’t; it was “just” New Zealand.
5. Seven Years in Tibet
Here, Brad Pitt plays legendary Austrian mountaineer Heinrich Harrer, who, along with his climbing partner, escapes from a POW camp in India into Lhasa, Tibet, during WW2. Before having to flee Tibet when the Chinese Communists invaded, Pitt/Harrer befriends and becomes devoted to today’s Dalai Lama, who is just a boy in the film.
6. Point Break
Just about any film with ocean scenes can make you want to head to the beach, but the original Point Break, with Keanu Reeves as the good guy and Patrick Swayze, surprisingly but effectively cast against type as the bad guy still hits home. It’s an action film about hard-core surfers who rob banks to fund their lifestyle, but the surfing scenes really steal the show. Just wait until the end!
7. The Bridges of Madison County
If Field of Dreams didn’t convince you to visit Iowa, this film will. In a rare romantic leading role, Clint Eastwood plays a National Geographic photojournalist who comes to Madison County, IA to photograph its famous covered bridges. Amid the quiet, understated beauty, his character falls desperately and heartbreakingly in love with a lonely housewife played by the incomparable Meryl Streep.
8. Out of Africa
Like Brad Pitt, Meryl Streep appears again on our list, this time as Danish author Isak Dinesen, and she co-stars with Robert Redford, who plays the independent spirit, Denys Finch Hatton. The story itself will keep you glued, but even if it doesn’t, the cinematography will, especially during the unforgettable and inimitable flight scene. Sweeping up 11 Academy Awards– including Best Picture, Director, Actress, Cinematography, and Score– this movie makes you want to go to Africa, not get out of it.
9. Lawrence of Arabia
Routinely ranked among the top 10 on the American Film Institute’s list of the best 100 movies of all time, there’s more to be said about this David Lean epic than we have space for here. But for our purposes, let’s just say that the award-winning score and the camera’s love for the scenery turned the Arabian desert from a parched wasteland into something beautiful and romantic that everyone should see at least once.
10. Free Solo
We’ll end this list with the most recently made movie to make it. This documentary follows world-class rock climber Alex Honnold as he becomes the first person ever to free solo– meaning climb without a rope or any other protection– Yosemite National Park’s El Capitan, a sheer, 3,000’ high granite cliff considered to be one of the world’s top climbing challenges. If you can look away from Honnold for a moment or two, you’ll behold the majesty of California’s Yosemite Valley and start to understand why people come from all around the world to see it.
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