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18 Movies That Make You Want to Go on Vacation

Use our critic’s destination-specific picks to plan your next cinematic getaway

spinner image Katharine Hepburn getting a pedicure in a scene from the film Summertime
Katharine Hepburn, right, in "Summertime."
Courtesy Everett Collection

We all have bucket lists of the far-flung places we want to see. Sometimes life gets in the way, and travel plans get put on the back burner. That’s OK, because we always have the movies to transport us to the south of France or the canals of Venice. If you’re looking to escape, even just for a couple of hours, here are 18 gorgeous cinematic trips you can experience without getting up from your sofa. Bon voyage!

If you wish you were headed to: Thailand

Watch this instead: The Beach (2000)

The critics dogpiled on this thriller about backpackers in Thailand searching for a mysterious pristine beach (the film that put Civil War writer/director Alex Garland on the Hollywood map). Why? Because it was Leonardo DiCaprio’s high-profile star turn after the billion-dollar success of Titanic. Two decades later, The Beach works far better than reviewers gave it credit for. It’s a cracking mystery about an adventurous expat who finds his sugar-granulated slice of turquoise heaven — and discovers a Conradian heart of darkness that turns his tropical paradise into a hellish nightmare.

Escape here: Hulu, Prime Video

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If you wish you were headed to: India

Watch this instead: The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel (2011)

Sometimes the best part of life begins much later than you expect. In this lovely and cozy travelogue, financially strapped retirees pull up stakes and head to India to spend their golden years at a modestly priced hotel that turns out to be a lot less glamorous than it appeared in the brochures. Thanks to the welcome presence of Bill Nighy, Maggie Smith, Tom Wilkinson and Judi Dench, this feel-good charmer about second chances hits the spot like a British Cocoon (1985). It will leave you smiling from ear to ear.

Escape here: Hulu, YouTube

If you wish you were headed to: Venice

Watch this instead: Summertime (1955)

Director David Lean is best known for his widescreen epics (Lawrence of Arabia, Doctor Zhivago), but he also knew how to tell a more intimate, human story on a smaller canvas. Take this romantic comedy starring Katharine Hepburn as a middle-aged secretary from Ohio who’s given up on love and decides to cash in her savings and take the trip of a lifetime in Venice — so spectacular you want to hop a jet and into a gondola pronto. She falls for a suave Italian (South Pacific’s Rossano Brazzi), who turns out to be less single than he pretends to be. Summertime doesn’t get the same love as Hepburn’s more acknowledged movie classics, but it deserves to.

Escape here: Max, Prime Video

If you wish you were headed to: The French Riviera

Watch this instead: To Catch a Thief (1955)

Few places in the world are more glamorous than the sun-soaked French Riviera. But Alfred Hitchcock manages to up the ante by tossing Cary Grant and Grace Kelly into the mix. Filmed in Cannes and Nice, this jet-set thriller revolves around a rash of daring jewel robberies victimizing wealthy tourists along the Cote d'Azur. The gendarmes suspect Grant's dashing, retired cat burglar John Robie, but of course, we know better. After all, he's too busy changing ascots and wooing Kelly to be involved in snatching diamonds … or is he?

Escape here: Prime VideoApple TVYouTube

If you wish you were headed to: Tuscany

Watch this instead: Under the Tuscan Sun (2003)

Much like Eat, Pray, Love, Frances Mayes’ memoir Under the Tuscan Sun is responsible for countless soul-seeking sojourns to the rustic Italian countryside in hopes of starting one's life over again midstream. In the sumptuous screen version, Diane Lane plays a San Francisco writer who buys a dilapidated villa in the charming town of Cortona after her marriage falls apart and sets out to restore both her new home and her sense of independence. If you've ever fantasized about pulling up stakes and starting over, this movie is like a how-to manual.

Escape here: Prime VideoApple TVYouTube

If you wish you were headed to: Greece

Watch this instead: Mamma Mia! (2008)

I suppose this one is a twofer. It may compel you to make a beeline to Stockholm to commune with the bubblegum pop of that nation's greatest ‘70s export, ABBA. Or, more likely, it will have you yearning for the turquoise waters and simple, sun-dappled living of Greece — specifically the Aegean island of Skopelos, where this jukebox musical starring Meryl Streep was filmed. Then again, if you’re feeling ambitious (and you’ve got the air miles), why not hit both?

Escape here: Prime VideoApple TVYouTube

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If you wish you were headed to: Majorca

Watch this instead: Evil Under the Sun (1982)

Although the setting of Agatha Christie's deliciously entertaining murder-mystery novel was a hotel in Devon, England, director Guy Hamilton chose to relocate his film adaptation to the Spanish island of Majorca. And thank goodness he did, because it's absolutely breathtaking. Peter Ustinov plays the vacationing Belgian sleuth Hercule Poirot, who's called into action when a visiting starlet (Diana Rigg) is murdered while sunning on the beach. Dame Maggie Smith is the posh cliffside hotel's proprietress, and the murderer could be any one of her daffy, hot-tempered guests, who include Sylvia Miles, James Mason, Roddy McDowall and Jane Birkin. Come for the strangling; stay for the scenery.

Escape here: Prime VideoApple TVYouTube

If you wish you were headed to: Lake Como

Watch this instead: Ocean's Twelve (2004)

This giddy follow-up to 2001's devilishly clever heist flick may not be quite as crackerjack-tight as the original, but it sure is prettier, thanks to its luxe Lake Como setting in Italy. George Clooney, Brad Pitt and their merry band of safe-cracking scoundrels head to this high-end Italian vacation spot to square off with a master thief at his luxurious shorefront villa — pure envy-inducing real estate eye candy. Footnote: In real life, the 19th-century estate (called Villa Erba) belongs to Clooney himself.

Escape here: Prime VideoApple TVYouTube

If you wish you were headed to: California wine country

Watch this instead: Sideways (2004)

Whether you're a seriously snooty aficionado or just a modest, two-buck-Chuck tippler, this Oscar-nominated road trip comedy manages to bottle both the sorrows and the surprises of life at the halfway mark. Paul Giamatti and Thomas Haden Church head to Santa Barbara wine country for a low-key, grape-fueled bachelor party weekend. There, they slow down enough to appreciate life's simpler pleasures. As the film's hangdog oenophile protagonist, Giamatti may or may not make you think twice about ordering a bottle of merlot ever again, but he will get you thirsty to visit a Santa Ynez vineyard.

Escape here: Prime VideoApple TVYouTube

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If you wish you were headed to: The Rockies

Watch this instead: A River Runs Through It (1992)

I've never been fly-fishing in my life, but after recently watching director Robert Redford celebrate the pastime in A River Runs Through It, I was ready to book a ticket to Montana. I still am. Although the movie centers on the fraught relationship between a stern minister and his two sons, it's the peaceful, burbling sounds of the Blackfoot River that seem to call to audiences like a siren's song, beckoning them to leave their nine-to-fives behind, buy a pair of waders and head to Big Sky Country.

Escape here: Prime VideoApple TVYouTube

If you wish you were headed to: The American Southwest

Watch this instead: The Searchers (1956)

Hollywood legend John Ford shot several of his classic Westerns in Monument Valley near the Arizona-Utah border. But his most famous (and most jaw-dropping) was this John Wayne revenge saga about a Civil War veteran who comes home to discover that his niece (Natalie Wood) has been kidnapped by Comanches. The Searchers is a haunting film, but in between its heavier moments it's also a picture-postcard advertisement for visiting the natural wonders of Monument Valley and its otherworldly red sand and mitten buttes. This is what movie lovers think of when they think of the Old West.

Escape here: Prime Video, MaxApple TVYouTube

If you wish you were headed to: Paris

Watch this instead: Amelie (2001)

Paris has been captured on celluloid so many times that it feels familiar even if you've never actually been there. But when viewed through the eyes of Audrey Tautou's pixie-waitress heroine in this transportingly quirky romantic comedy, it feels brand new again — a whimsical, candy-colored urban confection of cafes, fairy-tale magic and glittering jewel-box lights. The city has never looked so hypnotic.

Escape here: Prime Video

If you wish you were headed to: Vienna

Watch this instead: The Third Man (1949)

Vienna has obviously changed quite a bit since the days immediately following World War II when Joseph Cotten chased Orson Welles’ elusive smuggler Harry Lime through the Austrian capital's shadowy, rain-slicked cobblestone streets. But the city's intoxicating air of history and mystery (especially in the old town district) is still there. As is the Reisenrad Ferris wheel, where Welles delivers his famous monologue about the invention of the cuckoo clock. (Note for when you actually do go to Vienna: There's a museum dedicated to Carol Reed's noir-ish cat-and-mouse classic.)

Escape here: Prime VideoApple TVYouTube

If you wish you were headed to: Bruges

Watch this instead: In Bruges (2008)

Martin McDonagh's delirious bruise-black comedy about a pair of squabbling Irish hitmen waiting for instructions in the unlikely medieval Belgian town of the title is one of those movies that didn't get nearly enough love when it came out but has since become a bit of a cult classic. Set amongst Bruges’ gingerbread backdrop of spires and street performers, Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson take in the city's sights while awaiting a potential double cross. If this quaint Belgian city wasn't on your bucket list already, it definitely will be by the time the end credits roll.

Escape here: Prime VideoApple TVYouTube

If you wish you were headed to: Mexico City

Watch this instead: Spectre (2015)

Since James Bond's cinematic debut in 1962's Dr. No, the 007 films have given moviegoers a reason to keep renewing their passports and head off to the exotic locations depicted on screen. And, for our money, one of the most vibrant and unusual settings in recent memory was the opening Dia de los Muertos sequence in Spectre. This Bond pic has Daniel Craig racing through a teeming parade of skeletons and ghoulish floats in Mexico City to foil a terrorist bombing plot. The race-against-the-clock mission was all well and good, but it was the festive chaos and masked revelers that really stuck with us.

Escape here: Prime VideoApple TVYouTube

If you wish you were headed to: Savannah, Georgia

Watch this instead: Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil (1997)

When John Berendt published his best-selling murder mystery in 1994, readers flocked to Savannah to get a taste of the book's seductive Southern milieu. But when Clint Eastwood directed his big-screen adaptation of the novel three years later, the city was overrun with tourists drawn by the old-world mix of horse-drawn carriages, dandified eccentrics and haunted history. It's the kind of place where cemeteries seem to come alive at night with ghosts whispering secrets. Things have died down a bit since then. Which, of course, makes it the perfect time to take a walk under the hanging Spanish moss with a planter's punch in hand.

Escape here: Prime VideoApple TVYouTube

If you wish you were headed to: England's Lake District

Watch this instead: The Trip (2011)

The first in Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon's quartet of barbed buddy-comedy travelogues sets the pair of one-upping British comedians in England's scenic Lake District. As with all of their Trip installments (in which they also hopscotch through Italy, Spain and Greece), Coogan and Brydon are on a newspaper assignment to wine and dine their way to some sort of middle-aged enlightenment. But the real reason to watch is to soak up their hilarious banter and drool over the five-star meals they tuck into as the punch lines fly.

Escape here: Prime VideoApple TVYouTube

If you wish you were headed to: Sicily

Watch this instead: Cinema Paradiso (1988)

One of the most ravishing and romantic movies of the ‘80s, Giuseppe Tornatore's Best Foreign Language Film Oscar winner was partially shot in the director's Sicilian hometown of Bagheria (as well as in Cefalu on the Tyrrhenian Sea). Told in flashback, the story is a bittersweet memento mori about a simpler time in the wake of World War II, when a doe-eyed local boy named Toto learned everything he knows about love, life and the magic of cinema in a rustic, run-down movie house from the theater's humble projectionist. Not only will it make you swoon, it will make you want to hop on the next flight to Sicily.

Escape here: Prime Video

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