My favorite form of storytelling is undoubtably through film.
Film allows you to experience a story that’s been brought to life through a close collaboration of artists: the imagination of a director, the storyline of screenwriters, actors who make the characters their own, composers who tie the story’s emotions to music…
To me, movies are a visual feast and I find that many of the films I watch over and over again are due of the setting. The following movies are ten of my favorites that transport me to a different time and inspire me to travel!
*Director: Andy Tennant *Year: 1998 *Location: Southern France *Trailer (The music in the trailer are not heard in the movie. The movie is set to beautiful music by George Fenton)
Ever After is a beautifully filmed rendition of the classic Cinderella story set in the Dordogne region of Southern France. Nineteen year old Drew Barrymore plays the title role of Danielle de Barbarac. Alongside Barrymore, Anjelica Huston puts all wicked stepmothers to shame with her icy glares and sharp tongue. In addition to these talented actresses, Dougray Scott, Patrick Godfrey, Megan Dodds and Jeanne Moreau join the cast.
The Dordogne region is blanketed in luscious farmland and sprinkled with castles. Among them is the Château de Hautefort which earns some screen time as the French royal family’s residence. Other important locations are the Château de Fénelon and the Château de la Roussie which portray Danielle’s home.
I was fortunate enough to visit the Château de Hautefort and the Château de Fénelon a few years ago. Seeing these locations in person completely brought the movie to life.
*Director: Woody Allen *Year: 2011 *Location: Paris, France *Trailer
Midnight in Paris is the story of a nostalgic writer, Gil (played by Owen Wilson), who falls head over heels for Paris on a trip with his fiancée (Rachel McAdams) and her family. He yearns to live in what he considers the golden age of Paris: the 1920s. He quickly realizes his dream after a midnight walk through the streets cast him into the past where he meets his literary idols such as Ernest Hemingway, Scott Fitzgerald and T.S. Elliott.
The whole movie was shot in Paris and if the first few minutes of the film don’t immediately inspire you to go to Paris, then I don’t know what will. Wilson and McAdams are part of an almost all-star cast with Marion Cotillard, Adrien Brody, Tom Hiddleston, Michael Sheen and others.
*Director: Jean-Pierre Jeunet *Year: 2001 *Location: Paris, France; Cologne, Germany *Trailer
Amélie was also filmed in Paris, but mostly in Montmartre. Audrey Tautou stars as Amélie Poulain, a young, introverted French woman living a simple life as a waitress in a café. When she finds a box of mementos belonging to her apartment’s previous occupant, she dedicates her life to helping others and doing good deeds.
Amélie is very imaginative film and reminds one of the importance of life’s simplicities. A brilliant soundtrack by Yann Tiersen accompanies the movie and captures the romance of Paris in its various tracks of accordion, piano, guitar and orchestral music. Amélie was nominated for 5 Academy Awards and won many other notable awards for its originality.
*Director: William Wyler *Year: 1953 *Location: Rome, Italy *Trailer
Roman Holiday is an American classic starring Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck. This film won Hepburn an Oscar for Best Actress for her portrayal of a fictional princess named Ann. When Ann escapes her country’s embassy in Rome, she sets off on an adventure around the city: free from the strict, royal lifestyle. Her path crosses that of an American reporter, Joe Bradley (Peck), and the two explore the city together.
Although the movie was filmed in black and white, it will still make you want to jump on a moped and discover the Roman ruins. Some locations used in the film include the Spanish Steps, the Colosseum, the Trevi Fountain and the Palazzo Colonna.
*Director: Ryan Murphy *Year: 2010 *Locations: Italy, India, Indonesia, New York *Trailer
Eat Pray Love is based on the memoir by Elizabeth Gilbert. The drama is about a woman (Liz Gilbert played by Julia Roberts) who is unhappily married and feels stuck in her “white picket fence” life. After a difficult divorce, she decides to find herself through travel and steps outside of her comfort zone by visiting Rome, India and Bali; eating, praying and loving along the way. One of my favorite movie scenes involving food happens in Eat Pray Love when Liz is sitting quietly at a restaurant, somewhere in Rome, and indulges in a plate of spaghetti and a glass of red wine. The scenes in Italy make you absolutely crave authentic Italian food! The scenes in India and Bali are just as irresistible and will inspire you to drop everything and pack your suitcase.
*Director: Gary Winick *Year: 2010 *Locations: Italy, New York City *Trailer
Tuscany, Italy is the heart of this romantic drama about a young woman, Sophie (Amanda Seyfried) who travels to Verona, Italy with her fiancée (Gael Garcia Bernal) and discovers the work behind the “Secretaries of Juliet.” Upon finding an unanswered letter from 1957 in the wall of Juliet’s Balcony, Sophie decides to answer the letter herself which ultimately inspires the letter’s author, Claire (Vanessa Redgrave), to return to Italy and find her true love.
Although the movie shows tourists posting letters to Juliet on a brick wall, the reality is that you can only sign on the flat wall of a tunnel leading to Juliet’s courtyard. My friend and I had fun signing the wall before exploring the courtyard, the balcony, and the house/museum.
The road trip the characters take in the film have breathtaking views of the Tuscan countryside. Locations in Italy included Verona, Siena and Soave.
*Director: Joe Wright *Year: 2005 *Location: England *Trailer
Normally, I’m not one for movie remakes, but the 2005 version of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice is nothing short of stunning. Keira Knightly leads the cast as Elizabeth Bennet with the rest of the Bennet family portrayed by Rosamund Pike, Donald Sutherland, Carey Mulligan and more. The story focuses on the rocky love story between a man and a woman from different social classes in 18th century England. Pride and Prejudice was filmed in carefully selected locations around England. They include Chatsworth House in Derbyshire (first picture), Basildon Park in Berkshire, Wilton House in Salisbury, Groombridge Place in Kent, Burghley House in Cambridgeshire, Stamford, Rutland, Lincolnshire and others. I can’t get enough of this movie as Dario Marianelli’s score effortlessly matches the scenery and romance of the cinematography. Pride and Prejudice will forever inspire me to see rural England, and I’m sure you will feel the same after watching!
*Director: Mel Gibson *Year: 1995 *Locations: Scotland, Ireland *Trailer
Mel Gibson directs and stars in the film as William Wallace: a Scottish rebel who organizes a rebellion against Edward the Longshanks of England after his wife is murdered by an English soldier. Braveheart was nominated for ten Academy Awards and won five including, Best Director and Best Picture.
Although criticized for being historically inaccurate, the beauty of Braveheart‘s filming locations don’t lie. After the film was released, the “Braveheart effect” increased tourism in Scotland as well as a general interest in Scottish history and culture. Along with the Scottish Highlands, numerous locations in Ireland appear in the film such as County Kildare, County Meath and County Dublin.
*Director: Rob Marshall *Year: 2005 *Locations: Japan, California *Trailer
Memoirs of a Geisha is based on the captivating book by Arthur Golden (I highly recommend reading it). The story takes place in pre WWII Japan and follows the life of a young girl who is sold to a geisha house far away from her fishing village. She leads a physically and emotionally difficult life, growing up as a servant and eventually as a geisha.
Initially, I didn’t like the film because I compared it with every detail in the book. However, after seeing it again I realized how beautiful the film really is. The scenery, the costumes, the makeup…everything in this movie will transport you to a mysterious world. In 2006, Memoirs was nominated for six Oscars and won three including Best Costume Design.
I was surprised to learn that Memoirs of a Geisha was predominately filmed in California on a set completely designed for the time period of the story. Some locations included Moss Beach and the Descanso Gardens in Sacramento. However, the orange gateways in the first and second pictures were filmed at the Fushimi Inari-taisha shrine in Kyoto, Japan. Other locations in Kyoto include the Kiyomizu Temple and the Yoshiminedera Temple which I hope to visit one day.
*Director: Peter Jackson *Year: 2001 *Location: New Zealand *Trailer
The Lord of the Rings trilogy needs little explanation as it first conquered the screen in 2001 with The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring. The story begins with the young hobbit, Frodo Baggins (Elijah Wood), taking on the responsibility of carrying the One Ring to Mordor to destroy the evil of Middle Earth once and for all. He is accompanied by eight companions played by Ian McKellen, Orlando Bloom, Sean Astin and many more. The Fellowship of the Ring was nominated for 13 Oscars and won 4.
Director, Peter Jackson, wanted to film the entire trilogy in his homeland of New Zealand. The panoramas and the gorgeous nature shots make Middle Earth come to life, especially on the big screen. I’m glad I got to see the entire trilogy in the theater. Some of the locations in New Zealand include Wellington, Queenstown, Kaitoke National Park, Rangipo Desert, Southland and Canterbury.
Other great films:
*Wild: Oregon, Washington, USA
*Whale Rider: New Zealand
*Marie Antoinette: France
*The Motorcycle Diaries: Chile, Argentina, Colombia, Peru
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*Note: Photos that are signed were taken by me. All others were selected from Google searches*