Top 10 Oscar-winning travel films

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Travel has been a cornerstone of many award-winning silver-screen favourites. Here are our picks for the top 10 Oscar-winning travel movies.

We’re waiting (on the edge of our sofas, popcorn in hand) to see which travel-inspired films will take home Academy Awards this year. With Denzel Washington nominated in the best actor category for his role in Flight, Naomi Watts up for best actress in The Impossible and Life of Pi on the nominee list for best picture, films that feature travel are in the running for plenty of Oscars at the 85th Academy Awards.

Travel has been a cornerstone of many award-winning silver-screen favourites. Here are our picks for the top 10 Oscar-winning travel films.

* The Beverly Hills Hotel has mixed up some cocktails to go along with the Best Picture nominees this year. Want to see what goes into a Django Unchained?

Reform Club London where Phileas Fogg accepts the bet from his fellow members
Reform Club London where Phileas Fogg accepts the bet from his fellow members. Photo by stevecadman

Around the World in 80 Days (1956)

Academy Awards: Best Picture, Best Cinematography (Colour), Best Film Editing, Best Music (Scoring of a Dramatic or Comedy Picture) and Best Writing (Adapted Screenplay)

Based on a Jules Verne novel, this best picture winner tells the story of Phileas Fogg – an English man who makes a big bet (and by big, we mean £20,000) with a few sceptics that he can travel around the world in 80 days.

Fogg takes a train to Paris, then sets off in a hot-air balloon and travels – by various means – across the globe with stops in places such as Spain, India, Hong Kong, Japan and San Francisco.

The adventurous Englishman encounters numerous trials and tribulations during his journey, but in the end (spoiler alert) he’s saved by the International Date Line which gives him an extra day and the chance to win it all at the last minute.

The Accidental Tourist ends with a cab in Paris, France
The Accidental Tourist ends with a cab ride in Paris. Photo by roger.salz

The Accidental Tourist (1988)

Academy Award: Best Actress in a Supporting Role (Geena Davis)

Baltimore-based travel guide writer Macon Leary is the focal point in this international story of love and loss.

The writer experiences his share of heart break: the murder of his son, the break up of his marriage and an injury that brings him back to his childhood home where he meets kennel manager Muriel Pritchett (played by Geena Davis).

Praised for its adapted screenplay, original score and acting, the drama unfolds with a shared flight to Paris (where Leary is researching his next guide), a hotel recommendation and a taxi.

Barcelona, Spain
Barcelona – the backdrop to the Woody Allen-directed film. Photo by nixious

Vicky Cristina Barcelona (2008)

Academy Award: Best Actress in a Supporting Role (Penélope Cruz)

Barcelona is the main backdrop for this story of twisted love connections. When two American women – practical Vicky and carefree Cristina – travel to the Spanish city for the summer, they meet artist Juan Antonio Gonzalo and a series of seduction attempts (and successes) ensues.

But it’s the arrival of Gonzalo’s unstable ex-wife Maria Elena (played by Penélope Cruz) that really shakes things up.

Shot on location in Barcelona, the movie also takes viewers to Oviedo, Spain, France and the U.S.

Santa Ynez Valley, Calfornia (Image: AnyaLogic)
Santa Ynez Valley, California (Image: AnyaLogic)

Sideways (2004)

Academy Award: Best Adapted Screenplay

In this 2004 comedic drama, a week-long road trip that starts in the name of good fun turns into debauchery, as two middle-aged men travel from San Diego up to Santa Ynez Valley wine country in California.

The movie sheds light on the human condition, using the trip as a tool to fully develop characters.

In the meantime, the film features plenty of picturesque California vineyards. And the succession of wines that parade across the screen will leave you longing for a trip to wine country – and a glass of red. Pinot Noir, anyone?

Angel Falls in Venezuela
Angel Falls in Venezuela. Photo by davidkjelkerud

Up (2009)

Academy Awards: Best Animated Feature, Best Original Score

Unconventional travel is at its finest in this animated story of elderly widower Carl Fredricksen who ties thousands of helium balloons to his house and takes off in search of a fictional location – Paradise Falls, Venezuela.

Fredricksen’s journey is inspired by a lifelong personal goal and a promise to his late wife after years of saving up for the trip.

The film’s creators spent time in Venezuela researching their main character’s destination, which seems to most closely resemble Angel Falls in Venezuela’s Canaima National Park.

The Eiffel Tower, Paris, FranceThe Eiffel Tower, Paris, France
An iconic view – Paris. Photo by agaw.dilim

An American in Paris (1951)

Academy Awards: Best Picture, Best Art (Set Decoration), Best Cinematography (Colour), Best Costume Design (Colour), Best Musical Score and Best Writing, Scoring and Screenplay

Set in Paris and laced with dance numbers, this critically acclaimed musical film centres on American World War II veteran-turned-painter Jerry Mulligan, who has travelled to Paris to live as an expatriate.

There, he meets French woman Lise Bouvier and falls in love with her shortly before she gets married to another man.

The film was shot in Los Angeles, but its musical score, recreated Parisian locales and depiction of forbidden love still thoroughly impressed viewers, critics and the Academy.

Tokyo, Japan
Tokyo, Japan. Photo by Jun Seita

Lost in Translation (2003)

Win: Best Original Screenplay

This best original screenplay-winner is the story of an unlikely bond between two Americans who have travelled to Tokyo for different reasons.

Bob Harris, an ageing actor, arrives in the Japanese city to film an advertisement, while Charlotte has accompanied her celebrity-photographer husband on assignment.

Culture shock strengthens their relationship, as they attempt to navigate a contemporary Japanese environment and the complexities in their lives.

Shot on location in Japan, the setting for Lost in Translation was largely inspired by director Sofia Coppola’s many visits to the country.

The Chogoria Route in Mount Kenya National Park.
The Chogoria Route in Mount Kenya National Park. Photo by joxeankoret

Out of Africa (1985)

Academy Awards: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Art Direction, Best Cinematography, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Original Score and Best Sound

With seven Oscars to its name, Out of Africa is at the high end when it comes to the most Academy Award-decorated feature films of all time (a few movies have each won 11 Oscars).

The romantic drama, starring Robert Redford and Meryl Streep, begins with a Danish baroness who moves from Denmark to British East Africa (present-day Kenya) with her husband and purchases a coffee plantation.

The baroness falls for big-game hunter Denys Finch Hatton who refuses to settle down. With his personality underscored by their untamed African surroundings, the baroness eventually makes her way back to Denmark heartbroken.

Buenos Aires, Argentina
Buenos Aires, Argentina – where Guevara and Granado begin their journey. Photo by Armando Maynez

The Motorcycle Diaries (2004)

Academy Award: Best Original Song

Based on Ernesto Guevara’s travelogue, The Motorcycle Diaries chronicles Guevara’s 1952 journey across South America alongside his friend, Alberto Granado.

The pair originally set out on Granado’s motorcycle looking for a fun-filled trip and the ultimate goal of working in a leper colony in Peru.

Along the way, they were changed deeply by the people and poverty they encountered.

Departing from Buenos Aires, Guevara and Granado travelled 8,700 miles through Argentina, Chile, Peru, Colombia and Venezuela – a journey that ended up transforming their lives.

 Monument Valley from the Utah side where Forrest Gump finished his run
Monument Valley from the Utah side – the place where Forrest Gump ended his cross-country run in the 1994 feature film. Photo by Irwin-Scott

Forrest Gump (1994)

Academy Awards: Best Picture, Best Actor (Tom Hanks), Best Director, Best Film Editing, Best Visual Effects and Best Adapted Screenplay

Though not an obvious travel movie pick, Forrest Gump takes us places. From Alabama to Washington, D.C. to Vietnam, Gump is constantly on the go in this perennial favourite.

The defining montage that places this cinematic success in the travel category is Forrest Gump’s epic journey – on foot – across the United States as he gives into his inexplicable urge to just keep running. You’d truly never know (until now) that most of the film wasn’t shot in the locations it showcases.

(Main image: prayitno)

Top 10 Oscar-winning travel films was last modified: June 26th, 2019 by Melisse Hinkle
Author: Melisse Hinkle (26 posts)

A New England native but explorer at heart, Melisse has traveled throughout North America, biked through rice paddies in Bali, seen the Northern Lights in Iceland, walked alongside llamas in Machu Picchu and made her way around Europe while studying abroad in London. She is the Head of Content and Social Media for North America at Cheapflights.