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    Travel Starring Great Films

    By Jan Wahl–

    They don’t call them motion pictures for nothing. We move with them, from Ecuador to the Arctic, Italy to the moon! Audrey Hepburn in Roman Holiday was the face that launched a thousand trips, Marilyn Monroe and Jane Russell had people boarding glamorous ocean liners in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes; Lawrence of Arabia took thousands to the desert. It is easy to celebrate the chemistry between celluloid journeys and real-world settings. Here are a few favorite examples.

    Hitchcock’s smoothest caper, To Catch a Thief, has swank Riviera backdrops. Landmarks like the Nice flower market and the chic Carlton Hotel match Cary Grant and Grace Kelly zipping through the hills above the Mediterranean on narrow, winding roads. The clothes and jewelry shown in this film knock us out, but it is the location that makes us want to travel.

    Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World dropped anchor in the Galapagos Islands, where the unique wildlife nudged Darwin toward the theory of evolution. In this fine adventure film, we marvel at the birds, tortoises, and eerie enchantments of the land itself. Many filmgoers booked trips there after this movie.

    The Buena Vista Social Club has American guitarist Ry Cooder and director Wim Wenders with some of the best Cuban musicians and singers we’ve ever heard. Havana itself is well represented: crumbling facades in crayon colors, classic cars. The soundtrack reminds us that what we hear can be a powerful mode of transport. 

    Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon’s heroine dashes back and forth across China, through settings so different that they hardly seem to occupy the same planet. From the red glare of the Gobi Desert to an ancient Taoist monastery on Wuhan Mountain, director Ang Lee takes us high in the bamboo treetops for an unforgettably exotic journey.

    Join a wizened boat captain and prim missionary aboard The African Queen in the Congo. Go across the long bridge from the U.S. to Canada in Niagara. There’s Istanbul in Topkapi, Paris in Amélie, Kenya in Out of Africa, India in Monsoon Wedding, Thailand in The Beach. The U.S. is well represented, but we’ll save those for our next trip. Let’s travel with the movies!

    Jan Wahl is a Hollywood historian, film critic on various broadcast outlets, and has her own YouTube channel series, “Jan Wahl Showbiz.” She has two Emmys and many awards for her longtime work on behalf of film buffs and the LGBTQ community. Contact her at

    Off the Wahl
    Published on July 27, 2023