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Movies & Shows That Take You Away

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Some movies transport you to a different place for two hours. When you’re done watching, you look up and are surprised to find yourself in a local movie theater —or more likely these days, on your couch.

These types of movies are ideal for a staycation, or a spring and summer of self-isolation and cancelled vacations.

Here are more than 47 movies and TV shows that will take you on a virtual vacation when you can’t have a real one.

Plan an international night!
Choose one these movies and pair it with a recipe from these 20 Global Cookbooks or one of these bread recipes from across the globe.

Since the point is escape, I chose entertainment where the setting is as important as the plot. Some offer adventure, but I stayed away from movies that are dark, scary or just downers. 

Several are great for families with kids of all ages, and some are for you and your teens. Others are best kept for after the young ones have gone to bed.

The age guidelines are a combination of age-appropriateness and also the likelihood kids will be interested in or bored with the movie.

You cans stream most of these movies and shows on Netflix or Amazon Prime  (you can add them to your queue that from the device you’re reading this on). 

Leave your passport in the drawer, and get hold of your favorite airplane snack. Or maybe cook a meal that matches the movie’s setting. Or just make some popcorn.

Settle into you couch and get ready to be swept away.

47 Movies & TV Shows To Take Your Family Around The World

Movies That Take You Across the U.S

New York City

The Movie: Moonstruck
Where It Takes You: Brooklyn

Moonstruck celebrates unexpected love, family and Brooklyn.

The Basic Plot: Danny Aiello wants to marry Cher, but while he’s visiting his dying mother in Palermo she falls in love with Nicholas Cage (in one of his best roles).

Filmed around Brownstone Brooklyn, but scenes at the Metropolitan Opera captures all of New York at its most glamorous. Several scenes take place in a fictional version of my favorite Greenwich Village Italian restaurant (RIP).

Best Age*: 13 to 14+

Buy the DVD or stream Moonstruck now.

The Movie: Sidewalks of New York
Where It Takes You: Manhattan

The Basic Plot: It follows a group of New Yorkers whose lives intersect through a series of relationships and breakups.  

It was filmed before 9/11 and released just after. You can see the World Trade Center perfectly framed in one of the scenes with Ed Burns.

Best Age: 16+

Buy the DVD or Stream Sidewalks of New York now.

More U.S. Films

Sideways takes viewers on a weekend venture across the wine region of Southern California.

The Movie: Sideways
Where It Takes You: Southern California’s wine region.

The Basic Plot: Two middle-aged guys take off a bachelor weekend of wine tasting. But thanks to the groom-to-be’s promiscuity the trip quickly goes, well, sideways.

Should you decide to drink a California wine while you’re watching it (which I recommend), don’t choose a merlot.

Best Age*: 17+ 

Buy the DVD or stream Sideways now.

The Movie: Bottle Shock
Where It Takes Place: Napa Valley in the 1970s.

Bottle Shock takes viewers to Napa Valley in the 1970s, when its wine industry was nascent.

The Basic Plot: Alan Rickman plays a snobbish wine writer who reluctantly discovers the wines in this nascent vineyard region are pretty good.

He sets up a tasting contest between the California and French wines, mostly for the publicity it might buy him. The rest is wine-making history.

Based loosely on a true story. The only wine to drink with this movie is Napa Chardonnay.

Best Age*: 15+

Stream Bottle Shock now.

L.A.story both celebrates and pokes fun at the L.A. lifestyle.

The Movie: L.A. Story
Where It Takes You: Sunny Los Angeles

The Basic Plot: Steve Martin pursues love in 1990s L.A. But the best part of the movie is the way manages to make fun of L.A.s sun-kissed culture while also celebrating it.

Best Age*: 14 to 16+

Buy the DVD or stream L.A. Story now.

The Descendants focuses on ancestral family property, loyalty and the next generation.

The Movie: The Descendants
Where It Takes You: Kauai and Oahu

The Basic Plot: Two streams of family drama run through the movie.

One deals with George Clooney’s failing marriage and his relationshipwith his daughter. The other with his extended family’s decision to keep or sell their valuable ancestral beachfront property.

Best Age*: 15 to 16+

Buy the DVD or stream The Descendants now.

The Movie: Ferris Bueller’s Day Off
Where It Takes You: Chicago

Ferris Bueller introduced American teens to the Chicago Art Institute.

The Basic Plot: Ferris and two friends play hooky and run around the windy city for the day. It’s basically an awesome Chicago weekend getaway squeezed into two hours. 

Best Age*: 11 to 12+

Buy the DVD or stream Ferris Bueller now.

The Movie: Midnight in the Garden of Good & Evil
Where It Takes You: Savannah

Mercer House is the setting for the controversial murder at the center of Midnight in the Garden of Good & Evil

The Basic Plot: Immerse yourself in the lovely town houses, city squares, cocktail parties and cotillions of Savannah society, along with a devious real-life murder mystery. 

Best Age*: 16+

But the disk or stream Midnight in the Garden now.

You Might Also Like These U.S. Films

Call of the Wild
A River Runs Through It
Dances With Wolves

Movies That Take You To Latin America

The Movie: Coco
Where It Takes You: Mexico

Coco is a celebration of Mexican culture and style.

The Basic Plot: Yes, it’s animated but the colors, scene details and the music are very Mexican.

Miguel steals a guitar from a crypt on the Day of the Dead and winds up in the land of the dead. To get back, he must discover some family secrets and come to terms with them.

Best Age*: 7+

Buy the DVD or stream Coco right now.

The Movie: Like Water for Chocolate
Where It Takes You: A Mexican Hacienda in the early 20th Century

Like Water for Chocolate add a dose of magical realism to a Mexican family's meals.

The Basic Plot: Tita, the youngest of three sisters, is forbidden from marriage by a family tradition. She channels her unexpressed passion for Pedro into her cooking.

The movie is full of Mexican culture and flavors and a heady dash of magical realistm

Best Age*: 17+

The Movie: Saludos Amigos
Where It Takes You: Argentina’s pampas, Chile’s mountains and the streets of Rio de Janeiro.

Walt Disney made Saludos Amigos to generate good will with South Americans prior to WWII.

The Basic Plot: In the late 1930s the U.S. government asked Walt Disney to take some of his animators and other artists on a good-will tour of South America.

This movie provides a look at their journey and celebrates three of the cultures they studied and sketched.

The last of three vignettes, set in Brazil, has really great animation. 

Best Age*: 5+

Stream Saludos Amigos now.

You Might Also Like These Latin American Movies

Motorcycle Diaries
The Wind Journeys
Frida

Movies That Take You To Europe

The United Kingdom

The Series: Doc Martin
Where It Takes You: A seaside village in Cornwall.

This seaside town in Cornwall is the setting for Doc Martin.

The Basic Plot: An anti-social London physician is a fish out of water who is patiently tolerated by the community is this seaside town.

Best Age: 10+ 

Buy the DVD or stream Doc Martin now.

The Series: Midsumer Murders
Where It Takes You: Filmed in the Cotswalds, it’s set in the fictional borough of Midsomer.

Midsumer Murders is also set in quaint Cotswald villages.

The Basic Plot: Detective Barnaby and his rotating deputies solve murders in picturesque villages with names like Badgers Drift, Great Worthy and Luxton Deeping.

He occasional visits to the market town of Causton and frequently visits the village pubs.

Best Age: 12+

Stream Midsumer Murders now.

The Movie: Local Hero
Where It Takes You: A village on the coast of Scotland.

The beach in Local Hero turms out to be the lynch pin in the deal Peter Riegert is trying to close.

The Basic Plot: A Houston oil company sends Mac to tiny Ferness to buy out the town so it can build a refinery. But after witnessing the northern lights, meeting an eccentri getting to know the locals, he wonders if he’s on the right side. 

Best Age: 12+

Buy the DVD or stream Local Hero now.

You Might Also Like These U.K. Shows

Shetland
The Crown
Downton Abby
Outlander

More European Films

The Movie: The Secret of Roan Inish
Where It Takes You: A Irish fishing village and an island with a secret past.

This beach provides the answer to a family mystery in Roan Inish.

The Basic Plot: Does Fiona come from a line of selkies and did these magical sea creatures steal her baby brother?

She gets to explore her family history and unravel these questions when she goes to live with her grandparents in a fishing village near the island of Roan Inish.

Best Age*: 8+

Buy the DVD or stream Roan Inish now.

The Movie: A Good Year
Where It Takes You: The farms and vineyards of Provence.

A Good Year is all about vineyards and vines and Southern France.

The Basic Plot: A self-involved London investment banker travels to Provence to sell his grandfather’s farm, where he spent summers as a boy.

After a series of ups and downs he becomes less self-involved and decides he’d rather make wine than make rich people richer. 

Best Age*: 16+

Buy the disks or stream A Good Year Now.

The Movie: To Catch a Thief
Where It Takes You: The French Riviera in the 1950s

Cary Grant tries to pursuade Grace Kelly he's no longer a thief as he woos her on the French Riviera.

The Basic Plot: Cary Grant is a suave retired cat burglar who must catch a copycat thief to clear his own name, while also wooing a suspicious Grace Kelly. Great introduction to Alfred Hitchcock

Best Age*: 12 to 13+

Buy the disks or stream To Catch a Thief now.

The Movie: Midnight in Paris
Where It Takes You: Paris in the 1920s and the modern day.

Gil meets some of his favorite dead writers during his Midnight Walks in Paris.

The Basic Plot: Gil is a screenwriter who wants to be a novelist. On a visit to Paris with his materialistic fianceé he falls in love with the city’s literary allure.

With the help of some magical realism, he gets to mingle with the famous writers of Paris’s golden age. 

Best Age*: 12 to 14+

Buy the disks or stream Midnight in Paris now.

The Movie: *Charade
Where It Takes You: 1950s Paris

Is Audrey Hepburn right to trust Walter Matthau? Everyone is a suspect in Charade.

The Basic Plot: After her husband’s mysterious death Regina Lampert finds herself in Paris, followed by three angry men who claim her husband cheated them out of a small fortune.

She and the dashing Peter Joshua need to find the money before the bad guys do. But can she trust him? Great cast.

Best Age: 14+

Stream Charade now.

The Movie: Roman Holiday
Where It Takes You: Rome

A princess and an American reporter see Rome by Vespa in Roman Holiday.

The Basic Plot: Audrey Hepburn, burnt out on being a princess, sneaks out her country’s embassy without any money. She meets Gregory Peck, a reporter who recognizes her and sees a career-making story.

They spend a day eating gelato, riding a Vespa and seeing the eternal city’s most famous sights. It’s a best-of tour of Rome in 90 minutes.

Best Age*: 10+

Stream Roman Holiday now.

The Movie: Much Ado About Nothing
Where It Takes You: 16th century Tuscany

The setting and the people are all gorgeous in Kenneth Branagh's Much Ado.

The Basic Plot: It’s a Shakespearean romantic comedy. But I watch it for the joy of seeing beautiful, tanned people frolicking in the equally beautiful Tuscan countryside. 

Kenneth Branagh’s love of Shakespeare really shines through. If this movie does get your kids interested in The Bard, nothing will.

Best Age*: 11 to 12+   

Buy the disks or stream Much Ado About Nothing now.

The Movie: The Way
Where It Takes You: The cities, towns and byways of Galicia.

The Basic Plot: Tom sets out to walk the Camino de Santiago through France and northern Spain to come to terms with the passing of his adult son, who died doing the same trek. 

This flick, directed by Emilio Estevez and starring his father, put the Camino on my bucket list.

Best Age: 13+

Buy the disks or stream The Way now.

The Movie: Durrels of corfu
Where It Takes You: To the charming island and clear blue waters of Corfu

The Basic Plot: Financially struggling Mrs. Durrell moves her four unconventional children from England to Corfu where they can live more cheaply. She hopes, they’ll also live more happily than they have since Mr. Durrell Died.

Despite the challenges that come with being outsiders in a tightly knit, conservative community, they fall in love with Corfu, find friends and themselves and flourish in the Mediterranean sun.

My family has gotten through weeks of self-isolation by visiting Corfu with the Durrells nightly; we’re on our second trip through the series. We also have all of our friends and family watching it.

Buy the complete Durrells series now or stream season 1.

Best Age: 12+ 

The Movie: Mama Mia
Where It Takes You: An idyllic, unnamed Greek island.

Tune in to Mama Mia for the cast and Abba music, stay for the gorgeous Greek island setting.

The Basic Plot: Sophie invites three of her mother’s former lovers to her wedding—without telling her mother— so she can find out which one is her father.

Enjoy the scenery. Dance and sing along to the Abba songs.

Best Age*: 10 to 13+

Buy the disks or stream Mama Mia now.

The Movie: Sound of music
Where It Takes You: Around Salzburg and into the Austrian Alps.

Explore Saltzburg and the Austrian Alps in the Sound of Music

The Basic Plot: Young postuland Marie leaves the convent to be a nanny to seven motherless children. She meets their stern father, captain Von Trapp. Music, love and the German Anschluss of Austria ensue.

Best Age*: 5 or 6+ for the music. 10+ for the plot.

Stream the Sound of Music tonight!

The Movie: Dr. Zhivago
Where It Takes You: Glamorous Czarist Moscow, Revolutionary Moscow, the tall grasses and deep snows of the Russian plains.

Dr. Zhivago is an epic movie with great setting in Moscow and other parts of Russia.

The Basic Plot: Everything about this movie is epic.

Yuri and Lara fall in love with each other and become entangled with others against the backdrop of the Czars, World War I and the Communist Revolution.

Be prepared: It’s nearly three-and-a-half hours long.

Best Age: 15 or 16+

Stream Dr. Zhivago Tonight!

You Might Also Like These Shows & Movies Set in Europe

Babette’s Feast
Wallander
Il Postino
Before Sunrise/Before Sunset
Under The Tuscan Sun

Movies That Take You To Asia

The Movie: Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon
Where It Takes You: A beautiful rural China that probably doesn’t actually exist but should

The bamboo forest fight scene is the reason people watch Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon.

The Basic Plot: There is a plot, involving thwarted love, a stolen sword and simmering rivalries. But the point of the movie are the beautifully choreographed and innovative martial arts scenes and gorgeous scenery.

Best Age*: 16+ (11 to 13+ if you fast forward through the one highly suggestive sexual scene). 

Stream Crouching Tiger today.

The Movie: Indochine
Where It Takes You: Colonial Indochina in the waning years of French colonialism and the rise of Vietnamese communism.

Indochine captures the romance and upheaval of the last days of Frnch Colonial Indochina.

Especially sumptuous are the scenes in the imperial city of Hue, majestic Halong Bay and the a colonial plantation house.

The Basic Plot: Love, politics and cultures converge and clash as the adopted Vietnamese daughter of a French plantation owner grows up in a rapidly changing country.

Best Age: 14+

Stream Indochine tonight!

The Movie: The Quiet American
Where It Takes You: Colorful, bustling Saigon and Hanoi and charming Hoi An.

The Quiet American captures the glamour and complexity of pre-war Vietnam.

The Basic Plot: In a sense it picks up where Indochine leaves off, on the eve of the American war in Vietnam.

Michael Caine and Brendan Fraser vie for the same Vietnamese ingenue and as they represent Europe’s old, tired cynicism and America’s young naïve optimism where Vietnam is concerned. 

Best Age: 16+

Buy the DVD or stream The Quiet American.

The Movie: Crazy Rich Asians
Where It Takes You: Singapore, including the behind gilded-doors side of this city that most tourists never see.

crazy rich asians is a fun romp through modern Singapore.

The Basic Plot: Nick brings Chinese-American girlfriend Rachel to Singapore for his best friend’s wedding.

But he forgot to mention he’s crazy rich, his family are snobs. And it quickly seems as though this down-to-earth middle-class academic who doesn’t know Pucci from Prada is never going to pass muster.   

Best Age*: 11 to 13+

Buy the disks or stream Crazy Rich Asians.

The Movie: Bride & Prejudice
Where It Takes You: A farm in Amritsar, Goa’s resort area (and bits of London and Los Angeles).

Bride & Prejudice adds color and music to Jane Austen's classic movie.

The Basic Plot: Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice with exotic locales, lively music, Bollywood choreography and lots of color. 

Best Age*: 11 to 13+ 

Buy the disks or stream Bride & Prejudice.

The Movie: Tampopo
Where It Takes You: All over Japan

Tampopo is a movie about Ramen. Really.

The Basic Plot: The movie satirizes Japan’s obsession with food and precision.

A woman with a run-down ramen counter asks a master to train her, Rocky-Balboa style, to make the perfect bowl of ramen.

Along the way the film wanders off in short vignettes that explore this food obsession.

Best Age: 16+

Order Tampopo today

Movies That Take You To The Middle East & Africa 

The Movie: Lawrence of Arabia
Where It Takes You: Filmed in Jordan, Spain, and Morocco.

Peter O'Toole crosses the Arabian desert during WWi in Lawrence of Arabia.

The Basic Plot: British military cartographer T.E. Lawrence Lawrence roams from Cairo across what today would be Saudi Arabia and Jordan, including the fortified port town of Al-Aqaba. 

He persuades feuding Arab tribes to unite, cross an impassable desert and attach the Turkish held port Al-Aqaba. Then he goes back to Cairo and drinks lemonade.

Best Age*: 12 to 13+

Stream Lawrence of Arabia this weekend

The Movie: Gorillas in the Mist
Where It Takes You: The mountain of Zaire, Rwanda and Uganda

The Basic Plot: This biopic follows the life Dian Fossey as she evolves from scientist to activist, researching and then fighting to protect Africa’s endangered gorillas. 

Best Age*: 13 to 14+

The Movie: Out of Africa

Where it Takes You: It was set and filmed in the Ngong Valley, Nairobi in what is now Kenya.

The Basic Plot: A Danish woman follows her wayward husband to Africa where she sets up a cattle farm, befriends local tribesman, succeeds against the odds and falls in love with her adopted home. 

Best Age*: 13+

You Might Also Like These Movies Set in the Middle East & Africa

Salmon Fishing in the Yemen
Hidalgo
Nowhere in Africa

Movies That Take You To Australia & New Zealand

The Series: Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries 
Where It Takes You: 1920s Melbourne with a few side trips to the sea and the countryside.

Phryne Fisher is the most fabulous female detective in post WWI Melbourne.

The Basic Plot: Independent single lady Phryne Fisher solves mysteries with the help of her maid, a female doctor friend, a pair of taxi drivers, a young constable and a handsome police detective.

I watch this series for the Phryne’s fabulous wardrobe and the setting as much as I do for the twisty plots. 

Best Age*: 12 to 15+ (it’s mostly tween friendly but episode one involves a back-alley abortion provider and cocaine.)

Buy the disks or stream Miss Fisher now.

Priscilla, Queen of the Desert follows drag performers across Australia.

The Movie: The Adventures of Priscilla Queen of the Desert
Where It Takes You: On the road from Sydney to the desert resort town of Alice Springs.

The Basic Plot: Two drag performers and a transgender woman hit the road when they’re hired to do their cabaret act in Alice Springs.

As is often the case, the journey is more fun than the destination. 

Stream Priscilla tonight!.

Best Age*: 16+

The mini series: Falling Inn Love
Where It Takes You: Rural New Zealand

An American woman and New Zealand man fix up an old inn and fall for each other.

The Basic Plot: A Californian looking to escape a break-up and career hiccup moves across the world to buy her dream house and start a B&B. Romance and adventures in home renovations ensue.

Best Age*: 12+

The Movie: The Lord of Rings Trilogy
Where It Takes You: Various parts of New Zealand as it stands in for the many realms of Middle Earth.

The mountains are one of many New Zealand locations you travel through during the LOTR movies.

The Basic Plot: Frodo Baggins must take the One Ring to Mordor to destroy it. He’s helped along the way by six loyal companions and various communities of elves and humans.

Best Age*:  11 to 12+

Buy the disks for the all of the LOTR movies or stream the Fellowship of the Ring to begin the journey.

You Might Also Like Australia & New Zealand Films

Australia
Whale Rider

Movies That Take You To Antarctica

The Movie: March of the Penguins
Where It Takes You: A migrating penguin colony in Antarctica

The Basic Plot: Watch penguins as they migrate, mate and hatch new penguins. This age recommention is offered with the caveat that this documentary is true to life.

March of the Penguins is a nature documentary about penguins and their babies.

Along the journey penguins do what comes naturally. They also die from the cold and are eaten by predators. 

Best Age*: 6+

Buy the disks or stream March of the Penguins today.

The Movie: Encounters at the End of the World
Where It Takes You: A series of research and scientific stations at the South Pole

The Basic Plot: In this documentary, Werner Herzog, known for directing extreme sport documentaries, follows scientists who choose to study and explore this frozen landscape.

Best Age*: 7+

Buy the disks or stream Encounters now.

Movies That Take You Around The Globe

The Movie: Eat Pray Love
Where It Takes You: From a Manhattan apartment to Italy, India and finally Bali.

Julia Roberts bikes through Bali in Eat Pray Love

The Basic Plot: Upon realizing her marriage is over, a woman seeks soul-satisfying food in Italy, self-enlightenment in India and joy in Bali. 

Best Age*: 16+

Buy the disks or stream Eat Pray Love.

The Movie: Around the World in 80 Days
Where It Takes You: Around the world including Europe, Asia and the United States.

The Basic Plot: Inventor Phileas Fogg bets the fellows at his club that he can travel round the world and land back in London in 80 days. He sets off by balloon and takes advantage of “modern” technology including the steam boat and railroad. 

The 1956 version with David Niven (offers rye, nuanced humor and a good cast but some outdated stereotypes) or the 2004 version with Steve Coogan and Jackie Chan (better production value but more slapstick).  

Best Age*: 8 to 10+ for the 2004 version; 12+ for the 1956 edition.

Buy the disks or stream the 1956 world tour or 2004 journey.

Raider of the Lost Ark is the first and best Indiana Jones adventure.

The Movie: Indiana Jones Raiders of the Lost Ark
Where It Takes You: A South America jungle, Nepal, Cairo and the Egyptian desert.

The Basic Plot: Indiana Jones travels the globe working to find the Ark of the Covenant before the Nazis, who are led by his arch rival.

Best Age: 11+

Sean Connery and Harrison Ford search for the grail inthe Last Crusade.

The Movie: Indiana Jones & the Last Crusade
Where It Takes You: Venice, the Austria-Germany border and Petra, Jordan standing in for the Temple of the Grail.

The Basic Plot: Indy and his father team up, reluctantly, to find the holy grail before the Nazis do (he really hates those guys).

Best Age*: 9 to 11+, depending on your child’s tolerance for action movies.

Buy the disks or stream the Last Crusade.

The Movie: On the Way to School
Where It Takes You: Morocco, Argentina, India, Kenya

On the way to school follows kids as they get to school in Morocco, Kenya, Argentina and India.

The Basic Plot: In this documentary we follow kids from four families around the world who cover great distances to get to school.

They trek down a mountain, ride horses, push a wheelchair over dirt roads and avoid elephants in the course of getting to school.

It really is uphill both ways for these kids and their perseverance is inspiring.

Best Age*: 10+

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* Age recommendations were taken from Common Sense Media.
* Photos courtesy of Amazon, film studios and local tourism agencies.


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