The Velvet Café

A room for thoughts about movies

Travelling through the movies – a 10 list for your enjoyment

with 19 comments

To quote a movie I didn’t care for particularly much (apart from as a cure for insomnia): I’m not here.

As this post is coming up, I’m most likely resting my feet, sipping a drink of ouzo after spending the entire day walking around and admiring the remains of the classical Athens.

I’m in a different café than this one, even though I might very well be wrapped up in a film related conversation since the friend I’m visiting also is a cinephile.

But don’t despair! I thought I’d give you a little something to much on before I return to blogging around the middle of next week. As my mind got more and more filled with travel lust I naturally started to think about movies I’ve seen that are about travelling, one way or another and I decided to compile them to a list.

Some of them won’t come as a surprise; they’re frequent on this kind of lists. But I’ve also included a few films that are old or odd enough to not necessarily be the first you come to think of.

The idea was to give different perspectives on travelling.

1. The world in between

The Terminal (Steven Spielberg, 2004)

Airport magic. Is there anything like it? People, all those people. Strangers and yet somehow related. We’re all Travellers, going somewhere or leaving something behind. Closing doors, opening doors in our lives. We’re meeting in this place outside of all places. A neutral territory, a world between the worlds, belonging to everyone and no one. I look at their faces, at their clothes, the way they’re moving, their luggage and I turn into a Sherlock Holmes wannabe, making stories in my mind about their past and their future.

If I wasn’t a such a sensible woman and if the parking fees were a little lower I’d probably go to the airport once in a while just to sit there, watching airplanes landing and taking off, sitting my coffee.

Admittedly the squatter in The Terminal has other reasons for not leaving the airport than romanticising about travelling. But still – an entire movie that takes place in a flight terminal. You have to love it.

2. Unwillingly

The Accidental Tourist (Lawrence Kasdan 1988)

Cities over the world look more and more alike each other. The Swedish H&M retail is established in San Francisco.  And I regularly have a lunch sandwich at Subway in my hometown. While convenient (you don’t need to think things over, you just pick the same sandwich as you did 5 000 kilometers away), it’s also pretty saddening.

Add to this our computer-like phones, which keep us connected with anyone in the world 24/7 if we want and travelling isn’t quite what it used to be.

But I know someone who wouldn’t mind this development: William Hurt’s character in The Accidental Tourist. He makes a living on writing guide books to help people who hate travelling but have to do it in their job to make the journey as much homelike as possible so they’ll barely notice they’re abroad. At the point when this film came out the thought was pretty absurd. And now… we’ll we’re basically living his dream. Food for thought.

3. Train nostalgia

The Murder on the Orient Express (Sidney Lumet, 1974)
I remember the first time I read Agatha Christie’s crime novel The Murder on the Orient Express. I must have been about 12 years old and was completely wrapped up in it and SHOCKED by the conclusion. One after one I had suspected everyone in the party and it turned out to be… Oh, well, you know I guess. I was so taken by it and so saddened that it was over that I immediately read it a second time. Surprisingly enough it turned out that the murderer was the same one.

Nothing beats travelling by train when it comes to putting you in the right travel mode. The soft thumping sound is hypnotizing and soothing, either you decide to spend the night staring into the darkness, occasionally broken by bypassing villages, or you allow yourself to drift into the sweet sort sleep that only a moving train can offer.

As of the murderer I don’t care too much at this point. It’s all about the train.

4. On the run

Thelma & Louise (Ridley Scott, 1991)
It’s been a while since I watched this one, so I don’t remember the details and I have no idea if it still holds up after twenty years. But I’d sure like to find out. I remember it as a kick-ass film, picturing two empowered women on a road-trip, taking control over their own lives. It passed the Bechdeltest with wide margin. It felt refreshing and new at the time it was launched and when I think about it I realize that this kind of movie still is pretty unusual after all those years. Strong female characters. How many of those do we get to see?

5. So alien!

Solaris (Andrei Tarkovsky, 1972)
I’m a science fiction fan, so of course I wanted to include a movie about space travel on my list. While I love Star Trek’s mission to explore and grandness of 2001, I finally went for the original version of Solaris. Among all aliens space travellers encounter, I think this one is the most alien. If mankind ever will travel so far in space that we’ll encounter other species, I imagine we’d end up in the same difficulties in communication.

Be warned if you’re a cinema snoozer like me. It’s on the slow side and you’d better load up with a lot of coffee to get through it. Another tip is to read the source material, Stanislaw Lem’s novel with the same name. I think it makes a good companion and gives a better understanding of the movie.

6. A journey into misery I

The Flight of the Eagle (Ingenjör Andrés luftfärd, Jan Troell 2011)
All my life I’ve been intrigued by the Swedish Arctic Balloon Expedition to the North Pole, led by the engineer S.A. Andrée.

The expedition ended in disaster. The balloon fell to the ground and the expedition members, badly equipped and prepared, died eventually. No one knew about what had happened to them until 33 years later, when their last camp was discovered.

In the cold a lot of items had been preserved, including diary notes, which gave a fair picture of what had happened. Those sources inspired to a fictional book, which in turn inspired to this movie starring Max von Sydow among others. It’s a story about vanity, about how PR, politics and other interests can make you caught up in a web of half lies until there is no choice but to go forward, even if you’ve lost your faith in the project. And it’s a story about what happens in the group of three men, trying to survive in the arctic with all odds against them.

7. A journey into misery II

The Road (John Hillcoat, 2009)
Sometimes you’re not travelling for pleasure; you’re doing it in a final, desperate attempt to survive. And that’s the case with The Road, which is the darkest post-apocalyptic movie I’ve ever watched, and also my favourite in the genre. I particularly like that you never get to know what happened, what disaster that has made mankind end up like this. It’s not important. Only survival matters.

8. Searching for something

Into the Wild (Sean Penn, 2007)
When you read a book first and watch the film adaptation afterwards, you often end up liking the book better. Equally: if you watch a film first and then read the book it’s based on, you often prefer the film. That’s just how it seems to work. You know you shouldn’t compare them, but you end up doing it anyway because you can’t erase the tracks that the book had left in your mind. But Into the Wild is an exception to this rule. I had read Jon Krakauers biography about the young man who hitchhiked his way around America to end up in the wilderness in Alaska long before I watched the film adaptation, but I ended up liking the adaptation even better. The casting was perfect, the cinematography breathtaking and the score by Eddie Vedder is simply wonderful, one of my favorite soundtracks in film history.

The film has gotten some crap for idealizing stupid behavior leading to the unnecessary and meaningless death. I disagree with this. It’s very clear what mistakes he made and how he eventually realized this. But more than anything else, to me it’s a film about the exhilarating feeling of hitchhiking, of taking the day as it comes, of being young and on the road.

9. Connected and disconnected

Lost in Translation (Sofia Coppola, 2003)
Lost in Translation is my favourite movie. I’ve written about it before and I keep coming back to it, mentioning it again whenever I get the chance to. And where does it suit better than in a list over travel movies? It’s a concentrate of what travelling means to me, or at least a certain kind of travelling. Scarlett Johansen sitting in the window at the hotel, looking out over the foreign city in the night, far, far away from home, hits a note with me – I know that feeling. Bob and Charlotte are disconnected to the world but get a temporary connection to each other before they’ll continue their lives on different roads, like travellers do.

10. My most anticipated

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (Peter Jackson 2012)
Doesn’t almost every fantasy movie contain some sort of travelling? Epic journeys – that’s what the entire genre is about. My first thought was that I’d include the long walk through Middle-Earth in the ring trilogy, but then I decided to look forward. The Hobbit even has the word “journey” in the title, what more could you ask for?

I’m not ashamed to say that The Hobbit is my most anticipated movie in 2012. I cherish the video diaries as they’re released (number six is just up in case you’ve missed it) and the few glimpses we’ve seen make me hopeful about the result. My only worry is that they’ll make the dwarves into too much of joke characters. I think dwarves deserve some respect too.

Final words
Our journey through travel movies has come to an end. As I said in the beginning of this post: I’m not here, but I will be back.

Meanwhile you can talk with each other. Which travel themed movie is your favourite and why? Share your stories about movies and travelling. And by all means – help yourself and enjoy whatever drinkables you may find in the bar.

See you around!



Written by Jessica

March 9, 2012 at 5:00 pm

19 Responses

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  1. Nice list Jessica, I was getting worried for a minute there when I got near the end and you still hadn’t mentioned Lost In Translation yet.

    Bonjour Tristesse

    March 9, 2012 at 10:29 pm

    • Hehe… It’s not in any particular order. Or rather: I didn’t want to start with it since I knew everyone would expect me to include it. I’d rather have some other picks first. But it’s my favorite movie…


      March 12, 2012 at 11:44 pm

  2. The Road is an amazing movie. I was so drawn in to the story. I think you have to be a fan of that style of movie though because plenty of people told me they got bored watching it.

    Mister K

    March 11, 2012 at 4:10 am

    • I really can’t see how you could get bored by it. It’s kind of depressing though, I admit that much.


      March 12, 2012 at 11:45 pm

  3. Great list, Jess!! I think The Hobbit is my most anticipated film this year as well.


    March 11, 2012 at 10:19 am

  4. Well Done Jessica!! Nice list indeed

    Scott Lawlor

    March 12, 2012 at 10:18 am

    • Thanks Scott! List posts always end up taking crazy amounts of time doing (as you probably know), but it’s a lot of fun.


      March 12, 2012 at 11:46 pm

  5. I was also thinking of Into the Wild. I’ll add Before Sunset, romance on holiday!


    March 12, 2012 at 7:42 pm

    • I know! I need to know Before Sunset as well as the companion. I know you’ve pointed me to it before but I really need to find a way to get hold of them. HAven’t seen them in my library or video rental store.


      March 12, 2012 at 11:47 pm

  6. A very fun, innovative and ambitious list. I totally agree with you on the airport issue in as much that I love the atmosphere but am usually to wound up by my own travelling plans to relish it. Maybe I should only go as far as Arlanda on my next vaction.

    Hope you’re haveing a wonderful time in Athens.


    March 12, 2012 at 8:49 pm

    • I could see myself spending an entire day at Arlanda just watching the traffic. The poor man’s alternative to travelling!

      Athens was great, especially Panthenon. It was sad to see the effects of the bad Greek economy though. Lots of closed shops and restaurants.


      March 12, 2012 at 11:50 pm

  7. Great list. I’d add The Road Warrior, The Sure Thing, Pee Wee’s Big Adventure, Finding Nemo, Wendy and Lucy (not a lot of travel, but takes place in the midst of travel), and Lawrence of Arabia.

    And, although it isn’t a favorite of mine, many people I know would be surprised that you didn’t mention It Happened One Night.

    Steve Kimes

    March 14, 2012 at 3:45 am

    • Road Warrior, Finding Nemo, Lawrence of Arabia – all fine choices! I’m afraid I haven’t seen Wendy and Lucy or The Sure Thing.

      It Happened One Night wasn’t one of my favorites either, hence the lack of mentioning. Too gender stereotypic for my taste.


      March 14, 2012 at 7:33 am

  8. I saw most of Into the Wild on TV last night. Though I’ve seen it before I’d totally forgotten how beautiful a film it is; you’re right that the cinematography is simply stunning. I completely agree with you about film and book; I watched the film, read the book, and saw the film again. I felt that he came across as an arrogant sod in the book, I guess perhaps this was toned down in the film so that audiences could engage with him more.

    BTW you can thank Nostra and his Moviesite spotlight for me finding you. I really like your style of writing.

    FlimsrRuss (@FilmsrRuss)

    March 14, 2012 at 2:37 pm

    • Thank you for popping by and for your kind words! The blogosphere is such a huge place and unfortunately you’ll only be able to check out a few of the hundreds and thousands of movie blogs there are out there. I’m glad that Nostra brought us together and I’ll definitely make sure to visit your place!


      March 14, 2012 at 2:56 pm

  9. This is a fantastic list, Jessica. I love that you’ve taken so many different meanings and purposes of traveling – most lists focus on just one, but you’ve got the whole gamut in here!


    March 16, 2012 at 5:51 pm

  10. […] Travelling Through the Movies by Jessica at The Velvet Cafe […]

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