As listservs become full, flurries of applications are sent and purple pride surges within our hearts, Fall Quarter will settle down into a period of assimilation and comfort. But after spending weeks studying the effects of the bubonic plague on the Italian economy, our minds can begin to wander to far-off places filled with adventure and mystery. And that mystery does not have anything to do with the demise of the European population during the Renaissance.
Instead, how about picnicking on the lawn of the Eiffel Tower with fragrant cheese and freshly-baked bread? Or analyzing the intricacies of the Sistine Chapel ceiling in the heart of Vatican City? Or even Instagramming the perfectly positioned row of brightly colored houses in Copenhagen?
With study abroad deadlines right around the corner, I have put together a guide to the best travel-inspired movies in hopes of fueling the fire of those considering venturing away from the Northwestern bubble. Has the thought of studying abroad not even crossed your mind? Well, watch the movies anyways because I can endorse each one as legitimately entertaining. Grab some popcorn, grab a study abroad adviser and let your mind wander to places a little less frozen tundra-y in the winter.
Under The Tuscan Sun
In this classic “do-over” film, Diane Lane plays a depression-struck divorcee who is encouraged by her best friend to travel throughout the beautiful Italian countryside as a little pick-me-up. Obviously, that’s the only solution. Lane then proceeds to recreate her life in a romantic Tuscan villa that she impulsively bought, and it’s absolutely heart-warming. Let’s not forget the inevitable love interest, the handsome Raoul Bova. Sure, Rotten Tomatoes only gave this one a 62%, but I think it has all the makings of a great wanderlust film.
My my, how can I resist you? In the wise words of ABBA, “there’s a fire within my soul” when I watch this classic musical brought to the big screen. The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants has always been my go-to when it comes to dreams of traveling to the historical islands of Greece, but this song-filled masterpiece trumps all previous thoughts. Meryl Streep is a goddess, Amanda Seyfried is the envy of all young girls and the many intertwined Grecian love interests keeps everybody on the edge of their seats. If you watch this musical and don’t immediately want to purchase a one-way ticket to Crete, something is sincerely wrong.
Study abroad opportunities in Greece: Athens
The Motorcycle Diaries
This enlightening biopic is considered one of the most essential and influential Latin American films of the new millennium. This film focuses on the young adult life of Che Guevara prior to becoming an Argentine revolutionary, who travels from Brazil to Peru during his last semester of medical school with his best friend. While places of poverty and distress are often depicted, The Motorcycle Diaries also shows the beautiful hidden gems of South America. Not only did Gael García Bernal (Che) receive much recognition, but the film also won an Oscar for Best Original Song. So if you’re into that, check it out.
Goodbye, New York
Julie Hagerty, star of Airplane!, brings this satirical comedy to life when she accidentally takes too many sedatives on her flight to Paris and ends up immersed in the colorful culture of Tel Aviv. Looks like Hagerty doesn’t have the best luck with fixed-wing aircrafts. Whether you’re considering traveling to Northwestern’s Qatar campus or Tel Aviv itself, watch this movie for some great culture, great scenery and great jokes. The underlying wittiness of the 1980s sure comes into play with this classic comedy. No matter what program you choose, I’m wishing you luck on accurate destination arrival.
In the Mood for Love
If you're looking to immerse yourself in beautiful shots of Hong Kong and Singapore, this classic film by Wong Kar-wai is a definite addition to your "must watch" list. While the melancholy of the main characters' romance may leave you feeling lonely and isolated, it may also leave you looking to explore the quiet beauty of the city of Hong Kong on your own – and perhaps fall in love with a married stranger as you pass each other on the stairs to an underground noodle bar. Or maybe, you really just want to visit an underground noodle bar. If you're looking for more isolation that highlights cityscapes, try Lost in Translation. Both films draw heavy influence from filmmaker Michaelangelo Antonioni, who is known for capturing modern architecture – something Tokyo is certainly not lacking.
The Sound of Music
Some consider this the musical of all musicals, but I watch it purely for the scenery. Sure, listening to the soothing songs of Julie Andrews and her posse of seven Austrian children is extremely enjoyable, but catching a glimpse of the mountainous countryside is even more magnificent. Even if you’re not 16 going on 17, this movie will evoke all sorts of emotions that will have you dreaming of running through the hills singing about all of your favorite things. Just think, studying abroad in Austria could have you feeling like this.
Study abroad opportunities in Austria: Vienna
Two For The Road
We all know that Audrey Hepburn was the queen of the movie industry back in the day, and I think that Two for the Road proves just that. This romantic drama has Hepburn and her husband, played by Albert Finney, thinking back on the early days of their marriage through an array of flashbacks. One of the biggest aspects of their lives was their road trips through the French countryside – diverse and breathtaking views of all kinds sure to strike up that wanderlust passion that could potentially send you abroad in search of your own Finney or Hepburn.
This film by Senegalese writer/director Ousmane Sembène will surprise and intrigue you with its depicton of life in a rural Burkina Faso village. Featuring the story of tribal traditions intersecting with modernizing standards of treatment towards women, this tale of a rebellion against the "purification ceremony" and the effects it has on the community will likely spark dual interests in the beauty of Burkina Faso and the prevalence of female genital mutilation, and perhaps inspire you to take action against gender inequality across the globe. If you're looking for a more uptempo watch, try District 9 – the dystopic feature was shot on location in Johannesburg.
If you’ve heard of this movie, I’m super impressed. Most people would say that they are inspired to travel to Spain from The Lizzie McGuire Movie or even Cheetah Girls 2, which I definitely am, but this movie is in its own wanderlust league. Yes, it’s in Spanish, and no, I do not speak Spanish. There are English versions of course, but I would rather get the whole package by full cultural immersion. It’s filled with drama, it’s filled with comedy and it’s filled with beautiful views of the historic Barcelona. When a French student travels to Spain to live with other international students in this apartment, quite literally a parallel to study abroad, you know plot twists are right around the corner.
The Lord of the Rings Trilogy
I’m really hoping I don’t need to sell this one to you because it is quite literally one of the most sought-after and thrilling adventure films (and book trilogies) in the world. With its depiction of enchanting New Zealand landscapes, I’d consider this required watching before voyaging to the Oceanic region. Fun fact: in New Zealand you can visit the legitimate filming locations for each of the movies. True LOTR fanatics would not miss out on this potentially life-changing experience. Completely immerse yourself in the life of Mr. Baggins and appreciate the long translucent hair of the impeccable Orlando Bloom.