Stream these flicks to get geared up; many of them are set in the West.

These Are the Best Summer Travel Movies to Watch to Get Inspired (Or Catch In-Flight)
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Group of friends enjoying movie night outdoors in nature

Summer travel is officially at its peak. Instagram Stories from European vacations are flowing into your feed, and serious FOMO is starting to set in. But as we showcase in our summer travel newsletter, it’s not too late to plan an incredible vacation. With a little know-how and some inspiration, there’s still hope. So, instead of bingeing the latest season of And Just Like That, why not dive into some of the best travel movies out there, many of which are set right here in the West. Here are our favorites.


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Academy Award-winner Reese Witherspoon stars in this inspiring true story of self-discovery and redemption as she makes her way across the Pacific Crest Trail. The film is from the director of Dallas Buyers Club and is based on the best-selling book by Cheryl Strayed.

Thelma & Louise

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This Golden Globe-winning film is about two resourceful woman who go on the lam after shooting their attacker, taking off in a ’66 Thunderbird for an adventure throughout the desert Southwest in Utah. Most of the filming for the movie was done in and around Moab, Utah, and Bakersfield, California, showcasing stunning locations along the way.

Lost in Translation

Though set in Japan, this movie directed by Sofia Coppola is one of our favorite travel films. According to this description, “Bob Harris and Charlotte are two Americans in Tokyo. Bob is a movie star in town to shoot a whiskey commercial, while Charlotte is a young woman tagging along with her workaholic photographer husband. Unable to sleep, Bob and Charlotte cross paths one night in the luxury hotel bar. This chance meeting soon becomes a surprising friendship. Charlotte and Bob venture through Tokyo, having often hilarious encounters with its citizens, and ultimately discover a new belief in life’s possibilities.”

National Lampoon’s Vacation


A classic comedy centered around family vacations, this is a must-see. According to this description, “Everything is planned, packed and about to go hilariously wrong. The Griswolds are going on vacation. In the driver’s seat is Clark Griswold (Chevy Chase), an Everyman eager to share the open road and the wonders of family togetherness. Myriad mishaps, crude kin (Randy Quaid), encounters with a temptress (Christie Brinkley), financial woes, Aunt Edna (Imogene Coca) on the roof, one security guard (John Candy) and 2,460 miles later, it’s a wonder the Griswolds are together. There’s never been a family vacation like it. Except maybe yours. And that helps explain why National Lampoon’s Vacation remains so popular and so very funny.”

The Endless Summer

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According to the movie description, “They call it The Endless Summer, the ultimate surfing adventure, crossing the globe in search of the perfect wave. From the uncharted waters of West Africa, to the shark-filled seas of Australia, to the tropical paradise of Tahiti and beyond, these California surfers accomplish in a few months what most people never do in a lifetime… They live their dream. Director Bruce Brown creates a film so powerful it has become a timeless masterpiece that continues to capture the imagination of every new generation. When it first played in theaters, audiences lined up to see it again and again, spellbound by its thrilling excitement and awesome photography. But in fact, what’s most compelling about the film is the sport of surfing itself, and once you’ve seen it, you’ll never forget why.”

Free Solo

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The epic film Free Solo, in which famed rock climber Alex Honnold completes Yosemite National Park’s 3,300-foot Freerider route on El Capitan without a rope, is an incredibly inspiring documentary worth a watch. As director Jimmy Chin said to Sunset when we reported on the premiere, “The film isn’t just about climbing. It’s about hard choices in life, about ambition and dreams and relationships—really profound things that great challenges can bring out in people. That’s what drives me these days.”


The film’s description reads, “A divorced school teacher, and failed author, joins up with his buddy who is about to get married and head to wine country for a week of male bonding and wine tasting. What starts out as a whimsical trip to mark the coming milestone in his friend’s life quickly dissolves into philosophical discussions and poignant debate. By the end of the week, neither man is convinced that they are on the right track.”

Wine Country

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According to the movie description: “Wine Country is a 2019 American comedy film produced and directed by Amy Poehler, in her feature directorial debut. She stars alongside many SNL alumni Maya Rudolph, Rachel Dratch, Ana Gasteyer, Paula Pell, Emily Spivey, Jason Schwartzman, and Tina Fey, as the plot follows a group of middle-aged women who go on a wine tasting tour in California.”

Grand Budapest Hotel

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According to the film description,”Wes Anderson brings his dry wit and visual inventiveness to this exquisite caper set amid the old-world splendor of Europe between the World Wars. At the opulent Grand Budapest Hotel, the concierge M. Gustave (Ralph Fiennes) and his young protege Zero (Tony Revolori) forge a steadfast bond as they are swept up in a scheme involving the theft of a priceless Renaissance painting and the battle for an enormous family fortune while around them, political upheaval consumes the continent. Meticulously designed, The Grand Budapest Hotel is a breathless picaresque and a poignant paean to friendship and the grandeur of a vanished world, performed with panache by an all-star ensemble that includes F. Murray Abraham, Adrien Brody, Saoirse Ronan, Willem Dafoe, Jude Law, Harvey Keitel, Jeff Goldblum, Mathieu Amalric, Tilda Swinton, and Bill Murray.”

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