12 Romantic Movies That Will Inspire Wanderlust

Looking for films that will inspire wanderlust? These 12 romantic movies set in exotic locations will reignite your desire to travel and have new adventures. (Left: Image from IMDB, Right: Image by MUBI)

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Romantic movies don’t just inspire amorous passions, as they can also trigger severe wanderlust by transporting the characters (and us, the viewers) to exotic locations. Whether they take place in the deserts of North Africa, the ornate palaces of imperial China and India, or in the cobblestone streets of Paris, these films will inspire you to throw caution to the wind and explore the world with greater passion.

1. The English Patient

Based on the best-selling novel by Michael Ondaatje, The English Patient is a melodramatic love story that transports the viewers from the deserts of Egypt and North Africa to the shattered countryside of post-war Tuscany.

Featuring unforgettable performances from Juliette Binoche, Ralph Fiennes, and Kristin Scott Thomas, the film will inspire you to explore the souks of Morroco, the pre-war luxury hotels of Alexandria, and the aristocratic villas of Tuscany. Alternatively, you could book a caravan trip and cross the deserts in hopes of having a mystical experience.

2. Eat Pray Love

Based on the 2006 memoir by Elizabeth Gilbert, Eat Pray Love recounts the protagonist’s journey of self-discovery, which takes her from New York City to the historic regions of Rome and Naples and the Hindu cultures of India and Bali.

Interspersed with references to Eastern mysticism and the desire for self-actualisation (which includes finding a soulmate), the film contains majestic clips of ashrams in Delhi and the lush tropical getaways of Ubud and Padang-Padang beach in The Island of the Gods.

3. Midnight in Paris

No listicle covering the best romantic movies about travel would be complete without Midnight in Paris. This Woody Allen directed film is the ultimate love letter to the most romantic city in the world.

As befits the title, much of the action takes place in and around Paris — in the museums, cafes, gardens, and landmarks that define the city. The film also brings to life the many bohemian personages that lived in Paris in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, including Salvador Dali, Pablo Picasso, Gertrude Stein, and Paul Gaugin.

4. The Last Emperor

Widely considered to be Bernardo Bertolucci’s magnum opus, The Last Emperor revolves around the life of Puyi, the last sovereign of the Qing dynasty. While the film examines Puyi’s doomed relationships with his wives and concubines and details how those around him used and manipulated him, the film’s real star is The Forbidden City.

Viewers get to see this excellent palace complex transform from an anachronistic institution into a museum piece visited by millions of tourists annually. This film will inspire you to explore Beijing and mainland China’s imperial palaces and relics.

5. Only You

Only You is a quintessential American romantic comedy about a woman chasing love in a foreign country. Starring Marisa Tomei and Robert Downey Jr as star-crossed lovers in Italy, the film has majestic clips of nearly every romantic location in the Italian boot: the canals of Venice, the cobblestone streets of Rome, sleepy villages in Salerno, and San Gimignano in Tuscany. Only watch this film if you harbour notions of chasing romance with an Italian backdrop.

6. Lost in Translation

Directed by Sofia Coppola, Lost in Translation is the director’s love letter to Tokyo — a city that fuses east and west, tradition and futurism. Starring Scarlett Johansson as the unhappy wife of a photographer and veteran hipster Bill Murray as a washed-up actor on a business trip, the film explores alienation and quiet desperation in an unfamiliar environment.

The characters’ culture shock and internal traumas won’t repel you from wanting to explore Tokyo yourself — whether it’s the pedestrian-filled streets of Shibuya, the bullet trains that lead to Mount Fuji, or the ancient Shinto temples of the city’s back alleys.

7. Nowhere in Africa

Nowhere in Africa is a German-language film about a Jewish family fleeing Nazi Germany for a remote farm in Kenya. Initially shocked by the primitive existence living in the outback entails, the family grows to love their new home’s people, wildlife, and environment.

Filled with majestic sequences that celebrate the wildlife and geography of Kenya, this film will inspire you to go on a modern-day safari in east Africa.

8. Indochine

Starring Catherine Deneuve, Indochine explores life in French Indochina during the colonial period. As Deneuve conducts a torrid love affair with a navy lieutenant (played by Vincent Perez) and clashes with her adopted Vietnamese daughter (played by Linh Dan Pham), a growing Vietnamese nationalism challenges the privileged life of French plantation owners.

The film is interspersed with shots of old Saigon, boats throning Halong Bay, and the interiors of opulent hotels, colonial mansions, and Taoist temples. Indochine will inspire you to explore Hanoi’s urban and natural wonders and Ho Chi Minh City.

9. Rebecca

Based on the Gothic novel by Daphne du Maurier, this new Netflix adaptation traces the journey of our unmanned heroine as she travels from glamorous Monaco to the rainy chill of Manderley in the English countryside.

Best described as a ghost story with no ghost, Rebecca revels in the sunshine of Monte Carlo and the sinister elegance of old English country manors, with their haunted histories and over-decorated interiors. If you enjoy romantic films within the confines of English manors (with full access to cliffs overlooking turbulent seas), then Rebecca is the film for you.

10. Before Sunrise

Part of Richard Linklater’s Before trilogy, Before Sunrise is a Gen X romantic film about star-crossed lovers backpacking around Europe. Starring Ethan Hawke as an American student romancing a Frenchwoman (played by Julie Delpy), the film mostly takes place in Vienna.

The characters spend the day exploring the city and discussing love, life, religion, and their futures. Initially not planning to see each other again, their paths cross in the next film in the trilogy. This highly cerebral film will inspire you to book a Eurail trip and go on dates in different European cities.

11. Bajirao Mastani

Directed by Sanjay Leela Bhansali and starring Bollywood heavyweights Deepika Padukone, Ranveer Singh, and Priyanka Chopra, Bajirao Mastani is a historical epic filled with lavish song and dance numbers.

Set in the 18th century at the court of the Maratha Emperor Chhatrapati Shahu, the film is a classic love triangle with a tragic ending. Bajirao Mastani will pique your interest in imperial India’s mosques, tombs, artworks, and palaces with its opulent costumes and reimagined temples and palaces.

12. Wild

Directed by Jean-Marc Vallée and starring Reese Witherspoon, Wild follows one woman’s determination to complete the Pacific Crest Trail by hiking and backpacking. Equally a symbolic journey to healing and self-discovery following romantic failures and personal losses, Wild is filled with lush cinematography that showcases the Mojave Desert, Kennedy Meadows, and Mount Hood National Forest.

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Michelle is a Manila-based content editor. As a journalist, she's covered the property investment and mortgage markets in Australia and Canada. Her freelance writing focuses primarily on lifestyle, travel, and skincare. When she’s not working, she likes to visit museums and take Instagram photos of well-plated food.