When you envision a romantic travel night out, you probably imagine sipping cocktails under the stars while your feet dip into the waters of the South Pacific in Bora Bora, or sharing oysters and champagne in a chic bistro in Montmartre, Paris, not sitting on your couch at home. But date nights ain’t what they used to be and Bora Bora and Paris are currently not possibilities for a romantic travel night. So a night at home watching a romantic movie will have to do.
In order to help you sort the wheat from the chaff when it comes to romantic travel movies, we’ve shared the following eight recommendations. As we have with our other travel movie lists, we’ve avoided most of the typical suggestions, so don’t go looking for Under the Tuscan Sun. Instead, we’ve chosen good movies, first and foremost, while also understanding that there’s more to romance than fairy tale endings and generic romantic comedies. If you and your partner are missing travel, hopefully these movies help satisfy your wanderlust while providing the sort of romantic atmosphere that’s necessary for date night.
What are the best romantic travel movies?
Before Sunrise (and Before Sunset and Before Midnight)
It’s fitting that we have Before Sunrise at the top of the list, because not only is it the best romantic travel movie of all time, but it’s one of the most romantic movies, period. This 1995 independent drama from Richard Linklaker follows Jesse, a young American played by Ethan Hawke on vacation in Europe who starts up a flirtation with Celine, a pretty young Frenchwoman played by Julie Delpy, on a train in Austria. He convinces her to get off the train with him and spend 24 hours with him in Vienna as he waits for his flight back home the next morning. As they wander around the Austrian capital visiting landmarks and local bars, they get to know each other, discuss the meaning of life, and fall in love. Before Sunrise condenses the early, exciting moments of a relationship into one day set against one of the loveliest backdrops imaginable. The sequels, Before Sunset, set in Paris nine years later, and Before Midnight, set another nine years later in Greece, expand the story and delve deeper into the relationship between Jesse and Celine, but the original has the greatest romantic power.
The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel
Romance isn’t the main focus of this comedic drama about a group of English retirees (Judi Dench, Bill Nighy, Maggie Smith, Penelope Wilton, Tom Wilkinson, Ronald Pickup, Celia Imrie) who move to Jaipur, India to live in the titular retirement home run by an eager young entrepreneur (Dev Patel). But the movie is about the possibility for renewal in a place away from home, which includes the chance for having a fulfilling romance late in life. The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel showcases the rejuvenating potential of travel as well as the beautiful colours of Rajasthan. The all-star cast puts on an acting clinic, while the various romantic subplots are satisfying without being reductive. This is a genuine crowd-pleaser that celebrates age, travel, and love, which makes it perfect for a romantic travel movie night.
Call Me by Your Name
This romantic coming of age story is about as sultry as movies get on this list. Set in Italy in 1983, it follows a young American, Elio (Timothée Chalamet), who is spending the summer with his parents in a rented villa. His father’s student, Oliver (Armie Hammer), comes to stay with them and over the course of the summer, Elio and Oliver find themselves falling for each other. Call Me by Your Name basks in the beauty of everything on screen, from the sunny orchards of Northern Italy to the sumptuous meals the characters enjoy to the physical beauty of the actors themselves. The movie won the Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay and was nominated for a whole host of others, including Best Picture, but its soundtrack, framed around two songs by Sufjan Stevens and featuring classical pieces by John Adams and Ryuichi Sakamoto and Euro-pop hits by Giorgio Moroder, is maybe its most appealing element. It’s a great romantic movie option that’ll whisk you across the world.
Lost in Translation
A travel movie classic, Lost in Translation follows two lonely Americans, Bob (Bill Murray) and Charlotte (Scarlett Johansson), who draw close to each other while staying in the same hotel over a few weeks in Tokyo. While the film isn’t a conventional romance—the characters never become a couple—the movie beautifully captures romantic yearning and the way that companionship is often the most necessary aspect of love. It also revels in the neon-soaked nightlife of Tokyo, with memorable scenes set in karaoke bars and hotel lounges. Few movies better capture the modern ennui of looking for companionship in a modern city far from home.
Midnight in Paris
One of Woody Allen’s most beloved movies, Midnight in Paris follows a nebbish screenwriter (Owen Wilson) who travels to Paris with his negging fiancée (Rachel McAdams) only to discover a means of travelling back to the 1920s to hang out with famous writers and artists such as Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Gertrud Stein, and Salvador Dalí. Midnight in Paris wraps up romantic frustration with artistic nostalgia for the Lost Generation, which manages to capture America’s particular romantic obsession with Paris. If you’re overcome with romantic nostalgia when reading Hemingway or Fitzgerald, this is the movie for you.
Out of Africa
Perhaps the most obvious entry on this list, Out of Africa is the Best Picture-winning adaptation of Karen Blixen’s memoir about living in Kenya in the early decades of the 20th century and her romance with a handsome American big game hunter. Meryl Streep plays Blixen in the film, while Robert Redford plays her lover, Denys Finch Hatton. In many ways Out of Africa is a classic forbidden romance played out against the backdrop of the beautiful African savanna, so while the romance itself may be very conventional, the setting is anything but.
This romantic comedy classic from 1953 has Audrey Hepburn playing a rebellious princess that escapes from her royal entourage while in Rome in order to experience a bit of life as a commoner. While on her own, she meets Gregory Peck’s jaded reporter, who doesn’t recognize her, and the two fall in love as they explore Rome’s most famous landmarks together, including the Spanish Steps, the Trevi Fountain, and the Colosseum. The movie was so popular it inspired a host of copycat romantic travel movies in the 1950s, but there’s only one Roman Holiday, which is as memorable a travel romance as you’ll find. The iconic image of Hepburn and Peck riding a Vespa through Rome captures the romantic allure of exploring a foreign city while in love.
This little-seen 2013 movie is based on Robyn Davidson’s memoir about her 2,700km (1,700m) trek across the Australian Outback from Alice Springs to the Indian Ocean with nothing but her dog and four camels in tow. Mia Wasikowska plays Robyn in the film, which largely plays as a showcase of Australia’s natural beauty. Adam Driver also stars as the National Geographic photographer Rick Smolan who famously photographed her journey back in 1977, and hooked up with her in the process. The romantic moments between Robyn and Rick are nice depictions of romantic admiration, but the real star here is the landscape, which has rarely been as vivid on film.