Movies That Inspire Travel – My Jan 2013 Picks.

In addiction to being a travel addict with an ever nomadic heart and soul, I also happen to be a big movie and documentary fanatic. While I do enjoy North America film, I tend to be more attracted to international cinema. I like movies that take me places and not only showcase the landscape through beautiful cinematography but also highlight social and cultures issues of a particular location. These movies ignite the wanderlust in me.

That being said, I’m kick-starting a new monthly series called “Movies That Inspire Travel.” Here are the top three international movie picks for January 2013.

1) Best Exotic Marigold Hotel – This adorable British flick is jam-packed with a stellar cast, including one of my all time favorite actresses Judi Dench. A bunch of retirees leave Britain and head off to Jaipur, India to begin a new life at a special hotel for the “elderly and beautiful“.

Best Exotic Marigold Hotel.Image Via

It’s incredible fun to watch the retirees comically adjust to their new setting – some suffer from severe culture shock while others seem to embrace it with joy.

The film’s backdrop shows India as a colourful and lively country which I hope to visit someday! While it casts a rather light-hearted view on a nation plagued with many problems such as poverty and violence against women (as we’ve seen in the news recently), the Best Exotic Marigold Hotel is still a great movie to watch.

2) Samsara – This documentary is the first piece of work completed by Ron Fricke, director and cinematographer, in more than 20 years. Aiming to show a connection between humanity and nature, this virtual feast for the eyes is a stunning work of art that was filmed in more than 25 countries over 5 years.

Samsara. Image via

With not one single word uttered throughout the entire production, the images in Samsara communicate powerful messages that move between beautiful moments (volcanic eruptions in Hawaii) to political ones (the slaughtering of animals at meat production facilities) to the religious (the Muslim pilgrimage to Mecca) and even downright bizarre (a man sitting at a desk frantically applying clay to his face). This rather epic flick shows that the world is glorious, tumultuous and complex and made me ache to experience even more of it through my travels.

3) When We Leave  (Die Fremde) – This film directed by Feo Aladag tells the story of Umay, a German born Turkish woman who takes her son and flees her abusive husband in Istanbul to return home to Berlin and seek refuge with her family.

When We Leave. Image via

Despite the suffering Umay endured at the hands of her spouse, her family encourages her to return to him due to the “shame” her actions brought upon them. Their determination to stay loyal to tradition trumps their love for their daughter, forcing her to start a new life in Berlin without them. It’s easy to root for Umay (a character brilliantly played by Sibel Kekilli) as she starts a new job, goes back to school and even finds new love and later sympathize with her repeated efforts to reconcile with her family.

Unfortunately, When We Leave ends on a tragic note and strongly reiterates the importance of dealing with the issue of violence against women. The director was actually moved to create this movie after producing various works for Amnesty International.

One of the best movies I’ve watched in a long time and takes place in my Berlin home.

Do you have any international movie or documentary recommendations? Tips are welcome in the comments.

Founder of Canadian in Berlin. Frequent traveller now at 43 countries and counting.


  1. Will definitely watch 1 and 2; haven’t even known about them! thank you! :))))

    and as for m ovies I think are quite travel-icious: there’s that comedy about tuscany, starring diane lane – “under the tuscan sun”. very light-hearted, not the typical happy end, but a positive take on starting a new life in another country. and hey, what about the rather blockbuster-y “a good year”? or even the good old “french kiss” movie with meg ryan! šŸ™‚
    the poirot-movies starring sir peter ustinov: they were also somewhat inspiring to see a bit of the world, non? šŸ™‚

  2. Cheryl – this is so useful! I’ve been addicted to watching movies the past month or so and needed some good recommendations to inspire wanderlust. All three look like ones I’d be interested in – thanks for sharing!

  3. @Adam – Thanks and me too! I rented The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel and When We Leave from iTunes. Not sure how you can go about watching Samsara as I watched it at the theatre, but hopefully it’s being aired in Berlin somewhere or also available online! šŸ™‚

  4. @Nath – Thanks for all the tips. Oh yes, Under the Tuscan Sun. I love that movie! Not sure if I’ve seen A Good Year, French Kiss or the Poirot movies, but definitely something to check out during these dreary winter months. šŸ™‚

  5. I’ve seen Best Exotic Marigold Hote twice and loved it. It was the best travel inspiring movie I’ve seen last year, next to ‘To Rome With Love’. I’ve added the other two movies you recommend to my list. Thanks!

  6. You’ve just inspired me to see two new films. I’m especially intrigued by When we Leave. I loved Best Exotic Marigold Hotel — the characters were excellent and I loved the scenes of India — a place I still have on my must-visit list.

  7. @Cathy – When We Leave is a really beautiful film. Agree, the scenes of India in Best Exotic Marigold Hotel were inspiring – I really hope to visit there one day too!

  8. Thanks for sharing these, Cheryl! I look forward to seeing your film picks for the rest of 2013. I’m definitely going to put these on my list of movies to watch.

  9. Just watched the trailer of “When we leave” looks cool, I’m gonna try to see it soon. Thanks for the tip šŸ˜‰

  10. Great choices! I loved the Exotic Marigold Hotel as well but haven’t heard of the other two, which makes them even that more intriguing.

  11. Just saw the a documentary yesterday on the making of Samsara. Looks brilliant and can’t wait to see it. Looking forward to When We Leave as well, thanks for the suggestion.

  12. I’m excited for the new series because I LOVE movies and documentaries. I recently watched The Loneliest Planet… I wouldn’t say it inspires travel although I did appreciate the landscapes, but it is about travel and explores some interesting relationship dynamics.

  13. I really want to see the exotic marigold hotel. My favourite so far would be And the Darkness. Terrible acting (and it is a about trafficking) but it has beautiful scenery in it, makes me want to visit Argentina

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