We're almost to August, so we hope you're spending your days lounging by a pool somewhere, ice-cold cerveza by your side – or, even better, on the vacation of your dreams, watching the Girl from Ipanema stroll by as the sun sets on a white-sand beach lifted straight from a postcard.
But what if you've already used up all our vacation days, making a late-summer getaway a distant dream? Or what if it's just too damn hot to sit at the beach all day? Well, we suggest armchair traveling from the gloriously air-conditioned comfort of your living room.
These 10 films will take you on an epic journey around the world, from the sushi-filled restaurants of Japan to the snow-capped peaks of Patagonia. They'll make you laugh, they'll make you cry, and they'll give you plenty of inspiration for your next real vacation.
1. Jiro Dreams of Sushi
This documentary has enough sushi porn to give you a foodgasm. But it's also got a lot more than that. Get ready to get hungry as you watch sushi master Jiro Ono (of Tokyo’s 10-seat, three-Michelin-starred Sukiyabashi Jiro) on his never-ending quest for the perfect piece of fish. The real heart of this story is Jiro's beautiful relationship with his two sons.
2. Y Tu Mamá También
This 2002 Academy Award-nominated film follows two teenage boys as they go on a road trip through Mexico with a beautiful older woman, in search of a secluded beach. This movie is as much a coming-of-age story about love, life and sex as it is an exploration of the culture, politics and landscapes of Mexico.
3. Into the Wild
Based on a true story (and book of the same name), Into the Wild follows Christopher McCandless as he travels through North America and into the Alaskan wilderness, where he spends his time living off the land. The heartfelt story brings the book to life with stunning vistas and a killer soundtrack by Eddie Vedder. It also has – quite controversially – inspired scores of travelers to visit the “magic bus” where McCandless’ body was found.
Delhi Belly. Communication breakdown. Petty theft. Lack of personal space. Sheer frustration. Outsourced (not to be confused with the TV show based off the film) nails all the uncomfortable parts about the foreign experience in India. But it also perfectly captures the country's beauty through the eyes of an American sent to provide call center training for locals of a small Indian town, as he goes through frustration, acceptance, empathy, and finally love.
5. The Way
Writer and director Emilio Estevez tapped his own dad, Martin Sheen, to play the lead in this story of a father who travels to Spain to recover the body of his estranged son who died making the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage. Sheen’s character decides to make the hike himself, giving viewers glimpses of gypsy culture, Basque hospitality and beautiful landscapes while showing that you’re never too old to learn new lessons or shatter your preconceptions.
Unless you’re the kind of person to whom the idea of a 1,700-mile solo trek across the unforgiving Australian desert sounds appealing, this is definitely one that is better lived vicariously through the comfort of your own couch. What this 2013 adaptation of Robyn Davidson's memoir of the same name lacks in action, it more than makes up for with gorgeous cinematography.
7. 180 Degrees South
This is one for thrill-seeking, intrepid travelers. This documentary follows adventurer Jeff Johnson as he recreates a 1968 trip from California all the way to Patagonia to climb the Corcovado Volcano. Watch in envy as Johnson surfs, sails and climbs in the world’s far-flung places, including Easter Island.
8. The Trip
In this adaptation of the British sitcom of the same name, actors and comedians Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon play fictionalized versions of themselves going on a restaurant tour of Northern England. There are enough pretty shots of food and English landscapes to make the movie worthwhile, but its true high points are the witty banter between the two friends and the stellar imitations of the likes of Michael Caine, Sean Connery and Al Pacino.
This all-encompassing film illustrates the entire life cycle of the modern world in all of its beauty and ugliness – from sacred sites to tribal villages to disaster zones to industrial complexes to prisons. The followup to Baraka was shot entirely on 70mm film over the course of five years in 25 countries around the world, and is one of the most visually stunning two hours ever put on film.
10. L'Auberge Espagnole
If you think ensemble movies with giant casts are destined to have cheesy, hollow scripts, you’ve been watching entirely too much Love Actually and Valentine’s Day, and not nearly enough from French director Cédric Klapisch. The first in the comedic trilogy including Russian Dolls and Chinese Puzzle, L’Auberge Espagnole is the story of seven random Europeans living together in Barcelona and learning about love, friendship and growing up, a la Euro Reality Bites.