School’s out, vacations are beginning. This week, the five best films which deal with travel.
- “Ugetsu” dir. Kenji Mizoguchi, 1953
- “The Wages of Fear” dir. Henri-Georges Clouzot, 1953
- “Alice in the Cities” dir. Wim Wenders, 1974
- “It’s a Mad Mad Mad Mad World” dir. Stanley Kramer, 1963
- “Weekend” dir. Jean-Luc Godard, 1967
- Groundhog Day: When Phil tries to travel out of Punxatawney…and fails. Perhaps the entire film deals humorously about the worst trip ever. It always helps to know there’s a worse story than yours.
- The Truman Show: When Truman leaves his “home.” A beautiful depiction of how travel takes courage but yields immense discoveries.
- Toy Story: When Woody and Buzz must find Andy again. Travel buddies will either become your lifetime enemy…or your best friend.
- The Princess Bride: Never play the rhyme game when your driver is a Sicilian.
- The Wizard of Oz: The entire film. Though travel will introduce you to unexpected places and fascinating people, there’s no place like home.
- Sans Soleil: A girl describes the letters her boyfriend is sending home from Tokyo and Africa; most of the letters concern ways in which travel plays upon one’s concept of time and memory.
- The Beach: The exposition to this film is exhilarating. The monologue about trying to escape the doldrums of tourism has a been-thereness which rings true. “Do you want to drink snakeblood?” The Leftfield track which plays over the montage of the bazaar is bold, exotic, hot to the touch.
- The Trip/The Trip To Italy: The original is about going on vacation just as your life starts to fall apart, and the sequel is about going on vacation with someone as their life starts to fall apart. The latter has the better conversations and locations, though.
- The Talented Mr Ripley: Beginning a friendship while on holiday always seems perilous, and Patricia Highsmith understands why.
- Romancing The Stone: Ah, the fantasies of a bygone era.
- The Jungle Book (1967) : In terms of making you care about every single character no movie is better.
- The Master (2012) : The Freddie Quell criss-crosses the country, multiple times, until he finally finds rest.
- Stalker (1979) : One of the all time great sci-fi films, haunting and insightful.
- Gravity (2013) : What part of an astronaut named Stone falling the entire time do you not understand?
- The Darjeeling Limited (2007) : Like Stalker except zany, jaunty and secular.
- Raiders of the Lost Ark – Travel as adventure
- Inside Llewyn Davis – Travel as purgatory (the road trip that forms the centerpiece of the film)
- The Night of the Hunter – Travel as return to innocence (the trip down the river)
- 2001: A Space Odyssey – Travel as ascent
- Up in the Air – Travel as isolation
- Smokey and the Bandit (honorable mentions Ronin and Bullitt) – Travel via these iconic chase scenes.
- Wall-E – The next three feature escapes from current situations only to return and make them right. Wall-E features and Adam and Eve, with a new heavens descending to make the earth new and restore the Garden.
- Snowpiercer – Civilization traveling linearly, only they’re not going anywhere. They need an Adam and Eve.
- Mad Max: Fury Road – A character-transforming trek that also demands a return to make all right.
- Dersu Uzala- It’s inspiring to see Kurosawa remaining so entirely free of sophistry even this late in his career. His status as legendary auteur never robbed him of the humility with which he approached his stories.
- The Unforgiven- Haunting to see the characters in this film running away from the knowledge of their own wickedness yet in the last fifteen minutes forced to confront it for exactly what it is.
- Sullivan’s Travels- The movie the Coen Bros. have been trying to make for thirty years, and even they haven’t quite managed to do it.
- The Straight Story- Because it’s nice to know that David Lynch has a heart.
- The African Queen- Bogart’s gradual sloughing off of his cynical drunken shell and his chemistry with Katherine Hepburn are enough to make the viewer overlook just how frivolous the motive which drives the characters really is.
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