We at Holidify are huge movie buffs. When we aren’t travelling or working hard to get you the best travel experience, we like to sit back and relax with a good movie or two. Nice films always leave us wondering, “What if this had actually happened?”, so we decided to narrow down our choices to our two favourite categories and combined them into one – Travel Movies based on Real Life Experiences.
Here are the 10 Travel Movies Based on True Events:
1. Into the Wild
Christopher McCandless was a college graduate who decided to abandon all his possessions and get as far away as possible from the impending career rat-race to search for himself in America’s wilderness. Christening his new self as Alexander Supertramp, he hiked and hitchhiked his way through the country and even to Mexico, before ultimately wandering to Alaska with meager supplies. The mini-bus in which he passed away till date remains perched along the Stampede Trail in Denali Borough, Alaska.
Directed by Sean Penn, the movie beautifully retraces the real life adventure. Just watching it once won’t be enough – at least it wasn’t for me! Especially for college students, as the pressure of graduation, getting a job and starting a career builds up, abandoning it all to travel the world seems like an attractive alternative. Not everyone can choose the road less travelled but those who do never look back.
Even though the movie doesn’t have a typical happy ending, it gives you a new set of eyes to see the world through. We all have an Alexander Supertramp inside of us – why are we afraid of setting him free?
Lessons learnt from the movie: ALWAYS carry enough food on you and never eat wild berries.
2. The Way Back
Starring Jim Sturgess, Ed Harris and Colin Farrel, The Way Back narrates the story of three men who escaped from a Siberian Gulag and managed to reach India after travelling for 4,000 miles on foot.
The freezing nights, lack of food and water, mosquitoes, an endless desert, and the Himalayas with shots overlooking parts of Russia, Mongolia, Tibet, and India – just help you realize the vastness of the journey and what the real life protagonists must have been through.
The Way Back is a beautiful movie that showcases a truly incredible journey.
The movie is based on the real life journey of Robyn Davidson, a young Brisbane woman, who goes on a 1,700-mile trek across the West Australian desert. Her four camels and a faithful dog (Diggity) are all she has to keep her company, apart from a few visits from her photographer friend Rick.
It took Robyn 157 days to complete her mammoth journey and the end of the desert led her to the glorious ocean. The youngest camel of the lot was the first one to step into the waters of the azure sea. This scene is the defining moment of the movie and Robyn’s expedition. The movie is based on the autobiography written by the real Robyn Davidson herself.
This is a much watch for all the solo women travellers around the world and gives them the best possible message: “Leave everything behind”.
4. Gorillas in the Mist
Based on Dian Fossey’s autobiography, Gorillas in the Mist is about the story of a Kentucky woman who travels all the way to Africa, delving into the Rwandan jungles, to study the rare mountain gorillas in the latter half of the twentieth century. She eventually becomes attached to the gorillas, treats them like her own children and vehemently opposes Rwandan government’s exploitation of these creatures by partaking in anti-poaching patrols and burning down poachers’ villages.
The film showcases real gorillas in the jungles of Congo and Rwanda, and Sigourney Weaver does a brilliant job portraying Dian Fossey. A must watch for animal rights enthusiasts who love to travel. Warning: You might end up bawling from time to time.
5. 127 Hours
127 Hours is the real life, gruesome story of the engineer, climber and canyoneer Aron Ralston, who travelled to Blue John Canyon without telling anyone to spend the weekend doing what he likes to do: climb the isolated canyon. After spending fun moments with two other travel companions, he continued alone. But while descending a canyon crack, a chockstone came loose rolling onto his arm. Aron, realizing that he was stuck, tried finding a way to release the stone.
This movie won’t exactly ‘inspire’ you to travel solo but will make you realize that sheer will power and determination will get you out of the toughest spots in life, quite literally.
6. Motorcycle Diaries
The Motorcycle Diaries showcases a twenty-something Che Guevara stumbling across his life’s calling by way of an adventurous 8,000 km road trip along with his friend across South America’s vast expanse. Like typical college students, they seek fun and adventure and resolve to travel across Argentina, Chile, Peru, Colombia, and Venezuela.
Perpetually broke with a raging libido and just each other for company, the journey soon turns into a life lesson. Travel changes one in so many ways and Che Guevara’s story is one of the most brilliant examples of this fact.
7. Touching the Void
Again, don’t be discouraged by watching this mountain climbing movie. Unlike 127 Hours, it has a slightly less gruesome ending. Touching the Void covers the true story of two climbers, Joe Simpson and Simon Yates, who set out to climb the west face of the 6,244-metre tall Siula Grande in the Peruvian Andes in the year 1985 – a feat which hadn’t be accomplished before. The duo manages to reach the peak but while descending, one of them breaks a leg (literally). And when you thought things can’t get any worse, Simpson (the one with the broken leg) falls into a crevasse. Simon continues the descent by himself, assuming Simpson to be dead.
How Simpson survived the fall and made it back to base camp is a story that will astound and inspire.
8. Seven Years in Tibet
This movie starring Brad Pitt is based on the true story of Heinrich Harrer, an Austrian mountain climber who became friends with the Dalai Lama at the time of China’s takeover of Tibet. Heinirch decides to climb Nanga Parbat but fate has other plans for him and WWII breaks out in the midst of which he’s captured. He manages to escape from the PoW camp into the holy city of Lhasa where he befriends the Dalai Lama. At that time, Communist China attacks Tibet and Heinrich’s life changes forever.
Only Brad Pitt’s German accent is the disappointing thing about this movie and the film does deviate from time to time from the actual events that took place. But for the love of Hollywood and travel, watch this movie for the snowy Himalayas, the Tibetan villages, and the amazing costumes and religious ceremonies which have been portrayed in an aesthetically pleasing way.
9. North Face
Based in the year 1936, North Face retells the story of two German climbers who are driven by the Nazi propanaganda to compete by climbing the most dangerous rock face in the Alps. At that time, the German government publicity had actually drawn attention to German and Austrian mountaineering, and to climbing the North Face in particular, as matters of German national and ethnic pride.
This film is a travelogue back in time, from Berlin to Bavaria to the Swiss Alps by bicycle and train. North Face is by far my favorite mountain climbing movie.
Starring Reese Witherspoon, Wild is based on the true-life chronicle of Cheryl Strayed’s 1,100-mile trek across the Pacific Crest Trail. Struggling with personal tragedies, a heroin addiction and driven by sheer determination, she embarks on the hike having absolutely no experience.
This movie is an inspiring tale for all solo women travellers, and it is bound to trigger the traveller inside of you, especially when Cheryl reaches the Bridge of the Gods.
Movies and Travel:
Movies tend to inspire us and good movies even more so; add travel to that and what do you get? A mind-blowing, beautiful concoction that calls out to the traveller inside of you.
From tales of mountain climbers to those of solo women travellers, each movie has a story to tell. Some of the real-life protagonists survived to tell the tale and while others penned their narratives down before they died doing what they loved – travelling. Their stories are legendary and each one is bound to inspire you to pack up your bags and have a real life adventure of your own.
If you don’t have any plans for the weekend, we suggest you pop that corn, dim the lights and have a travel movie marathon. Don’t forget to buy Coke. Popcorn’s no fun without Coke.
Did we miss out on your favourite travel movie? Do leave a comment below and tell us about it.