Best Travel Movies

By Marozzi, Justin | Newsweek International, November 14, 2011 | Go to article overview

Best Travel Movies


Marozzi, Justin, Newsweek International


Byline: Justin Marozzi

From Rick's Cafe to Rome, these screen fantasies take us to the farthest horizons.

Wartime

1. Lawrence of Arabia (1962)

What is it about Brits and the desert? Past masters at meddling in the Middle East, they brought us Lawrence, a brilliant, deeply flawed literary soldier who was turned into a wartime hero by the American broadcaster Lowell Thomas. David Lean's masterpiece is dominated by a searing performance from Peter O'Toole, at once complicated and conflicted, schmoozing the urbane Faisal (Alec Guinness) and hurtling madly into battle on camelback. Lean brought the burning desert sensationally to life through the latest Super Panavision 70 cinematography, while Maurice Jarre's epic score lent a noble quality to this Boy's Own campaign in the desert, a corner of the First World War that, heroics aside, was really little more than a sideshow of a sideshow.

2. Casablanca (1942)

The enduring themes of love, war, personal tragedy, double-dealing, and an edge-of-the-seat denouement that can reduce the hardest-hearted grump to a secret sniffle, together with some of the great lines in film history, make Casablanca an all-time favorite. As the expatriate owner of Rick's Cafe Americain, Humphrey Bogart stalks Vichy-controlled Casablanca, a place of fear and smoky glamour, with brooding intensity. Who wouldn't throw it all in just to be with the divine Ilsa, played by Ingrid Bergman? But Rick is made of sterner stuff. Opposed to the Nazis all along, he sends Ilsa off on a plane and out of his life with her Czech resistance-leader husband, Victor Laszlo (Paul Henreid). Why? Because if she doesn't leave now, she'll always regret it. "Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but soon and for the rest of your life."

Thriller

3. Deliverance (1972)

It's not all fun and games. Travel can be a matter of life and death. For those who enjoy the darker side, the travel thriller Deliverance delivers in spades. And arrows and bullets. Four Atlanta businessmen, who probably should be playing golf, decide on a more adventurous weekend canoeing down the fictional Cahulawassee River in deepest Georgia. Big mistake. The landscapes in John Boorman's cinematic wilderness are sublime, the music portentous, the screenplay terse and gritty. After losing their friend, Burt Reynolds, Jon Voight, and Ned Beatty survive a harrowing hide-and-seek and rape. The words "squeal like a pig" still haunt. Has camping ever been so uninviting?

Sci-Fi

4. 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)

The ultimate travel movie charts an astonishing odyssey, from bone-wielding hominids at the dawn of time to 21st-century astronauts and beyond. The ostensible quest is to understand a mysterious monolith, first encountered by the hairy hominids and lodged millennia later in the surface of the moon. Yet the journey is much more than that. Director Stanley Kubrick's exploration is at once a disturbing meditation on the debilitating effects of technology and what it is to be human. The sci-fi special effects stretched available technology to the limits and appealed to a new counterculture generation of moviegoers to whom it was deliberately marketed as "the ultimate trip." The rousing score of Richard Strauss's Also Sprach Zarathustra never sounded the same again.

5. Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)

Winner of four Oscars, this gloriously improbable adventure romp was blessed by the Midas touch of Steven Spielberg as director and George Lucas as producer. It established the winning Harrison Ford Indiana Jones franchise, a box-office record buster. Part scholar, part swashbuckling adventurer, Jones has it all, immersed in ancient manuscripts and deciphering mysterious scripts one moment, fistfighting Nazis, blowing up airplanes, and, of course, getting the girl the next. Archeology meets supernatural fantasy in a breathless hunt for the Ark of the Covenant that dashes from one exotic Middle Eastern location to the next.

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