In theory, summer is the optimal time to embark on the soul-searching, life-changing adventure. However, thanks to the injustice that is adulthood, three-month summer vacations are now a thing of past—like summer reading lists, Lisa Frank pencil cases, and being told you’re going to walk to school if you miss the bus again. Even taking one week off to travel can be a bit of a gamble.
With the exception of that one acquaintance from college who is seemingly always on a girls’ weekend and that guy from high school who went on a gap year to Tahiti and never left, spontaneous whirlwind getaways live on in our hearts…and in our movies. But luckily, there’s no shortage of films involving a bonkers—or cathartic—adventure somewhere new.
Since we’ll be spending our summer stateside, scrolling jealously through Instagram, we’ve compiled a group of films set all over the world to live vicariously through, via your couch.
In probably the darkest vacation movie ever, Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson star as a pair of hitman who, after a botched job, find themselves awaiting further instructions in Bruges. Consider it akin to going on vacation with a Debbie Downer cousin…if he was despondent hitman with zero interest in being in Belgium. It’s a very dark, very funny, and very violent fun, BUT it does a pretty masterful job showcasing the city of Bruges. Watch it on Netflix here.
Take a paternity quest, set it to the music of ABBA with the Greek island of Kalokairi serving as the illustrious backdrop and that, in a nutshell, is the concept behind Mamma Mia!. Add Meryl Streep and a dozen of some of the biggest names in Hollywood and you have Mamma Mia! the 2008 musical movie. It’s beautiful, campy, and honestly my dream vacation. With Mamma Mia!: Here We Go Again coming out this summer, you have to revisit the original. Watch it on Netflix here.
Experience the bohemian Parisian neighborhood of Montmartre through the eyes of Amelie, a waitress on a mission to bring happiness to those around her. Unless you’re cruising around the Eiffel Tower on a back of a Vespa a la Mary-Kate and Ashley, Amelie is probably the best tour of Paris through the eyes of a local…and you may learn a word of French or two. Yes, it’s in French—with a Spanish option too—but it’s just as good with subtitles. Watch it on Netflix here.
It seems unlikely that every business trip to Barcelona involves an impulsive stop in Ibiza in pursuit of a hot Scottish DJ played by the late Robb Stark (aka Richard Madden). Sure we don’t get to see a lot of either destination other than a few set up shots, but I mean, what better way to explore the nightlife of the Spanish city and legendary party island? Watch it on Netflix here.
The Lizzie McGuire Movie
Sure, Rick Steves is a travel expert, but did he go to Rome on a post-eighth grade graduation class trip, fall in love with a (fraudulent) Italian superstar, and essentially become a global sensation in his own right? Lizzie McGuire certainly did. You’ve seen it. You love it. You know you want to go visit Italy with Lizzie and co. this summer. Watch it on HBO here.
Amy Adams and Matthew Goode spar but also fall in love in Ireland. Do I need to say anything else? Yes, she’s technically on her way to Dublin to propose to her terrible boyfriend because of some old Leap Year tradition, but thanks to some terrible, or rather, perfect luck, she finds herself on way off course in Dingle and on a charming road trip with an Irish-accented Matthew Goode. Watch it on Netflix here.
In the middle of a jobs crisis, two college graduates leave Spain for Berlin in the hopes of jump starting the careers they can’t get back home—to little avail. Their job issues aren’t immediately solved, but we get a glimpse of Berlin at Christmas. Plus, two of the leads—Yon Gonzalez and Blanca Suarez—have been love interests in something like 90 other projects, so you know it has to be a charming movie. Also called Perdiendo el Norte, the film is (obviously) in Spanish, and also German, French, Italian, and Brazilian Portuguese, so be sure to pop on the subtitles. Watch it on Netflix here.
Letters to Juliet
The rare movie featuring Gael Garcia Bernal where you’re not rooting for him. Can you believe? In a Romeo and Juliet-inspired tale with a far smaller death count, the film follows an American vacationing in Verona—that Verona—who embarks on a journey through Italy to find lost love with an old British woman and her very attractive adult grandson after answering a decades old letter to Juliet. Watch on Amazon Prime here.
Raise your hand if you love indies involving a beleaguered individual going on an adventure to figure their shit out. This film is exactly that, following an American man through Copenhagen on his quest to deliver a letter to the grandfather he never knew. Along the way, he befriends a local teen who serves as his guide and ultimately helps him uncover the truth about his family. Watch it on Netflix here.
Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara
After one of them gets engaged, three childhood friends reunite for an extended bachelor party in Spain. As their vacation takes them all over Spain, from Pamplona to Seville, the trio also confront long-held tensions and their own underlying reasons for embarking on the vacation. The Hangover may be quotable but it has nothing on the views in this acclaimed this Bollywood film. The film is in Hindi, with excellent subtitles in English. Watch on Amazon Prime here.
Under the Tuscan Sun
A trip to Italy with DIANE LANE! Anyone who hasn’t already seen this classic movie about a writer and recent divorcée who impulsively buys an old Italian villa while on a breakup vacation needs to seriously rethink things. You’ve seen it. You love it. Now go crack open a bottle of Chianti and watch it. Catch it on HBO here.