Three Cool Travel Movies – Mamma Mia, Crouching Tiger, Eat Pray Love

Mamma Mia, Meryl Streep and Amanda Seyfried
Meryl Streep and Amanda Seyfried in 'Mamma Mia' | Universal Pictures

I have so many travel-blogger friends that it’s high time I wrote a post about movies with cool travel destinations.

The thing is, I never travel anywhere. Once in a while, I might crowbar myself out of Traverse City and inch towards another part of Michigan, but other than that? Not a big traveler. And I don’t really crave it, either. I guess I’m just a homebody by nature.

Plus, we live in a gorgeous area surrounded by Great Lakes, so it’s not like we have to escape from here to go somewhere nicer. Sure, if we had unlimited funds, we’d probably do more traveling. Like maybe hit the Caribbean for a few weeks in the dead of winter or hang out at an Italian villa for a month or go whale-watching in Alaska.

But we’d have to have enough money to do it in style. I can go rugged if I have to, but wouldn’t do it by choice. So until I build my empire and become a millionaire, I’ll just travel vicariously through my travel-blogger buddies and visit the world via the movies.

I polled some friends, and we came up with a few movies that are awash in awesome travel locales. I know there are tons of others. I look forward to hearing about your favorites in the comments below.

1. ‘[amazon_link id=”B001GKJ2FW” target=”_blank” container=”” container_class=”” ]Mamma Mia[/amazon_link].’ Oh my Lord, this movie has some breathtaking scenery. I don’t use the term breathtaking lightly, but this movie is breathtaking. Amanda Seyfried stars as Sophie, a 20-year-old girl who lives on an idyllic Greek island with her mom, played by Meryl Streep.

But Sophie doesn’t know who her biological dad is, so unbeknownst to her mom, she invites three possible candidates to her wedding. It’s a sweet, romantic, funny movie set to the backdrop of ABBA songs, but the real star of this show is Skopelos, Greece, where much of it was filmed. The wedding scene takes place at stunning Agios Ioannis Chapel, which sits high atop a cliff with stairs winding up to it.

Mamma Mia, Agios Ioannis Chapel, Skopelos, Greece
The Agios Ioannis Chapel in Skopelos, Greece; scene of the wedding in 'Mamma Mia'

2. ‘[amazon_link id=”B00198X0UY” target=”_blank” container=”” container_class=”” ]Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon[/amazon_link].’ There’s something totally mesmerizing about this Ang Lee-directed film about two warriors in pursuit of a stolen sword and a physically-skilled nobleman’s daughter who’s at a crossroads in her life. It’s a combination of magical characters, amazing martial arts scenes choreographed by Woo-ping Yuen, and the shooting locations in China.

I know some people say this movie is corny and way-too-wired, but you can’t argue with four Oscars, another 73 wins, and 91 nominations. I love the fight scene where they’re sort of flying through the trees, which I believe was shot in the Anji bamboo forest in Jiangsu, China (but correct me if I’m wrong on that).

3. ‘[amazon_link id=”3833306874″ target=”_blank” container=”” container_class=”” ]Eat Pray Love[/amazon_link].’ Yeah, yeah, yeah, I know this movie took a lot of heat. People didn’t like Julia Roberts in the role, and they didn’t like the fact that Elizabeth Gilbert’s trip was reportedly funded by her book advance.

But look, you can’t deny that ‘Eat Pray Love’ is filled with beautiful locales, and Javier Bardem ain’t bad to look at, either. The story follows Gilbert’s journey to find herself after a painful divorce. Her road trip took her to Italy, India and Indonesia, and each of these spots is absolutely stunning. Hey, if someone paid me a big advance to go globe-trotting, I’d have no problem with it.

Tell me your favorite travel movies in the comments below.

Eat Pray Love, Julia Roberts and Javier Bardem
Julia Roberts finds love with Javier Bardem in Bali … sigh …

Check out these awesome travel blogs:

My Itchy Travel Feet, the Baby Boomer’s Guide to Travel, Donna Hull

J the Travel Authority, Jeanine Barone

A Traveler’s Library, Vera Marie Badertscher

Music Road, Kerry Dexter

Travel Sweeps, Barbara Benham



28 responses to “Three Cool Travel Movies – Mamma Mia, Crouching Tiger, Eat Pray Love”

  1. Kerry Dexter Avatar

    the movie is rather a cliche, to me, but the west of Ireland scenery in Ryan’s Daughter is memorable. the actual town in the film, I believe, was built as a set, but a friend grew up in the real town nearby the filming location, Dun Chaoin –which is about as far west as you can go in Ireland before you fall into the sea.

    agree about Eat Pray Love — had no problem with Julia or with Giibert’s advance, myself.

  2. Barbara Benham Avatar

    Mama Mia was sweet if corny, but the scenery made me want to get to Greece. Stunning, indeed! Fun idea, Jane! Any movies this summer? Besides Hangover Two? Hee!

  3. Barbara Benham ( Avatar

    Fun blog post from my friend @ReelLifeWithJane Movies shot in gorgeous places. #travel

  4. […] Antarctica is high on my baby boomer list, I’ll be watching March of the Penguins. For more travel movie ideas, check out Reel Life With Jane where family film critic, Jane Boursaw, reviews movies and […]

  5. Jane Boursaw ( Avatar

    Three Cool #Travel #Movies – Mamma Mia, Crouching Tiger, Eat Pray Love #wsbr

  6. Sheryl Avatar

    Well, if you can’t/don’t travel, it can’t hurt to do it vicariously – and these movies are a great way to do it. I must say I’ve resisted watching the movie Mama Mia after hearing some dreadful reviews, but I loved the show and the music, so I might have to watch it the next time I crave a getaway!

  7. Vera Marie Badertscher Avatar

    Kerry’s note takes me back. When we went to Ireland, we stayed in a farmhouse overlooking the beach where much of the film was shot, and in the pub they still had pictures of locals who were extras in the film.
    But you might want to check my old post about “Why can’t they make a good movie set in Greece.” Mama Mia, like Summer Love are two awful movies set in the most awesome place on the planet–Greece.

  8. NoPotCoooking Avatar

    I loved the scenery in Eat Pray Love. A movie is a great way to feel like you’re getting away without having to go anywhere.

  9. Alisa Bowman Avatar

    Just looking at the pictures made me want to go to all of these places!

  10. Alexandra Avatar

    I had no idea Mamma Mia was shot in Greece. I had heard it was a good movie, but now I know there’s an added benefit to renting it.

  11. MyKidsEatSquid Avatar

    There’s so many good movies set in faraway places. I recently saw Leap Year, predictable film, but I still liked it–the scenery made it worthwhile.

  12. Casey Avatar

    Although I can’t buy that Ms. Roberts is a world-weary soul-searcher, I’d be happy to take her place on set for Eat Pray Love. It WAS gorgeously shot. Is it weird that I, as a NYC-area resident, love to “travel” to New York in different eras – Breakfast at Tiffany’s, Ghostbusters, The Producers, etc?

  13. Mike Ortiz Avatar

    I agree with the scenery in Mamma Mia, beautiful sights. One of the few movies that I can recommend concerning it’s location and scenery, is Before Sunrise, and After Sunset. It shows a great ambiance of Paris, how mysterious and beautiful the city is. Watching it always makes me want to pack my bags, buy a plane ticket, and walk the streets of France. Great film

    1. Jane Boursaw Avatar

      I’ve heard a lot about those Sunrise/Sunset movies, but haven’t seen either. Thanks for the rec, Mike. I just saw Woody Allen’s Midnight in Paris over the weekend and will write up something on it. Lovely film.

  14. […] this link: Three Cool Travel Movies – Mamma Mia, Crouching Tiger, Eat Pray Love Another Travel TipsFamily Vacation on a Budget? Consider Off-Season Travel – Family […]

  15. Kris Avatar

    After I saw Mamma Mia I was seriously ready to throw it all away and move to an island in Greece.

    1. Jane Boursaw Avatar

      Hear that, Kris. Me, too. I also wanted my own run-down inn to restore to its former glory. I somehow think it wouldn’t be quite as romantic as it sounds in Mamma Mia and Tuscan Sun.

  16. sarah henry Avatar

    Love this post, Jane, and hope you’ll make it a regular feature, not just during the summer months when lots of folks travel, but also during the winter when many of us are armchair adventurers.

    Enjoyed the location shots in all three of these movies. Thanks for the reminder.

    1. Jane Boursaw Avatar

      Great idea to create a regular feature for travel movies, Sarah. Done.

  17. Jennifer Margulis Avatar

    Liked the first two. Was disappointed by Eat Pray Love, but I also found the book to be sort of overindulgent and uneventful. My fave travel movie? I don’t know. But I did enjoy Indochine, as heartbreaking a movie as it is.

    1. Jane Boursaw Avatar

      Thanks for the rec, J. If it’s heartbreaking, I’m not sure it’ll be for me, but I’ll check out Indochine. I probably miss a lot of movies because I don’t want to sink myself into the emotion of the story. I need to install some chip or something that lets me review films without getting totally depressed by them.

  18. Jeanine Barone Avatar

    Love your post. All three movies have amazing scenery. And, even though I really didn’t like Eat, Pray, Love at all, I still sat through it because of all the scenic locales.

  19. […] not only a stunning travelogue for the City of Light (it will be included in my next installment of Great Travel Movies), but also a nostalgic look back at the writers and artists of the 1920s. I love that Woody […]

  20. […] great piece on what to do when you CAN’T travel, so of course, I tossed in my two cents with Three Cool Travel Movies. If you can’t get away, watching a movie filmed in an exotic locale is a great way to escape […]

  21. seagrove beach rentals Avatar
    seagrove beach rentals

    Mamma Mia was sweet if corny, but the scenery made me want to get to Greece. Stunning, indeed! Fun idea, Jane! Any movies this summer? Besides Hangover Two? Hee!

  22. Glennsf2 Avatar

    I like Mama Mia because of the destination wedding theme..

  23. African Safari Avatar

    My niece wants the Mamma Mia Soundtrack for Christmas but I want to be sure I am ordering the right one. She liked the movie, but so far I have only found the Soundtrack for the Broadway version – is the music the same? Thanks!

  24. Rhonda Sorensen Avatar

    Mama Mia the film runs every night during the long hot summers in the open air theatre in Skiathos – the equally beautiful island that was used for some of the filming. Mama Mia was mainly filmed in Skopelos, which is only reached by ferry , mainly from Skiathos which has a very tiny international airport to accomommodate all the visitors. On Skopelos, make sure you climb the stairs at the end of the Harbour up past the fve churches to the old castle. The Terrace Cafe that pops up near the fourth church when the weather is divine, was a favourite for the film crew. Say hello to Aphrodite and her mother Fanoiula from me 🙂 if you get that far, ahhh full moon on that terrace….

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