Many of the most inspiring travellers these days, are characters from the small and big screens. Both real and fictional intrepid explorers alike, can set off your wanderlust, to great effect. So here, we select the best travel films, travel documentaries and travel shows of all time for you to watch in 2018.
Many of these shows are linked for your ease and you are able to watch them on Netflix, YouTube, BBC IPlayer, Vimeo and many other sites.
BBC Human Planet (on Netflix)
The multi-award winning series from John Hurt explores a rich variety of the people from planet earth. In finding those people who live in a manner most connected and in tune with the planet, there is a huge amount to learn from this travel show. Set on a backdrop of epic music and sharp visual, this is one of the greatest travel documentaries ever made.
Dara & Ed’s Road To Mandalay (on YouTube) & Great Big Adventure (on Dailymotion)
Traditional travel shows don’t really do it for me. There needs to be something more than good scenery and far away destinations. Irish comedians Dara O’Briain and Ed Byrne add great conversation and an amusing point of view to their two travel documentaries, exploring Central America and South East Asia. Comedy aside, they are two great friends, sharing a trip of a lifetime and the comradery is just as entertaining as the culture.
Romesh Ranganathan’s Asian Provocateur (on Netflix)
As a second generation immigrant to the UK, Comedian Romesh Ranganathan attempts to get to know his Sri Lankan heritage to please his mother in this hilarious travel documentary. Along the way she sets him up in many a humiliating situation with hilarious outcomes. Comedy and travel at its best.
Bruce Parry’s Tribe (on YouTube)
Watch ex-army explorer Bruce Parry integrate with the most vastly different cultures available on the earth, as he lives with remote tribes and learns about their way of life. The way Parry is able to build rapport, respect and even affection from the tribal people is incredible. These are must watch travel films.
Lost In Translation (on YouTube pay per view)
An emotional portrait of Tokyo and Japan from a westerns perspective. A great film with a brilliant soundtrack and many poignant moments. Although a slightly awkward and strange friendship dominates the central roles, they are conveyed perfectly. Directed by Sophie Coppola, this film stars the great Bill Murray and Scarlet Johansson.
Levison Wood’s Walking The Nile (on Putlocker)
Ex-army man and British long-distance walker, Levison Wood attempt to find the river Nile’s source and walk it’s whole 7000km length to the sea, through 40 plus degree heat. This is a powerful and personal endurance expedition, excellently filmed and with some incredibly poignant moments.
More Films: This isn’t our only list of travel films, you know. Head over to our list of the Best Spanish Language Films to help you brush up on your travellers lingo. Also, take a look at our Best European Films list for movies to watch before travelling the continent.
The Beach (on YouTube pay per view)
A Classic and the greatest travel film of a generation, as Leo DiCaprio’s character goes off to backpack Asia and happens across the perhaps finest beach in the world. The story was the first international acclaim that former backpacker and writer, Alex Garland, had and was directed by the incredible Danny Boyle.
Richard Ayoade’s Travel Man – 48 Hours In… (on Channel 4)
Dry, witty and ridiculous. This travel show explores weekend breaks throughout Europe to begin with before breaching out to further afield in later shows. Hilarious guests accompany Ayoade as he grumpily travels the globe. This is a great example of typical British humour whilst travelling abroad.
Anthony Bourdain’s No Reservations (on Netflix)
A man, getting drunk and eating in various places. He strikes us as a highly functioning alcoholic with a flippant demeanour but Bourdain is an entertaining and knowledgeable presenter. His knack for getting under the skin of a destination in these documentaries makes great TV, even if he is a little rough round the edges. Bourdain is the king of rock & roll travel shows.
Into The Wild (on Netflix)
A film based on a true story of one mans personal pilgrimage from the USA, northbound to Alaska. A story of a man learning what is important to him, as he sheds his possessions and travels in the most hardcore of ways possible. Christopher McCandless, who went on to rename himself as Alex Supertramp, has become a backpackers icon since the publication of his story.
Bruce Parry: Tawai – A Voice From The Forrest (In Cinema)
Take a journey through the forests of Borneo, via the banks of the Ganges river and into the highlands of Scotland. This powerful and exceptional documentary film from seasoned champion of indigenous cultures, Bruce Parry, is an eye-opening experience.
Billy Connolly’s World Tours (on YouTube)
Glasgow’s favourite folk singer, turned comedian – Billy Connolly – turned out to be the most incredible tour guide ever. Often travelling on a three-wheeled motorbike across the UK, USA, Australia and New Zealand and taking great interesting in idiosyncratic details, these shows are amongst our favourite travel shows ever.
Walking The Caucasus – Levison Wood (on Channel 4)
In his most recent travel documentary series, Lev Wood cuts back on the chronicling of his personal journey and delves deeper into the culture of the places he visits. It is his finest work yet. He explores race, religion and the kindness of strangers, whilst exploring the region that gave name to the Caucasian race.
Worst Place To Be A Pilot (on Putlocker)
The pilots of Susi Air risk life and lib on a daily basis. As air travel is the only efficient method of connecting the thousands of islands that make up Indonesia, Susi Air provide a vital service. With the toughest flying conditions of anywhere in the world and the most primitive of runway and airport services, this is no walk in the park for wannabe pilots.
Tracks (on YouTube)
Back in the 70’s, an Australian woman called Robyn Davidson, walked across the outback from Alice Springs to the west coast of Australia. Her journey – along with three camels and a dog – is an inspiring look at the reasons that motivated her trip and the respectful way in which she carried it out.
Anthony Bourdain’s Parts Unknown (on Netflix)
A second entry on the list for Bourdain, as with Parts Unknown he ventures into less explored territory. After a decade of travel shows, refining his skills as a presenter, foodie and traveller, this it a culmination of his skill. This is the jewel in the Bourdain crown and ultimately the best foodie travel show ever made.
Return To The Wild: The Christopher McCandless Story (on YouTube)
Behind the Sean Penn directed film ‘Into The Wild’ is a touching and raw tale. The background of Christopher McCandless is exposed to provide insight into the motivations of his drop out from society and love of the road. A heartfelt and gut-wrenching travel documentary.
Enjoy the films. These are the best travel films and documentaries around.