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Movies can be a great way to inspire you to travel. And sometimes they can actually teach you a thing or two about the history and culture of wherever it is you’re visiting.
We’re pretty keen movie watchers, and think that it’s a great way to get a new perspective on a city. That said, in the beginning we wouldn’t have really known where to start. There are so many movies out there, and obviously some are better than others. So we’ve put together a list of our top 14 movies to watch if you’re going to Europe. Watch them before you go, or even better load them up on your hard drive and experience them if you have some down time while you’re travelling. Hopefully you’ll enjoy them and learn a thing or two at the same time.
Midnight in Paris
A good movie for if you’re in: Paris
Rotten Tomatoes 93%
Directed by Woody Allen, Midnight in Paris is a great movie to watch if you’re heading to Paris. It follows a writer, Gil Pender (Owen Wilson), who is spending some time in Paris with his not-so-likeable fiancée. While he’s wandering the streets and thinking about their relationship, Gil suddenly finds himself being taken back to 1920s Paris… every night at midnight. Back in the 1920’s, Gil meets and keeps company with all the writers and artists that he had grown up idolising, who give him their take on his struggling relationship. It’s a really good look at not only Paris but also the 1920’s French and European culture.
A good movie for if you’re in: Bruges
Rotten Tomatoes 84%
Definitely put this one on your list if you’re heading to Bruges. In Bruges is based around two Irish hitmen, played by Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson, who end up in hiding from their boss, who’s trying to kill them. It’s a crime / comedy that became a bit of a cult classic. It’s set in and was filmed in Bruges, and there are some great shots of the city throughout the movie.
The Lives of Others (Das Leben der Anderen)
A good movie for if you’re in: Berlin
Rotten Tomatoes 93%
The Lives of Others is a German language film based around the monitoring of the East German residents by the Stasi throughout the Cold War. It’s a fantastic film that gives you an great look into the East German regime at the time. Absolutely a must watch if you’re heading to Berlin. It won the academy award for best foreign language film at the 2006 Oscars.
A good movie for if you’re in: Kraków
Rotten Tomatoes 96%
The famous oscar winning film, directed by Steven Spielberg, is based around the incredible efforts of Oskar Schindler (played by Liam Neeson) to save over 1200 Jews during World War Two. It’s pretty hard to watch at times, but a must see nonetheless. If you’re in Kraków, you can actually pay a visit to Schindler’s Factory, which is now a museum dedicated to the holocaust.
A good movie for if you’re in: Rome
Rotten Tomatoes 98%
One of the classics, Roman Holiday is the story of Princess Ann (Audrey Hepburn), who escapes from her restricted life as a princess to spend 24 hours exploring the streets and sights of Rome. There are great shots of all of the major sights of Rome, including a really famous scene on the Spanish Steps. Although it’s black and white, it’s still probably the best movie to watch if you’re heading to Rome.
A good movie for if you’re in: Warsaw
Rotten Tomatoes 96%
Based on a true story, The Pianist follows the life of Polish pianist Władysław Szpilman (played by Adrien Brody) throughout World War Two. Not long after the war begins, he is forced into the Warsaw Jewish Ghetto, and by 1943 watches on throughout the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising. It’s another tough one to watch, but gives you a small idea of the atrocities that the Jewish people faced throughout the war.
A good movie for if you’re in: Vienna
Rotten Tomatoes 100%
A great movie to watch for anyone that’s travelling Europe in general. It’s the story of two travellers, Jesse and Céline (Ethan Hawke and Julie Deply), who have a chance meeting on a train. Jesse convinces Céline to spend the night wandering the streets of Vienna with him before he has to leave for home (the USA) the next morning. There isn’t a lot of action, but the conversation is really thought-provoking and draws you in.
Before Sunrise is actually part of a trilogy of movies that follow the same two characters as they meet again at different stages of their lives. Before Sunset (2004) is set in Paris, and Before Midnight (2013) is set on the Greek Peloponnese peninsula. All three movies are really thought-provoking and great viewing.
Vicky Cristina Barcelona
A good movie for if you’re in: Barcelona
Rotten Tomatoes 81%
Directed by Woody Allen, Vicky Cristina Barcelona centres around two friends, Vicky and Cristina, who decide to spend the summer in Barcelona. They meet an artist, who’s a bit mentally unstable but attracted to them both, and the story follows from there. There’s quite a few shots of some of the cool Barcelona architecture (particularly the Gaudi stuff), and the whole movie has a really Spanish feel to it. Great for if you’re heading to Barcelona or anywhere else in Spain.
Life is Beautiful (La Vita è Bella)
A good movie for if you’re in: Italy or Germany
Rotten Tomatoes 80%
An Italian movie, Life is Beautiful somehow manages to use comedy to depict life throughout World War Two in a Nazi concentration camp. The story follows Guido (Roberto Benigni) and his family, who are Jewish people living in Italy during World War Two. It’s a little quirky and different, but it somehow works amazingly well. Benigni won the oscar for best actor for his performance
A good movie for if you’re in: Edinburgh
Rotten Tomatoes 90%
This is another film that uses comedy to look at a pretty dark topic. Trainspotting takes a look at what life is like for a group of heroin addicts living in Edinburgh. It shows the darker side of the city and of life in general, touching on drug addiction, poverty and some pretty terrible living conditions. It’s hugely popular and a bit of a cult classic both in Scotland and all over the world.
Shakespeare in Love
A good movie for if you’re in: London / The UK
Rotten Tomatoes 92%
If you’re looking for a good film to watch when you’re visiting London… there are A LOT to choose from. Love Actually, Notting Hill, Snatch, Green Street Hooligans… But Shakespeare in Love shows a different side of London. 1500’s London, the time of Shakespeare and Queen Elizabeth I. So if you’re after a movie that depicts modern day London, go with one of the other few mentioned above. But for something a little different and historical, Shakespeare in Love is a great movie.
A good movie for if you’re in: London
Rotten Tomatoes 63%
It’s already been mentioned in this post… But it couldn’t really be left off the list. If you haven’t already seen it, Love Actually is set in London at Christmas, and follows the story of various people who are all in one way or another connected. Christmas time in London is one of the best times of the year, and Love Actually is a great one to watch (or watch again) if you’re heading there.
Under the Tuscan Sun
A good movie for if you’re in: Tuscany / The Amalfi Coast / Italy in general
Rotten Tomatoes 62%
Under the Tuscan Sun follows the story of Frances (Diana Lane), who, after going through a divorce from her husband, takes a holiday to Tuscany, buys a villa and doesn’t go home. It’s a romantic comedy, so some may like it more than others… But whatever your taste, it’s definitely one that gets you feeling inspired to pick up your stuff and travel. Although it’s based in Tuscany, parts of the movie are filmed in Rome, Positano and along Amalfi Coast.
The Sound of Music
A good movie for if you’re in: Salzburg
Rotten Tomatoes 86%
This list wouldn’t really be complete without the Sound of Music. It’s set in Salzburg, just before the outbreak of the Second World War. If you’re going to Salzburg you can do a tour of a lot of the filming locations. In fact, we’re pretty sure some people go there just to do the tour of the filming locations. So it’s a good one to watch before you go.
We’re sure there are plenty of other great movies to watch if you’re going to Europe… Let us know what we’ve missed!
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