When New Year’s Eve rolled through back in December, few of us imagined 2020 would go tits up like this. But here we are, living through a global pandemic. So in lieu of travelling or travel planning, I’ve fallen back on old photos, the few travel vloggers still travelling (my favorite Chopstick Travel, and Taiwan as a whole really, have been relatively unaffected), and a number of movies to sate my wanderlust. Which leads us to this post…movies that let me travel to other cities (and a few in NYC) without moving!
While my picks are definitely not breaking any new ground, I still wanted my own distinct movie playlist. Because sorry Meg Ryan fans, When Harry Met Sally is definitely not on my list. Also, while I was looking for definitive movies of cities I love, I didn’t want to limit it to one movie per city. I’m picky enough as it were; limiting it in that way just stifled the choices even more.
LOST IN TRANSLATION (2003)
- Let’s get the obvious picks out of the way. I was already a fan of Tokyo before watching Lost in Translation. But when the movie came out in 2003, it depicted a quiet yet raucous whiskey-drenched version of the city that I hadn’t experienced before. And not only that, it provided a new soundtrack to accompany my trip back a few years later.
- So when I finally made the trip to Paris a number of years after seeing Amélie, it didn’t quite live up to the Parisian dreamland depicted in the movie. But that’s ok, because I live post-productioned the city in my mind anyway (and then Photoshopped the hell out of my photos to match).
MIDNIGHT IN PARIS (2011)
- This will be the first and last time I ever reference a Woody Allen movie, because he is not a good person. Despite that though, and despite not liking his movies even before his questionable character was brought to light, I did like Midnight in Paris. The combination of Owen Wilson, the incredible Parisian backdrop, and even dips into past Parisian eras, definitely make for a good cinematic experience.
LOVE ACTUALLY (2003)
- Full disclosure, I am in fact a Love Actually fan. Years of ridicule for this has only strengthened my resolve. But whatever, Love Actually was, for all intents and purposes, a highly effective travel advert for London for me when it came out in 2003 (hey, same year as Lost in Translation!) This movie alone made me pack my bags up and head to London with my friend Fish for Christmas and New Years. It didn’t quite provide an accompanying soundtrack like Lost in Translation, but it did make a convenient basis for our London itinerary.
CHUNGKING EXPRESS (1994)
- I was told that the Hong Kong I was visiting for the first time in 2012 was nothing like the one seen through the lens of Wong Kar Wai. But I was ok with that, and I was just happy to find a few relics here and there of that era. Christopher Doyle’s non-existent apartment along the mid-levels escalator, the Goldfinch from In The Mood For Love, or just rewatching Chungking Express to see that Hong Kong again.
CRAZY RICH ASIANS (2018)
- The only movie on here of a city I’ve yet to visit. But it’s on the list because shit, it makes me want to visit Singapore. And this is even after a number of my Singaporean friends made the case to NOT bother visiting (they think it’s boring, hence why they left). As it were, the sites and sounds and food from the movie piqued my interest considerably. Though I unfortunately have to experience the city like a plebe.
- I have to say, when it came time to pick movies about New York City, it was a bit trickier than I thought it’d be. Alot of articles cited movies like Midnight Cowboy or The Warriors, but I’m not terribly interested in seeing the city I live in depicted that way. You’ve Got Mail is probably closer to how I’d like to imagine NYC, but it’s still a bit too Upper West Side-y for me. So having said that, I’ll give it to Nick and Nora’s Infinite Playlist for resembling a version of the city that I lived through. Full disclosure, the movie can be a bit twee at times, but setting it mostly throughout downtown Manhattan did it for me.
- New York City runner-up spot though goes to Big! I never experienced the city depicted in the movie, but I got to catch glimpses of it growing up. And if nothing else, it got us all to want to dance on the big piano at FAO Schwarz. Bit of a shame the new flagship store doesn’t quite hold a candle to the original.