Must-watch films to inspire wanderlust

As outdoor enthusiasts, we all have that one adventure in our heads; a dream journey we wish we could take. But at the moment, all we can do is plan. If there’s anything lockdown is giving us, it’s the opportunity to recognise the freedom our ‘normal’ life gives us and perhaps adapt our future attitudes to one of ‘why not’. 

If you’re struggling to find the adventure for you, then here’s our top 10 recommendations for films to watch to inspire wanderlust. Grab yourself some popcorn and a space on the sofa, and then get out that notebook and start to plan. One day we’ll be free again, and you’ll have no excuse not to get going…

Free Solo

Watched by every single climber across the planet, Free Solo is a documentary film about Alex Honnold’s quest to become the first-ever person to perform a free solo climb of El Capitan in 2017. The vertical rock formation on the northern side of Yosemite Valley rises around 3,000 feet from base to summit along its tallest face. More than 30 people have now been killed trying to make the climb. Interestingly, Free Solo devotes some time to discussions around its own production process. The camera crew were all experienced climbers themselves and did not want to distract or pressure Honnold during the filming. Aquapac Co-CEO, Max, says Free Solo is ‘one of the scariest and most captivating documentaries I’ve ever seen.’.

Image: Jimmy Chin

The Endless Summer

One for those who wish they could be amongst the waves right now. The Endless Summer is actually a 1960s documentary which follows two young surfers around the world in search of the perfect wave. What makes this film is all the colourful local characters they meet along the way. Filmed and Narrated by Bruce Brown, they travel to Australia, New Zealand, Tahiti, Hawaii, Senegal, Ghana, Nigeria and South Africa following an endless summer – hence the title of the film – and inspired surf-and-travel culture. You might also recognise famed surfers, Miki Dora, Phil Edwards and Butch Van Artsdalen.  

Image: original movie poster

North of the Sun 

Another epic surfing film, North of the Sun is the story of two surfers who spend nine months of the cold Norweign winter in an isolated and uninhabited bay with only the Atlantic Ocean and some of the finest surfing waves to inspire them. Their isolation may well ring true with you at the moment! Building a cabin out of driftwood and eating food past its sell by date, Inge Wegge and Jorn Ranum take advantage of the one item they did bring with them – their surfboards. 

Image: original movie poster

Journey on the Wild Coast 

Attempting to paddle, walk and ski under their own power from Seattle to the Aleutians along the wild and remote northwest coast of North America, married couple Erin McKittrick and Bretwood Higman filmed this documentary on a tiny hand-held video camera. This gives you a very ‘through our eyes’ feeling as they encounter breathtaking scenery, harsh weather, amazing wildlife and starvation through northern Washington, British Columbia and Alaska. In their own words, “This expedition demonstrates that the most significant aspect of a trek is not reaching the final destination but how the journey changes the trajectory of the rest of a person’s life.”.

Image: Visit Langley

Into the Wild 

Based on a true story and adapted from the book of the same name by Jon Krakauer, Into the Wild is the intriguing and mysterious story of Christopher McCandless. In the early nineties, college graduate McCandless hiked into the Alaskan Wilderness with just a small backpack, some rice, a rifle and a pair of wellington boots. A few months later he was found dead in an old rusted bus by two hunters, together with a note asking for help. Into the Wild is the tale of McCandless’ journey, from diary entries found. It premiered in 2007 at the Rome Film Festival and was nominated for two Golden Globes and two Academy Awards.

Image: original movie poster

Wild 

Following a similar theme of solo adventuring for self-discovery, Reese Witherspoon stars as Cheryl Strayed in Wild. Also based on a true story, Strayed trekked 1,100 miles along the Pacific Crest Trail in 1995 after losing her mother suddenly to lung cancer; gaining self-acceptance and mental clarity along the way. After Strayed’s book came out and the film debuted, ten times the number of people who had attempted the hike then took out permits to follow the route. Both Reese Witherspoon and Laura Derne, who played Strayed’s mother, received Oscar nominations for their performances. 

Image: original movie poster

Before Sunrise

If you’re more of a city break adventurer, try Before Sunrise starring Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy. After meeting on a train travelling across Europe, they spend one evening together in Vienna, believing it will be their only night together. The emphasis here isn’t on plot, but on characterisation, as the two romantics fall quickly in love and reveal much about themselves. Before Sunrise is actually part of a trilogy. The 2004 sequel, Before Sunset, picks up the story nine years later and a 2013 sequel, Before Midnight, picks it up again nine years later. 

Image: Literary Hub

Y Tu Mama Tambien

Translating into ‘And Your Mum Too’, this Mexican road trip film is a coming of age film about two teenage boys who set off on a cross country trip with 28 year old Luisa. IMDB describes Julio and Tenoch as ‘two teens ruled by raging hormones and a mission to consume exotic substances’ who ‘learn more about life than they bargain for’. What’s interesting about this film is the fact it’s set against the backdrop of political and economic realities of Mexico in the late nineties and the rise of the right-wing opposition. 

Image: Den of Geek

Baraka

This documentary film has no narrative or voice over and instead uses cinematography techniques, including slow motion and timelapse, to explore themes of natural events, life and human activities. It was shot in 24 different countries on six continents over a 14-month period. Locations including the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem, the Ryoan temple in Kyoto and tribal celebrations of the Massaie in Kenya all feature. A reissue of the DVD in 2008, was acclaimed as ‘arguably the highest quality DVD that’s ever been made’ due to it having been rescanned at 8K resolution which took more than three weeks to complete and resulted in image data totalling thirty terabytes. 

Image: spiritualityandpractice.com

North by Northwest 

A case of mistaken identity results in a New York City advertising executive going on the run to escape a group of foreign spies trying to smuggle out microfilm containing government secrets. Directed by Alfred Hitchcock and starring Cary Grant, Eva Marie Saint and James Mason, North by Northwest was said to be the ‘Hitchcock picture to end all Hitchcock pictures’. Often thought of as one of the greatest films of all time, the film has been selected for preservation in the National Film Registry as being culturally, historically or aesthetically significant. 

Image: Everett

Unbranded 

One extra film for luck – Unbranded is for those who wish they could travel off into the sunset with their horse. Four men have a dream to ride up the spine of the American West from Mexico to Canada on mustangs. This documentary tracks the four college friends who set out on an adventure of a lifetime, travelling 3,000 miles. ‘Their wildness of spirit, in both man and horse, is quickly dwarfed by the wilderness they must navigate which is equally indescribable and unforgiving.  

Image: Cory Richards