PHOENIX (stacker) – It’s that time of year again when the cool air blows and life revolves around family and friends. Some people may have already started (or even finished) their Christmas shopping. Others may have already started planning their holiday gatherings—travel included. Hollywood may be able to offer you some inspiration as you flesh out your vacation plans. Whether it’s taking a magical journey to a snowy village or spending time with unexpected company in unfamiliar small towns, a few fan-favorite movies come to mind.
Bounce researched films that are set during the holidays and feature travel as an essential element, and highlighted 10 of the best. Each film had to have at least a 6.5 on IMDb with over 10,000 user votes to qualify. Read on for some travel-inspired vacation movies. Prepare for some holiday cheer.
- Director: Todd Haynes
- IMDb user rating: 7.2
- Meta score: 94
- Running time: 118 minutes
A lesbian romance unfolds in New York City in this romantic film based on the 1952 novel The Price of Salt, written by Patricia Highsmith. One day, Therese Belivet (Rooney Mara), a New York shop girl and aspiring stage designer, meets a sophisticated older woman named Carol Aird (Cate Blanchett) while doing last-minute vacation shopping. Though Therese and Carol have men in their lives, they struggle to live up to the conservative expectations of 1950s society as they explore their deep connection to one another.
The Guardian’s Peter Bradshaw described the film as “beautifully detailed and set up” and transported viewers into a luxurious past of perfectly coiffed women, railway carriages and record players. “Carol” received many nominations for cinematography, costume design, hair and makeup. Rooney Mara also won Best Actress in a Supporting Role at the 2015 Cannes Film Festival.
- Directed by Jon Favreau
- IMDb user rating: 7.0
- Meta score: 64
- Running time: 97 minutes
In this Christmas comedy, a human baby crawls into one of Santa’s toy sacks, but St. Nick doesn’t realize it until he reaches the North Pole. Santa and the elves decide to keep the child and name it Buddy (Will Ferrell).
Over time, Buddy learns about the elven way of life, but is unaware of his human origins until he overhears his fellow elven talk about his distinctive traits. Buddy soon seeks out his birth father in New York City, which comes with his own set of obstacles. The film depicts a magical New York City during the holiday season, complete with celebrity appearances at Gimbels department store that may invoke nostalgia in some viewers.
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (2004)
- Directed by Alfonso Cuaron
- IMDb user rating: 7.9
- Meta score: 82
- Running time: 142 minutes
People don’t generally think of Harry Potter films as “holiday movies,” but some are making the cuts – including Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. Yes, the plot revolves around a mass murderer’s prison escape – but it’s packed with wintry wonderland scenes.
In one scene, the characters visit Hogsmeade, a magical and quaint snow-capped village with an old-fashioned candy store.
The Hateful Eight (2015)
- Directed by Quentin Tarantino
- IMDb user rating: 7.8
- Meta score: 68
- Running time: 168 minutes
The Hateful Eight has become an offbeat Christmas favorite for those with a craving for something a little less sweet. The story follows eight strangers in post-Civil War Wyoming who seek refuge from a snowstorm at a lodge. There are humorous but violent scenes. As soon as Bob (Demián Bichir) starts playing “Silent Night” on the piano while Maj. Marquis Warren (Samuel L. Jackson) and General Sandy Smithers (Bruce Dern) eat by the fireplace with blankets on their laps, it starts to feel a bit like Christmas – albeit menacing.
The film won an Academy Award for Best Music Score and a BAFTA Award for Best Original Music Score.
The Vacation (2006)
- Directed by Nancy Meyers
- IMDb user rating: 6.9
- Meta score: 52
- Running time: 136 minutes
In the romantic comedy The Holiday, two women who met online find similar unlucky love and agree to swap homes for the holidays. Amanda Woods (Cameron Diaz), a hardworking film businesswoman living in Los Angeles, will soon swap places with society columnist Iris Simpkins, who lives in a cozy stone house in the England countryside.
The change of scenery is positive for both women, not only in terms of romantic possibilities but also in sheer beauty. Iris’ Cottage is decorated in shabby-chic style, complete with ivy and a free-standing bath, while Amanda’s is a two-story, bougainvillea-laden dream. Scenes will have viewers booking the next flight across the Atlantic. The film won a 2007 Teen Choice Award for Choice Movie: Chick Flick.
Home Alone 2: Lost in New York (1992)
- Director: Chris Columbus
- IMDb user rating: 6.8
- Meta score: 46
- Running time: 120 minutes
In Home Alone 2, 10-year-old Kevin McCallister (Macaulay Culkin) and his family are scheduled to go on a Christmas trip to Florida, but Kevin gets lost at the airport and ends up boarding the wrong plane – to New York. With his father’s credit card and wallet in tow, Kevin books a luxurious suite in a Manhattan hotel that includes a king-size bed and an oversized sundae.
It sounds like a perfect vacation until he gets kicked out of the hotel and has to face the same burglars he encountered in the first part. Home Alone 2 takes Kevin to many New York City attractions including Radio City Music Hall, the Statue of Liberty, Central Park and even a Santa on stilts in front of the Empire Diner.
In Bruges (2008)
- Director: Martin McDonagh
- IMDb user rating: 7.9
- Meta score: 67
- Running time: 107 minutes
In this comedy-drama thriller, assassins Ray (Colin Farrell) and Ken (Brendan Gleeson) travel to Bruges, Belgium around Christmas to hide out after a failed assassination attempt. Ray, filled with guilt over his botched first job for his crime boss, wants to leave Bruges while Ken treats the trip as a short vacation.
The film takes viewers to scenic locations in Bruges, including the Market Square and Belfry (which are on the UNESCO World Heritage List) and the Relais Bourgondisch Cruyce, the boutique hotel where the killers live. The film received several awards, including a BAFTA Award for Best Original Screenplay.
National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation (1989)
- Directed by Jeremiah S Chechik
- IMDb user rating: 7.5
- Meta score: 49
- Running time: 97 minutes
Everything seems to go wrong for the Griswold family as they prepare for their holiday party in this slapstick comedy. Clark Griswold (Chevy Chase) is determined to have a fun, traditional family Christmas with his wife Ellen (Beverly D’Angelo) and two children, but the two in-laws and Clark’s grumpy uncle and crazy aunt make things difficult.
With floors collapsing, ladders falling, and a moment where Clark has to dodge the car to avoid a snowplow collision, and an epic sleigh scene powered by an experimental “silicone-based zero-calorie kitchen lubricant,” viewers will enjoy more than a few laughs. Scenes of the Griswold home were filmed in Los Angeles, with most of the exterior scenes being filmed in Breckenridge, Colorado.
Planes, Trains & Cars (1987)
- Directed by John Hughes
- IMDb user rating: 7.6
- Meta score: 72
- Running time: 93 minutes
In this comedy, a slightly frustrated Neal Page (Steve Martin) attempts to return to Chicago to spend Thanksgiving with his wife Susan (Laila Robins) and children. But of course everything that can go wrong does go wrong.
Heavy snowfall in Chicago causes Neal’s flight to be diverted to a Kansas city. With the hotels already booked, he has no choice but to share a room with Del Griffith (John Candy), the friendly, easy-going, and quirky traveling salesman. The two go on adventures while viewers are treated to cozy small-town locations, including the classic pavilion in the middle of the square.
The Polar Express (2004)
- Directed by Robert Zemeckis
- IMDb user rating: 6.6
- Meta score: 61
- Running time: 100 minutes
In this animated film based on the bestselling book by Chris Van Allsburg, a young boy embarks on an adventurous journey that begins on Christmas Eve. The boy travels to the North Pole by train from his hometown of Grand Rapids, Michigan. Along with other children, he is treated to a literal song and dance by the waiters and chefs, ending with a steaming mug of hot chocolate. sights of the otherworldly Northern Lights shimmering high above; and of course a majestic North Pole.
As soon as the train stops, the conductor informs the children about the elves that have gathered in the magical city and how Santa Claus is expecting them to give them presents. Grand gestures regardless of the film’s message – that true Christmas is in the heart – will have viewers reaching out to their loved ones.
This story originally appeared on Bounce and was produced and distributed in partnership with Stacker Studio.
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