Our Top 10 Travel Movies in 2010

As a companion piece to the last blog entry on our Top 10 Literary Travel Books of 2010, I present our family’s Best Travel Movies of 2010. These are not the best movies we’ve seen, nor are they the best travel movies out there; they are the ten movies that most enhanced our family’s travel experience. (Present-day country in parentheses)
#1: HBO’s Rome (2005 - 24 episodes) (Italy): This two-season HBO series is not a movie but we saw nothing in the last year that educated us more…nor was more entertaining. From Julius Caesar’s rise to the fall of Antony and Cleopatra, we were captivated by every hour of this series that covered the fall of the Republic and the rise of the Empire. The characters were well-drawn and the acting excellent, with the added benefit that our kids now know their Cato from their Cicero.  (For more on why our 14 and 12 year old kids were even watching this, go here)

#2: The Devil’s Miner (2005) (Bolivia): This little-known documentary is the story of 14-year old Basilio who works in the Potosi silver mine to support his family when his father dies. Taking a tour of the Potosi mine is harrowing and claustrophobic but this movie will put a human face on the experience. The movie is hard to find but available from sidewalk pirate-DVD sellers all over Bolivia. The title comes from the manner in which all the miners make offerings to the “devil of the mine,” the shrine that serves as an everpresent reminder that death can happen any at minute.

#3: The Motorcycle Diaries (2004) (South America): Gael Garcia Bernal stars as Che Guevara in his 1952 motorcycle tour of South America with his buddy Alberto. The Andean scenery and Gustavo Santaolalla’s music is a perfect backdrop for Che’s political awakening; the scene where he shares a campfire with Chilean miners and learns of their exploitation is particularly well done.

#4: The Dancer Upstairs (2002) (Peru): Another little-known movie which is directed by John Malkovich and is based loosely on the hunt and capture of Shining Path leader Abimael Guzman.(the movie makes no mention of Peru, Guzman or the Sendero Luminoso) Javier Bardem does a nice job as the lead detective and the movie gives you a sense of the tenseness and terror in Lima in the 1980’s during the time of the Sendero Luminoso.

#5: The Merchant of Venice (2004) Italy): Al Pacino does a creditable job as Shylock in this Shakespeare classic directed by Michael Radford. The story gives you an idea of what being a Jew was like in 16th century Venice, even though Shakespeare never set foot on Italian soil.

#6: Creation (2009) (South America, Galapagos): A recent movie about Charles Darwin’s relationship with his eldest daughter and how her death affected him. The movie portrays his internal conflict between religion and his scientific findings and it implies that his daughter’s death helped push him towards science. Many of his scientific ideas came from his 1835 visit to the Galapagos.

#7: Out of Africa (1985) (Kenya): Less about east Africa than about the colonial experience in Kenya, Redford and Streep play out their star roles amidst the beautiful Kenyan landscape. Based on the very good Isak Dinneson book of the same name.

#8: Roman Holiday (1953) Italy): A fun and light romp through the Eternal City with Gregory Peck as a reporter and Audrey Hepburn as a visiting Princess. Beautiful black and white cinematography.

#9: Alexander (2004) (Greece and Turkey): Not the greatest of movies and I’m not a Colin Farrell fan but it gives a good overview of Alexander’s short life. Alexander’s relationship with his generals (Ptolemy, Antigonus, Antipater, Seleucis, et al. ) who would carve up his empire after his death was of special interest.

#10: Troy (2004) (Turkey, Greece): Again not a great movie but an entertaining way to learn about Homer’s account of the united Greek city-states’ assault on Troy.


  1. Happy new year Jason!

    I hope that you and your family will have a great 2011! :D

  2. We LOVED Rome. I wish there was something similar to it on TV now. Sunday nights are slightly less enjoyable without the gripping drama and copious amounts of fornication! =)

    Great list. I am going to check out Creation.

  3. Oh gosh, I didn't catch the "watch it with the kids" part of the Rome review! It's a bold choice – probably a bit graphic for the younger ones but mature kids would probably find it fascinating. Heck, they see massive amount of sex and violence everywhere as it is, I suppose making it a history lesson is a bonus. =)

  4. Hey NVR Guys:

    Yes it was a bold choice. To read more about how we did it, check out this entry:
    Happy New Year!

  5. Thanks isabel,
    Happy New Year to you too!

  6. Great list... I am adding The Devil's Miner & The Dancer Upstairs to our must watch list. Thanks for the tips!

  7. Wonderful list of movies. When I get to Chiang Mai on January 20th I'll have some time to do some watching. Happy New Year!

  8. Jennifer, Nancie:
    Thanks. Enjoy the movies and Happy New Year.