Best Movies About Hawaii to Watch Before Your Trip

Best Movies About Hawaii to Watch Before Your Trip

Isaac Hale Beach, Big Island, Hawai’i

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Whether you are planning a trip or dreaming of the islands, enjoy this collection of the best movies about Hawaii! The Aloha state is widely recognized as one of the most beautiful places in the world, in fact over 100 feature films have been shot here. It is also one of the most ecologically diverse areas in the world, allowing directors to utilize an extraordinary range of dramatic natural scenery. Grab your popcorn and expect a visual delight!

Our family lived in Hawaii, and we love to bring the beauty, culture, and history of the islands into our lives on the mainland, often through film. I’ve also asked travel writers to share the Hawaii movies they recommend to people planning their own trips.

We start with some fantastic films made by Hawaiians and other residents of the Hawaii. They will help you gain a deeper understanding of the culture and history of the islands, inspiring you be a more thoughtful traveler. You will also appreciate the exquisite natural beauty of the islands and find inspiration for caring for it while you visit.

You can extend the joy of your travels and understand the country much more deeply by spending the months (or years!) preceding your trip by learning about Hawaii. At Trip Scholars, we offer many resources and ideas to help you dive deep into understanding your travel destinations before you arrive. 

Jump to Your Favorites!

Table of Contents

Movies in the Hawaiian Language

Kapaemahu

2020 | NR

This evocative and memorable animated film is one you will want to watch before your trip to Hawaii. It tells the legend of the mahu deities (deities of the third gender, embodying both male and female) who came from Tahiti to Hawaii to share their healing powers. Their healing gifts remain in four Stones of Life, or Nā Pōhaku Ola, on the beach in Waikiki today. 

The eight minute short has won numerous international awards and is narrated completely in Hawaiian with English subtitles. You will be captivated by the animation style and transported with the soundtrack. The story is a haunting reminder of the suppressed history of Native Hawaiians and encourages us to learn more. This same interpretation is also available as a book.

Both adults and children can enjoy this film from home and then visit the stones in Waikiki. You can find the location here to add a visit to the Stones of Life to your itinerary. 

Movies About Hawaiian Culture

The Haumana

2013 | NR

This multi award winning film was written and produced by the Hawaiian actor, director, and hula master Keo Woolford. It is a top movie recommendation because of the realistic portrayal of local Hawaiian culture, engaging acting, and captivating hula scenes.

Haumana is Hawaiian for disciple or student, and this highly enjoyable film allows us to learn and be inspired alongside the main character, Johnny Kealoha. Kealoha hosts a highly commercialized Polynesian show for tourists in Waikiki but is asked by his Kumu Hulu (master hula teacher) to teach the high school boys hula class. As he grows as their instructor, he also expands his own understanding of hula, his culture, and ultimately himself. 

The movie is filmed on Oahu and the cast has many local Hawaiians. We are given an intimate window into learning traditional hula, with a gorgeous soundtrack including contributions from top Hawaiian musicians like Robert Cazimero. The characters navigate blending ancient Hawaiian traditions with being teenagers on modern day Oahu. Add it to your queue today, you will be glad you did!

Documentaries on Hawaii: Culture

Jake Shimabukuro: Life on Four Strings

2012 |NR

Hawaiian music is certain to be a highlight of any trip to the islands and this documentary will give you a much deeper understanding of its influence and importance. Plus, it is an absolute joy to watch and listen to Jake Shimabukuro! The virtuoso is a world famous ukulele player who has shown global audiences what an exceptionally talented and creative player can do with this beautiful instrument. 

The documentary follows Shimabukuro through a season of performing, but also looks back on his childhood and forward to his future dreams. His humility, curiosity, and generous spirit are easily highlighted throughout the film. It is uplifting, not just because of his musical performances, but also because of his inspiring life story.

Start a playlist of Hawaiian music while still at home and include both Shimabukuro’s solo work and his recordings from his earlier band, Pure Heart.  While you are in the Islands, be sure to find some live local music! There are often free performances in shopping centers, parks, and local events.

If you are inspired, I also recommend trying the ukulele yourself. I love to play and have two ukuleles, this is my favorite. It is very forgiving and a great choice for beginners on a stringed instrument, so you can be playing a simple tune your first afternoon.  But, as you have seen in this documentary, the ukulele can play transformative music in the hands of a master.

The Endless Summer

1966 | 11+

Endless Summer is very much what the title says, a trip around the world by two surfers in search of the world’s best surfing and endless sun. Naturally, Hawaii fits them perfectly, being famous for its huge waves for surfing and sunny weather.

Although the movie is not entirely about Hawaii, the segment about it shows the surf scene in Hawaii during the 1960s, which was partially instrumental in the surge of tourism that followed afterwards. Indeed, much of the appeal of visiting Hawaii came about from the images of a relaxed beach vibe and epic waves that purveyed in the surf scene there.

The surfing culture in Hawaii is the most famous in the world due to its ancient surfing traditions among the inhabitants of the area that surfed the waves on longboards going back 1500 years, long before ‘westerners’ discovered it.

The Endless Summer is one of the best travel movies that you can watch, especially if you have an interest in surf, sun, and adventure. Great for watching before any trip to Hawaii.

Contributed by Johnny at Backpackingman

Wayfinders: A Pacific Odessey

1999 | NR

If you have always wondered how the early Polyneisians discovered Hawaii in the middle of the vast Pacific Ocean, this documentary is for you! It is a PBS special revealing the rare art of wayfinding, the art of navigating the sea using only nature as one’s guide: the stars, sun, weather, sea, and animals. Historically many anthropologists and historians did not think early Polyneisians could have intentionally navigated the massive Pacific to populate the many islands throughout the ocean. However, work by The Polynesian Voyaging Society, Maiden Voyage Productions (who created the film), and many others has proven that wayfinding was an important skill throughout ancient Polynesia.

In the film we are introduced to one of the few remaining wayfinders in the world, Mau Pialug from the island of Satawal. He teaches Nainoa Thompson, a Native Hawaiian navigator, and in turn, a whole new generation of nature based navigators. Herb Kane designed the famous Hawaian sailing vessel, Hokule’a, after a lifetime of studying ancient Hawaiian canoes. It was eventually built in a mostly traditional way, in large part by volunteers in Hawaii. 

We follow along as a new generation from many islands around Polynesia learn wayfinding skills and boat building techniques, while also coming to a greater understanding of their cultural heritage. Patrick Stewart narrates the role of Captain Cook, the famous British navigator and cartographer. The nearly extinct art of wayfinding is put to the test as these modern sailors set out on a 2000 mile journey, with nature, their knowledge, and their history to guide them.

Hawaiian Islands | Filmed in 1906

1906 | NR

This unique footage is a fascinating window into life in Hawaii in 1906. The inventor Thomas Edison also had a film studio and he sent Robert Bonine in the early 1900’s to gather footage of the islands. There are over 30 clips, all of them silent. A few of them include what is thought to be the oldest film clips of surfing in the world. 

This is not your typical documentary, but it is a rare and unique view of many places and cultural touchstones. The youtube description includes the titles of each clip so you can watch just the places you plan to visit– but you will likely be hooked and want to watch a lot more!

Hawaii Documentaries: Nature

Hawaii's Mauna Loa: The World's Largest Volcano

Hawaii's Kīlauea Volcano

When we are on the islands we are constantly aware that we are actually on volcanoes: active, dormant, or extinct. Each island arose from the bottom of the ocean floor as it was formed over the hotspot that is currently under the Big Island. Weather erodes them and plate tectonics carry the volcanoes northwest. These exposed peaks form the Hawaiian-Emperor Seamount Chain, the youngest of which are the inhabited Hawaiian Islands. Curious travelers can experience the vastness of geologic forces in real time by visiting an older island, like Kawaii, and comparing the island to what they see on the youngest, the Big Island. 

The Big Island is a dream destination for anyone fascinated by volcanoes and geology. If you are unfamiliar with the subject, a visit to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park will likely make you a lifelong admirer. Much of the park, and over half of the island, is on the volcano Mauna Loa. The rest of HVNP includes the youngest above-water Hawaiian volcano, Kilauea. 

These two documentaries bring the viewer up close to learn about the incredible power and beauty of the volcanoes and they are valuable viewing before a trip to the islands. Even if you are not planning to visit the Big Island on your next trip, understanding more about how the islands are formed will enhance your time anywhere in the state. They were both made before the most recent eruptions so that information isn’t included. The films incorporate a lot of interviews with, and footage of, scientists at work in the park. They also include a strong focus on learning from Native Hawaiians about the geologic history held in songs and legends.

Another fascinating Hawaii documentary is Sharks of Hawaii.

Hawaiian History Movies

Princess Kaiulani

2009 | PG

The drama-based movie Princess Kaiulani documents the events that led up to the dissolution of the Hawaiian monarchy. It’s a history lesson for some, a painful event for others. While the movie gained mixed reviews because of its original title of ‘Barbarian Princess,’ it adds excellent incite into the Hawaiian royal family.

Iolani Palace in Oahu sets the stage for the opening of the film. Electricity has arrived in Hawaii, but the upheaval from the King’s advisors has overshadowed the momentous event. With uncertainty in the homeland, Princess Kaiulani, who’s in line for the throne, travels to Scotland for an education and to avoid the tensions.

During her absence, the King’s death and Queen Liliuokalani’s imprisonment bring her back to her homeland to fight for the monarchy. ‘Princess Kaiulani’ allows the watcher to delve into the lives of the people that made Hawaii so special. While the film may be part fiction, it embodies the spirit of her Polynesian heritage. Before traveling to Hawaii, visitors will better understand the history of royal residences such as Iolani Palace and Queen Emma Summer Palace on Oahu, and Hulihe’e Palace on Hawaii.

Contributed by Karen of Forever Karen

Pearl Harbor

2001 | PG-13

Pearl Harbor is a great movie because it takes a moment in American history and brings it to life with intense dramatic performances.  

 Directed by Michael Bay, and starring Ben Affleck and Kate Beckinsdale, Pearl Harbor is a beautiful love story set during World War II. 

 Pearl Harbor is a fantastic movie to watch before your first trip to Hawaii beause it humanizes an important moment in Hawaii’s history. The attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, has been immortalized by the Pearl Harbor National Memorial in Oahu. Watching this movie, in addition to visiting the famous memorial, will add a level of relatability for the real people who died and fought on that day for anyone visiting Hawaii. 

Submitted by Katie from KatieCafTravel.com

Hawaiian history movies about the missionary moment to add to your queue are Hawaii and Molokai: The Story of Father Damien.

Hawaii Family Movies

Finding Ohana

2021 | PG

One of the newest kids movies filmed in Hawaii is Netflix’s Finding Ohana. It’s filmed on Oahu with a lot of the adventurous scenes at Kualoa Ranch. The story is all about a mom moving back home to Hawaii from Brooklyn with her teenage kids. The main character is a girl named Pili (played by Kea Peahu) who finds an old journal that takes her on a real-life treasure hunt. 

The movie has a lot of the same vibes as the kids adventure movies from the 90s, so both parents and kids will enjoy watching it. Plus, the soundtrack is pretty fabulous.

What sets this movie apart from other kids movies filmed in Hawaii is that they focus a lot on Hawaiian culture, especially the elusive Night Marchers. This is a really cool part of Hawaiian culture that most people don’t know about before their trip. Finally, you can even do a Hawaii movie tour to see exactly where they filmed at Kualoa Ranch!

Contributed by Marcie Cheung of Hawaii Travel with Kids

Hook

1991 | PG

Peter Pan is a classic movie and often a childhood favorite. Hook is what happens after the story of Peter Pan when Peter grows up. It is fun to learn more of the Peter Pan story, and an important lesson about growing up and changing.

Hook doesn’t take place entirely in Hawaii, but the Neverland scenes were filmed in Kuaui, Hawaii. Neverland is a magical place, and of course, Hawaii is a perfect choice for imagining Neverland. We know that Neverland is close to the ocean, as that is where Captain Hook lives. Peter lives on land but visits the mermaids under the sea and flies onto Hook’s pirate ship.

Directed by Steven Speilberg, Hook is filled with well-known actors. Robin Williams played the grown-up version Peter and his sidekick Tinkerbell is played by Julia Roberts. Dustin Hoffman played the role of Peter Pan’s nemesis, Captain Hook.

Hook is a great opportunity to discover that there is always more to the story. Plus, it’s fun to learn more about the characters we know and love. Hook is a kid’s movie that adults might enjoy even more than kids.

Who doesn’t want to go to Neverland, at least for a while? If we can’t get to Neverland, at least for now, we can imagine Neverland from the beautiful Kuaui, Hawaii.

Contributed by Lanie van der Horst at Make More Adventures

Hawaii Disney Movies

Lilo & Stitch

2002 | PG

Lilo & Stitch is a funny & unique Disney animated film based in Hawaii. The story is about a young girl who picks up a “dog” at a local pound – only to find out the animal is actually a scientific experiment called 626. Follow along as the girl learns the truth about 626 (Stitch), forms a friendship with him, and works together to avoid his capture by the Galactic Federation.  

The film itself is based in Hawaii. You’ll notice many iconic themes from Hawaiian tradition included in the movie like surfing, hula dancing, ukeles, and more! Writers used the town of Hanapee on the island of Kauai as inspiration. This town is often referred to as “Kauai’s Biggest Little Town” as it is truly only made up of a few streets!

You’ll recognize scenes from the animated movie that mimic the town’s vibe with charming plantation-style buildings. You can walk in and out of many stores and restaurants here in town along the main street. You’ll even find a few murals that locals have painted in honor of the adorable animated film! Missing this small town would be one of the biggest mistakes to make when visiting Hawaii as it truly transports you into the movie Lilo & Stitch! 

Contributed by Lisa Shehan at wanderlustwithlisa

Moana

2016 | PG

Moana is set on a fictional island in Ancient Polynesia. The fictional story is based loosely on several stories from Polynesian mythology. The catchy music and powerful female lead in Moana make it a favorite. It comes complete with funny characters and jokes that Disney animated films are known for. In the movie, Moana is the daughter of the chief on a Polynesian island. Her people are struggling and she learns that Maui the demi-god has stolen the heart of Te Fiti. She takes off on open water to find Maui, restore the ocean, and heal her island. 

Moana is a great movie to watch with kids to kick start a conversation about Polynesian culture and history before your trip. Hawai’i marks one corner of the Polynesian triangle and the story of Maui is a common one in all of the Polynesian Islands. The demi-god is known for being mischievous and for using his powers to help humans. As in Moana, Maui is known for his magic fish hook in Hawaii but in other parts of Polynesia, he is known differently. The story in the movie is fictional but with some quick research you can find the different cultures associated with each story about Maui mentioned in the song “You’re Welcome”.  The Polynesian Islands share many parts of their culture but are each unique as well. Watching the fictional story in Moana can open a conversation about Polynesia. The Hawaiians make a great effort to revive, maintain, and showcase their culture; Use Moana to start the conversation before you leave. 

Contributed by Jami at Celiac Travel Pack

Adventure Movies in Hawaii

Kong: Skull Island

2017 | PG:13 

The movie ‘Kong: Skull Island’ is a fun action / monster movie in the newly rebooted King Kong series, starring Tom Hiddleston, Samuel L. Jackson, and others. In the movie, a group of soldiers and explorers has to go on an expedition to Skull Island to find the giant King Kong and other mysterious creatures.

The movie was filmed in Vietnam and Hawaii, and places where they did filming in Oahu include Kualoa Ranch, Honolulu’s Chinatown, and the Waikane Valley. A visit to Kualoa Ranch in particular is one of the best things to do in Oahu Hawaii since so many movies have been filmed there — more than 80 movies in total!

Even though the plot of Kong may not win any big awards, it’s still a great movie to watch before your trip to Hawaii. It’s loaded with nice tropical scenery and intense action sequences to pump you up for your travels, and if you’re lucky you may get to visit some of the filming locations while you’re in Oahu!

 Contributed by David & Intan at The World Travel Guy

Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle

2017 | PG-13

For an exciting adventure film starring Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, Jack Black, Kevin Hart, and Karen Gillan, watch “Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle.” A sequel to the 1995 film “Jumanji,” this reboot is a great comedy-action film that showcases some stunning Hawaiian scenery.

Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle tells the story of four high school students getting sucked into a video game set in the jungle. To return home, they have to beat the video game by returning a magical jewel to its shrine.

This is a great family-friendly film with tons of action, humor, and character-growth. A lot of the movie scenes were shot on the island of Oahu, and in particular, the Kualoa Ranch. And while there are many incredible Oahu waterfalls, the set of falls shown in the film are located in Papaikou on the Big Island.

Needless to say, watching “Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle” before a trip to Hawai’i would greatly enhance your vacation! Filled with spectacular tropical landscapes, lush jungles, and soaring hills, watching the film will truly get you pumped to visit Hawai’i. It’ll also provide you with some incredible ideas on what to do in Hawai’i, from touring the Kualoa Ranch to admiring Kawainui Falls.

Contributed by Mia at Walk a While with Me

Another classic Adventure movie to include in your watchlist is Jurassic Park.

Comedy Movies About Hawaii

The Descendants

2011 | R

Starring George Clooney, The Descendants follows Matt King, whose life is turned upside down when his wife is left in a coma after a tragic accident. Not only is Matt struggling with the consequences of the accident, but he’s also been named the trustee of an enormous plot of untouched land in Kauai and is being pressured by his family to sell this incredibly valuable asset to developers. While grappling with these issues, Matt, a busy attorney in Honolulu, attempts to figure out how to be more present for his two daughters while they navigate their mom’s possible death. 

The film is visually stunning and highlights some of Hawaii’s most beautiful landscapes, from the beaches of Oahu to the lush greenery of Kauai. But visitors should watch The Descendants for more than just its imagery- the film highlights the commoditization of Hawaiian land and the pressures locals face to exploit its natural beauty for tourism and other development. The United States’ complex- and often problematic- treatment of Hawaiian land and resources is important context for any visitor to the islands to understand and perhaps Matt’s struggles relating to his duty to protect his ancestors’ land will offer you a unique perspective before your trip.

Contributed by Jessica Schmit of Uprooted Traveler

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Forgetting Sarah Marshall

2008 | R

One of the funniest comedies of the 2000s, Forgetting Sarah Marshall is a great movie to watch before a trip to Oahu, especially if your trip involves the North Shore! 

The movie features Jason Segel as the forlorn, newly-dumped boyfriend of a famous TV actress, Sarah Marshall. He goes to Oahu to try to find himself and relax — but ends up finding out that she and her new boyfriend, played by Russell Brand, are staying at the same resort he is! Luckily, he unexpectedly makes friends with a bunch of workers at the resort, and they help to save his trip.

The movie is filmed mostly at Turtle Bay Resort on the North Shore of Oahu, and it has scenes from different places along the North Shore, including the famous ‘cliff jumping’ scene which takes place at Laie Point, and the surfing scenes filmed on the beaches near Haleiwa. The beautiful shots of these North Shore locales will have you adding it to your Oahu itinerary!

This funny movie is also poignant, and it’ll be especially resonant for solo travelers or people who are taking a trip in order to forget or get over a recent bad event like a breakup or loss. The movie addresses how we can feel lost and look to travel to try to save us, but ultimately, our connections with the people we meet while traveling are what impact our experience the most. For travelers feeling a bit lost, this is a really powerful message to take with you both on your travels to Hawaii and when you return home. 

Contributed by Allison Green of Eternal Arrival

50 First Dates

2004 | PG13

The film, 50 First Dates takes place on the mesmerizing island of Oahu and is charming because of it’s message of true love despite the odds. The movie follows the daily interactions between the main character, Henry who is set on winning over Lucy, a joyful woman who unfortunately forgets what happens every day due to short-term memory loss. 

Fifty First Dates follows the interactions and budding love Henry develops for Lucy as he continues his battle every day to win her over, while also trying to convince her close friends and family that he can make her happy. In the movie, you taste Hawaiian culture in the attire as well as the cuisine, like at Hukilau cafe, where Lucy eats every morning. 

You also get to see some popular historic locations in the movie, like where Lucy and Henry kiss at the famous Makapuu lighthouse, which is a popular hiking destination in Oahu. Lucy lives on the ranch at Kualoa Ranch, a substantial 4000-acre private nature reserve. Another famous Hawaiian location, as seen in the movie, is where Henry works, the real-life Sea Life Park. This renowned park allows visitors to meet the animals up close but still works towards preserving nature and conserving wildlife. The concept of the preservation and conservation of nature is an important focus in Hawaii. All in all, 50 First Dates is not only a cute and funny movie but shows us a glimpse of Hawaii and it’s culture. 

Contributed by Sierra and Yesenia, The Sisters Who Voyage

Hawaii Surfing Movies

Soul Surfer

2011 | PG

The movie Soul Surfer is set on the island of Kaui and follows the story of Bethany Hamilton, an upcoming teenage surfing star who was attacked by a shark one day on the water. The shark bit off her arm but luckily, Bethany survived the attack. The movie focuses on her journey to figure out how to cope with the loss of her arm and also how she overcame that setback in her surfing career. 

It’s a heartwarming and incredibly inspiring film that is perfect for families and anyone who loves a movie about overcoming the odds. Sean McNamara was the director, and Anna Sophia Robb starred in the film. 

The movie showcases the beauty of Hawaiian water and beaches and the strength of the local communities. There are also many scenes of surfing competitions and surfing practice in Hawaii, which is an aspect of a Hawaiian vacation that many visitors are interested in. 

Contributed by Stephanie Rytting of The Unknown Enthusiast

Gidget Goes Hawaiian

1961 | NR

One of the cutest movies that is set in Hawaii is a 1960’s surfer chick-flick called Gidget Goes Hawaiian. The Gidget series follows the story of a small, teenage girl named Francine. Francine longs for a life that is more than just sitting at home, and finds her passion in the waves. In the first Gidget movie, Francine learns how to surf with the help of Moondoggie and his surfer bros. She receives the nickname “Gidget” from them – girl + midget. She falls in love with Moondoggie and surfing and the rest is history.

In Gidget Goes Hawaiian, Francine has the opportunity to go to Hawaii and surf some pretty big waves. Just before the adventure, she and Moondoggie break up, making her Hawaiian adventure now fueled with “post-breakup” vibes. This movie is super cute and shows off multiple Hawaiian hotels and beaches. It will make you want to go to Hawaii, learn to surf, and fall in love. From the beautiful beaches to the cute Luaus, Gidget Goes Hawaiian is the perfect movie to watch before going to Hawaii because it will inspire you to get out there and enjoy everything the Hawaiian islands have to offer.

Contributed by Shannon at Adventuring With Shannon

Other surfing movies to enjoy are the documentaries Endless Summer and Hawaii 1906 shared earlier in this article.

Films About Hawaii

Watching films from this collection is sure to give you a deeper understanding of Hawaii: it’s natural beauty, fascinating culture, and rich history. Hopefully you’ve found some great Hawaii movies to add to your queue!

What are your favorites? Did we miss anything you would recommend? Let me know in the comments, I’d love to hear from you!

Erica

Erica

Hi, I’m Erica and I created Trip Scholars for curious travelers, just like you! As a professional educator with a passion for travel, I want to help you save time, learn more, and travel better. I believe that the wonder of travel can begin the moment you start to plan it. I am also a Certified Travel Education Coach and love supporting other curious travelers with transformative trip research. Learn more on my Coaching or About Us page!
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The 35 Best Movies in Greece to Watch Before Your Trip

Movies in Greece, Beach in Greece

The 35 Best Movies in Greece to Watch Before Your Trip

 This post may contain affiliate links which means Trip Scholars may make a small commission (at no extra cost to you) if you make a purchase.  As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.  Read more here. Thanks for helping us keep the lights on!

We have gathered the best movies in Greece to watch before your trip. I have asked a group of experienced travel writers to share their top recommendations of films in Greece to enhance trip planning and enrich your trip to Greece. 

You can extend the joy of your travels and understand the country much more deeply by spending the months (or years!) preceding your trip by watching and reading about Greece. 

At Trip Scholars, we offer many resources and ideas to help you dive deep into understanding your travel destinations before you arrive. This is a supplemental article to our series of articles about all you can do before your trip to Greece. 

Queue these up and let your Greek adventure begin today!

Jump to Your Favorites!

Table of Contents

The Best Movies in Greece: The Classics

Boy on a Dolphin

Language: English (1957) NR

Boy on a Dolphin was the first major American film shot in Greece and was Sophia Lauren’s breakout role. It set the stage for many films that followed, but is also worth watching because of the scenery, story, music, and history. Most of the scenes were shot on location in Greece in the 1950’s which shows us the country and many of the important landmarks almost sixty years ago. 

The story begins on the island of Hydra with Phaedra (Sophia Lauren) as a strong, stunning, and poor sponge diver. In a beautifully shot underwater scene (that must have amazed viewers in 1957) she discovers an ancient gold and bronze statue of a boy on a dolphin. Working with her lazy boyfriend, Rhif (Jorge Mistral) and the town’s English drunkard doctor, Dr. Hawkins (Laurence Naismith) the three hatch a plan to find a wealthy partner to retrieve the statue.

Phadra travels to Athens and meets both Dr. James Calder (Alan Ladd) and Victor Parmalee (Clifton Webb). Dr. Calder is an American archeologist trying to ensure that archeological treasures are kept in the countries where they are found. Victor, on the other hand, is an unscrupulous wealthy art collector who wants to keep priceless treasures for himself. An engaging story unfolds as the characters struggle between the security of wealth offered by Parmalee and the desire to have it recognized as a treasure of both Hydra and Greece. You’ll see some early inspiration for later Indiana Jones films as the plot unfolds.

As with all classics, this film can be tough to watch through a modern lens. The Greeks are portrayed as uneducated and sharply contrasted against most of the refined British and Americans. The relationships between men and women are jarring to watch for the modern viewer. But, if we can see the film in the historical context it was made within, it provides plenty to think about. Also notable is the lack of Greek actors in the film, which has been a welcome change in more recent cinema.

Boy on a Dolphin is a great film to watch before traveling to Greece. One of the highlights is the authentic traditional Greek music and dancing. There are also many archeological sites featured that will inspire you to add them to your itinerary. It may also spark an interest in watching other American classics shot in Greece.

Zorba the Greek

Language: English (1964) NR

If you haven’t already seen Zorba the Greek, add it to your watch list today! It is based on the best-selling novel by Nikos Kazantzakis, who is arguably the greatest Greek writer of the modern age. Anthony Quinn dazzles us as Zorba, a quintessential Free Man. He vibrantly seizes existence, laughing and dancing in the face of life’s suffering. He expresses freedom (both the best and the worst of it!) more robustly than most characters throughout the history of literature and film. 

Zorba befriends Basil (Alan Bates), a reserved English-Greek writer who is going to Crete to resurrect the family mine. When they arrive, they stay at the hotel of aging Madame Hortense, played by Lila Kedrova, who won an academy award for her role. Most of the villagers serve as a sort of Greek chorus, without much individuation. A stunning exception is the widow, played by Irene Papas, and the mentally disabled character, whose reaction to tragedy in the film sets him far apart from the other main characters.

Although much of it is a comedy, you will also be unsettled and least one disturbing scene will likely stay with you forever. The film depicts life in a small, poor, rural town in Crete around 1930. The women are, for the most part, treated deplorably. Some claim that the film is misogynistic because of this but shining a light on such inequalities instead gives viewers plenty to think and talk about after watching. Kazantzakis frequently brings us to uncomfortable places in his stories, and we are often better because of it.

Zorba the Greek is an excellent movie to watch before visiting Greece. It is set in Crete, one of the most beautiful places in the country. If you are going to Crete on your trip, you will find the scenery especially inspiring. The soundtrack by Mikis Theodorakis is also exceptional, and you will likely want to add it to your music playlist. Perhaps most importantly, it offers a window into Greek culture of almost a hundred years ago– written by the great Cretan writer, Nikos Kazantzakis.

More classic movies in Greece you might like are Never on a Sunday, The Guns of Navarone, and Stella.

The Best Movies About Greece: Comedies

Mama Mia

Language: English (2008) PG-13

Mamma Mia is one the of the best movies in Greece and one of the best musical movies of all time! The movie is a musical that follows the story of a young adult woman (Amanda Seyfried) who is on a mission to find out who her father is before her wedding. She flies from the United States to Greece where her wedding and her mom are located. Problems arise when her mom (Meryl Streep) admits to her that there are three possible men who could be her father. Because of this, Amanda Seyfried secretly invites all three men to her wedding, and her mom is shocked to see her old lovers. 

This movie uses the songs of ABBA and a star-studded cast to showcase the beautiful islands in Greece. Most of the film is filmed on the small island of Skopelos in Greece where you get to see some of the local architecture that is highlighted in the film. Watching this film will get you excited for your trip to Greece as it showcases the beautiful scenery, lovely architecture, and the sailing culture of the country. I highly recommend watching this movie before heading out on your vacation to Greece!

Contributed by Shannon Lee at Adventuring with Shannon

My Big Fat Greek Wedding

Language: English (2002) PG

For someone who plans on visiting Greece, this movie is a great pick. It’s light and funny, and gives a comic, yet accurate, insight of what it’s like to be a part of a big, loud Greek family. The hilarious contrast between traditional Greek upbringing and a quiet, conservative North American family is simple, yet captivating.

The story follows a thirty-year-old Toula Portokalos who works in her family’s restaurant. While her family wants her to find herself a nice Greek boy to settle down with, she believes there is more to life than this. So, she takes computer classes and starts work at her aunt’s travel agency. Eventually she meets Ian Miller who she tries to date secretly until her family finds out. They then must learn to accept the unacceptable – a Greek woman marrying a “foreigner”.

Featuring lots of loveable characters, “My big fat Greek wedding” will have everyone of Greek descent appreciate and relate to its jokes and idiosyncrasies. While not shot in Greece, the movie portrays what the life of many Greek families is, their relationships, values, and traditions. A great way to get to know a country is by getting to know its people. And what better way to start than over popcorn and a romantic comedy?

Contributed by Nora at Go Frame the World

Shirley Valentine

Language: English (1989) R

Shirley Valentine, the 1989 double Oscar-winning film directed by Lewis Gilbert and written by Willy Russell, is the ultimate feel-good romantic comedy movie with lashings of glorious Greek scenery and sunshine to enjoy. 

Shirley (played by Pauline Collins) is a funny, charming, and unpredictable 45-ish housewife from Liverpool, desperate to prove to herself that it’s never too late to try to make your dreams come true. After her friend Jane wins a paid trip to Greece for two, Shirley joins her, only to be dumped at the airport when Jane disappears with a man she has met. Alone in a new country, Shirley meets handsome Costa (Tom Conti), who likes her despite her extra pounds and stretch marks. As she says yes to romance, she begins to like herself too. 

This clever, witty, funny, and thought-provoking movie was filmed in several locations on the beautiful island of Mykonos. Agios Ioannis beach, where Shirley sat at the end of the movie, awaiting the arrival of her husband, has become so popular with fans of the film looking for things to do in Mykonos that it’s become known as Shirley Valentine beach. You can also visit the Sunset Taverna restaurant where Shirley met Costa. In real life, it’s the sophisticated and vibrant Hippie Fish restaurant.

Contributed by Coralie at Grey Globetrotters

Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants

Language: English (2005) PG

The fantastical premise of a pair of jeans that fits perfectly on four teenage girls (with drastically different body types) may lead viewers to think that this movie is all about fluff. But it is the total opposite! Based on a beloved young adult book series, the movie is full of great performances by actors who are still stars today – Blake Lively, American Ferrera, Amber Tamblyn, and Alexis Bledel. 

The group of four childhood friends is spending their first summer apart – Carmen heads to South Carolina to see her father, Tibby stays in town for a summer job, Bridget has a soccer camp in Mexico, and Lena visits Greece to see her grandparents. The magical pair of jeans spends a week with each of the girls and leads them into adventures and plenty of drama. 

Greece is the stunning backdrop for Lena who visits Santorini and its hills covered in whitewashed homes with blue windows, doors, and rooftops. The beautiful southern Aegean Sea provides a scenic backdrop for Lena who spends her time drawing and eventually finds love. It is Greece, so tempers and emotions run high when Lena finds herself in a Romeo and Juliet situation with her boyfriend Kostas. 

The parts of the movie in Greece will make you want to visit and draw whatever you see. Even a fish market is worthy of your time to sit down, take in, and sketch in a journal or drawing book. 

I recently re-watched the film and I still enjoyed it because it is rooted in great storytelling and the struggles and friendships that we experience. 

Contributed by Bernadette Young of BookRetreats 

If you are looking for more movies in Greece that are comedies, you may also like My Life in Ruins. It’s a light romantic comedy where you’ll see many of the main archeological sites in the country. The sites are presented without respect to actual geography and it’s a corny film– but the scenery is excellent!

The Best Movies in Greece: Dramas

Before Midnight

Language: English (2013) R

For a charming romantic drama directed by Richard Linklater and starring Julie Delpy and Ethan Hawke, you must watch “Before Midnight.” The third installment of the Before trilogy (following “Before Sunrise” and “Before Sunset”), “Before Midnight” takes place on the Peloponnese Coast in Southern Greece.

If you’re unfamiliar with the Before trilogy, all films have a minimal plot, and instead follow a couple, Jesse and Céline, as they discuss life, love, and philosophy while wandering around an enchanting European location. While the first two films took place in Vienna and Paris respectively, the third film opted for a location with more stunning landscapes: Southern Greece.

Plot wise, “Before Midnight” follows Jesse and Céline as they take a summer vacation in Greece with family and friends. While the film begins with them cheerfully interacting with each other, their children, and their friends, they then engage in a fierce argument.

Regardless of the conflicts taking place, “Before Midnight” is an amazing film to watch before traveling to Greece, as you get to admire the breathtaking scenery of Southern Greece, with its sparkling blue ocean, delightful architecture, and enchanting small towns. It is impossible not to want to visit the Peloponnese Coast after watching!

Contributed by Mia from Walk a While with Me

The Big Blue/Le Grand Bleu

Language: French, English, Italian (1988) PG

The Big Blue is one of my favourite movies ever. If you are drawn to the deep blue sea and diving, it may become your favourite movie as well. The movie was written and directed by the famous director, Luc Besson. It mostly takes place on Greek islands, where we see two friends Enzo and Jack, growing up together. They both love the Mediterranean Sea and diving.

The story is built around a friendly competition between two freedivers who break deep-diving records without breathing equipment. Enzo (Jean Reno) is confident and surrounded by a wreath of admirers, and Jacques (Jean-Marc Barr) is a secretive loner. It is a strange rivalry. They are both lovable, quirky people who find peace only deep below the surface of the water.  

Their relationship is built primarily on the need for supremacy. Enzo, who subconsciously feels that he may be inferior, is constantly striving to confront himself in order to free himself from unbearable doubts. This complicated feeling is at the same time a source of tragedy and comedy, pushing the men more and more into their embrace and deeper and deeper under the water’s surface. 

The third character of the film is the sea. You cannot watch this movie without wanting to go to Greece to dive in the deep blue water. It will make you want to include plenty of time swimming and diving in the Mediterranean on your trip!

Contributed by Ania James from The Traveling Twins 

Another movie in Greece that is a modern drama to watch is The Two Faces of January.

Greek Language Movies

Kazantzakis

Language: Greek (2017) NR

If you have been moved by Zorba the Greek, or any of Nikos Kazantzakis’s other works, check out the biopic of his life, Kazantzakis. The film highlights major events of his life and how they inspired or influenced his writing. 

Many will be inspired by the film and the portrayal of the brilliant author’s struggles to understand human existence, his powerful religious journey, his evolving political philosophy, and his pride in his Cretan past. However, biopics are challenging, and this film condenses his rich life into two hours. So, it creates a shallower overview than admirers of Kazantzakis will want.

Travelers to Greece will benefit from watching this film for many reasons. You can admire the beautiful scenery of Crete. If you are traveling to the island, Kazantzakis is buried at the highest point in the walls of Heraklion, and you can visit to pay homage. You may be inspired to read more of Kazantzakis’ works or those of the Greek poet and playwright, Angelos Sikelianos, who is featured prominently in the film. You will also get an overview of Greek history that serves as a backdrop to the author’s life 1883-1957.

Xenia

Language: Greek (also Albanian and Italian) (2014) NR

Add Xenia to your watchlist if you are looking for a memorable unique film created by a Greek director, writers, and cast. It is a coming-of-age story with unexpected twists, surrealism laced into the story, a fast pace, and an upbeat soundtrack. Teenage brothers Danny and Odysseus go on an odyssey of their own. After their mother dies, they set out across Greece to find their biological father. 

“Xenia” is Greek for, “hospitality,” and is the name of real-life state sponsored hotels that were created to promote tourism in the 1950-1970’s. A run-down and abandoned Xenia hotel is the location of some of the scenes in the film and provides a poignant backdrop as the film grapples with immigration, xenophobia, homophobia, and the economic crisis. Despite these heavy topics, the film is also filled with hope, creativity, and imagination. Plus, there is plenty of singing and dancing!

Xenia was well loved at the Cannes Film Festival in 2014 and won multiple awards at the Hellenic Film Academy Awards. Although it is tagged as an LGBTQ+ film, that isn’t the primary focus of Xenia. The film is somewhat erratic in quality, with certain scenes much stronger than others. This film isn’t for everyone, but I recommend it to anyone looking for something fresh. It is both campy and serious, jumping around quite a bit, and you can expect to be surprised. Give the film a few minutes to warm up, stick with it and you’ll be rewarded with a movie you will long remember. 

 Unlike some other movies about Greece, this is not a romantic view of the stunning beauty of the country. Instead, watching Xenia will give you insight into some of the current challenges in Greece. It will give depth and characters to the articles you read in the news. It also gives a realistic view of Piraeus, Athens, and other locations. There are some scenes that showcase the natural beauty of Greece, but there is plenty of grit too. Finally, if you are learning to speak Greek before your trip, there are scenes with slow enough dialogue that you can follow along.

Other Greek language films you might enjoy are A Touch of Spice, Brides, Little England, and Worlds Apart.

The Best Movies About France to Watch Before Your Trip

Looking for more great films? We've got you covered!

The Best Greek History Movies

Mediterraneo

Mediterraneo is one of the best Greek history movies and in 1992, it won the Academy Award for best foreign-language film. It is set during WWII on the easternmost Greek island Kastellórizo, one of the Dodecanese islands. It is directed by Gabriele Salvatores, written by Enzo Monteleone, and the main stars are Diego Abatantuono, Claudio Bigagli and Giuseppe Cederna.

In this war comedy/drama Italian soldiers are deployed to Kastellórizo. In the beginning the locals hide from the soldiers. But when the Italian ship is destroyed by allies, the soldiers become stuck on the island. They soon realize that they are abandoned so they start mingling with the local population. Locals see these soldiers are goofy, harmless men trying to survive the war. In the end, even love starts to develop between members of both sides. Adventures ensue and make this an interesting and entertaining movie. There are complexities as well as the director tries to label war as totally unnecessary.

In this film, one can admire the beauty of the Dodecanese islands, coast, and sea. You will also see that hospitality is a thing one should expect from locals in Greece.

Contributed by Džangir at DrJamTravels

Captain Correlli's Mandolin

Language: English (2001) R

Captain Correlli’s Mandolin is a great movie to watch because the setting in the Greek Ionian Isles is purely idyllic. Regardless of whether one enjoys romances or war movies, the cinematography is captivating.

The movie, directed by John Madden, is based on the 1994 novel about Greece during World War II. Captain Correlli (played by Nicholas Cage) is stationed on the island of Cephalonia and teaches his infantrymen to sing while he plays his mandolin. He initially annoys the locals but eventually they warm to his personality. A love triangle with the local doctor (played by Penelope Cruz) ensues when her fiancé (played by Christian Bale) leaves for the mainland to fight in the war. 

Although the movie received mixed reviews from critics for not closely adhering to the book’s plot, it is still worth watching for anyone planning to visit Greece. There are several key scenes in Captain Correlli’s Mandolin that are filmed on various beaches in the Ionian Islands. These scenes will make any watcher understand why Captain Correlli’s Mandolin is one of the best movies in Greece. From the lovely small towns to the unspoiled beaches, Captain Correlli’s Mandolin is sure to make Cephalonia round out any Greek travel itinerary.

Contributed by Brodi Cole at Our Offbeat Life

More movies about Greek history you might like are Alexander, Agora, The Traveling Players, Rembetiko, and El Greco.

Best Greek Mythology Movies

The Trojan Women

Language: English (1971) PG

The Trojan Women is one of the best films you can watch to prepare for a trip to Greece. It rests on the works of history’s greats:  Euripides wrote the play based on Homer’s epics and it was translated by Edith Hamilton. It is directed by Michael Cacoyannis (Zorba the Greek), and stars Irene Papas as Helen, Katherine Hepburn as Hecuba, and Vanessa Redgrave as Andromache. It is timeless and is my favorite movie rendition of a Greek tragedy. Even though it was filmed in Spain, watching it will certainly enhance your trip to Greece.

The story unfolds in decimated Troy right after the war. The noble women are enduring enormous suffering, including the loss of their husbands and children as they prepare to be taken as slaves by the Greeks. The film is based on an ancient Greek play, so viewers can expect  a significant departure from modern movie storytelling. Yet, it is creatively portrayed and captivates the modern viewer. It is a powerful indictment against war regardless of time. Although gods and goddesses aren’t characters in the film, their influence permeates the story since the Trojan War plays such a prominent role in Greek mythology. 

You will want to be familiar with the story of the Trojan War and with the ancient playwrights before you travel to Greece since the stories are infused into so much Greek history. Along with the other major playwrights of ancient Greece, Euripides competed in the annual Athenian dramatic festivals which were held to honor the god Dionysus. When you visit the ancient theaters on your trip, you can imagine this play being performed which will help bring ancient  Greek history to life. 

More Greek mythology movies you might enjoy are Troy, The Trojan Women, Iphigenia, The Odyssey Mini-series, and Jason and the Argonauts.

The Best Greek Movies for Kids

Hercules

Language: English (1997) G

Hercules is a wonderful children’s movie to help build children’s anticipation about a trip to Greece and familiarize them with the bright colors and some of the most important names of the Greek gods that they will see all over Greece.

Disney’s Hercules is loosely based upon the ancient Greek myth of the 12 Labors of Hercules (very loosely indeed!). It is an animated musical fantasy where Hercules is living on earth and becomes an awkward teenager trying to have a relationship with his dad, Zeus. It’s essentially a coming-of-age movie. Kids will learn about places central to Greek mythology such as the Underworld, Mount Olympus, and Thebes. They meet Hades and many of the Greek mythological creatures through catchy musical numbers and vibrant animated scenes.

The movie is very inaccurate about its Greek mythology and mixes Roman and Greek names for gods. In the 12 Labors of Hercules and its associated myths, the gods are not moral and what they really get up to would not be appropriate to teach children. Disney has taken names and some locations and made a story that is appropriate for children and made an adventure story that keeps alive Greek mythological figures and places.

Children’s imaginations will be fueled by finally seeing the real places they first saw in Hercules. They will have a basic sense of what to expect and excitement at being in a place where so many heroic deeds occurred. Children will also be able to find, in the most incredible ancient Greek ruins, images of the mythical creatures they see in the film, such as Centaurs.

Contributed by Monique at Trip Anthropologist

Traveling to Greece as a Family?

Check out our article, Joyful and Educational Trip Planning for Families to make the very most of it!

Jim Henson's The Storyteller - Greek Myths

Language: English (1990) PG

Jim Henson applies his masterful storytelling to Greek myths in this four-part miniseries. If you are looking for a way to watch Greek myths that will hold the attention of kids, this is a great choice.  A storyteller in a labyrinth (what could be more perfect?)  tells his dog the stories of Perseus and Medusa, Icarus and Daedalus, Theseus and the Minotaur, and Orpheus and Euridyce.

Fans of Henson’s Muppets and his movie Labyrinth will appreciate the fantastical creatures that bring the stories to life on the screen. The series is rated PG since it might be too intense for younger children. If you are traveling to Greece as a family, learning about Greek myths beforehand will deeply enrich your travels. You kids will appreciate and better understand the archeological sites and museum treasures you will see when they know the myths behind them. If you are traveling to Crete, you’ll likely be visiting Knossos, which inspired the labyrinth the story takes place in.

Many of the other movies about Greece in this list are great family films depending on the ages and interests of your kids. Although not set in Greece,  Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief and Percy Jackson Sea of Monsters are Greek mythology movies are sure to be a hit with most kids. They will likely open the door for a deeper dive into Greek mythology.

Enjoy Movies About Greece Before Your Trip

Hopefully you have found some excellent films to add to your watchlist before your trip to Greece!Have you enjoyed any of these films or do you have others you recommend to travelers? Please tell me in the comments so we can learn from you.

This is a supplemental article to our series of articles about all you can do before your trip to Greece.   Let your adventure begin today!

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The Best Movies About France to Watch Before Your Trip

Movies about France

The Best Movies About France to Watch Before Your Trip

 This post may contain affiliate links which means Trip Scholars may make a small commission (at no extra cost to you) if you make a purchase.  As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.  Read more here. Thanks for helping us keep the lights on!

It is always the right time to be planning a trip to France! We have gathered the best movies about France to watch before your trip. One of the most enjoyable ways to prepare for your French adventures is to explore the country through films. French cinema is world renowned and we’ve included some of the best in this collection, all with English subtitles. We have rounded out our list with some fantastic movies in English that were filmed in France. They will all help enhance your future trips and keep you entertained from home while you craft your itinerary. 

I have asked fellow travel writers to share the films they most recommend to friends who are preparing for trips to France. All of these films are available to stream on Amazon Prime and many are also available on Netflix, Kanopy, and other streaming services.  Queue up your top picks and enjoy your French travels from home!

Jump to Your Favorties

Table of Contents

The Best Movies Set In France

The Diving Bell and the Butterfly

Language: French (2007) PG-13

This mesmerizing drama was directed by famed American painter and filmmaker Julian Schnabel. Based on Jean-Dominique Bauby’s bestselling memoir, The Diving Bell and The Butterfly received four Oscar nominations and ranks in the BBC’s 100 Greatest Films of the 21st Century.

At 43, Jean-Dominique Bauby has it all: wealth, health, and a glamorous life as the Parisian editor of Elle magazine when he is suddenly paralyzed by a massive stroke. He wakes up after weeks in a coma in a hospital in the northern French seaside town of Berck. 

Bauby can hear and see perfectly but cannot move or speak, a condition known as locked-in syndrome. The only thing Bauby can do is blink his left eyelid. With great effort, he learns to blink in an alphabet code and thus dictate his extraordinary memoir.

Rather than being depressing, the film is joyful and inspiring. It takes us through a moving tour of Bauby’s memories and imagination. The settings include Paris and Lourdes and the windswept dunes and wide sandy beaches of France’s northern coast.

Internationally known actor Mathieu Almaric plays Bauby. Max Von Sydow delivers a riveting performance as his frail, heartbroken father.

Watch this poignant and fascinating film for beautiful visuals not just of Paris, but of Lourdes and France’s northern beaches. It is also a favorite among French learners.

 Contributed by Ingrid at Second-Half Travels.

Les Choristes

Language: French (2004) PG- 13

Les Choristes is a heart-warming film set in France about the healing power of music and the change a teacher can bring to the lives of their students. The film has even been nominated as the French entry in the Academy Awards for the Best Foreign Language Film. 

Les Choristes (also known as The Chorus) is a French film about a kind and gifted music teacher who brings a change in the students at a severely administered boys’ boarding school. He works positively with the effect of music on the lives of students. The film was set at the Chateau de Ravel in Puy-de-Dome, France. 

The film is directed by Christophe Bartatier and it stars Gerard Jugnot as Clement Mathieu and Francois Berleand as Rachin. This beautifully directed movie shows that music can bring a great change in people’s lives. Since the film is surrounded by music and the relationship between teacher and students, the music lovers and teachers will especially enjoy it.

Les Choristes reflects the French melancholie and gives you a better understanding of what France looked like 40 years ago. Indeed, the country has changed a lot over the last decades and Les Choristes will be a sentimental journey back to France’s past. It is a must-watch movie before visiting France on a vacation.  

Contributed by Paulina at Paulina on the Road

French Kiss

Language: English (1995) PG-13

French Kiss is the perfect rainy Sunday afternoon 90’s rom-com. Set in stunning and uber-romantic Paris and the South of France, we follow neurotic Kate (Meg Ryan) whose fiancé has just declared that he has fallen in love with another woman. Kate journeys to France in an effort to win him back, meeting Luc (Kevin Kline) a wily rogue who agrees to help her win Kate’s fiancé back. Of course, Luc has an ulterior motive, but will his heart win over his dastardly plans?

Whilst the story is wonderful and whimsical, the real showstopper is the scenery. With locations in Paris and Provence, viewers can enjoy lush scenes in vineyards and rustic French country homes. Provence is known for its fields of purple lavender and superb Rosé wines that are produced in the region. The film concludes in Cannes, a city mostly known for its very famous film festival. Cannes sits on the Mediterranean Sea and has a wonderful promenade lined with opulent hotels and restaurants.

French Kiss treats viewers to a journey from Paris to the South of France and, of course, to two strangers who fall in love. If you love 90’s rom-coms and France, I can’t think of a more perfect movie than French Kiss.

Contributed by Missy at Travels with Missy 

Mr and Mme Adelman

Language: French (2017) R

Mr and Mme Adelman is a clever, witty, and complex film about a captivating couple. We journey with them from their first meeting until a death 45 years later. It is daring in that it tells a story of over four decades with plenty of unexpected twists, laugh-out-loud scenes, and fascinating character development. 

The film was written by co-stars and real-life couple Doria Tillier and Nicolas Bedos, so there is an authenticity and connection that brings the film to life. Bedos also directs the film, and his character might strike some as too like the real-life director.

Spanning 45 years, we see the drama of the couple’s relationship unfold against the backdrop of French news and culture from 1971 through to the present. There is chemistry, beauty, and excitement in their early years; drugs, children, and confusion as the years go on; and a much more mature and tender love by the end of the film.  All of this is intertwined with the life of a famous writer– their inspirations and how they are received by the mercurial public. Expect to be surprised and moved as you watch. 

If you are traveling to France, you will enjoy seeing the modern history that is laced throughout the film and it may inspire you to learn about major events and people. You will also enjoy scenes in Paris and Étretat that will inspire you to want to visit. 

Erica at Trip Scholars

The Best Movies Set In Paris

Les Misérables

Language: English (2012) PG-13

Victor Hugo’s Les Miserable is one of the greatest novels of the 19th century, some may have read the book in school but most probably know the story about human struggle because of the West End musical and the 2012 movie starring Hugh Jackman, Russel Crowe, and Anne Hathaway, who won a Best Supporting Oscar for her portrayal of Fantine. 

The story starts when Jean Valjean is released from prison and skips parole. Valjean is a kind man who has rotten luck and is relentlessly pursued by Javert, a policeman who is determined to bring him back to prison. Even though Valjean is able to reinvent himself time and time again, he is not safe from Valjean. Intertwined in the plot is Fantine, a factory worker who eventually resorts to prostitution to support her daughter, Cosette, who is being cared for by the Thenadier family. Eventually, Fantine dies and Valjean buys Cosette’s freedom before they run to Paris to get away from Javert. Fast forward a couple of years to the time of the June Rebellion of 1832 where the plot intensifies and takes unexpected turns. 

Les Misérables talks about a point in French history where Parisians rose up against the monarchy. In Paris, visitors can go to the Musée des Égouts de Paris (Paris Sewer Museum) to imagine where Valjean hid from Javert during the revolution or visit the Luxembourg Gardens, where Cosette met Marius whom she marries, or sit on one of the benches in the Champ de Mars like Valjean and take in the scenery. 

Contributed by Bernadette at Explorer Chick

Ameli​​e

Language: French (2001) R

Amelie is the kind of movie that will make you want to travel to Paris as soon as you watch it. The movie tells the story of Amelie (actress Audrey Tatou), a 20-something girl who lives and works in Montmartre. She spends her days on a mission to make the lives of those surrounding her better – from her father, who she pushes to be more adventurous; to her co-worker, who she manages to match with a client of the café where she works. She also goes on a mission to play tricks and pranks to people who misbehave in the neighborhood – such as the greengrocer who regularly humiliates his disabled employee. 

Most importantly, Amelie is on a mission to find who the mystery man who abandoned a book of passport-size photos by a photo booth is. Finding him marks the beginning of romance, with motorbike rides around the city. 

Amelie is a great, feel-good movie and the soundtrack is fabulous. Watching it, you will be able to admire some of the most iconic places in Montmartre, which you will be able to visit, too!

Contributed by Claudia Tavani at My Adventures Across The World

Julie and Julia

Language: English (2009) PG-13

Julie and Julia highlights beautiful and tasty food from France. French cuisine combines unique techniques with the fresh ingredients that come from local farms and markets. The movie shows the joy of cooking and eating delicious French food.

In the film, Julie Powell decides to cook her way through Julia Child’s “Mastering the Art of French Cooking” in one year. While Julie learns how to make French dishes with the help and guidance from Julia Child’s book, we learn about both Julias’ lives. 

The movie beautifully presents Julia Child’s love and admiration for French food. Together with the Julias, we learn about Paris in the fifties and how to cook 365 dishes in 365 days.

This movie can teach you about French culture and give you some pointers on what to order at restaurants or dishes to try at home. It will also tell you the secret of delicious French dishes… butter!

Contributed by Ania from The Travelling Twins

Breathless

Language: French (1960) NR 

No collection of French films would be complete without including Breathless. It is often recognized as one of the top twenty films ever made and was powerfully influential. It is the first feature length film written and directed by Jean-Luc Godard; it was the breakthrough film for Jean-Paul Belmondo, who stars as Michel; and it co-stars Jean Seberg in one of her most appreciated roles as Patricia. Breathless is one of the early and influential French New Wave films and helped to change the industry.

Michel is a thief who flees from Marseilles to Paris and kills a police officer on his way. He hides out with Patricia, who is an aspiring American journalist. The story takes them around quintessentially hip 1960 Paris with a standout beatnik jazz soundtrack. Breathless broke all of the rules when it was released and made way for the cinema we are all familiar with today. To fully appreciate the film, we need to see it within historical context. The jump cuts, the lingering scenes that don’t drive the plot, the filming with hand-held cameras– they were all revolutionary. 

It is a great film to watch before your trip to France because it highlights the powerful French influence on cinematography. It will also leave you longing to wander down the Champs-Élysées and the other Parisian landmarks that fill the scenes. 

Erica at Trip Scholars

La Haine

Language: French (1995) NR

La Haine is a must watch film for everyone who wants to see beyond sentimentalized and romantic views of Paris. The title is taken from a line of one of the main characters, Hubert, “la haine attire la haine!”, “hatred breeds hatred!” We follow three friends in the 24 hours after the police have severely wounded a young Arab man from the projects of Paris and the city erupts in riots.

La Haine was written, co-edited, and directed by 28 year old Mathieu Kassovitz, who won the Best Director prize at the Cannes Film Festival for the movie. It was shot in stark black and white with superb direction and an excellent soundtrack. The talented young director and cast bring a vitality and clarity to the film that makes it unforgettable. The three friends are Vinz (Vincent Cassel), a Jewish young man bursting with frustration; Hubert (Hubert Kounde), a reflective Black boxer; and Said (Said Taghmaoui), a street-smart younger Arab– all trying to find their way in a decaying society.

The film grapples with racism, poverty, police brutality, and immigration in a realistic way. It highlights the underbelly of Paris in 1995 and the underserved people living in the projects. It is also thought provoking in light of modern challenges around the world. Watching it before your trip to Paris will give you a deeper understanding of the real struggles of many Parisians.

The Intouchables

Language: French (2011) R

The Intouchables is a heartwarming and, in some instances, funny movie about a unique friendship. The movie is set in Paris and follows the story of Philippe, a wealthy man who had a terrible accident and is now bound to a wheelchair. He is looking for a new personal carer to help him with daily tasks. 

The other main character is Driss, a young man who just got out of prison after six months and must look for a job. He is not motivated to work but must apply, so he picks the carer job, thinking he won’t be accepted. However, Philippe is intrigued by Driss and decides to give him a chance and hire him. 

He appreciates that Driss doesn’t pity him but rather treats him like a real person. Although there are some initial difficulties the two soon become close friends and manage to learn a lot from each other. The Intouchables is inspired by a true story and is the perfect comedy that can also be a little bit sad. 

It is worth watching before your trip because it looks critically at Paris’s different social classes and many problems that the city faces.

Contributed by Victoria at Guide your Travel

The Best Romantic Movies Set in Paris

Hunting and Gathering

Language: French (2007) NR

Hunting & Gathering is the adaptation of the best-selling novel of the same name by award winning French writer, Anna Gavalda. It is a one of the great romantic French movies to watch for everyone traveling to Paris who wants to get a glimpse of its people.

The film is telling the story of four Parisians: Franck, an overworked cook; his grandmother, Paulette; Camille, an anorexic artist working in a cleaning crew; and Philibert, a socially awkward offspring of an impoverished noble family. 

The bunch, who couldn’t be more different, end up as roommates in the worn-out apartment of Philibert. Each of the group is deeply troubled by their own struggles, and their initial hostility slowly evolves into a remedy against their personal loneliness. 

Everyone who is visiting Paris for the first time and who wants to draw more out of France’s capital than just visiting the sights should watch this movie. It has a wonderful cast including Audrey Tautou, who you probably know from the iconic French movie Amélie, in the role of Camille. Even though the film is set in Paris, it is not a film about Paris. It’s a film about four Parisians, each representing a very different lifestyle that shows a piece of the Parisian reality. 

Contributed by Lena at Salut From Paris

Midnight in Paris

For a romantic and charming film directed by Woody Allen set in Paris, France, I recommend Midnight in Paris. Not only is it a lighthearted and endearing film, but it’s also educational, exploring Paris’s artistic history.

It follows Gil, played by Owen Wilson, on a small trip to Paris with his fiancée, played by Rachel McAdams. Gil is utterly enamored with Paris, and dreams of escaping his life in America to live in a tiny Paris attic with a skylight, like his literary and artistic heroes did in the 1920s.

One night, while he wanders around Paris at midnight, he discovers that he’s able to travel back in time to the 20s. He proceeds to meet renowned artists and his literary idols, including Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway, Gertrude Stein, Pablo Picasso, Salvador Dali, Cole Porter, and Man Ray.

This film is what inspired me to start my 1-month Europe itinerary in Paris. Not only does the cinematography cast Paris in a dreamy and enchanting light, but it also showcases some great places to check out, including Sacré-Coeur, the Seine riverside walk, Restaurant Polidor, and the Palace of Versailles.

Overall, I wholeheartedly recommend “Midnight in Paris” for those interested in visiting France, as it will both educate you on Paris’s history and inspire you to visit some great sightseeing spots around the city!

Contributed by Mia at Walk a While with Me

Moulin Rouge

“So exciting, the audience will stomp and cheer,” the song ‘Spectacular, Spectacular’ in Moulin Rouge promises, and this 2001 Baz Luhrmann extravaganza definitely delivers. The movie follows young Christian, who moves to Montmartre in turn-of-the-century Paris in search of freedom, beauty, truth and love. He falls in love with Satine, a performer and courtesan from the famed Moulin Rouge nightclub. Filled with reimagined pop music, this tragic musical dramedy is a love poem dedicated to Paris and the romantics who made the city what it is today.

Travelers to France can follow in Christian’s footsteps and take the train from London to Paris as he did in the beginning of the film. Once in Paris, head to one of the most beloved neighborhoods in Paris, Montmartre. Aside from being the picturesque backdrop for Moulin Rouge, this artistic village was once home to such giants as Picasso, Matisse, and Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec (an artist featured as a character in the movie). 

Stop by the film’s namesake, the Moulin Rouge, a real-life cabaret which opened in 1889 and is known for the can-can dance style it introduced to the world. Performances are available daily, so you can immerse yourself in the Belle Époque cabaret world of Moulin Rouge. And if the romance of the film inspired you, don’t miss Le Mur des Je t’Aime (the I Love You Wall) for a sappy photo opp in front of the tiled wall splayed with “I love you” written in over 250 languages.

Contributed by Mary at Wanderu

The Best Movies About Versailles

Marie Antoinette

Language: English (2006) PG-13

The film Marie Antoinette captures the essence and opulence of 18th century France, particularly in the royal courts. A light lesson on politics during this period is balanced with fantastical dresses, luxurious living, lavish architecture and drama.

Marie Antoinette is played by sweet and innocent Kirsten Dunst, while Louis XVI is portrayed by Jason Schwartzman. All together with the edgy and alternative direction of Sophia Copolla, the film has an addictive plot, start to finish. Great for teenagers and young adults looking for a dramatic and catchy retelling of historic events.

The film follows the naive and young Marie Antoinette at the age of 15-19 as she navigates politics in the 18th century. Marie is married off to Louis XVI of France and lives out her days at the opulent Versailles Palace. Scandal, gossip and intrigue ensue as Marie finds her place amongst royalty.

The Marie Antoinette movie is based at Versailles Palace, one of the most famous landmarks in France. Built by Louis XIV, the Sun God, in 1661, Versailles was the seat of power and money for over a century.

If you plan on visiting the Palace of Versailles outside of Paris proper, the film does a great job of portraying the decadence of the halls and galleries of Versailles and showcasing many parts of the grounds and interiors.

Haley of Haley Blackall Travel

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The Best Films Set in the French Countryside

Back to Burgundy (Ce Qui Nous Lie)

Language: French (2017) NR

Have you ever wanted to become a winemaker in France? Or thought about getting into business with your family? Back to Burgundy gives you a realistic, yet somehow still appealing, account of the struggles of running a vineyard with your siblings. 

In the film, oldest son Jean returns to his childhood home in Burgundy when his father falls ill. After a conflict with his father years back, he moved to Australia to start a vineyard there. He’s estranged from his brother and sister, who have remained in their little town. When their father dies, they must decide to continue with the business or sell. All have their own demons to battle as they try to figure out how to revive the vineyard and pay their massive debt.  

Against the backdrop of Burgundy and the changing seasons, the siblings find a way to trust each other again and work together. Despite their struggles with money, romantic partners, in-laws, competitors, and each other, they manage to produce a great wine.  

This French family drama shows that you can always come home again. It’s a heartwarming story, stacked with a great cast, gorgeous views of the French countryside, and copious amounts of red wine. If you love wine and want to be transported to France, this is a great movie to watch. 

Contributed by Sophie at Just Heading Out

A Year in Burgundy (2013), A Year in Champagne (2015), A Year in Port (2016)

Languages: English and French, 13+

Pour yourself a glass and join renowned wine importer Martine Saunier as she visits with her favorite wine-making families from France. Each of the three films spans a year in Burgundy, Champagne, or Port.  We get to know the families, their struggles, and their successes through the seasons. You will appreciate wine more after watching any of these films and will be well prepared to enjoy local wines on your trip to France.

The three documentaries follow mostly small vintners as we gain understanding of the terroir and personal history of families who make each wine. We also appreciate the amazing amount of tenacity and creativity that goes into every bottle. We learn about the ancient methods of growing grapes and making wine in each region. 

The cinematography is beautiful and will make you want to travel to the French countryside to see the vineyards in person. If you are moved to want to work on a French vineyard, consider adding volunteering or working for a season into your travel plans!

Erica at Trip Scholars

The Best Movies Set in Provence

A Good Year

Language: English (2006) PG-13

A Good Year is a gentle, feel-good film with a hint of romance, a large helping of nostalgia, and some gorgeous scenery from around Provence and the South of France.

The main character of the film is Max (Russell Crowe), a British man who works in the soulless and harsh London financial world.  His Uncle dies and leaves his vineyard and house in Provence to him and so he travels there to sell the property.  What begins as another financial transaction turns into a trip down memory lane as he remembers his childhood and becomes attached to the area and the inhabitants.  There are some hiccups in the sale as an intriguing woman turns up claiming to be his uncle’s daughter and Max’s interest in another woman makes him begin to wonder whether he wants to sell the property at all.

If you’re thinking about a trip to the French countryside and exploring vineyards, whether that’s in Burgundy, Champagne, or Provence, you probably have images of traditional villages, romantic atmosphere and hazy sunlight flooding the area.  This film will show you all that, get you excited for it and make you wonder whether you might actually like to buy a French property and live a life with good wine, food and weather!  If you’re just planning to visit the coastline of the Cote D’Azur or even Monaco then it will inspire you to travel inland to the villages to explore more.

Contributed by Kristy at Lost in Landmarks

My Father’s Glory

Language: French (1990) G

My Father’s Glory is a great film to watch for people dreaming of visiting Provence, in Southern France. This is the first of a series of two films based on Marcel Pagnol’s childhood in Marseille. Marcel Pagnol was a French novelist, playwright, and filmmaker. Regarded as an auteur, Marcel Pagnol became in 1946 the first filmmaker elected to the Académie Française. 

The film is set in Marseille and the surrounding countryside in the 1900’s and it is based on Pagnol’s autobiography of the same name. Young Marcel grows up in the big city, under the strict rules of his father. In summertime, the family moves to the countryside and there Marcel meets a boy of his same age named Lili. The two boys soon become good friends. Lili shares with Marcel – a city boy – all the secrets of the countryside.

The film stars Philippe Caubière, Nathalie Roussel, and Didier Pain, three popular French actors of that time. It is a lovely, easy-going film perfect to watch on a lazy Sunday afternoon as you dream of your trip to the south of France. It is also a trip back in time to beautiful Marseille after the First World War.

Contributed by Elisa from France Bucket List

For more great films set in Provence try Manon des Sources, Jean de Florette, and Marius Et Jeannette.

The Best Movies Set in the French Riviera

Renoir

Language: French (2012) R 

Renoir is a biopic inspired by the artist himself, impressionistic in lighting, characters, and plot. Many scenes feel like sumptuous film versions of his paintings, with the gorgeous lighting of the French Riviera taking center stage. 

The story centers around Pierre-Auguste Renoir (Michel Bouquet) at the end of his life as he paints his final model, free spirited Andree Heuschling (Christa Theret). It takes place in 1915 at his idyllic country estate along the Cote D’Azur which serves as a backdrop for many paintings and scenes in the film. His middle son Jean (Vincent Ruttiers) returns home to recover from injuries as a soldier in WWI. Both father and son become enchanted with the strong and beautiful Andree. 

Inspired by real life events, the film captures Jean and Andree early in their lives, before Andree becomes a film actress and Jean becomes one of the greatest directors of all time. Tip: Add Jean Renoir’s classics La Grande Illusion (1937) and The Rules of the Game (1939) to your watch list. 

If you appreciate a strong plot and riveting action, find another movie. This storyline dapples in scenes the way Renoir dappled light across his canvas. The not-fully developed characters in the film mirror the soft impressions and dramatic brushstrokes of the people in his paintings. This is a film to watch on the largest screen you have, the beauty of the film is what makes it a standout. 

This is a great movie to add to your playlist before your trip to France. If you are traveling to the French Riviera, you will delight in the stunning scenes of the area. When you are on your trip, be sure to visit the Musee Renoir to see the actual estate he lived in. If you are traveling to Paris, this film will help you appreciate his significant collection at Musée d’Orsay even more. 

Erica at Trip Scholars

For more great films set the French Riviera try To Catch a Thief, And God Created Woman, and Dirty Rotten Scoundrels.

The Best Movies Set in the Dordogne

Chocolat

Language: English (2000) PG-13

Grab a box of chocolates to enjoy while you are charmed by the lovely Dordogne, where much of this film is set. The scenes with the traditional Gaberes boats were filmed in Beynac. The boats have been decked out for Johnny Depp and his companions, but long ago they were used to ship goods from the region to the port in Bordeaux. Plan to ride on one (or maybe kayak) when you visit!

Erica at Trip Scholars

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The Best French Kids Movies

The Hunchback of Notre Dame

Language: English (1996) G

The Hunchback of Notre Dame is perhaps one of the best animated Disney movies set in a real place. The majority of the film takes place at the famous Cathedral of Notre Dame in Paris. 

Based on the classic novel by the same name, the movie, produced and released by Walt Disney, follows the story of Quasimodo, a bellringer with a disability, who spends much of his life locked away in the bell tower at the church. Out of fear of ridicule and rejection, Quasimodo avoids going out in public, making friends with the gargoyles that adorn the church.

The animated musical drama is one of the more serious and darker Disney cartoons ever released. It addresses some very tough issues like loneliness, rejection, bullying, unacceptance based on appearance, and even persecution, lust, and murder.  While the movie may be G-rated, it is perhaps best suited for older children rather than toddlers or kids under the age of 6 due to the difficult nature of some of the topics. However, the film teaches an important lesson on acceptance and can serve as a great conversation starter with children. 

In the end, Quasimodo gains acceptance and is hailed a hero in Paris and after saving the life of an immigrant woman who had befriended him.

The animation captures Notre Dame and Paris beautifully and is a great way to introduce children to Paris prior to a trip to France.

Contributed by Melissa from Parenthood and Passports

Ratatouille

Language: English (2007) G 

One of the best movies about France to watch before going to France is Ratatouille. This is a comedy animation film that is suitable for all ages. What makes this a great movie is that it is a lot of fun and is set in Paris. 

The movie is about a rat named Remy who has a dream of becoming a chef, as opposed to the other rats that appear in this movie. He ends up at the kitchen of a restaurant in Paris where he sees the garbage boy of the restaurant trying to fix a soup. Remy secretly fixes the soup instead, but the garbage boy spots him. The owner of the restaurant wants to fire the garbage boy for altering the soup, but the soup turns out to be a success. The garbage boy may keep his job if he can make the soup again. 

 Remy and the garbage boy decide to work together in secret. This collaboration was a success, and Remy starts working together with the garbage boy from now on, and through this Remy can fulfill his dream of being a chef. 

Through this movie you get a good impression of the food of Paris and the atmosphere of the city, which makes you want to visit Paris even more! It is a great kid’s movie set in Paris but also enjoyable for adults.

Contributed by Dymphe at Dymabroad

For more great kids films set in France try The Red Balloon,  Hugo, and The Painter.

Going to France with kids or teens?

Use travel planning to inspire connection and low stress learning. We have lots of exciting and fun projects and activities!

The Best Movies About France

We hope you have found some films to inspire your travels to France!  What are your favorite film recommendations for people traveling to France? Leave your suggestions in the comments to help other readers. Or tell me what you thought of any of the films in the article. 

The Best Movies in Greece to Watch Before Your Trip

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