The 10 great Oscar destinations of 2010

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When it comes to virtual travel, nothing beats a movie. The best movies capture a destination perfectly - think the 1970s New York of The Godfather, the impossibly romantic Italy of Roman Holiday or even the wintry North Dakota of Fargo. After the film, you feel an irrepressible urge to get up and explore these new worlds.

Of course, not all worlds can be literally explored. We were distressed by reports that some viewers of Avatar were actually plunged into depression after realising they could never visit the wonderland of Pandora.

So we decided to take action. This year's Academy Award nominees for Best Picture take place in an incredibly array of settings worldwide (and yes, otherworld-wide as well). We went through the list and picked out some of the great destinations. This is for those who want to take off their 3D glasses and scratch that travel itch.

  • Memphis, Tennessee (The Blind Side). The city of Michael Oher and the Tuohys is also famous for melodies and barbecue. Music City, USA, is a monument to truly American genres, from country and blues to rock 'n' roll. Pay your respects to Elvis, Johnny Cash and Howlin' Wolf before chowing down on some good ol' Southern pork.
  • Johannesburg, South Africa (District 9). A town with a reputation for crime, poverty and misadventure is ripe for a sci-fi thriller. But Jo-burg, more than any other South African city, encapsulates the triumphs and crises of this nation. Missing out on it means passing up a chance to see what makes South Africa tick.
  • London, England (An Education). A destination that needs no introduction. Featured in the film as a 1960s swinger, London today is buoyant and uncharacteristically affordable.
  • Iraq (The Hurt Locker). It's painful that the cradle of civilisation is out of bounds for almost all travellers. But pockets of Iraq, such as the Kurdish areas of the north, remain peaceful and hospitable. And just across the border are the wonders of Jordan, where most of the movie was filmed.
  • France (Inglourious Basterds). Vichy France of the 1930s and '40s was a bleak, scary place. Today the country vies annually with Italy for the title of world's most popular travel destination. And for good reason.
  • Harlem, New York (Precious). Even before Bill Clinton took up office residence in Harlem, the oft-avoided neighbourhood had been rising in the travel stakes. A cultural hub par excellence and the famous destination of the A-train, Harlem is now a key highlight of any Manhattan visit.
  • Minneapolis, Minnesota (A Serious Man). The Coen brothers specialise in bringing middle America's essential wackiness out. And few cities are as crazily lovable as Minneapolis, the artiest (and least attitudinous) city in the Midwest.
  • South America (Up). It's a cartoonised version from a cartoon movie, but there's no way we could leave this continent out of the list. According to our introduction, 'Real travellers love South America.' Who's gonna argue with that?
  • St Louis, Missouri (Up in the Air). Though set in towns all across the USA, this movie was shot mainly in the quintessentially Great Plains city of St Louis. Step past the famous arch into a city that screams America, from its cuisine to its music.
  • Pandora (Avatar). We couldn't resist. OK, you can't go there. But you can get stupefyingly close in the rainforests of the Brazilian Amazon, Malaysian Borneo or Costa Rica.

A pretty impressive list - and that's not even considering the other categories.

Related article: America's best North-South roads

Have we missed any of the highlights?