Lonely Planet Writer

The world on film: awarding the Oscars of travel

Yes folks, it's Oscars time - time to curate that red carpet outfit and stash that speech in your pocket for that 'oh my gosh this is so unexpected!' moment.


And as with real estate, one of the big things that counts in a film is location, location, location. So, in tribute to all the wonderful places and travel experiences that have been captured on film, we decided to assemble an esteemed panel of judges (ie the film buffs of the Lonely Planet office) to think about their favourite films of all time and award the Lonely Planet Travel Film Awards. (And no, our version of the Oscar isn't solid gold and standing on a film reel - ours is fashioned from pulpy boarding passes and is slumping on a lumpy backpack waiting for the overnight bus to Havana.) The envelope please...

Best picture inspiring travel

Debate was fierce over this one but nominations ended up including Lost in Translation, Before Sunrise, Lawrence of Arabia and The Motorcycle Diaries.

And the winner is... Return of the King because 'an entire "Middle Earth tourism" economy was started by the Lord of the Rings trilogy.'

Ishtar of the Year Award (for the movie that killed the travel bug)

There are a number of movies that have had us rocking back and forth, whimpering 'there's no place like home, there's no place like home...'. Movies that made us want to stay home included Deliverance, 127 Hours, Sanctum, Hostel, Titanic and Deep Impact ('No matter where you went on Earth, people were a bunch of whiny melodramatics who didn't understand basic physics.')

And the winner is... Alive. Because 'no one gets out (unless they're prepared to eat their friends)'.

Best portrayal of a destination

Lush cinematography can have you committing the cardinal cinema-going sin of looking for flights on your iPhone within seconds. Think of the Italy of Room with a View, the Paris of Amélie, the India of Slumdog Millionaire or the Manhattan of...er, Manhattan.

And the winner is... Indochine. As one Lonely Planet book said, 'if this doesn't make you want to go to Halong Bay, nothing will'.

Most clichéd representation of a destination

You can be in for some serious tedium if a movie set in Paris turns out to be a 90-minute cheesy flurry of berets, baguettes and bikes. Clichéd movies that rankled Lonely Planet staffers for that very reason included Under the Tuscan Sun, Eat, Pray, Love and Sex and the City 2 (filmed in Morocco but purportedly representing Abu Dhabi, it was Middle Eastern culture constructed from a weary Western stereotype).

And the winner... The Three Amigos. Sure it's a comedy but Mexico is so much more than a spangled Mariachi band.

Destination that upstaged the actors

You know those movies where you just feel like the actors are constantly getting their heads in the way? You want to ogle the Chrysler but Dianne Keaton keeps blocking it? We thought Petra was the real star of Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, Wonderland was better than Alice, and China captivated us in The Painted Veil.

And the winner is... The Tourist. It takes a lot to drag your eyes away from a Jolie or a Depp, but Venice managed to do it.

Best fictional destination

This is where Lonely Planet staffers got really worked up. (Maybe the real world is just not enough anymore.) The fictional places that fascinated us included the Wonka Factory, the land of Blade Runner, the grid in TRON, Metropolis and District 9. We wanted to float through Pandora and the dreamscape of Inception and the land of living typewriters in The Science of Sleep.

And the winner is... Where the Wild Things Are, because 'the perennially autumnal land of the Wild Things is an imaginative terrain of whimsy and mystery, with a distinctly Eastern European flavour. And if the forest sometimes seems a little too forbidding, a hug from one of its giant, cuddly residents will make it all better.'

Character we’d most like as a travel buddy (aka the Thelma and Louise Award)

Here's where we could really put ourselves in front of the camera and imagine ourselves on screen, tearing along the highways and byways (what is a byway, by the way?) with our best travel bud. Clark Gable from It Happened One Night rated a mention, as did Che Guevara (really Gael Garcia Bernal) from The Motorcycle Diaries, Short Round (the kid from Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom), and Hermione from the Harry Potter films. Travel duos were popular too - Romy and Michelle, Joe and Jerry from Some Like it Hot, and the shambling pair from Withnail and I.

And the winner is... a draw! It's a tie between Chewbacca from Star Wars and Buzz Lightyear from Toy Story. Chewbacca because 'Wookiees make excellent travel companions, though they may occasionally complain and hit things that don’t work properly. Their appeal was first noticed a long, long time ago and far away by Han Solo when he travelled the universe with Chewbacca. Loyal to a fault, Chewie followed Han everywhere, protecting him with his bowcaster and fixing his damaged travel gear with ease.'

And Buzz Lightyear because 'he can fly if you’re stuck in a traffic (or other) jam, he can be programmed to speak other languages, he dances a mean tango and he’s a loyal friend through thick and thin.'

Best cross-cultural romance

Combining travel and romance is sure to get ticket sales, and we loved the get-togethers of Jesminder Bhamra and Joe in Bend It Like Beckham, and the grizzled pairing of Bogey and Hepburn in The African Queen (a wowser and a libertine is cross-cultural, right?).

And the winner is... Spock and Uhura from Star Trek. 'The half-human, half-Vulcan Spock understands the trials of being different, and his quietly simmering passion for Nyota Uhura (a cultural trailblazer herself), was out of this world.'

So what do you think? Who would you award a Travel Oscar to?