Transformation and Travel: 10 Films of Self-Discovery

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Written By Amanda Anthony

Amanda is a freelance writer passionate about horror and fantasy films. When she’s not writing about the latest celebrity hijinks and epic on-screen moments, you can find her watching Blumhouse films through the delicate fibers of a protective blanket. Amanda lives in Halifax, Nova Scotia, with her husband, kiddos, and goofy golden doodle, Ripley.

Movies have the magic to take us far across the world without leaving the comfort of home. Some of the best films are about travel and self-realization.

Here are 10 amazing movies about self-discovery in distant lands.

Under the Tuscan Sun (2003)

Films of self discovery
Image Credit: Touchstone Pictures

In Under the Tuscan Sun (2003), a writer named Frances Mayes (Diane Lane) learns her husband has an affair. After a messy divorce, she attempts to find herself and reignite her spark for writing. She takes a tour of Italy and impulsively buys a rundown villa in Tuscany. The film follows her on a journey of starting over, self-discovery, love, friendship, home renovation, and learning new local customs.

Lost in Translation (2003)

Films of self discovery
Image Credit: Focus Features

Bill Murray plays movie star Bob Harris in Lost in Translation (2003). He stumbles upon a neglected young woman named Charlotte (Scarlett Johansson) while filming a whiskey commercial in Tokyo. Charlotte is passing her days in boredom while her photographer boyfriend, John (GiovanniRibisi), spends his time busy with work. The two form an unlikely bond, learning a little about themselves and a lot about life on the way.

Into the Wild (2007)

Films of self discovery
Image Credit: Paramount Vantage

Into the Wild (2007) is based on the true story of University student Christopher McCandless (Emile Hirsch). Although McCandless was a top student and athlete, he abandons all his worldly possessions in pursuit of self-realization. He gives his savings of $24,000 to charity and hitchhikes to Alaska to start over. While living alone and off the land, he learns that life is for sharing with those you love.

Eat Pray Love (2010)

Films of self discovery
Image Credit: Columbia Pictures

After a painful divorce, Elizabeth Gilbert (Julia Roberts) embarks on a journey of discovery and healing. She travels around the world on a quest for happiness. During her year abroad, she explores three different aspects of herself, including devotion in Italy, balance in India, and self-love in Bali. The name of the film genuinely encapsulates its premise, resulting in a destination-filled film of food, devotion, and romance.

The Way (2010)

Films of self discovery
Image Credit: Filmax Entertainment

In The Way (2010), ophthalmologist Tom (Martin Sheen) travels to Spain to recover the body of his estranged son, Daniel (Emilio Estevez), who died hiking the Camino de Santiago. Overtaken by grief and trying to find some understanding of his son’s choices, Tom picks up where his son left off. He makes new friends and learns a lot about himself, his son, and their relationship along the way. This is a tear-jerker.

Letters to Juliet (2010)

Films of self discovery
Image Credit: John P. Johnson and Summit Entertainment LLC

Sophie (Amanda Seyfried) and her fiancé Victor (Gael García Bernal) travel to Italy for Victor’s business and a pre-wedding honeymoon. The two find themselves separated at every turn as Victor is busy with work. When Sophie stumbles upon an organization called The Secretaries of Juliet, she finds herself on an adventure to recover the long-lost love of a woman named Claire (Vanessa Redgrave). Along the way, Sophie finds a little love of her own, leading her to wonder if she’s living a non-romantic romance.

The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel (2011)

Films of self discovery
Image Credit: Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation and Ishika Mohan

In The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel (2011), a group of British retirees travels to India. They take up residence in a supposedly newly restored hotel but quickly learn it’s less luxurious than advertised. The retirees live life to the fullest, nonetheless, and learn a lot about themselves and life after retirement. This star-studded cast includes Dame Judi Dench (Chocolat), Bill Nighy (Love Actually), Dame Maggie Smith (Downton Abbey), and Tom Wilkinson (The Full Monty).

The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (2013)

Films of self discovery
Image Credit: Twentieth Century Fox

Walter Mitty (Ben Stiller) is a photography employee for Life Magazine. He develops some of the most exciting photos from around the world but is too afraid to do anything of consequence himself. Recently, the magazine has decided to do online-only publications. When Mitty loses the cover photo for the last print issue of the magazine, he sets out to find the photographer himself. A dizzy daydreamer, Mitty encounters many real and imaginary situations, finally living the adventure he always dreamed of.

Wild (2014)

Films of self discovery
Image Credit: Anne Marie Fox and Fox Searchlight

In the widely acclaimed Wild (2014), Reese Witherspoon (Cruel Intentions) plays Cheryl Strayed. The film is based on Strayed’s memoir and the true story of her journey to overcome grief and addiction. Strayed hikes the Pacific Crest Trail, mourning the death of her late mother and her recently dissolved marriage. Wild is one of many travel films based on books.

Hector and the Search for Happiness (2014)

Films of self discovery
Image Credit: Ed Araquel, Egoli Tossell Film, Happiness Productions Inc., and Wild Bunch Germany

A disillusioned psychiatrist named Hector (Simon Pegg) embarks on a quest for happiness. Hector’s journey takes him from China into Africa and to the United States. He meets a wide range of characters, experiences life in a new light, and undergoes some truly enlightening experiences.

The 20 Best Romance Movies of All Time: Love Stories That Captivated Our Hearts

Pride and Prejudice Focus Features
Image Credit: Focus Features

Ready for a dose of romance? Check out our ultimate list of the 20 most unforgettable love stories ever told! As a self-proclaimed cinema enthusiast, I’ve watched countless heart-melting movies, and trust me; these films will stir up all the emotions within you. Whether you’re an old romantic or new to the world of love, this collection caters to every romantic soul. So, grab your popcorn, tissues, and prepare to fall head over heels for these iconic films.

The 20 Best Comedy Movies of All Time: Laugh Your Way Through the Ultimate List

The Truman Show Paramount
Image Credit: Paramount Pictures

Looking for a good laugh? Look no further! Our list of the top 20 comedy movies is here to brighten your day and leave you in stitches. This list will have you doubled over with laughter, from hilarious characters to unforgettable punchlines. Don’t miss out on the comedic gold waiting to be discovered. Click and prepare for a joyride through the best of the best in the world of comedy films.

The 20 Best Music Movies of All Time: Lights, Camera, Rock’ n’ Roll!

Bohemian Rhapsody 20th Century
Image Credit: 20th Century Fox

Get ready to be swept away by the mesmerizing blend of storytelling and music in our selection of the top 20 music movies ever made. From jazz beats to timeless rock anthems, these films deliver a symphony for your senses. Prepare to be moved, entertained, and immersed in the captivating world of music. Popcorn in hand, volume turned up, let the journey begin!