A list of films for travel: by country

Posted August 1, 2011 6:04 pm  

As I can, I will post the movie lists I’ve made for the many trips I’ve taken without children, aiming for “nothing but the best” but accepting that every great country does not have great films associated with it. I hope you will suggest additions to the lists.


Africa in general

Gorillas in the Mist: Michael Apsted’s informative, touching 1988 film about Dian Fossey, the scientist/protector of the mountain gorillas.

Greystoke: The Legend of Tarzan, Lord of the Apes, a really fun 1984 piece of kitsch by Hugh Hudson.

Mountains of the Moon*: 1990by Rafelson, a fascinating, gripping depiction of Burton and Speke’s expedition to find the source of the Nile and its personal consequences.

Out of Africa*: 1985, Sidney Pollack’s masterpiece starring Redford and Streep, the beautifully filmed story of Karen Blixen’s struggle to establish a coffee plantation in present-day Kenya, with a passionate love affair thrown in.


God Grew Tired of Us: 2006, by Quinn and Walker, a moving film about the extraordinary journey, both psychological and physical, of four boys from war-torn Sudan to middle America.

Also: Lost Boys of Sudan, 2003, Mylan and Shenk, a similar story about the staggering journey of two Sudanese boys.


Hotel Rowanda*: 2004, by Terry George, starring Don Cheadle, a true story about a brave hotel manager who sheltered and saved over a thousand Tutsi refugees during the 1994 Hutu reign of terror.

   South Africa:

Cry the Beloved Country: Very good remake of the less harsh 1951 version staring Sidney Potier. The 1995 film by Darrell Roodt stars James Earl Jones and Richard Harris. Very moving.

Cry Freedom: Heart-wrenching 1987 film by Alison Klayman about the attempt to uncover the truth about the death of Steve Biko, the anti-apartheid activist, with Denzel Washington and Kevin Kline.

District 9*: A fabulous science-fiction film that is a metaphor for the racial nightmare of apartheid, filmed by the South African director, Niell Blomkamp in 2009.

The Gods Must be Crazy: Totally original and very funny story about the profound effect on a group of Kalahari Desert Bushman, when a Coca-Cola bottle falls from a passing plane. By Jamie Uys in 1981.

Goodbye Bafama: Wonderful 2007 true-story film by Bille August about Mandela’s personal, profound impact on the man who guarded him throughout his years on Robben Island.

Invictus*: 2009, an inspiring Clint Eastwood film, starring Morgan Freeman and Matt Damon, about how the newly elected president of South Africa, Nelson Mandela, united his racially and economically divided country around its rugby team’s bid to win the World Cup.

Red Dust: Moving, disturbing, and enlightening 2004 film by Tom Hooper about Mandela’s brilliant Truth and Reconciliation program, starring Hilary Swank and Jamie Bartlett.

Searching for Sugar Man: The ultimate truth-is-stranger-than-fiction documentary about a poetic, down-and-out musician who has no idea that he is as famous as Elvis in South Africa. 2013 academy award winner by Malik Bendjelloul. Must see.

Zulu: Epic film about the Anglo-Zulu war that some see as one of the greatest movies of all times. Directed by Cy Endfield in 1964, it stars Michael Caine. Swashbuckling history.



Germany has produced great films from the earliest days of the medium to the present, so the challenge is to choose a meaningfully inclusive selection. And then there are the great movies about Germany. Listed by histoic chronology.

Nosferatu, Muranau’s 1922 ultimate, vampire film staring Max Schreck.

The Blue Angel, Von Sternberg’s classic story of the repressed German undone by the destructive lure of sex, embodied by Dietrich, 1930.

Three Penny Opera, Pabst’s 1931 loose adaptation of Brecht and Weill’s musical about societal and personal corruption.

M, Fritz Lang’s brilliant early crime thriller starrring Peter Lorre,1931.

Cabaret, 1972 Bob Fosse musical about Berlin during the Weimar Republic, sordid, impoverished, decadent, and ferociously creative, with Nazism on the rise. Based on the novel by Christopher Isherwood, staring Liza Minelli.

Das Boot, incredibly tense drama aboard a German U-Boat in WWII by Petersen in 1981.

Rosenstrasse, Von Trotta’s 2003 film about a 1943 protest staged by German women to save their Jewish husbands.

Dresden, well-done made-for-TV series about a romance between a British pilot in hiding and a German nurse just before and during the firebombing of the city.

Marriage of Maria Braun, Fassbinder’s film about a woman’s personal adaptation to life in Germany at the end of WWII and in its aftermath, 1979, starring Hanna Schygulla.

Downfall, 2004 film by Hirschbiegel in which Hitler’s last secretary recounts his final days and confronts her own denial.

The Lives of Others, Von Donnersmarck’s 2006 film in which a member of the East German secret police is transformed by his surveillance of an artistic, glamorous couple.

Wings of Desire, expressionistic, romantic cult fantasy in which immortal angels interact with suffering Berliners, by Wim Wenders in 1987.

Nasty Girl, Verhoeven’s original and creative film about a high school student’s attempts to uncover her town’s Nazi past, 1990.



Many, many wonderful films about Mexico, or about a fictional Central or South American country that might as well be Mexico: chronological by subject

Aguirre, the Wrath of God*, Werner Herzog’s masterpiece about the Spanish conquistadors’ mad passion for gold, made in 1972 and starring Klaus Kinski.

The Mission, by Roland Joffee in 1986, starring Robert de Nero and Jeremy Irons.  A flawed film but a good depiction of colonial abuse and a priest’s attempts to protect them.

Frida, an entertaining film about Frida Kahlo by Julie Taymors, starring Selma Hayek.

The Cradle with Rock, Tim Robbins 1999 film about politics and art in the 1930’s, in which Rivera struggles with Rockefeller over his mural projec.

Exterminating Angel*, one of Buñuel’s great Mexican films and a surreal satire of Mexico’s monied class, made in 1962.

For a more modern surreal social commentary, Amores Perros*, a brilliant and deeply disturbing Mexico City trilogy, by Inarritu, 2001.

And another—and also great—Y Tu Mama Tambien*, 2001 by Cuarón.

A shocking film for the Mexicans, who are respectful of the Catholic church, and quite wonderful, The Crime of Father Amaro, by Carrera in 2002.





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