Last Updated: March 17th
Sometimes you need a nudge to get outdoors and hit the road. Other times you need a full-on shove. And, in times like these, you need a break from the news and quarantine life to dream of all the places you’ll go when this catastrophe finally passes.
That’s why we put together this new list of the best travel documentaries on Netflix right now. These are movies that blend travel with the heights of the human spirit to, hopefully, remind you that travel and adventure are within your grasp. Or will be soon. Below you’ll find a round-up of our favorite travel documentaries on Netflix. Read and then watch to discover faraway places and witness the mad few who wander to the edges of the map in search of adventure.
Expedition Happiness (2017)
Run Time: 95 min | IMDb: 5.9/10
German van lifers and filmmakers Felix Starck and Selima Taibi tricked out an old American school bus to Instagram-perfection and set out along the Pan-American highway from Alaska to Mexico with their trusty dog. Along the way, the duo made a doc about life on the road, van life, and the general hardships and heights of travel. Overall, this is can be a hard watch as the camera almost exclusively focuses on model/musician Taibi with little to no reference to where they’re actually traveling through, which is a shame.
Pedal The World (2015)
Run Time: 80 min | IMDb: 5.1/10
Felix Starck didn’t start off as a van lifer. The documentary filmmaker cut his teeth while documenting his 12,000-mile, 22-country bicycle tour of the planet. The film is the Instagram generation’s gateway to seeing the world through the eyes of pure wanderlust. The film shines in the nature of Starck’s mode of transportation and the harsh realities of riding a bike, literally, around the world. The film sort of falls apart in its inability to form a clear narrative but the overall thrust of the story is just enough to keep you from turning it off.
Amanda Knox (2016)
Run Time: 92 min | IMDb: 6.9/10
The Amanda Knox story is the perfect storm of travel and true crime. The film focuses on the Seattleite’s year aboard living in Italy and the murder of Knox’s roommate. It’s a fascinating case study of when travel can go horribly wrong on almost every level — from batsh*t crazy detectives to trying to bridge misunderstood cultural gulfs to the imprisoned foreigner’s desire to just get home again.
Losing Sight Of Shore (2017)
Run Time: 92 min | IMDb: 7.4/10
Losing Sight Of Shore is one of the better travel documentaries of the last decade. The film follows four female friends as they train, plan, and then sail (in a rowboat) from California across the Pacific to Australia. It’s pure madness. The film is harrowing, emotionally wrought, and wonderfully executed. It keeps you on the edge of your seat as you feel the great ups and harsh downs of travel on the edge.
This is a great way to spend 90 minutes any night of the week and, maybe, it’ll inspire you to get out there too.
Fire At Sea (2016)
Run Time: 114 min | IMDb: 6.8/10
Travel isn’t always about Instagram hashtags and wanderlust. Sometimes it’s about survival. Fire At Sea offers a harrowing glimpse into the realities of refugees fleeing Northern Africa for Europe — specifically Sicily, Italy in this case. The film juxtaposes how a small backwater town became the flashpoint for refugees landing in Europe. It’s a stark tale of humanity, suffering, and spirit to overcome and survive.
The Last Shaman (2016)
Run Time: 77 min | IMDb: 6.8/10
This is a fascinating and harrowing film. Produced by Leonard DiCaprio, the film follows James who has given himself 12 months to find a way past his chronic and crippling depression before he kills himself. To do this, he takes the drastic step of delving deep into the Peruvian Amazon to find real-deal shamans and go through courses of ayahuasca to cure his depression. We won’t spoil the documentary here but it’s worth 77 minutes of your time to find out what a combination of adventure, psychonautics, and introspection can bring.
The Free Man (2016)
Run Time: 84 min | IMDb: 6.1/10
There’s a sense of the mad ones in this film that follows Olympic Freestyle Skier Jossi Wells. Wells meets up with a boundary-pushing ski group called The Flying Frenchies who push the limits of human endurance and sanity by skiing the wildest and most dangerous places. This is a mind-boggling story of what on the surface looks like people with a deathwish masquerading as “being free.” It’s a wild ride for 80 thrilling minutes.
Run Time: 74 min | IMDb: 7.2/10
Narrated by Willem Dafoe, this documentary looks at those who climb the world’s tallest and most dangerous peaks. Where the film really wows is in the orchestral score and jaw-dropping cinematography. This is the perfect film for sinking into a couch, maybe lighting up a little cannabis, and letting the images wash over you.
Footprints, the Path of Your Life (2016)
Run Time: 89 min | IMDb: 6.1/10
This film follows a Roman Catholic priest as he leads ten young men on a trip of a lifetime. The group is walking the 500-mile northern route from France to Spain on the Camino to Santiago de Compostela. The legendary pilgrimage has drawn millions of people (religious or not) over the centuries and this film shows the difficulty and reward of traveling a foreign land by foot, who you meet along the way, and who you come home as.
Run Time: 97 min | IMDb: 7.2/10
Traveling for dope, Instagram-worthy festivals has become a clear part of the travel world in 2020. While sexy, drug-fueled times usually ensue when you arrive on some faraway beach to listen to DJs spin and do yoga as the sunrises, it’s doesn’t always work out. The Fyre Festival is the best example of how everything can go wrong and how that can ruin a trip to somewhere amazing. And, hey, travel isn’t always perfect and this movie is a great reminder of that.
The Dawn Wall (2017)
Run Time: 100 min | IMDb: 8.1/10
Tommy Caldwell and Kevin Jorgeson’s climb of El Capitan’s Dawn Wall is the stuff of legends. Caldwell and Jorgenson took years to plan their ascent and weeks to complete it and it’s all documented in this enthralling documentary that serves as a sort of prequel to the Academy award-winning Free Solo. If you follow rock climbing, then you know how this one ends. But don’t let that stop you from spending time watching this doc. It’ll give a deeper understanding of how much actually goes into the background of these climbs.
Roll with Me (2017)
Run Time: 90 min | IMDb: 8.6/10
This is a pretty incredible film and feat. Former drug-addict and alcoholic Gabriel Cordell (who’s a paraplegic) decides to inspire his gang-member nephew by having him be his crew as he travels by wheelchair all the way across America. This film is harrowing, inspiring, and a must-watch as Cordell struggles to roll for over 3,000 miles through rain or shine as his nephew provides support the entire way. You’ll be left asking what you’ve done with your life by the time the credits roll and itching to get out there and do something epic like Cordell did.