A location is born.
It’s the biggest time of year for film—awards season! Specifically, the Academy Awards, which premieres on February 24. This year’s show might be a tense race given the quality of contenders, but is it possible to get a separate category for destinations? If the Academy considered adding “Most Popular Film” to their lineup, surely this isn’t too crazy an idea. Here are a few of our picks:
A Star Is Born
This year’s Lady Gaga-vehicle may be an Oscar-bait remake and you know what? Thank God. She works so hard, and I’m so proud of her. The musical drama follows the journey of Gaga’s Ally, a talented but struggling singer who skyrockets to stardom after having been discovered performing at a burlesque show by rockstar Jackson Maine, played by Bradley Cooper (American Hustle). The movie is full of dramatic highs and lows, which comes as no surprise if you’ve seen any of the previous four versions of the story. Also, full of highs and lows are idyllic California landscapes where the story is set; specifically, Palm Springs, and the Coachella Valley—two locations where the movie’s concert scenes were filmed. The production is immersive and electric and makes us want to attend every California music festival for the foreseeable future. Furthermore, the arid, sun-soaked valleys that our two star-crossed lovers travel through on Jackson’s motorcycle are dreamlike—which, obviously, was the intention. This story is the stuff dreams are made of.
WHERE: Hatfield House, Hertfordshire, England
The Favourite, set in 18th-century England, follows a fragile queen played by Olivia Colman (The Lobster) who becomes the center of a love triangle with her friend Sarah (Rachael Weisz, The Constant Gardener) and a servant (Emma Stone, La La Land). Spoiler alert: it’s definitely a manipulation triangle. The dramedy’s central location—a palatial country house in Hertfordshire, England—is a character in-and-of itself. Filled with dark hallways, massive fireplaces, canopy beds, a fragile queen, and rabbits, the Hatfield House is simultaneously cold and welcoming. Yorgos Lanthimos period piece is one of the best movies of the year and that’s in part because it’s setting is so atmospheric.
WHERE: Iguazu Waterfalls, Argentina
Marvel’s fictional city Wakanda is perhaps the standout “movie destination” of the year. Filmed in part in Iguazu Falls, the movie’s metropolis is an oasis not yet tainted by the perils of the outside world. The scenes featuring the Iguazu are stunning and the area itself actually contains 275 waterfalls (!) that demand to be seen in person. Toss in some tropical sun and a few butterflies and you’ve got yourself a paradise.
Crazy Rich Asians
This year’s seminal romantic comedy smash hit follows Rachel Chu (Constance Wu, Fresh Off the Boat), a woman from a meager background who follows her boyfriend home to Singapore only to find out, upon meeting his family, that he comes from money. Like, a lot of money. In the film, the city is portrayed as crazy rich, but is it THAT rich? Yes, it’s that crazy rich. The opulence and luxury on display are over-the-top (that wedding!) and utterly swoon-worthy. If you’re planning a trip here, you’ll want to make a day (or few) exploring the Central Business District. Also, not to be missed are the Gardens by the Bay, which features the Supertree Grove where the wedding reception was held.
(Related: A Crazy Rich Asians Guide to Singapore)
WHERE: Gold Coast, Queensland
D.C.’s newest standalone feature, which reps the tagline, “Home Is Calling,” looks like a Saturday morning cartoon. Which makes sense because the film’s populated with characters who live in an underwater kingdom called Atlantis and ride sharks with laser beams attached to their heads. But! Where is that sea? Australia, of course! Many of Aquaman’s scenes were filmed in the idyllic Gold Coast, Queensland, Australia. If this was my home, and it was calling…well, I’m running (swimming?). The sixth-largest city in Australia and a surfer’s paradise, Gold Coast is also full of absurdly scenic parks—we’re big fans of Tamborine National Park—and home to the state-of-the-art Australian Outback Spectacular.
WHERE: Mexico City, Mexico
Alfonso Cuaron, a masterful director, has always excelled at creating worlds and places. His newest film, Roma, is no exception. Since its initial premiere at the Venice International Film Festival, one of the biggest takeaways from the film critics have noted is its strong sense of place (although the story is set in the early 1970s). That place is Mexico City—a sprawling destination that is vibrant and international. At the same time, Mexico City is distinct and can be intimate. We recommend a trip in the spring or fall when you can comfortably peruse such sights as the Templo Mayor—the ruins of the ancient Aztec empire—and catch the world-renowned Ballet Folklórico de México. Because the city has also been a longtime culinary capital, you’ll have a no problem finding a spot that hits the spot, whether it’s a late-night taco or a celebratory seafood dinner.
(Related: Eat Like You’re Rich in Mexico City)
Mama Mia! Here We Go Again
WHERE: Vis, Croatia
This is perhaps the most idealistic place on this list (or maybe that’s just because the musical romantic-comedy is so joyful), and maybe one of the most surprising, considering the movie wasn’t actually filmed in Greece, but rather, Vis, an island in Croatia. The location of the story is so integral—a sequel to a movie based on a musical, where love is had and songs are sung on the fictional Greek island of Kalokairi. It stinks that it’s fictional, but hey, Vis is real and it’s time to start planning a trip, especially if you’re a wine-lover! The town has excellent locally-produced wine and seafood and is home to an absolutely heavenly cave that is popular among tourists.
Yes, my brain might have completely melted when the lights came up in the theater after the psychedelic thriller Mandy finished, but Andrea Riseborough and Nicolas Cage’s serene cabin in the woods kept me grounded. No spoilers, but the plot really takes off when the couple’s secluded heaven is invaded by a diabolical cult. Cage’s character—Red Miller—later goes on a revenge streak, and you know what? It makes sense. I mean, I’m not condoning the insane violence, but how dare the antagonists disrupt a beautiful life in the rich forests of Belgium. One of the film’s biggest assets, aside from its performances, pacing, and acid-trip imagery, is its sense of place. If you’re looking to experience Belgium’s outdoors, a hike is ideal. And there are plenty of places to hike—1,100, actually. A few of our favorites include the absolutely gorgeous and manageable Ninglinspo River Hike and the La Roche à l’Appel for some striking, diverse scenery.
A Quiet Place
WHERE: Upstate New York
Some peace and quiet would be really nice right about now. If only the world wasn’t overrun with very dangerous aliens who hunt their prey based on how much noise they make. There’s plenty of quiet in the film, but virtually no peace. Jon Krasinki’s horror debut took place in upstate New York, in part in Pawling, an incredibly quaint town home to the oldest municipality-owned golf course in America. The film also shot on the Wallkill Valley Rail Trail, which is ideal for hiking and mountain biking.
WHERE: San Luis Obispo, California
I was front row for this romantic-comedy starring icons Keanu Reeves and Winona Ryder set in wine country. The movie was filmed about halfway between San Francisco and Los Angeles in San Luis Obispo, which is complete with a landscape formed by now-extinct volcanoes, farmers markets and, of course, high-end wineries. We can’t get enough of its whimsical town whose charm is impossible to resist—even for two jaded, cynical people who aren’t really fans of love.