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12 Family Movies That Will Transport You To Another Place

Go on a family vacation right in your living room — with more popcorn, and less jet lag.

Erica Silverstein · 3 months ago

  • travel

You know those days when work and school seem to drag on forever, family members are pushing each other’s buttons, and you just crave a vacation? You want to grab your passport and get out, but it’s not always possible. 

Enter Plan B: Family movie night. With tons of family-friendly films set in fascinating locations around the world, you can take a two-hour virtual vacation right in your living room. Kids get to learn about world cultures, no one suffers from jet lag, and you can sneak in plenty of snuggles and popcorn along the way. Best. Vacation. Ever!

Here are some of the best family movies that will transport parents and kids to real destinations around the world.

1. Lilo & Stitch: Hawaii

Lilo & Stitch

Disney

Genetically modified aliens are not indigenous to Hawaii, but Lilo & Stitch is ultimately a movie about the Hawaiian value of ohana, or family. It features plenty of Hawaiian cultural touchstones, including hula dancing and surfing, as well as the overall sense of Kauai as a rural island, where the community is tight, tourism is king, and the economy struggling. Your kids might not get all that when there’s a giggling girl and mischievous blue alien prancing across the screen, but the movie gives an introduction to all sides of Hawaii.

Available on Disney+.

2. Paddington: England

Paddington

StudioCanal

Break out the tea and scones, and take your family on a joy ride through London with a bear named for one of the city’s major train stations. Paddington himself may be from “Darkest Peru,” but the movie hits plenty of London highlights, including Paddington Station, Tower Bridge, the Natural History Museum, and plenty of quintessentially British pubs, markets, Tube stations, and residential streets. Your kids will be snorting tea out their noses at Paddington and his adopted family’s antics, while you dream of your next trip across the pond.

Available on Hulu.

3. My Neighbor Totoro: Japan

Totoro

Studio Ghibli

If your family has not experienced the magic of a Miyazaki movie, My Neighbor Totoro is a wonderful introduction to his beautifully animated worlds. For families missing travel, Totoro paints a picture of everyday Japanese life in a rural town that may seem as unreal to Americans as the Soot Sprites and Cat Bus who amaze the movie’s heroines. The gentle story isn’t as slapstick and fast-paced as American animated movies, but it still offers kids giggles and furry creatures to love.

Available on HBO Max.

4. The Sound of Music: Austria

The Sound of Music

20th Century Fox Home Entertainment. All rights reserved.

Many vacationers to Austria take a “Sound of Music” tour – but the classic Julie Andrews movie is itself a lovely virtual tour of Austria. The iconic opening shots feature an aerial view of the Salzkammergut, Salzburg’s Lake District, and the mountain Mehlweg where Andrews sings about hills being alive. The Von Trapp’s lakeside estate, Maria’s abbey home, and the cathedral may not impress the kids, but they are all historic buildings in Salzburg. Not only will the movie introduce your family to Austria’s gorgeous landscape, but it provides an age-appropriate introduction to the Nazi occupation.

Available on Disney+.

5. Kung Fu Panda: China

Kung Fu Panda

Dreamworks

My kids go nuts for the antics of Jack Black’s panda antihero in Kung Fu Panda, and Chinese filmmakers have also praised its perfect mix of animated humor and Chinese cultural references. You’ll get a whole lot of China in this silly romp, including a noodle shop, martial arts, and Daoist and Confucianist ideologies. Plus, a panda main character – the national animal of China.

Available on Amazon Prime.

6. Happy Feet: Antarctica

Happy Feet

Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.

Most families are unlikely to ever visit Antarctica, and if they do, they likely won’t be immersed in penguin culture – beyond discovering that penguin colonies are incredibly stinky. Happy Feet is a fun-loving, toe-tapping movie that shows off Antarctica’s various penguin populations. And it gets some essential Antarctic animal trivia correct: Dad penguins often watch the babies while moms fish – and the big predators of this pole are leopard seals, not polar bears.

Available on HBO Max.

7. Hugo: France

Hugo

GK FIlms

If you want to virtually travel to Paris, Ratatouille may be the obvious movie pick, but Hugo is possibly even more dazzling. The film, directed and produced by Martin Scorsese, presents a steampunk version of 1930s Paris, where young orphan Hugo lives in the Gare Montparnasse train station, tinkers with gears, and befriends reclusive French filmmaker Georges Melies and his goddaughter in his efforts to repair a broken automaton. Though much of the film was shot in the U.K., you’ll get your requisite Eiffel Tower at night shots, plus cameos from the Sorbonne and other Parisian buildings.

Available on Netflix.

8. Moana: Polynesia

Moana

Disney

Whenever you need a virtual beach vacation, enhanced by a few monsters and demigods, Moana will transport your family across oceans to the Pacific Islands. While the culture depicted is a composite, Moana’s island is based on Samoa, and most of the voice actors are Pacific Islanders. You’ll hear songs in the Tokelauan and Samoan languages and see authentic-looking canoes, art, and buildings.

Available on Disney+.

9. Paper Planes: Australia

Paper Planes

Arenamedia

This feel-good Australian-made movie features Australian actors (with authentic Australian accents), filmed on location in Western Australia. Rather than giving your family a sweeping tour of Australia’s landmarks, Paper Planes offers a glimpse into the everyday lives of folks living Down Under. The young characters are relatable and funny, and the message is uplifting. When you need a break from princesses and singing animated animals, leave it to Oz to keep it real.

Available on Amazon Prime and Tubi.

10. Coco: Mexico

Coco

Disney Pixar

The Land of the Dead is likely not high on your list of places to visit, but Coco is a loving homage to all aspects of Mexican culture, even if much of the action takes place in an imaginary world. The movie is a gorgeous, multicolor celebration of Dia de los Muertos, and the music covers a range of Mexican musical styles including mariachi, huapango, and banda. You’ll feel transported to another world — and a vibrant vision of the world beyond this one.

Available on Disney+.

11. Madagascar: Madagascar

Madagascar

Dreamworks

I’m not sure my kids know that Madagascar is a real place, which makes Madagascar a great jumping-off point to teach your kids about Africa. While the main characters are your typical zoo characters (lion, zebra, giraffe, hippo – oh my!), it’s nice to see under-represented animals like lemurs and fossa sharing the spotlight. Even better, if your family loves these movies, there are tons of sequels to keep your movie journey going.

On demand for a fee on Amazon Prime, YouTube, Google Play, and more.

12. The Princess and The Frog: New Orleans

Princess and the Frog

Disney

Disney’s animators tried extra hard to nail the look and feel of New Orleans to do their first African-American princess proud. The Princess and the Frog takes the party to the French Quarter, a Louisiana swamp, a Mardi Gras parade, and a paddlewheel river boat. The soundtrack of jazz, blues, and zydeco music will have your family grooving Big Easy-style in your living room, though the voodoo-wielding villain may have little ones diving under their blankies to hide from the black magic.

Available on Disney+.