It’s pretty useless to be a travel writer right now, and the closest thing to travel goals we have is to the grocery store.
Sans travel, some have retreated to Netflix to get their dose of external stimuli. (or HBO Go or Amazon Prime, both offer free trial periods by the way!).
Streaming services have a wealth of international movies in their library, and give you a very clear glimpse of culture of the country, and maybe you can even learn a few words too–I’ve learned ‘tranquilo!’ from Money Heist and ‘itadakimasu’ from Terrace House.
Movies and TV Shows to Binge during No Travel Season
Here are some of the movies and shows you can consume if you feel like traveling rn.
(Disclaimer, everyone: before the pandemic lockdown, I couldn’t call myself an avid movie girl. Now I’ve been watching too many films to fill my days, so I guess I’ve improved my cred and stats a bit. Hope you enjoy this blog post nonetheless!)
Right now we can’t go to the Shibuya crossing, visit the Hachiko statue, nor eat ramen and sushi. So the best thing we can do is enjoy the wealth of Japanese movies and shows in our screens.
Jiro Dreams of Sushi is a tasty documentary that follows 85-year old Jiro Ono, Michelin three-star chef / sushi master and considered by many as the greatest sushi chef in the world.
Terrace House is a Japanese reality TV series that follows the lives of six strangers that will live in one roof. Think of it as Japan’s version of Big Brother.
Of course, you can binge on Japanese manga and animated shows such as Hayao Miyazaki films. It’s hard to choose a must-watch, so I’ll just name a few Studio Ghibli movies streaming on Netflix Philippines right now: My Neighbor Totoro, Spirited Away, Princess Mononoke and Kiki’s Delivery Service.
(You can read some of my travel posts on Japan on the Japan page.)
Trivia: Miyazaki’s film Spirited Away is actually based on a mining town in Taiwan who was a former colony. (I blogged about it on Jiufen and Shifen: Charming Old Towns in the mountains of Taiwan)
Tigertail is a film masterpiece whose past flashbacks are set in Taiwan, and the modern scenes set in US. The story follows a man who moved to US to seek a better life–but before that, he needed to make a few sacrifices that would forever alter his life. The mood is enigmatic and the soundtrack is spectacular.
(You can read some of my travel posts on Taiwan on the Taiwan page.)
Crazy Rich Asians is a vibrant romantic comedy that made waves around the world, and I am happy to see more Asian representation in the Hollywood scene! Set in Singapore, the world is yet to see how Asians do classy with a K.
Since Crazy Rich Asians is still not yet available on Netflix Philippines, you can instead binge on Singapore Social, which is a docu-series about the Singapore’s elite rich and how they do classy with a K.
South Korea is known for a lot of things: Samsung, Korean food, music and dramas! There’s a lot of worthy classics to make you enjoy the beauty of South Korea without stepping foot on it (yet).
Parasite has been making waves in the world of cinema, and it is directed by South Korean film director Bong Joon-ho. While you can’t stream Parasite on Netflix, you can watch Okja, directed by the same director.
Netflix has a wealthy collection of Korean movies and TV series, the most famous series to binge right now are Kingdom (a political thriller), Crash Landing on You (a romantic drama series) and Itaewon Class (also a romantic drama.
If you prefer to watch a movie instead of binging on series, the coming-of-age teen comedy Seoul Searching might be of interest to you. A Philippine film My Ex and Whys set in South Korea follows the story of two characters played by Enrique Gil and Liza Soberano. (Read some of my South Korea posts here)
While you’re at it–enjoy some local movies and indie films set in beautiful destinations in the Philippines: That Thing Called Tadhana (set in Sagada), Flotsam (set in La Union). Apocalypse Now (set in Baler) and Siargao (set in Siargao). Full movie of That Thing Called Tadhana is here:
I highly recommend you binge on Artikulo Uno’s historical films: Heneral Luna, Goyo: Ang Batang Heneral and Quezon’s Game to get you to appreciate and learn more about our past
Who wouldn’t want to go have a stroll along Champs-Élysées, eat croissants and do all the cliche French things you can think of?
Since we technically can’t go to France right now, you can have a delightful journey to transport you to Paris via the home cinema?
I Lost My Body (J’ai perdu mon corps) is a French animated fantasy drama that follows a severe hand who is looking to reunite to its body. The quirky film goes through the pitfalls of Paris, as it recalls memories of the young man it was once attached to.
Although not on Netflix PH, the best movie that epitomizes Paris is Amélie. It is among my most favorite movies of all time, enchanting, poetic and magical.
(I LOVE Paris and am a self-confessed Francophile, and you can read some of my travel posts on France here)
Get away from the city of Paris and into the peaceful French countryside and watch The African Doctor. It tells the story of Dr. Zantoko, who takes a post in a small village in Marly-Gomont and moves in with his whole family. The movie is just about the right amounts of touching, realistic, sweet and funny.
The Danish Girl (sadly not on Netflix) is an incredible story set in 1920s Denmark about a man who decides to live his life as a woman instead. I also heavily enjoyed Midnight in Paris, Hugo, Blue is the Warmest Color and Before Sunset–and while you’re at it, why not binge the whole Before Sunrise franchise to take you to picturesque European cities: Austria, France and Greece.
Let’s not forget Spain’s hottest TV series. Netflix has recently dropped the season 4 of Money Heist, so get your fix of this acclaimed Spanish crime drama series (or in Spanish, La casa de papel / The House of Paper). The TV show doesn’t detail much of travel around Spain but it’s still worth the binge. If you haven’t seen the first three seasons, you got time to catch up then!
To get you a taste of Berlin (and Williamsburg, Brooklyn) in the eyes of a girl who ran away from the ultra-orthodox Hasidic Jew community, check out the Netflix mini-series Unorthodox.
Netflix has a wealth of movies to ensure you get your Bollywood fix. Among my favorite movies of all time is 3 Idiots, a coming -of-age film featuring best friends trying to look for their long lost friend several years after college.
Lagaan and Taare Zameen Par (Like Stars on Earth) are other must-see Bollywood films also produced by Aamir Khan.
Wes Anderson films are quirky and endearing, and his movie Darjeeling Limited takes us on an adventure across India; as three brothers attempt to rediscover their lost bond following the death of their father.
If you want to venture further and idarjeento the Himalayas, there are plenty of films from various genres that will peak your interest.
If you want a light adventure comedy film about Mt. Everest, check out the French movie The Climb (L’ascension), where the protagonist attempts to climb Mt. Everest in order to impress a girl he loves.
If you’re up for a documentary on the Everest, then Sherpa is also a good watch (not on Netflix) to learn more about the ethnic tribe native in the Himalayas.
Eat, Pray, Love stars Julia Roberts and based on Elizabeth Gilbert’s bestseller of the same title. The story chronicles around an American woman spending her one year sabbatical in three vastly different places at four months each: in Italy (eat), India (pray), and Indonesia (love).
If you want a taste of the Eastside, New York is the location of many movies and series. Some great series set in New York are Sex and the City, Netflix’s Dating Around and Prime’s Modern Love–all revolves around love and dating in The Big Apple.
If you prefer to travel to the Westside, there are a few quirky rom-coms that you can watch on Netflix. I loved Ali Wong and Randall Park’s Always Be My Maybe and Joseph Gordon Levitt and Zoe Deschanel on 500 Days of Summer.
If rom-com isn’t exactly you’re thing and you’re more into drama, watch The Pursuit of Happyness, a movie based on a true story of Chris Gardner and his son, played by Will Smith and his own son Jaden Smith; props to both for their superb acting performances in the film.
Curious about the Valley? You have time to binge all six seasons of Silicon Valley, a hilarious comedy about the journey of a bootstrapped startup into a successful exit strategy.
For a good documentary about the dark side of Palo Alto, you can check out The Inventor, a film revolving the rise and fall of Elizabeth Holmes, CEO of health technology company Theranos. In one year she was considered the youngest self-made billionaire, and then in less than two years she was worth nothing.
You can see the complete documentary here:
Las Vegas, the city that never sleeps–The reputation of Vegas as the party and gambling (and marriage?) capital of the country is known all over the world. Vegas is the location of several great movies: including 21, The Hangover and Ocean’s franchise.
If you want to see films set outside of the major cities, we have a few recommendations for you too. Some of my top pickings at the top of my head: adventure drama Into the Wild (set in Alaska), rom-com 50 First Dates and animated film Lilo & Stitch (set in Hawaii), based-on-a-true-story drama 127 hours (set in Utah) and animated film The Princess and the Frog (set in New Orleans)
Central and South America
I have never been to Central and South America, but it’s always been a dream of mine to go someday.
Fancy an animated family film? Pixar’s Up takes you to an adventure to Paradise Falls in Venezuela, South America. Also, let Rio dazzle you and take you into an adventure with Blu, a macaw, into the streets of the vibrant Rio de Janeiro and Brazil’s rainforests.
Y Tu Mamá También is a coming-of-age film as two teenaged boys make a cross-country road trip with an older woman. The film is directed by a renowned Mexican film director Alfonso Cuarón.
A political satire The Perfect Dictatorship (La dictadura perfecta) that de. Being in the Philippines, it hits close to home on the many issues that make me realize that Mexico and Philippines are very similar, despite being in totally different continents (so while we’re in the topic, please read The Filipino Identity Crisis)
I also greatly enjoy Conan’s travel show Conan without Borders featuring his adventures: from dancing salsa in Cuba, to starring in a K-pop music video, you can see one of the world’s most loved funny man travel to learn more about the history and culture in places such as Haiti, Cuba, Mexico, Berlin, Israel, and more. The series is available on Netflix.
There’s just so, so many movies for you to explore and quench your inner wanderlust for now. In the meantime, we wish you to stay indoors and stay safe and healthy.
I will constantly update this posts with more films and shows as my repertoire expands–although to be honest, there is nothing more I want than to see it all with my own eyes and to physically enjoy it myself!
But after this is all done, where’s the first thing you’ll be after lockdown?
More blog posts during COVID-19
- Movies and Shows to Binge During No Travel Period
- This Pandemic has Unleashed my Inner Grouch
- Writing about the Mundane (and Coronavirus)
- COVID Diary Day 2: How to Be Productive rn
- COVID Diary Day 3: Death of Lean?
- COVID Diary Day 4: The Stock Market Closes (…and Reopens)
- COVID Diary Day 5: Prophets and Wizards
- COVID Diary Day 6: Boomers Adapt
- COVID Diary Day 7: The Rules of Love Have Changed
- COVID Diary Day 8: WTF’s Emergency Powers
- COVID Diary Day 9: When this is over…
- COVID Diary Day 10: Attention, Attention
Here are the secret Netflix codes that unlock tons of hidden subgenres, movies and shows (very comprehensive list from ogres-crypt)
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