Who hasn’t traveled somewhere new and wondered, “How cool would it be to live here”? We all fantasize about leaving everything we know in order to start over in a beautiful place far from our everyday routine. Maybe it’s because the life we have now isn’t very satisfying. Perhaps we really believe our life would be more beautiful or exciting somewhere else.
Movies and literature feed these fantasies, making us dream about places we might not even know firsthand. (Under The Tuscan Sun, anyone?) But sometimes, movies also show how living abroad isn’t always easy. They show that with all the adventures, cultural experiences, and even romance, there’s also loneliness, fear, and frustration. The movies on this list explore these feelings in stories set all over the world, from the idyllic beaches of Thailand to London’s cold, gray streets. They probably won’t stop you from dreaming about leaving for a new experience, but they’ll definitely make you think about what it would really be like.
Lost In Translation (2003)
Sofia Coppola’s movie about a young American woman who finds herself alone in Tokyo is one of the most beautiful movies ever made about loneliness and how difficult it can be to connect with people. Charlotte (Scarlett Johansson) thinks she’ll be okay in the city because her husband is with her. But since he's busy with work, she has no choice but to face the that huge, bustling city all on her own. She doesn’t speak the language or knows anyone, so at first, she struggles. But everything changes when she meets Bob (Bill Murray), who’s just as lonely as she is.
Tokyo Fiancée (2014)
This movie is also set in Japan, a country known to be particularly challenging for foreigners. Based on a novel by renowned writer Amélie Nothomb, it follows the story of a young woman who was born in Japan but raised in Belgium. All her life she has been fascinated by her country of birth and has learned everything she could about the culture, language, and history. She moves to Tokyo, thinking that living there will finally allow her to truly embrace her Japanese identity. But the reality of her life there as a foreigner will gradually make her realize it’s not going to be that easy.
The Beach (2000)
Richard (Leonardo DiCaprio) is an American backpacker making his way through Southeast Asia looking for the adventure of his life. He thinks he’s found it when he gets his hands on a map to a remote beach in Thailand where, rumors claim, there’s an international community of backpackers like him who decided they wanted to stay and actually live in that slice of paradise. Accompanied by two other travelers, he risks his life to find the beach. But once they actually reach this paradise, the group starts to realize that this utopia might not be everything it seems.
Like Crazy (2011)
This story revolves around how loving someone from another country is complex in many ways. Anna (Felicity Jones) is a British student living in Los Angeles who falls in love with Jacob (Anton Yelchin), an American college student. After her student visa expires, Anna stays in the US because she doesn’t want to leave Jacob. Later, she goes back to the UK without any problems, but when she wants to return to the US, she’s banned for overstaying her student visa. The uncertainty and the stress caused by this situation forces the young couple to reevaluate their relationship.
The Last King of Scotland (2006)
This story is set in Uganda in the 1970s. Nicholas Garrigan (James McAvoy) is a young Scottish doctor who's just finished his studies. He wants to get out of Scotland and have an adventure far from everything he knows, preferably somewhere warm and “exotic.” He ends up deep in the heart of Uganda, helping out at a remote clinic. But the reality of poverty and violence there makes him start thinking about how his time abroad won’t be the adventure he was looking for. But when he meets General Idi Amin (Forest Whitaker), the country's President at the time and a ruthless dictator, the real adventure begins.
These five movies show that regardless of how far you go, or how different your new home is, moving abroad doesn’t mean your life will be perfect. Life is life wherever you go, and it will always be complicated and messy, and sometimes even painful.