Best travel films and TV shows on Netflix UK
For a dose of travel and adventure inspiration without leaving the sofa, look to these cool movies and TV programmes available on Netflix UK right now
- By Tom Powell -
World's Most Extraordinary Homes
Name something cooler than a good bit of jaw-dropping architecture set against a stunning backdrop. Go on, we're waiting. While these aren't necessarily the kind of homes you can actually stay at, and fabulously British hosts Piers Taylor and Caroline Quentin aren't (quite) Kevin McCloud, you'd be hard-pressed to find a cooler bunch of buildings. Mountains, forests, coasts, underground bunkers: it's got it all.
Tales By Light
Want to know how travel and wildlife photographers get those next-level images you see in books, exhibitions and on social media? This Aussie travel photography series is the one for you. Each episode takes a different theme, from adrenaline-filled action photography to underwater and tribal shots, so there's something for every kind of wanderlust-y urge.
Jago: A Life Underwater
Sure, The Beach might be on Netflix right now too, but that's probably a bit macabre just for a quick fix of South East Asian sun. Instead, try this: an award-winning documentary about an 80-year-old hunter who dives on a single breath, catching fish in the depths off Indonesia's Togian Islands. Culture? Check. Sun? Check. Logic-defying swimming tekkers? Check, check, check.
Take a hip couple from Berlin, stick them in a converted schoolbus with their dog and make them travel up and down the length of North America and you've pretty much got the gist of Expedition Happiness. This travelogue is a two-hour-long elegy to the thrills (and spills) of living the #vanlife, and it'll have you working out how to give up your day job and hit the road from the sofa.
If you think Britain gets it rough weather-wise, this feature-length documentary will put things into a little bit of perspective. Taking in epic ice climbs, serious head injuries and long days of chilling (like actually freezing) in a tent suspended from the side of a mountain, this movie sees mountaineering (and Instagram) legends Jimmy Chin, Renan Ozturk and Conrad Anker take on one of the fiercest unclimbed mountains in the Himalaya: Meru. A real winter, er, warmer.
Right, we're saying it: there has never been a better or worse advert for outdoors adventures in Utah, USA than this film. Part mountain-bike-thrashing, slot-canyon-smashing, wild-swimming epic, part gritty captivity narrative. The only two properly fleshed-out characters in this inspired-by-real-life film are Aron Ralston (played by James Franco) and a rock. Watch, watch, watch – unless you don't like James Franco, in which case, don't.
Under an Arctic Sky
If youve not heard of surf photographer Chris Burkard, its about time you were introduced. While the California-based cameraman is famous for his shots of Norway and New Zealand on Instagram, this film – in which he and his cold water-surfing pals head to northwest Iceland in search of Arctic waves – is his absolute bread and butter. Expect big waves, frozen extremities and (you guessed it) surfing under the Northern Lights. It doesn't get more epic.
If you ask us, the big walls of Yosemite Valley in California are pretty much the most iconic view in the States (soz about that, Statue of Liberty), and this movie is jam-packed with long, panoramic shots of them. Exploring the valley's climbing history from the early days of John Muir to the stomach-in-mouth unroped climbs of Alex Honnold, this is a fascinating primer and travel inspiration rolled into one movie-length package.
Into the Wild
What happens when a young man goes into the wilds of Alaska and tries to survive off grid? Bad things, sadly. But also this Sean Penn-directed biographical epic, which manages to tread the line between tragic lament of modern times and gushy teen movie. And we love it. Probably because it was originally written by travel-writing royalty Jon Krakauer, it's got a nice soundtrack by Eddie Vedder and its cinematography is absolutely on point. Perfect Sunday night watching.
The Wild series is a reboot of the region-focused documentaries that pop up on BBC Four every so often, then elude you when they're on iPlayer. There are several entire series of these Attenborough-lite wildlife shows on everywhere from Japan to the Caribbean, but if you're anything like us, you'll want to head down to Patagonia in the tip of South America. Why? Because the scenery is nuts. As are the segments containing wild horses, rockhopper penguins and slow-mo battling elephant seals. Just watch.
The Barkley Marathons
130 miles, 60 hours of running, and a combined ascent that's roughly twice the height of Everest. That's pretty much all you need to know about the Barkley Marathons, the US-based ultra-trail race that eats its own young. When the movie was made in 2012, just 10 people had completed the race in its 26-year history, and this documentary dives right into the thick of the action: jelly legs, briar scratches, cultish obsession and all.
Jeremy Jones: Higher
When it comes to big mountain snowboarding, there are few bigger names than American rider and environmental activist Jeremy Jones. In this – the third in his trilogy of outlandish snow films – he goes big in the Alaska Range, the Grand Tetons and the High Sierra, as well as making a first descent in the Himalayas. Yes, snowboarding in the Himalayas. Pow.
Part epic adventure movie, part political statement, this film sees a group of Texan cowboys trekking a group of 16 stallions (and one sassy donkey) through the US from the Mexican border to the Canadian border. They go through the Grand Canyon, the Rockies and (presumably) several pairs of leather chaps on their way – all in the name of proving that wild horses can be trained and used, instead of being kept in dangerous captivity.
Watch all of these travel films and TV shows on Netflix in the UK.