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Island Fever: Travel Movies to Take You Far Away

Island Fever: Travel Movies to Take You Far Away


Nothing says "the perfect getaway" like the image of a distant island. In COLLATERAL, when Jamie Foxx's cab driver Max needs to take a break, he flips down his visor to stare at a postcard of a tiny, beautiful island. Sometimes we all want to get away to a place like that, but it's not so easy. Movies, however, are the next best thing!

The only problem is that filmmakers often use islands as metaphors for purgatory and isolation (see the wonderful STROMBOLI), social breakdown (as in BATTLE ROYALE) or as settings for outright horror (see any version of THE ISLAND OF DOCTOR MOREAU). Most of those movies don't actually make you want to get away to an island. Here are eight movies which mostly will make you eager to escape to an island — with one or two exceptions.

50 First Dates (2004)

Island Fever: 50 First Dates

[Image Credit: Sony Pictures]

50 FIRST DATES is the second of three rom-coms starring Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore. The 2004 film is set in sunny and tropical Hawaii, where Sandler plays Henry, a womanizing veterinarian whose life completely changes when he meets Lucy (Barrymore), a woman with a specific form of amnesia that causes her to forget the events of each day when she goes to sleep at night. With the help of his friends, a ukulele, and a lot of devotion, Henry defies all odds to be with Lucy.

Mamma Mia! (2008)

Island Fever: Mamma Mia!

[Image Credit: Universal Pictures]

Based on the hit 1999 musical and inspired by the music of ABBA, this upbeat rom-com takes us to the Greek Islands, where hotel owner Donna (the great Meryl Streep) is helping her daughter Sophie (Amanda Seyfried) prepare for her wedding day. Unbeknownst to Donna, Sophie has hatched a plan to find out who her father is by inviting her mother’s three former lovers to the wedding. The sequel, 2018's MAMMA MIA: HERE WE GO AGAIN! trades away some of the first movie's effective story, but delivers even more colorful song and dance sequences in return.

Fantasy Island (2020)

Island Fever: Fantasy Island

[Image Credit: Sony Pictures]

As we suggested earlier, there’s a vacation spot for everyone, including horror fans. This year’s wild reimagining of the classic television series follows a group of people who were handpicked by the mysterious Mr. Roarke to have their fantasies come true at an exclusive remote resort. But their fantasies quickly turn into nightmares, and FANTASY ISLAND turns into a very different kind of escape movie.

Moana (2016)

Island Fever: Moana

[Image Credit: Walt Disney Animation]

A grand legend about the creation of islands and the ocean leads to a high-seas adventure for Moana (Auliʻi Cravalho), who is positioned to succeed her father as chief of their island. When curses and mythology turn out to be real, the impetuous young Moana rebels against her father and sets off to explore the waters beyond their home. With the help of the boastful but perhaps ultimately heroic demigod Maui (Dwayne Johnson), Moana discovers the truth about the origins of her people — and becomes one of Disney's most impressive animated new characters in the process.

Cast Away (2000)

Island Fever: Cast Away

[Image Credit: 20th Century Fox]

This isn't exactly a vacation movie, as Tom Hanks plays a systems analyst estranged on a desert island with precious few supplies to rely upon. Because this is Hanks, however, he ultimately makes living alone far from civilization seem like a pretty OK deal, at least after he gets through the first stages of learning to survive. And if this ultimate everyman can do it, why couldn't the rest of us?

Serenity (2019)

Island Fever: Serenity

[Image Credit: Aviron Pictures]

This is a cult movie in the making because it is a bafflingly illogical and colorfully glossy noir that becomes increasingly weird as it goes along, before exploding in a fully bizarre climax. Matthew McConaughey plays a man who hides from his past by operating a minor fishing operation on an isolated island. When his ex-wife (Anne Hathaway) shows up asking him to kill her current husband (Jason Clarke) things spin out of control quickly — and SERENITY is constantly willing to go places that are far off the edges of the map.

Muppet Treasure Island (1996)

Island Fever: Muppet Treasure Island

[Image Credit: Walt Disney Pictures]

There are dozens of movies based on "Treasure Island," the classic adventure novel by Robert Louis Stevenson, but this one holds the distinction of being the most charming, and the best for kids and families. With Muppets like Fozzie, Kermit and Miss Piggy finding their way into well-known characters in the story, and new roles for Gonzo and Rizzo, the human co-stars — most notably Tim Curry as Long John Silver — are just extra jewels in a pirate chest overflowing with booty.

Before Midnight (2013)

Island Fever: Before Midnight

[Image Credit: Sony Pictures Classics]

Richard Linklater's trio of romantic dramas starring Julie Delpy and Ethan Hawke had us gently swooning beginning with the first movie, BEFORE SUNRISE, in 1995. This third film follows Delpy and Hawke's characters, who are finally a committed couple with children, as they vacation on the Greek Peloponnese peninsula; basically an island except for that one little isthmus. As with the other two movies in this series, the action is entirely interpersonal drama — and as with the other two movies, BEFORE MIDNIGHT is absolutely beautiful. It's a romantic getaway for anyone with the life experience to know that simple escapes are easier said than done.

Want more vacation movies to consider?

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