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Whether your family is staying home due to funds being low, limited paid time off, or if your travel plans have been grounded due to surging gas prices, there are many times when we’re forced to stay home when we would much rather be traveling.
If your family is forced to stay home – for whatever reason — you can still explore every continent on the globe from the comfort and safety of your home with a wanderlust movie or 2.
[This post on best wanderlust movies for kids was originally published May 2020, and updated March 2022.]
Here are 16 kid movies you can watch as a family to inspire wanderlust:
Kids Movies Set in Africa
The Lion King tells the story of Simba, King Mufasa’s son, and his coming of age story. As the heir and future king, Simba is manipulated into thinking that he’s responsible for the death of his father. Simba flees from his homeland. With the help of his friends, he learns to overcome some challenges in order to return to his home. The story takes place in the Pride Lands of Africa, where the lions rule the jungle, which in reality is located in the Serengeti, a region in northern Tanzania. Various African landscapes are on display throughout the movie, as we go on an adventure with Simba to overcome betrayal and tragedy. The movie features waterfalls, the jungle, desert, and plains.
In these films, a group of animals that have spent their life in a New York Zoo go on an adventure to the island of Madagascar, off of the coast of Africa. It starts when this group of Mainland African animals (a lion, zebra, giraffe, and hippo) are on a ship heading to a sanctuary in Kenya when their ship is swept into the sea and lands on Madagascar. In this movie, all the animals work to adjust to life in the wild. This movie highlights the incredible diversity of wildlife that can be found in Madagascar. The biodiversity on display in the movie includes lemurs, chameleons, and leaf-tailed geckos.
Kids Movies Set in North America
Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse is another coming-of-age story but this one is set in the Big Apple. It features Miles Morales, a typical Brooklyn teenager, who is struggling to live up to his father’s expectations and adjust to life in a new school when he’s bitten by a radioactive spider. Like Spider-Man, Miles receives superpowers. Miles teams up with a group of other Spider-beings to save the multi-verse. This movie features the famous New York City Skyline, and it also pays homage to Brooklyn’s place in hip-hop history with a soundtrack featuring the likes of Biggie and highlights Graffiti street art.
The Secret Life of Pets features the quiet life of a Jack Russel Terrier named Max in Manhattan. His life is upended when his owner adopts a stray dog, named Duke. When both dogs get caught by Animal Control and the two nemeses are forced to work together to get back to their owner. This movie series offers beautiful animated scenes of the New York Cityscapes.
5. The Goonies
The Goonies is a classic American adventure that features the breathtaking views of the Oregon coast. In this film, a group of kids that live in the “Good Docks” neighborhood of Astoria, Oregon go on a wild adventure as they attempted to save their homes from foreclosure. They discover an antique treasure map to find the lost-fortune of the legendary 17th-century pirate, One-Eyed Willy.
Kids Movies Set in South America
6. & 7. Rio & Rio 2
Explore Brazil’s Rio de Janeiro with movies Rio and Rio 2. This movie follows Blu, a macaw, as he travels with his owner to Rio de Janeiro to mate with another blue macaw to save his species. During the trip, a mishap ensues and Blu gets separated from his owner. Blu’s goes on an adventure through the Brazilian Amazon making a few friends along the way.
Up is a computer-generated movie that tells the story of Carl, a 78-year-old balloon salesman, who goes on the adventure of a lifetime. Carl is determined to fulfill his lifelong dream to visit Paradise Falls in South America. To get there, Carl attaches thousands of balloons to his house, and he flies away to the South American wilderness. But his travel plans are a bit thwarted when he discovers that Russel, a little boy, has stowed away and has come along for the ride.
Kids Movies Set in Europe
When the newly-crowned Queen Elsa accidentally uses her power to turn everything into ice, her sister Anna goes on an adventure to find a way to save their town from an eternal winter. The world of Frozen is modeled after a number of places throughout Norway: the fictional kingdom of Arrendelle was inspired by an old wharf in Bergen; Elsa and Anna’s castle was also modeled after a 500-year-old castle in Oslo, and the townspeople are dressed in traditional folk dancing costumes.
This movie is based on the beloved 1936 children’s picture book of the same name. Set in Spain, Ferdinand is about a sweet, docile bull that would rather sniff flowers than fight. A famous matador chooses Ferdinand for the bull-fighting arena when he mistakes Ferdinand for a ferocious beast. This non-violent, flower-loving bull decides to fight for the right not to fight.
Kids Movies Set in Asia
When Yi, a teenage girl, discovers a young Yeti on the roof of her apartment building in Shanghai, she and her friends embark on a quest to reunite the creature with his family. Their journey takes them to the highest place on earth, the Himalayan Mountains.
Kids Movies Set in Oceania
12. Finding Nemo
When Nemo, a clownfish is taken from his home on the Great Barrier Reef, Australia, his father, Marlin will stop at nothing to find him. In Finding Nemo, Marlin teams up with Dory, a Pacific Blue tang fish with short-term memory issues, and the two go on the adventure of a lifetime to Sydney.
13. Whale Rider
Whale Rider is the story of, Pai, an 11-year-old girl whose part of a Maori tribe in New Zealand. Only firstborn males are allowed to be chiefs in the tribe. Pai believes she should be the new chief. Her grandfather feels bound by tradition to overlook her and pick a male leader. Pai enlists the help of her grandmother to help her learn the customs of her people, so she can take her place as the leader of their village.
Kids Movies Set in Antartica
14. Happy Feet
Happy Feet is a story of Mumble, a young Emperor Penguin that lives in Antarctica. Like other penguins like him, he needs to be able to sing to attract his soul mate, but Mumble has a horrible singing voice. But instead of singing, Mumble has an amazing talent for tap-dancing. Then the colony has difficulty finding fish, the elders blame the young bird. Mumble decides to leave his colony to find the real source for the food shortage. This musical is cute and highlights some of the wildlife that lives in Antarctica.
Kids Movies with Fantasy Destinations
15. Black Panther
Marvel Studios Black Panther starts off with Prince T’Challa having to return home to take his rightful place as king after his father is killed. But a powerful enemy resurfaces and challenges T’Challa’s right to be the Black Panther. The story is riveting, but this movie offers so much more than superhero action. Black Panther takes us on a trip to the African nation of Wakanda, a technologically advanced, ultra-melanated utopia. Wakanda is so cool, that if it were real, I’m sure it would be a top international destination.
16. Big Hero 6
Big Hero 6 is the story of Hiro, a 14-year-old robotics nerd. When Hiro discovers an inflatable healthcare robot Baymax after his brother passes away, he transforms his friends into a group of high-tech heroes called “Big Hero 6.” The group works together to uncover a mystery.
Your family can enjoy far-flung adventures from the comfort of home with these kid movies that inspire wanderlust.
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