Often, we look to movies and television to see our own experiences reflected back to us in a way that feels poignant and accurate. The seven films outlined below contain a multitude of perspectives that can help prepare you for the emotional roller coaster that is studying abroad. If you find yourself purchasing a dilapidated Italian villa, or becoming involved with a tortured artist who is also involved with your best friend and his ex-wife, or being controlled by a rat that has hidden himself in your chef hat, these stories can shine a light on your truth.
“Taken” (stream on Amazon Prime)
Honestly, host a family movie night with your parents for this one. It’s full of helpful tricks about traveling, such as: have a retired CIA agent dad, and avoid following U2 on tour. It also might be helpful for your parents to memorize Liam Neeson’s “particular set of skills” monologue. Hopefully it doesn’t prove useful, but in case you need it, it’s the international standard for vengeful threats.
“Ratatouille” (stream on Amazon Prime)
As the most prominent example of the classic rat-turned-gourmet-chef-in-spite-of -discrimination trope, “Ratatouille” is a must-see for any self-respecting Francophile. While foreign cinema can seem pretentious or inaccessible, “Ratatouille” is the rare Pixar film that has mass appeal and a heart of gold.
“Vicky Cristina Barcelona” (stream on Amazon Prime)
Work through your complicated feelings about Woody Allen and his body of work with this romp through Barcelona starring Javier Bardem, Penelope Cruz and Scarlett Johansson. Sure, you’ll barely be able to watch the film without Googling “Dylan Farrow interview” or “Woody Allen and Soon-Yi,” but at least you’ll get a taste of that famous Spanish architecture.
“Under the Tuscan Sun” (steam on Amazon Prime)
Think “Something’s Gotta Give” but in Italy. A divorced writer, played by Diane Lane, purchases a Tuscan villa hoping to become inspired and finds herself embracing and enjoying this new chapter in her life. This is super relatable for students studying abroad, especially the part about buying a villa in Tuscany on a whim.
“Before Sunrise” (stream on Amazon Prime)
Disclaimer — this particular Paris-set movie will give you such lofty expectations for romance (and conversation) that it may ruin your life. But even then, it would be worth it. Giving new meaning to the term “slow burn,” “Before Sunrise” is so enjoyable it spawned two sequels and currently enjoys a 100-percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
“Call Me By Your Name” (in theaters)
Come for the beautiful Italian landscapes; stay for Armie Hammer in a bathing suit! Or stay for the sex scene involving Timothée Chalamet and a certain stone fruit. Or Armie Hammer in a different bathing suit! Or the Oscar-nominated soundtrack! Or Timothée Chalamet in a bathing suit!
“The Hunchback of Notre Dame” (stream on Amazon Prime)
Maybe if you play your cards right, you too could inspire a disfigured man living in an old cathedral! Or YOU could be the person living in the cathedral, with only gargoyles to keep you company. Both scenarios are equally likely, in that, they will almost certainly happen.