Weekend Reccos | Pop Culture Picks on Adventure & Travel

Team NGTI cherry-picks movies and books rooted in travel and adventure.  
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Photo by: Jimmy Chin/ National Geographic Magazine

For our December’s recommendation list we’ve gone ahead and selected a theme to spur you into action in the coming year—adventure. Check out a spine-chilling documentary about a determined free solo climber or battle orcs and goblins through J. R. R. Tolkien’s fantastical Lord of the Rings trilogy. Let your imagination run wild like Walter Mitty, and perhaps your daydreams will turn into adventures so wild even you couldn’t dream them up.

Free Solo

American climber Alex Honnold isn’t your everyday guy. After all, he climbed the world’s most legendary monolith, the 3,000-foot El Capitan in Yosemite National Park in 2017—without a rope. This National Geographic documentary is a window into the man, his punishing training regimen, and all that motivates him to dance with death. The most tender parts of the film surface when we meet his girlfriend, who agonises each time he nears his next climb. Free Solo also explores the complicated connection between Honnold and the camera crew. What if he falls and dies, and they’re the one to have it on film?

–Kareena Gianani

The Secret Life of Walter Mitty

What’s so interesting about Walter Mitty’s life? Nothing. He leads a monotonous life having worked 16 years as a manager at a magazine and hasn’t been anywhere worth mentioning. But step into his daydreams, and find a Walter whose life is a string of escapades filled with heroism, romance and action. However, when his job is threatened, he embarks on a quest that is far more extraordinary than his fantasies. He jumps off a helicopter and dives into a shark-circling sea, skateboards down an Icelandic mountain, and narrowly escapes a volcanic eruption, to name a few of his real adventures.

–Pooja Naik

Pirates of the Caribbean

“Yo ho ho and a bottle of rum!”

If swashbuckling pirates sailing from one daring adventure to another excite you, then look no further than the Pirates of the Caribbean. Start with the Curse of the Black Pearl and follow pirate Jack Sparrow and blacksmith Will Turner as they navigate the Caribbean seas to break an Aztec curse and rescue Elizabeth Swann, a damsel-not-so-much-in-distress. What better way to journey into the turn of the 19th century than with boatloads of tongue-in-cheek humour, handsome pirates (Johnny Depp!), the white, sandy beaches of Saint Vincent, all accompanied by the capricious open seas.

–Lubna Amir

Wild (book adapted into a movie)

Cheryl (Reese Witherspoon), reeling from self-destructive behaviour set off by the loss of her mother and the unravelling of her marriage, sets out solo into 1,100 miles (1,770 kilometres) of wilderness along the forbidding Pacific Crest Trail. Replenished each morning by cold can-food, stray bits of poetry and a clawing desire for resurrection, Strayed makes her way into the unknown. Trail life throws at her goofy college campers, lecherous men, a lost llama and its boy keeper, and eventually, the path back to her pre-loss, pre-heartbreak self. A brusque path, beautiful in its meditation of ferns and wildflowers—much like this brusque and beautiful life.

–Sohini Das Gupta


The Lord of the Rings Trilogy

The quest to destroy the dark lord Sauron’s ring sends the residents of J.R.R. Tolkien’s Middle Earth on the ultimate adventure. Our heroes make a myriad of journeys across the fantastical maps of the Lord of the Rings series. Travel with the Fellowship as they try to escape the towers of Isengard, brave the icy channels of the Mines of Moria, find magic in the house of Elves at Rivendell, fortify the idyllic grasslands of Rohan and hold court in Gondor, all the while battling Sauron’s army and inching closer to the fiery pits of Mordor.

–Sanjana Ray

The Lost World

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle may be best known for his creation of the Sherlock Holmes series, but he also penned The Lost World, a brilliant sci-fi novel that was later adapted into the first of the Jurassic Park series, albeit with a much altered plot line. If you’re looking for adventure, this novel has it. A recently dumped writer leaves London with a pugilistic explorer, Professor Charles, on a voyage into the heart of the Amazon in search of prehistoric life. There he discovers that even when faced with the might of dinosaurs, homosapiens remain the most dangerous species.

–Julian Manning

The Lost City Of Z

Author David Grann’s narrative centres on ‘Z’, a fabled ancient city buried in the Amazon’s uncharted greens, which per some legends was inhabited by white-skinned Indians and warriors with one-eyed chests. ‘Z’ was a particular fascination of British explorer Lord Percy Fawcett, whose towering persona could make Indiana Jones look like a bumbling amateur. In 1925, Fawcett travelled to the Amazon with his son and never returned. His disappearance spawned similarly perilous expeditions and eventually piqued Grann’s curiosity, who reconstructs the mystery clue-by-clue in this book, building up to a nail-biting finish in the jungle, right where Fawcett left off.

–Lakshmi Sankaran

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