Based on the non-fiction book ‘Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century’ by Jessica Bruder, ‘Nomadland’ is a neo-Western travel drama film directed and written by Chloé Zhao. The film is the story of Fern, a woman, who after losing her job, decides to sell all her belongings and purchases a van to live in and travel around the country. On her travels, Fern makes new friends, learns how to survive on the road, and truly embraces the nomadic lifestyle. It stars Frances McDormand in the lead role. Real-life nomads Linda May, Swankie, and Bob Wells also appear as fictionalized versions of themselves.
The film is co-produced by Zhao and McDormand (amongst others) and has received rave reviews from critics. McDormand’s captivating performance and Zhao’s direction and screenplay have been particularly praised. The film has also earned four Golden Globe nominations. We have put together a list of similar films that will take you on a personal and moving journey. You can watch most of these movies like ‘Nomadland’ on Netflix, Hulu, or Amazon Prime.
5. On the Road (2012)
Based on the seminal novel of the same name written by Jack Kerouac, ‘On the Road,’ directed by Walter Salles, features an ensemble cast with the likes of Garrett Hedlund, Sam Riley, Kristen Stewart, Alice Braga, Amy Adams, Tom Sturridge, Danny Morgan, Elisabeth Moss, Kirsten Dunst, and Viggo Mortensen. The film is a fictionalized account of Kerouac’s travels across the United States (along with his friends) and combines elements of spiritual and sexual liberation.
Garrett Hedlund as Dean Moriarty and Eric Gautier’s cinematography are the highlights of the film that brilliantly captures the many facets of the young generation in 1940s America. The Beat Generation, who are the inspiration behind the film, themselves lived a somewhat nomadic lifestyle, which makes the movie quite similar to ‘Nomadland.’
4. Into the Wild (2007)
Directed by Sean Penn, ‘Into the Wild’ is a biographical adventure drama film adapted from the novel of the same name written by Jon Krakauer. It tells the story of Christopher McCandless, who decides to abandon his comfortable life and donates all his savings to charity so as to journey to the Alaskan wilderness. On the road, he has new experiences and encounters people that change his life.
The film stars Emile Hirsch as McCandless; it also features Marcia Gay Harden, William Hurt, Jena Malone, Catherine Keener, Brian Dierker, Vince Vaughn, Kristen Stewart, and Hal Holbrook. The film earned two Academy Award nominations and depicts a journey of self-realization and discovering true happiness. It is noteworthy for the performances of Hirsch and Holbrook and Penn’s direction. Both ‘Nomadland’ and ‘Into the Wild’ feature lead characters that have turned their back on society and seek answers to the questions of life that make them restless.
3. One Week (2008)
‘One Week’ is a Canadian drama film directed by Michael McGowan and tells the story of an elementary school teacher, Ben, who is diagnosed with stage IV cancer. Instead of seeking medical treatment, he embarks on a week-long motorcycle journey to discover the meaning of life. His journey helps him reevaluate many key aspects of his life, including his relationship with his fiancée, his job, and his dream of becoming a writer.
It stars Joshua Jackson, Liane Balaban, and Campbell Scott. The film beautifully captures the inner turmoil of the lead character and is set against the backdrop of the quiet Canadian countryside. ‘One Week’ shares the idea of meeting new people that change your perspective on life with ‘Nomadland’, and the locations featured in the film are reminiscent of the American West, earning this movie a spot on our list.
2. The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (2013)
Ben Stiller has directed the adventure-drama film, ‘The Secret Life of Walter Mitty.’ Stiller also stars as the eponymous character alongside Kristen Wiig, Shirley MacLaine, Adam Scott, Kathryn Hahn, and Sean Penn. It tells the story of a daydreaming everyman who works as a negative assets manager at Life magazine. After he loses an important photonegative, he sets out to retrieve it, and what seems a simple task turns into an adventure of a lifetime that helps Mitty realize his self-worth. Featuring strong travel elements, the film is a deep character study akin to ‘Nomadland.’
1. Wild (2014)
‘Wild‘ is a biographical adventure-drama film directed by Jean-Marc Vallée and is based on Cheryl Strayed’s memoir of the same name. The film stars Reese Witherspoon as Strayed alongside Laura Dern, Thomas Sadoski, Michiel Huisman, and Gaby Hoffmann. It tells the story of Cheryl, who undertakes a challenging hiking trip after suffering from a personal loss, and how it helps her to heal from her troubled past and rediscover herself. The film is an honest and heartwarming tale of grit, determination, and self-discovery. Both Cheryl from ‘Wild’ and Fern from ‘Nomadland’ are characters reeling from personal loss, trying to discover themselves and embrace a new way of life.
Read More: Best Frances McDormand Movies and TV Shows