If the charm and beauty of a tropical paradise like Bali can’t get you off your couch then hopefully one of the many artists, writers, or filmmakers can influence you by using their creative powers to tell stories about this small Indonesian island. Whether through their movies, music, or art, here are the best Bali-inspired films to watch before visiting to educate you about the island’s culture, history, or serve you as a compass throughout your stay. So, grab your bucket of popcorn, a map, a notebook, a pen, and get ready for an adventure of a lifetime.
1. The Fall (2006)
A stuntman Roy Walker (Lee Pace) is hospitalized for a filming injury in a Los Angeles hospital when he meets Alexandria (Cantica Untaru), who is recovering from her own injury. While Roy tells his personal travel adventures from around the world, Alexandrea begins to have a liking for Roy, which dominates the storyline throughout the entire movie. Director Tarsem Singh shows some of the planet’s most exotic spots, including Bali’s Mount Kawi Temple, Tegallalang Rice Terraces, and the Balinese Kecak dance.
2. The Endless Summer 2 (1994)
Follows surfers Robert Weaver and Patrick O’Connell on their epic surfing documentary/ adventure along with Director Bruce Brown, who also created the original The Endless Summer thirty years earlier. Bali is featured, as one of the best-surfing destinations in the world, and the film captures beautiful beaches, rural villages, and Bali’s true lifestyle.
3. Ring of Fire: An Indonesian Odyssey (1999)
This is a must-watch film whether you’re planning to visit Bali or not. This five-part documentary captures the Indonesian archipelago perfectly, including Bali. Join the creators Lorne and Lawrence Blair, while they bravely go where no outsiders have gone before. A journey of two brothers that lasted 10 years experiencing firsthand the multitude of different cultures throughout Indonesia.
4. Toute La Beauté du Monde (2006)
This French movie was filmed in two of Indonesia’s most beautiful spots: Bali and its sister island Lombok which is why the title translates to “All the beauty of the world”. The movie is about a French woman who travels to Bali after her husband’s death. Love eventually enters her life once again which takes place in some of the same exact tourist destinations in Seminyak and Tanah Lot.
5. EAT PRAY LOVE (2010)
If you’re looking for a spiritual experience like Elizabeth Gilbert (Julia Roberts) did while seeing a medicine man for some future enlightenment then come join the many yogis, vegans, and free-spirited expats that have settled in Ubud. Elizabeth Gilbert had everything a woman wanted –husband, house, successful career – but she still found herself lost and not very happy. After a divorce, she decides to find herself like so many other expats around the world. Join her on her journey as she discovers new passions, inner peace, balance, and love in Indonesia.
6. Bali Is My Life (2012)
A story that demonstrates the power of humanity and the ripple effect started by one man trading his materialistic western life for a life of helping others at a small village in Ubud. This inspiring documentary is produced by the people of Bali, motivated by respect and care for the island’s culture and ecosystems. Enjoy the picturesque scenery, Hindu temple ceremonies, and humanitarians that bring warmth and life to this film. If this 10-minute documentary doesn’t change the way you think about the tourism industry, hopefully, it will plant a seed within you, in hopes you might do one thing differently. Even small ripples make a difference. Films like this are a gift, a reminder to humanity.
7. Bali: Heaven and Hell (2014)
Besides the stunning landscapes of Bali, this 24-minute documentary portrays both sides of the island, the good, the bad, and the ugly. Starting with scenes of the 2002 bombings and continuing throughout the film with historical events which were written in a book by Phil Jaratt. The cinematography will show both the new and the old Bali to give you an idea of the rapid growth that took place in Bali. You will not find sugarcoating in this film nor a false depiction of its character but rather the true colors of its people who have nothing but hope and love for the Island of The Gods they call home.
8. The More Things Change (2017)
American surfer, journalist, and actor Gerry Lopez focuses on one of Bali’s most popular surfing spots, Uluwatu, recalling when he first surfed there in 1974, his good memories bring him back to the same surf scene 40 years later. This time he experiences a very different Uluwatu which he tells his story throughout the film. Produced in collaboration with local NGO Project Clean Uluwatu, the documentary highlights a plan to improve the local community. If you’re planning to visit, this documentary will provide some important context and conservation concerns that will hopefully inspire you to become a selfless adventurer. Most tourists coming are not aware of their own impact they have while playing in someone else’s playground. Covering social, spiritual, cultural and tourism aspects. Be prepared to pack your bags and catch your first flight to Bali right after watching this documentary.
By: Gerald Winik