Book a Ride on the These Trains Made Famous on the Big Screen

These cinematic trains have made appearances in all kinds of flicks, from Westerns to zombie movies.

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From the Hitchcock classic North by Northwest to David Leitch’s 2022 film Bullet Train, railway cinema has captivated audiences for decades. There’s something utterly romantic about those old-fashioned choo choos—with their gusty steam engines, long corridors, and well-dressed porters—that provide the perfect setting for love stories and murder mysteries alike. Or, if the train just so happens to be a sleek, high-speed railway á la Snowpiercer, it might just lend itself to a plot that’s far more dystopian.

If you’ve ever dreamed of boarding a train straight out of a film, chances are, that train actually exists—and if it doesn’t, there’s probably a real one that comes pretty close. So whether you’re looking to channel the magic of the Hogwarts Express or finesse a Before Sunrise-style meet-cute on your way to Vienna, here are the most cinematic trains across the globe, along with tips for scoring a cabin.

venice simplon orient express luxurious train cabin
Venice Simplon-Orient-Express

Murder on the Orient Express: Venice Simplon-Orient-Express

As far as cinematic trains go, the Orient Express is the blueprint. In 1882, Georges Nagelmackers, motivated by the romantic idea of uniting the East and West, launched a train service that would eventually become synonymous with Old World glamour and intrigue. The locomotive has provided a backdrop for Agatha Christie’s 1934 novel Murder on the Orient Express and Ian Fleming’s 1957 Bond story From Russia With Love, both of which were adapted into films. The historic Orient Express harkens back to a golden age of travel—so much so that two luxury hospitality companies are competing to recreate it. Belmond’s Venice Simplon-Orient-Express has been operating since 1982, whisking passengers from Paris to Istanbul in restored vintage carriages, while Accor will debut their version in 2024, just in time for the Paris Olympics.

How to Book: While the Venice Simplon-Orient-Express typically offers the five-night journey between Paris and Istanbul once a year, they’ll be adding a second rotation in 2024. Tickets are now on sale for May, but consider this a bucket list journey: Cabins start at $19k.

Before Sunrise: ÖBB Railjet

In Before Sunrise (1995), Jesse and Céline set a precedent for railway roulette: What would happen if you struck up a conversation with a stranger on a train, and decided to spontaneously disembark on a European adventure? It’s the chance encounter that’s created an entire genre of travel stories, and if you’re looking to recreate that movie magic—or shoot your shot—ÖBB, Austria’s national railway company, offers that very route from Budapest to Vienna. If you opt for the Railjet bullet train, you’ll have the opportunity to make multiple stops on international routes between Germany, Austria, Hungary, and the Czech Republic, to name a few, and thus increase your chances of finding love.

How to Book: An economy ticket (keep in mind it was a couple’s noisy quarrel that brought Jesse and Céline’s together) on the Railjet high-speed train starts at $32. The Budapest to Vienna train schedule serves 8 departures per day.

darjeeling himalayan railway passing through mist-covered garden
Memories Over Mocha/Shutterstock

The Darjeeling Limited: Darjeeling Himalayan Railway

While there’s no real Darjeeling Limited, The Darjeeling Himalayan Railway is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and what some might call “accidentally Wes Anderson.” The narrow gauge steam railway, established in 1881 to expedite the shipping of goods between the hills of Darjeeling and the plains, runs between New Jalpaiguri and Darjeeling. Nicknamed the “Toy Train,” it’s a real feat of engineering, making use of zigzag reverses and loops to ascend the Himalayas. Take in the stunning views of the mist-covered mountains and you’ll understand why Wes Anderson sent those three brothers to this neck of the woods for a spiritual journey.

How to Book: Choose between the “Darjeeling Mail” route from New Jalpaiguri to Kurseong and Darjeeling or the “Joy Train” from Darjeeling to Ghum and back, both of which are offered daily. Tickets can be booked online, or in person at the DHR stations of Darjeeling, Ghum, Kurseong, New Jalpaiguri or Siliguri Junction. They start at around $12, and entry to the DHR Railway Museum is included in the fare.

In the 2006 film Casino Royale, James Bond meets Vesper Lynd for the first time on the train to Montenegro, and what ensues is an undeniably iconic tête-á-tête. If you’re interested in recreating the scene, hop aboard the Pendolino tilting train of Czech Railways. The train doesn’t actually go to Montenegro, instead operating on the Czech main line between Prague and Ostrava, Bratislava, and Vienna. But if you’re on the hunt for more of the movie’s locations, stop by the Mill Colonnade in Karlovy Vary, which serves as the train station where Bond and Vesper arrive.

How to Book: Tickets for the route between Ostrava and Prague start at around $10, so you might want to splurge on first class. You’ll receive a small refreshment and a daily newspaper. We can’t promise, however, that the bistro carriage will offer “skewered lamb.”

jacobite steam train passing over glenfinnan viaduct
Nick Fox/Shutterstock

Platform 9 and ¾ might not exist, but the Hogwarts Express does. Some of the carriages of the Jacobite Train in the Scottish Highlands, known as one of the greatest railway journeys in the world, are used in the Harry Potter films. Perhaps even more iconic, though, is the sweeping scenery of the Glenfinnan Viaduct, which the train passes through in the movies—particularly in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, when Ron and Harry take a flying car to Hogwarts, swooping in and out of its arches. On the 84-mile journey, you’ll encounter sweeping scenery, like the highest mountain in Britain (Ben Nevis), pause on the viaduct for a photo opp, then end the trip at the charming fishing village of Maillain, nestled between Loch Morar and Loch Nevis.

How to Book: In 2024, the Jacobite will run from March to October, operating seven days a week, with morning and afternoon services. Round-trip tickets start at $82 and you can start purchasing them online now.

Train to Busan: KTX High Speed Train

Yeon Sang-ho’s 2016 Train to Busan proves just how well sliding train cars can move the plot forward—and in this case, that plot is a zombie apocalypse. There’s something eerily sanitized about high-speed bullet trains, which Sang-ho uses as a foil against the hordes of reanimated corpses. But don’t let the paranormal potential stop you: the KTX 101 train from Seoul to Busan is an excellent example of how advanced South Korea’s train systems are. This ride in particular will connect you from the north to the south of the country in less than three hours. As you ride the Gyeongbu Line, you’ll stop at some of the biggest cities in the country—Suwon, Daejon, and Daegu—all while enjoying scenic green mountains and super-fast WiFi.

How to Book: Economy tickets start at $79, while first class tickets go for around $111. Be sure to book online a few months in advance, especially if you plan to travel on a weekend or over the summer, as tickets sell quickly.

durango and silverton narrow gauge railroad passing through scenic tracks

Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid: Durango and Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad

The Durango and Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad in Colorado is the Western movie train, appearing in flicks like Run for Cover (1955), Around the World in 80 Days (1956), and How the West Was Won (1963). But perhaps most popular is its appearance in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969), which follows two outlaws on the run after a string of train robberies. Founded by the Denver & Rio Grande Railway in 1880, the narrow gauge railroad was originally constructed to haul gold and silver from the San Juan Mountains. Now it serves as a tourist attraction, chugging through the Cascade Canyon, Animas River, and San Juan Mountains.

How to Book: Tickets are now on sale for the Winter Excursion experience, which takes you to the snow-covered peaks of the Rocky Mountains as you enjoy the comfort of heated coaches. They start at $89.

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Jessica Sulima is a staff writer on the Travel team at Thrillist. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram