Slide Shows

Turistas, go home: Americans in trouble abroad

With "The Hangover Part II" coming out, we look back at some of the scariest movies about dumb tourists

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    1. “The Beach”

    Synopsis: Globe-trotting teen Leonardo DiCaprio travels to a mythical island off the coast of Thailand with an unlimited supply of marijuana. He finds out about “the beach” after finding a map left by a crazy guy who commits suicide shortly after meeting him. Turns out magical marijuana does not grow on trees, but by not-so-magical marijuana farmers. With guns. And a sort of “Hotel California” attitude toward anyone checking into paradise.

    Takeaway: Southeast Asian drug lords are scary. Don’t entrust your life to chicks you meet while backpacking.

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    2. “Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason”

    Synopsis: Bridget takes a trip to Thailand with her best girlfriend Shazzer after breaking up with Mark Darcy. On the way home, Bridget is stopped at the airport when it’s discovered that Shazzer’s memento from the holiday (which Bridget agreed to put in her own bag, like a very smart woman) turns out to be filled with cocaine. Bridget spends the rest of the movie in a Thai prison, teaching the girls about self-esteem and Madonna, until Mark bails her out.

    Takeaway: Thai prisons may seem scary at first, but they are a great way to lose weight and make friends for life!

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    3. “Transsiberian”

    Synopsis: Woody Harrelson and Emily Mortimer are traveling back from their missionary work in China to Russia by way of train, even though it is the 21st century. While sharing a car with a friendly couple, Carlos and Abbey, Woody somehow disappears and Carlos tries to rape Emily, who then kills him. Whoops! Turns out Carlos and Abbey were cocaine-smugglers for the mafia, and now cop/bad guy Ben Kingsley wants his drugs and money back! High jinks ensue, and there is a train collision (naturally), as well as the common “drugs hidden in little Russian dolls” trick.

    Takeaway: Overly friendly couples in foreign countries are to be avoided, especially if they are constantly chain-smoking and rubbing their noses. Also? Don’t take trains across country borders if there’s even a chance you’re holding.

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    4. “Return to Paradise”

    Synopsis: After a hedonistic jaunt in Malaysia, best friends Vince Vaughn, Joaquin Phoenix and some other guys decide it’s time to quit dicking around and get on with their lives. Vince goes back to New York and Joaquin goes to save the gorillas. Two years later, Vince finds out Joaquin’s actually been imprisoned for all the hash found at their former party home, and has gone insane in a Malaysian jail. Vince is convinced by a pretty Anne Heche to go back to the country and take partial responsibility in order to lessen his friend’s sentence, but instead a Malaysian judge orders Joaquin to be executed and Vince to be thrown in jail. There’s an upbeat ending, though: Due to some last-minute deus ex machina involving America-Malaysia relations, Vince is told there is a good chance he will not be killed, and will only have to spend half a year in torture-prison.

    Takeaway: Apparently it’s just as bad to leave drugs behind in Southeast Asian countries as it is to try to smuggle them out. So if you have to score from the locals, make sure you finish it all up before your return flight home. Also, don’t try using the “But I’m an American!” line on officials from other countries. It has literally never worked in a film.

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    5. “Midnight Express”

    Synopsis: Based on the true story of Billy Hayes, in which Brad Davis plays an American attempting to leave Turkey with kilos of hash taped to his body. Then he tries to run away from the cops after he’s arrested at the airport. Sentenced to 30 years in a Turkish jail that makes the one from “Return to Paradise” look like a Holiday Inn, Davis goes insane after only five years, almost gets raped by a guard, and then pulls the old “kill a dude and take his uniform” maneuver to just walk out the front door.

    Takeaway: This movie is basically a “what not to do while traveling abroad” list, although screenwriter Oliver Stone also learned that you shouldn’t portray Turkey as a country full of sadists, because everyone will call you racist. Better to stick to the Southeast Asian countries.

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    6. “Hostel”

    Synopsis: Fratty brosephs partying in Europe are lured to a small town outside Bratislava, Slovakia, with promises of a youth hostel that resembles the Playboy mansion. It’s all fun and Ecstasy raves until the boys realize that they’re being picked off one by one and sold to rich men who get their kicks torturing bratty tourists to death in dungeons.

    Takeaway: Do not hand your passport over to creepy front-desk clerks. Do not trust overly sexy women with accents like James Bond villains. Do not be loud American tourists who yell about wanting to get laid all the time. And if something seems too good to be true — like a bunch of hot chicks just lounging around an abandoned town in the middle of the Slovak Republic — it’s a good sign that you’re about to be torture-porned to death.

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    7. “Brokedown Palace”

    Synopsis: Claire Danes and Kate Beckinsale are best friends on vacation in Thailand (first mistake). They also tell their parents they’re going to Hawaii (second mistake). Then they dip out of a fancy hotel without paying the bill (third), and meet a handsome Australian guy who just so happens to want the girls to travel with him to China (fourth, fifth). To the surprise of no one who has seen any of the above movies, the girls are caught with bundles of heroin that they don’t remember packing, and are put in Thai prison. It’s not as fun as the one in “Bridget Jones.” Bill Pullman takes their case, and there’s a lot of intrigue and conspiracy, as well as a total lack of an American embassy. Eventually Danes takes the blame for both of them so Beckinsale won’t kill herself in jail. The end?

    Takeaway: Same as most of these other ones: Don’t trust hot members of the opposite sex while traveling abroad; don’t let anyone else touch your bags; don’t think that being an American will do jack shit in a country where you don’t understand the language and don’t care to. On a side note, I’ve always wondered why these smugglers don’t find a better system than oblivious American drug mule, because it seems like these women always get caught. Isn’t that just a waste of your drugs?

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    8. “The Kid From Spain”

    Synopsis: The first film on this list that doesn’t end in tragedy, this 1930s caper involves two hard-partying college students fleeing to the border into Mexico after being coerced into a bank robbery. With the police still on their tails, Eddie Cantor pretends to be a famous bullfighter from Spain and ends up getting involved with the local mafia while still ducking an American copper. Also, he falls in love and kills a bull, so everything works out in the end.

    Takeaway: When hiding from American authorities in Mexico, the best places to go are public arenas or the dens of known criminals. See also: “The Mexican,” “Once Upon a Time in Mexico” and “Touch of Evil.”

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    9. “Frantic”

    Synopsis: The odd duck on this list, as it features neither arrogant American teenagers nor rampant drug use by the main characters (as well as taking place in a relatively well-known European country), Roman Polanski’s thriller still deserves a spot for causing the most tourist anxiety in modern film history. After arriving at their French hotel, Dr. Harrison Ford and his wife realize she’s picked up the wrong suitcase at the airport, which we all know is never, ever a good sign. Instead of drugs, though, the suitcase contains a mini Statue of Liberty with a piece of krytron inside of it, which Ford only finds out once his wife goes missing and he has to enlist a prostitute/smuggler to get her back from terrorists. Ford must fight disbelieving American Embassy officials, the French police system, Israeli militants and Arab kidnappers in order to get his wife back. Which he does, because he’s Harrison Ford.

    Takeaway: Even in a relatively “safe” city like Paris, being a foreigner who doesn’t know the language can lead to some nasty situations. Another reminder to watch your luggage at all times, and to always stick together, even if that means going to the bathroom together. You’re much less likely to be picked off that way.

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    10. “An American Werewolf in London”

    Synopsis: David and Jack are backpacking through England and decide to take a midnight stroll down an abandoned road in the middle of the boonies. (Or whatever you call the boonies in England. The moors?) The boys are attacked and Jack is killed; David wakes up in a hospital to find that he’s haunted by the decaying, wisecracking corpse of his former friend, who tells him to kill himself before the next full moon. Instead, David moves in with a hot British nurse and starts moonlighting as a wolf-beast. Eventually the police shoot him and he returns to human form.

    Takeaway: So even if you speak the language, don’t do drugs and stay in pairs, you probably still shouldn’t be running around at night in desolate, woody areas.