The Absolute Best International Movie Theaters Worth Traveling For, According To Travelers

With the right seat, the right snacks, and the right company, even the worst film in the world can feel like a solid 10. There's a reason why we love going to the movies. Immersing yourself in a cinematic world is much easier when your sole focus is the screen — and when you're in a theater designed for pure escapism.

While your standard AMC or Regal gets the job done, there's something special about watching the latest box office release or a cult classic in style. Fortunately, there are dozens of impressive theaters dotted across the globe. Some focus on luxury while others are all about novelty, technology, or celebrating Hollywood history.

Whatever you're looking for, we've scoured the internet to find the movie theaters travelers love visiting most. If you're a film buff on the move anytime soon, these are the 13 destinations you may want to add to your itinerary.

Raj Mandir Cinema - Jaipur, India

Since opening in 1976, this meringue-shaped theater has become a symbol of Jaipur. Raj Mandir Cinema is known for its over-the-top opulent decor — courtesy of Jaipur jewelry house The Bhuramal Rajmal Surana group, which also operates the theater — and regularly hosts premieres of Bollywood films. In fact, Raj Mandir Cinema exclusively screens Bollywood films in Hindi, meaning visitors shouldn't expect to catch the latest Marvel release or Hollywood blockbuster at the theater.

The chandelier-laden lobby is the biggest showstopper, even attracting non-moviegoers hoping to snap a quick picture of the iconic, palatial space. However, the luxury continues once the film begins. Floral scents are pumped through the theater at all times. The theater itself is designed to seat over 1,200 people at a time, making it one of the biggest auditoriums in Asia. Despite its sheer size, visitors are recommended to purchase their tickets early in the morning due to regularly overwhelming demand.

Museum Lichtspiele - Munich, Germany

Munich's oldest operating movie theater shows all the regular releases on its four tiny, vintage-looking screens. Its cozy auditoriums come complete with a handful of Renaissance-style statues, ornate curtains, and elaborate paintwork, making it feel more like you're snuggling up in a magnificent living room than a movie theater.

Museum Lichtspiele is best known for its weekly screening of "Rocky Horror Picture Show." Every Friday and Saturday at 11 p.m., visitors file into Museum Lichtspiele to watch the 1975 horror musical. Screenings are more like a mini-party than a traditional cinema experience. Guests are provided with rice to throw in the film's opening wedding scene, as well as rubber gloves to snap in time with Tim Curry's Dr Frank-N-Furter. They were once also given sparklers (although these have since sensibly been cut and replaced with glow sticks due to fire concerns). The auditorium is specially decorated for the occasion and attendees often come dressed up, too. Nearly 50 years after the film's release, these screenings still regularly sell out and reportedly provide one of the theater's most reliable sources of income.

Cinema Dei Piccoli - Rome, Italy

The former smallest movie theater in the world is nestled in Rome's idyllic Villa Borghese Gardens. Cinema Dei Piccoli sits amid the park's lush green landscape and seats just 63 people at a time. Since 1934, the small, green, chalet-style theater has been primarily dedicated to showing children's films in Italian, hence its local nickname of "Casa di Topolino" (The House of Mickey Mouse).

By night, anyone can catch a film. Again, don't expect to watch any of the latest blockbusters — the majority of those shown are European independent films, and they're all shown in their original language (albeit with Italian subtitles). Tickets are much more affordable than your average theater, costing €6.50 for weekdays and €7.50 over peak periods. However, if you don't want to stop by to watch a film, it's still worth making a detour to see the adorable theater en route to Bioparco di Roma or Tempio di Esculapio.

TCL Chinese Theatre - Los Angeles, United States

Considering that Hollywood is the hub of all things film, it means a lot to be considered its most famous theater. TCL Chinese Theatre opened as Grauman's Chinese Theatre in 1927 and has hosted numerous historic movie premieres beneath its iconic colorful archway over the years, including "Star Wars" in 1977 and "The Wizard of Oz" in 1939.

As it approaches its 100th anniversary, it still occasionally hosts premieres and operates as a normal movie theater throughout the day. However, it's best known for its growing collection of celebrity handprints, footprints, and autographs in the cement of the Forecourt of Stars outside its entrance. Film fans can spot indentations from the likes of The Avengers, Harrison Ford, Julie Andrews, the "Harry Potter" cast, and even Donald Duck.

As it's located on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, the TCL Chinese Theatre inevitably gets crowded and is almost guaranteed to be hectic no matter what time of day or year you visit. It's worth arranging a tour if you really want to delve into the theater's star-studded past: These last for 30 minutes and will get you up close and personal with Hollywood's Movie Palace. Alternatively, you can find a decent replica of the theater at Disney World's Hollywood Studios, although you'll only find a Mickey Mouse ride inside that one instead of a slice of Hollywood history.

Electric Cinema - London, UK

Today, London is home to two Electric Cinemas. However, the original on Portobello Road remains its most impressive. First opened in 1911, this vintage cinema was one of the first purpose-built theaters in the United Kingdom and has a rich history that's worthy of a film in and of itself. Electric Cinema has survived two world wars (during the first of which it was attacked by a mob that mistakenly believed the theater was helping Germany), a bombing, and a massive fire to maintain its reputation as one of the most aesthetically pleasing movie theaters in the world.

While Electric Cinema typically shows the same films as your local multiplex, that's the only similarity between the two. For one thing, Electric Cinema's snack offerings put all other theaters to shame. Not only can you have cocktails, wine, or even champagne brought directly to your seat, but the cinema has an adjacent restaurant — Electric Diner — where you can enjoy 50% off your meal at certain times if you show a valid same-day Electric Cinema Portobello ticket. The biggest difference, however, is that you'll enjoy the film from plush velvet armchairs, sofas, or beds. Pure luxury.

Cine Thisio - Athens, Greece

The oldest operating movie theater in Athens has what is possibly the best off-screen view of any theater in the world. Open every spring and summer since 1935 (except for a break during World War II), Cine Thisio sits outdoors underneath the awe-inspiring ancient Acropolis in Greece. It typically opens up to patrons from May to October and offers tickets for as little as €6.50 to enjoy both recent hits and time-old classics. These are all hand-picked by the theater's operators, who prioritize the films they know their audience will love.

Tickets can't be booked in advance, meaning it's first come, first served, so it's best to arrive early. Fortunately, the theater can seat plenty of people — and, as it sits on a natural slope, there's no such thing as a bad view. The majority of films are shown in English with Greek subtitles, and handmade cherry liquor, freshly baked cheese pies, and local, organic wines are on hand to keep you going throughout the screening. You're also provided with blankets in case temperatures drop after sundown. The only real downside is that Cine Thisio is weather-dependent, so you'll need to make alternative plans if the summer nights take a downturn.

Le Grand Rex - Paris, France

Imagine Radio City Music Hall, but prettier. That's Le Grand Rex — a scale model of New York's famous venue located in Paris that features ceilings designed to look like the night sky. The most impressive screen of the Art Deco cinema is its Grand Auditorium. This can seat over 2,700 people and has been used for everything from movie premieres to live orchestral concerts over the years.

Its other screens are equally spectacular. Seats are made of plush velvet and sit on several tiers, just like a regular theater. The majority of films are screened in French, so you may not want to stay for an entire film if you're not blessed with bilingualism. If you are — or if you're just in it for the experience and not necessarily the film itself — we recommend visiting around Christmas when Le Grand Rex hosts La Féerie des Eaux, a magnificent pre-film show made up of dancing, synchronized fountains. The theater also hosts a gem of a backstage tour that covers the history of both filmmaking and Le Grand Rex, and is home to a cinema-themed escape room (which is only available in French).

Sala Equis - Madrid, Spain

The site of Sala Equis has a long and checkered history. First opened in 1903 under the name Cinematografo Franco-Espanol, the building went through several identities over the next century — including Madrid's last-surviving adult cinema, Cine Sala X, until 2015.

In 2017, the building underwent yet another makeover to take on its current (and far less raunchy) form. Today, it's best described as a cross between a 55-seat, Art Nouveau theater and a bar. Popular with Madrid's young creative scene, patrons can pay a few Euros to watch a blend of recent releases and cinematic classics on its small but cozy screen, which also hosts regular special screenings and talks with actors, writers, and directors. The bar area screens old, black-and-white Hollywood films in the background (although considering how busy Sala Equis can get, we wouldn't count on being able to sit down and take in much of the movie).

Labia Cinema - Cape Town, South Africa

Few movie theaters are as quaint or photogenic as Labia Cinema. What was once a 1940s Italian Embassy ballroom opened in Cape Town by Princess Labia (hence the name) was renovated into a theater in the 1970s, but still maintains a lot of its original features today — including its ticket booth and seats.

While its four screens are small and the sound and picture quality may not be the top-tier 4K or IMAX offered by your local theater, Labia Cinema is famous for its old-school charm and is regarded as a must-visit for film buffs. Its movie selections are extremely diverse, covering everything from vintage classics to arthouse cinema to new releases. There's also an intimate, leafy, green garden terrace hidden behind a flower gate where you can indulge in pre- or post-film pizza and wine (which you can even take into the theater with you, if you so choose). This is the kind of independent cinema that's becoming increasingly tough to find in the 21st century.

Cine Doré - Madrid, Spain

Here we have yet another iconic theater in Madrid. Originally built as a socio-cultural hall, the original facade of Cine Doré has survived since 1912 — despite being directly hit by a bomb during the Spanish Civil War — and is a major attraction for both film and architecture nerds alike.

Nowadays, Cine Doré is the designated screening destination of Filmoteca Española, the government's official film organization. This was created as a "living archive" to showcase and restore Spain's film heritage. Cine Doré's indoor screens are some of the most ornate around with elaborate mosaic ceilings, while its rooftop open-air theater and bar are also extremely popular. Tickets are famously affordable and films — most of which are art house cinema — are almost always screened in their original language, complete with Spanish subtitles. We also recommend poking around the attached bookstore and vintage-style cafe.

The Civic - Auckland, New Zealand

Today the Auckland cinema hosts everything from concerts to ballets, but its origin is as a movie theater. Its grand interior seats audiences on plush red chairs beneath a twinkling recreation of the Southern Hemisphere's night sky — complete with a meteor — that's intended to make audiences feel like they're in an outdoor auditorium. The foyer is equally elaborate, with finishing touches such as Buddha statues, chandeliers, and a towering staircase.  

While the theater has had its ups and downs since first opening in 1929, it experienced newfound fame in 2005 when its interiors were used as a set for Peter Jackson's "King Kong." The Civic doubled as the New York venue where Kong escapes his chains, destroys the theater, and goes on the rampage.

Even if walking in the footsteps of a giant ape doesn't appeal to you, The Civic is still pretty special. It's one of the few atmospheric theaters that remain in the world today, and while it may not play many films anymore — except for the New Zealand International Film Festival — it's still an interesting piece of the region's film history.

Pathé Koninklijk Theater - Amsterdam, Netherlands

Perhaps the most glamorous movie theater in the world, the Pathé Koninklijk Theater is decked out in red velvet with a blend of Art Deco and Art Nouveau touches. Its founder, Abraham Tuschinski, went to great lengths to make it the finest venue around in the 1920s, going so far as to travel from Amsterdam to Belgium to secure a theater organ.

The theater was groundbreaking upon its opening, even boasting a unique ventilation system to keep patrons cool during screenings. Its path over the years hasn't been too smooth: In the 1940s, Tuschinski and his brothers-in-law who ran the theater were all fired during the Nazi occupation. All three were killed by the Nazis in 1942.

Since then, it's been renovated on multiple occasions — although thankfully, it's stayed true to Tuschinski's original ornate vision. Several screens have plush armchairs for seating, as well as private boxes, and each has an elaborately decorated ceiling. It's the sole site for major movie premieres in the Netherlands and still attracts a steady stream of cinephiles keen to soak up one of the industry's grandest locations.

Golden Age Cinema and Bar - Sydney, Australia

As the name suggests, this Sydney cinema is designed to transport audiences back to the golden age of cinema. Located in the historic Paramount House in Surry Hills, it has repurposed the corporate screening room of the former Australian home of Paramount Pictures into a simple, elegant, movie theater decked out with vintage Swiss seats from the 1940s.

If you need more proof of Golden Age Cinema's dedication to the art of filmmaking, it also has a bar inspired by the iconic director and screenwriter David Lynch. Patrons can pop in for food and Hollywood-inspired drinks (think beverages with names like "Clockwork Orange" and "Charlie Chaplin") before, after, and even during the film. Movies both old and new are the real focus of the venue, and it's known for running unique film series throughout the year. These can be as wildly varied as a Nicolas Cage celebration to a marathon of California Noir. It also hosts film trivia nights every Tuesday night, live music performances, Sunday jazz nights, and DJ sets.

Choosing the best international movie theaters

There are hundreds of movie theaters across the globe. Choosing the best of the best is no easy feat, and such an undertaking requires thorough research. To make our choices, we drew on both personal experience at iconic theaters, as well as studying the personal experiences and recommendations of film buffs and travelers worldwide. We didn't want your standard popcorn, Diet Coke, and leather seat combo. We were looking for theaters that offered something unique in a slick, indulgent, and consistently impressive setting — the kind of theater you'd actually be willing to squeeze into your vacation.