Early in the film Raiders of the Lost Ark, we watch a path appear on a map to represent the movement of characters across the earth.

This scene reminded me of the animation at the beginning of Casablanca, which accompanies the voice-over description of the motion of refugees:

And so a tortuous, round-about refugee trail sprang up. Paris to Marseilles, across the Mediterranean to Oran [in Algeria], then by train or auto or foot across the rim of Africa to Casablanca in French Morocco. Here the fortunate ones through money or influence or luck might obtain exit visas and scurry to Lisbon, and from Lisbon to the New World. But the others wait in Casablanca, and wait...and wait...and wait.

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This strikes me as a film cliche, similar to the turning-pages-of-the-calendar device to express the passage of time.

But the truth is, I cannot think of any other movie that uses this path-on-the-map device. Is it simply a visual reference to Casablanca, or a bona fide cliche? Where did the path-on-the-map device first appear?

  • 4
    Bugs Bunny, when he took a wrong turn at Albuquerque. Or when he ended up on that island where he was told, "Rabbits is practically chickens". Commented Jun 7, 2018 at 14:27
  • 3
    I'd recommend editing this to focus on just the origin of the trope (we have a first-appearance tag for such questions). Asking for examples of other movies that use this trope is an open-ended list question, and those aren't suitable for StackExchange (though FWIW, my personal favourite example is The Emperor's New Groove)
    – F1Krazy
    Commented Jun 7, 2018 at 14:28
  • I don't know of a first appearence, but just to add, the TV series Chuck does this a couple of times, but it also references Indiana Jones on and off. Commented Jun 7, 2018 at 15:47

1 Answer 1


George MacDonald Fraser (1925-2008), author of the flashman books, also wrote The Hollywood History of the World: from One Million Years BC to Apocalypse Now (1988, 1995).

And as I remember, he mentioned that when he was a boy watching movies in the 1930s and 1940s, whenever he saw a map in the movies with a moving line tracing the protagonist's journey he knew it was going to be an exciting movie full of adventures. The book might mention one or move movies with the moving line on a map by name.

So that movie cliche or trope probably dates back to the 1930s or earlier.

According to TV tropes - WARNING! TV TROPES CAN BE ADDICTIVE! - a line moving across a map is a usual part of a travel montage.

http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/TravelMontage 1

The earliest named example mention is in Casablanca (1942), but it is clear the trope is much older than that.

Appears in all four Indiana Jones films, mainly as a homage to its use in the 1930s serials which inspired the movies.


As I remember The Prisoner of Zenda (1937) has an opening credit with a brief discussion of a royal scandal that the movie is supposedly based on (the scandal presumably being as fictional as the movie), and beneath the letters of this opening credit the camera moves southeast across the map of Europe toward the fictional location of the Kingdom of Ruritania somewhere in the Balkans. You can't see where exactly because the map is largely hidden by the letters.

(in the novel Ruritania was somewhere between the Kingdom of Bohemia and the Kingdom of Saxony)

And I think that there might be a travel montage in The Charge of the Light Brigade (1936).

Thus I think that there is reason to believe that it has been a common movie trope since at least sometime in the 1930s.

And this answer indicates it was already common in 1929:

Showing journey on the map 2

  • Nice coincidence that Light Brigade has a travel montage, given the (fictional) involvement in that event of Fraser's Flashman.
    – Tom
    Commented Jul 23, 2023 at 1:13

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